Tuesday, September 21, 2010
"I’m really concerned about it. And nobody knows where it's going-particularly in terms of the relationship of the Internet to the print media. But writing isn't going to go away. There's a big shake-up-the thing that comes to mind is that it's like in a basketball game or a lacrosse game when the ball changes possession and the whole situation is unstable. But there's a lot of opportunities in the unstable zone. We're in that kind of zone with the Internet. But it's just unimaginable to me that writing itself would die out. OK, so where is it going to go? It's a fluid force: it'll come up through cracks, it'll go around corners, it'll pour down from the ceiling. And I would have counseled anybody ten, twenty, and thirty years ago the same thing I'm saying right now, which is, as a young writer, you should think about writing a book. I don't think books are going to go away."
-John McPhee, in a Paris Review interview earlier this year.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
However, acquisitions editors will change how they think about — and there’s no way around this word — projects. There will be booky-books. There will be multimedia extravaganzas. The type of project will drive the final product. Just as authors and agents are starting to think big picture when it comes to works they are shopping, so, more and more, will editors. Is it text, is it a web-based community, is it an application, is it a living, interactive experience? One or more of those?
Someone needs to be in charge of all aspects of the book — whatever form it takes — from beginning to end. This is particularly true if the book is slotted as a transmedia project. Nobody — nobody! — is better positioned to execute the vision than the acquiring editor. It’s a different kind of job. It’s a visionary kind of job.
Editorial staff will be on the front lines of coding manuscripts; they’ve already started this. Yes, I did say coding. There will be tools to make this job easier. They will be awesome tools. They will work the way they’re supposed to work the first time. Because this is the future and things work in the future.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
And yes, it’s also sad that certain editors, endowed with so much power by a growing army of insecure writers, don’t exercise that power more responsibly.
That’s what most editors and agents dream about – that one story or novel or memoir they can’t dismiss. And we all want to write it. We all want to summon within ourselves such a voice, such courage, such attention to pain and beauty. But most of us fail. Our days rank as failures. And so we send out work that – as Genoways did me the great favor of pointing out – doesn’t honor our talent. And who do we blame? We blame the editors and agents, who are often merely stand-ins for the parents and siblings who thwarted us long ago.
Our job, then, is two-fold: to focus on our own failings as writers. But also to speak more forcefully as advocates for literature. Books are a powerful antidote for loneliness, for the moral purposelessness of the leisure class. It’s our job to convince the 95 percent of people who don’t read books, who instead medicate themselves in front of screens, that literary art isn’t some esoteric tradition, but a direct path to meaning, to an understanding of the terror that lives beneath our consumptive ennui. It’s hard to make this case, though, if all we do is squabble with each other and lament our obscurity.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The truth is, as readers, we have no idea how good a book is when we purchase it, nor can we guess at the quality of what we get, generally, until we read the entire work. Yes, there are publishers (hello, Unbridled Books) who have a tight, focused list that reflects a consistent point-of-view while publishing a diverse list. I love it when I can trust a publisher. I feel the same away about Harlequin. It’s a compliment to both publishers. Readers may not love every book published by these houses, but they know there is a certain focus they can trust. Very few large publishers offer this kinda, sorta guarantee.
Rather than accusing retailers and cheap consumers — and we are cheap, particularly in this economy — of devaluing content, how are publishers enhancing the consumer perception of the value of books?
Are they rejecting crappy books from established authors? Are they offering advances based on reality, the marketplace, rather than fantasy? Are they pricing books base on that same reality? Are they listening to what readers say?
Friday, September 10, 2010
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Elliott also picks books from authors he thinks have an affinity with The Rumpus. "We're doing Tao Lin's new novel, Richard Yates, coming from Melville House in September. We're really interested in Tao as a writer on the margins of the mainstream literary world, really fond of some of his other books, and we've discussed him a lot on The Rumpus. We haven't read the book yet, but we're looking forward to it, and think it's a book that people who read The Rumpus are also interested in. I really hope it's good," said Elliott.