The Bookseller has a very nice feature on Estate Publishing on the back of the news about HarperCollins acquiring the worldwide rights to Agahta Christie’s work. Best thing in the magazine this week if you ask me (with the possible exception of an editorial by James Bridle).
He says dealing with the estates requires patience and tenacity: it took seven years of discussions with the Tolkien estate before it agreed for HC to release e-books. His first meeting with the Tolkien estate in 1995 involved him having seven publishing ideas in a row shot down. It was, he says, “the most humiliating morning”.
“You sometimes sit and think ‘have I gone native? Am I asking sufficiently challenging questions?'” he says. “You need to make sure you are not assuming too much. I’m fairly confident I’ve got the right perspective. You keeping chipping away.”
Estate publishing, like Classics and (although no-one else seems to think it) mid-list publishing can and should be territory for experimentation, innovation and great publishing.
Penguin’s Classics for instance have shown recently what just the application of some great design and clever curation can do for a list that isn’t even owned exclusively by one publisher.