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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 in a rather laconic tone 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 a 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 Sourcery:

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 might actually be pretty good fortune that Trymon spent his time reading old manuscripts, as like that he had to lose against an angry Rincewind. But this also hides a hint to the reader to watch out for proper nourishment, A small bit of nourishment, all without magic spells…etc.

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.

Edit: the old picture from Pyramids was broken, I replaced it with another one from Sourcery, this one even more tacky. So yes, there were multiple ones. 

5 responses to “Terry Pratchett and the Maggi Soup Adverts

  1. Pingback: Pratchett, Terry: The Discworld | humanitysdarkerside

  2. judgedeadd March 15, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    The picture is broken…
    (Though can still be found through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine)


  3. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 9/30/21 We’ve Replaced Their Files With Scroller’s Pixels. Let’s See If Anyone Notices | File 770

  4. Alex October 1, 2021 at 8:23 pm

    I wonder if that was the inspiration for Dibbler’s repeated attempts to insert obnoxious adverts into the clicks in Moving Pictures.


  5. Pingback: The time Terry Pratchett’s German publisher inserted a soup ad into his novel.

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