Richard Nash recently gave this talk at an event for Grub Street. If you haven’t heard Richard wax on publishing in general, and his latest venture, Small Demons, in particular, you should check it out. Small Demons is a pretty phenomenal concept. I’m still trying to figure out how Richard’s publishing community, Red Lemonade, functions precisely . . . it’s sort of Fictionaut-meets-indie-press-meets-a-dating-site, maybe? But their books are great. That’s the thing about Richard: you don’t get to become a mover and a shaker by putting out a crap product.
Richard’s in that rare category of people in publishing who are both arbiters of taste and a kind of “brand” in and of themselves. Some other people like that are Lauren Cerand and Jessa Crispin. That doesn’t grow on trees. I’m not talking about the Jonathan Galassi or Nan Talese kind of mover-and-shaker: the establishment kind, with a financial engine, even though actually, in both of those cases, I’m fond of the particular aesthetic involved. I’m talking about the quirky lone wolf types, who forge ahead with a kind of force of personality, and usually an absence of any serious money. It’s worth watching people like this, and seeing what they’re doing next.
Everyone wants to brand themselves these days. The writer can feel like the product, instead of the product being the book. Never mind the book as Art–if your book is even the product at all you may be ahead of the game in contemporary publishing.
Erika Rae is rebranding the fallen Evangelical, over at her multimedia website. Erika looks fetching in thigh-highs. She’s terminally adorable, but don’t let it fool you–she bites. Her memoir, Devangelical, is coming out from Emergency Press. We’ll be running a bit here, sometime before it drops. Here, she interviews author Frank Schaeffer on a number of juicily maddening topics, including Pat Robertson on masturbation.
Meanwhile, TNB Books’ latest, The Beautiful Anthology, may be aiming at nothing short of rebranding Beauty. The editor, Elizabeth Collins, is stirring up some mischief. I’ve got a story in this bad-ass thing. The same story featured in my book trailer for Slut Lullabies. It may be my favorite of my stories, actually. It’s also the one that’s gotten me, far and away, in the most trouble with my friends.
I maybe needed a rebranding of my own after that story. I’d based things on friends, yet because it was fiction it was particularly problematic because if you knew my friends you could easily tell who was who, but at the same time everyone was slightly–or sometimes extremely–more fucked up in the story than in Real Life. But how was anyone supposed to tell what was fact vs. fiction? The people I’d based things on thought I’d made them look bad. Not using their real names wasn’t much consolation. Autobiographical fiction is like that. People end up, usually, looking more compromised than they would in a straight out essay that told all their actual secrets. Some of the secrets you imagine for them, in fiction, may be emotionally true and yet somehow “worse” than the actual truth. I wrote in the Acknowledgments section of Slut Lullabies that writers are gossips, liars and thieves; I thanked my friends in advance for putting up with me and loving me anyway, and in the end they all did. I’ve been lucky that way. The angriest anyone’s ever been at me for my writing was my mother-in-law, who didn’t speak to me for six months after my debut novel because she concluded I was a deviant pervert. None of that novel was based on her–it was based on a Freud case study; it was supposed to be securely behind the veil of fiction and therefore “safe.” But of course writing is always risky. There are a lot of potential mistakes to make as a writer, but not shying away from risk seems the bare minimum of what you need to do right.
This overuse of the word “brand” in this Round-up is making me laugh.
You’ve gotta love Dan Wickett, over at Dzanc Books. You will never, as long as you live, hear Dan use the word brand. Here’s Dan selflessly championing other writers and celebrating Short Story Month, as he’s done for as long as I’ve been in this business. And here’s Dzanc going all Kickstarter, to raise money for their rEprint series–they overshot their goal, and now will help hundreds more writers get their words out there in the ethersphere. If people in publishing rode white horses, Dan would have one. It’d probably be wearing a baseball cap and somehow it’d need a shave, but still.
If you’d like to spend some of your Sunday sobbing in a puddle on your floor, watch this. Weirdly, unlike most things that make you sob on the floor, your day will be better for it afterwards.