Thursday, June 29, 2006

Quotes of the week

1. Boris Wertz

'The publishing industry is one of those rare businesses where the producers very rarely listen to consumers.' Boris Wertz, operating chief at Abebooks.

Link from Galleycat in a discussion of LibraryThing, which you might wish to check out for yourself. Start with the article in the Wall Street Journal, perhaps; though it contains a distressing number of typos for a leading newspaper. Or you might want to go straight to LibraryThing itself.

At first sight LibraryThing seems to be another Who Writes Like, which I mentioned the other day. And it's not, says the founder, a dating agency.

I used to catalogue all my books at one time. But then I grew up.

2. Jason Pinter

'That’s why it’s easier for Iowa MFAs who’ve published in Glimmer Train to get agents and book deals. They’ve proven they can hack it at the highest levels.' Jason Pinter on Buzz Balls & Hype.

Doing an Iowa MFA and appearing in Glimmer Train proves you can hack it at the highest level? No wonder the book business is in trouble.

Glimmer Train -- of which I had not previously heard, and of which I do not particularly wish to hear again; ever -- turns out to be, to no one's surprise, yet another small literary magazine. It offers a newsletter for 'serious writers' (which usually means those who take themselves terribly seriously and consider it an insult if others fail to accept them at their own valuation; not the most mature of attitudes).

Thanks, but I think I'll stick to Victorian pornography.

3. Dan Franklin

'So, as I am constantly telling the editors who work for me, one of their key tasks - as well as editing text - is to sell their books in the internal market. It's their job to enthuse sales and marketing, the people to whom the booksellers will listen.' Dan Franklin, publishing director of Jonathan Cape.

Dan Franklin I regard as a sound man, by and large, and he had an article in the Sunday Telegraph (link from describing two rather different publishing editors. One was the hands-on backroom boy, John Blackwell, and the other was Tom Maschler.

Blackwell was the very old-fashioned type of editor who actually read books, and extremely closely at that: on one occasion he rang Louis de Bernieres and told him that, in describing the suspension of an Italian jeep he had got it all wrong. For the most part, he stayed in his small office.

Maschler, by contrast, was an outgoing, gregarious sort, and a natural salesman. But neither man, Franklin reckons, constitutes a suitable model for today. In the current market, an editor needs to be a mixture of both.


Anonymous said...

In October 2001, I was at that time a member of Abe's Advisory Group, I enjoyed a half-day meeting at my (then) Sherborne shop : present were Boris Wertz (then based in Germany) and two Canadian senior executives from Abe. Nice people, we just had a difference of opinion about future marketing and the requirement to enforce commission charges on listing dealers.

Anyways, it is my considered opinion that Boris Wertz has a typical MBA's cost accountant approach to the booktrade and is hardly in a position to pass judgement on who listens to whom.

Anonymous said...

I think you showed great restraint in not quoting any of the excerpts shown on the back covers of the Glimmertrain site. Here's one:

In all one's life, you might harbor one real secret, and here was hers to hold like his own.

If this was a Jeopardy answer the question would have to be: "Show me how many pronouns you can use in a single sentence if it doesn't have to make sense."


Armand said...


I just wanted to jump in and say that I disagree with your take on Glimmer Train. I actually write some of those high-minded, literary short stories, and I've also subscribed to Glimmer Train, and I know it's easy to bash literary short fiction- and I actually encourage you to go ahead and bash away- but I always want to add my perspective if you don't mind.

Like polka or heavy metal music, like romance novels and hard-boiled fiction, literary fictions tend to sound and feel repetitive until you immerse yourself in the genre and then you start to notice differences. I think Glimmer Train is one of the better small journals in that they tend to present straightforward, well-told stories. There is actually little in the way of academic posturing (for example, there is little in the way of post-modern writing). Furthermore, they really respect writers (and no, I've never been published by them) in a way that other publishing entities simply don't.

Second, Glimmer Train is actually run by two sisters who basically publish it as a labor of love. It's public knowledge that they never make a profit (most small journals don't). So you have two people forking over money on behalf of mostly unknown writers. That's got to be worth a couple of points.

Even if you don't like Glimmer Train, the idea of a small journal is a good one. They basically provide the same service that tiny, side street art galleries do. They allow the public to connect with writers who are not well known. As a writer, you don't need an agent to submit to them and for many of us, it's our first taste of, well, any success.

Finally, small journals are so tiny in what they represent that I think that picking on a small journal is akin to picking on your local bird watching club. There is almost no money to be made. They get little recognition. I doubt your average person on the street could name even one small journal (it's easy to guess though, just pick the name of any state and add the word journal or review or quarterly).

Okay, I will agree that it is easy to pick on them because of the academic posturing (guilty), links to MFA programs (guilty), genre baiting (guilty) and the fact that most of the people who submit to them don’t actually subscribe to or read them (not guilty- yay!). In fact, it is fun to kick them to the curb. Hell, I like to kick them to the curb. But I also rush to their defense. Either way, I figure that anything that gets people to read a little bit more is not a bad thing.

cheers and sorry for the long rant-


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