1. Y’all are following James Frey’s latest nonsense, right? If not, here’s the New Yorker story and one take and another. This does feel very con-artisty to me, but the things that bother me are (in no order) that folks are signing a contract that gives Frey the right to continue to use your name for whatever he wants on things even after you leave. So, if you write a few books for him and then you go on to have your own success, he could continue to bring books out in your name–at the same time you are bringing books out in your name–written by whoever he’s conned into working for him at the moment. That’s a nightmare.
But what I’m still thinking over is that there are MFA programs that charge that much. Holy shit. If you attend Columbia without financial aid, you’re looking at at least $90,000 in debt. To be a writer. I mean, just the fact that people pay that seems like a terrible scam. And then that someone at Columbia invited Frey into the classroom to pitch this nonsense to students, as if it were just another option writers had for a way to make a living? As if this were one more book packager?
Blows my mind.
Frey’s an asshole con artist. That has been obvious since day one. But what the fuck is going on at Columbia that this kind of asshole con artist gets direct access to students?
That’s where some tough questions need to be asked. Why would Columbia seemingly endorse their students making terrible legal arrangements with a known fraud and cheat? Is it because there’s something of a fraud and cheat in charging people $95,000 to hone their skills in a profession most people are never able to make a living doing solely?
2. This whole post on Gaspereau is interesting. It’s kind of funny that this is considered old-fashioned, because I think this is one model for new publishing success–small print runs to a market you know well. I’m not that familiar with Canadian publishing, but it is an interesting dilemma–do you sell the rights to a book that’s suddenly popular so that more people can read it quickly? Do you have some kind of obligation to the author to do that? Or do you just churn out books as fast as you can and keep the rights? I must say that the fact that they didn’t immediately sell the rights indicates to me that they’re in better financial shape than a lot of presses. Most places I know, in this economy, would have sold the rights in an instant.
But the main thing that jumped out at me is this–
But Gaspereau is all about championing the kind of literary writers who aren’t commercial enough for the big houses anymore. Both because of the process and because they’re smart publishers, first printings there are only 800 copies. Why is this smart? Because it would be a miracle for even well-known poets to sell that many books. It’s no better for most first novels — 13 months after its publication, The Sentimentalists had only sold 400 copies.
By that measure, A City of Ghosts is doing pretty damn good (roughly 160).
3. Speaking of A City of Ghosts, I did a couple of nice things for it this weekend. I told Ridley he should do some kind of gift guide in the Scene and that he should put my book in it and he didn’t laugh in my face and I sent a copy to the one goth chick in town I kind of know. I still think it’s the kind of book Goths would love, so I’m hoping she’ll read it, genuinely like it and tell her friends about it.