Bogie’s Burn Book: There’s a Tumblin’, Tweetin’ Bull in the Knopf China Shop

As the houses clamor to get their titles into the increasingly scarce column inches reserved for book coverage, one editor said that there are only two publicists who retain the clout and the author lists to make journalists come to them: Mr. Bogaards and Jeff Seroy, head of publicity and marketing at Nobelist factory Farrar Straus & Giroux.

Mr. Seroy does not share Mr. Bogaards’s affinity for Twitter and Tumblr, but he does believe they are a key part of the way books are publicized in 2012.

“Every publisher needs to have a full tool kit, that’s for sure. But how we deploy them will vary,” Mr. Seroy said. “It’s just like with authors. Some are ideal for the media and do triple flips off the high board, and some just stay in a cave and write.”

“Bogie is restless and craves attention and is also, from the sound of it, horny,” he went on. “The platform is perfect for him.”

But on a platform where addictive immediacy fuels compulsive intimacy, promotion and self-promotion can quickly become muddled.

“Louise Brockett is every bit as skilled, and you’ll only find her name in the paper when she got married and when she dies,” Mr. Seroy said. “Is Knopf a better digital-age promoter than Norton? I don’t think so.”

Mr. Bogaards wrote that he hopes people take his personal Twitter and Tumblr feeds for what they are: “a curation of industry anxiety.

“Interspersed with humor. And cocktails.”

“I’m probably the poster boy for how not to engage on social media,” he added. “No one should follow my example!”

When Mr. Mehta re-merged Knopf’s publicity and promotions departments in 1999, Mr. Bogaards got the executive director spot, leaving Mr. Loverd a lame duck vice president who retired a few years later. Some took the shake-up as a sign of his closeness to Mr. Mehta. On Twitter Mr. Bogaards suggests a flirtatious rapport (“Email from boss: ‘Bogie, I’m going to fucking kill you. S.’ Love him!”), but others insist that no one is as close to Mr. Mehta—a man so cool Knopf staffers pretend to smoke just to get a private audience at the holiday party—as they would like you to believe.

Although some thought  Mr. Bogaards’s choreographed ascension effectively extinguished the old Alfred A. Knopf culture within the house’s publicity department, in his admiration of Mr. Mehta there’s a certain longing for a bygone era of book publishing.

Even all the talk of whom he would nail suggests a version of the old-boys’ club at yesteryear’s three-martini lunch. Around Knopf, Mr. Bogaards, who lives with his wife and children in New Jersey, has a reputation for playing the alpha male. In the past, he would practice his slap shot in the office, occasionally sending errant pucks down the hall. Now, his Twitter and Facebook avatar is a photograph of a rooster in a metal crate—a caged cock, if you will. Emasculated frustration was written all over the Tumblr post, which described the decline of the publishing industry by deftly using of the implements of its destruction.

Self-publishing platforms like Tumblr enable writers to circumvent the processes that keep publishers in business, but books were never totally about the bottom line. Much more frightening is the fact that they threaten to undermine the publisher’s historic role as culture’s gatekeeper.

Tumblr, Twitter and any other social media that bring authors directly to their readers, unmediated by editors or the magazine journalists whom publicists dispatch to profile them, only serve to dispel the aura of brilliant but imperceptible literary editing that gave the industry its clubby glamour.

It may be that Knopf has let Bogie’s burn book fly as an act of willful ignorance: If they don’t acknowledge it, maybe it will go away. (With any luck, it will take the whole crass enterprise of social media with it.)

The inverse appears to be true, anyway. Giving Mr. Bogaards attention does seem to egg him on. In the Bogie burn book, he snuck in a slight dig at Mr. Burnham, the HarperCollins publisher who tattled on him. The big six publishers collectively ranked #10, but they were individually listed. Mr. Mehta was described as “handsome.” Little, Brown’s Michael Pietsch was “not as handsome as Sonny.” FSG’s Jonathan Galassi got “complicated, a poet,” and S&S’s Jonathan Karp was deemed “a real Yenta.”

“Do they have one at HarperCollins?” Mr. Bogaards wrote where Mr. Burnham’s name ought to have been. “Checking on this.”

Reached via email, Mr. Burnham said he hadn’t read Mr. Bogaards’s Tumblr and so could not comment.


Bogie’s Burn Book: There’s a Tumblin’, Tweetin’ Bull in the Knopf China Shop