On Public Relations

Mar 18


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

Mar 15

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

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

Jan 31

THINGS PUBLISHERS SAY

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

Things publishers should say on galleys and advance reading copies:

Dec 12

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.” 

Nov 19

JEETS AND JONKA

DEREK  JETER AND JON KARP. KARP’S OFFICE AT SIMON & SCHUSTER. MID AFTERNOON.

KARP: What about Mattingly? Something along the lines of a history of hitting. Or maybe a how-to guide to hitting?

JETER SHAKES HIS HEAD

KARP: Why not?              

JETER: Doesn’t feel right.

KARP: Too close to home?

JETER: Yankee thing.

KARP: Right, right. I see that.

PAUSE

KARP: What about Lee?

JETER: Cliff?

KARP: Yes.

JETER: Still doesn’t feel right.

KARP: No?

JETER: Baseball thing.

KARP: Baseball?

JETER: Yes.

KARP: How do you mean?

JETER: Too obvious.

KARP: Obvious?

JETER: Yes.

KARP: In what sense?

JETER: For the list I’m trying to build here.

PAUSE

KARP: Do I need to remind you that the first book we have under contract is “Derek Jeter’s Guide to Baseball.”

JETER: I know.

KARP: And?

JETER: I’m thinking it’s a mistake.

KARP: A mistake?

JETER: But I’m willing honor that commitment because I don’t want to disappoint the kids.

KARP: Well that’s a relief.

PAUSE

JETER: Did you hear about that book by Hallberg?

KARP: Hallberg?

JETER NODS

KARP: Garth Risk Hallberg?

JETER NODS AGAIN

KARP: I was in that auction, Derek.

JETER: Well. See. Right there. That’s disappointing.

KARP: Disappointing in what sense?

JETER: You didn’t come to me.

KARP: Come to you?

JETER: Yes.

KARP: Why would I come to you?

JETER GIVES KARP A LOOK.

JETER: Jon.

KARP: Yes.

JETER: The ambition of the book is what I’m talking about. That’s what people see in me. That’s what my list needs to be.

KARP: It’s a 900 page novel for chrissake.

JETER: I read it.

KARP: You read it?

JETER: Lamb sent me the manuscript on the QT. He knows how much I loved Harbach’s novel.

KARP SIGHS

KARP (MOSTLY TO HIMSELF): I can’t believe we’re having this fucking conversation.

JETER: ’77 was a special year for me, Jon. I was 3. My mother took me into the city for the first time that summer and I remember the grit and the smell and the life of it. People came here to escape their circumstances, not to make a killing. It was before New York became a bright shining Bloombergian object. Hallberg captures that vitality better than any other novelist in memory.

KARP: I read the proposal, Derek.

JETER: And then there’s the symmetry of it all. Do you know how good we were in ’77? Guidry. Hunter. Munson. Dent. Rivers. Piniella. Chambliss. The World Series in six against the Dodgers.

KARP: We never had a conversation about fiction, Derek. We talked about sports books, lifestyle books, business books.

JETER: Jon. (PAUSE) I say this with a great deal of respect. (PAUSE) But that is a failure of your imagination. (PAUSE) Baseball is about narrative. Baseball is about story. And novels are what I want to publish. Forget the lifestyle and business crap. That’s for Workman and Portfolio. I want to produce a list that rivals Knopf and FSG.

KARP HAS HIS HEAD IN HIS HANDS AND IS SLUMPED OVER IN HIS CHAIR.

JETER (LOOKING AROUND): Nice office, Jon.

JETER REMOVES A COPY OF SUSAN ORLEAN’S RIN TIN TIN FROM KARP’S BOOKSHELF

JETER: Here’s another one.

KARP: Another what?

JETER: Writer I’d like to publish.

KARP: Susan has a two-book contract with me.

JETER: I had dinner with her agent last night.

KARP: Pine?

JETER: Yes.

KARP: How do you know Richard?

JETER: We do colonic cleanses with Dr. Weil every year.

KARP: Fan-fucking-tastic.

JETER: No need for that tone, Jon.

KARP: I’m not sure this is going to fly with Carolyn.

JETER: I’ll handle Carolyn.

KARP: And how do you aim to do that?

JETER: We’re going to discuss it tomorrow evening.

KARP: I don’t think so, Derek. (PAUSE. KARP SMILES) She’s attending the National Book Awards.

JETER: I know. I’m her date.

JETER TURNS, EXITS.

Oct 27

Tonight. Shaken, not stirred.

Tonight. Shaken, not stirred.

Oct 10

Just this.
#NobelPrize
#CanadianLaureate

Just this.

#NobelPrize

#CanadianLaureate

Jul 09

“If you get up every morning and write, then you’re a writer. Publishing doesn’t make you a writer. That’s just commerce.” — Joanna Rakoff Smith, “My Salinger Year” (fabulous book about publishing, due out in 2014)

Jun 26

My award-winning colleague, ready for her close-up. I work with STARS.
#bestHATever

My award-winning colleague, ready for her close-up. I work with STARS.

#bestHATever

Jun 16

“Of course, all the hype about how connected you are has contributed to a counternarrative — that, in fact, your generation is increasingly disconnected from the things that matter. The arguments go something like this: Instead of spending time with friends, you spend it alone, collecting friend requests. Rather than savoring your food, you take pictures of it and post them on Facebook.

I want to encourage you to reject the cynics who say technology is flattening your experience of the world. …

Technology is just a tool. It’s a powerful tool, but it’s just a tool. Deep human connection is very different. It’s not a tool. It’s not a means to an end. It is the end — the purpose and the result of a meaningful life — and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity and humanity. …

I want you to connect because I believe it will inspire you to do something, to make a difference in the world. Humanity in the abstract will never inspire you in the same way as the human beings you meet. Poverty is not going to motivate you. But people will motivate you.” — Melinda Gates