Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Glamorous World of Publishing, Revealed!

The press of work--which, for all its pleasures, Jules Renard was apt in describing as
a little like a prison: how many pleasant, passing things it keeps us from seeing!
--is rendering blogging difficult this week. So what better to do than, in honor of my employer's semi-annual sales conference, hew, however briefly, to a theme of publishing!

First, from David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (2004), I offer you an awkward encounter between a vanity publisher and one of his authors, an unreconstructed British gangster who is upset that his book isn't being sufficiently promoted or appreciated:
I explained to him for the hundredth time how an author-partnership set-up like Cavendish Publishing simply cannot fritter away money on fancy catalogues and team-building go-karting weekends for sales forces. I explained, yet again, that my authors derived fulfilment from presenting their handsomely bound volumes to friends,to family, to posterity. I explained, yet again, that the gangster-chic market was saturated; and that even Moby-Dick bombed in Melville's lifetime, though I did not deploy that particular verb.
Being a gangster, the author quickly salvages the situation with a spot of spectacular violence, the resulting publicity from which sells out print run after print run.

Which leads nicely into this jotting from the notebooks of New Directions founder James Laughlin, published in his odd little posthumous semi-memoir The Way It Wasn't (2006), about an author who found a much more humane way to boost sagging sales:
WOW! Guess who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry! Our little old George Oppen. Totally a surprise, but nice . . . His sales on the book which won were negative for 1968, i.e.--more returns than sales. Salesmen begged me last year--"No more Oppen, please"--we just can't sell him. Waiting to see their Rosy Visages this Thursday at Sales Meeting in Phila.
And Oppen, a few of whose books are currently in a box in my basement while we wait (and wait and wait) to sell our condominium, leads me to a dream I had a week or two ago:
I woke to find Ruk, the tall, menacing android from the Star Trek episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"*, looming over my bed. "Come," he said, and then he led me into our second bedroom. Pointing to the bookcase--the one lonely bookcase, of twelve, that we've retained in our newly spare, depersonalized condo--Ruk shook his head and said, "Not one bookcase. One bookshelf."

Fortunately I woke for real before I had to begin the agonizing process of further winnowing, and Ruk hasn't paid any subsequent visits to check my compliance.

No comments:

Post a Comment