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Posts Tagged ‘business’

The Sam Weller Bump

April 14, 2015 | by

Dickens the authorpreneur.

weller

Bigger than the Zuckerberg Bump, bigger even than the Colbert Bump or the Oprah Bump—arguably the most historic bump in English publishing is the Sam Weller Bump, triggered not by a tastemaker with a megaphone but a sharp-talking, warm-hearted servant.

In June 1836, Charles Dickens published the fourth installment of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, one of the many shilling monthlies that were the backbone of Victorian publishing. Printed on low-cost acidic paper and sold in pale green wrappers, they were aimed at the middle and newly literate working classes on the lookout for entertaining fare. But many of these readers had grown accustomed to the gobbets of melodrama offered by the cheap press—they were utterly uninterested, then, in the picaresque misadventures of Mr. Pickwick and his chums as they bowled through England collecting scientific information for the betterment of mankind. The first three installments of Pickwick barely sold four hundred copies.

But that June, sales began to grow by orders of magnitude: from four hundred to four thousand to an astounding forty thousand as the serialization drew to a close in November 1837. Everyone up and down the social ladder began to devour Pickwick, from butchers’ boys to John Ruskin, who read Pickwick so often he claimed to know it by heart. Copies were passed from hand to hand and read aloud as family entertainment. The critics effused with praise. Dickens, who was twenty-four and expecting his first child, had become a household name. Read More »

Don’t Be an Author—Be an Authorpreneur! and Other News

February 17, 2015 | by

The_traveling_salesman_1917_newspaperad

“Please read my book.” From a 1917 poster for The Traveling Salesman.

  • “People don’t want moral complexity. Moral complexity is a luxury. You might be forced to read it in school, but a lot of people have hard lives. They come home at the end of the day, they feel they’ve been jerked around by the world yet again for another day. The last thing they want to do is read Alice Munro, who is always pointing toward the possibility that you’re not the heroic figure you think of yourself as, that you might be the very dubious figure that other people think of you as. That’s the last thing you’d want if you’ve had a hard day. You want to be told good people are good, bad people are bad, and love conquers all. And love is more important than money. You know, all these schmaltzy tropes. That’s exactly what you want if you’re having a hard life. Who am I to tell people that they need to have their noses rubbed in moral complexity?” A new interview with Jonathan Franzen.
  • On the new era of “authorpreneurship,” in which no one can simply write: “Authors are becoming more like pop stars, who used to make most of their money selling albums but who now use their recordings as promotional tools, earning a living mainly from concerts. The trouble with many budding writers is that they are not cut out for this new world. They are often introverts, preferring solitude to salesmanship.”
  • A new study suggests that the three most desirable jobs in the United Kingdom are “an author, a librarian and an academic … The ‘aura of prestige’ connected with a career in writing or academia is preferable to jobs that brought promises of wealth and celebrity status.”
  • Copyeditor didn’t make that list, but maybe it should have. There’s a lot of prestige that comes with the title of Comma Queen, especially if you’re judicious in wielding your power: “Writers might think we’re applying rules and sticking it to their prose in order to make it fit some standard, but just as often we’re backing off, making exceptions, or at least trying to find a balance between doing too much and doing too little.”
  • Are the British superior political satirists? Short answer: Yes. They enjoy “a combative temperament that our political satirists can’t help but envy.”

The Limits of a Language, and Other News

August 21, 2014 | by

emojidick

From Fred Benenson’s Emoji Dick.

  • Could writers learn from carpenters? … Writers need to know more about the business of their art … During the days of postal submissions, writers often had to read ‘an issue or two of the publications to which they submitted, mainly due to the fact that that was largely how anyone knew about what journals were out there.’ Now writers unfamiliar with the submission process can sometimes produce ‘absurd results.’ ”
  • Stop. Look around you. Think. Are you in a Balzac novel? Some telltale signs: “There’s a woman you’d like to sleep with, so you decide to tell her an off-putting story about murder, castration, or bestiality … You play a lot of whist … You once tried to have sex with a panther.”
  • As a kind of language, emoji “are the social lubricant smoothing the rough edges of our digital lives: they underscore tone, introduce humor, and give us a quick way to bring personality into otherwise monochrome spaces.” But are they too conservative? “What habits of daily life do emoji promote, from the painted nails to the martini glasses? What behavior do they normalize? … In a broad sense, what emoji are trying to sell us, if not happiness, is a kind of quiescence … Emoji can represent cocktails, paparazzo attacks, and other trappings of Western consumer and celebrity culture with ease. More complicated matters? There’s no emoji for that.”
  • Oops. Now was not a good moment to release a feature film called Let’s Be Cops: “this is our only movie starring law enforcement run amok, at a moment when much of the nation is outraged that actual law enforcement is doing the same.”
  • When a programmer inserted the classic “Lorem Ipsum” placeholder text into Google Translate, he got some strange results. Cue the conspiracy theorists.

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Warhol via Floppy Disk, and Other News

April 25, 2014 | by

warhol floppy

Andy Warhol, Andy2, 1985, ©The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum

  • Shakespeare: playwright, poet, armchair astronomer. “Peter Usher has a very elaborate theory about Hamlet, in which the play is seen as an allegory about competing cosmological worldviews … Claudius happens to have the same name as Claudius Ptolemy, the ancient Greek mathematician and astronomer who we now associate most closely with the geo-centric Ptolemaic worldview.”
  • From the mideighties: Andy Warhol’s rediscovered computer art.
  • New research by the University of California-San Diego’s Rayner Eyetracking Lab—nobody tracks eyes like the Rayner—suggests that speed-reading apps might rob you of your comprehension skills.
  • I have been surreptitiously scrutinizing faces wherever I go. Several things have struck me while undertaking this field research on our species. The first is quite how difficult it is to describe faces … We might say that a mouth is generous, or eyes deep-set, or cheeks acne-scarred, but when set beside the living, breathing, infinitely subtle interplay of inner thought, outward reaction and the nexus of superimposed cultural conventions, it tells us next to nothing about what a person really looks like.”
  • In Germany, business is booming. The secret: pessimism. “German executives are almost always less confident in the future than they are in the present.”
  • Discovered in an archive of the LAPD: more than a million old crime-scene photographs, some of them more than a century old.

 

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Business as Poetry

February 18, 2014 | by

The poet A. R. Ammons was born on this day in 1926.

Ammons

Photo: East Carolina University

INTERVIEWER

I know that you worked in your father-in-law’s biological glass factory as a vice president in charge of sales. Were you interested in the work or was it dull?

AMMONS

It wasn’t dull. I have a poem somewhere explaining how running a business is like writing a poem. In business, for example, you bring in the raw materials and then subject them to a certain kind of human change. You introduce the raw materials into a system of order, like the making of a poem, and once the matter is shaped it’s ready to be shipped. I mean, the incoming and outgoing energies have achieved a kind of balance. Believe it or not, I felt completely confident in the work I was doing. And did it, I think, well.

—A. R. Ammons, the Art of Poetry No. 73

 

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Cooking About Architecture; CEOs and Poets

March 25, 2011 | by

“Writing about music is like cooking about architecture” is a quote that has been variously ascribed to Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, and Brian Eno, but can you suggest any books that suggest contrariwise? Or should I set to work on that cassoulet about Le Corbusier? —Arnold S.

My favorite newish book of criticism, August Kleinzahler’s Music: I-LXXIV moved me to tears and laughter, generally at once. Kleinzahler is equally opinionated on the subjects of German Romantics, hard bop, and Liberace. The fact that I knew nothing about any of them did not lessen my enjoyment of Kleinzahler’s prose. When Kleinzahler’s writing, I could happily read an essay about riding the bus in San Diego or seeing a stupid movie on Christmas Eve. (In fact I recommend that book, too.) If you are a midcentury jazz guy, I suggest Geoff Dyer’s But Beautiful, biographical vignettes that manage (at least for this reader) also to be about the music. If you want to read about pop music, check out Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives, with standout essays by Benjamin Kunkel, Sheila Heti, Peter Terzian, and our own John Jeremiah Sullivan. And if you want to read a deceptively deep little treatise on the whole idea of music criticism—at least when it comes to pop—read Carl Wilson’s contribution to the 33 1/3 series: Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste.

True story: I know a guy who wrote to CEOs as a kid, proclaiming how strongly he wanted to be a top business executive when he grew older. Years of persistent snail mail, and finally, in his late teens, he caught the attention of a wealthy business tycoon who offered him an internship at his company. Now, in his mid-twenties, this man is the head of university relations at an educational start-up company, working under the same businessman that hired him as a teenager. And now for my question: what is the likelihood of such dreams coming true in the literary sphere? —Fred

Happens all the time. Just replace CEOs with quarterliesbusiness executive with poetwealthy business tycoon with editorhead of university relations at an educational start-up company with poet, and subtract several hundred thousand dollars a year.

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