The negotiated migration of Tim Winton from Picador to Penguin must have been dirt music to Winton’s ears when you consider the whopping premium Ben Ball at the House of Happy Feet was prepared to pay.
How much then? At least $1 mill since that is the amount, possibly in used notes stashed in a Gladstone bag, that a rival publishing house was prepared to throw at Winton to come on down.
It is testament to the fact that Winton shifts units in number largely due to his ability to reconcile blokiness with beautiful writing. Hell, people who don’t read read Tim Winton and that, in publishing terms, makes him a rock star.
Penguin is clever enough to have seen that and has paid accordingly. If others can only wish they commanded the sort of moolah Winton is now rolling in, the publishing world is making its own severe mental adjustment. There is much hyperventilation between the beef carpaccio and garlic and saffron ice-cream (su-perb!) as publishers contemplate the novel idea of paying writers what they are worth.
Be assured there will be a knock-on (or out) effect for nickel-and-dime authors who may find advances shrinking in strict proportion to print runs. Rather like the canola crops of the nation, literature is going GM on the promise of better yields and critic-resistant strains.
But let us not forget Winton himself. He might believe he is now living on cloud street but there are dangerous precedents. He need only consider the example of AFL footballers with too much money too soon. As a native of Western Australia Winton should be doubly alert.
None of us would be happy to read that nice Timmy Winton has been found in the company of six scrubbers with enough nose Harpic to give the pipes a really good clean, for instance. Or, if in pursuit of ‘coke and ice’, the nation’s most bankable author has passed out semi-naked in a Macdonald’s with fans of Lockie Leonard capturing the moment on their mobile phone cams. We trust that Winton can resist the siren call and avoid those particular rocks.