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Archives: December 2005

Happy New Year!

Well that’s it from Galleycat HQ, and we hope that 2006 brings forth everything you’ve always dreamed of – a book deal, a promotion, new innovations, exciting controversies, and of course, lots of bestsellers.

mblogo.jpgSome of my predictions for 2006 in publishing appear over at our sister site, FishbowlNY, but what do you think the future holds? Send any and all suggestions our way

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Beat Safire at his own game

As part of Op-ed columnist William Safire’s end-of-year column, he asks would-be trivialists to guess which books will be the “sleeper hits” on the fiction and non-fiction side:

5. Nonfiction sleeper best seller will be: (a) “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed,” by Alan Alda; (b) “Self-Made Man” by Norah Vincent, the new Steinem; (c) “In Search of Memory,” by Nobelist Eric Kandel.

6. Fiction surprise will be: (a) “Eye Contact” by Cammie McGovern, about an autistic murder witness; (b) “The World to Come” by Dara Horn, about a museum heist; (c) a media murder mystery by Russ Lewis; (d) second novel by Scooter Libby about anything.

Safire picks Kandel and McGovern’s books, respectively, although considering I’ve heard plenty about both already (and already raved about THE WORLD TO COME) I don’t really count those as “surprises.” That would have to be books that won’t be included on those proverbial “looking ahead” columns that will show up any day now…

The Devil Girl Made Him Do It

truckin.jpgWell, we know Robert Crumb won’t be joining the ranks of Amazon-hosted bloggers any time soon. Crumb’s suing the online retailer for copyright infringement over an incident that happened a few years back, reports LAT staffer Chris Gaither:

“People who searched the Amazon website for a product that it didn’t carry were shown Crumb’s famous ‘Keep on Truckin” image—a big-footed man in full stride, leaning sharply backward—with instructions to keep on looking.”

Amazon took the image down as soon as they heard from Crumb’s lawyer; the suit’s been filed because the two parties can’t agree on how much the cartoonist should be paid for all those times people did see it on the site. Marquette Law professor Eric Goldman suggests on his blog that the ramifications for the ‘net could be huge; he’s also got a copy of Crumb’s complaint.(Story and image, reproduced solely for its newsworthiness but we’ll take it down right away if you ask, Mr. Crumb, found on The Comics Reporter.)

Have Authorblogs Become Corporate Shills?

You’ll recall the news earlier this week of Amazon’s author blogs. They have not, it seems, been met with universal enthusiasm. Edward Champion compares the early online efforts of writers like Meg Wolitzer to “Shirley Maclaine talking with the dead during an infomercial.” Champion goes on to suggest that no blog published under the aegis of a “monolithic sponsor” like Amazon will be able to match the spirited authenticity of independent author websites. “When the overwhelming reason to blog is to move product,” he warns, “surely the motivation behind the posts will be moulded to ensure presence and survival.”

If that were the case, one might argue, somebody might have made sure that when Wolitzer recommended “three great books,” there were links to buy those books from Amazon. (Of course, now that I’ve pointed it out, I wouldn’t be surprised if they go ‘fix’ that…) But there’s a broader issue to be considered here; what we’re dealing with, of course, is the perennial “sell out” label. At which point, we could ask: How corporate is too corporate? If Wolitzer “is” a “sellout” for blogging on Amazon, how should we judge Uzodinma Iweala for contributing an essay to Powell’s? What if the Lower East Side vego-feminists at Bluestockings started running original content from authors on their site? For that matter, M.J. Rose’s Typepad blog is clearly promotional in its intent; is it too “professional” to be “authentic”?

In one sense, this is pretty silly: Nobody’s suggesting that Wolitzer’s a sellout for publishing with Scribner rather than iUniverse, so what does it matter what server hosts her blog? If the individual blog does or doesn’t satisfy, go ahead and say so—but let’s not condemn it automatically or hold it up as some sort of “type.”

(These questions hold particular significance, I admit, not only because of my situation here at Galleycat, where you’ll see plenty of ads, but because I also publish original content from guest writers alongside ads on my own blog, Beatrice. This isn’t necessarily the place for extended introspection on the subject, and the item’s running long already, but the issue came up earlier this year when I spoke to the Village Voice.)

History dead; politics still ticking

Literary agent Natasha Fairweather begins her commentary for the Telegraph with a bit of a kvetch, bemoaning the fact that history — you know, those mammoth Tudor biographies and history heartthrobs getting mobbed in Waterstone’s, that sort of thing — is dead to publishing at the moment. And it’s oh so hard to anticipate trends, but hey, she’s going to try anyway. What’s her prediction: politics is in, baby:

Predicting the future is, of course, a mugs’ game, but one area which I’m certain will flourish anew in the coming few years is the market for political books. We’ve all sensed the climate of political apathy which has resulted from a tarnished government. Tory leaders have come and gone leaving barely a dent on the political or publishing landscape (though William Hague’s biography of Pitt the Younger was a conspicuous success last year). And nobody is seemingly sufficiently enthused about the Liberal Democrats even to commission a biography of the leader. But all this is about to change.

With the end of the Blair era in sight it will be fascinating to see which members of his entourage will commit themselves to print. There will be Blair’s own memoirs, of course. But will ministers who have clambered on to the moral high ground recently, condemning former diplomats such as Christopher Meyer for writing about contemporary history, be tempted to publish themselves? I’d wager a yes, since hypocrisy and politics have always made good bedfellows.

And if you think this might flourish in the UK, give it a few years and we’ll be deluged with books by those on the fringe of the Bush/Cheney ticket…

And now, no one will try to eat the book

When I first wrote about the lawsuit Hershey Foods & co. had launched against Simon & Schuster for alleged trademark infringement, I couldn’t help thinking of one particular piece in one of my all-time favorite books, UNCLE SHELBY’S ABZ: A PRIMER FOR TENDER YOUNG MINDS:



…it is made from candy

So now that the lawsuit is all settled and Hershey can’t get mad anymore, I wonder if there will be a book made from candy…

Keep those New Year’s Resolutions Comin’

And several of you have done quite nicely. First up is Tara McCarthy, author of LOVE WILL TEAR US APART:

I resolve to never let the words ‘chick lit’ come out of my mouth in 2006. I may even start some kind of web-based support group for publishing types who are trying to kick the habit.

Can’t really argue with that — I guess the publishing world can’t really appropriate “adult contemporary” though, can they?

Steve Clackson’s resolutions will resonate for many folks who read this and other publishing-oriented blogs:

I’ve finished my first novel and my main goal is to get it published or at least under contract in 2006. I’m working on my second one and have started a new blog. I would also like more time to read in 2006, something I missed this past year.

And Michelle Richmond has a resolution that’s probably closer to my heart than most:

Resolution: I will read a mystery! Yes, an honest-to-goodness potboiler, complete with smokin’ guns and dark-cloaked villains. The closest I came to it this year was Paul Auster’s Moon Palace, which probably doesn’t really count. I think a lot of writers of literary fiction (myself included) have plenty to learn from a good page-turner. Seeking recommendations!

I guess it can’t hurt to plug my own site then, can it?

Reclusive Rocker Creates Own Legend of Zelda

The AP’s John Rogers chats with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter about his first novel, Doppelganger. “Hunter is loath to describe it in detail before publication,” says Rogers, “except to note that it puts to use the quantum mechanics theory of physics and includes ‘a whole lot of doppelgangers.’ As it happens, Hunter opened up a bit more when he gave an interview to KyndMusic:

“An alternate Earth is in danger of destruction. Zelda, an autistic child, is dispatched from our world to help save the parallel world, where, gifted with the intuitive powers of a child, she is able to function as a capable adult. In the act of writing the very book we are reading, the author, Ophiucus, gets so involved with the characters that his objectivity is blurred and he inadvertently creates the possibility of devastation spreading from the fictional world into our own while unruly characters try to take over the writing of the book to further personal goals, not realizing they are abetting their own doom.”

And while he’s telling the media that he’s merely “waiting on word from his publisher on when it will be released,” Hunter reveals a more detailed agenda in his online journal. “My plan to publish Doppelganger and do a tour behind it next October has hit a speed bump,” Hunter tells his fans. “I find I absolutely must rewrite the book from top to bottom because there’s so much more to say about the characters.” In fact, now that he’s in the middle of his third draft, he’s pretty sure he’ll need to do a fourth. Oh, and “[I] haven’t sold it yet, by the way. As with everything in my professional life, it’s all on spec.”

So which publisher is he waiting on word from, exactly? I ask because while Hunter can probably count on some Deadheads buying this book out of loyalty, the weak performance of The Traveler this summer doesn’t suggest houses will be lining up to invest in that storyline.

Someone Forgot the Customer’s Always Right

rachaelray.jpgA few bookblogs have picked up on the story of “Donny B.,” who was fired from a cookware store in Chicago after blogging about an in-store appearance by Rachael Ray (left). “You’d think it was Nicole Kidman getting ushered last-minute into the Oscars,” he says of her arrival at the store. “She had her people, the store had their people, and there was a camera crew filming her every step.” But he isn’t really all that critical of Ray (who he thinks has a “cute bubble butt”); instead, he saves his scorn for all the hoopla surrounding her, particularly among the fans clamoring for her attention: “Come on people, I know you’re excited but it’s a woman who created mini-cheeseburger salad, not the freakin’ pope.”

Further University Press Recommendations

Over at the Talking Points Memo blog, Josh Marshall strongly recommends Peter Heather’s The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians, published earlier this month by Oxford University Press. And considering his audience share, I’m pretty sure that its arrival on the Amazon Top 200 list stems from the strength of that tip (“If you’re the sort who likes finding a thick book about some distant period in the past that you can lose yourself in for a spell, try this one out”). Nothing at the NYTBR on this one, but it’s only been out a few weeks—and maybe Sam Tanenhaus is waiting on a review that pairs it up with Oxford’s other big classical history title for December, Gwyn Morgan’s 69 AD: The Year of Four Emperors. That’s what I’d do, at any rate…and, yes, I’ll make a shameless public bid for the assignment, too: Pick me, pick me!

Meanwhile, Michelle Lin of Cambridge University Press mentions one of her own imprint’s titles—Singularities by Nobel laureate Christian de Duve—but she’s also enthusiastic about NYU’s Liars! Cheaters! Evildoers!: Demonization and the End of Civil Debate in American Politics. Co-author Tom De Luca has tentatively commenced blogging about contemporary examples of political demonization at The Daily Demonizer; the site shows some promise, and one hopes it’ll pick up in the new year…