Earthquake Novel Earns Massive Advance

As sales of print books drop and publishers tighten their belts, good news stories in the world of books remind us that hard work, a good idea, an ear for genre and a stroke of blind luck can still work wonders for a writer. So it is with a debut author in New York whose unpublished manuscript has netted her advances across the world in the millions. Random House is hoping that the massive sum they’ve paid Karen Thompson Walker for her novel, The Age of Miracles, will be a lucrative investment. By grim coincidence, the novel is an earthquake novel.

Brooklynite Karen Thompson Walker works as an editor for Simon and Schuster and wrote the novel in the morning hours before work. The novel’s elevator pitch is a massive earthquake off the coast of California slows the earth’s rotation markedly (as opposed to the undetectable shortening of the day caused by the recent Japanese earthquake). Told from the point of view of a 10 year-old girl, the earthquake extends the first day after the earthquake by six minutes. The slowing continues, however, so that soon the length of a day is 72 hours. According to the Guardian report, observers are not interpreting the deal as a sign of renewed publishing industry confidence. Rather, it’s a sign that big publishers, as ever, are still willing to pay a king’s ransom for what they think is a sure-fire bestseller, even if seven times out of ten they won’t make their money back.

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