Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, April 19, 2010

I wuz robbed

Ken Auletta writes:

Publishers maintain that digital companies don’t understand the creative process of books. A major publisher said of Amazon, “They don’t know how authors think. It’s not in their DNA.” Neither Amazon, Apple, nor Google has experience in recruiting, nurturing, editing, and marketing writers. The acknowledgments pages of books are an efficiency expert’s nightmare; authors routinely thank editors and publishers for granting an extra year to complete a manuscript, for taking late-night phone calls, for the loan of a summer house. These kinds of gestures are unlikely to be welcomed in cultures built around engineering efficiencies.

Really? These things “routinely” happen in the print publishing world? Wow. All these years I’ve just worked hard to meet deadlines, almost always with success; I have never called my editors late at night — I have never even had any of their home or mobile phone numbers; and it never once occurred to me that any of them might have access to summer houses that they could lend me. What a sucker I’ve been.


  • Well, based on what I hear from the family member who worked as an editor and agent in New York, yeah, these things do happen routinely. The definition of "routinely" is, of course, flexible; but my sense is that they're not at all extraordinary occurrences.

    You should check on those summer houses, man.

  • Seriously: fewer than 5% of the authors published by any of the major presses make enough money for the presses — or are likely to — to justify extra time and money. The great majority of books are expected to do little more than break even, and that ain't enough to justify a summer house for their authors.

  • I've edited and published more than 200 books and well over a thousand magazine articles. Late night phone calls? Only if the author was attractive and I was unmarried at the time. Extra year to complete a manuscript? Twice and I was burned both times by the authors. Summer house? When I got one authors were the last ones I wanted to see.

    Auletta lives inside the New York Literary Mafia bubble and as soon as it is popped for good by Amazon and others the better.

  • Well, yes, the summer house bit sounds silly, and even though I joked about it, the not-extraordinary occurrences I was thinking of were the late-night phone calls and deadline extensions (although a year seems exceptional). I sort of misspoke (miswrote?), but I just meant that there seem to be plenty of authors out there, less responsible than you, who need extra nurturing.

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