“The reader is always doing you a favor.”

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The Daily Rumpus is an email Rumpus editor Stephen Elliott writes and sends out anywhere from two to five times a week. Most of them are not posted online, but subscribing is free. Just send an email here. This is an excerpt from the one he sent out this morning:

I was reading about the BEA and the launch of Bay Citizen and I thought I should say something about publishing and then thought I didn’t have much to say. But then I thought that books, like so much else, are moving toward community. What we look for in a good independent bookstore are recommendations. We know we can’t trust the larger publishers. When Richard Nash left Soft Skull his advice for the new owners was to keep accepting un-agented submissions “because those are your readers.” I’ve thought about that a lot. In their article on the Book Expo the New York Times focuses on Keith Richards and Barbara Streisand and various ghost written memoirs. In Garrison Keillor’s op-ed he reminisces about the joy of learning he’d just gotten a large advance for a book. It was easy, equate art with money, money with success. And this is why The Rumpus Book Club is doing so well, much better than I expected. Many of us long for community, we want to read the same book together and talk about it but we don’t want to read the books the large presses are pushing on us. We don’t want read books with a platform, or a tie-in. As the media fragments into ebooks and blogs and print on demand and iPads the desire for community is consistent.

Which ties into my thinking about this email newsletter that I’m writing right now and how it’s really no different. Writing, trying to communicate, hoping to connect. I’ve written enough at this point to know what it’s fair to expect from a reader as well as the obligation, the debt the author incurs. The reader is always doing you a favor.

As I said, it’s raining, the clouds wrap the new skyscraper south of Market like a chemical gauze, a mood stabilizer with some wind.


Isaac Fitzgerald has been a firefighter, worked on a boat, and was once given a sword by a king, thereby accomplishing three out of five of his childhood goals. Formerly of The Rumpus and McSweeney’s and most recently the founding editor of BuzzFeed Books, Isaac is now the co-host of BuzzFeed News’ Twitter Morning Show, #AMtoDM. He also appears frequently on The Today Show to talk books, and is co-author of Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them and Knives & Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos (with Recipes) (winner of an IACP award), and the author of a YA novel and picture book forthcoming from Bloomsbury. He uses Twitter. More from this author →