Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Knee Deep in the Amazon

(NOTE: The following is a memoir and as such is told using lies, misinformation, faulty geography, and plain BS. Dialog has been invented for underhanded purposes and the moral compass is pointed away from the local Home Security offices. Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone?)

Down time occurs when a writer has sent off his manuscript, gone through the in-house editorial process, and expects the page proofs. The best approach is to do stay far from bookwork, or forget about the present book and start the next one. Down time turns to drag time for the unprepared. I sunk as low as talking to telephone solicitors while anticipating the publisher’s call, and lower still by checking my name on Google. There was me at different and various guises, and a link to Amazon for DOG WALKED.

Amazon grabs titles when the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for a new book is registered. This is a swell trick, on account of they can gauge the market before ordering a book, but not without danger. Amazon encourages readers to post reviews, and why not? Books are made for readers, not the marketing department or writers.

Any reader can take you down in e-commerce by posting negative reviews. They can also make you a hit, except dwelling on the positive is never allowed in down time. The book has had a messy going of late. James Frey slipped in a million little fictions and was justly slapped on national television, JT Leroy exposed as a family hustle, and Opal caught trading angst for plagiarism and has a half-million dollar advance to return. Readers should be downright angry at the publishing business for having the collective integrity of a Space Invaders lunch box. To regard a new book with suspicion is the reader’s prerogative, just be nice to mine. Please.

I spent February reading, editing other writers’ manuscripts, and thinking about the latest catalog from Readers’ Subscription, called THE GRIFFIN. The front cover set the tone of the issue with the heading, “Myth is the basis of all human knowledge.” Was this true or lame hyperbole? Rebecca missed the deadline for her novel, but made up for the late date with an interesting excuse:

“Last night I caught my right pointer finger in a fold-up chair. I don’t know if it is broken, but it looks like I’ll lose the fingernail and I am in a lot of pain. Thank goodness I didn’t lose the finger. It was caught so badly I needed two people to open the chair to release my finger caught in the X of the fold-up. Luckily I am stubborn and can do the revisions we talked about with my left hand. I also screwed up my tailbone in the aforementioned chair incident so my butt hurts like a royal bitch as well.”

No calls from Cynthia Frank in February and less in March. I watched my numbers on Amazon swan dive from a high sales rank of 700,000 to the 1,000,000 range and past 2,000,000. The DOG WALKED had developed a limp while still in the kennel. I dialed Cypress House and asked for the publisher.

“We may have a spot of trouble on the schedule, nothing to worry over,” she volunteered.
“Don’t be coy. Give me the bad news.”
“Our designer has cataracts and is set for surgery. I had hoped for galleys this month, but he’s behind with books already late going to press. Yours is in line.”

Responding to such news and not sounding like a completely shallow putz is difficult. The designer is a human being with the frailties necessary to being human, and deserves to be treated with respect.

“Hire someone healthy and throw his ass out. Let him sell pencils with dark glasses and a white stick.”
“We’ll both forget what you’ve said. He’ll have one eye done, recuperate, and then have the other worked on. By April his vision will be better than before. You worry about the tiniest problems.”
“Me? Never. I’m right as rain, sound as a dollar, and fit as a fiddle. I’m fine.”
“Good. Now go make a living.”

NEXT: Sailing on the Galleys


Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

"Now go make a living." Is that all? Shoot! Are their lessons in living-making? Hmmmm...

P.S. I no longer type with my right index finger. It almost works again but I've learned to type quickly without it. Are you proud!?

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Buddy! Come on over, I have a couple Brazillian nanny's here for a few days. They want to learn about publishing. I told them your the man. So get your ass over here ASAP!!! Bring some booze.
Mr. Detroit

12:51 PM  
Blogger Sal Glynn said...

On my way. This business reveals its many rewards at the most opportune of times. Should I include a bag of Doritos with the wine coolers?

1:24 PM  
Anonymous alpatsa said...

Sal Paradise. (I presume)
Greetings and Salutations
I just finished re-reading an old acid fueled manuscript circa 1975
at least we both outlasted that old Underwood typewriter. Al

9:34 PM  
Blogger Sal Glynn said...

Crazy, man. Send along a copy of the monster. The Underwood lives!

7:55 AM  

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