Monday, November 01, 2010

De Gaulle Needed a Better Agent

Reorganizing some bookshelves, I ran across my copy of Janet Flanner's Paris Journal 1944-1965--Flanner, the longtime New Yorker correspondent who probably had more to do with shaping the vision my generation had of France than anyone including Ernest Heminway and Gertrude Stein.  Well, maybe Edith Piaf. And this guy, the subject of her letter for November 9, 1954:
There was difficulty at first in finding a French publisher for General Charles de Gaulle's "Mémoires de Guerre," (of which the opening volume has just appeared) owing to the astronomical price the General demanded for the manuscripts and for various rights.  There was also a feeling in publishing circles that the memoirs might not sell, because he had lost popularity through his retirement fom politics, because his R.P.F. party is splintered, and so on.  The highest--and, it now turns out, the luckiest---bidder was the firm of Plon, which is said to have paid him, for only this first volume ... advance.  An advance of  how much?  Aw, come on, take a guess.  Or see infra.  Anyway:

The first regular edition of the first volume, "L'Appel" ("The Call to Arms"), has sold like lightning.  And the limited and numbered de-luxe Holland-paper edition, at twenty-five thousand francs (or more than seventy dollars) a copy, as well as all other numbered editions on alfa or pure-linen paper, priced at from twenty-one hundred to forty-five hundred francs a copy and reserved for "Les Anciens de la France Libre," and for "Les Membres de Touts les Associations Combattantes et Résistantes de la Guerre 1939-45," were heavily over-subscribed a month before publication.
Id., at 352.  Plon's successful offer of an advance for the rights: 21 million francs, about $57,000.  Hell, these days you can pay that much for a publisher's lunch at Per Se. You trying to remember how much Bill Clinton got?  Look here. Here's a a rundown of the evolution of the memoir business in the US.  Here's an interesting rundown of political-memoir prices in the UK.

BTW look at the exchange rate: about 357 to the dollar.  The French lopped off two zeroes in 1960.

on alfa o

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