Serious non-fiction 'needs reinvention'

<p>Serious biographies may need to be reinvented with publishers refusing to pay high advances for non-fiction, the agent Andrew Kidd has claimed.</p><p>Kidd, who left Picador in 2008 to join Aitken Alexander, spoke to the Observer in an article about declining advances for serious non-fiction. The author Victoria Glendinning, who has written books on Edith Sitwell and Anthony Trollope, told the newspaper she had to self-finance a trip to south-east Asia for research for her latest book on Sit Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. She said: &quot;Getting an advance is very, very hard if you want to do something a bit different to what you&#39;ve done before.&quot;</p><p>Jeremy Lewis, who has written about Graham Greene and Cyril Connolly, said: &quot;Writing a biography is time-consuming and labour-intensive and is getting increasingly difficult, but it will be sad if the only people who can afford to write them are salaried dons. I have a fifth of the &pound;50,000 I got for my book on Connolly in 1992, but I&#39;m not complaining. The publisher in me disapproved of those absurd advances, anyway&hellip; publishers were behaving stupidly.&quot;</p><p>Both writers claim publishers are pushing them towards writing about familiar names like Hitler, Churchill, Conan Doyle and the Brontes.</p><p>However, Kidd said the genre needs new life breathed into it. He said: &quot;There has been a change in the reference culture and big serious books have not rebounded as one might have hoped.&quot;</p><p>He added: &quot;It may just need to be reinvented because readers are bored by the form. There were a number of projects that publishers paid a lot for upfront, on the back of what had been a wave of successes. Then they discovered the market had fallen away and took significant losses.</p>