Monday, November 08, 2004

Bashing? Moi?

Sorry if this is tacky, but Matthew Flamm at Crain's New York Business caught wind of the site and tracked us down [note use of the royal "We"]; the result is this article in Valerie Block's "New York, New York" column in today's Crain's.

I take issue w/ the fact that I'm bashing the industry per se--I see this as trying to open up some sort of constructive dialog--but beauty (like abuse) is in the eye of the beholder. The part about the pay phone is true.

Here's the link which may or may not work (I don't know, I'm not a Crain's subscriber) so, for the second time in less than a week (apologies, also, to Michael Cader), I violate various copyright & proprietary regs by posting a cut-and-pasted version of the article.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK [Crain's New York Business, published on November 08, 2004 ]

By Valerie Block

Strong words about books

An undercover blogger is bashing the book industry. A veteran New York editor started BookAngst 101 last month out of frustration with how poorly books are selling. Preferring to remain anonymous, he goes by the moniker Mad Max Perkins, after the legendary Scribner's editor.

"It occurred to me there wasn't anybody on the inside of publishing talking in straight-on terms about the business," says Mad Max, who is so leery of being outed that he spoke for this interview from a pay phone near his office.

He hopes to get publishing executives, authors and booksellers to share ideas. "We all know that if we don't figure out some way to fix our business, it's going to be in the toilet, if it isn't already," he says.

So far, the site features unflattering commentary on New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani, among others, and a call to authors to contribute confidential posts about their experiences with publishers.

Literary bloggers are welcoming the new addition. "I'm so glad there's an editor out there who's willing to talk about some of the crises in the business," says author and blogger M.J. Rose.


Anonymous said...

You're not bashing. You're doing something constructive (and bold). As a published author, I appreciate the time and effort you're putting in at BookAngst 101 to help us better understand the industry. Rock on, Mad Max.

Anonymous said...

While I admire the intent behind this blog, and am eager to learn more about this industry, I do have one small nit to pick. There are certain outspoken advocates for authors who do tend to focus only on the negative aspects of publishing. I'm just a neophyte, whose first book will be published next year. But there are places for writers to go - forums, blogs - that are so dire and so depressing that one poor writer observed that he wasn't sure he wanted his book published, if the experience was as terrible as everyone says it is.

So I ask, is there anything good about the industry, the work? Any joy to be found? Why should any of us put ourselves through the agony - and ecstasy - of writing every day, if it's all going to lead to ruin and despair and crushed dreams?

I'd just like to find a place where there's a balance between what's wrong with publishing and what's right. Again, I admire your intent - the willingness to help authors, to question broken or outdated models, to give an insider's view of publishing. I suppose I need to ask - if it's as bad as all this, why are you still working as an editor?

Anonymous said...

"I'm so glad there's an editor out there who's willing to talk about some of the crises in the business," says author and blogger M.J. Rose.

I think the crisis with the publishing business is MJ Rose.

That and, um. too many books.

Libertarian Girl said...


Short answer: because it's just about the best job in the world...most of the time. And writers are just about the most interesting and open-hearted people in the world...most of the time.

There'll be more on this subject, I promise. And perhaps I haven't made this clear enough--but my desire is that this be a space where something OTHER than the standard bitch-and-moan takes place. When I say "MAX PERKINS, HE DEAD--SO WHAT NEXT?", my point isn't so much to lament the passing of a supposedly more honorable time in publishing, but to say, LOOK: here are the facts, this is where we are as 2005 approaches, looking backward does us no f*%&ing good, so let's figure out how we can make this work--and maybe even work BETTER.

That's the best answer I can give today--but it's a great question and something I want to talk more about in the future.

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A VOCATION OF UNHAPPINESS [Courtesy Georges Simenon (1903-1985)]

"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."

PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]

"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."

PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]

"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."