Saturday, February 21, 2009

Throw Down in Poets & Writers!

You have to look for it, but the March/April edition of Poets & Writers contains a wee bit of controversy. First is the outraged, almost bitter letter, aghast at the notion that authors should be responsible for any aspect of book promotion: I would think agents would want their writers holed up in a shack in the boonies typing away at their next project, not wasting precious moments plying the very superficial talk show circuit. Book promotion belongs to the publisher, who seems to be tossing off many of its duties these days. I say let's let writers do what they do best and leave sales to the people in suits.

Then, on page 57 there's a terrific interview with four editors, and Richard Nash of Soft Skull Press articulates the opposite opinion: Get out into the world. And if you don't have the personality to get out into the world, then you have to ask yourself, "Why does everybody else have to have the personality to get out into the world, but I don't? What makes me so special that everybody else has to go out and bang the drum for me, but I don't?" I have a fairly limited tolerance for people who assume that it is everybody else's job to sell their books while they get to be pure and pristine.

It's probably obvious if you have ever read this blog that my heart is with Nash, but the opinion of the unhappy author (whom I won't name, but you can identify at the above link) is quite common. Authors imagine that their publishers don't care, that they haven't tried, and that somehow it's someone else's fault if the book fails to find its most perfect (usually identified in authors' minds as "largest") audience.

Most publishers play their hearts out, authors. And a tip of the champagne glass to those of you who understand that, and who do what you can to help your own books find their homes on shelves, and in hearts.

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