Rant Week: Meeting cute–the publishing version

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This post is about a piece in the July 3 NYT. It made me queasy. I want you to read it too, and see how you feel.

First: I strongly suggest you read both the article and the comments.  You won’t have the full picture unless you read the many intelligent responses (from both sides of the aisle). If the more than 100 comments hadn’t had some tang to them, I probably would have felt even worse.

The article tells the tale of a debut novel that had little chance of bestsellerdom until Stephen Colbert hyped it on TV as part of his campaign against Amazon. Agreed: debut novels need attention and Amazon needs slamming.

But this NYT story, which is called “Winner in the Amazon War,” as if there are winners in this writer-destroying battle between Amazon and Hachette (and, by implication, the rest of the Big Five), is so gushing that I had trouble getting past my recoil: Young female writer, grad of Oberlin and Iowa, founder of Writing Workshops LA, etc., writes post-apocalyptic novel (yes, another post-apocalyptic novel), gets published by Little, Brown (a division of Hachette), gets the Colbert treatment, and ka-boom, it’s one of the most pre-ordered debut novels in Hachette history.

There’s more. The book now has a movie deal, the print order is up to 60K from the original 12K (which, I might point out, would be a very good run for any debut novel), and the author tour has been doubled in length. All wonderful for the novel, California, and the author, thirty-three-year-old Edan Lepucki.

But the wrap-up is the best part: Ms. Lepucki’s husband works for Goodreads, which is owned by–you guessed it–Amazon. So he supports his family courtesy of Amazon, while she boycotts Amazon (adorably, of course). And her book hits the heights because Colbert is on the warpath against the company the debut novelist’s husband works for. Maybe the article should have been called “Irony.”

Ms. Lepucki can’t help what happened to her, but there’s something extremely off-putting about the Times writer crowing so loudly about it. I think it’s safe to say that there are plenty of other debut books out there that are equally deserving of attention and unlikely to get it, especially in this current atmosphere of Amazon-terror and Big-Five-panic. The article felt, well, unseemly–as if one were reading an excited soft-news report of a huge train wreck at which a movie star had dashed over and rescued one young and pretty person.

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 FYI / Independent Bookstores from Coast to Coast

Park Road Books, Charlotte, NC

Eight Cousins, Falmouth, MA

Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, CO


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