Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The more things change . . . (how does that go again?)

Speaking of how important a book's opening is (first page, first paragraph, first line), check out this article (courtesy of a commenter over at Agent 007's blog -- a worthwhile read of its own, by the way).

At the bottom, you'll see a press release for CALIFORNIA MYSTERY WRITER WINS PRIZE FOR BEST FIRST LINE. And here is the winner:

"The thing about revenge is that it takes a woman who is well and truly pissed to get it right."

Fun. But more importantly, read the article above it that discusses the state (of decay) of the publishing industry. There are some important points to note here--in fact, it almost reads like an excerpt from a recent conversation that I had with my editor. For example:

"A LOT of mid-listers are going the name-change route because of the weird practice in many bookstores of ordering the same amount of an author's next book as they SOLD of said author's LAST book: not ordered, but actually sold. Since there are almost always returns - especially in a business that rewards you for NOT selling the merchandise - this is a law of diminishing results where the end number would almost always be zero if allowed to play out to the end."

But here is the real deal, a point so vivid that no one should ever question whey I am trying to find decent, undiscovered books among the ever-increasing rubbish:

"I have a friend who had ONE book published by a name house. Great book. Great writer. Good-to-great reviews. Lousy cover. Lousy promotion. Lousy sales numbers. (Frankly, lousy publisher.) In New York, the good writing, the good reviews, the bad cover, and the lack-of-promotion are quickly forgotten. The terrible sales numbers, however, are forever available on their computer for anyone In-House - and, even more shockingly, for any OTHER publisher who may be interested to know how poorly the book performed. Consequently, this writer has had to settle for publishing his last four books through a small (but very high quality) press in runs of less than two thousand copies. The books get better and better. The people who found him early on continue to ride along, but the average book buyer may never hear of him. I feel very, very bad for this writer. He has been done a huge disservice by the New York publishing community. I feel even worse for the people who love good writing and who will never be able to discover the joys of the words between the covers of his great books. But that's the state of things."

Read 'em (while you can) and weep.