Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Left Overs -- Notes from a Life Fiasco

The past couple of days have been pretty long and full of unwelcome trials. First, my basement is still jacked up, so I am back to living out of boxes and bags since the lower level of my father’s house was in all actuality my de facto apartment. The ant infestation is still here. Yesterday I saw a larger black ant, which in Tennessee harkens drought because they live so deep under the earth. I wonder what they mean in New Jersey. I guess I should Google it.

My cell phone is dead and I won’t have money to buy another one till the end of the week. My commute took 3 hours yesterday and my day “job” work schedule is in full conflict with my scheduled field work. I also found out that my summer stipend, besides not being enough, will be distributed in two parts, one in the middle of the term and the other at the end, which means I have to wait one month longer than I expected to get my hands on it. Plus yesterday my father and I had a very touchy conversation concerning relationships, as in what floats my boat . . . wink, wink.

Oh! And, how could I forget, my computer has caught something. I was battling it last Sunday night while I was doing work for my father’s business. My father insisted on the deadline, I just don’t think he understands the gravity of the technical situation. I am glad that he is my father and my boss, and not just my boss. He has a much lighter hand as a father.

So, on to publishing . . .

The last couple of weeks I have been picking up bits and pieces of information concerning the state of the book business. Since my stint as a consultant for Reader’s Digest Germany I have been out of the loop.

Exhibit #1
The New York Times printed an article 2 weeks ago dealing with the demise of the book review as a separate section in many major news papers. I enjoyed the article because it dealt fairly well with the marketing and advertising issues that are essential in print media and how books are fairing in an ever more capitalist game. It also touched on the electronic media’s effect on the reading public and featured a couple of literary sites and blogs.

It is funny. Seven years ago I worked for a bunch of old Jackie O stalwart New Yorkers, who while smoking their cigarettes, exhaled through their open brown toothed mouths, scratching their tweed shoulder, staring at the computer like it was shard of crystal dislodged from a frozen comet. I departed for Germany after that experience. Now the nightmare scenario they could have headed off if they had one ounce of business acumen is perilously breathing down their necks. I know book businesses that were still working on typewriters at the turn of this century. Now the high nosed reviewers of that same ilk do not only have to deal with the habits of their readership, but the decentralization of their deafening gaze concerning what is literature and what is not. Even the white boys are tired of the drivel of critics whose economy of praise is governed by their inflexible molars. The thing that worries me is that there is a grave possibility that underneath all of these mergers and reductions of publishing houses and distributors, the nurturing of writers, editors, sales representatives, publishers and designers is at stake. I am not sure if publishing can replicate its own environment. Who can make a living doing it?

Exhibit #2
So, I have been listening to my sources at Vibe/Spin. It is not a scandal, but from what I can surmise, Vibe is restructuring and it might loose a little bit of its edge. But this is just a hunch. I dare not get too detailed because I heard more about the business side of things, which, again in the new media industry, treats editorial as the “content” division which is interchangeable with television programming, websites and infomercials. So, we will have to see. The ouster of Mimi Valdez and the placement of Danielle Smith at the helm have not moved my fingers to the magazine rack. So, I doubt if there will be a change in editorial vision just yet, which will have me wanting to write an article for them.

Exhibit #3
Jstheater has put up some great blog entries on poetry and distribution. The entries speak for themselves and contain an excellent resources.

Brainstorm #1
I think that the small publishers that do poetry should send a proposal to Ingram and see if they could work as a consortium. The Ingram family made their money originally in the barge business before becoming a book distributor and they donate tons of money to Vanderbilt and different organizations. If a consortium could assure the feasibility of having part of its operational cost being tax deductible under 501C tax status, then maybe poetry houses could gleam the benefits of both world. To have such a distribution giant as Ingram married to not-for-profit business tenants could breath new life and a mode of competition that is viable against the miss guided steps of Peruses who are over-stretching their staff to the point of breaking with mergers that in the long run will make reaching their customers ineffective. Did I mention I lived that life before?

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