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Archives: June 2008

Guest Essay: Tim W. Brown on the History and Future of Zines

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When I heard about Tim W. Brown’s novel Walking Man, a satiric novel that depicts the life and times of the most famous zine publisher in America, I wondered “what happened to the zine?” Here’s Tim Brown’s Essay on the history and future of the zine.

Opinions differ about the origins of zines. Some trace their ancestry to colonial times, when a lively traffic in political, polemical and satirical pamphlets occurred. Others have stated that pulp magazines dating from the 1930s were the first zines. True detective magazines, titillating readers with lurid accounts of murders and sex crimes, and science fiction magazines, targeting fans of an exploding literary genre, resembled zines in how they appealed to highly selective reading tastes.

The most widely credited ancestor of the contemporary zine was the “fanzine” first appearing in the 1970s. An offshoot of the fan club newsletter, fanzines published bits of fact and rumor about favorite rock bands in pamphlets mimeographed in editions of fifty or a hundred.

Poets and comic artists soon adopted the methods of producing zines, giving them an outlet for their creative, if noncommercial, artistic energies. The final ingredient in the modern zine recipe was a revolution in office technology occurring during the 1980s: access to personal computers and inexpensive photocopying. Would-be publishers abandoned their Selectric typewriters and mimeograph machines and borrowed or stole PC and Xerox resources from their schools or jobs to produce zines of relatively high visual quality.

Essay continues after the jump.

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Scene @ The Devil in Dover Book Party

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Laurie Lebo (left) breaks away from her conversation with publicist Bec Zajac at the party New Press threw in their offices Tuesday night to celebrate the publication of The Devil in Dover, Lebo’s behind-the-scenes account of the battle over intelligent design in a Pennsylvanian school district. Lebo covered the federal lawsuit, filed by local parents against the school board that voted intelligent design into the curriculum, for the York Daily Record, and told me that she realized early on there was much more going on in the case than she could write about in the paper…

Scene @ The Romantics Rooftop Party

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Galt Niederhoffer (center) celebrated the publication of her second novel, The Romantics, with a Chelsea rooftop party keyed to the book’s story: “It’s like a wedding reception in your mouth,” a publicist gushed about the spring rolls with peanut sauce that came by on one of the many platters passing through the crowd. (And, of course, it wouldn’t be a reception without pigs in blankets!) Guests were encouraged to dress like “slutty bridesmaids” and “lascivious groomsmen” for the event, but nobody (or very few, depending on which observer you asked) seemed to take the bait—as it was, the women who came in high heels found themselves treading carefully to avoid the gaps between the rooftop planks (not to mention the ventilation grills).

(Dragon) Riders on the Storm

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Christopher Paolini, bestselling author of the “Inheritance Cycle” books (Eragon, Eldest) has a 3rd book coming out this September. Ramping up to it Random House Children’s Books launched an innovative team-based immersive online game, Vroengard Academy , where players can learn to become Dragon Riders. I checked it out, and after failing some of the trials I think I need my nephew to help me out with it. I got kinda lost, but I’m sure the kids today will love it.

Vroengard Academy will last from June 2nd through September 26th, concluding just after the launch of the 3rd book in the Inheritance cycle, Brisingr (on sale at 12:01 a.m. on September 20, 2008) The game will also consist of a weekly sweepstakes plus a grand prize for one lucky player who will win a trip to meet Christopher Paolini near his home in Montana.

The initiative was launched by Random House Children’s Books, in conjunction with Deep Focus who worked in tandem on the game’s creation and development. Christopher Paolini was heavily involved from conception to execution.

Scene @ How the Other Half Hamptons, Starting in Manhattan

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When debut novelist Jasmin Rosemberg (second from right, in the orange dress) threw a launch party for How the Other Half Hamptons at 1Oak Tuesday night, she lured at least three paparazzi to the scene, along with friends from the newspaper, magazine, and book publishing worlds—even celebrities like Jamie-Lynn Sigler and John Corbett. “Given all the family & friends,” the former NY Post columnist emailed the morning after, [it] honestly felt more like my wedding!” Which must make this Saturday night’s party at Lily Pond in East Hampton the honeymoon?

INTERVIEW: Publicists, take note of Yen Cheong’s Blog

Yen Cheong.jpgYen Cheong, Assistant Director of Publicity at Viking and Penguin Books writes The Book Publicity Blog on which she posts tips/suggestions and publishing/marketing trends that may be of use to book publicists and others in the publishing industry to “do our jobs with greater ease and efficiency.”

Cheong graduated from Yale in 1998 with a degree in history where she wrote for and edited The Yale Daily News and “figured journalism in the real world wasn’t for me, so I thought I’d try my hand at the flip side of journalism – public relations,” said Cheong. After a miserable year spent working on a pharmaceutical account at a large agency, she moved onto the greener pastures of Viking Penguin and has been there ever since.

When I realized that Galleycat hadn’t done a feature on her yet, I sat down with Cheong over the interwebs to ask her about her job, blogging, and book publicity.

GC: What led you to start the Book Publicity Blog and when did you start it?

YC: I started The Book Publicity Blog in March of this year. I’ve always rabidly followed publishing and media blogs like GalleyCat and Gawker and I’d often email my department with useful tips I found online. Then I figured it might be useful to put those tips on a blog since although there are a number of PR/publishing/media blogs, there are only a handful devoted specifically to book publicity.  What really got me rolling was an online workshop conducted by Jeff Gomez, Penguin’s Senior Director of Online Marketing (he of Print is Dead) in which he discussed, among other issues, RSS feeds. I’d seen the icon on various websites, of course, but had never bothered to investigate it, so following even just a few blogs meant going to various sites multiple times a day. With my RSS reader, though, I can whip through thousands of headlines on hundreds of blogs and other websites every day which makes gathering information that much more efficient.

Books on NPR, Facebook v Myspace and the rest of the interview after the jump.

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No Time to Blog? How About Selling Books? Got Time for That?

Earlier this week, novelist Kit Reed wrote an essay for Critical Mass about authors and the “pressures” of the online world: “Author blogs range from feisty to funny to flat-out narcissistic,” she mused, “but who has time to read them all? Or start one? But apparently, I must. How else do I achieve viral marketing? A Technocrati rating? The YouTube Hall of Fame?” It’s a common lament—one of the BookExpo panel discussions in which I took part last month revolved around the question of how authors can manage to promote themselves without getting caught in the trap of what Mark Sarvas called “thinking about the marketing rather than the writing.”

Over at Booksquare, though, Kassia Kroszer argued that while authors should become more proactive in creating a space within the market where their writing can flourish, publishers need to pick up the blog slack, too. “Talking about books on your website the same way you talk about books in your catalog simply isn’t cutting it,” she warns, and she encourages publishers to adopt a new voice that more directly engages readers with authentic passion for the books they put out. It’s sound advice; you’ll recall that I’ve become a big proponent of editors in particular taking their enthusiasms public. If you think that’s the marketing department’s job, just remember: We are all marketers now.

Blogging isn’t an end, but a means to an end—just one tool (and not always the best one) that you can use to spread the message that you are (or you publish) an interesting person who has something to say about the human condition worth paying attention to. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, you need to step back and consider some very fundamental questions about why you want to be a writer or a publisher. It would be great if we could just drop a book on the table and expect everyone to be bowled over by its intrinsic rightness—but we all know that’s not going to happen. So we’ve got to go out into the world, and present our authentic selves in such a manner that what we have to say will resonate with others when they come across us in their own wanderings.

The Book Trailer as Personal Testimony

I’ve talked a lot about how the power of a successful book trailer lies in the storytelling. This short video from my friend Karen Spears Zacharias for her book Where’s Your Jesus Now?, which comes out at the end of the summer, brings to mind a new metaphor: the power of testimony. I’ve long been interested, at varying levels of abstraction, in the idea that blogs and other online communication tools can function as platforms for witnessing one’s faith, and the basic concept—speaking authentically and truthfully about your experience, in the hope that others might learn from what you’ve discovered about yourself and your relationship to the world—has profound application to writers whether they are concerned with matters of faith or more worldly affairs.

Watch this video with that in mind. Zacharias’s monologue doesn’t give easy answers, but she wants to force viewers into deeper consideration (and ideally, of course, to see what more she has to say on the subject).

Could One Blog’s Shadow Cast Fear into the Hearts of Editors?

So far, the wildest rumor floating around Emily Gould‘s collection of autobiographical essays that’s made its way to my inbox is the notion that two editors were interested in what Emily describes in her proposal as “stories about growing up, making mistakes, sometimes learning, [and] sometimes not learning,” but declined to pursue the project “because,” my source suggested, “they were afraid of the Gawker shit storm that would follow publication.”

Granted, the blog’s shown a remarkable tenacity in keeping track of and commenting upon its (and, noting my lack of objectivity here, our) former editor’s personal and professional developments since her departure last year, but it’s unclear to me that anybody in New York, or anybody at all really, takes those posts seriously anymore, if they ever did; even the core audience of Gawker commenters has noted the “same old same old” nature of the recurring updates and openly questioned their motivation. Let’s imagine for a moment that the site’s still sharpening its knives twelve or eighteen or however many months later it takes for Emily’s book to make its way to bookstores: Wouldn’t it make more sense, from a publicity standpoint, to jujitsu that negative coverage into a story of its own? (“Who Is Nick Denton And Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?”)

The more you think about this, the sillier it gets. Do the editors at Sentinel or Threshold ask themselves whether Talking Points Memo and The Daily Kos are going to crush their books with withering scorn? Does Simon Spotlight worry about falling on the wrong side of Perez Hilton‘s wrath? Maybe science fiction publishers live in fear that Boing Boing is going to mock a potential acquisition as technically unsound? Somehow, I just don’t see Gawker as having a power those blogs don’t. But maybe you see it differently? Feel free to comment or email…

FishbowlNY: What’s in Emily Gould’s Book Proposal?

emily-gould-headshot.jpgActually, FishbowlNY editor Glynnis MacNicol doesn’t know the contents of the proposal Emily Gould‘s agent has begun pitching a possible memoir a book that may be called And the Heart Says… Whatever; what she can tell us is that “word on the street is that whatever Gould has on submission goes beyond the [NY Times Magazine] article, and will focus more on her growing up and less on her time at Gawker.”

(UPDATE: Though I still haven’t seen the proposal, a reliable source tells me the book is an essay collection, not a memoir. Later in the afternoon, the Daily Intel blog confirms my hunches after obtaining a copy of the proposal.)

When Emily left GalleyCat earlier this month, it was a foregone conclusion that she had a book on her to-do list; the only potential surprise when word leaked earlier this week was in the timing, not the premise. Glynnis’s observation that Emily’s agent also represents Megan Hustad and Stanley Fish may bear consideration; what I gleaned about the possible content of …Whatever from (admittedly limited) conversations shortly after she started posting to this blog suggests that she might spend as much time grappling with philosophical questions as she will recounting biographical circumstance.

The (slightly cautionary) example of Jedediah Purdy is perhaps worth remembering in this context; when he published For Common Things at the age of 24 nearly a decade ago, I remember writing, “[W]hen Purdy focuses on personal matters related to his homeschooled West Virginia upbringing, one can detect traces of a passion and intensity that would be well worth developing… [A]nybody can—and many people do—make impersonal assessments of the state of the world; there is a story, however, that only Jedediah Purdy can tell us about community and responsibility.” I suspect the same is true concerning what Emily has to tell us about identity, mediation, and technology, except that she’ll be able to more successfully navigate that course; certainly her best writing has (it seems) emerged when she’s given the opportunity to follow her passion and intensity and to engage in sustained introspection, blending experience and contemplation into a narrative throughline, rather than constantly churning out reactive copy on someone else’s clock. So it seems likely that she will, in fact, offer a much more personal perspective closer in tone to Hustad than Purdy. Equally likely that even those who scoff at her literary ambitions this week will be lining up to get a look at …Whatever as soon as ARCs become available.

(None of the preceding should be construed to undercut Purdy’s subsequent accomplishments; for that matter, you might not even trust my literary judgment.)

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