Cachet and cash
by Kelvin Smith
Gregory Stern, “a tall, elegant man with a long lugubrious face”, is said to be modeled on Simon Raven’s publisher Anthony Blond. He is an old Etonian who crops up in various places in Raven’s Alms for Oblivion series. Described by Somerset Lloyd-James (editor of Strix, an independent economic journal) as having “the reputation of being the shrewdest small publisher in the game”, his output includes serious books like the three-volume commentary on the Gemara proposed for the New Jewish Library, until eventually, as Raven explains in his brief character synopsis, his wife “Isabel has persuaded him into vulgar and profitable projects”. We learn how he goes into partnership with Captain Detterling, and his burgeoning relationship with Fielding Gray who leaves the army to become a critic and writer and has a couple of successful books with Stern. When the author and publisher meet to discuss the publishing agreement, the matter is quickly agreed.
“Good…The thing is this, Mr…er…Major Gray. I like to publish good books which make money. I don’t expect all that much money and sometimes I’m prepared to make none at all, but in your case I think we’ve got the makings of a minor prestige novelist with a broader appeal than most such. Which means both cachet and cash.”
The publisher looks after his authors well, proposing a three book deal with generous advances when he signs Fielding, who has difficulty “resisting a strong impulse to cry”.
“Let us say that I am prepared to…err…back my beliefs with hard money. So many publishers are not. With the result that in the end they lose both money and the author.”
Blond himself wrote books on publishing, and in The Publishing Game (1971) we can clearly see the same publishing ethos.
“Publishers should regard authors, who are the source of their bread and butter, cake and occasionally caviare, with humility, respect and affection.”
Simon Raven, Alms for Oblivion (10 novels), 1964-1976