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Archives: August 2005

Bet I know what the top reason will be

Terry McMillan’s next book is a compendium of graduation tips. Or something, enough to fill a mere 32 pages of type, in any case. So let’s have a few suggestions, shall we?

11. Find your favorite topic and stick to it. For some, it’s politics, for others, it’s railing against why black men are such dogs.

8. Exhale. A lot.

4. Go on a fabulous Caribbean vacation and get Angela Bassett to play you in the movie.

2. Never give in, even if demands are perfectly rational and reasonable and you don’t see it.

1. Have the last laugh by writing a fictionalized tell-all about your gay husband and messy divorce.

So who’s guesting Galleycat anyway?

The problem with doing one of these introductory-type posts is that I’m never sure if I should use first person or third. The former, and sound all egotistical and self-important, or the latter, and sound distant, pompous and self-important?

Well, what the hell. I lose out either way, so I might as well stick to what I know best.

Some of you might know me from from my main address, where I’ve been waxing eloquent (and otherwise) about crime fiction, the literary world and whatever else strikes my fancy for almost 2 years now. Some others might know me from what I write for newspapers, online magazines, anthologies, message boards, newsgroups and blog comments. A very select few might even know me in a non-writing context, but that’s becoming rarer and rarer these days as I slowly come to grips with the fact that I have absolutely no hobbies whatsoever.

This week at GC, I’ll cater to you: the editorial assistants who got into the business because they loved books only to discover that it takes 10 years to make any sort of liveable wage. The overworked publicists who’d love to be able to read all their assigned authors but just don’t have the time — even if everyone gets “national review attention.” The agents who spend all day trying to make bigger deals, ward off ever-growing slush piles and hope that their next commission actually comes through on time. And the writers, published or otherwise, who are trying to make sense of this crazy business that we all love more than anything else.

Lofty goals? Not so much, but entertainment’s what we want, anyway. Today’s posts appear below, and there’ll be much more throughout the week.

Why pissing off Encyclopedia salesmen is a bad idea

Ever since a judge ruled that Dan Brown did not plagiarize Lewis Perdue, I’ve been waiting for the next juicy lawsuit to show up. Luckily, the folks at PublishAmerica — everyone’s favorite vanity press masquerading as a real one — has cooked up a fine mess that’s landed them in one of Northern Illinois’ District Courts.

Seems that PA has an imprint that they originally called PublishBritannica, which is supposed to be the UK arm of their Vast Empire. But alas, PA didn’t seem to understand the whole concept of trademark infringement, and naturally, the folks at EB aren’t too happy, and have sued for trademark infringement.

What’s fun about the filing is that EB links to a bunch of news stories about PA’s practices to show that they aren’t exactly the most trustworthy bunch. And it seems that PA ignored the filing for a little while — until they made one concession, changing the site name to “PublishBritannia.” Whether that will work, of course, is another story…

I think a title change might be in order

Or else I really have to get my mind out of the gutter:

Jo-Ann Power’s MISSING MEMBER, first in the mystery series, Me and Mr. Jones, featuring a forty-something Congresswoman who discovers her party’s Whip dead in her inner office chair, to Marcia Markland at St. Martin’s, for publication in Fall 2006, in a three-book deal, by Jay Poynor at Poynor Group/Orloff Literary Agency (world).

(deal report from Publishers Marketplace)

In the department of “Doth Protesteth Too Much”

Poor Patricia Cornwell. Why won’t anyone believe her? Why won’t anyone play in her Jack the Ripper Sandbox? But the story of her obsession with Walter Sickert, which first saw publication in the god-awful PORTRAIT OF A KILLER, isn’t going away — in fact, it’s picking up far more hilarious steam:

Crime author Patricia Cornwell has taken out full-page ads in two national newspapers to deny she is obsessed with Jack the Ripper.

Cornwell claimed artist Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper in a book in 2002. Ripper experts rejected that theory.

In Saturday’s Guardian and Independent, Cornwell stands by her claim and calls on others to disprove it.

The ads are thought to have cost more than £10,000 each. An updated edition of her book will appear next year.

Now, until someone sends me a .jpeg version of the ad (and please do if you have one) I guess I’ll have to content myself with laughing hysterically at the transcript:

Cornwell wrote in the advert: “My ongoing investigation is far from an obsession but an excellent opportunity to provide a platform for applying modern science to a very old, highly visible case.”

In Saturday’s adverts, Cornwell called the case “far from closed” and challenged her critics to come up with concrete evidence of another suspect’s guilt.

“I welcome everyone to investigate this case and perhaps find new evidence that factually argues for or against anything I have discovered,” she wrote.

“If it turns out that something indisputably proved that this notorious killer was someone other than Walter Richard Sickert, I would be the first to offer congratulations and retract my accusations.”

And of course — ta da! — the “updated version” of the book will be out next year. Oh frabjous day, indeed.

Being a novelist, the oversized mammary version

When I lived in London a few summers ago, I had an unhealthy fascination with the lovely lass known to some as Katie Price, but to the rest of the world — OK, the tabloid-loving, London-dwelling public — as Jordan. Mostly because her breed of celebrity is so fame-specific (at least Pamela Anderson, who is about her equivalent, sort of acts) that she didn’t really have to do anything to stay in the public eye beyond engage in a token catfight or two or reveal her current shag in an almost perfunctory way.

Which probably explains why her biography, BEING JORDAN, turned out to be a “surprise” hit — all those agents and editors who turned the project down didn’t think the book would sell because really, why should it? Except it did, and now, she’s moved on to her next project:

If Naomi Campbell can do it, why not Jordan? In 1997, Heinemann/Mandarin published Campbell’s novel Swan. Now, Century’s Mark Booth has commissioned two novels and a second volume of memoirs from Katie Price, aka Jordan, whose memoir, Being Jordan, was published by John Blake, selling 500,000 copies in hardback and contributing to Blake Publishing being named Van Tulleken Small Publisher of the Year at this year’s British Book Awards.

Agent Maggie Hanbury, who admitted to PN that the book had not been an easy sell, wouldn’t be drawn on the terms of the new contract, except to say that “it involved a lot of noughts… let’s say it was a very substantial three-book deal.” Blake was invited to the bid for the memoirs, but told PN: “She’s a great author, we love her. But she’s probably now suited to a bigger publisher. Small publishers like us are good at coming up with original ideas and developing them. But once we’ve established an author, they’re probably better off elsewhere. We’re innovators, an ideas factory.” The memoir, as yet untitled, picks up where Being Jordan left off, and is “well under way”, with publication as a Century hardback scheduled for February ’06. Once again, Price will be working with ghostwriter Rebecca Farmworth.

Of course, Pam-based comparisons are only going to become more frequent, if Jordan and her ghostwriter deliver something along the lines of STAR and STAR STRUCK. And no doubt those mammoth implants will feature prominently on the cover and the marketing plan…

Mellow, or just Blissed Out?

Frankly, this recent profile of Canongate Publisher Jamie Byng strikes me as ranking pretty high on the absurdity scale. It could be how Joel Rickett wrote it up — what else to make of gems like these?

A few years ago, Byng might have celebrated with a vodka or a swift line of cocaine. Now he brews up a pot of fresh mint tea. His second wife, American literary agent Elizabeth Sheinkman, comes down from her roof-terrace office on the way to yoga class; the newly-married pair spent Christmas 2004 on retreat in India.

“I am mellowing out,” he admits. “I’m a little older [36] and a little wiser.” The infamous all-night sessions are fewer and further between: “Part of the trouble was that I had huge levels of endurance, so I could burn the candle at both ends and blowtorch it in the middle. I realised that it was doing damage to me and I’d be better to slow it down.”

Or this:

He’s vexed over how to nurture new literary talent in a risk-averse climate. “From September onwards you’re fucked if you’re publishing an unknown writer–you’re not going to get any retail support.”

But he remains relentlessly upbeat. “I still have the same feeling I had in 1994, which is that if I mess this up I’ll have squandered the best opportunity of my life. I feel more excited and energised by the business than ever before. A lot of the right ingredients are there–I just hope we continue to get some luck, because we fucking need it.”

And, despite a calmer lifestyle, he vows to continue to use his personal notoriety to Canongate’s benefit: “It’s weird being so synonymous with a business. But the media like to focus on one person, so it is something we can use to our advantage–it has helped Canongate get a greater profile than it maybe deserves on size.”

Granted, I guess Byng’s faux-nobility and Morgan Entrenkin poster-boy status makes him an easy target, but one has to wonder if that mint tea he’s drinking isn’t spiked with something…

From the Editors Interviews

We’re experimenting with making our (usually subscription-only) “From the Editors” feature free for the first few weeks it’s up.

This week’s interviewee: Jill Schwartzman, HarperCollins

And previously:
Megan Lynch & Sean McDonald, Riverhead

Editor’s Note: 08.15.2005

Dear Readers:

Galleycat’s publishing schedule will be fairly sporadic until August 29, when we’ll introduce a new guest editor. In the meantime, be sure to check out the many fine blogs and publishing news sources on our blogroll.

Elizabeth Spiers
editor in chief,

“Jennings Death a Book Loss”

Last week, PW‘s report on slain journalist Steven Vincent — “Posthumous Book Unlikely for Journalist Murdered in Iraq” — had me commenting, “As if murder doesn’t take enough from us.” So excuse my solipsism if I wonder that PW‘s title for its article on Peter Jennings — “Jennings Death a Book Loss” — wasn’t meant to scandalize me.