Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa's Privacy Policy


At Santa's Workshop, your privacy is important to us. What follows is an explanation of how we collect and safeguard your personal information; the kind of information we collect; and your choices regarding our use and disclosure of this information.

Why Do We Need This Information?
Santa Claus requires your information in order to compile his annual list of Who is Naughty and Who is Nice, and to ensure accuracy when he checks it twice. Your information is also used in connection with delivering the kinds of goods and services you've come to expect from Santa, including but not limited to toys, games, good cheer, merriment, Christmas spirit, seasonal joy, and holly jollyness.

What Information Do We Collect?
We obtain information from a variety of sources. Much of it comes from unsolicited letters sent to Santa by children all over the world listing specific items they would like to receive for Christmas. Often these letters convey additional information as well, such as the child's hopes and dreams, how much they love Santa, and which of their siblings are doodyheads.

The letters also provide another important piece of information—fingerprints. We run these through databases maintained by the FBI, CIA, NSA, Interpol, MI6, and the Mossad. If we find a match, it goes straight on the Naughty List. We also harvest a saliva sample from the flap of the envelope in which the letter arrives in order to establish a baseline genetic identity for each correspondent. This is used to determine if there might be an inherent predisposition for naughtiness. A detailed handwriting analysis is performed as part of a comprehensive personality workup, and tells us which children are advancing nicely with their cursive and which are still stubbornly forming block letters with crayons long past the age when this is appropriate.

Our network of fully trained, duly deputized mall "Santas" file reports from the field, telling us which children are well-behaved, which are elf-phobic, which are prone to sphincter control issues, and which are squirmy beard-pulling monstrous little brats. Digital copies of photos taken with these "Santas" are automatically sent to our database for further evaluation, with particular attention given to the ones where the children are crying.

Santa also employs a paranormal method of observation known as "remote viewing." This enables him to see you when you're sleeping, know when you're awake, and know if you've been bad or good. He even knows if the cookies you're leaving out are homemade or store-bought.

What Do We Do With the Information We Collect?
Sharing is one of the joys of Christmas. For this reason, we share your personal information with our affiliates, non-affiliated third parties, and anyone else who has a legitimate financial stake in a successful holiday season. Mrs. Claus also likes to have a look-see.

Our affiliates include partners of Santa's Workshop who are actively involved in making Christmas happen. They include toy-making elves, flying reindeer, and Jesus. Non-affiliated third parties might include the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Hanukkah Harry.

We may also share your information with mental health practitioners—especially if, as a child, you asked for a particular present every Christmas but never got it. This information gives your analyst a better understanding of why you sometimes feel sad at this time of year and why you resent your parents.

Occasionally we share your Christmas wish lists with professional lyricists seeking inspiration for a catchy holiday song. In the past this information has inspired such holiday favorites as "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth," "All I Want for Christmas is You," "My Grown-Up Christmas List," and "Santa Baby." Should your wish list inspire a hit single, you may be entitled to royalties, payable in the form of sleighfuls of Christmas cheer.

Finally, we make note of the condition of your roof and chimney in the course of our Christmas Eve deliveries. We share this information with appropriate third-party contractors, who may contact you to warn that your aging roof will soon be leaking worse than Julian Assange, or that you will die in your sleep of carbon monoxide poisoning if you don't replace your chimney liner right away.

How Do We Secure This Information?
We secure your information by keeping it at the North Pole, one of the most remote, inhospitable and uninhabitable places on earth. It is stored in a secure gingerbread facility deep in the Candy Cane Forest, behind an impassable barrier conjured by Elven magic. The facility is guarded by a full brigade of life-size wooden toy soldiers armed with Nerf Blasters and Super Soakers. The area is also patrolled by ravenous polar bears.

You Have Choices
You have "opt out" choices regarding certain disclosures we make about you. Please indicate your preferences below:

____ I'll be nice. Please collect, collate, analyze, disseminate and disclose my personal information in any way you see fit. I understand that my cooperative attitude will be taken into consideration when it comes time to compile the Naughty/Nice list next year.

____ I'll be naughty. Please don't share my personal information with anyone. You may use it only to ensure that I get as many of the specific items on my list as possible. I understand that my uncooperative attitude carries the risk that a lump of bituminous coal will be deposited in my stocking annually, either for the duration of my life or until I change my preferences.

You may forward your completed form to: Santa Claus, c/o Santa's Workshop, The North Pole. Or you may retain it for your own records—it doesn't matter. Whether your form is on file with Santa or not, he's gonna find out who's naughty or nice.

Please allow twelve days of Christmas for your choices to take effect.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Steve Martin Starring in Rashomon

By now you've heard that Steve Martin's appearance at the 92nd Street Y in New York on Monday night didn't go so well. Martin was interviewed on stage by Deborah Solomon, who interviews famous folks for The New York Times Magazine and has also written extensively about art. Martin is an art collector and his new novel, An Object of Beauty, is set in the art world, so it seems like a natural, right?

But halfway through the session, a representative of the Y walked on stage and handed Solomon a note suggesting that she ask more questions about Martin's career as an actor and entertainer, and less about art. When Solomon read the note aloud to the audience, they cheered.

The next day, the Y offered refunds to everyone who attended the event (including those watching via satellite in remote locations), saying that "We, too, were disappointed with the evening."

In short, this was a disaster on par with the Spider-Man musical. Think of it as Steve Martin: Turn Off the Art. Or more appropriately, think of it as a spin on the classic film Rashomon, because no one can agree on who is to blame. Solomon and Martin seem to think the Y was out of line for forcing the conversation toward more celebrity/pop culture topics. The Y says they expected a more rounded discussion of Martin's career instead of an in-depth discussion of art. And some people who were actually at the event blamed Solomon for forcing the direction of the discussion and asking granular questions about Martin's novel, which presumably most of the audience hadn't read.

What we need is for video of the event to surface so we can know the truth. Kind of like the Zapruder film—we all know how that settled things once and for all regarding the JFK assassination. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any cell phone video available—the event was so tedious, even cell phones went into sleep mode.

Meanwhile, it's clear from Martin's Twitter stream that he is still miffed at the 92nd Street Y. It wouldn't surprise me if he canceled his Y membership altogether and joined Curves instead.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Something Book Publicists Love to Hear: "Pretend I'm a Producer--Pitch Me My Book"

[From The Huffington Post]

This has happened to me more than once:

A publisher invites an author in for a let's-get-acquainted meeting to have an initial discussion about marketing and publicity. At a minimum, the editor, the publicist, and the marketing director are there, but the publicist's boss might be there too, and the agent, and some other people from marketing, or the art director, maybe the sales director, and someone to take notes -- in fact, this meeting could be so densely populated that people are spilling out the conference room door and tumbling into the hall.

And when the topic comes around to publicity, in front of all those people, the author turns to the publicist and says: "Pretend I'm a producer -- pitch me my book."

The author doesn't consciously mean to disrespect the publicist -- he or she is understandably curious about how the book will be presented to the media -- but even a moment's reflection will reveal what an appalling breach of etiquette this is.

What possible justification could there be for singling out the publicist in that situation? Unless the author plans to go around the table: Sales director, pretend I'm the buyer at B&N -- sell me my book. Editor, please edit this sample manuscript page for me. Publisher, please... do whatever it is you do.

Of course no one would do that. When an author enters a relationship with a publisher, it's with the understanding that everyone there is a professional and knows their job. That good faith should extend to the publicist as much as anyone else. Presumably the publicist didn't walk in off the street and attach themselves to the book -- they were assigned to it because they've established a track record of successfully publicizing books. They'd have to possess a level of skill and experience sufficient to earn the confidence of their colleagues, and therefore a place at the table (unless, as I say, it's really crowded -- then they might be squatting on the radiator or stretched out on the floor by the mini fridge).

In many instances, publicists will specifically ask to work on a particular book because they're pumped about the author or the subject. Putting them on the spot publicly is like throwing a bucket of water on a witch -- you can practically hear the hiss as their enthusiasm melts and dissolves into nothing.

"Pitch me my book" is essentially asking the publicist to audition. But publicists aren't performers, and despite the caricature of the loud, brash PR person, publicists can be reticent, even shy. Think about it -- they choose to spend their time drawing attention to other people, not themselves. Asking them to perform for the group is embarrassing and demeaning. And given the circumstances, even a veteran publicist's off-the-cuff pitch is likely to be underwhelming.

So what's a publicist to do when an author says "pitch me my book?" Some possible responses are:
  • "No."
  • "No way."
  • "I'd prefer not to" (the Bartleby, the Scrivener strategy).
Another option is to turn the question back on the author. "What sort of producer are you?" the publicist might ask. "Are you with Good Morning America or RuPaul's Drag Race? Do you produce 60 Minutes or Dance Your Ass Off? Are you booking for Fresh Air or Mancow or Lewis and Floorwax or maybe Livestock News?..." The point here is that no single approach is going to be right for every producer or media outlet. The publicist will have variations on the pitch, or several different pitches, depending upon the outlet they're going after.

Perhaps the publicist's best recourse is to say: "I didn't come prepared to do that today and I don't want to waste everybody's time. You and I should talk separately and work together to develop some effective pitch angles." And then follow through on that.

Obviously not all publicists are created equal, and not all publicist-author matchups work out. If you're an author and have specific cause for alarm or you're just getting a bad vibe from your assigned publicist, take it up with your editor. Otherwise, give your publicist the benefit of the doubt. And please don't ask them to audition--they already got the part.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Doggies of War

[From The Huffington Post]

This publishing season is thick with new and forthcoming memoirs by Bush administration insiders, from Donald Rumsfeld to Condoleezza Rice to Dick Cheney to President Bush himself. Now comes the most stunning inside account of the Bush administration to date: On the Spot: From Dog House to White House, by President Bush's dead dog Spot.

On the Spot was written with the help of the president's mother, Barbara Bush, the acknowledged authority on writing for household pets (see Millie's Book, 1990). In this new volume, Mrs. Bush demonstrates an unsuspected psychic ability, enabling her to act as the medium through which the spectral Spot tells her own remarkable story. For this reason, On the Spot marks an historic first: An inside look at a former President by a former First Lady channeling a dead dog.

Despite Mrs. Bush's involvement, however, this is Spot's unexpurgated story.  Not one woof has been omitted.

Spot, an English springer spaniel, and her companion Barney, a Scottish terrier, had the run of the White House and witnessed many key events of the Bush administration. Barney quickly gained a reputation as a "bad dog" -- he was the only one in the White House who refused to roll over for the president --and Spot emerged as Top Dog of the First Family. She remained so until, in failing health, she was put down in 2004. From beyond the grave, Spot describes:
  • Why she was called Spot: Credit goes to the president and his knack foringenious nicknames.
  • Her arrival at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the terrible surprise left by Socks, the Clintons' cat.
  • Her pampered life as a White House pet: While other dogs settle for chasing the postman, Barney and Spot chased the Postmaster General.
  • Her knack for being in the right place at the right time: When President Bush calls Donald Rumsfeld on the carpet, Spot is in the room going on the carpet.
    From her unique, close-to-the floor perspective, Spot provides the "lowdown" on key administration figures. Among her revelations:
    • Donald Rumsfeld wears Argyle socks with his blue suits.
    • Dick Cheney's ankles are swollen to six times normal size.
    • Colin Powell wears combat boots.
    • Condoleezza Rice also wears combat boots.
    Spot's most valuable role, however, is as a keen-eyed witness to history, as the following excerpts illustrate:
    "The world believes President Bush choked on a pretzel. I was alone with him when it happened--only I know the truth. It was actually a Liv-A-Snap..."

     "Richard Clarke came into the Oval Office. He urgently wanted to talk about the Presidential Daily Briefing entitled 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.' The president glanced at it and said, 'A little fuzzy, isn't it?' Then he rolled up the report and rapped me on the nose with it because I'd gone on the carpet again..."

     "George Tenet told the president that CIA intelligence indicated that locating weapons of mass destruction in Iraq would be a 'slam dunk.' The president said, 'George, you want to talk intelligence? You want to talk slam dunk? Watch this.'  He crumpled a piece of White House stationery into a ball and tossed it on the floor. I dutifully picked it up, carried it to the wastebasket, and dropped it in. The president threw his hands over his head and yelled: 'Score!'..."

    "Colin Powell warned the president about 'the Pottery Barn rule -- you break it, you bought it.' The president said, 'I don't get it.' Then he said, 'Hey, watch what Spotty can do. Play dead, Spotty! C'mon girl! Play dead! Spot! I said play dead! C'mon, you stupid dog...'"

    "The night before the invasion of Iraq, the president said, 'Spotty, they're sayin' we're gonna be greeted as liberators. What do you think? Is it gonna be a cakewalk or is it gonna be rough?' I told him, 'Rough! Rough!' But the president didn't listen. He just made me fetch a tennis ball..."

    "Everyone was confused by the president's estimates of how long the U.S. would be in Iraq. You have to remember that the president made his calculations in dog years..."
    On the Spot is a startling political exposé by an insider who knows where all the bones are buried -- including her own.

    Also available in audio, e-book, and rawhide editions.

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Test Your Knowledge of Literature's Greatest Bed Bug Infestations

    [From The Huffington Post]

    Identify the work of literature in which each bed bug infestation occurs:

    A. In this short tale of mystery and imagination, a man is bitten by a strange gold bug, which leads to the discovery of a cryptograph revealing the location of Captain Kidd's treasure. The story's narrator, who is staying in the man's guest room, is bitten by bed bugs, but that only leads to itchy red marks all over his legs, arms and torso.

    B. A Pharaoh refuses to allow the Hebrew people to leave Egypt. To persuade Pharaoh to change his mind, God sends a series of devastating plagues against the Egyptians, including infestations of lice, flies and locusts. Pharaoh finally relents, but after the Hebrews depart God sends an eleventh plague, bed bugs, just to remind Pharaoh who's boss. Pharaoh decides enough is enough and sets out to bring the Hebrews back, with disastrous results.

    C. On the eve of his first whaling trip, a young seaman spends the night in a New Bedford inn. He is dismayed to find himself sharing his bed with an infestation of bed bugs. He is even more dismayed to find himself sharing his bed with a massive, heavily tattooed pagan harpooner from the South Seas. However, the two men soon forge a strong bond of friendship as they take turns trying to harpoon the bed bugs.

    D. A 12-year-old girl whose name is a homophone for an American president complains to her film-star mother that she is unable to sleep because her bed is shaking. The mother concludes that the girl is demonically possessed and consults a Catholic priest. Further investigation reveals that the bed's vibrations were actually caused by a massive infestation of unusually rambunctious bed bugs, but by then a messy and disgusting exorcism is under way and there's no turning back. In defense of the ritual, the priest argues convincingly that the presence of bed bugs doesn't explain the girl's ability to rotate her head 360°.

    E. A Devil's Island convict known for his butterfly tattoo develops a taste for other insects when he spends five years in solitary for attempting to escape. He supplements his meager penal colony diet by eating beetles, centipedes, spiders and bed bugs. Time and isolation eventually chip away at his sanity, and he begins engaging the vermin in conversation. He is surprised to learn that the bed bugs have worked out a foolproof plan of escape. Their breakout is successful, and he and the bed bugs are soon living the high life in Venezuela.

    F. Literature's über bed bug: A man awakens in his bed to find he has turned into a bug. His concerned father immediately douses him with DDT and consults an exterminator.

    Answers: A: The Gold-Bug, Edgar Allan Poe B: The Bible, Book of Exodus C: Moby-Dick, Herman Melville D: The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty E: Papillon, Henri Charrière F: The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

    Be sure to try these other quizzes:
    Test Your Knowledge of Literature's Greatest Swine Flu Scares
    Test Your Knowledge of Literature's Greatest Bird Flu Scares

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Books That Sell

    From The Huffington Post:

    Twitter was all atwitter about a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece in which Rod Adner and William Vincent argue that the increasingly difficult economics of the publishing business will soon lead to advertising in ebooks.

    I'm dubious about the idea. For one thing, how would you match an ad to a book? I mean, you could probably get away with advertising Billy's Pan Pizza in Steig Larsson's novels but plugging Viagra in Portnoy's Complaint might be pushing the boundaries of good taste. And how long would it be before book publishers stooped to the crass retail tactics of, say, the clothing industry? "Buy one Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, get the second Suit at half price!"

    I'm inclined to agree with Paul Carr, who suggested on TechCrunch that product placement is a far more likely approach. As Carr points out, authors have long used specific products to help define a character, from James Bond's Rolex to Hannibal Lector's favorite brand of fava beans. The difference is, companies would now have to pay to have their products and services integrated into the plot, text, or title of a book.

    However, it's probably not cost-effective for companies to buy placement in new works by contemporary writers. We all know publishing is a crapshoot. Why pay good money to place your products in a book that may never find an audience? Especially if it's by a literary writer--we all know how they sell.

    Instead, companies with products and services to tout should turn to the classics--books with established popular appeal that have withstood the test of time. Simply insert your product at an appropriate point in the text or title and readers will hardly notice that you're marketing to them. Many of these books are on required reading lists at high schools and colleges, so you'll be reaching that all-important youthful demographic. Best of all, most of these works are in the public domain, so you can extend your brand awareness at little or no cost. What a great way to stretch your ad/promo dollars! And with the authors long dead, you'll have no worries about minor details like author intent or literary integrity. You can even press the late author's name into service to carry the burden of your marketing message.

    Here are a few examples:
    Billy Bud Lite, Herman Melville

    Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman Sampler

    "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. To Sydney Carton, it did not matter which: he always knew the time with his Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer II."
    --A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

    Sun-Maid Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry

    King Lear Jet, William Shakespeare

    "Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. With Comcast Broadband Internet Access, Margaret Schlegel knew she was always connected, with no annoying dial-ups or delays."
    --Howard's End, E.M. Forster

    Credit Suisse Family Robinson, Jonathan Wyss

    The Story of O the Oprah Magazine, Pauline Réage

    "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore--
    All downloaded, whole, concise, to my Kindle 3 device
    Where at my leisure I can read them, read them 'til I snore--
    'Tis remarkable,' I uttered, 'that my Kindle 3 can store
    All these books and many more.'"
    --The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe

    Mutiny on the Bounty Paper Towels, Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall

    The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford Fiesta

    "Arms and the man I sing. . . and with my VocoPro Professional Karaoke Machine, I'm singin' in style!"
    --The Aeneid, Virgil

    The Catcher in the Arnold's Real Jewish Rye, J.D. Salinger

    "My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So I called myself Pip and came to be called Pip. That is why I trust PIP Printing with all my business printing needs."
    --Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

    Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift Premium Sausage

    "If music be the food of love, play on;
    Give me excess of it--with Apple's 160 GB iPod Classic
    Which stores up to 40,000 of my favorite tunes
    For convenient playback anytime."
    --Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

    Tropicana of Cancer, Henry Miller

    The Count of Monte Crisco, Alexandre Dumas

    "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. To keep it fresh, be sure to move it with coolers, ice chests, and food storage containers by Igloo."
    --A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

    Jell-O Puddn'head Wilson, Mark Twain

    "Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning. He foolishly compounded the difficulty of his situation by failing to call the law firm of Moscowitz, Philby & Rappaport right away."
    --The Trial, Franz Kafka

    Essays, Sir Francis Oscar Mayer Bacon

    "We must cultivate our gardens--with the complete line of seeds, fertilizers, plant foods and other quality gardening products from Miracle-Gro."
    --Candide, Voltaire

    The Dialogues of Play-Doh, Play-Doh

    "But what's this long face about, Mr. Starbuck? Wilt thou not chase the white whale? And wilt thou not add a dollop of whipped to my venti one-shot extra-hot no-fat mocha latte?"
    --Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

    For Whom the Taco Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway

    "Reader, I married him. And by working with the friendly and courteous wedding professionals at Macy's Bridal Salon, it was the wedding of my dreams!"
    --Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

    The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    A Birthday Present from Charles Bukowski

    Today would have been Charles Bukowski's 90th birthday, so I featured some songs inspired by his life and work over on Classics Rock!--tunes by Modest Mouse, U2, Tom Russell and the Boo Radleys.  Which resulted in this nice item in today's Shelf Awareness:

    Happy birthday to Charles Bukowski, who would have been 90 today. To celebrate, Classics Rock!: Books Shelved in Songs is featuring several songs inspired by Bukowski, including "Bukowski" by Modest Mouse and "Dirty Day" by U2.

    Thanks Shelf Awareness!  And happy b-day Charles!

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Something Book Publicists Love to Hear: "Will It Sell Books?"

    [From The Huffington Post]

    The life of a book publicist is undeniably glamorous and exciting, except for about 98% of it. Mostly it consists of trying to extract useful contacts from outdated media lists and shoving books into Jiffy bags. Sure, sometimes you get to deal with Oprah and Colbert and the Today Show and NPR. More often than not, though, publicity opportunities come in the less sexy form of a local-market radio interview, a short item in a hometown paper, a bylined article in a small journal, a podcast or a guest blog.

    When presented with this sort of comparatively modest publicity opportunity, some authors become finicky. They'll hesitate before committing. They want to be sure their efforts will be effective, so they'll ask their publicist: "Will it sell books?"

    Book flacks have developed several sophisticated strategies for dealing with this delicate question. "Yes!" is one popular response. "You bet!" is another. "We've had luck with them in the past," is a good one too, a bit more mature and cautious. But when you get right down to it, the only truly honest answer to the question "Will it sell books?" is: "How the %&#@ would I know?"

    Wanting to do only those publicity activities that are guaranteed to sell books is understandable. It's a grand strategy, logical and efficient. It really has only one significant flaw, but it's worth mentioning: There's absolutely no way to know with certainty what is going to sell books.

    To be sure, an appearance on Oprah or Colbert or the Today Show or NPR or any of a handful of other top-tier media outlets will dramatically increase an author's chances of moving a ton of copies. But there are no guarantees.

    That's because interviews don't happen in a vacuum. These shows can provide an audience, but it's up to the author to connect with that audience, and that involves a lot of intangibles. For example: Does the author come across as appealing, informed, entertaining? If so, there's a good chance of seeing some results. Smug, long-winded, drooling? No sale. Does the interviewer appear to be receptive and open to what the author is saying? Great. Dismissive and skeptical? Not so much. Did the host hold the book up to the camera? Perfect. Leave it lying face down on the desk? Not ideal. Use it as a coaster? Uh-oh. Did the segment allow enough time for the author to state some key points? Terrific. Did they cut the interview short to cover Lindsay Lohan's sentencing? Nuts.

    Media interviews should come with the same disclaimer as investment opportunities: "Past performance is no guarantee of future results." Just because one author hit the big time on Oprah doesn't mean you will. I know of an author who appeared on Ms. Winfrey's program four times and never saw a significant bump in sales.

    Just as you can't be certain the big national shows will sell books, you can't be sure the smaller outlets won't. Thanks to the magic of syndication and the Internet, even the most modest media outlet has the potential to reach consumers beyond its initial audience, if not actually go viral. So if an author performs well on a relatively obscure Internet radio show, who knows what the results might be?

    Looking for assurances that an interview will sell books is a trap. For one thing, you'll probably never know if it did or not--generally speaking, there is no practical way to accurately measure the sales impact of any particular publicity hit.

    For another, it almost doesn't matter. Yes, the ultimate goal of book publicity is to sell books, but it's not always the immediate goal. Sometimes you just want to break the space and make the impression. That way, if some lunkhead hears you on the radio and sees you quoted in the paper and reads your article in the journal and stumbles across your blog, then--if you're lucky--he might say to himself: "Gee, I keep hearing about this book--maybe I should check it out."

    My advice to authors is, don't get hung up about whether a specific interview will generate sales--just take advantage of every opportunity to get the word out. And try to resist the temptation to ask your publicist "Will it sell books?"--maybe it will and maybe it won't. The only thing you can say with certainty is, it won't if you don't do it.

    For more things book publicists love to hear, see:
    Six Things Book Publicists Love to Hear
    Something Book Publicists Love to Hear: "How Can We Leverage This?"
    Something Book Publicists Love to Hear: "Did We Know This Was Coming?"

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    Hey, Boo

    Sunday is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winner To Kill a Mockingbird.  Just think:  Scout would be about 83 now, and Jem about 87.  We won't talk about Atticus.

    On Classics Rock! we posted some songs that were inspired by the novel, from the likes of Bruce Hornsby, Ra Ra Riot, and the Noisettes (along with a shout-out to the Boo Radleys), and were rewarded for our efforts with a nice mention in the publishing enewsletter Shelf Awareness.  Thanks!

    "Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."  Attaboy, Atticus.

    Friday, July 2, 2010

    Meta Publicity Question

    When Rob Lowe's memoir Stories I Only Tell My Friends comes out, will he go on "Wayne's World" to promote it?

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    Something Book Publicists Love to Hear: "Did We Know This Was Coming?"

    [From The Huffington Post]

    When a publishing company's publicity department announces that a major media break has occurred, many an editor, publisher, and sales director will exhibit a unique two-stage reaction. The stages occur sequentially. Stage One is usually along the lines of: "Yay!" Stage Two, which follows just milliseconds later, is invariably: "Did we know this was coming?"

    It's a fair question. If a publisher knows about a big media hit in advance, they can consider their stock situation and perhaps push a few more copies out to retailers in anticipation of the crushing demand they hope the publicity will generate. They might even have a discussion about whether going back to press is warranted.

    But paranoia lurks deep in the heart of the book publicist, who may think the question is accusatory. "Did we know this was coming?" can sound like "Are you doing your job, or did we just get lucky?"

    Book flack--relax! The question almost certainly isn't meant that way, but even if it were, there are just three possible answers:
    1. Yes, we knew it was coming and we knew it was coming today.
    2. Yes, we knew it was coming but we weren't sure when it was coming.
    3. No, we had no idea it was coming.
    Any of these answers is acceptable. If it's number one, you're obviously in the clear. If it's number two, chances are you gave everyone some kind of advance notice that something was coming at some point, date TBA. You can't reasonably be expected to know the exact date every publicity break will hit. Media outlets are notoriously squirrely about alerting publicists to run dates, and boy do they hate to be nagged about it.

    If it's number three--congratulations! It means your campaign has taken on a life of its own. You've got it right where you want it--bubbling along just beyond your direct control. You don't want to have to work for each and every break--you want the publicity to develop some momentum and generate new publicity for you. That's how publicity works, ideally.

    Your colleagues may still pull long faces about the surprise factor--that there was no time to think about getting out more copies or going back to press. So what? The truth is, media outlets with the potential to move the dial to that degree can be counted on one hand--one of those four-fingered cartoon character hands. Or, you know, the Hamburger Helper hand. And you still have to sell through the copies that are already in the marketplace, right?

    By the way, if anyone ever does ask you "Are you doing your job, or did we just get lucky?" be sure to tell them they don't know what they're talking about. Anyone who thinks luck doesn't play a role in a successful publicity campaign is out of their tiny little mind.

    For more things book publicists love to hear, see Six Things Book Publicsits Love to Hear and Something Book Publicists Love to Hear: "How Can We Leverage This?"

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Something Book Publicists Love to Hear: "How Can We Leverage This?"

    Not long ago I compiled a list of Six Things Book Publicists Love to Hear.  I'm now adding a seventh:

    "How can we leverage this?"

    This is generally asked by an author, agent or editor when a book has garnered a nice bit of media exposure that falls along the decent-to-boffo range of the publicity spectrum.  It's a natural reaction and a perfectly reasonable question—how can we use this break to generate more publicity?— so it's hard to say why this query can be so irksome to a book flack.

    Perhaps it's because it often leaves the publicist feeling the way the master of the workhouse felt in Oliver Twist: You want more?!  But that's the nature of publicity—it's never enough.  In all the years I've been doing it, I've never been told: "Great media break!  Your work is done here.  Please stand down, take a well-earned rest, and accept the thanks of a grateful nation."  It's always:  "What else you got?"

    Or perhaps it's because, in the excitement of the moment, the question is often posed without first taking a brief pause to simply appreciate the current success.  Any good publicist should be thinking about whether a media break can be exploited to generate more publicity.  But if they're at all like me, their first inclination will be to take just a moment to savor this particular accomplishment.  Celebrate this media break for its own merits. Get down on one knee and sacrifice a white bull to whatever capricious publicity god was smiling down upon them that day.  Because getting a great media break is one of the few sources of genuine satisfaction the job has to offer.

    Or perhaps it's because the question can become a knee-jerk response to every development.  "My book is ranked 103 on Amazon!  How can we leverage this?" "My book has its own website!  How can we leverage this?" "I've been named Author of the Year by my high school alumni association!  How can we leverage this?" Those are all fine accomplishments, but the answers to these questions, in order, are:  We can't; we can't; and we can't.  We need to be selective.  We need to make sure the break we're trying to leverage is major, substantive, and potentially useful to the journalists, reviewers and bloggers we'll be approaching.

    Or maybe it's just that word: "leverage."  There's something inherently irritating about it, at least in this context.  How can we leverage this?  Well, first we're going to need a fulcrum…

    Whatever the source of your irritation, book flack, get over it.  You've got work to do.

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Publicity Tip

    If you're a B-list celebrity looking for some exposure, try a public same-sex kiss. The media fall for it every time.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010


    As noted on Classics Rock!, independent booksellers found a sympathetic ear with singer/songwriter Al Stewart.  The first stanza of his song "Elvis at the Wheel" gives a nod to their plight:
    There's an independent bookstore
    The last one that remains
    All the others you might look for
    Have been eaten by the chains
    They soldier on 
    No one cleans the window panes
    Yes, we featured this song once before but it seems appropriate to cite it again on this, the first day of BookExpo America.  I'm out the door right now on my way to the Javitz Center--should be quite a show!
    (And thanks to Shelf Awareness for the shoutout!)

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Bush's Book

    George W. Bush has been out of work for some time, poor fellow.  Having been without full-time employment for about fifteen months myself, I sympathize. 

    Bush has put the time to good use by writing a book.  Apparently all the brush in Crawford had been cleared, and he had nothing else to do. The book is called Decision Points and focuses on fourteen key decisions he's made in his lifetime.  It comes out in November.

    I thought I'd do him a solid and start seeding the market now.  Being a book flack, I thought some advance publicity was in order.  So I've leaked the fourteen decisions to the press. This way the public can get an early taste of Decision Points so they'll know what to expect in the fall.  The first one concerns his decision to name his dog Spot.

    You'll find the other fourteen (yes, there are actually fifteen decisions--that George W. Bush is full of surprises) on The Huffington Post.

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Your Inner Caveman

    I was fascinated by the news last week that Neanderthals had mated with modern humans.  I think my first response was probably the typical reaction that most people had:  Hubba hubba!

    Then I thought that Neanderthals, presumed to have gone extinct about 30,000 years ago, had never really died out--at least not genetically.  If you're descended from ancestors who lived in pre-historic Europe or Asia, chances are that up to 4% of your genetic makeup is Neanderthal in origin.  When I thought back to the first time I met my wife--how I clubbed her over the head and dragged her home by her hair--I perceived the essential truth of this.

    Being a book flack, musing about the fate of the Neanderthal ultimately led me to a novel:  William Golding's The Inheritors, published in 1955.  (This was his second novel, the followup to his classic Lord of the Flies.)  The Inheritors is about the last surviving group of Neanderthals and what happens when they encounter Homo sapiens.  As you might imagine, it doesn't go real well for the Neanderthals.

    But it seems that Golding didn't get it quite right.  Turns out before modern humans drove Neanderthals to extinction, we mated with them.  In retrospect, this shouldn't be surprising.  After all, it's so easy even a caveman could do it.

    I was also delighted to find that Golding's novel inspired a Genesis song called "A Trick of the Tail"--perfect fodder for my Classics Rock! blog.  You'll find the details posted there, along with my theory that lyricist Tony Banks may have been influenced as much by the book's cover art as by its themes.  See what you think.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    A Song Book Publicists Can Embrace

    While this blog was napping (picture it yawning and stretching in its feety pajamas), my other blog, Classics Rock!, passed an important milestone:  Its one-year anniversary.

    I observed this milestone with a song that touched on both my background in book publicity and my interest in the intersection of music and literature:  "Lady Writer" by Dire Straits.  Mark Knopfler saw an author interviewed on television and wrote a song about it ( Lady writer on the TV is the opening line).

    Knopfler never identified the author (as far as I can determine) but clues in the lyrics have led to a consensus that the song was inspired by one author in particular.  (Check out the post to find out who that is.)

    The lady writer in question blushingly acknowledges that she is the inspiration behind the song and says, "I wish I could claim something of more distinction in terms of popular culture, but I don't know that I can."  First of all:  Way to dis Dire Straits!  Second (and I may be biased here), credit really goes to the unknown publicist who booked you on that TV show.  They may not even be aware that they affected the course of rock and roll history.

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    More Things I'd Like to See This Weekend on C-SPAN's Book TV

    For a while I did a feature here called "Things I'd Like to See This Weekend on C-SPAN's Book TV," which offered a take on recent publishing news.  Then I stopped doing it because I got lazy.

    Yesterday I wasn't lazy for a while so I did another one, only this one's on The Huffington Post.  It looks at:
    The London Book Fair (sparsely populated)

    A notorious Australian cookbook (offensive recipes)

    Danielle Steel (apparently her larcenous assistant thought it was spelled "steal"), and

    A "Jersey Shore" book tie-in (those people have never even read a book so why are they writing one?)
    Hope you'll take a look.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Song of the Volcano

    The giant ash cloud caused by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano led to all kinds of chaos throughout Europe, but for the publishing industry it specifically impacted the London Book Fair, which took place earlier this week.  Because of travel restrictions and canceled flights, attendance at the fair was down dramatically this year.  Most Americans planning to attend never got off the ground and spent the week at the office as usual.

    This event is a disaster by any measure and has had serious ramifications for a lot of people, but there have also been some lighter takes on the situation--like the diagram by Information is Beautiful comparing the daily CO2 output of the volcano vs. the European airline industry.  Or this image posted by Miss Daisy Frost showing the London Book Fair as a volcano.

    My own contribution, over on Classics Rock!, was a consideration of volcano-related songs.  But in keeping with the mission of Classics Rock!--songs based on books--these are songs inspired by literary volcanoes.  There are compositions based on Under the Volcano, The Last Days of Pompeii, Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings, Journey to the Center of the Earth...

    I hope you'll check it out (and alert me to any I missed).  Also:  A thank you to Shelf Awareness for the shout-out.

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Diet & Fitness Books of the Bible

    At this holiest time of the year, ask yourself:  Do I exercise religiously?  Or do I indulge in sinful desserts? 

    Either way, you should be aware of the many weight-loss and exercise books that are appropriate to the season.  Books like Psweatin' to the Psalms, Pontius Pilates, and Take and Eat This, Not That.  Books designed to help you maintain the corporal while you're focusing on the spiritual.

    You'll find a complete list of Diet & Fitness Books of the Bible on McSweeney's.

    Remember to keep the faith!  And keep trim while you're doing it.

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010

    Incivility is Where You Find It

    There's a lot of media attention focused on the bad behavior of some elements of the Tea Party movement, and it's quite true that some of it is heated, hostile, and reprehensible.  But there's plenty of incivility to go around.  Tea Partiers don't hold a monopoly.

    An interesting example can be found on and is centered on Michael Lewis's new book The Big Short.  In the Customer Reviews section of the book's Amazon page, a lot of Kindle users are complaining because no electronic edition is available.  To express their displeasure, they are assigning the book a meager one-star rating.  Other Amazon customers are pushing back at the Kindle crowd, slapping them down for posting "reviews" of a book they haven't read yet.

    Some of the posted comments and replies are pretty ugly.  Seems like the perception of anonymity--whether in a crowd of protestors or on the internet--brings out the worst in some people.

    To make this point, I came up with a quiz called "Tea Party Rhetoric or Amazon Review?" which you'll find on The Huffington Post.  See if you can tell which nasty comments were made in a heated Tea Party exchange and which were posted on Amazon.

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    The Lexorcist

    Back in his standup days, Woody Allen had a joke about a project supposedly undertaken by Noël Coward: "He had acquired the rights to My Fair Lady, and was removing the music and lyrics and making it back into Pygmalion."

    I'm reminded of the line as I consider the ever-expanding library of monster mashups--classic works of literature that have been rejiggered with a fantasy or science fiction element in order to weave a thread of bloody horror through a familiar tale. The latest example is Dawn of the Dreadfuls, a prequel to the bestseller that started the trend, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

    You'll also find Jane Slayre, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Mr. Darcy, Vampire, The Undead World of Oz, and so on. And coming soon: Android Karenina, Little Women and Werewolves, Little Vampire Women, Romeo & Juliet & Vampires. . .

    It has become clear that our literary heritage is being overrun by the powers of darkness. What's needed is a literary or lexical exorcist—a lexorcist—who is willing to take on these mutant mashups armed only with garlic and holy water and a really big blue pencil. Just as Woody had Noël Coward saving Pygmalion by gutting My Fair Lady, this lexorcist must have the fortitude to cut and slash mercilessly until every vestige of evil has been excised from these classics and they are restored to their original condition and pronounced clean.

    The danger, of course, is that the lexorcist will go too far, wading into the wrong books and exorcising monsters that rightfully belong there. Imagine Frankenstein without the Creature—it's just the story of a callow medical student with some kooky ideas. Take the Count out of Dracula and all you've got is a group of tedious Victorians hitting on each other. Eliminate the brutish Mr. Hyde and you're left with the bland Dr. Jekyll, who never does anything the least bit naughty.

    For this reason, the lexorcist must have a keen eye, excellent editorial instincts, common sense and good judgment. As it turns out, I am known to possess all of these qualities—I'm sure I saw them listed on my résumé. I think I just created a new career for myself—unless the undead Noël Coward wants to take it on.

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    Last-Minute Amendments to the Health Care Bill

    Here are some last-minute amendments to the health care bill that I've asked my congressman to lobby for, which he promises to do pending the outcome of his ethics investigation:
    Patients waiting to see their doctor of 15 years can no longer be asked by some nurse they've never laid eyes on before if they have a referral.

    Magazines in the waiting room must be current and can not be about knitting.

    Close-up photos of revolting skin conditions and disgusting cutaway diagrams of the parts of the eyeball will be removed from examining rooms, to be replaced by pictures of sad clowns and dogs playing poker.

    Nurses can no longer greet hospital patients by asking "How are we today?" Henceforth they will ask "How is us doing?"

    Doctors and patients will show each other proper respect: Primary caregivers will be addressed as "Doctor," and patients will be addressed using the appropriate formal salutation. At least until the first rectal exam--after that they might as well be on a first-name basis.

    Nurses who are drawing blood can no longer call in their colleagues for a good laugh when a patient faints because it's humiliating for the patient, and anyway I didn't have breakfast that morning.

    Doctors must be ready with a thoughtful, considered answer whenever a patient asks, "What's up, Doc?"

    Doctors who look like George Clooney or McDreamy will no longer be allowed to see patients. This is especially true for my wife's doctor.

    Doctors can no longer recommend a trip to Lourdes as the best treatment option.

    Because laughter is the best medicine, a $20 copay will now be applied to really good jokes. Generic jokes will be available for as little as $5.

    TV ads promoting nursing as a profession will no longer feature that guy warbling "You're a nurse/You make a difference," because that song inflicts more pain than any nurse could possibly alleviate.

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Which Is More Interesting, E-Books or E. Coli?

    All you hear about in the publishing news these days is e-books and e-readers--important topics, to be sure, as they are transforming the entire industry.

    Still, you can reach a level of e-book saturation. I mean, the terms "e-book" and "e-reader" are u-biquitous. There's a certain monotony to seeing them repeated endlessly in everything you read. Frankly, it gets a bit tedious. And that "e" sticking out at the front starts to grate.

    I came up with a trick that helps keep the publishing news interesting. As I explain on The Huffington Post, it's a simple substitution system: Every time you come across the words "e-book" and "e-reader," simply substitute a different, more interesting word. As long as it has an isolated letter tacked onto the front, it qualifies. The title of the piece will give you the idea: "If E-Books Were G-Strings."

    Try this experiment: Next time you're socializing, tell your friends "I'll be happy to share my e-reader with you." The reaction is likely to be a polite "thanks" with an unspoken "whatever" as the subtext. Then say "I'll be happy to share my E. coli with you," and see what kind of stampede results.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010


    Over the years I've noticed a strange phenomenon:  An author will write a bestselling novel, which then becomes a successful movie.  When the time comes to write a follow-up, the author writes a sequel not to the original novel, but to the movie!

    On The Huffington Post I offer four examples of writers who've done this for various reasons:  Alistair MacLean, Brian Garfield, David Morrell, and Paul Gallico. 

    Those examples go pretty far back, but I suspect this is still going on.  If you know of any more recent examples, please share them.

    And think about this:  Does this ultimately have to do with a film's power to supplant its literary source material in the minds of its audience--and perhaps even in the mind of the author?

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    The Pluto Files

    Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and constant media presence, had a hand in the controversial decision to take away Pluto's status as a planet (it is now classified as a dwarf planet).  Late last year DeGrasse Tyson published a book called The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planetin which he discusses that decision and the backlash it engendered, including hate mail from third graders all across America.

    As demonstrated in this video, which came to my attention via GalleyCat, DeGrasse Tyson has also drawn heat from some heavy-hitting media figures as well, including Diane Sawyer, Brian Williams, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  The video promotes a PBS special airing tonight, also called The Pluto Files.  For Pluto fans it promises to be simultaneously entertaining and infuriating.

    My own rant on the subject, To Boldly Go...To Pluto, somehow wasn't included in the documentary.  I'm sure if you asked the producers they'd claim it was some sort of unfortunate bureaucratic oversight (that's after they stopped saying, "What? Who?"), but clearly it was just too hot for them to handle.  Anyway, I'm happy to share it with you now.

    Friday, February 26, 2010

    The Advent of the Book Dickie

    Peter Robins wrote a piece on The Guardian's Book Blog questioning the need for dustjackets on books.  "What is the point of dustjackets?" he asks.  "The jacket remains an unnecessary and vulnerable encumbrance. That, at least, is how it has always seemed to me – and some in the book trade appear to be reaching the same conclusion."

    Couldn't agree more, Peter.  In fact, I predicted this development ages ago (well, six weeks ago anyway).  It's the sixth of my 10 Predictions Plus 2 about the future of publishing:  "As a cost-cutting measure, publishers will reconsider the efficacy of the traditional wraparound book jacket."  But Peter, not sharing my astonishing prescience, you failed to grasp the true significance of this phenomenon, which is just a precursor to a greater, paradigm-altering development:  "An innovative designer will create a radically streamlined and much cheaper alternative: the book dickie."

    The advent of the book dickie will lead directly to the fulfillment of my seventh prediction:  "Authors will inevitably complain to their editors that they don't like their dickie art."

    How long before the rest of my predictions fall like so many dominoes into the realm of incontrovertible historical fact?  Let's hope it's a while before my final prediction is realized--it's a doozy.  Hoo boy.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    All I Wanna Do

    Earlier this week I learned that Sheryl Crow's breakthrough hit "All I Wanna Do" is based on a poem called "Fun" by Wyn Cooper.  This is probably common knowledge, and may even be taught in elementary school, but it was news to me and I was only too happy to feature it on my blog Classics Rock!, which explores the intersection of popular music and literature.

    A few hours after the post went up yesterday, something cool happened:  Wyn Cooper left a comment.  In the glorious and esteemed ten-month history of Classics Rock!, this marks the first time a writer featured on the blog has left a comment.  For all I know, it's the first time a writer featured on the blog has read the blog.

    I was particularly gratified (not to mention relieved) by the fact that his comment was positive:  "This is incredibly accurate," he wrote, "something I don't see often when my poem and the song that came out of it are discussed. Thanks."  Thank you, Wyn!  He also pointed me toward other poems he's written that have been set to music (including a musical collaboration with novelist Madison Smartt Bell), which will almost certainly be turning up on Classics Rock! at some point.

    Authors, please follow Wyn Cooper's lead.  If you are fortunate enough to be featured on Classics Rock!, by all means, leave a comment.  Especially if it's complimentary.  On the other hand, if you're feeling snarky then please think twice before posting.

    Oh, and Sheryl?  Love to hear from you too.

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Anniversary Present

    The present in question is a lovely item about yesterday's "Anniversary" post that appeared on Publishing Perspectives today.

    It's written by Erin Cox, who is also coming up on a year since she left corporate life.  She seems to be making the most of it, and stands as another reminder that leaving a job is not the worst thing that's ever going to happen to you.  It may even turn out to be one of the better things that's ever going to happen to you.  There is definitely life beyond the 9-to-5.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010


    One year ago today, HarperCollins and I parted ways.  That was entirely their idea, by the way. The anniversary of my layoff seems like a good time to take stock.  Since that day last February, I have:
    Been interviewed on national TV a couple of times.

    Appeared in a national magazine or two, and a major daily newspaper.

    Been featured on some high-visibility websites.

    Started a couple of blogs that earn coverage in the trade press now and then.

    Had some writing published in a number of outlets.

    Started writing silly stuff on a regular basis for The Huffington Post (the latest one went up today).

    Tricked a literary agent into taking me on as a client.

    Got myself on the Twitter and the Facebook.

    Found steady freelance employment.

    Pulled my weight in terms of putting food on the table and kids through college.

    Had some serious fun.
    The only thing missing is a full-time job that I love.  They're a little scarce right now, but I know that's coming.

    In short, I am doing better than OK--pretty well in fact--and am looking forward to what comes next.  I sincerely hope that the friends and colleagues who share this dubious anniversary with me can say the same.

    Friday, January 29, 2010

    Back to Basics

    Every once in a while I realize how far I've strayed from the original mission of this blog: To chronicle my shameless self-promotion.

    Today I'm back on task, with a handful of media hits to report.  They came about thanks to two posts I put up on my Classics Rock! blog yesterday--one about J.D. Salinger, the other about Howard Zinn, both of whom passed away on Wednesday.

    Ron Charles at The Washington Post, who haunts Twitter, generously devoted a tweet to the Salinger post, then devoted another to my piece about Zinn.

    Today's edition of Shelf Awareness, the publishing industry newsletter, featured both posts in their lead news story, which was about Salinger.'s "Bullish on Books" blog included Classics Rock! in a roundup of Salinger coverage.

    Just a short while ago, the New York Times "Paper Cuts" blog also posted both links.

    And another widely read industry newsletter, GalleyCat, featured them as well.

    I should also mention a near miss--a low brush with media coverage.  Earlier this week I had the chance to be considered for a segment on a national network morning show.  They were looking for parents of teens who could talk about the challenges of raising teens in today's world.  Since my daughters now spend most of their time away from home and my son is about to get his driver's license, I didn't think that my family was exactly the demographic they were looking for.  Plus I knew my wife would flat out refuse to do it and my kids would never speak to me again.  When I got back to the producer to say we probably weren't right for the segment, she said that was fine, because the concept had completely changed: Now they were looking for a family where a college grad had moved back home with the parents and "isn't budging."  She specified that they were looking for "exasperated parents," which strikes me as a redundancy.  I told her we weren't right for that one either.

    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    Librarian Songs

    Flavorwire has a list of the 10 Best Songs About Libraries and Librarians.  Couple of issues:

    Biggest omission:  "Marian the Librarian" from The Music Man.  Surely this is the grandaddy of all librarian songs, but perhaps it's just too ancient and unhip to be considered.

    Biggest stretch:  "Fun Fun Fun"  by the Beach Boys.  You can hardly say that this song is about libraries or librarians.  A library is mentioned in passing as a convenient lie the young woman in the song tells her old man so she can go out cruising--no one in the song actually sets foot in a library.  And apparently it's not a very good lie, since her daddy sees right through it and takes the T-bird away.

    Most of the songs on the list seem to be about having sex in the library or sexual fantasies about the librarian. I'm working on a few myself:

    "Horny for Your Hornrims"

    "The Book of Love is Overdue"

    "I'm Dewy for Your Decimal System"

    "Hit Me! (With Your Late Fees)"

    "Shhhhhhhhhh!ake it, Book Baby"

    "I Can't Relax (When We're in the Stacks)"

    "(Just Can't) Keep It Down Please!"

    "Slippin' It Into Your Return Slot"
    Songwriting...not my thing.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Keeping the Poe in Poetry

    Edgar Allan Poe's 201st birthday last week was marked more by what didn't happen than by what did.  For decades a mysterious visitor has left roses and a half-drunk bottle of cognac on the writer's grave to mark the occasion.  This time, he was a no-show, leading to speculation about whether he was dead or incapacitated or what.

    I figured there could be any number of reasons why he might have been unable to make it this year, and that he might be in the market for a belated birthday card to make things right with Poe.  So I came up with five possible Poe-inspired greetings that would suit the occasion, which you'll find on The Huffington Post.

    To give you an idea of their tenor and tone, here's a sixth that I just made up:

    I missed your big day--am I red in the face!
    And so is everyone else in this place.
    To honor your birthday we threw a masked ball.
    It was fun, 'til the Red Death strode into the hall--
    Then blood started oozing from every pore
    And guests began dropping like flies to the floor
    While the ebony clock tolled out our last hours.
    Sure hope that your party was better than ours!
    By the way: As noted previously, musician/composer Eric Woolfson created two albums of music based on Poe's works, a stage play based on his life, and described Poe as "the man whose life and works inspired me probably more than any other." Woolfson passed away in December; in January, for the first time in decades, the mysterious "Poe toaster" fails to show. I'm just saying.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Robert B. Parker

    Mystery writer Robert B. Parker, best known for his series of books about Boston P.I. Spenser, died earlier this week, reportedly while sitting at his desk. 

    I've been thinking about the time I almost worked with him (what might be termed "a low brush with fame").  I was working at Delacorte Press in 1994 when they were gearing up to publish Parker's All Our Yesterdays, a non-series novel about a family of Boston cops.  My entire relationship with him consisted of one phone conversation when I called to introduce myself as his publicist.  He seemed to be a very pleasant man.  He had a Spenser novel coming out from another publisher at about the same time with the title Walking Shadow.  I asked him if there were any significance to the fact that both titles come from the same soliloquy in Macbeth.  As I recall, he dismissed it as the result of "too much education."

    Soon afterward I left the company and had no further contact with him.

    In 1989, Parker completed Raymond Chandler's last, unfinished novel Poodle Springs.  Will someone step up to complete whatever Parker was working on in those last moments as he sat at his desk?

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    Traditional Media Provide Second Wind

    I've been thinking about this story reported in GalleyCat earlier this week.  It's about a book called Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America by Helen Thorpe.  The book was released to "sluggish" sales last September, but two months later it enjoyed "an unexpected sales bump--defying publishing expectations with her late-blooming book."

    What's interesting to me is that the author attributes the book's late success to reviews in traditional print outlets.  It started with "a lovely review" in the November issue of O Magazine.  Following that, the book was named one of the best books of the year by both the Washington Post and New West.  Then came reviews in The New Yorker and the Atlantic

    The lesson for me is that publishers shouldn't dismiss the power of those old fashioned, old media, stone age print reviews just yet.  The traditional media outlets may still have some juice left in them.

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Publishing Shows a Prophet

    Several big names in publishing have come out with their predictions about the future of the industry: Richard Curtis, Bob Miller, Jane Dystel, Richard Nash, and probably a lot of others too.

    I couldn't wait to get in on that action: Whatever you say you come off sounding like a sage, and you can relax in the certainty that no one is ever going to check back to see if you were right.  I could do that in my sleep!

    As a matter of fact, that's exactly how I did it.  In the style of Edgar Cayce, the Sleeping Prophet, I had myself put into a clinically induced R.O.M. state (Resonant Olfactory Music)--the level of sleep where snoring occurs.  It's just like R.E.M., except there's no indie band named after it.  There I experienced a prophetic trance that produced several startling predictions about what's in store for the book business.

    You'll find them in their entirety on The Huffington Post.  If you don't have time to read them all, let me sum up the future of publishing in just two words:  Rodeo clowns.