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Archives: April 2005

BECAUSE MUCH MORE THAN A BOOK’S CONTENT IS PRONE TO UNORIGINALITY. EPISODE 5: LEGS, FEET, SHOES

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The Art of the Book Review

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The Arithmetic of Fame

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To the reader who wrote, in response to my last post, “Actually, Koren Zailckas, the author of Smashed, is 24 years old (almost 25). Do your research!”: Ask any fame-obsessed young writer and he’ll tell you, the mid-20s are crucial years. Publish a novel in your early 20s and you’re a phenom, shining bright; publish a novel in your late 20s, and you’re simply a writer, another black hole on the media landscape. But, unfortunately, publishing — much like coal mines, or cancer — skims years off your life. By the time you’re 23, you’re 25 in book-years — which most likely puts Koren’s age, counting backwards from her book-age to when she first met her agent, between 21 and 23.

Or, to introduce Research to this blog, here’s the PM deal blurb, from January 27, 2003:

22-year-old Koren Zalickas’ memoir SMASHED, detailing seven years of alcohol abuse and an investigative look at the phenomenon of binge drinking among young women, to Molly Stern at Viking, in a pre-empt, by Erin Hosier at the Gernert Company.

Editorial Opinion

Mediabistro talks to Brenda Copeland, a senior editor at Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

[Meanwhile, GC talks to herself and a pair of brackets.]

Mediabistro: Do you have any advice for writers or agents?

Copeland: For writers: When you’re writing your book, don’t pay attention to the market. Write the book that you in your heart want to write. [And then, pray your heart is made of gold and will lead you to its siblings, precious commodities.] Also, write the best book that you can, take the time with it—as much time with it as you have to, because there are very few second chances in this business, especially with first books. So you really want to make an impression. [Whether it's a "good" or "bad" impression, however, doesn't always matter.]

To agents: One of the things I’m seeing lately, and it’s a real shame, is agents pulling on that send point that I just made, agents sending books and proposals out before they’re ready. [If your client's 23 or under, though, don't wait. Smashed by a 31-year old is your LiveJournal with page numbers.] That could mean a partial of a first novel, and there are very few houses that will acquire a first novel just on a partial. There’s just too many risks involved and we see so many first novels that there’s really no reason to—best to wait and see the novel through to completion and then send it out to the editor. Also, with the popularity of blogs and Internet sites, what I’ve seen from some agents is they just send in the blog material. So? It’s not a substitute for a proposal. The old fashioned rules of putting together a proposal apply now more than ever.

Absence

I owe my readers an apology and an explanation for my recent absence. Three weeks ago, blood test results showed I was sick with mono, and since then I’ve been allowing my need for sleep to run its course. But, I’m thinking about the site constantly, and have some new features planned for the weeks ahead. Please stay tuned.

“Fruitarian”?

Top science and tech publisher John Wiley says that Apple has pulled all Wiley titles from Apple’s own retail stores in retaliation against a new biography of the billionaire fruitarian. Apple stores are telling customers that such popular titles as Mac for Dummies and Mac OS X Secrets are “out of stock”.

In other words, “Jobs has handed his biographer a publicity bonanza.” (Controversy’s like a chinese finger trap; sometimes, you only make it worse if you don’t relax.)

Writers Agree: Oprah More Influential Than 9/11

From Word of Mouth’s letter to The Great One, imploring her to once again cast her magnanimous gaze upon the heathland of contemporary fiction:

In the publishing world, there’s a widely-held belief that the landscape of literary fiction is now a gloomy place. The terrorist attacks of September, 2001 are often cited as the beginning of a great downward shift. After that, we’ve been told, fiction sales flattened. After that, we’ve been told, the American public lost its taste for literary fiction.

However, the writer M. J. Rose, a novelist and long-time reporter on publishing news, has noticed something different. Her research suggests that the drastic downward shift actually happened six months after the attacks: fiction sales really began to plummet when the The Oprah Winfrey Book Club went off the air. When you stopped featuring contemporary authors on your program, Book Club members stopped buying new fiction, and this changed the face of American publishing. This phenomenon was a testament to the quality of your programs, the scope of your influence, and the amazing credibility you possess among loyal Book Club readers.

But the same information that gives the Word of Mouth writers cause to hope gives author Jennifer Weiner cause to wonder if “petitioning Oprah … [isn't] a little short-sighted”:

The truth is, Oprah’s book club members might have dipped a toe into the long and distinguished tradition of literary discussion, but they didn’t stay to swim. She wasn’t able to turn her viewers into readers as much as she turned them into consumers, happy to pull out their wallets and buy whatever she endorsed, whether it was diet tips, dating advice, or a novel.

Elaborating the Murdoch Empire

pamonbooks.jpgMaud posted this Fox-wide newsletter because she “wouldn’t piss on Rupert Murdoch if he was on fire.” GC’s motivation to repost the newsletter, however, is an admission of poor mental health; I fear the day I can no longer distinguish between intricately detailed alternate realities and the reality of watching them.

Already, I can’t shake the idea that the more intricate the cross-promotional details in Murdoch’s corporate empire become, the more his empire achieves an architectural likeness, cross-promotional details signaling the empire’s power like elaborate marble flourishes:

Fox’s new comedy ‘Stacked’ with Pamela Anderson is set in the family-run ‘Stacked Books.’ For those looking closely, the book shelves are lined with the titles from Harper Collins authors. Books appear on the shelves based upon what’s currently high on the NY Times bestseller’s list. For now, that includes the recent book by former GE Chairman Jack Welch, Winning, Bob Dole’s World War II autobiography One Soldier’s Story, and Michael Crichton’s new Harper Collins thriller State of Fear. ‘Stacked’ won its time period with last week’s premiere episode, earning a 3.8/10 among adults 18-49 and returns tonight. Can’t make it into your local ‘Stacked’? Check out the online bookstore www.harpercollins.com.

Publish Before You Perish

Since the number of Americans hoping to write novels keeps lapping the number who read them, it shouldn’t come as much surprise that the most popular NYTBR article in ages (currently no. 4 on the paper’s “most e-mailed” list) comes with the pedagogically indulgent title, “How to Be Your Own Publisher.”

Putting aside its backstage-pass access to desperation, however, the article does a good job rounding up the relevant trends and figures. Here’s the ones I wasn’t lazy enough to skip over:

-Both traditional and untraditional (self-publishing) publishing ventures see the value in catering to niches.

”What’s interesting is the capability of having micro-niches that are so small that publishers would not be interested in publishing them in the traditional way,” says Richard Sarnoff, the president of Random House Ventures, which owns a minority stake in Xlibris. ”Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding,” a best seller at iUniverse.com, might be a good example…

-Authors can also self-publish to re-release their out-of-print material.

-Self-publishing ventures like iUniverse are trying to help their best books overcome the stigma of self-publishing. iUniverse’s “Star” program selects 2-3 books monthly and makes sure that, unlike other self-published books, its program’s slections are “returnable” and “competitively discounted.”

The Conquistadors of Meta

There aren’t many corners of the media world still left unclaimed by magazines or weblogs, but, as The Weekly Standard‘s new column about the “unheralded, literary device” of book acknowledgments shows us, it’s still possible to occasionally find corners that are very sparsely populated.

California Dreaming

socal.jpgJudith Regan (in the hope, no doubt, of winning the right to give L.A. the kind of “cultural center” it deserves) ticks off the city’s merits in a L.A. Times essay so bootlicking, Hollwyood execs will be wringing their socks for weeks to come.

“If the pulse of Washington is driven by power,” she writes, “the pulse of New York is driven by money. The heartbeat of Los Angeles, on the other hand, is driven by creativity.” Furthermore, the Southland offers “beautiful surroundings,” and the publisher cares about her staff being “happy” — a claim as historically unfounded as that of L.A.’s ongoing creativity.

Regan continues: “There’s a snobbery in New York about L.A. that I’ve never really understood — after all, I love movies. I love TV. Don’t we all? I also like the entertainment business and the people in it.”

***

IN RELATED NEWS, people in the entertainment business want her dead. According to Rush & Malloy, the plotline of last week’s “Law & Order” featured the “murder of a maverick publisher, who crosses up a New York City police commissioner for the job of Homeland Security head.” Rush & Malloy speculate that “the untimely demise of Graff’s character may be a message to Regan to keep quiet about her notorious affair with Kerik,” but GC prefers to see the threats as either Hollywood’s housewar(m/n)ing present to the publisher, or NYC’s you’re-now-dead-to-me send-off.

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