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Archives: September 2007

Toiling in Obscurity? Take Comfort Online

“Everyone is an author these days… authorship, far from dying, is spreading like a rhizome fed Supergro,” says anthropologist Keith Hart in an email quoted on Bruce Sterling‘s blog. “The problem is if anyone out there is reading or listening and, if they are in a formal sense, how much of it they actually get.” From there, Hart’s thoughts are deliberately fragmented, but basically he seems to be offering up some encouragement for all those authors who find themselves at the far end of the long tail. The audiences are out there, often where you least expect them to be, he writes, and by helping to put readers in contact with writers, the Internet can also make writers feel a little less isolated. And thanks to “Amazon’s discovery that they make as much money for a million books that sell less than 100 copies as they do from blockbusters,” he adds, “our books never go out of print and every now and then one of them takes off unexpectedly, not yours or mine, but often enough to keep us in the game against all the evidence that there is no audience for what we write.”

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An October Full of YA Goodness

e-lockhart-headshot.jpg.jpgJust a quick followup to my item earlier this week about Readergirlz‘s 31 Flavorites campaign, which begins next Monday. “Any project has my support if it pulls teenagers into reading and connects them with their local libraries—as Teen Read Week does,” says E. Lockhart (left), who will be appearing on the site October 24. “Plus, have you seen the line-up? They cornered the best-selling and most interesting writers in YA literature, so I’m way over-excited to be on their list.”

“My Spidey-Sense is Tingling / What’s a Good Rhyme for Tingling?”

spiderman-musical.jpgBack in April, I mentioned the first inklings of a Broadway Spider-Man musical. According to the National Ledger, plans for the show continue apace, as director Julie Taymor and the show’s backers are looking for a space to put it on. Bono and The Edge, who in this context sorta sound like a superhero team themselves, developed both the book and the lyrics for the production. “It will have some fabulous things in it because it’s got a very strong book,” Taymor told a reporter. But since earlier reports indicated that the show would revolve around Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, it’s probably safe to rule out the possibility of Gwen Stacy’s death becoming the falling chandelier of twenty-oughts musical theater.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn out like It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!

Your Life Sucks, But You Get Free Books

publishing-industry-blah.jpgPublishing Trends has put the results of its first industry survey online, and, let’s face it, there aren’t any big surprises: “Publishers lack vision, editors lack taste, managers don’t understand the business, authors have bad behavior, and a pot-smoking West Coast sales rep gets frustrated by the ‘idiots’ he has to deal with at the companies he represents.” (Frustrated? That must be some pretty crappy weed.) Among the other highlights:

  • 39.2 percent of the respondents said the worst part of the industry was the pay, which makes sense given that 73.6 percent of the 21-35 demographic are making less money in publishing than everybody else they know in just about any other line of work.

  • Nearly half of the respondents had no further career ambitions whatsoever. (Well, the exact line was “just happy being me.”)
  • Nearly half of the people on the editorial side of the building are nursing their own literary ambitions; also, 36.4 percent of the marketing team.
  • Publishing Trends is read by old people in New York. Just kidding! But two-thirds of the survey respondents were NYC-based, and 28.3 percent had been in the industry for at least 25 years.
  • 31.7 percent of the respondents read “industry site blogs” for their publishing news.

Blogs? As in more than one? You mean there are other people crazy enough to do this? (UPDATE: I’m in an even better mood now that I’ve seen the full results of that particular question, where another 35.3 percent cite “Media Bistro” [sic] as their source for publishing industry news…)

GalleyCat Goes to the Dogs, One More Time


When I started sharing pictures of literary pets this summer, one of the first to appear was Alison Pace‘s dog Carlie. Here’s another shot of Carlie—who was the inspiration for a character in Pace’s recently published Through Thick and Thin—getting her picture taken with her owner by dog photographer Amanda Jones. Pace and Carlie will be doing a signing together tomorrow afternoon at the West Village dog boutique Zoomies; other canines are more than welcome.

OJ Simpson Now Outselling Bill Clinton

According to Reuters, next week’s NYT nonfiction bestseller list will see If I Did It at #2 and Giving at #3, a reversal of their positions in this weekend’s upcoming chart. I’m afraid it may be time to reassess the commercial appeal of Osama bin Laden’s love sonnets. Although, technically, wouldn’t bin Laden be more likely to write in ghazals?

Which is I was actually about to try, but I didn’t get much further than the first couplet, which rhymed “list” with a common vulgarity, and frankly I’m not getting paid enough to spend an hour slaving over an eight-line poem. But it’s been a long time since our showtune writing contest… hmmm. OK, not this weekend, and probably not ghazals, but we’ll have ourselves a doggerel competition, soon enough.

A Dollar A Book on Crosby Street

The Housing Works Used Book Café is holding its third annual “Open Air Book Fair” Saturday afternoon, with a slew of books, CDs, and movies on sale for just $1 each out on Crosby Street, with inventory being brought up from the store’s basements throughout the day. In the unlikely event that today’s rain continues into tomorrow, the sale gets moved back to Sunday.

Online Literary/Political Mag Making Jump to Print

A few years back, Joel Whitney and Michael Archer started up a reading series at a Manhattan bar called Guernica. “We’d both given and been to thousands of readings and wanted to do a series that was fun and casual and included music and mingling before and after the reading,” Archer recalls. As the events started to draw a regular crowd, the two men teamed up with Josh Jones and Beth Onusko to create an online “magazine of art and politics,” named Guernica after the bar. The readings have tapered off, but the website continues, celebrating its third anniversary tonight with a benefit party held on a Hudson River cruise ship. Special guests for the evening will include authors Melissa Bank and Oscar Hijuelos, who will joined by Frederic Tuten for a discussion the latter describes as “a most casual [conversation] about our respective writing and our general and creative interests.”

The funds raised will go towards the magazine’s newly launched print edition. “Some of our readers continue to see the print format as ideal for our longer interviews, essays, fiction…even some poems,” Archer explains. Among the pieces tapped for the first issue: a long poem from Richard Howard.

Simon Spotlight Officially For Grownups

Carolyn Reidy‘s changes to business as usual at Simon & Schuster keep coming: Following the first wave of executive appointments, the CEO-designate has issued a memo announcing the Simon Spotlight Entertainment is being re-org’ed out of the children’s division and into Pocket Books. SSE was launched three years ago with an editorial sensibility aimed at the coveted 18-34 market like He’s Just Not That Into You. Founding publisher Jen Bergstrom will continue to run the imprint, reporting to Pocket publisher Louise Burke.

Have You Read These Yet?

Motoko Rich has a great story in this morning’s NYT arts section about the rift running through the Poetry Society of America that has led to five resignations from the board of directors in the last few months. Basically, Walter Mosley, among others, was pissed that the Society gave a major award to John Hollander, whose critical thoughts on contemporary poetry might or might not include sentiments that wouldn’t seem out of place in a dinner conversation with Bill O’Reilly at Sylvia’s. Like the NYTBR piece where he appears to dismiss West Africa, Mexico, and Central America as “cultures without literature.” Although, actually, most of the resignations came after board president William Louis-Dreyfus accused fellow members who complained about the situation of “McCarthyism.” Concerning the fallout, he tells Rich, “I have no regrets, just as I would have none if I’d lived in McCarthy’s days and had not succumbed to that particular hysteria.” Louis-Dreyfus was in his early twenties during the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954, so what’s with that curious if?

⇒Nearly a month ago, or so it feels like, I gave an interview to a journalist named Jennie Yabroff about the current trend towards “gimmick memoirs,” in particular the writers who are “saying no to so much of modern life,” which is how you unite a group as disparate as A.J. Jacobs and Barbara Kingsolver. My voluminous thoughts on the subject are edited down to one pithy remark: “We’re such a hyperaffluent society, what else is left for us to do than take things away from our lives?”

⇒I had no idea David Allen, one of my favorite productivity experts, was blogging on the Huffington Post! This week, he talks about the importance of establishing what’s on your mind. “The thought itself is just a beginning,” Allen reminds readers, “and if we care at all that it brings value or improvement, we probably need to capture it, clarify what it means to us, and organize the actions and information embedded or associated with it.” Amen. (Note: If you’ve already read Getting Things Done, you know the spiel already, but if you haven’t, and you’re feeling overwhelmed by work—which is probably 90% of the publishing industry workforce—you might want to check out the post.)