FishbowlNY FishbowlDC LostRemote InsideMobileApps InsideSocialGames TVNewser TVSpy AgencySpy PRNewser MediaJobsDaily UnBeige

Archives: August 2008

Augusten Burroughs’ Hipster Cred Rises 10 More Points

tegan-augusten-headshots.jpgWhen fans of the Spin Book Club meets at Housing Works next Thursday night (Sept. 4) to talk with Augusten Burroughs about his new memoir, A Wolf at the Table, there’ll be an added bonus: Tegan Quin (of Tegan & Sara fame) will be performing a new song she wrote, inspired by Burroughs and at his request, for the first time ever in public. “I was a huge fan of Augusten’s and was ecstatic when the request came in from my management,” Quin emailed about the song. “It was very hard for me to write the song mainly because it was the first time I had ever tried to write a song for anyone before. I usually write about myself and was a little stuck at the start. This of course made it an even more exciting and fulfilling experience for me.”

Quin became a member of Spin‘s book club, where a cluster of musicians gather monthly to talk about books, after being interviewed for the magazine by club organizer Emily Zemler. She says she and her bandmate, twin sister Sara, have different tastes in literature but do have a few authors they both love and frequently swap books while on the road. Right now, she’s reading The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine and In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté: “I like to read fiction the best,” she admitted, “but try to change it up and read nonfiction to challenge myself every few books.”

(photos: Getty Images)

Mediabistro Course

Memoir Writing

Memoir WritingStarting January 7, work with a published memoir writer to tell and sell the story of your life! In this course, Wendy Dale will teach you how to create your story around a marketable premise, hone your narrative voice, write a memoir with a solid structure, and sell your memoir before you've even finished writing it. Register now!

Where’s Aaron Sorkin Getting His Facebook Info?

So you’ve probably seen all the fuss that’s been made on the blogosphere the last few days about Aaron Sorkin getting himself a Facebook account so he can be better prepared to write the Facebook movie—which ordinarily would be of little interest to a blog that concerns itself with the book publishing industry, until Harvard alum mag 02138 declared that “the Aaron Sorkin Facebook movie is also the Ben Mezrich Facebook movie.” It turns out Sony Pictures and Scott Rudin, the producers on Sorkin’s picture, may have also optioned the film rights to Face Off, the book Mezrich is writing about the origins of the ubiquitious social networking software.

This has already started a flurry of news items suggesting that Sorkin’s screenplay is an adaptation of Mezrich’s unpublished book—which remains to be seen. It is entirely possible, after all, that Sony and Rudin simply bought the rights to Face Off as a pre-emptive measure to avoid a lawsuit from an un-optioned Mezrich over his book being a source for Sorkin’s screenplay.

Either way, do they really think this thing’s going to be more entertaining than the script Jon Favreau wrote for the film version of Po Bronson‘s novel The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest?

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Is Coming!

blogger-appreciation-button.jpgNominations are now being accepted for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week awards, in two dozen categories ranging from “best general book blog” to “best design,” “most eclectic taste,” and even “best name for a blog.” (There’s also a category for blogs about the publishing industry, in case you know any blogs like that of which you think well, like Eco-Libris, or TeleRead.) You can nominate up to two blogs in any category until Sunday; shortlists will be whittled down to the top five nominees in each category and voting will take place starting September 15.

Flaxman Legs mediabistro.com For Her Own Editorial Shop

revision-fairy-logo.jpgStefanie Flaxman, the office administrator for mediabistro.com’s Los Angeles branch for the last ten months, announced to her colleagues that she is leaving the company today. Flaxman will be applying her newfound free time to her own editorial services company, Revision Fairy, offering clients “a detail-oriented approach to proofreading and editing” on fiction and nonfiction manuscripts, as well as shorter materials such as press releases, website copy, and magazine articles.

Nancy Mairs Declared “Literary Treasure” in Arizona

nancy-mairs-headshot.jpgPoet and essayist Nancy Mairs was selected for the third annual Arizona Literary Treasure Award, created by the state’s humanities council “to celebrate the significant impact of the poets, writers, publishers, and storytellers of Arizona and to encourage an ongoing and expanding audience for their work.” In an essay for the Beacon Press blog, Mairs talks about the crucial role the University of Arizona Press played in launching her literary career, and her brief flirtation with big commercial publishing:

“My proposal for the book that became Remembering the Bone House created a little flurry, culminating in an advance of $52,500 From Harper & Row. This was by far the biggest advance I have ever had, but I regretted the choice. Except for my editor and a liability lawyer, no one ever read the book, much less publicized it. I felt I had caused tremendous disappointment, as I felt after HarperCollins (by then owned by Rupert Murdoch) published the next book, Carnal Acts, and so I felt more released than dismayed by the rejection of my proposal for Ordinary Time.”

That freed Mairs to submit that book to North Point Press, which at the time was an independent publisher based in San Francisco; they took Ordinary Time but then folded (the name and a chunk of the backlist were later sold to FSG), and that brought Mairs to Beacon, where she’s stayed for nearly two decades. “The lessons of my writing career have proved pretty pedestrian,” she says of her experience. “If you concentrate on the task at hand, without aspiring to a particular outcome—whether wealth, literary acclaim, or audience adoration—something will happen… I can’t tell you whether it will be good, but I can promise you that it will surprise you. You just have to slog along.”

Glue Is A Paper Engineer’s Best Friend

Everybody loves pop-up books, but how many of us know the technical details that go into making them? Last year, graphic designer Sam Ita created a graphic novel adaptation of Moby Dick with pop-up elements; this fall, he’s set his sights on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This brief video (which arguably features more music than it needs, and less talking) shows how he created one of the effects for the latter project:

Obviously, there’s a thematic element running through the two projects—perhaps we’ll see The Rime of the Ancient Mariner next year. Or The Poseidon Adventure?

For Books Connected to Music Scene, a Rising PR Star

cherry-bomb-party.jpg

Last week’s party at Beauty Bar for rock’n'roll advice columnist Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna (right) and her new lifestyle handbook, Cherry Bomb—packed wall-to-wall and out onto the sidewalk—was also a triumph for publicist Fiona Bloom (2nd from left) of The Bloom Effect. After building up a reputation for promotion and publicity skills in the hip-hop community, both as an independent producer and as an executive at labels like EMI and TVT, the native Londoner threw her first book party three years ago for a Nelson George novel, then did a full PR campaign for BLING: The Hip-Hop Jewelry Book in 2006. Borzillo-Vrenna is just her third literary client, but “I am absolutely looking to get more active in the book world and work with more publishers and authors,” she emailed a few days after the event, citing the enthusiastic response to the party from Simon Spotlight Entertainment personnel (who, GalleyCat had confirmed independently at the front of the bar, were duly impressed by the crowd).

“I love the idea that you can treat a book the same way you have a film project, a new clothing line, an album—the method and process of getting the word out is the same and thus so is the promotion and marketing,” Bloom continued. “The only difference is the publishing world chooses to not spend their money in these places. Perhaps a book party may not be as key or crucial to the overall marketing plan or people feel like the book world—being more intellectual—perhaps isn’t interested in being force-fed or having to react to a title because there’s so much hype or buzz. I do feel like the audience is growing larger and larger and younger—we’re barely pushing the envelope or touching the surface on how large an impact or [demographic] you can reach within the book world. It’s bigger than we think…. I never like to underestimate anyone!”

Bloom says she’s looking forward to doing more book campaigns as the goodwill generated by her fieldwork spreads. “What gets me especially excited about a book is the person behind it,” she wrote, “their track record/experience and journey and how interesting they are—and most importantly—the context and subject matter.” And if just half the celebrity “guest stars” who show up to offer subject-specific advice in Cherry Bomb (like Kat Von D. on getting tattoos or Tori Amos on three important life lessons) got book deals and called Bloom to get the word out, that right there would keep her busy for quite some time…

(photo: Mel D. Cole)

Betcha They Still Won’t Host His Book Party, Though

rogues-gallery-cover.jpgCast your memory back to late spring, when Michael Gross and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art had a misunderstanding over photo rights, which ended on an optimistic note when the Met told GalleyCat Gross wasn’t being blackballed and could use any picture from the Met’s archives he was willing to pay for to illustrate the cover of Rogue’s Gallery, his highly unauthorized history of the museum.

Well, Doubleday‘s spring 2009 catalogs are making the rounds, and as you can see by the accompanying illustration, it looks like Gross and his designers were able to find a photograph that worked for them. The book, which “looks at the museum’s rich social history and exposes the secrets behind the upper class’s cultural and philanthropic ambitions,” is scheduled for publication by Broadway in mid-April.

So, Did Random House Censor Sherry Jones?

jewel-medina-cover.jpgStanley Fish caught up with the controversy surrounding Sherry Jones‘s still-unpublished The Jewel of Medina, and wanted to remind NY Times readers that, whatever else you might say about Random House‘s decision to avoid riling Muslim fanatics by publishing a novel about Muhammad’s wife, they never actually censored Jones. “Random House is free to publish or decline to publish whatever it likes, and its decision to do either has nothing whatsoever to do with the Western tradition of free speech or any other high-sounding abstraction,” Fish wrote—and, remember, this is a philosopher who will famously tell you that there’s no such thing as free speech. Anybody who thinks this was censorship, he adds—like, say, Salman Rushdie—doesn’t understand the precise philosophical and legal meaning of the term.

This is exactly right. The difference between true censorship and Random House’s decision to place a higher value on the safety of its proven corporate assets than on a commercially unproven work of artistic expression is, simply, the difference between “you can’t do that” and “I don’t want any part of that.” Random House did not join forces with Islamic leaders to explicitly condemn the book, nor is it sitting on the manuscript to prevent readers from ever seeing it; they have given the rights back to Jones, who is even now working with her agent to secure another American publisher for the novel and its sequel. As Fish concludes, Random’s decision “may have been cowardly or alarmist, or it may have been good business, or it may have been an attempt to avoid trouble that ended up buying trouble,” but declining to publish a book that one has come to view as a potential liability is not an act of censorship—and for anyone who thinks it is, here’s a question: Where were your cries of protest when the hint of a lawsuit was enough to make Random House’s Crown division drop its plans to publish the memoirs of Madonna’s nanny? Don’t you think she was entitled to freedom of expression in the face of outside intimidation, too?

One of the few admirable aspects of this situation is the clearheadedness Jones herself has shown throughout; in an early interview with GalleyCat, she said, “I was never angry about their decision… [and] they’re a private corporation; they can do whatever they want.” Contacted last night via email and asked if she felt censored, she wrote back, “In terms of censorship, I would say that Random House censored itself. This is a classic case of self-censorship based on fear.” Considering Fish’s notion that the cancellation of The Jewel of Medina should be viewed as a corporate decision, she added, “When you pull a book because you think you’ll lose money, that’s a corporate decision. When you pull a book because you fear terrorist attack, that’s self-censorship. Until [Random House] execs heard warnings of possible violence over my book, the company had my book on the fast track to best-sellerdom. So they clearly had expected to make money from its publication.”

(Of course, it’s still entirely possible to weigh the threat of violence in stark economic terms, weighing the potential revenues from the book against the heretofore unseen potential costs of repairing physical damage to 1745 Broadway and replacing dead personnel—just like Madonna’s nanny’s memoir turned out to have potential costs in the form of prolonged legal difficulties—and weighing those against any theoretical losses in revenue sparked by all the hoopla over the cancellation—which, let’s face it, probably aren’t that significant.)

But what Jones would call self-censorship, and Rushdie would call censorship by fear, Fish would describe an exercise of Random’s judgment—poor and short-sighted, perhaps, and almost certainly worrisome to any other author dealing with similarly controversial themes, but judgment nonetheless. What’s at risk here isn’t “free speech,” but Random House’s reputation as a publishing company that values unfettered intellectual and artistic discourse.

Literary Prize Blacklists Random Over Medina

Here’s an interesting sidenote to the Sherry Jones situation: The Langam Charitable Trust has issued a statement deploring Random House‘s cancellation of Jones’s novel so strongly that “until The Jewel of Medina is actually published, [we] will not consider submissions of any books, for any of our prizes, from Random House or any of its affiliates.”

So that’s the $1,000 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction and the $1,000 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History or Biography off the table for Random-affiliated authors until 2009 at the earliest—bad news for, at the very least, David Ebershoff (The 19th Wife), David Liss (the forthcoming The Whiskey Rebels), and Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore (the also-forthcoming Blindspot), all of whom would appear, based on an admittedly incomplete reading, to have otherwise had as strong a chance of winning the fiction prize as Random House author/editor Kurt Andersen, who won last year’s award for Heyday. (The legal history prize has never gone to a press not affiliated with an American university in the seven-year history of the award.) “Serious ideas, even if offensive to some, flourish in books,” representatives for the Langum Trust wrote. “Random House has exhibited a degree of cowardly self-censorship that seriously threatens the American public’s access to the free marketplace of ideas… We do this reluctantly, since our most recent prize in American historical fiction went to a Random House title. Nevertheless, this issue must be confronted.”

Is this, however, the right way to confront it? Should these (and other) authors suffer a literary penalty for a corporate decision involving another author, one in which they had no hand whatsoever? What do you think?

NEXT PAGE >>