August 27, 2005

A Different World

Terry Teachout pulls out an interesting factlet from a P.G. Wodehouse biography: the fee paid by Cosmopolitan magazine for the serial rights to Thank You, Jeeves in 1932 was $50,000, which would be over $600,000 in today's money. Cosmo has changed, publishing has changed, and we have changed...

Posted by Dr. Frank at August 27, 2005 04:46 PM | TrackBack

that reminds me of something kurt vonnegut said once, when talking about the short stories that he sold to cosmopolitan, "which has since transformed into a harrowing sex manual."

Posted by: kate at August 27, 2005 04:52 PM

Keep in mind that Wodehouse in 1932 was at the peak of his form; the equivalent today in terms of being a comparably paid writer would be along the lines of Stephen King for _The Stand_, or somesuch. And it was a full novel, that ran over how many issues?

Now, $600,000 for a novel today, that's expected to a King-sized best seller -- that's a very low figure for an advance, or a successful payout. So it's really not so extraordinary. The only thing that seems unusual is any *magazine* at all paying that much for fiction.

And, stWhat would surprise me, though, would be if Teachout or anyone could find evidence that Cosmo regularly paid that amount.

Posted by: Gary Farber at August 28, 2005 03:00 AM

"The only thing that seems unusual is any *magazine* at all paying that much for fiction."

That is, seems surprising to us today, as opposed to then, of course.

Posted by: Gary Farber at August 28, 2005 03:01 AM

An even more interesting fact is that every Jeeves novel (but one) has the same plot elements:

There is a pair of young lovers whose romance is derailed, and must be put right.
Bertie is in peril of being married, and must be extricated.
Something must be "pinched".
Bertie tries these things and fails.
Jeeves suggests something that succeeds.
Happy endings all around, and Jeeves has some reward, large or small.

The one Jeeves novel that does not follow this formula is _The Return of Jeeves_, in which Bertie does not appear. Still, there's a couple who must be kept together, and a couple who must be gotten together, and a thing to be pinched.

Wodehouse sold this same formula *ten times* (not counting TRoJ, or the short stories), beginning with _Thank You, Jeeves_. An inspiration to writers everywhere.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at August 28, 2005 06:08 PM

I'm simultaneously disappointed and relieved to know that Cosmo isn't paying $300,000 for "50 Sex Secrets That Will Drive Him Wild." That kind of article is entertaining fiction. Not necessarily good, high-brow stuff, but entertaining.

Posted by: sheckie at August 29, 2005 03:39 AM

sheckie, i'm continually surprised that cosmo is able to put "amazing sex tricks that nobody has ever heard of in the history of the entire world" on the cover of every issue, for what seems to be the exact same article with such startling information as "guys like blowjobs".

it is disappointing that cosmo went from paying top dollar for stories from wodehouse to excerpting the dirty parts from the latest chicklit offering.

Posted by: kate at August 29, 2005 04:28 AM