Saturday, February 24, 2007

Maxine encounters ...

... the downside of blogging: Unpleasant Cargo.

I think that Maxine's response on Winkler's blog just about says it all. If I were going to respond to someone's post to the extent that Winkler did to Maxine's, I would alert that person, in order for my response "to be read and to invite discussion." Winkler quotes this from Maxine's post:

My basic and oft-repeated point is to wonder why the "mainline" book publishing industry operates on the huge advance/remainders system, as the quest for the next Harry Potter or Da Vinci Code is losing them (on average) a lot of money. These days the big publishers won't look at books unless submitted by an agent, so they aren't even experts at selecting the books any more; they have become marketeers, trying to catch a commercial trend rather than being innovative and original. Hence this Christmas, one can't move for books with titles almost identical to last year's "surprise hit", "Does anything eat wasps?" and last Christmas it was the same for piles of books called, with minor variants, the same as the previous year's bestseller, "Eats, shoots, and leaves".

I could have written this myself. Day after day I sit in my book room at The Inquirer and see one book after another arrive modelled on countless others that arrived previously. One genius after another has managed to snooker more than the average advance out of a publisher to give us the real lowdown on Iraq, the Bush administration, imminent doom from this, that or the other. The celebrity's ghost-written novel doubtless cost the publisher more than the average advance. From where I sit the evidence of waste, unnecessary duplication, and poor judgment in the publishing business is overwhelming.

I could go on. I think Maxine's original post was sound in its thinking and its evidence. Publishing not only needs to change course, it actually is changing course - and POD is one of the directions it happens to be taking.

It could also use some more imaginative acquisitions editors. Maxine herself is probably worth a princess's salary as an acquisitions editor for a crime fiction publisher.


  1. Anonymous11:57 AM

    Thanks for your support, Frank. I find this guy kind of sad. He should check his facts before he writes things such as that I am a failed novelist! Well, I suppose I am in the sense that I have not seriously ever put pen to paper in that regard -- what he assumed, though, is that I'm a rejected novelist and wrote my post for that reason.
    I quite like the cut and thrust of the blogosphere, but this seems to be a chap with a chip (on his shoulder, that is).

    Thanks again for your kind comment. Yes, acquisitions editor, that sounds like a job I'd love -- good idea, Frank.

  2. Dear Frank:

    Do you notify the authors of books that your publication reviews, especially when the review is unfavorable?

    Peter L. Winkler

  3. Dear Maxine:

    "He should check his facts before he writes things such as that I am a failed novelist!"

    You have constructed a straw man.

    For the record, this is what I wrote:

    "This constant harping on celebrity authors as the root of all evil makes me suspect that Maxine is an author who has been unable to land a book contract."

    I expressed my suspicion, I didn't state it as a proven fact. I wrote "book," not novel. A book can be fiction or nonfiction.

  4. Dear Peter:
    The comparison is not quite apt. Books are published by companies. Blogs are published by individuals. My point was simply that if I were to engage a blog post as thoroughly as you did Maxine's, letting Maxine know would have been useful in the interest of furthering discussion. The best part of blogging is its interpersonal dimension. The ugly side of blogging, sadly on display
    comes about, I think, when people forget that they are responding to persons, not posts.
    Actually, I have on occaion alerted publicists that a review of a book they have pitched is not going to be flattering.
    May I also point out that whether or not Maxine is a novelist - rejected or otherwise - has no bearing on the validity of her arguments and the strength of her evidence. (As it happens, Maxine in some ways knows a good deal more about publishing than I do, since she experiences it from the inside, as it were.)The growing importance of POD is a fact. As a publishing consultant said to me a couple of years ago at BookExpo America, alternative publishing is going to be to mainstream publishing what farm teams are to the major leagues.
    Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Frank, I really hate to beat a dead horse here, so all I want to add is that your book/blog distinction is also not quite apt. A book may be published by a company, but it's written by an author who presumably has invested not just time and thought, but a great deal of self in the work. A critic is inevitably engaging with that person, though perhaps not as directly.