Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

Terry Pratchett and the Maggi Soup Adverts

Back in the 90s (starting with Moving Pictures) Terry Pratchett (yet to be knighted) changed his German publisher. A rather radical move in the market for someone who had been published by Heyne for a dozen books to raising sales. I remember reading it in the Jahrbuch der Science Fiction and Fantasy 1994 (Annual of Science Fiction and Fantasy): It stated rather laconic that his books would now be published by Goldmann instead of Heyne. The brisk tone of the notice (where most others would have had a small quip with amazing insider info on different deals) might have been connected with the fact that the editor of the Jahrbuch was also the chief editor of Heyne, and he was reporting about himself losing a bestselling author.

The reason for the change was… well… the Heyne publishing house put in an soup advert in one of his books without asking, and would not promise to not do it again. As Pterry said himself:

There were a number of reasons for switching to Goldmann, but a deeply personal one for me was the way Heyne (in Sourcery, I think, although it may have been in other books) inserted a soup advert in the text … a few black lines and then something like ‘Around about now our heroes must be pretty hungry and what better than a nourishing bowl’… etc, etc. My editor was pretty sick about it, but the company wouldn’t promise not to do it again, so that made it very easy to leave them. They did it to Iain Banks, too, and apparently at a con he tore out the offending page and ate it. Without croutons.

Okay, I know what you are thinking now: What?

Here’s a picture of the whole business from the German edition of Pyramids:

The text in the blackout section reads something like: the stairway Teppic was on was not really good for a break… but we can have one, so let’s adjourn for 5 minutes and make a cup of soup…

It’s an ad for a 5-minute soup.

Yeah. It’s real.

That was a standard practice for Heyne back then. At least with their genre novels. And it was noticeable to a lot of people because they had the good luck of having one of the largest and best selections of SF/F-literature in the country. Mostly thanks to awesome editors.

Pratchett was not the only one with the soup adverts, I remember at least one Star Trek novel and a few non-franchise ones having the same stuff in it.

The whole thing was a holdover from the 50s or 60s, when practices like that were more common, especially with publishers of cheap genre fiction. They were rather popular for pulling in additional revenue on cheaply priced paperbacks that might not make their money back. And as the genres were not really seen as literature at all by anyone who mattered, fans and editors often had to fight bloody battles to get their stuff published even if it did go bestseller in the end. Mind you though, this was the 90s, the average price for Heyne paperbacks was 13 Marks/6,5 Euros, not the cheapest of books by then.

It was definitely out of place for a publisher which was already one of the market leaders in that time. I do have the strong suspicion that these things were a standing order from the 60s: Most likely at one point in the past the SF/F editor of Heyne got told by  management they had to run these adverts so the books could make some money back, and then they never revoked it afterwards.

I know how company policies work. It would be something like that.

Fans of course got used to it, if it gave them access to the books, why not? But it became more and more grating the more genre literature was accepted into mainstream.

And then you actually had a bestseller author like Pratchett jump ship and go to the direct contender (Goldmann), just because one of these stupid stunts. I wonder how that actually was taken by the Heyne CEOs. Back then Pratchett was at the verge of becoming a star in Germany as well, so they lost him just when he was getting big. It might just have been a secondary thing, but I never saw one of these adverts in any novel published after ’94.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 114 other followers

%d bloggers like this: