I see the Observer carried another piece by Robert McCrum fulminating about the parlous state of the British publishing industry. I have to admit I read it with apprehension, bracing myself for another attack on Macmillan New Writing. (Crikey, I thought, what if he has a go at my book?) But there was a different, though connected, target for his Olympian bolts this time: first time novelists who receive over-inflated advances.
Hang on. I'm a bit confused here. He didn't like Macmillan New Writing, which pays no advance, just royalties, to its authors. But he's against the so-called conventional route, which pays new authors an advance in proportion to the amount the publishers think they are going to make back out of the book.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Mr McCrum just doesn't like new authors.
So what is the ideal advance for a writer (first time or otherwise) according to Mr McCrum? He seems curiously attached to the figure of £250, provided it's accompanied by a long lunch at L'Etoile.
Whatever you say, Robert.