Archive for September, 2010

so Snooki got a book deal

please note: i have never seen an episode of JERSEY SHORE, mostly because i don’t have a TV that does anything other than play DVDs.

so Snooki got a book deal. and there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth. OH WOE IS PUBLISHING! ANOTHER “CELEBRITY” THROWAWAY INSULT TO THE READING PUBLIC! WHYYYYYYYYYYY …. etc etc etc.

except that: i am totally on board with this.

the fact that someone like Snooki, who is famous for being on a reality show (one that, as far as i understand, is not exactly sparkling with literary wit), wants/can have a book deal means that publishing is far from dead.

seriously — let’s break it down. either A) Snooki went out looking for a book deal; or B) someone approached Snooki about a book deal and she said yes.

if we go with scenario A, then this means that someone who is not a literary type believes they have things to say that are best said in the medium of a book. someone who already has a platform, a following, and many options as to ways to increase her presence has decided that a book is the next piece of the puzzle for her, when her options as far as promotion are almost endless in terms of media and technology. (i’m not saying that everyone wants to have Snooki on their show, or that she can get whatever publicity she wants — just pointing out that she has a lot of options as far as publicity goes, and a book is not exactly one of the most obvious choices). if you take it a step further, which i think is reasonable, this says to me that Snooki believes that a book will be good for her image. that it will increase her public presence, that she has a story to tell (ZOMG IT’S A NOVEL. mind: blown). the fact that someone FAR outside the literary pale believes this is music to my ears, because it means that i am not crazy to be trying to build a career in books — it means that books are so embedded in our culture that, even as entertainment and technology collide, people in the limelight still think of them as important and worthy of pursuing.

but maybe this wasn’t her idea. maybe some executive at a board meeting thought: “I know what will save publishing: a Snooki book!” fine and dandy! because that in turn means that people who are also outside the literary pale are buying and reading books. are they reading the new Franzen? or Bolaño? nope, probably not (although maybe the Franzen, thanks to Oprah). but if a publisher believes that the advance and the marketing and publishing will be worth the payout (and is probably counting on a big return) then that means that books are not an elitist endeavor, that not only those attached to the industry, or snobby people, or students who are assigned books, or [insert NO ONE READS ANYMORE tripe here] are reading. all those surveys can take a running jump — if a Snooki book is worth it to a publisher (which, by the way, i will bet good money that it earns out and then some), then people — the men/women on the street — are reading.

now, obviously there are doubts as to the QUALITY of such a book. but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

and i suppose at this point someone will pull the “well maybe people are reading, but WHAT they are reading is more important” card, to which i say, FOR SHAME. judge not, lest ye be judged. our tastes are our own, and no one should be belittled for what they enjoy. it’s easy to take potshots at popular books, and i have increasingly less respect for people who do it regularly.

books i can’t wait to read: the NAIBA ’10 edition

one of these days, i will get used to the fact that it’s my job to go to places where people shove giant bags full of books at you saying “TAKE THEM! TAKE THEM!”

actually, i probably never will. I LOVE MY JOB.

so NAIBA was great. saw a lot of lovely folks, got to hear a lot of good buzz, attended some inspiring panels, got excellent information, collected lots of business cards, drank a lot of coffee, got very little sleep. in other words: bookseller conference.

and, of course, came home with TONS of books. which is ridiculous, considering that i just gave away 165 of them. but then again, i did also just buy a new bookcase. therefore: more books. also: whatever, FREE BOOKS!

a few of the titles i’m particularly excited about, and therefore you should be too (p.s., some of these are not really new, don’t ask me why/how i got them for free because i don’t really know):

what Meghan McCain can teach publishers (NO SERIOUSLY)

today, a friend of mine forwarded me this article, and (completely unintentionally, especially since said friend is not even on Twitter) set me off on a Twitter rant of large (and possibly obnoxious) proportions. and i thought, lest i be misunderstood or the point be lost or anyone who wasn’t on at 11:30pm on a Thursday night after a tornado (!) in Brooklyn wanted to know what the hell happened, i’d put this into a slightly more formal and contained post.

let’s take it as given that this reviewer is an ass with an ax to grind, and i in no way condone this review, ESPECIALLY the opening paragraph which is pretty much an unforgivable use of snark. for those of you who don’t want to click through (and i don’t blame you), the guy trashes the hell out of Meghan McCain and her memoir DIRTY SEXY POLITICS, citing egregious misuse of punctuation, lack of grammar, blatant falsehoods that a little Googling could correct, etc. and he’s nasty about it. but that’s not what is interesting, or soapbox-worthy here.

what is important to me is to note that the reviewer asks: where was her editor?

indeed. where WAS her editor? now, some of you argued that Meghan McCain is a blogger, with a specific voice — one that, apparently (i have not fact-checked this, nor will i, thank you very much), involves misuse of punctuation and grammar, and no fact-checking or logical reasoned thought. fine. blogging by nature is an informal medium. (witness my lack of standard capitalization.) but to say that the book is “in her voice” and that the polish good editing, copy-editing, and fact-checking would have given it would be deceptive or dishonest or just plain unnecessary is disingenuous. [addendum: and it's just as disingenuous to place all the blame on her. the point is not that she is a bad/sloppy/poorly informed writer, though she may be those things -- the point is that she is those things in a book that is MEANT to be a valid expression of her viewpoint, which is embarrassing for her, surely, but MORE SO for her publisher.]

the fact of the matter is that a publishing house — a MAJOR publishing house — paid for, accepted, packaged, published, and is actively marketing and selling a book which contains gratuitous errors of grammar, punctuation, and basic fact. what does this say to us about the state of publishing? does it say that publishers, editors, publicists, and all the people in between are necessary? does it say to us (us meaning the reading public) that books are worth paying full-price for? does it say to us that big publishing houses, with their agents-required and their labyrinthine contracts and (comparatively) high-priced books, are worthy of surviving in these times of self-publishing and piracy and DIY everything?

no. no it does not. what it says to us is this: you want us to care that times are tough, and that you are struggling to survive, but you don’t want to give us proof of your importance.

the argument was made to me that all this book is supposed to do is ride the wave of McCain’s high profile until that wave is gone, and then the book too will be gone.

i ask you: is that really what we’re all working for?

i said it on Twitter, and i’ll say it here: i believe in publishing. i believe in big publishers and small publishers, i believe in DIY zines and fancy-pants french-flapped deckled-edge collectible editions. i believe that there are things about the traditional model that work, that are right and good and important to the survival of books and literature, the same way i believe that new models offer new opportunities.

i also believe, however, that you have to earn your keep. and if publishers want us to continue to believe in them, to believe that they serve an important purpose and that they can and do give us better books than any other model, then they need to GIVE US THOSE BETTER BOOKS.

that is not what has happened here. not in the least. and this is not an isolated case.

so, my dear darling publishers (and this goes beyond the house responsible for this particular project — this goes for each and every one of you, whatever your size and track record): be more convincing. if your job is to give us quality, then GIVE US quality. if you want us to pay more for quality books, and be happy about it, then GIVE US books that are copy-edited, fact-checked, proofed.

i know that you’re better than a poorly written series of blog posts slapped together in a well-designed cardboard package. i know it, and you know it. so, please: prove us both right. earn your keep. be relevant. be gatekeepers. be tastemakers. be fun, intelligent, unique, thought-provoking, scandalous, whimsical, fluffy, deep, insightful, blasphemous. WHATEVER IT IS that you want to do, that it is your house’s goal to do, do that. but do it WELL.


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