Jeremy Lewis

Any Advance?

Publishing was a frugal business when I started work in the Collins publicity department in the late 1960s. Most of the famous names were still independent, and penny-pinching was essential to the survival of small to medium-sized literary publishers. Booksellers were dusty-looking characters in worn-out cardigans and Pirelli slippers, who received at most a third off the published price; printers, binders and paper merchants were there to be beaten down; those of the staff who didn’t have private incomes were paid even less than prep-school masters or junior secretaries. A few lucky authors hit the jackpot with a bestseller or mined money-spinning seams of books about bridge or gardening, but most, unless they too had alternative means, were condemned to life in a garret on a diet of baked beans and tap water, plus an occasional glass of mild and bitter.

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