#writering: publishing disasters

beth wareham is co-founder of Lisa Hagan Books as well as a longtime New York City based editor, writer, and publisher. #writering is a random blog about anything involved in writing, editing and publishing.

Harvey makes me think of disaster stories. I actually collect them. But only the publishing kind. Believe me, there are a lot of them and, from a group of people that wants you to think they know everything, these bumbles are especially hilarious. In fact, I have a whole network of highly placed publishing executives ready to offer up more, anonymously of course. And the publicists! Oh, if those horrible dirty cubicles could talk!

If those workspace walls could remember, they’d report episodes like this:

*A harried contract publicist writes down the wrong code and overnights several hundred ‘dumps’, a display rack for bookstores, to book reviewers and media, instead of a review copy of the book. The bill? Almost $20,000.

*After her book tour, a British princess turns in a bill for cowboy boots, a purchase she made to “fit in.”

*An author barricades himself into The Plaza Hotel, complete with handguns and a lot of whiskey, and refuses to come out. The publisher talked him out and he went on to die and have his ashes blasted from a cannon. The publisher sent a representative to the blasting ceremony.

*20,000 copies of a cookbook – the entire print run – are lost in the warehouse. The publisher refuses to print more. The books are never found.

*While reading from the podium, a Brooklyn novelist whips out her boob and begins breastfeeding in front of a deeply confused audience.

*In an industry where NO ONE is given more than economy airfare, a future governor of California turns in a bill for private jet rentals.

*A manuscript accusing the American military of a vast conspiracy goes missing. It is never found.

*Urban Publishing Legend: A highly sophisticated player and editor goes to the company Christmas party.  He parties hard and needs to heave. Seeing a purse behind a couch, he uses it. The next day, publishing pulsates with news of E___ throwing up in the boss’s handbag.

*An author locks the door during a radio interview and proceeds to mock her publicist who is trying to break down the door. The interview is national and you can hear the pounding in the background.

*The shortest publicists are ordered into purple gorilla suits for a promotion. Only the tall people come to work that day and we don’t fit.

*When a famous novelist cannot get his check, a publisher kicks a hole in the wall of her office, screaming at the top of her lungs. The damage from her flat sensible shoe is immense. The wall? Particle board.

*A famous self-help author is on tour in San Francisco. His media escort swings by her house so they can grab a sandwich before the next interview. When she walks into the living room with ham and cheese, the author can’t be found. He’s nude in her bed, calling her name.

*An editor-in-chief outs an employee at a company-wide marketing meeting. We watch, horrified, as only corporate workers bees can. Same editor-in-chief calls every Latino male “Juan,” for no apparent reason.

*An editor signs up a book by “USA Today” publisher. Only the “USA Today” is a tiny magazine on Long Island. Sales department is sad.

*An editor gets ready to publish a collection of gardening columns from the New York Times, without getting permission from the New York Times whose name is on the cover of the book. Publicity stops him. He gets mad at publicity.

*Author of a chocolate cookbook gets drunk and shows up at book signing. His name is spelled wrong on the poster announcing the event and he trashes the place. You know, like The Who in a hotel room….

*A company publishes a made-up book about a made-up event in the Middle East, pitches  it to the most successful news show in the country, which happens to be a part of the parent company. Story is found out to be a lie, news show must sideline reporter, and book must be recalled, spraying poo on all parties concerned.  It’s called synergy, people!

*The wrong version of JK Rowling is published as an ebook. Publisher retracts it and reissues. And that’s freakin’ JK Rowling. Imagine what they might do to you.

*Urban Publishing Legend: Acquiring editor of first JK Rowling books overpays by a few thousand and almost loses job.

*Three publishing executives collude to fix prices in the face of the 2007-2008 economic crash. They are caught, lie to a Federal judge, and are fined a total of $60,000,000.00 in an already sinking industry.  Personal character and morality leave the stage, a foreshadow of the Trump era. None of the publishers lose their jobs but their legal staff does! And so it goes, big fish still swim sluggishly in murky waters of their making, in their shrinking sea…

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