It comes as a surprise that Simon & Schuster is launching yet another new books site, called 250 Words.
The publisher’s first foray into literary websites was Bookish, a book recommendation site started by the Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and Penguin USA.
Last month, we learned that Bookish had been sold to the e-book retailer Zola. It seems it was unable to compete with huge sites with Amazon, and struggled to draw in readers since its significantly delayed 2013 launch.
Our sources tell us the publishing groups sold Bookish, which had reportedly received $20 million in funding, at a pretty serious loss.
So the debut of 250 Words seems strange, given that the last attempt at a books site was hardly a best-seller. Mediabistro reported yesterday that the publishing company has just launched 250 Words, a site that aims to become “a hub for intelligent business thinking, with a focus on books.”
Once upon a time, I took a meeting with a book agent who handled some of my favorite comedians. I pitched him a couple of ideas, to the vein of “Like David Sedaris, but not as funny, and for Lena Dunham money.”
He gently pulled my head out of my ass and told me that no one made Lena Dunham money (except Garth Risk Hallberg, I guess), and if I really wanted to cash in, I would need to write for the YA genre. “Like Twilight,” he said, “but you know, not actually Twilight.” (Though based on the success of 50 Shades of Grey, I could have written actually Twilight.)
David Zinczenko, former Rodale Executive and EIC of Men’s Health, just signed a deal with Random House which the publisher is calling “unprecedented in scope.”
Not only will Mr. Zinczenko, BFF of Dan Abrams and author of the hugely succesful series Eat This, Not That, be penning new titles for a Random House imprint under his new contract, but will be getting his own, separate imprint as well, along with a publishing partnership for his new company’s titles, and, oh yeah, a swoonworthy amount of cash. And guess what? He’s totally worth it.
Ready for the National Book Awards aka just the Oscar’s of the publishing world. Have you read everything? Do you have well formed opinions that you can eloquently defend about what should and shouldn’t win?
Of course not. We all have busy lives. It’s hard to read everything–reading takes time. Or maybe you have read all the nominated books (in which case, great, but stop showing off) but still need a reminder because you read some of those books so very long ago.
Haters Gon Hate
In last week’s installment of her Vice column, “Amphetamine Logic,” Wild child blogger Cat Marnell announced that her time at the hipster web mag was coming to an end.
“I’m writing my last columns,” Cat Marnell explained when we reached her late Friday afternoon .“I almost feel addicted to them, like I could go on forever.”
However, Ms. Marnell, who celebrated her 30th birthday earlier this week, is ready for her next venture. She said she has become a perfectionist. “I’ve just got to do it right. When you are writing weird, it’s make it good or go home, you know?” Ms. Marnell noted she scrapped this week’s column because she wasn’t happy with it and missed her deadline.
“I miss my deadlines all the time, and my editor just has to deal with me like Jane did.” Ms. Marnell was the Beauty Editor at xoJane.com until June. Ms. Marnell said she still talks to Jane Pratt all the time, and they plan to have dinner soon.
“I love her, she’s the great love of my life,” Ms. Marnell said of her erstwhile mentor.
Have you ever seen Wonder Boys, the movie based on the book by Michael Chabon? In the first scene, it takes you inside a grad school fiction workshop, where various students undercut each other through passive-aggressive critique. It is utterly painful and also rings true (as far as we’ve heard, having never experienced the masochistic impulse to seek out graduate studies, let alone the studies themselves). Inevitably, one student will be more successful than the others, and the others will no doubt, in most instances, begrudge them that success. Of course, it is uncouth to publicly begrudge one success, so most people will just go about this in the most passive and cowardly way possible.
Of course Bret Easton Ellis discovering Twitter would turn out to be a wonderful thing.
This time last year, Glenn Beck made former Air Force pilot and Mormon congressional candidate Chris Stewart’s history book, The Miracle of Freedom, a bestseller by promoting it on his radio show. Now the Tea Party media mogul hopes to repeat history with Mr. Stewart’s series of thrillers, The Great and Terrible.
The publishing world received a blow today when publishing prodigy Kate Lee officially left her role at International Creative Management (ICM). (Five days before her scheduled departure date, no less!) Ms. Lee has been with ICM for what would have been 10 years next month, and her trajectory from an assistant at the company to a Talk of the Town subject at 27 undoubtedly served as inspiration for many young agents trying to break into the grind of the publishing world.
Ms. Lee’s reputation rose as a wunderkind agent who spied the trend of publishing Internet writers before anyone else (The New York Observer‘s own Editor In Chief Elizabeth Spiers was one of Ms. Lee’s first clients), and her departure will undoubtedly send many unrepresented bloggers howling into the night.
So why is she leaving?
Woe betide our republic of letters! The shadowy culture arbiters who serve on the Pulitzer Prize board have withheld their favor from the field of American novels published in 2011. Booksellers, writers and critics have been up in arms ever since news of the non-award broke in mid-April. In a cri de coeur published in the New York Times’s op-ed pages, novelist Ann Patchett—who also runs an independent bookstore in Nashville—decried the committee’s abstention as a cause for “indignation” and, indeed, “rage.”
“I can’t imagine there was ever a year when we were so in need of the excitement the [fiction Pulitzer] creates in readers,” Ms. Patchett wrote.
It’s easy to miss, amid Ms. Patchett’s vehemence, the patent condescension that prize-dependent marketing visits upon American readers. In her distinctly arid account of readerly engagement, news of a prestigious laurel is what’s needed to generate “the buzz,” as she puts it, “that is so often lacking.” But the question is far better turned on its head: If an entire industry must rely on aloof prize boards to gin up sustained interest, then the trouble would seem to be the industry itself, rather than the prize boards or the consumers.