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Archives: December 2007

The Year in GalleyCat: Final Thoughts

I first started posting to GalleyCat in September 2005. It’s been a little over two years now, and (as somebody else once wrote under different circumstances) I can tell you truthfully few periods in my life have passed so quickly. I’ve learned a lot about the publishing industry observing here on the sidelines, though I know I’ve still got plenty more to learn, which gives me something to look forward to in the year ahead. It’s no great revelation that there are major upheavals going on in the business, but I’ve come to realize that the stories that interest me the most are the ones about who’s bringing the innovations that are going to see book publishing through those upheavals. The stories about who’s discovering (or rediscovering) the best practices that enable authors, publishers, and booksellers to act with clarity and meaning, and maybe even a modest profit at the end of the day. So that’s one of my foremost resolutions for 2008—to spend more time finding the stories in this business that really matter and sharing them with readers who, I hope, are as enthusiastic about seeing publishing, and the reading cultures that grow up around its products, flourish as I am.

With, of course, occasional breaks for pictures of my cats.

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There are doubtless subtle surprises ahead, to borrow an expression, but I feel secure and ready.

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The Year in GalleyCat: December

By now, you will have noticed that I didn’t mention any of the notable literary deaths that occurred this year. Book Chase‘s compiled list addresses the situation quite effectively.

1217kindle.jpg⇒People kept knocking Amazon.com‘s Kindle e-book reader, calling it “fugly,” pointless, and not quite modern. For others, it was a portent of publishing’s future.

⇒As The New Republic finally noticed something was up in the book reviewing world, Publishers Weekly and the Association of American Publishers jostled each other in the rush to reassure America’s book critics that people really do take what they do seriously. Then the Chicago Sun-Times hacked its reviews into little bits so they’d fit in the Sunday arts section.

NY Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus got a second gig editing the “Week in Review” section.

Harlequin prepared to serialize novels via email, a medium in which the Japanese are way ahead of us.

Walter Mosley went to Riverhead, and Karl Rove sold his memoir to Threshold. Insert your own “scorning the reality-based community” joke here.

The Year in GalleyCat: November

jack-romanos-interview.jpg⇒I interviewed outgoing Simon & Schuster CEO Jack Romanos, as he expressed his confidence in successor Carolyn Reidy: “You don’t want to bring somebody in who feels like she has to tear the company apart and put her own stamp on it. Carolyn knows how S&S works. She knows the people. She knows the financial expectations.”

Judith Regan finally filed her wrongful termination lawsuit against HarperCollins, accusing Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. of trying to silence her so they could keep Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign on track.

⇒Everybody got excited about the release of the Kindle, Amazon.com‘s e=book reader. Until they realized they hated the design. Unless, of course, they were too excited to care.

Charles Ardai got into it with the Mystery Writers of America over whether the novel Songs of Innocence is self-published, and thus ineligible for the MWA’s Edgar award despite its overwhelming awesomeness.

⇒Somebody leaked me one of the most overblown pitch letters in recent memory.

J.K. Rowling sued Harry Potter fans for daring to publish a print version of the website they’d created to explain all the people, places, and magic spells in her novels.

Emily Gould gave notice at Gawker, which I didn’t mention at the time because it didn’t really have anything to do with book publishing. Except to the extent that her fourteen-month tenure gave the site its sharpest coverage of the publishing industry to date, not to mention some of its best writing, period. (Gould also gave notice for Choire Sicha, whose insightful eye on media culture will likewise be sorely missed on the site after today.) Here’s hoping lines like “we get a lot of our book advice from people who eat broccoli for dessert” turn up somewhere else early on in ’08.

The Year in GalleyCat: October

jessica-seinfeld-wsj.jpgJessica Seinfeld wrote a cookbook, and people thought it reminded them of something. In his own subliminally misanthropic way, her husband tried to make things better.

⇒After raking in the big bucks on Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling outed Dumbledore, and not everyone took the news well.

⇒I started a brief kerfuffle over where the corpse in Alice Sebold‘s novel went and who noticed.

⇒When Porochista Khakapour got a bad review from Carolyn See, she had plenty to say about it.

Barnes & Noble launched a book review website, which even now is running suggestions for the best books of 2007, including some from former GalleyCat Sarah Weinman.

The Year in GalleyCat: September

james-frey-headshot.jpgJames Frey a novel to HarperCollins, giving everybody an opportunity to rehash just how scandalized they were when they found out A Million Little Pieces had made-up bits. That was a couple days after Maureen McCormick sold a memoir to Harper, which I still think they should call Marcia! Marcia! Marcia! but they insist on titling Here’s the Story, and about which some tepid sex gossip ensued.

⇒ As the publication date for If I Did It drew near, Denise Brown refused to go on Oprah with the Goldmans, so Oprah wrung her hands furiously, but stuck with the Goldmans…and then Brown did the show after all. And the book shipped that very day, and soon after that O.J. Simpson was outselling Bill Clinton.

⇒It wasn’t quite Vidal-Mailer, or even Vidal-Buckley, but Daniel Pinchbeck and Whitley Streiber had a tumultuous podcast, yelling at each other about whether the world’s going to end in five years or it’ll be heaven on earth. Also, Austin Grossman called out Larry Doyle.

⇒A Publishing Trends survey revealed that most publishing pros feel underpaid and would rather write books.

The Year in GalleyCat: August

ifididit-goldmans-cover.jpgGalleyCat broke the news that Beaufort Books acquired If I Did It, O.J. Simpson‘s “hypothetical” “confession” to the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, after the rights to the book reverted to Goldman’s surviving family members. Initial reactions were muted, even hostile—and then the book’s publisher opened up here. After that, one of the biggest aspects of the story was Barnes & Noble‘s rejection of the book…until, that is, they did the math.

⇒I interviewed former LA Times Book Review editor Steve Wasserman about taking over book reviews for TruthDig, just before he agreed to speak about “the future of book coverage” for another one of those NBCC hand-wringing sessions. (Speaking of which, did you know there’s no bookstores in Las Vegas, and hardly any left in Manhattan, and it’s all Ronald Reagan’s fault? I didn’t, either!)

The Year in GalleyCat: July

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Bloomsbury published a ridiculously overpriced children’s fantasy, and apparently hardly any of the big bookselling chains actually made a profit on the massive sales it generated, because they all had to apply massive discounts just to make it economically palatable. Still, as The Onion put it, “Nation In Frenzy About Little Wizard Boy And All His Little Wizard Friends.”

⇒Then, when people started panicking about whether they’d ever be able to sell another book again, pundits reassured us of the publishing industry’s stability.

⇒Two romance novelist wore short skirts to the annual Romance Writers of America convention, and all hell broke loose.

⇒Every now and then, some cleverboots sends a literary classic to agents and editors with the real author’s name removed, then gets all excited when nobody writes back saying they simply must publish it straight away. This time, they tried it with Jane Austen.

⇒A year after Oprah Winfrey was mean to her on national TV, Nan Talese attacked Oprah’s bad manners. Though some observers were glad to see her take the talk show host down a peg (or try, anyway), Andrew Sullivan was less than impressed.

Sven Birkerts hates blogs, as if you couldn’t have guessed.

⇒Taking product placement to new heights, Marvel doused a comic book in Old Spice; meanwhile, DC introduced Bizarro World sarcasm, and a weary world rejoiced.

⇒Almost everybody’s forgotten the whole Robert Olen Butler/Elizabeth Dewberry/Ted Turner love triangle by now, but even people who remember it don’t necessarily recall that the whole media circus spiraled out of a GalleyCat blind item.

The Year in GalleyCat: June

laura-albert-courthouse.jpg⇒A federal court decided J.T. Leroy was a fraud, although quite a few observers begged to differ. Shortly after, film producer Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, who had brought the suit against Albert, claimed over $1 million in expenses.

⇒When the San Diego Union-Tribune announced it was cutting back on its book review coverage, local literary agent Sandy Dijkstra declared war.

BookExpo America was the usual circus, complete with overpriced Internet access, but I did learn a lot about the business from Michael Hyatt‘s talk about reconsolidating the Nelson brand, which was much more entertaining than the lamentations of the book reviewers.

The Year in GalleyCat: May

don-weise.jpgI interviewed Don Weise, one of the most respected publishing industry pros caught up in Perseus‘s acquisition of Avalon Publishing Group, to find out what he’d be up to next. (Months later, everyone was glad to hear of his involvement in the Open Door Project.)

⇒A few weeks before she was convicted of defrauding a Hollywood producer by pretending her fiction had been written by a twentysomething transgendered male hustler, I interviewed Laura Albert, who regretted nothing. “What happened was that somebody felt punked and decided he was going to get me for it,” she said of the hoopla surrounding her unmasking; I was informed months later that this statement was quoted during the court proceedings.

Richard Schickel grumbled about blogs again, and so did Romantic Times CEO Kathryn Falk, and the argument over her complaint was a lot more entertaining, especially when she tried to rationalize it away.

—Novelist Sheila Kohler also took a swipe at blogs, but quickly came to realize the error of her ways.

Maureen Johnson‘s YA novel The Bermudez Triangle scandalized a teenager’s mom in Oklahoma and led to a battle with the school board when the woman declared “homosexual content, unprotected sex, underage drinking, and reckless promiscuity are not values that belong in a school library.” (As I noted at the time, there goes the copy of Romeo & Juliet.)

⇒A used bookstore owner in Kansas City threw his inventory on the pyre as a publicity stunt for his clearance sale, and somebody actually took the bait and wrote it up for the AP.

The Year in GalleyCat: April

latfobpanel.jpg⇒I went to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and got into an argument with Andrew Keen about whether or not the Internet was going to hopelessly degrade civilization. Given that his book was called The Cult of the Amateur, you can probably guess where each of us stood on the issue.

⇒The Atlanta Journal-Constitution decided they no longer needed a book review editor, and the National Book Critics Circle found itself a cause (and, in the Internet, a convenient scapegoat). Pretty soon, people started adding their names to online petitions demanding that Teresa Weaver be given her old job back, lest Atlanta be turned into a cultural wasteland, with the rest of the nation soon to follow, citing the Chicago Tribune‘s decision to move its book reviews from the Sunday edition to Saturday’s paper to reduce printing costs, and the LA Times grafting of its reviews onto the back of its Sunday op-ed pages, as supporting evidence. (More skeptical voices suggested not every book review deserves saving.) All the fuss kicked up in Atlanta was somewhat derailed, though, when Weaver got a job somewhere else.

Howard V. Hendrix, the outgoing vice-president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, set off a firestorm when he described other writers who distribute their work online for free as “webscabs… rotting our organization from within.” That went over about as well as you’d expect, especially given the enthusiasm for giving away content to prime the marketing pump.

⇒An Arkansas father decided to sue his local government after his boys found a lesbian sex guide in the public library. He decided that $20,000 was adequate compensation for the emotional scarring that resulted from their perusal of the book, which left them “greatly disturbed… [and]caused many sleepless nights in our house.” Just think what would have happened if the book had mentioned scrotums.

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