Two of Britpop’s biggest stars staged a comeback at this year’s London Book Fair, led by Jarvis Cocker. Bidding for a six-page book proposal by the ex-Pulp frontman had passed the £100,000 mark by the end of Thursday, with eight publishing houses fighting it out for This Book is a Song, Cocker’s book about creativity.
Those understood to have put offers on the table at Cocker’s literary agent Mónica Carmona include Penguin Random House, Macmillan and Faber, for whom the musician has worked as an editor-at-large. A publisher who pulled out of the bidding before the final round described the numbers as “scary” for a book that insiders said was “emphatically not a memoir”.
This Book is a Song eventually went to Michal Shavit at Jonathan Cape for “six figures”, according to Carmona. She described the book as “melding biography, essay, texts featured in his legendary PowerPoint presentations, alongside copious illustrations and photographs (many from the author’s own private collection).”
The news comes hot on the heels of Suede frontman Brett Anderson signing a deal for Cold Black Mornings, a memoir of his life before the band achieved global success. The book was acquired by Richard Beswick of Little, Brown, who told the Guardian that the singer’s prose was “as sharp as his cheekbones”.
Industry sources said Beswick had paid a “healthy” five-figure amount for the book, which recounts Anderson’s upbringing on a council estate in Haywards Heath in the 1970s and life with his eccentric father, a taxi driver who would take the singer to the grave of Liszt to pay homage. The title refers in part to the impact of the death of Anderson’s mother and the loss of his lover, Elastica founder Justine Frischmann, to Damon Albarn of Blur.
Britpop royalty were not alone in causing a sensation at the fair. In a deal that will bring hope to unpublished writers heading towards retirement, Canongate announced that a dark novel by a sixtysomething English teacher from St Andrews had become an unexpected hit, with international publishers queuing up for the right to publish it.
Jamie Byng, founder of the Edinburgh-based publishing house, said that by the end of the fair he expected publishers from 20 countries, including the US, Italy and Spain, will publish the book, Sal by Mick Kitson. The author had sent his manuscript to Canongate communications director Jenny Fry to read “for advice”, after meeting her at a family memorial.
Described by Byng as “Hansel and Gretel set in the west coast of Scotland”, it tells the story of a young girl who escapes appalling conditions to live wild. “There is nothing sentimental about it,” he said. “It is strong and brutal, but also redemptive and hopeful.”
Kitson, who was at the fair with his daughter, said he had been in shock at the speed with which the book had gone global. “When I was called by Canongate, I thought it was a member of my family taking the piss,” he told the Guardian. “I’m still in shock.”