26 June 08 | Chad W. Post

Yesterday, over at Booksquare there was an interesting post on “Why Publishers Should Blog,” that generated a bit of discussion:

Just as authors need to better market themselves and their books, so do publishers. While the audience for a publisher website is diverse — authors, booksellers, journalists, agents, readers, and more — talking about books on your website the same way you talk about books in your catalog simply isn’t cutting it. In printed material, you have various constraints. On the web, you have the ability to do something special: tell the world what excites you, the publisher, about a particular book.

Kassia then went on to point out some glaring faults of commercial publisher websites—which really is a fish, gun, smoking barrel situation. But she’s got a point. Publishers are light years behind in terms of web promotion, although indie presses, like Soft Skull, like McSweeneys, are much more personality driven, and it shows in the legion of fans who read and talk about their publications.

So, anyway, since we have this blog (which I hope gives readers some sense of the Open Letter “personality” so to speak, although our mission for this site goes well beyond promoting Open Letter books), I’d like to tell everyone about how excited I was to see Bragi Olafsson’s The Pets included in Josh Glenn’s Summer Reading List at the Boston Globe’s Braniac blog:

Open Letter, which, as I’ve mentioned, is a new literary imprint (housed at the University of Rochester) dedicated to publishing translations, is bringing out a 2001 novel of “cowardice, comeuppance, and assumed identity” by the former bassist for The Sugarcubes (Björk’s band). Ólafsson’s most recent novel, The Ambassadors, received rhe Icelandic Bookseller’s Award as best novel of the year, so he’s no flash in the pan. In fact, although the prose looks breezy and fun, he’s something of an Oulipian: For most of the novel, Emil — the protagonist — is trapped under his own bed.

(As a sidenote, I’m a big Josh Glenn fan—especially of his Generational Theory, which has lead to many a heated discussion at my house.)

This is a fantastic book, and as the first work of fiction we’re publishing, it’s a great representation of the type of books we’re into—fun, enjoyable, innovative in ideas and style . . . This even comes through in his interview:

After an English friend of mine told me of a rather unfortunate incident he had with a guinea-pig, cement and a water-hose, I wanted to write a story about a person who is assigned to take care of a few pet animals.

And I’m really pleased that Bragi will be touring the U.S. this October, appearing at Book Culture with Mark Binelli and at McNally Robinson with Dubravka Ugresic. (More on both of these events in the near future.)

I wish that I could give away copies of this book to everyone I know—and I wish we were publishing it now, since it would make a great beach book. (Though to be honest, I never go to the beach, and I’m not entirely sure what this “beach book” category is. But to me, reading an Icelandic book in the summer heat is deliciously ironic.)

Some of you may be aware of our other website—the official Open Letter books site. In addition to information about our titles, there’s also a page with OL merchandise, and more relevant to this post, a way to subscribe to our books. For $65 you can get the first six titles; for $120 you can get the first twelve, with a title arriving each month. With the majority of the titles being published in paper-over-board format, this is a really good deal . . . Although we have yet to advertise this, a number of people have already signed up, which makes me think that this type of subscription service is something people will be interested in . . .


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