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Showing posts from February, 2010

of writers' magazines and the art of interrogation

Venny McPulitzer subscribes to the usual raft of trade and literary magazines, and today INTERN flipped through a recent issue of Poets & Writers while eating her lunch.

INTERN has never been one for writing magazines (all those ads for MFA programs give her nightmares—always that uncanny mix of "we're distinguished and literary" and "yowza! we're so hip and rebellious Kanye West is our program director!"). Today's perusal did nothing to change her mind. INTERN was horrified to read a "profile" of an author that seemed more like an interrogation by the KGB:

P&W: HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO FIND AN AGENT?

Author: Fourteen years.

P&W: BY WHICH TACTICS DID YOU OBTAIN THIS AGENT?

Author: Umm...I pitched her at a conference.

P&W: AT WHAT DATE AND TIME DID YOU CONTACT THIS AGENT?

Author: I think it was a Thursday?

P&W: AT WHAT LOCATION DID YOU APPROACH THIS AGENT?

Author: Uh...the conference was at the Radisson hotel.

P&W: …

of terrible titles, and hockey

INTERN is too depressed after belatedly hearing the results of the Canada/US Olympic men's hockey game on Sunday to write an actual post today, so instead please find below the shortlist for the Bookseller/Diagram Prize in recognition of the worst book title. (via The Bookseller)

INTERN's vote is for number 5 in the list!

• David Crompton's Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter

• James A Yannes' Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich

• Daina Taimina's Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes

• Ronald C Arkin's Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots

• Ellen Scherl and Maria Dubinsky's The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

• Tara Jansen-Meyer's What Kind of Bean is This Chihuahua?


The Diagram Prize was established in 1978 to provide entertainment at the Frankfurt Book Fair (thanks Wikipedia!) and the first (and possibly the best) winner was an attractive little volume entitled Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. Resul…

In Defense of Book-Thieving: A Confession, and a Request

Word around Venny McPulitzer this morning was that Executive Ed's display on Friday was some kind of prank to see if he could rile up "the quiet intern" (humph! quiet interns are deadly INTERNS!) INTERN is feeling a little silly for taking the whole thing so seriously. However, INTERN suspects Executive Ed does have some kind of cryptic beef with the MacArthur Foundation—an estranged genius wife, perhaps?—that may have played into his response.

In any event, today is a new day, and INTERN has other things on her mind: notably, the spiritual necessity of occasionally pilfering books.

As a general rule, INTERN is opposed to book-thieving of any sort. Stealing from a bookstore is never justified (even if it's from an "evil chain") because it's like shooting a BB gun at an almost-extinct bird. Stealing from a library isn't cool because it's stealing from Society.

But now and then, when one is at a friend, relative, or acquaintance's house, o…

in which Executive Ed plays mind games

So about a week ago, INTERN read a manuscript that blew her away. After sleeping on it for several nights, after which the manuscript still had not lost any of its power, INTERN put the ms in Executive Ed's inbox, as per Assistant Ed's instructions.

This morning:

Executive Ed (holding astonishing manuscript): Why was this in my inbox?

INTERN The writing is incredible, and the author won a MacArthur grant—

Executive Ed (throws manuscript into recycle with such force that the pages explode free of their clip): Do you know how many f&#^ing MacArthur grants I have sitting in my inbox right now? I don't have time for this shit!

(glares at INTERN and storms back into office)

INTERN: Huh.

*

A little while later, one of the Stepford Interns (who are all actually very nice and smart) explained to INTERN that Executive Ed's performance was actually a kind of test: Executive Ed will only read a manuscript if it's so good that someone will a) spend an hour fishing the pages…

Book Marketeering Do's and Don'ts: A Primer

Do slyly pull your book off the bookstore shelf and prop it up prominently with its cover facing out. This is OK because it is still kind of cute, and besides, freaking everybody else is doing it.

Do not make up a dozen fake usernames on Amazon and other book-reviewing websites and post eerily similar glowing reviews of your book à la "Elsinore Periwinkle takes on the subject of alcoholism among upper-class toddlers with astounding vigor and mind-blowing insight. Elsinore Periwinkle has written the greatest book since ever." If you are ever found out, you will be shamed so mercilessly that the prick of ten thousand daggers would feel therapeutic in comparison.

Do encourage your readers to write an *honest* review of your book on Amazon or other sites. Having a decent number of reviews, even if some of them are ambivalent, makes your book look interesting and talked-about, as opposed to obscure or not worth reviewing.

Do not allow your well-meaning mother or BFF to create a …

in which being kind is *soooooo* inefficient

Ever since starting at Venerable McPulitzer, INTERN has noticed a new kind of missive clucking around among the queries and proposals that clutter the inbox. Humble and self-effacing, this gentle creature would not presume to ask Venerable McPulitzer to actually publish anything little ole it has penned—no, it would faint at the thought.

Rather, this mildly-worded inquiry asks only for advice.

Like so:

“Dear distinguished editor:

I just started writing a month ago after taking a very inspiring workshop at the public library, and my internet boyfriend says I have quite a talent for the postmodern sonnet sequence. I am new to publishing and am just beginning to explore the possibilities of seeing my work in print.

Would you please read the enclosed poems and discuss with me their merits and the best strategy for getting them published? Naturally, I would be thrilled if you deemed them worthy of your house, but at this stage I am mostly seeking advice. I will stop by your office next Tue…

Why Does Publishing a Book Take So @$&% Long?

On the train home this evening, INTERN had a nice conversation with an older woman who, upon learning that INTERN was pseudo-employed in the publishing industry, asked the question that forms the title of this post.

It is a great question. In this age of Print-on-Demand, when you can bang out a novel over the weekend and load the back of your station wagon with boxes of objects more or less resembling books by Tuesday morning, the geologic time in which a traditional publisher cranks out a book must seem absurd. Psychotic, even. Assuming the contract is already signed and the manuscript delivered, how in hell does it take another ten months to (train-lady’s words again) just print the damn thing and stick it in stores?

For you then, dear train lady, here is a partial list of reasons publishing a book takes so effing long.

1. Publishers are working with a list, not just one title.

This is super-obvious, but easy to forget. If your publisher is putting out 20 books a season, that’s 19 …

in which INTERN is going to hell

This morning, INTERN had to write a curtly-worded rejection of a submission by an author whose work she studied in university while Assistant Ed stood over her shoulder, monitoring to make sure INTERN's rejection didn't come across "too encouraging."

The psychic wound will never heal.

In better news, INTERN had the chance to chat with the doorman of Venny McPulitzer's building today and discovered that not only is he a friendly and charismatic doorman, he is also secretly some kind of reggaeton star. So INTERN's feeling yesterday of being surrounded by fabulous hidden artists was re-confirmed in a most marvelous way.

Back to feelings of extreme guilt and horror!

editorial meeting schmozamerang

Things you should be aware of for 2010-2011:

-literary writing involving women with bodies shaped like cellos is OUT

-Buddhism is IN, but only Zen Buddhism, and only if it is alluded to coyly (no more overt Zen Buddhism—GAWD!)

-Herons are no longer considered poetic and any ms with descriptions of herons are to be tossed on the aforementioned pyre.

-Titles involving "geometry words" are IN.

-Works involving unreliable narrators are IN.

-Works that are virtually indistinguishable from all the other Works on the list are OUT.

-Works by young writers who died tragically and suddenly within the past five years are IN.

**

In other news, INTERN had the good fortune of meeting one of her favorite youngish writers last week when he swung by Venerable McPulitzer to say hello. His writing won a bunch of distinguished awards last year. By day, he works at Whole Foods cutting up pineapple samples. Somehow, this made INTERN feel terribly excited about the world, because she realized that geniu…

'tis a big responsibility to be venerable

Venerable McPulitzer Internal Memo 04/02/10: Attn. All Staff

-Unsolicited submissions from direct descendants of Edgar Allan Poe, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald shall be processed and responded to expediently. All others shall be burned on the pyre.

-You may not have ever been formally introduced to the Editor-in-Chief, or seen him at all, or indeed had any evidence of his existence except for that one time you thought you heard a hearty baritone behind the door marked Editor-in-Chief making disparaging remarks about the service at the Plaza Hotel—but this does not mean the Editor-in-Chief does not exist. We assure you that he does exist, and that he is very, very busy.

-No drinking of fine whiskies before noon.

-Interns’ shoes shall be polished at all times.

-Interns’ work shall be checked over in triplicate and signed off by no less than three Authorities before it shall be considered complete.

-All staff and interns shall study the Black Book regularly for an updated list of Lit…

a new internship begins!

(thump of INTERN's exhausted body hitting the floor)

It has been a fast-paced and cutthroat two days, but INTERN is here to report that her new internship is off to a stimulating start.

INTERN spent her first days at Venerable McPulitzer elbows-deep in royalty statements for all sorts of famous and exciting authors, some of whom were in fact dead and whose staggering piles of cash were being forwarded to various heirs and estates (lucky. devils.). INTERN must admit it felt strange to finger financial documents pertaining to some of her literary idols—like seeing them in their pecuniary underwear, with print runs, qty sold, and royalties due stamped around the waistband in place of the Fruit of the Loom logo.

Venerable McPulitzer’s office is sprawling and cavernous, with lots of doors and hallways and a Spanish Armada of filing cabinets. The male staff are greying and humorous in an apologetic way, like highschool English teachers. The female staff are younger and more high-stru…