I found this article on Dalkey Archive & the Best Translated Book Award over at Writers No One Reads really interesting. While it’s an interesting case study in its own capacity, it really had me thinking about the issue of how so many books are published, yet, from what it seems, not that many books are being read.
The fact that even a “major” publisher of “smaller” works, such as Dalkey, doesn’t seem to have any idea how to advertise, has me really concerned– almost 13 years into the 21st century, where advertising has almost literally been the singular thing every human being has been and is repeatedly exposed to, why are we–as writers, publishers–so bad at it?
At one point in life it seemed a huge thing to get work published; it was certainly more difficult in the past, yet every day, with more and more journals & presses popping up almost daily, as well as the new affordable modes of large-scale self-publishing, being published seems to be incredibly easy–if you can write a book, you can probably publish it. But, if you can publish a book, that doesn’t mean that anybody is going to read it.
A little while ago, Mike posted that “social media isn’t a very good way to promote your book”. I don’t necessarily agree with him in any capacity, but it’s interesting to consider, because, really, what else do we have? I’m convinced that even when books are reviewed, very few people read the reviews. I know that often I won’t read a review of a book I haven’t read unless one of three things occurs: 1) I’ve heard of the book already and am interested in it, 2) The title or the cover is appealing & 3) I’ve heard the author mentioned somewhere else. So, I guess book reviews at least, to support an authors egotism, support the idea that their book has actually been read, but unless it’s a review that pops up in a very large venue, I can’t imagine they’re helping to sell books much. It’d be pretty awesome if someone were to prove me wrong.
But I’m just wondering, what the hell is the best way to sustainably advertise books? Reading tours? Book trailers? Posting your shit on Tumblr? Linking your books to your friends and family? I don’t know.
All of this seems related to another thing that I’ve been thinking about: How many small press books have staying power? We post links to shit that’s new, we review books right when they come out, but three years, one year, hell even six months later, do we think about these books at all? What can we do, in small press world (and I think there’s some sort of development happening in the world, thanks to the decentralizing nature of the internet [cough-the literary establishment no longer has any reason to remain in NYC-cough], that small press can eclipse big press, at least it should be able to, in terms of generating interest; with the internet we can and should be able to push our words past the realm of small press book readers; we should be able to appeal to any number of individuals of–fuck it, i’ll say it–markets, and demonstrate that we have something people are looking for. Whether or not any of this is true, well, I guess we’ll find out in years to come.
Hello, I’m Norma Chan, Tak-Lam, S.B.S., J.P., Chief Executive, Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA). I have a publishing business worth 47.1m USD for you to handle with me. I need you to assist me in executing this project from Hong Kong to your county.
Visual representations of Infinite Jest objects (movie posters, tennis tourny flyers, etc.). The Quarterly Conversation dedicates a symposium to David Foster Wallace; Who Was David Foster Wallace? And Unbound is a Kickstarter for books. Oh wait: the writer of 20% of all Simpsons episodes has self-published a bunch of novels.
Pulp. Fibrous, cellulose pulp. Grass-paper, rag-paper, rag-and-bone, paperweight: in the second century Cai Lun developed a paper process. Tiny little papermills of the mind. Cogs and wheels of papermaking, pulping, rod-and-doweling. And then a lunatic of the senses, the world becomes that, is that, mired in that. Words. Cultural disease, newsprint, papyrus bundles. In the chemical pulping, all our senses. In the mechanical pulping, all trees like a billion Christmases. A cooking process. Waste fortifies chalk and china clay. Watermarks destroy the day and deckle its edges.
We’re all of an age that recycling is second nature. We use the backs of receipts for listmaking—if we use paper at all—before we toss paper into the recycle bin. We read on screen. We mostly do paperless banking, paperless billing, paperless letter writing. We practice efficiency. We download 572 books onto our little reading devices and plow through them candily.
But I’ll tell you what. I got the proof copy of my book in the mail yesterday, and there is nothing in the world like seeing your book in all its pulpy flesh. It is a real object, a hallelujah of paper and ink. It’s a book, which is a thing. I can slip it into my purse and feel it there. It’s the synecdoche of language-as-artifact, a receptacle for artfulness. I wouldn’t be nearly as happy to have a book published in the ether. Look! Here’s my book in the air! No way. I want to see it, feel it, bruise it, lick its spine.
The book industry could stand to cut down its waste, as all industries could. We’re wasteful motherfuckers with our overstocks and our throw aways—even the zoos breed more animals than they can use and sell them to more wasteful idiots who think having exotic pets is fun. Have you seen how much meat your big box grocer throws away weekly? The machine is unwieldy and alive all around us.
But trim the fat. Trim the fat. Don’t throw away the whole goddamn bird.
I love the Urban Dictionary because they seem to have a definition for everything. I spend a lot of time looking up dirty words and phrases. I learned what a snowball was via Urban Dictionary. It has nothing to do with the snow, that’s for sure. I love the phrase “Bitches be trippin’.” I don’t know why. On a whim, I decided to look up the phrase on Urban Dictionary. Sure enough, there was a definition. According to them, the phrase is “used primarily by heterosexual males to justify the irrational behaviors of women.” For example, when women bring attention to certain pervasive and longstanding disparities, one might say, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Bitches be trippin’.”
It is difficult to talk about race and stressful and awkward and exhausting. To my mind, one of the reasons these conversations are so difficult, particularly between white people and people of color, is because, so often, white people question concerns raised as if the question is not “how do we solve this problem,” but rather, “does this problem exist.” This is not a debate about whether there are racial and class (and gender and sexuality) disparities in publishing. These disparities exist whether you (choose to) see them or not. Instead these kinds of discussions are intended to function like a magnifying glass on a problem so big it should not require a magnifying glass.
And yet, the magnifying glass is clearly needed.