So I'm pleased to announce the next Red Lemonade book to enter the traditional print supply chain—it's Matthew Battle's The Sovereignties of Invention. Round of applause, for Matthew and for everyone who has been weighing in one one another's work.
You know, I've done four panels over the last three Javits in the floursecent horror of Javits and it has been fun saying that the audience doesn't have to take my word for the power of the community. It's also be been saying, the first book we published, Lynne Tillman's Someday This Will Be Funny, is being reviewed by the New York Times Book Review on June 5th.
Of course, at times I feel bad, stuck once again having to refer to either establishment old media, or the supply chain as validation.
But I remind myself, we don't seek validation from them. What we are doing is trumpeting the style, the hustle, the passion, the rage, the vision expressed in these books, qualities we at Red Lemonade hold dear, we are using these books to trumpet the community as a whole to the entire world of writing and reading. And to do that best, we periodically use all the tools at our disposal. Chains, newspapers, wholesalers, what-have-you.
We've barey scratched the surface of what is possible, folks, I can see that already, It is thrilling and kinda scary, how much we can do, how much is to be done.
If you're planning on attending BEA 2011, stop by our booth and say hello. We're just down the aisle from everyone's favorite distributor - PGW.
Of course, our published authors (Lynne Tillman, Vanessa Veselka and Kio Stark) will be around too.
Hope to see you all there!
Publishing is saddled with this terrible reputation for being reactionary and Luddite, our denizens known largely for caviling against technology and the new-fangled. It is perverse, truly perverse since publishing is in fact at the center of two major social revolutions that dramatically disrupted the status quo ante.
The first, printing, we all know and understand to a degree, but let me remind all concerned, pace Clay Shirky, that printing upended the established religious and political orders in ways that radio, television entirely failed to do—these latter media being readily co-opted for propagandistic purposes by the existing political and economic powers-that-were-and-are.
The second, retail, is rarely discussed but booksellers were the first retailers to take their product from the back room and place it on shelves on the other side of the counter, for the public to see, touch, peruse. The consumer centric approach to retails starts in the book business too.
So the seeming radicalism of the Cursor project, as expressed here at Red Lemonade, is not contrary to the historical spirit of publishing but consonant with it. Being opposed to technology is profoundly at odds with the book business because what is the book but technology, technology that has been smoothed and sanded by repeated contact with human society into the most comfortable technology we have, as taken for granted as our clothes, product of the looms.
I pick looms for this reason because it was the Industrial Revolution that produced the great rupture that bedevils publishing today, the abandonment of an artisanal mode of production/consumption for an industrial one, which took the highly social acts of writing and reading, almost equally performable by anyone provided they were literate (a significant proviso of course), and rent it asunder. Writer alienated from reader, writer from writer, reader from reader. Atomized. And in so doing created a system that was at its most profitable, because of the relentless logic of economics of scale, when there were the fewest number of writers, at its most profitable when the various phases of production and distribution could be handled by highly specialized entities and individuals, none of whom understood what the other was up to, a Fordist model of production combined with a Sloanist management model.
We have tended to speak of the model of publishing for the last hundred years as if it were a perfect one, but look at all the indie presses that arose in the last 20 years, publishing National Book Award winners, Pulitzer winners, Nobel winners. What happened to those books before? They weren’t published! They. Were. Not. Published. Sure, some were, but most? Nope. We cannot know how much magnificent culture went unpublished by the white men in tweed jackets who ran publishing for the past century but just because they did publish some great books doesn’t mean they didn’t ignore a great many more.
So we’re restoring the, we think, the natural balance of things the ecosystem of writing and reading. The writers read, the readers write. The About page and FAQ describe and elaborate on how we do this—the books speak for themselves, as they always have. You will have questions that these pages do not answer, so contact us. We don’t pretend to have all the answers but we’re going to organize and contend with the important questions: How do we avail of our collective intelligence to make better publishing decisions? How do we provide mentorship and advice while avoiding cronyism? How do we harness the power of the gifted editor? How do we unlock more of the great value books create in our society, so that we can all afford to write and read better?
You have the answers, not me. The site has feedback mechanisms everywhere, you can comment on this post, on a manuscript, you can create a conversation, you can create marginalia, reply to comments, you can see what we look like, hear what we sound like, you can find our names and email addresses, we will listen, we will respond, whether on matters technical or administrative or cultural and together we will restore books to their leading edge positions, once again transform social relations, once again launch revolutions.
The unsung heroes of traditional book publishing are the sales reps and those who provide the reps with service and support.
So today, the day the door to Red Lemonade was first opened, gingerly, to the world, is a day I want to honor the sales force. No less a writer and visionary than Cory Doctorow has written with great vigor and eloquence on the role of the sales force and I know I cannot trump it. Here's part of what he had to say.
Hardly a day goes by that I don't get an e-mail from someone who's ready to reinvent publishing using the Internet, and the ideas are often good ones, but they lack a key element: a sales force. That is, a small army of motivated, personable, committed salespeople who are on a first-name basis with every single bookstore owner/buyer in the country, people who lay down a lot of shoe-leather as they slog from one shop to the next, clutching a case filled with advance reader copies, cover-flats, and catalogs. When I worked in bookstores, we had exceptional local reps, like Eric, the Bantam guy who knew that I was exactly the right clerk to give an advance copy of Snow Crash to if he wanted to ensure a big order and lots of hand-selling when the book came in (He also made sure that I got ARCs of every Kathe Koja and Ian McDonald novel — Eric, if you're reading this, thanks!).
This matters. This is the kind of longitudinal, deep, expensive expertise that gets books onto shelves, into the minds of the clerks, onto the recommended tables at the front of the store. It's labor-intensive and highly specialized, and without it, your book's sales only come from people who've already heard of it (through word of mouth, advertising, a review, etc.) and who are either motivated enough to order it direct, or lucky enough to chance on a copy on a shelf at a store that ordered it based on reputation or sales literature alone, without any hand-holding or cajoling. (http://www.locusmag.com/Features/2009/03/cory-doctorow-in-praise-of-sale...)
If there is one thing I can say I am convinced of in terms of the future of publishing, it is that folks like these will not be disintermediated. Titles will change, institutions will decay and arise, tools will be replaced, but "longitudinal, deep, expensive expertise" that connects writing with reading, that will be with us till the end of days.
PGW (Publishers Group West) is the sales force for Red Lemonade, this past week was their sales conference for the Fall of 2011—they're about to go out and start pitching books to the world so for those about to rock, we salute you!