The core business of publishing is books. You can’t do anything in the realm of publishing without one. There are only three defensible positions in publishing: writing, editing or publishing a book. Everything else is masturbation.
That’s right. I said PUBLISHING and MASTURBATION in the same paragraph. Though this fierce sexual mention is rare in the field, let’s call it what it is: DIDDLING. If you are not acquiring books – someone has written them and you are in your office editing and publishing them – then you, my friend, are DIDDLING.
What form did this DIDDLING (that word stands in for the last couple of years of commercial publishing activity – with rare exceptions of beautifully written and published books that will continue until the end of mankind) take?
Lawyers, mainly. Paying lawyers. No one in leadership roles wanted to edit and publish books. The formula had broken. So they got jiggy with pricing and colluded. This is unAmerican. I’m not sure it’s a felony, but “felonious” does describe some of these diddlers. There, you have some new words.
Amazon scared and continues to scare them. Instead of innovation, they chose lawyers. It’s a common mistake made everywhere from car manufacturers to marriages. Freeze forward movement. Pick at your wounds. Get defensive. Fail.
ACQUISITIONS UP! Publishers Weekly crows, hopefully with a wink in their eye. Because as publishing stopped buying new properties, the world kept turning. Libraries still got filled with new works, works that were not produced by a trade publisher. Works that were made by writers and small presses working closely on the ground. Works of great creativity and beauty and information and wisdom.
And just look at Amazon. All those new books are there in an amazing library right in the palm of your hand. They were made during the “DIDDLING YEARS” and they are amazing.
So, the Man Booker Prize has a crowd-funded, crowd-chosen finalist in this year’s prize. The setting is the UK in 1041. But oh, did it rock the house. Even Jennifer Lopez voted for it.
What happens when rarefied, highly educated, highly prejudiced, highly self-involved gatekeepers give way to the maddening crowd? We are about to see. But I do know this: the Man Booker Prize is helping, along with amazon and other institutions that use electricity to make and distribute books, in making the world a more interesting place.
No, I’m not going to read about muddy England in the 2nd Century. But damn, I’m glad that I CAN if I WANT to. IF I WANT TO, I can put on a deeply cut jumpsuit – just like J Lo – and spend days lost in the world of 1041 England.
Thanks to the crowd, our histories live.
I was really really pissed when Colbert got into the Amazon/Hachette squabble. I call it that because of the childishness of it all.
Colbert is a really funny man who probably doesn’t know squat about the ins and outs of book publishing. How could he? His calls go directly to voice mail. But someone got through to him and convinced him to denigrate Amazon.com on the air. TV sets in Seattle clicked off by the dozens. The dispute grew personal. Authors were now involved.
And Hachette had used Stephen Colbert as a human shield!
All of this is a shame. Colbert is to be protected, not drawn into the fray. He’s the TALENT, the thing you need to keep doing what you are doing: publishing books. You also have a contract with him, further proof you like and admire his work. So why have him trash Amazon and the most important relationship of his publishing life?
Copyright law was invented and pushed forward by WRITERS. Pamphlets, newspapers, penny dreadfuls, and later books were published by writers. Often, you wrote it in one room and walked to your printer in the front room, JUST LIKE NOW.
For 300 years, the work of publishing slowly migrated from the hands of writers. We got interested in other things, liked the big advance, wandered off to look at butterflies. Who knows. But the writers are back and they have Amazon behind them.
Doers once again will reap a fairer share of rewards for doing. That is what Amazon offers. Sure, things will have to shift and change: They always do. But returning publishing to the abilities and talent of writers is the best idea I’ve heard since Samuel Johnson. Yup, I’m that old.
In the meantime, don’t use Stephen Colbert – or any writer for that matter – as a human shield. We need him here, being funny.
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I didn’t expect Ruth. Odds are, if her son had not been a now-famous doctor I met when he was not famous, I would not have Ruth. I certainly wouldn’t have her if I still worked for a trade publishing house. Nobody would publish Ruth: She’s 85. But I do not work for a trade publishing house and that’s where the beauty lies: I can publish Ruth and I can do it brilliantly.
In all this blah blah blah about amazon, that company made Ruth possible. That company became such a brilliant retailer that heads spin, no one can keep up, and everyone gets angry. So, whats the big deal? Try to keep up as best you can.
Like the mongoose in Hawaii, amazon has no predators. But it will. It’s nature’s way. Right now, good heads are at work. Incursions will come. It’s capitalism, baby, so don’t whine out of both sides of your mouth, book publishing. No one owes you a living. Innovate.
But I don’t care about them. I care about Ruth’s story: She’s a wife, mother, teacher, high school principal, community volunteer and smuggler. It’s 1953 and she is in Berlin, smuggling for the “people of the forest” – Jews that survived the concentration camps. They survived because they were young, strong. They ate bark off the trees, stole goods when they could, did anything they had to do to stay alive. They came to the edge of the trees to meet the car, standing around in ragged clothes. Her husband Saul is a philanderer. They run dangerous missions across borders for the forest Jews in a hollowed out Mercedes. They never get caught. This is non-fiction.
I look up from the manuscript and can’t believe it. Characters have left the room and Ruth’s voice isn’t in my head, matter-of-factly telling me what she learned about human beings by running gold over International borders after the Holocaust. She is Jewish and “wanted to do what she could.”
I can’t believe we almost lost this story and that’s the miracle: Companies such as amazon have given countless people a place to tell stories that never ever would have seen the light of day – and that matters. A whole bunch.
Viva amazon. I say. And I can’t wait for that drone to deliver my stuff in 30 minutes.
I am a writer, editor, electronic book maker (reading, not the ponies) and reader. I am also damned sick of listening to huge publishing corporations whine about amazon.
I love amazon. I worked with them when they were a start-up, Jeff Bezos screaming on the phone to Rebecca that the cookbooks were in the warehouse. I watched them grow and grow and Jeff become one of the best businessmen on the face of the planet. Amazon is a great American company. It serves its customers and works on our behalf. It keeps its prices low – just like Target, Walmart and every grocery chain on the planet – and you get your goods in a day or two.
The makers of books now have to compete with the makers of everything else. I say physical books are the same as a router or a rake or tire iron: a useful object. Not holy, not guaranteed, but useful. What makes a book is a beginning, middle and end with great writing in between. Doesn’t matter if it’s on paper or a screen. Everything else is noise.
This amazon fight appears now to be about summer homes and keeping that extra person on staff – I mean look at the writers complaining. Colbert and Patterson don’t have enough money for lunch? And I don’t see how B and C level authors are even in the fight because publishing companies no longer want to publish anyone but the famous. (Their secret word for that is “platform.” If you don’t have it, it means “Sorry, not famous enough.”) Sorry B and C list; We once loved you but now you must die.
Why can’t Hachette do something that every corporation does on the face of the planet? NEGOTIATE. BE AN ADVOCATE FOR YOUR AUTHORS RATHER THAN ANOTHER WHINY SAD AMAZON VICTIM. Nobody did anything to you, Hachette. And if you can’t operate within the framework of the system, try selling tires?
Amazon is capitalism. Amazon figured it out as publishing companies watched the technological advance and did nothing to further their business. I know. I sat in meetings from 2007-2008, and the publishing corporation’s innovation in the face of technology to was to lay off hundreds of workers.
They all still have huge production departments, but no place to sell books. Walking though a B&N is like wandering northern Nebraska looking for a jigsaw puzzle for Aunt Bea. Independents are a fetish stop for people who wear crocs. Even World Book Night got canceled.
I say amazon has always been the book publisher’s friend. But more importantly, amazon cares about readers. That’s who I’m for too.
The first time I saw this picture was about six seconds after America was eliminated from the 2014 World Cup. When I saw the picture, however, I knew we had actually won the match.
Tim Howard is so unbelievably hot, it made losing the tournament worth it, if that’s what it took to focus in on his thighs. I mean look at them: They are longer than I-95. The six pack, the tatts, the dirt, the growl. Is this a hot American man or what?
I was a futbol goalie and know the pain of endless attack. Some of my fullbacks and halfbacks will no doubt read this post and say “screw you, goalie, whining about the same old shit.” But believe me, Tim Howard was out in the rain, on the edge of the abyss with his defensemen. And damn, did he provide a stabilizing center. Damn, did he fight back. Tim Howard proved he’s hot on the inside too and I love that.
It’s hard to find a beautiful man with the heart of a lion: Believe me, I’ve looked. But if everybody grabs a little Tim, a little “oh God this sucks but I will handle it,” we’ll be a greater country.
It’s all about being hot on the outside – and in.
Old people and guns do not mix. How do I know? Well first, just look at this picture. Her upper arm fat will begin wiggling to the reverb on that weapon and destroy her bones, if not her helmut hair. Second, I think I saw my Grandma trying to shoot a crow and when I took the crow’s side, that was it for me. Her punishment was always the same: she’d catch you unawares and sit on you. 280 lbs, at least. I do not like what guns do to old people. Grandmas in particular.
A woman, a mother, a woman old enough to be a Grandmother, gave a mentally ill young man guns that were used to kill 20 5-year-old children in Sandy Hook. Her too, but there is a symmetry in that. In the most repressed or suppressed of minds, she simply could not have believed giving him guns was the right thing to do. It just feels impossible.
I do not believe that any citizen of the United States should have an auto or semi-authomnatic gun unless they have been trained within an inch of his or her life. That training should focus – as all gun training focuses – on how not to shoot somebody. Cops, military, etc. excluded.
I still witness the needs of guns in rural America: Two shotgun blasts sent bears running from a neighborhood where kids were out playing. Little different use than Granny is thinking about in the picture.
Shotguns, hunting rifles, six-shooters….Hey, the ammo belt is soooo sexy slung low over the jeans….are all fine by me.
Because really, Grandma, if you need as many rounds as that gun you are clutching holds, you are a lousy shot.