Former St. Martin’s Press editor Jason Pinter objects to yesterday’s tipster’s assertion that “male writers are being asked for headshots now with their manuscript submissions, from major houses.” “It’s disingenuous to run a quote saying that “male writers are being asked for their headshots.” “That statement–without any sort of caveat or context–implies this practice is widespread and common, when I can attest to the fact that it is anything but. This is not to say that editors don’t look at attractiveness as an unexpected bonus, but I’ve never heard of a fiction writer being asked to submit any kind of photo until after their book was already acquired. If this did happen (this story was told “anecdotally,” remember), one instance hardly constitutes an epidemic,” Jason writes. Fair enough.
Let’s be real: it’s not like anyone writes PW reviews for the money. Factor in the labor of actually reading the book, then rereading it as you write your review in order to cite page numbers, and you realize you’re making literally pennies an hour. No, people — typically, people who work in publishing — write PW reviews for the thrilling possibility of seeing their blurb on a cover, for the chance to (maybe) sway the tenor of reviews that might appear later in other publications, or just for the fun of getting free galleys now and then.
So it’s not like PW reviewers will starve now because the rate they’re being paid is being slashed by 50%. But it still sorta sucks. “However, you will be credited as a contributor in issues where your reviews appear,” reassures reviews director Louisa Ermelino in the email she sent contributors announcing the change. Also, she writes that “all of us here are also experiencing change but we expect that we will continue to be the gold standard in book reviewing.”
Yup, no one writes PW reviews for the money. However, expecting to get more than what you pay for, as a business strategy, might be sorta flawed.
A reader writes: “Just thought you might want to know that anecdotally, vis a vis your post on Galleycat today, male writers are being asked for headshots now with their manuscript submissions, from major houses. One friend even wrote to ask me if this was normal as he was freaked out (he happens to be gorgeous). He did eventually sell his short story collection. To a decent literary house.
Previous to that, the only time I’d heard of it was back about 7 years ago when [Redacted] confided that her French and Italian publishers had asked her for a full body shot before consenting to buy her book. She sent it and the rights were acquired, and she was sent on tour.”
(Joke about judging a book by its cover goes here).
Writing in the Observer, freelance world-critic Choire Sicha* takes on “today’s malformed, self-centered boy-writers,” who, he says, “are friendly. And ambitious and ashamed of ambition.” According to Sicha, writers like Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer, Dana Vachon, Joshua Ferris, Jeff Hobbs, Keith Gessen, Charles Bock and Christopher Hitchens deserve our pity because, coming up in the shadow of lady-writers they’ll never surpass like Renata Adler and Edna O’Brien and Joan Didion and Janet Malcolm and Ursula Le Guin, they just haven’t “figger[ed] out what to do.”
Also, they’re writing novels for the wrong reasons, and then deluding themselves about those reasons: “Men, finding that they cannot really get status or security from the ownership of women very often, find their very selves disparaged. Like most of us, they get their status first from consumption, and the way out is to become a maker of consumables; a high-class published author. And they are bewildered, I think, because their bewilderment shows in books that try to understand class and economic conditions even as they are being happily further ensnared by them. Their books read as if this were the first time they’d ever thought of all this.”
These are both interesting theories. I have another one.
Granta asked some “highly effective people,” including book blogger Maud Newton, about their “web habits.” The best advice, maybe, came from author and occasional standup comedian A. L. Kennedy, whose newish novel Day is maybe the most depressing (but, you know, in a good way!) book I’ve ever read:”I don’t blog or Facebook. If I want to write, I’d rather do it to some kind of definable end.”
Time Out reminds James Frey that he’d told Vanity Fair that he “feared and loathed” the press and wouldn’t be doing any other interviews. So what’s he doing … being interviewed in Time Out? “The first [reason] is that I felt more comfortable doing that interview than I expected to. And second, my publisher asked me to do more press, and it’s my job to do what my publisher asks me to do.”
Oh, so he kind of … lied! Please stifle your gasps of shock.
That’s what the friend who IMed me this deal announcement said, anyway.
“MySpace and MTV sensation Tila Tequila’s HOOKING UP WITH TILA TEQUILA, no-holds-barred thoughts on love, fame, happiness, and success and the remarkable story of how the child of Vietnamese immigrants singlehandedly harnessed the web to become a popular sex symbol, to Brant Rumble at Scribner, for publication in December 2008, by David Vigliano and Michael Harriot of Vigliano Associates (world).”
She harnessed the web, people. SINGLEHANDEDLY.
“He got a second act. He got another chance. Look what he did with it. He stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park. No more lying, no more melodrama, still run-on sentences still funny punctuation but so what. He became a furiously good storyteller this time.”
Do you trust Maslin? Do you trust Frey? Will you ever trust anyone ever again?
People love The Mountain Goats because all their songs contain SAT vocab words and are like little stories. So it’s unsurprising that John Darnielle can also work up some music-free compositions, like his contribution to Continuum‘s 33 1/3 series of books inspired by classic albums, a novel about Black Sabbath’s ‘Master of Reality.’ He also recently wrapped up a stint of guest blogging at Powell’s excellent blog, which is worth revisiting if you’re curious about his feelings about heavy metal (he likes it! and is very knowledgable about it!). And if you live in New York, you can come to a reading of the Black Sabbath book next Saturday at Housing Works and witness his non-singing talents in person.
Count on David Sedaris to sidestep the whole thorny memoir-truth issue with humor. When ‘When You Are Engulfed In Flames’comes out next month, it “will carry a short preface, labeling the contents ‘real-ish.’” I guess I’ve always thought that if 97 percent of the story is true, then that’s an acceptable formula,” he told the Christian Science Monitor.
Sedaris goes on to say that “we live in a time when our government is telling us some pretty profound lies. And then James Frey writes a book and it turns out some of it’s not true. No one asked for their vote back, but everyone wanted back the money they’d spent on that book. We’re in the shadow of huge lies and getting angry about the small ones.”
The issue of how long someone whose sales were predicated on sympathy and trust spent in jail might not seem like a “small lie” to everyone, of course, but yeah, it’s not a WMD-level whopper. So I guess I, like, 97% agree with Sedaris.