I’m very happy to report I’m joining The Penguin Press as Marketing Director on April 23rd.
For anyone who’s had to suffer through happy hour with me the last couple years, you know how much I enjoy working at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. And it’s been great producing Work in Progress and coordinating campaigns with authors like John Jeremiah Sullivan, Amy Waldman, Jonathan Franzen, and Jeffrey Eugenides.
So this news is a bit of “onward and upward.” Penguin Press has a great list of authors (*cough* Zadie Smith Clay Shirky Nate Silver Thomas Pynchon *cough*) and a truly impressive roster of editors and publicists. I’m looking forward to painting with a bigger brush, as it were, and launching some nonfiction-driven pilot projects. If you see me at happy hour in the next few weeks, I apologize in advance for my nerdy enthusiasm. (And be sure to keep an eye out for some big Penguin Press news in the next month or two.)
Finally: next Tuesday’s Nerd Jeopardy will serve as my unofficial FSG goodbye party. Come on down to McNally Jackson, drink some wine, answer some literary trivia, and be sure to follow us to Botanica for the afterparty.
Producing Work in Progress for FSG is one of the best parts of the job, especially since literary fiction is near and dear to my heart. We’re expanding that notion a bit with a nonfiction series: Discourse in Progress.
FSG, in partnership with Newsweek Daily Beast, will produce interactive author discussions centered on the most thought-provoking issues of the day: healthcare, education, the Occupy movement, “Kony 2012″… This will be move beyond the typical author Q&A to directly engage the issues of the moment. Check out the Discourse in Progress Facebook page for more. (Did I mention it’s in partnership with Newsweek Daily Beast? That still blows my mind.)
Dr. Jonathan Gruber, architect of the Affordable Care Act, will discuss health care reform and the Supreme Court debate about the constitutionality of the ACA’s “individual mandate.” If you’ve ever wondered just what the ACA is or how it affects you personally, now you can ask the MIT economist behind it all. (I recommend starting with Gruber’s Daily Beast article “Why The Individual Mandate Is Effective and Efficient.”)
I hope you’ll join me tomorrow. I’ll be asking why the Republicans supported the Individual Mandate in 2010 and now treat it like kryptonite.
There are jobs where it’s easy to be an amateur (graphic designer, DJ, online marketing manager at a trade publisher), and jobs where such status is baldly spurious. Like a statistician. Not much middle ground there. So! Don’t expect much math at my DBW panel “Analytics: You Can’t Grow What You Can’t Measure” on Monday the 23rd.
Instead I’ll discuss which metrics I focus on for FSG‘s various digital projects and which I avoid. I’ve found most of the conventional metrics aren’t terribly useful–perhaps because of the hybrid nature of trade publishing’s D-to-C and B-to-B positioning–and so I’ve assembled my own analytics to suit my needs. (For instance, the goal for Work in Progress is alerting readers to new books; most lit blogs by necessity care more about traffic and ad-impressions.)
Luckily I’m sharing the stage with Kate Travers (F+W), Jeff Yamaguchi (Knopf Doubleday), Shane Norman (HarperCollins), and moderator Kate Rados (F+W) – there will be plenty of insight and perhaps some contentiousness.
Hope to see you there. Oh, and if you do plan on attending, use the code SPWORKSHOP1 to save $50 on the Marketing Summit pass. Tell them Ryan sent you.
We’re bringing our night of wine and literary trivia to McNally Jackson on Wednesday, Jan. 18th. Three teams will compete for glory and modest prizes; everyone will compete for loudest and wittiest heckle.
To whet your appetite for all things bookish and Trebekian, here’s a look at our last Nerd Jeopardy from November:
Galleycatreported that the writer Wells Tower is “no longer doing interviews on the internet.” As a fan of the writer–and as the online marketing manager of his publisher–this is disappointing. Why wouldn’t it be? As Tower’s proven in his short fiction and reportage, he’s in possession of one of the warmest and sharpest wits around.
Disappointing, yes, but also understandable. While he doesn’t go into the reasons behind his position, this will not stop plenty of people from blindly hypothesizing. Might this hypothesizing-in-a-vacuum relates to the cause of Tower’s digital apostasy? I wonder.
I’m reminded of recurring comments by literary novelists in recent years. A core value of the digital revolution is speed, and as our lives become ever more networked, this speed comes to feel like the new normal. We ask, Why can’t they just write a book every two years?
To paraphrase The Incredibles, when everything’s fast, nothing is. Participation does not equal readership, it merely equals participation. And if you’re professionally disposed to measuring your words, writing draft after draft of a short story until it’s as perfect as you and your editor can make it, might it be somewhat disrespectful to the endeavor to blather on in an interview? At the very least it’s risking glibness when you’ve trained yourself out of it. What’s more, no amount of technological innovation will accelerate the pace of crafting literature. How-to manuals, sure. But not literature.
I will say this: Wells Tower’s move, intentional or not, has drummed up more news than any online interview ever could. He turned an interview request into a zine? Pretty great. I ordered mine already.
About a year ago the editor Paul Elie told me Will Hermes and Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York City That Changed Music Forever. Elie pointed out that the last thing the world needed was another hagiography of New York, or the 70s, or the music scene. (Any music scene.) But Hermes had created something new and worthwhile: he didn’t just focus on the rock scene, riffing on Lou Reed and Patti Smith for 300 pages. He didn’t just cover hip hop and the explosion of experimentation in the Bronx.
Instead his book, which just published a few weeks ago, goes for the panoptic view of the concurrent progress in salsa, jazz, rock, hip hop and classical music.
It’s a given that New York has dozens of diverse musical scenes and genres all percolating simultaneously. What’s amazing about these stretches of time in Hermes’ book is that the artists involved were all geniuses. Kool Herc was inventing turntablism the very same month Philip Glass completed Music in Twelve Parts. How nuts is that?
So Will Hermes put together a few playlists, each covering a different four-week period in NYC. I had a ton of fun helping him out:
4 Weeks in New York Music: 1973
4 Weeks in New York Music: 1974
4 Weeks in New York Music: 1975
Oh, and the title for this post came from a tweet by a reader, who said he was having loads of fun YouTubing the book as he read along.