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Archives: December 2006

Korea’s Ghostwriting Scandal

Looks like the publishing industry here wasn’t the only one to feel the scandal pitch. The Korea Times updates folks on the year that was in their publishing world, focusing on two particular ghostwriting-related scandals. First, the translated version of DON’T EAT THE MARSHMELLOW…YET! topped bestseller lists for 9 months, seemingly translated by popular television announcer Jung Ji-young. Then Internet media outlet OhMyNews revealed that Jung’s role was virtually limited to lending her name for the publicity, and she had no part in the book’s translation.

Then the news that Jemma Han, another TV presenter as well as an artist, likely had at least four books ghostwritten. Her publisher was quick to defend, saying that the use of a helping writer was always known, but I guess in Korea, not writing your own books is still considered scandalous… “Best Ever” Holiday Season

The Associated Press picks up on an press release touting their holiday success, including more than 4 million orders on December 11 alone. Among the top books cited in this seasonal windfall: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama and You: On a Diet by Mehmet C. Oz and Michael F. Roizen.

According to the AP, “ also said customers ordered enough Airborne cold-fighting supplements to supply every passenger on 192 Boeing 747 planes.” That sounds like a lot! Is it? Let’s be generous, and use the biggest number we can find, for the Japan Air Lines 747-100SR, which seats 563 passengers (even though most 747 jets typically seat closer to 450). 563 passengers on 192 planes equals 108,096 Airborne packages. That’s not bad, but I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it nothing to sneeze at.

Publishing a Clef

The rule of thumb is that it’s not a trend unless there are three books with the same theme, but it doesn’t stop the LA Times’ Josh Getlin from profiling Debra Ginsberg and Bridie Clark, the respective authors of BLIND SUBMISSION (out now) and BECAUSE SHE CAN (out in February.) Ginsberg’s book, set in the world of literary agenting, seems to be based in part on her time working for noted West Coast uberagent Sandy Djikstra, while Clark’s book is all-too-known for its portrayal of a Judith Regan-like boss who makes assistants’ life a living hell.

“I think everyone is familiar with the phenomenon of the boss from hell, the over-the-top person who can ruin your professional and personal life,” said Clark, 29, who worked with Regan in New York for almost a year. “I’m sure this happens in many jobs, but you do hear a lot of stories about it occurring in the world of publishing.” Both, of course, are quick to deny any direct similarities with their former bosses. “There are a lot of Lucys out there,” Ginsberg said, referring to a character who steals credit for work they’ve done and cruelly invades their private lives. “I didn’t have to look too far. And I can’t stress enough that this isn’t a book about Sandy Dijkstra, any more than it’s about Judith Regan.”

Beatles Fans Go On Their Own

The New York Times’ Alan Kozinn expresses some amazement that there’s still life left in Beatlemania, at least on the book front. Guess again, he says. Now, if mainstream publishers reject their work as too specialized, even the most Beatles-obsessed authors are finding audiences for their books – ranging from from meticulous descriptions of the Beatles‘ recording process to multi-volume examinations of the group’s American releases, to evaluations of unreleased studio and concert recordings now on the bootleg market – by publishing them themselves. But don’t even think the phrase ‘vanity press.’ Many of these self-published books are lavishly produced and packed with original research that makes them invaluable to Beatles scholars and collectors, and some have been startlingly successful through online sales.

Many of these books started off as private research projects that took decades to research in order to answer pressing (if sometimes small) mysteries. And considering the result, even traditionally-published Beatles experts are impressed, especially with the 540-page, $100-per-copy RECORDING THE BEATLES (compiled by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew) which is about to go into a second printing after selling out its 3,000-copy print run. “I think it’s a marvelous book; in fact it embarrasses my ‘Recording Sessions’ book,” said Mark Lewisohn, the British author whose 1988 book, THE BEATLES RECORDING SESSIONS (Harmony), was the first detailed examination of the group’s recording process, and whose other books, THE BEATLES LIVE! (Henry Holt) and THE COMPLEAT BEATLES CHRONICLE (Harmony), set the standard for serious Beatles research in the 1980s and ’90s. He understood the attraction of going on your own. “When you self-publish, you have the opportunity to be as indulgent as you like. You can go into everything with a thoroughness that a conventional publisher would try to limit for reasons of cost.”

2007 Publishing Predictions

We sent out the call for what to expect in 2007, and the answers are still trickling in. Steve Clackson thinks that the WSJ was onto something with his story about Vanguard Press, saying that it may “set a trend,” as will “other forms of self-publishing and POD.” More humor-laden predictions came in by way of Michael Adamick, who expects to see the James Frey tome IF I WROTE IT on shelves any day now, adding “do I even have to tell you who the publisher will be?”

Speaking of the Lady Regan, Jeffery McGraw of the August Agency has an intriguing thought, saying that Regan might actually revisit the ghost of her past: The National Enquirer. Specifically, that “David Pecker (or someone of his ilk) will hire Judith Regan to do for his book publishing endeavors what he intended Bonnie Fuller to do for his celebrity tabloid.”

As for actual publishing trends, McGraw puts his tongue in his cheek and suggests that since chick lit’s dead and paranormals may well be in the next year or so, what about putting them together for…drumroll….Choose Your Own Adventure In Paranormal Erotica. “Think about it,” McGraw says. “Totally safe sex. No contraception necessary. No morning after regrets. And YOU get to choose whether you lose your virginity to the ghost of Xmas past or present. Deal or no deal?” Hey, it could work for some people!

Bratton Seeks a Book Deal

There aren’t too many would-be authors who have the LA Times as a mouthpiece to talk about a book that a) hasn’t been finished b) hasn’t been published anywhere yet. But then, LAPD Commissioner William Bratton isn’t your usual aspiring author, and he can get Patrick McGreevy to listen to his future publishing plans. The book, a collaboration with Rutgers criminal justice professor George Kelling, proposes to offer solutions to the increase in crime in much of the United States, drawing on the success of a handful of cities, including Los Angeles, where crime remains in decline. Kelling said this week that he and Bratton hope to finish the book by the end of 2007.

The book might not have happened had publishers not turned down Bratton’s previous proposal, another book on terrorism, saying the market was glutted. “It’s just as well,” Bratton said. “The Kelling book is much more timely because one of the things we are looking to raise nationally, and we are confident that with the Democrats taking control it will be raised, is the issue of crime growing in the country. We are something of an anomaly here with crime declining for four years.” He has a point, even if this entire article sounds like a great “please buy my book, publishers!” pitch…

Wanted: Savvy Sci-Fi Critic for NYTBR

It’s taken as a given that the litblogosphere has it in for Sam Tanenhaus and the New York Times Book Review, with this blog counted among the critics, but I like to think that the ‘Cat has been supportive, albeit in a rather tough-love mode, of the changes Tanenhaus has executed in nearly three years on the job. I’m not convinced he’s getting everything done in a timely fashion, and the “news about the culture” approach has its downsides, but you can’t deny that he’s made the Review lively, he’s done a decent job with literary fiction (particularly trade paperback originals), and he’s brought some fresh new voices in to give fields like poetry and comics serious and signficant coverage. But nestled among such successes is a columnist whose faults have become more glaring with each new effort—science-fiction reviewer Dave Itzkoff.

(Now, we might as well lay all our cards out on the table: Itzkoff has had his nose bent out of shape with this blog because he believes I sandbagged him when I wrote about his debut for PW last spring, which frankly is ironic since that article contained more positive feedback than just about any other reactions to his work. We stopped mentioning him by name after we became tired of receiving snotty emails every time we did. But constantly going on about “the reviewer” and “the columnist” would get silly, so I’ll break the tradition this once. You should also know that I’m friendly with John Scalzi, the subject of today’s NYTBR sci-fi essay, but you’ll have to take it on faith that I’d think Itzkoff’s review stinks even if I didn’t know Scalzi at all.)

Let’s look at an early line in Itzkoff’s review of John Scalzi’s works, considering the legacy of science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein:

“I have no reason to doubt that the old master’s classic novels Stranger in a Strange Land and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls are still as good as I remember them… But Heinlein’s military sci-fi, particularly the book that practically invented the genre, Starship Troopers, has not aged well, to put it mildly.”

Setting aside the fact that I just reread Starship Troopers over the weekend, and it has aged quite well apart from a few bits of cornball dialogue, thank you very much, there are three plausible explanations for how such a boneheaded statement as calling The Cat Who Walks Through Walls a classic could be published in one of the nation’s leading literary reviews. We can rule out the possibility that Itzkoff is making a poorly executed attempt at irony; if that were the case, he wouldn’t pair it up with Stranger in a Strange Land, which has its problems but holds up reasonably well. We can also rule out the idea that he’s being deliberately snide—as poor a reviewer as he is, one ought to presume he’s acting in good faith. That leaves just one option: He really thinks Cat was as good as he professes to remember, and that (non-sci-fi fans will have to trust me on this) means his taste simply cannot be trusted.

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What a Week! We’re Exhausted…


Thanks to the recognition bestowed upon us by several mainstream media outlets recently, GalleyCat has seen its readership swell—and we hope that our new visitors have liked what they’ve seen of our coverage not just of this week’s big controversy (although that certainly kept us busy, especially when the ‘Cat became part of the story) but of all the issues and events we’ve touched upon. We’re going to be posting on a very light schedule until January 2, 2007—we expect you’ll be taking a much-needed break as well—but once we’ve recuperated, we’ll resume our efforts to deliver informative and provocative coverage of the publishing industry. We hope you’ll continue to join us!

Party Hopping on Rivington Street


Tuesday night, Sarah and I dropped in at the Lower East Side restaurant Verlaine for a small party hosted by the aggregating litblog network MetaxuCafé in celebration of its first anniversary, where we ran into publicist Lauren Cerand snapping away with her camera. (That’s Metaxu founder Bud Parr behind her wearing the glasses.) Then I walked across the street to the Magician, where blogospheric sensation Andrew Krucoff threw together a holiday party for one of his sites, Young Manhattanite, with New Yorker fan Emily Gordon as special guest of honor. Joining me in the Rivington Street blog party crawl were novelists Marcy Dermansky and Jami Attenberg.

Letterhead No Longer So Essential

In response to yesterday’s query about book reviewers contacting publicists on company letterhead, one publicist confirmed via email that “most of us treat it as an antiquated rule.” Reviewers working with any big or reputable organization can just call or email and they won’t have a problem getting an advance copy of a book. “We also advise most people to follow up their fax with a phone call,” our source adds. “It’ll bring it to our attention if we have 100-some-odd faxes in our inbox.” The letterhead rule is mostly just to deal with the con artists who wheedle books out of publishers to sell them on eBay and such.

“I never made people fax a request if they were a legit reviewer or even a freelancer I’d worked with before,” adds Abrams new director of marketing operations, Colleen Lindsay, of her days in the publicity department. “Email was (and is) always preferable. However, if I was ever contacted by a freelancer I didn’t know, I asked for the name of the editor to whom they would be submitting their story at any given publication.” (Sounds like the perfect solution to me!) Anyone who couldn’t supply a name was probably trying to run a con, and Lindsay wasn’t falling for it: “And, yes, there are hundreds of scammers out there looking for free books. Trust me. It’s pathetic.”