Big Books, Big Bucks

Here it is: the gripping saga of an industry on a binge, featuring publishers betting millions, authors getting rich and agents calling the shots

Fortune had eluded Layne Heath. His brick business in Fort Worth had gone belly up. He had tried construction work and humping freight on loading docks, but without graduating far beyond the minimum wage. So to nurse his bank account and a romantic ambition, Heath pulled out his typewriter and tapped out a novel based on his days as a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. In March William Morrow and Avon Books paid Heath $300,000 for his novel, CW2 (after his former military rank, chief warrant officer, second grade). "Beats the brick business," says Heath. "But then, anything beats the brick...

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