Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Borders = Kind Boss/Parents to their Employee/Children

In an official press release, Borders Inc. has announced a contest for employees to get their manuscripts published, "under the company's exclusive and proprietary publishing program." First Barnes & Nobles and now Borders, publishing their own books. Now that is a huge pet peeve.

According to the release, the contest is for fiction writers who also work at Borders, and who now have until January 2008 to submit their work. A rather ominous sounding "panel of judges at the corporate office" will decide on the winner, who "will be awarded a book deal including the full support of Borders merchandising and marketing arsenal." It may just be a War on Literacy!

Now in all fairness, is there anything wrong with the contest? Maybe not, but I think many of us feel the slime when reading this. Total corporate parent vibe, no? Oh, you're unconvinced. Well try this on for size:
"Our employees are talented and creative individuals who have atremendous passion for books, and we believe that there are many who alsohave undiscovered writing talent," said Rob Gruen, executive vice president, merchandising and marketing for Borders Group, Inc. "We are excited to discover new authors within
our company and to promote their novels to the millions of loyal customers who rely on our recommendations.We have such confidence in the talents of our staff that we are anticipating multiple winners and hope to publish fictional works ranging from mysteries and thrillers to romance and historical novels."
There goes that pop-tart I just ate.

And will this VP of MARKETING and MERCHANDISING be on the judging panel? I'm guessing so. You know what role that fulfills in the tired old traditional book publishing model? The editorial role, and this guy is a marketing guy. Another pet peeve - running a company whose editorial vision is based 100% in what-might-sell. Good luck.

And, I hate to sound like a broken record here, but I worked at a Borders once and watched as a customer came in looking for a bestselling book, and the employee - an assistant manager, in fact - had to go to the computer to search, even though there were probably 3 dozen copies at the front of the store. That location, as far as I could tell, included one employee who could sustain their attention long enough to finish a book and, fortunately, he was the store manager. Now those same colleagues could be penning the next big release from Borders Publishers, or whatever crap name they've chosen.

Well good luck, Borders employees. I have no doubt that there is some real talent working in Borders stores, amongst those 30,000 employees. I do have doubts about Borders going through with it, and I can't imagine how they'll treat an employee who may have been slaving away at a store part-time with crap wages and no benefits, who is suddenly their product to push. It's surreal. It may even be post-modern, but I'd have to check some theory books on that to confirm.

For better, and more interesting and pithy and bitchy reactions, please consult the Comments section of this Gawker piece on the contest. My favorite title suggestion is "The Five People I Just Met in The Restroom," suggested by Bertyapple. Or "Biscotti, manhood and other things you keep in a jar," suggested by Vandusen. Well done!

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