Alison Flood in the guardian.co.uk, Friday 27 February 2009
Hodder & Stoughton initially decided to sell the hardback of Gold's Sunnyside, which opens on a day in 1916 when Charlie Chaplin is seen in 800 places simultaneously, exclusively through Waterstone's from July. The rest of the book trade, from independent booksellers to Amazon, would only be able to sell the book in a paperback edition, and only once it came out in the autumn.
But independent booksellers were furious at the move, with some even threatening to boycott the long-awaited novel altogether (Gold's debut, Carter Beats the Devil, was published to critical acclaim in 2001 but there has been nothing from the author since).
"We got this wrong, and so I'm cancelling the exclusivity with the kind permission of Waterstone's," he said in a panel session also featuring independent bookseller James Daunt, founder of Daunt Books. "In retrospect it was a mistake anyway, and choosing between confusion and conspiracy it was definitely in the confusion camp."
He said that Hodder had underestimated the degree of excitement amongst booksellers for the new Gold novel.
"Although the hardback [of Carter Beats the Devil] did not do very well, the paperback did do very well and has been a solid seller for both Waterstone's and independent booksellers for last couple of years," he said. "With the best intentions - and my entrepreneurial colleagues were really trying to do their best - I think we got it a bit wrong and we're correcting that now."
Daunt, who said he couldn't recall a similar exclusive deal happening in his 20 years in bookselling, professed himself delighted with the decision. "Carter Beats the Devil was a fantastic book and we were excited and looking forward to selling [Sunnyside], and then to be denied it was very upsetting," he said.