Dan Menaker’s Response to Jon Karp’s 12 Steps to Better Book Publishing

By • Apr 22nd, 2009 • Category: 26th Story, Big Ideas

Stunning Flap CopyA recent tweet from Ron Hogan pointed me to Dan Menaker‘s response to Jon Karp‘s PW article “Twelve Steps to Better Book Publishing.” That’s right: Article-> Comment -> Tweet about comment->Blog post. Now I could just say I’m “repurposing” Menaker’s comments on our blog but, in an ideal world, the voice activated fog horn to which he refers in point #5 (below) would also be activated when the following nouns or verbs are uttered in meetings: “Repurpose” “Web 2.0″ “Dynamic” “Scalable” “Content” “Social networking” “SEO” “CMS.”

My favorite suggestion from Menaker’s hilarious list? When asked if you have read a book, never say “No.” Instead, say “Not personally.”

From the Comments Section of PW:

“Full disclosure: Jonathan Karp is my publisher.) Twelve additional suggestions for improving publishing:

1. Prohibit the use of all san-serif typefaces for the body text of all non-hobbycentric books.

2. No more landscape- or seascape-only cover images.

3. Proscribe the use of “stunning” in all flap copy. Also “mythic,” “romp,” “iconic,” “tour de force,” “deeply affecting,” “masterful,” “disturbing.” Maybe all adjectives come to think of it and all adverbs, too. They all need a rest. Also, no more than two noun series/flap copy.

4. Impose a two-year publishing injunction against books about the irrationality of decision-making; books in which any animal comes anywhere near thinking like a human being; books in which any dead family member communes with the living; books in which the beginning of civilization is attributed to the invention of any minor artifact: butter, buttons, banisters, brassieres, ballpoint pens, etc.; books about the Red Sox; books about the Yankees; books about the Brooklyn Dodgers (one more book about the Chicago Cubs allowed); books in which the Freemasons are shown to run anything besides the Freemasons.

5. In all publishing meetings, install a deafening, voice-activated foul horn for repetitions of something someone else even your boss; particularly your boss has already said, no matter how artfully rephrased. Two bleats for the second iteration, etc. Another voice-activated foul horn for cliches such as “to the next level,” “push the envelope,” “because I can,” “from your lips to God’s ear,” etc. Tip: When asked if you have read a book (a rude question to begin with), never say “No.” Instead, say “Not personally.”

6. Be more honest about marketing plans. For instance, don’t list ads in five DelMarVa Pennysavers as “National Print Advertising Campaign.”

7. Eliminate Potemkin co-op arrangements such as a publisher’s using a writer’s book-tour schedule to finagle two-hour prominent placement in airport bookstores during author boarding and deplaning along the Vanity Trail.

8. Quit egregiously rounding up sales figures to authors and agents. If you must say “About fifteen thousand copies,” immediately add, “Fifteen as in ten.”

9. If you must start a new imprint, do not name it after any aspect of the weather.

10. Do not claim credit for successes that are obviously the result of happenstance, as so many are. For example, if you happened to publish a novel about a heroic Portuguese water dog two weeks before Bobama showed up in the White House, enjoy your luck but don’t preen.

11. Remember that publishers and editors are essentially salespeople.

12. Remember that publishers and editors should not be essentially salespeople.”

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  • http://www.thearsonistaffair.com Madison McGraw “Girl Arsonist”

    Dissatisfied with the way Main Street Publishers are treating consumers, I wrote a short story and published it on Amazon for the Kindle.

    “Lark Frumpert – A Tale of Publishing Greed”

    Mr. Frumpert is VP of Lymann and Rooster Publishing and blames his failing profits on Jeff Bezos for creating Amazon and the Kindle.

    You’ll find the video for Lark Frumpert and a link to the story at http://www.girlarsonist.com.

    Though I’d been toying with the idea for a few weeks, it was reading “The Experimenter” in the Fast Company issue last Thursday that sent me to the keyboard.

    I read Karp’s post in PW and thought it couldn’t have been better timing.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • http://corvus-lowe.blogspot.com Lee

    Pity about no. 9, the weather. Try Snowbooks, one of the best indie UK publishers around. They’re run by one smart set of people!

  • Jack

    Bravo, Mr. Menaker — esp. on point # 5 — would save a lot of hot air. Also, I want to personally congratulate Mr. Menaker for his amazing discovery of Elizabeth Strout — and her Pulitizer winning book OLIVE KITTERIDGE.

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    Though I'd been toying with the idea for a few weeks, it was reading “The Experimenter” in the Fast Company issue last Thursday that sent me to the keyboard

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