Wednesday, August 4, 2010

NOSTRADAMUS WANNABES AND OTHER FOOLS

Once-upon-a time I’d get boiling mad at human stupidity, particularly when it involved issues of war and peace, wasted lives, and wasted resources. Like the war in Vietnam: a ghastly misadventure that was so easy to predict as Lyndon Johnson escalated our involvement in that conflict. And as badly as it went, additional lives and more resources were spent until we finally pulled out a decade later, in effect, putting “more money and resources after bad.” My own sense of activism led me to establish a dump-Johnson campaign, Citizens for Kennedy/Fulbright, with offices in a dozen states that, unfortunately, led to RFK’s entering the primaries and his subsequent assassination, followed by more “good money after bad” during Richard Nixon’s presidency. Of course, the same can be said about our misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter the mistakes, more funds and troops are always pumped in, as opposed to just changing course, until the realization hits that this is all based upon stupidity, where the “experts” can’t acknowledge their mistakes.

I’ve made some peace with all this, telling myself that these endless official stupidities will hasten the continuing decline of the Anglo-American Empire, and that the quicker we fade from being the world’s policeman (and dominant colonial power), the better off life here at home will become. At this point in time, it comes down to realizing that getting continually roiled doesn’t necessarily work: that one can only raise one’s voice so often on particular topics and then shut up. So rather than continuing to rant on about any of this, I far prefer referring you to George Carlin’s Final Words to the World , as well as to Ivan Goldman’s July 21st latest posting, Digging Deeper, where he once again cuts to the heart of the body politic.

My bailiwick is more confined to the stupidities in the publishing business where sales and marketing “experts” at all the major conglomerate publishers—both here and abroad—continue to dictate what to do about falling sales. Their answer, not very different than our foreign policy advisors, is “Keep doing more of the same in ever increasing proportions.” The compensation to their fruitless escalation is that nobody gets killed and our tax dollars don’t support their erroneous assumptions. Also, it enables a small independent press like ours to have significantly increased book sales every year over the past three years by not following their strategy (with total cumulative sales rising over that time by nearly 90%).

And here’s the story of what made me focus on this particular absurdity: our efforts to launch an International Publishing Event in September, 2011, when we—and publishers abroad—will simultaneously publish Leonard Rosen’s thriller All Cry Chaos.

When I first read Len's novel it reminded me of John LeCarré's A Most Wanted Man (which I read this past winter), and a short review of it whose last lines called it “Poignant, compassionate, peopled with characters the reader never wants to let go… It prickles with tension until the last heart-stopping page. It is also a work of deep humanity, and uncommon relevance to our times.” These are the same qualities one finds in Len Rosen's novel, and then some. Every one of our overseas agents loved Len’s book which also reflects all of the conflicts going on in the world about us, many of them adding that Chaos has much in common with Sweden’s Henning Mankell, or predicting the same possibility of success Stieg Larsson enjoyed (though Rosen is a far better writer).

As Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha, which was on The New York Times best-seller list for two years, said, “Only the very best of writers can weave a compelling story from a maze of complicated ideas, and with this deftly crafted novel, Len Rosen has proven himself to be one of them. Drawing not only on crime and the human condition, but on math, economics, and religion as well, All Cry Chaos is both a thinking man’s mystery and a thrilling ride. I look forward to more from its talented creator.”

In any event, one of our agents quickly sold rights in Spain, and another received rave reviews from the Editor-in-Chief of one of Random House UK’s imprints who thought it was one of the most highly original thrillers he had seen and one which gathered considerable editorial support from others. He then came up against the prospect of getting it through the sales/marketing team which, to his great disappointment, would not let it pass (even though nobody on this “team” apparently read it). My suspicion is that sales of the last LeCarré or Mankell novels hadn’t proven wildly successful in England and—given falling sales at his imprint—he was instructed by sales and marketing to take only books that had bigger potential.

“One would think,” he told me, “that falling sales would make it even more imperative that an Editor-in-Chief pick books that he thinks will be successful, but that’s not the way it works any longer.” So, as in the USA, the big publishing corporations continue to chase illusory dollars by appealing to the widest common denominator and hope that it pays off better “next time” then it is paying off in “present time.”

Judy and I continue to believe that predicting success for any title is impossible (unless one publishes successful hacks like James Patterson), that there is a proven thirst for quality fiction, and that if the two of us are thrilled by a novel there are other people like us who will also want to read it. Nor would we ever trust a “marketeer" or sales person to tell us what would be successful. In our own way—validated by our own sales figures—we’re better judges of what has a likelihood of success.

I remain optimistic that when the August vacations are over in Europe and Asia, we will have a solid group of publishers around the world joining us in releasing All Cry Chaos.

I invite your comments, welcome your subscribing to this blog, and—until my September posting—hope you will check The Permanent Press web site, and our Newsletter, for reviews, news, and updates on our recent and forthcoming titles.

Marty

4 comments:

  1. Wonderful news for The Permanent Press and for Len -- a true gentleman and scholar, and a great conversationalist to boot! Looking forward to reading All Cry Chaos!

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  2. It sounds like Len has written a remarkable book--and a timely one.

    I've seen the same "Let's do more of what isn't working" mentality in education. Six hours of worksheets and lectures isn't working? Let's cut out playtime and the arts and give them an hour more of worksheets. Quality teaching, like quality publishing is a completely different animal, but people are hungry both--even if they don't always know what it is they're hungry for.

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  3. Marty--
    Seems like the global corporations that own the big publishing establishments are barely aware of their holdings. I expect they leave literary decisions to their double-A team managers who'd really rather run spy satellite businesses or something. So trying to guess why they do what they do can drive you to drink or other medication. Just keep doing what you're doing. I look forward to All Cry Chaos. Thanks very much for somehow managing to mention me in the same sentence with George Carlin. We should rename Constitution Avenue after him. And thanks for the link to his last words. Mesmerizing.

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  4. This is an excellent essay disguised as a blog. Way to go, Marty!
    Best regards,
    Lukas Ortiz

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