Friday, August 29, 2008

Do you "faith?"

I'm currently reading a book called Faith, by Sharon Salzberg (yea, I'm in a big yoga phase), and I came across a most interesting fact. In Latin and Hebrew, the word "faith" is a verb, not a noun as it's classified in English.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is Publishing Dead?

According to Richard Laermer in his two-part article in the Huffington Post, publishing is dead. As someone who has worked at three of the biggest publishing houses over the course of seven years, I've read the article numerous times in an attempt to decide whether I agree or not. Like the industry in general, I'm kind of all over the place.

Laermer's first questions who is in charge. I've sometimes asked the same thing myself, but his theory of 22-year-olds running around bidding on books is a gross misunderstanding of who is running the large houses.  Sometimes I wonder whether publishing, especially children's publishing which is where I work, would be better off being run by recent college grads. Sure, they'd need some business training but really, if we're publishing books for teens and kids, wouldn't it make the most sense to get input from the people who were teens five years ago not two decades ago?

Laermer goes on two wonder how publishers can expect consumers to pay $25 for a book. I agree -- especially in economic times that call for less travel because gas is too expensive. If someone can't afford to get to and from work, isn't charging 4 times the cost of a fast-food meal for the privilege of reading a bit exclusionary? But from the publisher's perspective, selling fewer books that have a higher profit margin is a better route to follow as it cuts down on potential inventory and returns. Truth be told, there are a handful (at best!) of authors who I'd pay that much money for.

Over the course of the article Laermer goes on to complain that in this digital world one should be able to edit his or her work to the last minute. While this is theoretically true, most books are printed on paper, which costs more to print on in this country versus overseas, so it's not the printing that is timely, it's the shipping. 

Shortly thereafter he directly targets the marketing department (in which I work) for promoting the big-name authors and overlooking others. Hey, I agree. Nothing upsets me more than knowing that there isn't money to do anything for a fabulous new author, book, or series. But what Laermer fails to mention is that those same agents he rails against, basically calling them "sissies," only agreed to allow their big-name client to publish with said house because they agreed to spend XX (usually an exorbitant amount) dollars on marketing. Therefore a house is contractually obligated to spend that money and yes, agents have been known to check that the agreed-upon amount was actually spent.

Don't get me wrong, though. Laermer has his points. Yes, risks should be taken. In the age of the Internet people would rather pull out their paper-thin Mac Book than a thick volume of pages and publishers need to address this fact. I love the smell of new books and the feeling I get when I'm so into a book I can't wait to turn the page, but others are just as happy to read their news on a computer screen and peruse grammatically incorrect stories on 

Like Laermer, I have often questioned why large bookstore chains have final say on a book's cover. Why is it that once a "type" of cover catches on every book of a similar nature have the same cover? Why can't the publisher use their words to persuade a buyer, who in the case of the mass market chains may not have even read a book since high school, that this is the new cover, or the new look?

As I sit here and wait for Barack Obama to speak, with his message to change, I can't help but wonder if politics isn't the only "industry" (and let's face it, politics at this point is a sad extension of the boardroom) that needs changing.

What do you think? Is publishing dead?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bridesmaid or Bridemiserable?

As part of your bridesmaid duties, have you ever spent a fortune on a hairdo that takes days to wash out or heels so high you're teetering around before your first drink? No? Well, I bet you have another story. We all do. 

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Classics or Tomorrow's Kitty Litter Lining?

Back in June, Entertainment Weekly ( posted its list of new "classics," which they're calling the 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008.

Being mainly a reader, more so than a movie-goer, I've culled through the book list a couple of times now and while I've not read everything, or even close to, I've had some definitive reactions to some of the listed titles.

Here are my reactions to those I know: *
* I am not including any movie versions of books I've not read.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Entertaining, though I wonder why the series never truly hooked me. Twice I've stopped reading book 3. Maybe I'm just not a fantasy-lovin' gal.

Maus: Awesome, and I'm not into graphic novels one bit. The cats as Nazi and the mice as the Jews who were hunted? Brilliant! It's the only book that held my attention when I was holed up at the infirmary with a 104 degree fever for eight days during my freshman year of college.

Bridget Jones' Diary: Cute chick-lit. That's it. I enjoyed the movie much more. Perhaps because I got to look at Hugh Grant and Colin Firth for two hours.

Naked: I preferred ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY. My favorite part is when Amy Sedaris yells to her brother, as she's getting off a crowded NYC bus, "Hope you beat the rape charge." Ridiculous. Funny. I kind of wish Amy Sedaris was my big sister.

The Lovely Bones: No, no, no. Just no. I much preferred Alice Sebold's memoir, LUCKY. The ending to this book said one thing to me, "I don't want to work on this book anymore so I'm going to end it in the lamest way possible."

Interpreter of Maladies: AMAZING! Jhumpa Lahiri is my girl crush. I wonder why her debut novel, THE NAMESAKE, and/or her latest book of short stories, UNACCUSTOMED EARTH, weren't included?

The Glass Castle: Interesting memoir that held my interest but a new "classic?" Doubtful. I'd vote for Tobias Wolff's THIS BOYS LIFE instead.

Nickel & Dimed: Ok, this one I get. Eye-opening and disturbing. I met Barbara Ehrenreich at BEA a few years ago. She's delightful!

The Giver: Um, Lois Lowry is a LEGEND. It doesn't matter how old you are. Read all of her books. Now.

The Kite Runner: Also amazing. Most of my friends enjoyed A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS more but I disagree. How Mr. Hosseini could write a book about a topic so devastating and yet still allow the reader to feel hope is beyond me. Bravo.

Secret History: It was okay. My friends loved it. Maybe I just didn't get it.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time: This one of those books I KNOW I enjoyed but yet I can't remember a thing about it. I hate when that happens.

Eat, Pray, Love: Women love this book because they want to be Elizabeth Gilbert. At least I do. Maybe not the divorce part but eating my way through Italy and then spending months in an Ashram sound great. Part inspiring and part babble.

Fast Food Nation: I declared I'd never eat fast food again after reading this book. And I didn't... for approximately two years. From time to time though I need a Whopper. What can I say? Would a real "classic" turn me off to the underpaid workers and Grade F meat forever? Maybe. Or maybe my stomach just rules who I am.

So, is there a favorite of yours missing from this list? Disagree with any of EW's choices?

Tip for Tat: What's Fair in Reastaurant Tipping?

Do you think you've got a rock solid tipping policy? Care to share it?

Thursday, August 7, 2008