Where the heart is

<p>Traditionally, there are only two reasons for an author to leave their publisher of record: if the publisher has royally screwed up, or another publisher is waving a large cheque in the author's face. In my case, neither happens to be true, yet after six books, 14 years and many agonised discussions with my agent, I have chosen to jump ship. Short of walking out on my partner and kids, I can't think of a more momentous decision. Other established novelists of my acquaintance&mdash;several of them with no publisher at all right now&mdash;are aghast, particularly at the bit about there being no fat cheque. </p>
<p>&quot;Twenty is the new 70,&quot; an industry insider said to a novelist friend of mine at a party recently, neatly describing the 50 grand pay cut a mid-career author is expected to take these days. When my long-term publisher offered on my most recent novel, the offer was a lot lower than my previous six-figure deal but not ungenerous in the current climate. I was relieved but not excited&mdash;and realised very rapidly that my lack of excitement wasn't about cash. </p>
<p>I had a great relationship with my editor and the last two books had been critical successes&mdash;the reviews were so favourable they could have been written by my mum&mdash;but commercially, they had failed. At the time my big deal was struck, the advance had been reasonable for an established author producing what her publishers hoped would be the next literary bestseller but, for whatever reason, the books had resolutely refused to fly off the shelves. My lovely editor shared my disappointment but it didn't change the fact that I had written two good books in a row that had been acclaimed but flopped at the box office.</p>
<p>What seemed like a difficult decision about one individual novel rapidly mutated into a full-blown mid-life crisis: what sort of author was I? What sort of author did I want to be? At the peak of this crisis, another publisher began making overtures&mdash;and when my agent and I went in for a preliminary meeting, we found ourselves pounced on down every corridor by a member of staff who had read the novel and loved it. </p>
<p>In many ways, it felt like a return to my early days as a writer, where there were no huge promises being made but I was being bought because they loved the words on the page. In a tough climate for everybody, many authors are realising that the money might have to be earned elsewhere for a bit, but in-house enthusiasm is priceless. </p>