LATE SEPTEMBER. EARLY EVENING. PAUL AND DOUG ARE SEATED AT HUDSON MALONE, BOTH NURSING WOODFORD ON THE ROCKS.

PAUL: September’s been better.

DOUG: September is always better.

Everyone’s back. People are reading.

Buying.

Almost makes one hopeful.

Almost. (THEY BOTH LAUGH)

(BEAT)

Crowded though.

I’ll say.

They can’t all work.

No they can’t.

There will be some misses.

Big misses.

Million-dollar misses.

I just hope ——— isn’t one of them.

(BEAT)

PAUL: What do you make of Quinn?

DOUG: Dougie?

Yeah.

Best bartender in New York.

That’s a given. But that’s not what I was getting at.

What were you getting at?

The bowties.

The bowties? They’re like his thing. His calling card.

You don’t think they’re a little gay?

No. (BEAT) They’re like Minz’s red cons.

Minz. Jee-zus.

Right?

Heartbreaker. That guy was a fucking reader. He may be the only staffer at that paper for whom that can be said.

I know.

Now they’re all gone. Memmott. Wilson. Donahue.

She was solid. Her pieces sold books. (BEAT) What’s her new gig?

AARP.

Really?

Writing for the coveted eighty-plus demo. Workin’ for that old stoner Love.

Bob Love?

Yes.

Jee-zus. (BEAT) This new media order makes no fucking sense. (BEAT) Bezos at WAPO.

Guys at the paper say he is the real deal. Pumping in resources, money. Giving them runway.

Then where is their beat reporter for book publishing?

Good question. (BEAT) Maybe that’s an industry El Jefe would rather not cover.

Until all this shit blows over.

Well. That could be decades.

Right. (BEAT) Bob Thompson.

Gone.

Linton Weeks.

Gone.

Think about it: even the industry assholes.

Barra.

Max.

Kirkpatrick.

Gone. (BEAT) Inside dot com.

Oh my fucking god. How could I forget those guys?

Right?

Our world, foretold.

Nelson the nemesis.

Carr the crusader.

Andersen the avenger.

He was a founder, right?

Yup. Andersen. Hirschorn. They had juice. And capital. Inside was a multi-million dollar enterprise.

Those guys dug.

You couldn’t duck ‘em, that’s for sure. They had their sources. And they knew the fucking business.

So what happened?

I think it was mostly bad timing. And Brill.

(BEAT)

Interesting how they’ve remade themselves.

I know.

Shiny new internet brands. All of ‘em.

Carr. That guy. I remember running into him in the greenroom at the New York Public Library. He was sitting with “mister we’re going to make the lions roar,” showing off a new toy. I’m there for a Remnick event, bored out of my skull, Carr’s in the corner, playing on the device, and everyone in the room keeps staring at him, wondering what the fuck he’s playing with. Turns out it’s an iPad. Apple had just released the things, and of course he’s got one. He’s sitting there swiping, smiling, clearly in awe. I walk over, introduce myself, ask him what he thinks. He looks up at me with those hollow eyes and says, “This is the death of kindle.” Like some kind of prophet.

He said that?

Those were his exact words.

(BEAT)

Nelson at Amazon. Who saw that coming?

Last place in America I would’ve pegged her. She’s too amped up for that place.

I know. Odd fit. But she is a reader. So I guess it makes some kind of sense.

Makes her an outlier there. Readers are no longer a priority for that company.

They were at the outset.

That was twenty years ago. Kerry. Tom. Tim. Gone. (BEAT) Listen: there are some good people embedded in the company. Book people. But you get the sense from all of ‘em that there’s a clock ticking in the background.

Once they’re vested they’re out the door.

Well. I think they would if they could. But it’s not that easy. They’re all bound up in a lot of legal bullshit. (BEAT) You know what I hear?

What?

That the place is joyless.

I hear the same. We didn’t have a rep for a while. They couldn’t find anybody who wanted to work there.

That could be their Achilles heel. Not the tax issues. Not the showrooming. Not Authors United. But instead the toxicity of their internal culture. (BEAT) You know what else I hear?

What.

That the place is sexless. No action whatsoever.

Really. (BEAT) That is like the worst thing ever.

Among the many reasons I could never work there. (BEAT) Seven Days.

Huh?

Seven Days. The Magazine?

I don’t remember Seven Days.

You don’t remember Seven Days?

Drawing a complete blank.

Glossy weekly. Broadsheet. Same physical skin as Variety.

Nothin’. (BEAT) Might’ve been before my time.

Fuck you.

You’re older than I am.

What is that shit?

Just sayin’.

(BEAT)

Moss was the editor.

Of Seven Days?

Yes. Published 102 issues. Famously gave Mehta the shank in one of them. Our man had just arrived in New York. The ink wasn’t even dry on his passport. And they go and publish a total hatchet job. Had an army of OTRs. (BEAT) Now look at Moss.

Running a respectable magazine.

You know the funny thing about our business?

What?

People never leave.

No they don’t.

They get sacked and, boom, the next day, someone is out to them with a job offer.

To run a magazine.

Or an imprint.

Or a fucking division.

Or to go work for some online rathskellar.

With snacks and stock options.

It’s the same cast of characters.

Over and over.

Unless you drop dead at your desk. That’s really the only viable exit strategy in publishing.

Or going to work for Amazon.

(BEAT)

Now what’ve we got? Those douche-knockers at GalleyCat.

FutureBook

Tele-Read.

DBW.

Idea Logic.

Right. Shatzkin. That guy.

Same barber as Halpern.

Journalism has been subsumed by internet prophets.

And their doomsday prophecies.

McQuivey. That piece of shit. Makes bank as an industry consultant, then decides to publish with Amazon. He spoke at our last AAP meeting. Gave a talk about how these closed ecosystems were the future. After his talk, they opened up the floor to questions. I raised my hand, asked him point blank: “How’d your book sell?”

What’d he say?

What do you think he said? He refused to answer the question.

(BEAT)

Shirkey.

Shirkey! What a pain in the ass to have to even consider that guy. All his fucking posts. “There. Will. Be. No. More. Physical. Papers. Print is dead.” And if you’re a journalist and not reading the tea leaves, well, then you deserve to be on the unemployment line. “Learn about data,” he says. BLAH BLAH BLAH. “The only reason papers are still afloat is because of coupon inserts.” In short, there is only one future: digital.

He’s a freedom fighter.

“I study the effects of internet on society.” And his conclusions are all positive.

Someone has to be paying him.

Oh he gets funding for sure. (BEAT) You know the only positive outcome of the internet?

What?

Uber. Everything else sucks.

(BEAT)

Open floor plans. Who the fuck came up with that idea?

They’re trying to make our industry more like Google.

They give us open floor plans, which we didn’t ask for or want, but none of the shit we actually need.

Like stock options.

Or pension plans.

Gym memberships.

Ping-pong tables.

Free snack stations.

Skateboard parks.

Ziplines.

Kloske ziplining through the office. That would be fucking cool.

With a bone dangling from his lips!

(BEAT)

You know what the problem is?

What?

They’re modeling our business on industries that have nothing in common with our own.

Editors need a fucking door.

Editing is not community building.

The C-suite guys don’t understand this. They believe our companies have to be invested in community building.

And that internal communities help dev external communities.

They want us all in fucking pods.

Holding hands. Trust circles. Prayer falls.

We should send them an editing pictograph: manuscript, pencil, desk, and door.

The door is key. If I was an editor and they took away my door, I’d be like, fuck you.

(BEAT)

An editor needs a door when they’re reviewing their post-publication P&Ls.

I’ll say.

Being on the short end of two or three mill every year can’t feel very good.

No it cannot.

Companies keep tabs on that shit. I bet they run all the post-publication P&L numbers through a giant supercomputer in Geneva.

One that spits out little red dots all over Manhattan.

Jee-zus. Can you imagine what that looks like? A giant fucking hematoma for every editor in New York.

Galassi at FSG: minus 3 mill.

Arthur at Hachette: minus 4 mill.

Burnham at Harper: minus 5 mill.

Karp at S&S: minus 10 mill!

That’s because he took over Jeter’s contract!

I hear S&S is putting a “2” on the back of their colophon.

(BEAT)

That’s a lot of fucking dots on the grid.

The publishing industry must look like a red supernova from outer space.

Imagine those guys on the soviet space station, “Vat is dat ved glow comink from New York?”

“I tink it iz de end of book publishink.”

(BEAT)

When did it all get so mean?

I don’t know.

The entire business feels like war.

Amazon versus Hachette.

The conversation about digital royalties.

Being graded out by the man.

Internet trolls intent on capsizing careers.

Threats directed at writers.

Book auctions.

Book reviews. (BEAT) I was talking to ——- the other day, and he said reading Michi’s review felt like having his head, arms and legs chopped off by ISIS.

There is no need for that kind of review.

Why not just spike the thing and drop in an ad for Mohan.

Big Mo! (BEAT) Who buys his fucking suits?

I don’t know.

Jim Dwyer should write a piece about that guy.

Is there an actual Mohan?

I don’t know. We should ask Quinn. He’ll know.

Hey Quintano. (QUINN WALKS OVER WITH A BOTTLE OF WOODFORD AND TOPS OFF THEIR DRINKS) Question for you.

QUINN: Shoot.

Is Mohan a real dude?

QUINN: Mohan Ramchandani?

You talking about the tailor?

QUINN: Yes.

So Big Mo is an actual guy. (DOUG AND PAUL RAISE THEIR GLASSES, TOAST)

QUINN: He has a fitting studio on 42nd Street. A lot of the clientele shops there. You should visit, Doug. You’ve got a bit of a stoop shoulder. He specializes in that kind thing.

Fuck you Quinn.

QUINN: Just sayin’.

(BEAT. QUINN WALKS AWAY)

That guy knows everything.

Even, apparently, anatomy.

Fuck you.

(BEAT)

Where were we?

Book reviews.

Right, right. Critics forget about the human dimension in all of this. A book is not simply an object. A book is an extension of the person who wrote it.

I know authors who have wept after reading some of their Times reviews.

And editors.

And publishers.

And publicists.

If a critic is going to post shit like that, at least give the writer a chance to respond.

In person.

Seriously. They should make an evening out of it. Host it at the Times Center. Michi could read a review, opposite the author in question.

Janet too.

What about Dwight-ski?

Dwight could read Caitlin Moran aloud to his daughter.

And then his daughter could be interviewed by a shrink!

We could get Tony Scott moderate: “Would a director have made the same choice, Haruki, leaving the element of rape so opaque?”

The audience could ask questions.

And at the end of the evening, everyone casts a vote.

“Critic versus Author. Only at the Times Center.” People would definitely turn out.

(BEAT)

Alter’s OK.

I guess. A little too fucking earnest.

That’ll change. Give her time.

One lunch with Rubin.

Little Stevie! Oh my god. Can you imagine?

We better warn her.

(BEAT)

And Cader.

Cader is solid.

He knows more about publishing than our chairman.

He should be running a company.

He is smooth. (BEAT) You know what he does well?

What?

Monetizes paranoia. Think about it. What is the subtext of every conference he hosts?

Our imminent obsolescence.

Exactly. People are spending thousands of dollars to be told they have no future.

Do you think it’s true?

Of course it’s not true. But the scary part is that it feels true. (BEAT) Nothing delivers in the same way that it used to. Not the Times. Not the Journal. Not even those communistas over at NPR. All year we’ve had campaigns with those assets baked in, with every fucking follow you can imagine, and at the end of the day, crickets.

Legacy outlets are doomed.

The Times doesn’t even have a fucking newsroom editor anymore. They blew up the masthead and replaced it with an infield.

Volatile industry. Dwindling streams of revenue.

You keep making decisions like that, it becomes self-fulfilling.

Our problem is we need the kind of reporting newspapers no longer deliver. We need outlets that are committed to readers.

That commitment only comes with ad dollars. Dollars that are getting harder to find. It’s been a click driven business for nearly a decade.

My point is that you have to put a stake in the ground. You have to commit to journalism. (BEAT) Do you know what generates the fewest clicks in the pantheon of online news?

I do not.

Book reviews.

Really?
Yes. Absolutely no engagement whatsoever. The digital guys know this. They look at the analytics. And then they run their numbers up the masthead. The next thing you know, the masthead guys send in some twenty-something McKinsey pinhead to convene a meeting: “Our product needs to deliver engagement. In the absence of engagement, there is no product. We are putting kills on sections that don’t pull. And, let’s be clear here, your section isn’t pulling. There is no demand for book reviews. I’m sure this has been true throughout history. Do you know why? Because book reviews are fucking boring. So we are spiking the section.”

Farewell My Lovely.

That’s what happened at the Observer.

Right.

And they were one of the last. The kill has already run through all the major metropolitan dailies. (BEAT) Do you know what the most read section of the TBR is?

I don’t.

Their bestseller lists. That’s all people want to know.

(BEAT)

What about culture?

Lists are the culture.

Shit.

(BEAT)

You wake up one day, and Eric Schmidt’s nine rules for emailing has become a fucking lede.

(BEAT)

What does he say?

What?

About email. What are his rules?
Rule number one is “respond quickly.”

Really?

Yes.

Jee-zus. You’d think the guy who invented the internet could come up with something better than that.

(BEAT)

Reviews don’t sell books anymore.

Maybe they never did. Maybe now we simply have data to back it up.
(BEAT)

I can’t buy into all the doom and gloom.

I can’t afford to buy into it.

Print will endure.

Has to.

The best digital content will demand a print iteration. And good writing, wherever it appears and in whatever format it takes, will find an audience.

Do you really believe that?

No. But it feels good to say it. (BEAT) Listen: there are some examples out there. Companies building out auds by committing to readers.

Name one.

Garden and Gun. They’re bucking the trend. When every other publisher in America was cutting pages and issues, they were diving in. They had a bumpy start for sure, but look at ‘em now. Solid editorial product. Great brand presence. Aspirational lifestyle, one they’ve been able to monetize.

We have a three-book contract with them.

I heard. Mur-ster should give the edsy that signed ‘em up a big fucking raise.

The first is coming this fall. Good Dog.

I bet you sell a ton of copies.

(BEAT)

You think they’re making any money down there?

Gotta be. Circulation is on the rise. They have a good website. And their store curation is excellent. I was poking around on the site last week and wound up dropping five-hundred large on a Hulme gun case.

(BEAT)

You know what they need at the Times?

What?

A shooter. A guy who can take down a twelve-point buck. They need Nelson Bryant.

Absolutely. Less tennis. More fucking hunting.

They should get Ford to write a column.

Or McGuane.

Or Harrison.

Think of the brands they could align around those guys. Orvis. Berretta. Filson.

Exactly. (BEAT)You know who I miss?

Who?

Julie.

Bosman?

Yes.

I bet you do.

What is that?

What?

“I bet you do.”

You, my friend, had a crush on Bosman.

Fuck you.

Just sayin’.

She was a good reporter. We did a lot of business. End of story.

Right.

I’m serious.

Check.

(BEAT)

Did you read her stories from Ferguson?

No.

That’s what I mean.

What?

Hold on. (PAUL BEGINS TYPING INTO MOBILE AND SWIPING) Listen to this sentence: “For about four hours, in the unrelenting summer sun, his body remained where he fell.”

It’s good.

It’s very good. Think about what happened. This was a huge story. You have a son. I have a son. This was someone’s son. Good journalism does more than report. Good journalism makes you invested in the story.

I guess.

(BEAT)

You know what your problem is? You can’t see beyond appearances. You see a woman. I see a byline. I read the sentences.

(BEAT)

I stand by my original assessment. Anyway, here’s to Minz.

Cheers. (THEY RAISE THEIR GLASSES, TOAST)

(BEAT)

You know who else wears bowties?

Who?

Perreault.

Dude, I wear bowties.

I’ve never seen you wearing a bowtie.

Well I don’t wear them on the golf course.

When do you wear them?

When I go out.

When do you go out?

I go out all the fucking time.

Bullshit.

Events are not just a function of PR. We host events in sales. We call on accounts.

What accounts? You have no accounts left to call on.

Fuck you. (BEAT) What do you think about Dunham?

Dunham will be big.

And Bush?

Bush will be gigantic. People love him.

(BEAT)

They should do an event together.

Can you imagine? “Daughter of New York in Conversation with a Son of Texas.”

What would they say?

Bush would have a lot to say.

To Dunham?

I think he would. People underestimate that guy.

Where is the common ground?

Well Driver was a marine, for one.

And?

And he’s kind of buff. Bush goes for that kind of shit.

(BEAT)

You ever worry about your enemies.

Enemies?

Yes.

What enemies?

Company enemies. Industry enemies.

What are you talking about?

I’m talking about business. Everyone in business has enemies.

(BEAT)

How so?

Think about it. You’re basically suggesting forty-three is gay.

Total misread. Not suggesting he’s gay. Just sayin’ he likes marines.

Still.

(BEAT)

Listen: I’m sure I’ve pissed off a few reporters in my time. And possibly a few writers. But I don’t think I’ve made any enemies.

I think your social media presence is questionable.

Seriously?

Seriously.

Fuck you.

(BEAT)

Twitter? Tumblr?

What about ‘em?

They’re filthy.

Filthy?

Yes.

In what sense?

In the ‘fuck, fuck, fuck’ sense.

You mean the language?

Yes. The language. The lingua franca. It needs to change.

(BEAT)

This is how people talk, Doug.

That may be true. But it’s not what companies want to hear from their employees. And it’s not just the language, by the way. It’s the shit you post.

(BEAT)

You forget what business we are in. Publishers, as a rule, celebrate words and truck in free speech.

That was then. This is now. Speech has an applied cost. What you say. Where you say it. Who you say it to. All grounds for dismissal. (BEAT) I’m sure people are aggregating your material.

What people?

People within your own company.

Random House?

You betcha. Some German gangbanger has a rich dossier on you, my friend.

No way.

Think about it. Have you ever met a German with a sense of humor? There was a poll published several years ago. The Telegraph ran a story about it. Their conclusion: Germany is officially the world’s least funny country.

They might not be funny, but apparently they are creative. Our parent company just sent everyone a 30-page report called “Europeans are Creative.”

Seriously?

Yes.

Why?

I have no idea why. I guess they wanted everyone to know that Germans like to paint. And read poetry.

Was their anything about their sense of humor in the report?

Nothing.

You see my point then.

We have some nice Germans at our company.

I’m sure that’s true. And I’m sure they will be very nice when they ask you to pack up your desk and escort you out the door.

(BEAT)

I blame my father.

For what?

For the swearing.

Great. Put that on your LinkedIn profile: “Language deficient. Father swore. A LOT.”

That’s not all I do.

No it’s not. You talk about drinking. And your attractions. Let’s leave aside the fact that you’re married.

These are significant issues. People are invested in their attractions to other people.

No one cares about your attraction to Molly Ringwald.

I care about my attraction to Molly.

Molly is happily married.

To a fucking Greek. Someone named Papio. You think that’s going to last when all of his assets wind up at the bottom of the Aegean?

We are off topic.

(ASIDE) He probably doesn’t even know who John Hughes is. You think he grew up watching ‘The Breakfast Club?’ No he did not. (BEAT) Did you read her story collection?

We published her story collection. Of course I read it.

“The only thing equal to the enormity of his want was his regret.”

Great. Keep on the Molly thing. I’m sure a lot of good will come of it.

I met her.

You told me. At BEA. She gave you a hug.

I’m just sayin’. She was nice. (BEAT) How’d her book sell?

I don’t fucking know.

You think she would sign a book for me?

No.

(BEAT)

Why are you such a prick?

(BEAT)

Donna keeps selling.

That book is going to have another huge Christmas. Mark my words.

That book is keeping Hachette afloat.

(BEAT)

How are things at home?

Good. You?

Good. (BEAT) You gettin’ laid?

Some.

Me too.

Not enough, mind you.

Me either.

Still.

(BEAT)

So what’s next.

October.

Shit. Nothing ever sells in October.

I know.

What’re we gonna do?

QUINN! Two more!

END

"No more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars." — Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
LOVE. THIS. BOOK.

"No more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars." — Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

LOVE. THIS. BOOK.

Nothing Is Selling (a post for Laura Zigman)

LATE SUMMER. EARLY EVENING. PAUL AND DOUG ARE SEATED AT A MIDTOWN EAST BAR, BOTH NURSING TEN CANE ON THE ROCKS.

PAUL: Nothing is selling.
DOUG: I know.
I mean it. Nothing.
I hear you.
Even the brand names. Flat.
Stagnant.
Dead. (PAUSE) You ever seen a summer like this?
Never.
Have you looked at the Bookscan numbers?
I have. Depressing.
Depressing? Are you kidding me? They make me want to jump out the fucking window.
I know.
The number one fiction book in the country sold thirteen thousand copies last week.
I’m aware.
Thirteen K.
Ugly.
The nonfiction list is just as bad.
I didn’t look.
Nineteen K.
Wow. I had no idea it was that soft.
Been that way for weeks. (PAUSE) This is not a sustainable model.
DOUG: Fuck.
PAUL: Don’t even think about the implications of who is on the fucking list.
O’Reilly.
Klein
.
Grumpy Cat.
(PAUSE)
PAUL: Where are they?
DOUG: Who?
Our readers.
I don’t know.
(PAUL GESTURES WITH HIS HAND TOWARDS BAR PATRONS). They’re all staring at their fucking cellphones.
Posting crap.
Texting.
Liking.
Linking.
Vlogging. What the fuck is that? And when did that become a thing?
John Green. Big spread in the New Yorker about his social footprint.
Right. (PAUSE) At least his books are selling.
Selling? His books are holding up the entire fucking market.
Along with Veronica Roth.
Right. Both of them.
Very good for our respective bottom lines.
(BOTH MEN RAISE GLASSES, TOAST)
Cheers.
Not much else, though. Seems like I haven’t seen a new author on the hardcover fiction list in like a decade.
Been over a year for sure.
We can’t break ‘em out, we’re all doomed.
(PAUSE)
PAUL: Editors are worried.
DOUG: I know.
The stories are not good.
Hachette.
Atria.
I’m sure there are others.
Business is bad, in come the consultants.
And out go the editors.
Not just the editors, dude. They’ve got personnel looking at head counts in all the corporate silos. I’ll bet our respective HR reps have identified a long list of potential “separees.”
Fuck.
The only people who are safe are the teams running the social networks.
Twitter.
Facebook.
Instagram.
Pinterest.
Linked In.
Tumblr.
You Tube.
Our collective future, right there. Some Silicon Valley venture cap guy actually said that in the Wall Street Journal last week. “For the next five to ten years, all business will turn on social.”
Remind me not to invest in his companies.
Yes. Well. If it all worked the way they say it does, we’d be selling a lot more books. I was having an argument with the mad Brazilian about this last week.
Who?
Coelho.
The prophet himself! What does he say?
He says earned media is dead.
Dead?
Yes.
The guy who was on the cover of the Wall Street Journal?
Yes. And he’s totally fucking serious. “All anyone needs,” he says, “Is a portal, a platform, and a keyboard.”
Well, he does have a big platform.
And he uses it well. But my view is that it’s still not enough. It’s one piece of a complicated puzzle.
And right now none of the pieces fit.
(PAUSE)
DOUG: How long do you make we have?
PAUL: Hard to say. We land a big book, publish it well, turn the business around, we’re good for another few years.
Shit.
Used to be you could make a comfortable living – not a killing, mind you – but a comfortable living in this business without having to worry about the specter of unemployment.
Not anymore.
Nope.
We need hits.
Yes we do. This has always been a hit driven business. Never more so than now. No hits, we all go packing.
(PAUSE)
DOUG: Midlist is soft.
PAUL: Midlist? There is no fucking midlist. Books that used to sell in the twenties and teens sell now sell in the hundreds.
Grim.
The thing I can’t figure out is if it’s an aberration or long-term correction.
And if a correction, why?
The why would be good to know. I mean, is it really all this? (GESTURES TOWARDS PATRONS AT BAR) Or something else? Are the narratives more compelling in other mediums?
You mean like reality television?
I was thinking more along the lines of series television. Mad Men. House of Cards. Game of Thrones.
Right, right. Makes sense. I’d add Million Dollar Listing Miami to that list.
What?
MDLM.
What is that?
Bravo. A show about realtors. Everyone watches it.
Never heard of it.
It’s a show about three realtors. Chad, Chris, and Sam. They compete for high-end listings in Miami. (PAUL GIVES DOUG A CURIOUS LOOK) It’s actually a good show. You would love Chris. He’s adorable.
What is that?
What?
Chris is adorable.
He is.
You’ve been working in book publishing too long.
Fuck you.
Seriously. Give me your fucking phone. (DOUG HANDS PAUL HIS PHONE. PAUL STARTS SWIPING THE FACE) Is that a gay app?
What?
That.
It’s a news app, you fucking moron. (DOUG GRABS PHONE BACK)
Open it.
There. See. (DOUG SHOWS PAUL OPEN APP. PAUL, LOOKING, BECOMES WIDE-EYED)
Oh my fucking god.
What?
I can’t believe it.
What?
She died.
Who.
Betty.
Bacall?
Yes.
No.
“Icon of Silver Screen Dead at Eighty-Nine.”
Wow. I can’t believe it.
(BOTH MEN RAISE GLASSES, TOAST)
Cheers.
(PAUSE)
I thought she was eighty-nine twenty years ago. (BOTH MEN LAUGH)
(PAUSE)
Can you imagine if social was a thing when we published her books?
No.
Seriously. The fucking stories.
Talk about viral.
Remember when she threw me out of the limo on I-95?
I remember.
Wanted me to peel an apple for her.
Who makes that ask?
And when I refused she tells the driver to pull over. Says to me, “Out of the car.” I’m like, “Are you kidding?”
She wasn’t kidding.
No she wasn’t. Dumped me on the highway 20 minutes from DC. Twitter moment: “Stranded on I-95 after being booted from limo by star client. SOMEONE SEND HELP.”
Only a demented fucking diva boots her publicist out of the car on I-95.
Boots me out, makes me find my way from the Interstate to the Four Seasons, and then screams at me for not being at the hotel when she arrives. Complains that her room hasn’t been turned down or finger swept.
Who does that?
Right? (PAUSE) Then there’s the EW episode.
That was crazy.
She stole a whole fucking rack of Armani.
What was the name of that poor fucking stylist?
I can’t remember.
He’s was crying, right?
Crying? He was hysterical. The whole thing was a fucking opera. “Load this stuff in the trunk,” she says to me. I’m like, “What are you talking about?”
“Am I not being clear?” she says. “Put the fucking clothes in the trunk.”
“They’re not our clothes, Betty.” The stylist, of course, is standing right next to me, his mouth agape, pulling on my shirtsleeve.
“She’s kidding, right. Tell me she’s kidding,” he says. Meanwhile Betty is barking, “Listen you little shitbag, you want to keep your job? Then load the clothes in the fucking car.”
You Tube moment: “Bacall Goes Ballistic on EW Stylist.”
That’s when he starts to cry, “Is she talking to me? Oh my god oh my god oh my god. What do we do? This can’t be happening. Someone tell me this isn’t happening.” I tell him to calm down. I tell everyone to calm down. I say to everyone on the set, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” That’s when Betty saunters over, pulls me aside, and says, “You’ve got fuck all, kid. Load the trunk. Tell the driver to take me home. And then go ask light-in-the-loafers over there out on a date. He’s just your type.”
Jee-zus. The balls on that broad.
She knew she would get away with it. Mostly because everyone was terrified of her. Including me.
(PAUSE)
No one called her on it.
Nope.
She just took the shit.
She did. (PAUSE) I still can’t believe it. She wound up stuffing all the clothes in the trunk herself. It was like a scene out of Married to the Mob.
Instagram moment: “Betty loading up on Armani swag. Police en route.” Nothing in her obit about that.
Of course not.
Fucking journalists.
They deify these people.
They don’t know.
Actually they do know. That’s what pisses me off. They’re all complicit in the game. Especially those cocksuckers at the Times.
Betty in the Times.”
Who gives a shit about Betty in the Times?
Was she ever nice?
She was nice when she walked out on the set for an interview. Other than that, no.
You know what they should put on her tombstone?
What?
Actress. Icon. Monster.
(PAUSE)
Did her books sell?
First one, yes. The rest, no.
(PAUSE. DOUG SIGNALS TO BARTENDER) Two more.
How’s your fall looking?
Good. Yours?
Good.
Are we optimistic?
Fuck no.
(PAUSE).
All this Amazon shit still going down.
You know how they should settle this thing? Set up a cage fight between Grandinetti and Pietsch. Stage it at the New Yorker Festival. Have all the proceeds go the Authors Guild.
I would pay good money to see that.
Right?
(PAUSE)
What a fucking mess. All of it.
I know.
How did this happen?
Why did this happen?
Where will it end?
I don’t know.
Me either.
(PAUSE)
We are standing at the abyss of modernity.
People don’t know who the fuck they are anymore.
Or what they’re doing.
Or where they’re going.
They have to go online to figure it out.
Facebook (BOTH SIGH)
You know what the problem is?
What?
Most of what they’re reading is shit. The gestation period for writing is no longer weeks and days. It’s hours and minutes. No one thinks anymore. They simply emote. Online. In real time.
And wait for the world to respond.
Exactly.
A good book takes time.
It does.
To write.
And to publish.
Too many readers are caught up in this online bullshit.
(PAUSE)
They’ll tire of it.
You think?
Yes. And when they do, we’ll be there.
With the horses.
And hopefully a job.
(BOTH MEN RAISE GLASSES, TOAST)
Amen, brother.

END

Paulo Coelho, on writing

"What inspires me to write is people. I spend two years meeting people, walking, wandering. And the second part, I have only one tip: Sit down and write. People want to be writers without writing. Don’t care what people think. Or criticism. Or the fact that you’ll be published or not. Just sit down and write. And then you’re going to discover a whole universe inside yourself. You have to write because this is your dream. So write and the rest will come." — Paulo Coelho

Talent is Like a Container

“Talent is like a container. You can work as hard as you want, but the size will never change. It’ll only hold so much water and no more.”

Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

The Art of Artifice

“Fiction is, above all others, the art of artifice: it demands the conjuring, from mere marks on paper, of entire felt worlds, of things and of people, of their spoken exchanges and interior emotions and thoughts. Ideally, it is, paradoxically, the deployment of artifice in the service of truth, aiming to reveal as accurately as possible the profound and complex experience of being human and alive on this planet.” — Claire Messud, in her introduction to the Everyman’s Library edition of Atonement.


A priest has written to Knopf objecting to the jacket art on J.D. McClatchy’s Plundered Hearts.


The priest writes: “I just took a look at the upcoming JD McClatchy book. I know the cover is based on an artist’s photographic work.



Still, there’s the guy in the top middle on his back, legs open, with an erection. Is this really sensible? I don’t think even the TV premium stations such as HBO and their more explicit depictions of naked people go that far. Lars van Trier’s newest movie has, I understand, Shia LaBouef with a hard on….and it is exceptional enough to be mentioned in the press.


Is Knopf really that interested in testing/stretching social norms with a book cover for poetry?



I’m baffled.”



I suppose if Where’s Waldo is a thing, this can be too.


#wherestheerection?
#poetry

A priest has written to Knopf objecting to the jacket art on J.D. McClatchy’s Plundered Hearts.

The priest writes: “I just took a look at the upcoming JD McClatchy book. I know the cover is based on an artist’s photographic work.

Still, there’s the guy in the top middle on his back, legs open, with an erection. Is this really sensible? I don’t think even the TV premium stations such as HBO and their more explicit depictions of naked people go that far. Lars van Trier’s newest movie has, I understand, Shia LaBouef with a hard on….and it is exceptional enough to be mentioned in the press.

Is Knopf really that interested in testing/stretching social norms with a book cover for poetry?

I’m baffled.”

I suppose if Where’s Waldo is a thing, this can be too.

#wherestheerection?

#poetry

Weekend Activities You May Want to Consider That Do Not Require Bandwidth, Connectivity, or a Mobile

  • Sleeping
  • Making coffee (Rule of thumb is 2 tablespoons ground for six ounces of water, not 2 teaspoons. Also, don’t grind the beans into dust, for chrissake. A coarse grind of a matte bean is better. Your brew should be almost black – not brown – and slightly viscous with a deep, earthy aroma. Most of you think you’re drinking coffee but really it’s WEAK TEA.)
  • Walking (You’ll need to do something after a cup of that brew.)
  • Eating (This is important.)
  • Reading
  • Writing a letter (In longhand. To a former lover. Tell her you regret everything that happened. Say something nice about one of her moles or birthmarks and mention that you often think of the times you used to fuck in her apartment entryway and how you sometimes imagine her walking into a conference room when you’re in a long meeting discussing Bowker “consumer insights” which is really just mind-numbing answers to dumb fucking survey questions and, BTW, if Sonny knew they were asking consumers about jacket art he’d shut the entire enterprise down in a minute. Then ask her about that lawnmower guy on “True Detective” and write back to me with her response.)
  • SHOE SHOPPING!
  • Rehab
  • Petting (Never in the office, even on the weekend.)
  • Praying
  • Thinking about all the potential outcomes for an airliner that flew on for seven hours after going off the grid (Though not if you are traveling.)
  • More reading
  • Contemplating the big questions (What happened to my life? Why are my friends dying? Where is the joy in all of this? When did Bumble Bee shrink their tuna tins from 6 ounces to 5 ounces and is this even legal?)
  • Vivisection
  • Talking to your children (Though texting will be required to find them, and when they finally arrive you will undoubtedly reach for your mobile due to the awkward pauses in conversation.)
  • Kissing (Softly. On the lips. Possibly with a stranger. Though be careful here. Politely inquire where they work first, if they have health insurance, and if they answer “Yes, Anthem Blue Cross” have them make a line list of their complaints about the provider and write back to me with their responses as I am putting together a long dossier and sending it to the President.)
  • Masturbating (See above parenthetical though drop the insurance query and ask them when they had their last physical and if they belong to a gym and if so do they shower at the facility and if they respond “Yes” ask them to remove their shoes and socks and take a good look at their feet.)
  • Screaming at the Whole Foods fishmonger (Suggest doing so in a Korean accent: “You cawl dat frah fih! Dat not frah! Wook at fih eye. Cwoudy. Smell offel. And so expensah!”)
  • Gardening
  • Touching
  • Licking (Though not bus windows, office colleagues or strangers because people have done this around and to me and it’s gross.)
  • Sautéing (1 pound flounder fillets. 1/4 cup lemon juice. Fresh parsley. Dust fillets with flour. Add dab of butter and splash of olive oil to hot sauté pan. Cook fillets for two minutes per side. Remove. Tent. Add lemon juice to pan. Stir up brown bits. Add splash of white wine and white wine vinegar. Take off heat and stir in two tablespoons butter and chopped parsley. Pour over fillets. Voila!)
  • Bathing
  • Bird watching (Franzen is not the only guy in America who does this, btw.)
  • Drinking (Recommending Hudson Malone.)
  • Golfing (Though never with a woman. OK. Here come the emails. “You fucking sexist bastard blah blah blah. Didn’t you learn anything from LEAN IN?” Yes I did. A LOT. But I still prefer the company of men when I’m playing golf. Kim Yorio, however, is a good striker of the ball. And she looks fantastic in her light blue skirt thing. So maybe with Kim again. OK, I suppose if a woman has course grit and a soft pair of hands. Revising opinion here, though will not tell my male friends.)
  • Fucking (HELLO!)
  • Fucking (The second mention is for married couples, for whom added emphasis is essential.)

Anyway, those are some options to consider. Whatever you decide, please be careful and considerate. And put away your mobile. IT’S THE WEEKEND.

THINGS PUBLISHERS SAY

Things publishers say on bound galleys, advance reading copies, and TI sheets, all sourced from actual copies. Parentheticals added.

  • National media appearances (boilerplate, speculative)
  • National print features (boilerplate, speculative)
  • Major review attention (wishful thinking)
  • National media appearances including NPR (“What about NPR?” has replaced “What about Oprah?” in the pantheon of dumb questions asked of publicists by publishing colleagues)
  • Video trailer (God help us all)
  • Targeted blogger outreach (with packs of Skittles)
  • Author events and interviews out of New York (publisher can’t afford a tour)
  • BEA breakfast speaker (They still do this? In the basement of the Javits Center? And authors agree to come? Ugh.)
  • Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club (They still exist?)
  • Book club outreach (publisher will send books, hope something happens)
  • Satellite radio tour (filler)
  • Promote on team blogs and forums (even I have no idea what this means)
  • Comic Con promotion (men wearing spandex)
  • Social Media campaign (publisher will tweet about your book and post an excerpt on Scribd)
  • Facebook campaign (like me like me like me like me – publishing in the 21st century)
  • Skype chats (with Atlantans still trapped in the Piggly Wiggly. Or inmates)
  • Galley giveaways on Goodreads (Owned by Amazon. Tells you everything)
  • Motion picture rights sold to Fox (movie will never get made)
  • Foreign rights sold to 24 countries (doubtful)
  • Etc.

Things publishers should say on galleys and advance reading copies:

  • We paid this shaboo 750,000 dollars for a collection of fucking stories
  • I have no idea what we were thinking at the time
  • In retrospect, it was a mistake
  • Actual quote from acquiring editor: “Buying a book at auction is like buying a new car – it depreciates 50% the minute you drive it off the lot.”
  • Do. Not. Look. At. His. Track. On. Bookscan.
  • 16-city author tour featuring clandestine rendezvous with key media in the hope that “magic happens”
  • Author will call reviewers at national newspapers and reveal to them who their colleagues are sleeping with on the news desk
  • “After Midnight” Twitter Campaign via #drunkwriter
  • Instagram Selfie Campaign via #inbedwith?
  • Reading Group Guide including suite of angry e-mail exchanges between author and editor where author insists readers want “unfettered access to my innermost thoughts and not your shitty line edits.”
  • Slate of 5-star Amazon “Vine Reviews,” sourced via illegal software program from Mumbai (“So so good, reminded me of Franny and Zooey!”)
  • We are desperate, will try anything
  • Coded passages in the book reveal that Dan Brown actually coined the term “Lean In” while he was a student at Exeter
  • Author has a sex tape of Jonathan Franzen with…
  • Publicist assigned to the book still suffers from PTSD due to her last experience working with the author
  • Author would call publicist in the middle of the night complaining about the “hard sheets,” demand a room upgrade, and then apologize and inquire about her “soft skin”
  • High profile international arrest timed to publication
  • Author is friends with Arianna – “Dar-link!”— who will bail him out of jail
  • Leak of jail letters and photos to New York Post
  • TMZ exclusive: “I Fucked My Bombshell Italian Carceriere (and then read her excerpts from my forthcoming story collection.)”
  • They later marry
  • In the old days, guys like Sidney Sheldon would write a book, we’d slap some Paul Bacon type on the cover, send a copy to Merv Griffin, and call it a day
  • I am 53 years old. I have been doing this my entire life. I am more confused than ever.
  • I have searing regrets about not becoming an actor.
  • My Pilates instructor is mean to me
  • The “Men in Media” thing did not work out the way I imagined
  • Yesterday, in our marketing board meeting, Nihar told us a story about “the bear.” It frightened me.
  • Ham ham ham ham ham ham tuna
  • If you read this book and have an idea of how to sell it or who the reader is, please tweet us @savepublishing
  • Mostly, our business is about timing. And luck.
  • Still on the hunt for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle (or any boutique bourbon). Use #bourbonforbogie if you can be of assistance. Send bottles to my attention at 1745 Broadway.
  • Enjoy the book

Robin Desser, last night, on being awarded the Maxwell E. Perkins prize by the Center for Fiction (abridged comments):

“So you don’t exactly have rules or a guidebook when you set out to become a fiction editor. You learn by just doing it. You start at the bottom and you teach yourself by reading, reading—reading the dead and the living. You read the dazzlingly good and the really stinkingly, hilariously bad stuff, and the stuff in between.  You make decisions about acquisitions and you comment on books by your authors and they correct you and help you—and they send back something that completely surprises and delights you and blows the hat right off your head.

You succeed and you fail in having books sell or not, win prizes or not, and you wonder what success & failure actually mean, including because the ultimate fate of the long, long-term readership of a work of fiction gets decided after you’re….dead.

Meanwhile, while you are alive, and if you are lucky enough to still have a job in book publishing, you also learn by observing the work of people whose work you admire.  And by this I mean not just the private, and hopefully invisible, work editors do with writers.

But you learn I think by observing what happens when all sorts of colleagues & competitors, all of whom soon enough become your friends, follow their passions.  When they take risks & stick their necks out for something they love. When they are loyal to authors and put them first. When they talk and write and schmooze for and sometimes seem to even sing about the books they are working on with such brilliance and charm and insight that it makes your own ears feel hot.  When they help with books published by somebody else. When they express their character and who they are through books.

So many of you, authors, editors & publishers, agents, and colleagues in this room have taught me so much about these things; and I am grateful to you…

I am so happy that my father is here tonight. Dad. You are the most insatiably curious person I know. You read everything and that has always inspired me.  You were the first feminist I knew; you let your wife take flight, and you encouraged both your daughters to do that, too. And you also taught us how to throw a perfect football spiral.

Dad, I wish Mom could be here tonight. We both know how strong she is. My mother is the fiercest and best role model I’ve ever had. It was her idea I enter this profession in the first place, this crazy profession that every year sings its imminent doom and every year goes on and on anyway.

I bounced around after college doing this and that. Publishing had never occurred to me; where I came from, it seemed to me that books were just sort of “there.” But maybe the DNA was lurking too—Dad was a teacher, Mom a librarian. One night, my mother gave me a piece of paper she’d torn out of Library Journal. “Listen, Robbie,” she said, “all you ever do is read. Why don’t you stop complaining and answer this ad?” 

I wasn’t always great at listening to my mom in those years, but thankfully that time I did, and I met Victoria Skurnick, who gave me my first publishing job, at St. Martin’s Press..

But it was my parents who were the first to show me that it was perfectly normal to be inside reading all the time, even when it was sunny out; that to lock myself in the bathroom to cry my eyes out over the ending of a novel was not insane but perfectly reasonable and even laudable; and that to argue over and to think long hours about people who didn’t exist in the real world—who were only a piece of someone’s imagination, who were entirely made up—that you could make a living doing this.

Maybe our love of fiction is a kind of collective madness, an insane cult.

I love walking around the tall Random House building and overhearing the conversations of people who are pretty much talking only about some book that they love or are even obsessed with. More often than not, it’s a work of fiction.  

What is it with us people who want to read novels all the time? Don’t all your friends ask you, when you go on vacation—if you have to read so much at work, why do you say, when you’re going on holiday, all I want to do is read?

Well I hope to be a card-carrying member of this insane cult, this madhouse, until they tell me I can’t do it any more. 

And I am reasonably sure all of you here feel the same way too.

Thank you very much.”