28 August 08 | Chad W. Post

Over the weekend, the Huffington Post published Part 1 of an essay by Richard Laermer called “Why Book Publishing Is Dead.”

Now, I’m one of the first people to jump on the bandwagon and criticize the publishing industry (or book industry as a whole) for it’s lack of innovation and odd practices. (As a sidenote: why doesn’t the Borders “concept store” have a TV in the fiction section running book trailers? There’s one in food, one in magazines, one in travel—along with a computer where you can book your vacation—and a whole digital center . . .) It’s easy to pile on publishers for being slow and antiquated, but it’s helps if the one doing the piling has some semblance of knowledge about the industry. . .

After reading this Laermer piece—which does contain a few accurate points—I wasn’t sure who should be more embarrassed: Laermer for writing something so ignorant and ill-informed, or the Huffington Post for running this.

Here are just a few of the gaffes:

1. Who’s in charge here? How can a 22-year-old editor bid on a book? What does a post-graduate $32,000-a-year fresh-out know what will hit with the public? Why does this frequently appear to be a case of the nuthouse leaving the inmates to decide!

There really aren’t any 22-year-old editors acquiring books. At best, this 22-year-old editor has to convince his/her boss and the marketing team about a particular title. If you want to talk about the cliched “inmates running the asylum,” then at least blame the marketing folks who could give a damn about quality and really only care about the bottom-line.

3. The editing is done exactly how far in advance? If I write a book that is to come out in say December of 08—they have to have it in February. Why? ‘Cause they have a “schedule to follow,” but it would seem with digital technology you should be able to write right up to the deadline (like we do online).

Uh, wow. You’re right, design, production, pre-press promotion, and printing can take place in minutes these days. No really, isn’t there some P.O.D. thing or whatever? And galleys—screw that, we need to give our writers more time to tinker rather than promoting books to booksellers and reviewers. I’m sure that will work out well. (Granted there are some books—current affairs for instance—that benefit from a short lead time, but Punk Marketing? Kinda doubt it.)

8. You won’t publish me even if I’m the next Tolstoy unless I have a platform of my own? Yeah I get it. I’m all about the podcasts, the blogs, the articles, the mini-tours, the loud hawking, what is dubbed “relentless” push for my product…. In 2002 I got myself booked with the then-adorable Katie Couric on Today Show for trendSpotting and I told the people at Penguin-Putnam who thought I was kidding (“Well, let’s see”) —and when I was scheduled they didn’t bother to alert sales force, stores, or anyone. So 20 million watched me cavorting with that perky thing, and a dozen books were in stores. Publishers don’t know how to sell, that’s the fact. They wait. Very Darwinian. If something takes off THEN they start pumping out the marketing.

This point I think is valid. The sales links between author and customer (author —> agent —> editor —> marketing —> sales reps —> buyer —> bookselling clerk —> customer) can breakdown in a million different ways, and not taking advantage of publicity is a bit problem. But “cavorting with that perky thing” sounds a bit creepy to me . . .

12. Small publishers? Nah, don’t think so. I found they were just as cheap-headed as their older brother, and only provided support when the author paid his own way. Seems like the small publisher is a misnomer-like indie film. Neither exists except as marketing gimmick. In the long run, small comes knocking with finger-in-air offers like the Midwest publisher who nervily said “Here’s five grand” advance for a book about the porn industry’s history of influencing business decisions thru history . . . (Where’s Judith Regan when I need her!!!)

Wha?? Small publishers. . . . indie film . . . doesn’t exist except as marketing gimmick? Head. Exploding.

To answer my earlier rhetorical question, I’m the one who should be most embarrassed, for letting this bug me and wasting precious time writing and thinking about it.

Comments are disabled for this article.
The Odyssey
The Odyssey by Homer
Reviewed by Peter Constantine

Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.

–(The Odyssey, Book I, line 10. Emily Wilson)

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs. . .

Read More >

I Remember Nightfall
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
Reviewed by Talia Franks

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio (trans. From the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) is a bilingual poetry volume in four parts, consisting of the poems “The History of Violets,” “Magnolia,” “The War of the Orchards,” and “The Native. . .

Read More >

Joyce y las gallinas
Joyce y las gallinas by Anna Ballbona
Reviewed by Brendan Riley

This review was originally published as a report on the book at New Spanish Books, and has been reprinted here with permission of the reviewer. The book was originally published in the Catalan by Anagrama as Joyce i les. . .

Read More >

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >