In which I solve the publishing crisis

A few months ago I was having dinner with a friend, her billionaire husband, and some other glamorous people (sometimes I run in these circles just to shake things up). We were talking about the nation’s financial troubles. I felt more and more complacent as the conversation turned to stock losses, bankrupted companies, and subprime mortgages. I said, “I don’t mean to brag, but I haven’t lost anything in the economic crisis. You want to know my secret? I don’t have any money, nor any assets, to lose.” They were all exceedingly jealous. As I savored the creme brulee that the billionaire’s imported French chefs had just prepared in the next room, I congratulated myself on enlightening these people. And who needs money when you have rich friends?

I am reminded of this dinner when I turn my keen eye to solvingĀ  the current crisis in the publishing world. People are losing jobs in the industry left and right. Most publishing houses have implemented acquisition freezes. And in Manhattan, where literary agents and HarperCollins executives are used to three-martini lunches, the “cushy schmooze fest seems to be winding down.” But this really doesn’t concern me because no one is publishing my books anyway. I lack book deals even when the money’s there, so why should I give a shit now?

Nevertheless, on the off chance that a full financial recovery in the publishing world will mean a Random House novel for me, I will solve the crisis. Listen up, people.

(I love blogging because no one can read the time delays between when I proclaim that I have an answer to something and when I actually arrive with some semblance of an answer.)

First of all, authors should write more bestsellers. Second of all, people should read more. We can all do our part. For instance my friend Abbey and I just started our first book club. It’s really more of a drinking club, but we will definitely use the books as coasters. And look – I understand that reading isn’t necessarily as fun and social as watching TV or spending hours alone on Facebook, but just think of how lonely writing is. And people do that every day so you’ll have something to read in the bathroom. Plus there are plenty of social networking websites that focus on books, like Goodreads and Shelfari and Library Thing. You won’t feel as isolated in your reading when you’re competing sharing with other people.

But this isn’t about what we’re doing wrong; it’s about what they’re doing wrong. All those big shot Manhattan publishing people with their love for great literature and their deep pockets for brilliant writers and their hard-ons for talented, creative people. Something’s got to give. Maybe publishers should stop issuing advances and funnel their money into innovative publicity instead. Because god knows there are more ways than ever to get inside other peoples’ brains. Then the authors and their agents get 60% of ensuing book sales if they don’t starve to death in the interim. But honestly, an author who doesn’t have a day job is just being irresponsible. At least submit an article to Ladies’ Home Journal every now and then. Experiment with other media, like blogs and porn. And don’t expect a big payday unless people actually like your book. It’s only fair.

Maybe I don’t have all the answers. Maybe I just failed miserably in my attempt at winging it. The same thing happens when I’m asked about astrophysics or when I’m expected to be charming in public.

Oh! One more brainstorm – isn’t it possible that there are just more books published – most of them awful – than the industry can sustain? Shouldn’t more writers just give up so there’s more room for me? Also – hardcover? Is it really necessary? Smart people pledge to wait and read the book when it comes out in paperback, then they forget about it (in my world smart people do a lot of pledging and forgetting and failing).

Finally, what if there was a speed printer that could print and bind paperback books from your computer in a matter of minutes? You pay a minimal amount to download the book from the publisher; you buy your own paper and ink and glue, saving them the expense; you press the Future Button; and the company experiences no net loss due to unsold books because they’re operating on a one book to one reader ratio. Brilliant, right? Make it happen, American entrepreneurs! The rest of you can get back to creming and bruling my creme brulee.

3 Thoughts on “In which I solve the publishing crisis

  1. Cat Woman on February 15, 2009 at 7:43 pm said:

    Two things: More publishing houses should market their books as coasters. In tough times, people will be drinking more cheap beer and you know what a ring that can leave on the furniture.

    Two, and this is on a more serious note, if the excrement that passes for children’s books coming out of Harper Collins is any indication, they deserve to shut down! A very recent trip to the kids section of a major bookstore chain that rhymes with Yarns & Ignoble prompts this observation.

    Now, if you don’t mind, I have to go back to watching “The 40-year-old Virgin” on DVD.

  2. I know! Books are becoming so low brow. Television is too, as a matter of fact. I wish everything on TV could be as good as the episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos I’m watching right now.

  3. Pingback: The Jackson 5 are no longer my friends and business associates » One Star Watt

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