Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Book Marks: On Gatekeeping, And The Diversely Bizarre

"[Couple and co-authors Ian and Sarah Hoffman] say the subject of 'Jacob’s New Dress' is one they have personal experience with, having raised a son who used to storm around the house at age 4 'wearing a sparkly princess dress and carrying a (replica) battle ax.' 'Now, he's 14, and into recreational math,' says Ian Hoffman."

So this book written by the Hoffmans was withdrawn from a school in Charlotte, North Carolina, after conservatives railed at it for obvious reasons. The Hoffmans seem baffled by the reaction, and not just because Jacob's New Dress was first published in 2014. "The idea that a book can turn someone gay or transgender is bizarre to us. Reading a book can't turn you gay," Sarah Hoffman told The Charlotte Observer.

Ma'am, some think a movie will make people gay. Tale (almost) as old as time.

Meanwhile, conservatives (and censors) worldwide should probably brace themselves for a wave of children's books featuring transgender teens, blended families and feminism.



"When librarians add self-published e-books to their collections, they shoulder more of the curation responsibility. Self-published books typically haven't survived the agent/publisher gauntlet of traditional gatekeeping—a form of vetting that librarians appreciate—and they typically don't come with the same number of reviews. This may explain why 61% of the librarians at the time of Library Journal's survey had not purchased or were not planning to purchase self-published e-books."

Therefore, Smashwords founder Mark Coker has five tips for getting your self-published e-books to libraries.

If that's not enough to give you hope that your manuscript will see the light of day:

Midlist authors all contribute to a publishers and booksellers bottom line, although they tend not to get many reviews by The New York Times or Publishers Weekly. Their books aren't really reviewed by indie bloggers either, they mainly depend on Amazon reviews by the readers. These authors certainly are not household names, but are tremendously important to publishers for their consistent source of revenue.

But not all good books make it to press, according to Kanishka Gupta, CEO of the South Asia’s largest literary agency, Writer’s Side, who also lays out eight reasons publishers would reject even a good book.

"...having spent more than seven years on the other side, first as a consultant and then an agent, I think many writers have wrong notions about rejections. While most books are rejected because of poor quality and incompetence (as they should be), there are several other factors that play a role in publishing decisions. And these affect 'good' books too."

Even so, such books will see the light of day eventually, depending on the will of the author to push it through. Gatekeepers and similar institutions can get it wrong, and what defines a good book should not be an idée fixe.



I think some of us find this situation familiar:

A month or two ago, a publishing biggie, who makes sure never to like a single Facebook post of mine like it would give him a social disease if he did (after having sent me a friend request just so he could see what damage I was perpetrating), was having something like a nonsexual orgasm on social media because he had acquired the rights of a book by the talentless offspring of a big-time actor. In it, he gushingly referred to the spouse of the "writer", an upstart in the film industry, as a legend.

Meanwhile, another bona fide writer died jumping off a building. (My word, who was it?)

This rant about publishers signing up film stars by author Krishna Shastri Devulapalli struck a chord in the wake of a slew of books by local celebrities and wannabes. But it sounds personal to Krishna, because: "It is funny that I am finding this publishing world's going-out-of-business sell-out to Bollywood objectionable. Because, my own love for reading, and maybe writing, too, pretty much began with books by film folk."

I suppose one could argue that things have changed (or rather, begun to stagnate) in the film world and its people, hence. Niches don't appear by themselves; the market carves them out. So if there is one for books by "film-stars who cannot even read a script", one probably shouldn't judge.



In this profile of bizarro publisher Bizarro Pulp Press is a story of a genre some of you might not know exists, or know by other names. Vincenzo Bilof's piece in Cultured Vultures is so I couldn't pull any quotes off it as a preview— oh, wait, here's one:

After considering Eraserhead Press (and [Carlton Mellick III]'s books) with a fresh perspective, I realized that my original snobbishness conflicted with the fact that I had thought a book like Fecal Terror was fun and worth publishing. If a book about a space sex dwarf with a goat could be published (it hasn't, yet, or at least, I haven't seen it, which means someone should be writing it), why would that be worse than a book about a demonic, talking turd that possesses people?

Why, indeed. Niches, people. No idées fixes.


Plus:

  • "Drew University student Jennifer Rose is like many 20-year-olds, sweating out class assignments, socializing with friends and participating in activities like an anime club and the campus newspaper. But in other ways, she is one of the more unique students at Drew — still learning to cope with autism, she recently became a published author."
  • "Amazon blocked sales for The Corroding Empire, a scifi book from Vox Day's conservative publishing company Castalia House, because the cover bore an uncanny resemblance to John Scalzi’s latest book, The Collapsing Empire. And it wasn't a coincidence." Vox Day is the alias of Theodore Beale, an alt-right figure who declared himself Scalzi's rival. I guess you have to be a certain kind of snowflake to g to such lengths to troll an author.
  • "In 'Falling,' [William McPherson] described the humiliation of asking friends and family for handouts, which managed to keep him off welfare, Medicaid and food stamps. He lived in Washington, where he received a housing subsidy from the federal government. The city helped cover medical insurance payments. He was able to afford a cellphone and a computer — instruments that for a writer, he said, were needs more than wants." An obit in The Washington Post of McPherson, the paper's former Book World editor. Don't quit your day job.
  • "A raid in downtown Nairobi unearthed a multi-million-shilling school textbook piracy racket. The racket was uncovered after the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) and Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) raided Nyamakima in Nairobi and Ngong in Kajiado. The raid also revealed how rogue head teachers were were colluding with hawkers to rob textbooks from public schools."
  • "I always knew I would have to learn a lot before I tried to write a book," wrote Michael Merschel, books editor and assistant arts editor at The Dallas Morning News. "I did not think about what I might learn from writing one." So, what has he learnt from writing his own book?

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