Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Observations about mainstream publishing

Reposted from the Blue Rose Girls.


Last week I read this insightful, sobering insider look at publishing here by Daniel Menaker, former Executive Editor-in-Chief of Random House. His experience is with adult publishing, and I do view children's book publishing as a happier world, but his is still an authentic view of publishing in general. Especially true is how negative a culture it can be. For example:

You're more likely to be "right" if you express doubts about a proposal's or a manuscript's prospects than if you support it with enthusiasm.

I'm often disappointed that our acquisitions team doesn't get more excited about projects. Sometimes it seems that the best praise we can get is "I liked it fine" or "I would be okay if we published it." Hardly glowing endorsements. True, when those rare moments come along where everyone gets excited about a project, it's wonderful, but people seem to be more critical than ever. It's a tough business.

More negativity:

And this is only the beginning of the negativities that editors must face. Barnes & Noble doesn't like the title. Borders doesn't like the jacket. The author's uncle Joe doesn't like the jacket. The writer doesn't like the page layout and design. Your boss tells you the flap copy for a book about a serial killer is too "down." The hardcover didn't sell well enough for the company to put out a paperback. The book has to wait a list or two to be published. Kirkus hates the book. Another writer gets angry at you for even asking for a quote. The Times isn't going to review the book. And so on.

*Sigh.* So true. And the following observation is something I particularly agree with:

It's my strong impression that most of the really profitable books for most publishers still come from the mid-list -- "surprise" big hits with small or medium advances, such as that memoir by a self-described racial "mutt" of a junior senator from Chicago. Somehow, by luck or word of mouth, these books navigate around the rocks and reefs upon which most of their fleet -- even sturdy vessels -- founder.

Anyway, read the column. It's fascinating. And I'm glad I'm not as jaded so far in my career--I still see many more pros than cons. But it's good to recognize the challenges in the hopes that maybe aspects of the business can change.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Take a break!

Re-posted from the Blue Rose Girls.

As I mentioned in a past post, it's been a particularly hectic summer, and as a reward for/respite from the stress, the editorial group took off a few hours early last Friday for an outing. And where did we go? I'll give you five clues:

Perhaps you've guessed it? We went to the High Line! Faithful readers of this blog, and fans of Peter Brown's The Curious Garden, will recognize this amazing public space. This was only my second trip to the High Line--my first was at night, and it was just as lovely, and a much different feel:

If you're in the New York area, be sure to check it out.

After our stroll on the High Line, we made our way to the roof deck of the bar Brass Monkey for drinks and work gossip. And now it's back to the grind. But no matter how busy one is, a break is always necessary and can do wonders to the spirits. I was talking to an author friend at brunch yesterday about what we do to relax--she records a ton of TV shows and takes a chunk of time to watch them all at once. I love reading my Entertainment Weekly and watching reality television. How do you all veg out when you're stressed and need a break?

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Brooklyn Book Festival

Re-posted (belatedly) from the Blue Rose Girls.

This weekend, Grace and I attended the wedding of our former roommate, Jon. Grace, Jon, and I lived together for three years in Somerville, MA--in fact, this was where I was living ten years ago when I got my start in Publishing. Jon and his now-wife Loretta had their wedding ceremony on a train. A moving train, in fact! They made their grand entrance on the front of the train:
And then there was a lunch reception on a lovely, scenic (if at times a bit shaky), old-timey train ride:
Long-time readers of my personal blog may remember the creative way Jon and Loretta got engaged last year, which I posted about here. So adorable. They are the bestest couple.

And then yesterday Grace and I booked it (pun intended) down from Boston to New York for the Brooklyn Book Festival. I was moderating a panel titled "Love and Longing." The official description: How far will you go for love and how far will love go for you? Ned Vizzini (Be More Chill), Aimee Friedman (Sea Change) and Anna Godbersen (The Luxe) reveal very different approaches to succeeding in love as they read and discuss their books.
I thought it was a pretty fun panel, and loved the insights and perspectives of the three authors, who answered questions such as, "How do you think the dynamics of teen relationships have changed since your teen years, if at all?" (Ned: they haven't changed; Aimee and Anna: except for social networking!) and "Who are your favorite literary couples?" Ned: Edward and Bella!; Aimee: Romeo and Juliet; Anna: Elizabeth and Darcy). They discussed how their first loves and past relationships creep into their writing, and talked about the theme of forbidden love and why it's so popular with teens. And of course they all said so much more which I'm too exhausted to record here.

The panel ended on a bit of an odd note, with the last question from the audience asking them to define love. "What is love?" I wanted to break out in song but resisted. What is love? Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more...

They signed books after the talk:

At 3:30 Grace was at the Target Children's area reading both The Ugly Vegetables, and then an excerpt from Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
Despite all of the distractions going on during the fair, the kids were actually very attentive to both, and even asked extremely smart questions that showed that they had actually been listening! Impressive.

All in all, it was a beautiful day, lovely weather, and I saw a lot of familiar and friendly faces and made new friends. It was my first time there, and I think I'll have to make it an annual event. Hope to see you all there next year!