Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Two for the Money

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 24 Jul 2005

Jim Doherty wrote:

> Brian,

> I think you're overeacting a bit here.

You're entitled to your opinion, Jim, and I'm not saying that I'm right and you're wrong, but I've gotten literally dozens of emails from people saying they agree with me, and I almost never get those otherwise.

Charles was
> doing nothing more than defending his editorial and
> business choice in reprinting Collins's early work
> while allowing that everyone is entitled to his or her
> opinion.

I'm not questioning his right to do that, or his obligation to do so, or his right to make a buck doing something he clearly loves. I've had a couple of private email exchanges with Charles over the years and found him to be a fine fellow, doing a great job. After all, I consider Al Guthrie a good friend, and am thrilled that someone here in the States saw fit to publish his work.

This has nothing to do with my comments previously in this thread.

Why defend your business model/publication choices on a literary discussion list? Your thoughts below...

> And yes, hard as it is to swallow, in the publishing
> BUSINESS, "popular" and "good" are synonomous terms.

Great, so over the EMWA list, where they discuss stuff like that, it would be more appropriate, no?

After all, we don't usually mention what gets published and why it gets published here, and when we talk about Pelecanos' work, we don't preface our comments by saying, "The million-selling DC area author George P...." We talk about what we liked, and what we didn't, and what worked for us, and what didn't. And NO ONE here is going to take seriously a response to someone's criticism of an author's work that says something along the lines of: "Well, he's sold a LOT more books than you have, so shut your cake-hole."

Again, I am not accusing Charles of that sort of thing, but you opened this particular door. I don't come to RARA AVIS to read people being apologists for what they do/don't publish, etc. I come here to discuss (mostly to lurk) hb/noir writing. I enjoy that. I am not comfortable watching a back-and-forth on why something was/wasn't published that contains unjustifiable claims of overwhelming popularity in it. If I'm offline here, well and good, but I don't think that's the intent of RA.

Al Guthrie is a great example of someone who is now published who resists the opportunity to shill for his own work on every single list to which he is subscribed (see "Konrah, Joe"). I'm not accusing Charles of shilling, I'm saying that in my opinion a discussion of why we still ought to buy a book he carries, rather than leaving it to a discussion of the literary aspects of the book itself and leaving it up to individuals is inappropriate.

> That which is popular sells, that which sells
> generates profit, and, in business, profit is what
> distinguishes good from bad. That's the reality
> Charles, and every other publisher and editor in the
> book industry, has to deal with.

I am intimately involved with the economics of the publishing world
(frequently moreso than I would like), particularly with regard to the vicissitudes of what makes a small press run. In fact, I'm writing something for a medium-sized non-fiction press right now that deals with teaching materials, rather than working on anything resembling a mystery. Why? Because writing is a business, they'll pay me, and I'm a writer.

My first book (which I never tout here, and have mentioned once or twice in context on other lists) was on Abraham Lincoln. The teaching book contract got me almost twice as much as the Lincoln book. So yes, I understand the publishing business' connection of "quality" with "sellability," thanks.

And by the way, I'm NOT shilling for my book, and that has *nothing* to do with this conversation. I only mention it to trump your assertion that these sorts of publishing world details are germaine to an email list such as this one. In my opinion, they're not.

> Charles is to be credited with trying to establish a
> business model in which "good" doesn't just refer to
> popularity, but to quality, and with defending his
> choices is a classy way that allows for the validity
> of opinions that disagree with his.

Of course he is, but in this case, "popularity" is precisely what he referred to, and it's why I said something. This is the Rara Avis list, not the Editor and Publisher list.

All the Best-

Brian Thornton

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 24 Jul 2005 EDT