Canadian Andrew Davidson isn't a best-selling author, but Random House is betting he will be. The American arm of the large publishing firm recently bought Davidson's new book, The Gargoyle - (http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307356772) - for $1.25 Million USD. Other publishing houses, including Random House Canada, paid that much again for the international publishing rights. Giving Davidson $2.5 million for the book, before the first copy was ever sold, according to MacLean's magazine.
Davidson, first-time author, one-time journalist, is from Manatobia, although he is now an American resident. According to the MacLean's article, he wrote the book and submitted it as a massive, unedited volume, to one of the most prestigious literary agents in New York City. Instead of the usual rejection letter that most first-time author's get, Davidson's book was so good, even unedited, that he got advice instead on how to fix his manuscript.
After editing his manuscript, the agent worked on selling, and reports say he didn't have to work hard. Random House snapped the book up.
Although I haven't read the book yet, I did pick up a copy yesterday to see what all the fuss is about. (I will post my review when I'm finished.) The cover of the book is like nothing I've ever seen. Although dust jackets have become elaborate works of art in recent years, especially on books that publishing houses wish to catch the reader's eye, and thus their wallet, beyond the dust jacket usually lies a hard cover of plain colour. Modern publishing costs usually have these covers made from light-weight, thin materials, to save money.
Underneath the dust jacket of The Gargoyle, the hard cover is beautiful. Heavy and glossy, the cover has been touched by a professional graphic designer. The art is mostly flames, covering the entire book, with a raised and textured heart in the middle. Around the heart there is a quote from Dante's Inferno. This is a lot of money to spend for something that will not immediately be seen by readers.
The money and time being spent on this book and it's publicity may be one of the biggest literary bets on a first-time author in history. If they win, they will win big. If they lose, it may be Davidson's only book.
In it's first week the book received mediocre reviews, with the lore of the making of the book getting more press than the story itself.
The story is billed as one of redemption. According to the publisher, it's about a horribly disfigured burn victim and the burgeoning romance between him and a "wild-haired schizophrenic" from another hospital ward who insists on taking care of him. The woman claims the man and herself were lovers in other centuries and tries to convince him they are fated to be together.
The story draws on images of heaven and hell, using The Inferno heavily for inspiration. The burn victim goes through figurative hell to get to heaven as the story is told across 700 years and several countries, including mid-evil Germany.
Whether the book becomes well-received or not, Random House's investment in a new author and his first work of fiction is evidence that readers have not given up on print yet. Or at least that publishers hope they haven't. I only hope that publishing companies keep investing in new, raw talent. As a writer, this is good news for me. (Attention Random House Execs: My first book deserves a $1.25 million advance too! Call me!!) But more, as a reader it's excellent news, too. Heaven help me if I ever run out of hard copy books to read. Computer's just aren't the same. Whatever Davidson's vision of hell, no more books is certainly mine.
Stay tuned, my review to come.