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June 11, 2005

MJ Rose in the Hot Spot, Part Deux

PengirlThe Book Tarts' conversation with author and buzz guru MJ Rose about the state of the publishing biz today continues....

The Lipstick Chronicles:  How can we change the publishing community's sexist view that issues of love, marriage, dealing with bosses, raising children, etc., deserve less respect than, say, an author's account of being a raging alcoholic for 20 years?

MJ Rose:  We don't have to change their sexist view--we just have to change our names to men's names; because, when a man writes about love, marriage, dealing with bosses, raising children, he not only gets respect, he gets reviewed and gets to go on The Jon Stewart Show.  Let's all become Toms, Dicks and Harrys and see how much easier it gets.

Nancy:  Just don't call me Dick.  I refuse to be a Dick.

Susan:  Don't call her Hairy either.  I did once, and I got an Epilady in the noggin.

Sarah:  Wasn't there a phrase that PW tried out last year--chickdicks?  For chicks who are private detectives.  In Vermont, chickdicks means something else entirely.  They're at my church in high heels, sweater sets, and pearls...and a faint five o'clock shadow.  Eerily reminiscent of my Lithuanian grandmother.

TLC:  Is a person who wants to open an independent bookstore today certifiably insane?

MJ:  Not in my book.  Jenny Lawton opened a great indie in Greenwich, CT, four years ago.  Three years ago, she opened a sister store in the next town over.  She is anything but crazy.  We need more lunatics like her.

TLC:  Is the era of the book tour coming to a close for everyone but the Big Name/Celebrity Author?  Do publishers consider the marketing and selling of new authors such an impossible task or so prohibitively expensive that it's not worth it anymore?

MJ:  Actually, no, they don't think it's impossible.  They do know how expensive it is though.  So they reserve it for books they are more sure of.  This season TimeWarner went nuts with Josilyn Jackson's GODS IN ALABAMA.  Looked to me like at least a $250,000 marketing budget.  Same thing for this month's BITCH POSSE by Martha O'Conner.  Two debut authors who were not big name/celebs at all.

I'd venture a guess the same number of authors are being toured every year as each of the last ten years.  The only difference is that there are quadruple the number of novels being published each year now as there were ten years ago, so it seems less tours are happening.

Even taking self-published books out of the equation, more than 400 novels are released every single week.  It more authors went on tours, the readers in the stores would be the celebrities and the authors would be in the audiences.

The other problem is that the media in the tour cities doesn't get all hot and bothered over most authors.  By and large, we're just not the celebrities that music and movie stars are.  We don't get the headlines.  We don't get the gossip.  We don't look like they do.  At least most of us don't.

So even when we tour, we're not getting the kind of press we need to make the tour worthwhile.  It's not the publisher's fault (this time).  We're just not those kind of stars.

Nancy:  Do we enjoy staying at the Hampton Inn, anyway?  Not really. My tour low point was a Ramada Inn in West Virginia.

Susan:  You know, I'll sleep on a sofa if someone offers, but it'd be nice to do a Hilton every once in awhile (and I'm not talking Paris or Nikki...see Nancy's column on "sluts" from June 8).

Sarah:  My glamorous tour included an Aerosmith Review held by a couple of drunken Pennsylvania fat guys until 1 a.m. at the Sharon Radisson.  Such a treat after driving back and forth down I-80 for twelve hours.  Dude didn't look like a lady, unless you're talking about the Vermont Chickdicks (see above).

Harley:  And I'm still recovering from the long black hair in my room service fruit plate at the--well, I think it was a Budget Inn in Omaha, but it's one of those unrecovered memories.  Something near the airport.  My publisher had forgotten to book me a hotel, a fact overlooked by us all until 4 p.m. that day as I was madly driving from a library signing in Seward, Nebraska, trying to make a radio show in Omaha.  I was, naturally, willing to sleep in my rental car (how bad could it be?  I was a Girl Scout), but my publisher wouldn't hear of it.  Ah, we coddled authors....

TLC:  Finally, we love your idea of having a Readers Expo and would be honored to lend our support to the movement!  How about Book Tarts for the Ethical Treatment of Readers?  Seriously, how can readers with money in their pockets discover new authors and good books to read?

MJ:  I love it.  Let's do it.  Seriously.  In the meantime, the best way for readers to discover new authors these days is most probably online, by reading a smattering of dozens and dozens of sites, blogs and newsletters.  Readerville.com, Bookreporter.com, DearReader.com, Beatrice.com, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, BookBitch.com, Vidlit.com, and on and on and on.  The only problem is, if you spend too much time reading about reading, you just might not have enough time left to read a book.

TLC:  Thanks, MJ, for becoming an honorary Book Tart.  Your certificate is in the mail.  Nancy did the calligraphy herself.

Nancy:  I hope it's legible.


Thanks again--this was great! I even bought one of MJ's books yesterday to show my support! If you're planning a Readers Expo, I'm there!

Thanks again--this was great! I even bought one of MJ's books yesterday to show my support! If you're planning a Readers Expo, I'm there!

Great column, both today and yesterday. MJ as usual has a wealth of information and experience and ideas she has selflessly shared with fellow authors. In addition, she writes incredible books.

Oh and I love the blog, ladies!

First off, LMAO!!! Chickdicks? Muahahahahahaha. Too freakin' funny. You ladies are hilarious. I can just picture some of these 'hotels' as I travel for my kids' baseball. There's a reason it says budget in Budget Inn's name!!!! Thanks for all the suffering on the road! Your fans do appreciate it, more than you know.

Aeorsmith review by 2 fat, drunken guys....bahahahahahahahaha. Reminds me of college.

Great conversation, and like chicklit itself, lots of serious issues here amidst the fun.

I guess you can tell we have a lot of fun together, huh? We do like to mix it up! Thanks for the great comments. We're just getting our feet wet, so look out!

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