Why have any editors choosing books at all?

It's a Literary-Reality TV-Internet-Gameshow! Or something.

Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, has joined Gather.com to hold the First Chapters contest for a first novel. The winner, voted on by members of the website, will eventually get published. Typically, the NYTimes article addresses the worries of agents on how this whole process excludes them. Nothing about what S&S's editors feel.

Actually, I wouldn't mind the book industry resorting to such American Idol theatrics. It's a publicity sideshow, trying to treat undiscovered writers like pop stars, and it will remain a sideshow (it's not even on network TV). But like that televised popularity contest, the Quill Awards, the publishing industry is playing catch-up, coming to the game late, long after the gimmick has gone lame. The Quills appeared when the flood of televised awards shows had become dead weights in audience ratings, and now First Chapters arrives, after even Broadway has broadcast its audition-the-nobody-to-play-the-lead-in-Grease folderol.

My new reality TV-book pitch? Hide a literary agent with a lucrative publishing contract on a jungle island. Crash land a group of troubled-but-of-course- Hollywood-attractive, would-be writers there (with a camera crew) and release some unspecified monster that starts killing them gruesomely one by one. Copy editors or book critics might volunteer for this role.

The trick? Each author has been given part of a coded map that can lead them to the agent. And only the agent knows how to kill the monster -- as well as get the author a movie option. All this will require teamwork, obviously, because the longer it takes the writers to find the agent, the more time the agent will have to spend the advance and screw up the movie rights.

But only one writer will get published. So the writers need to work together, and they need to feed each other to the monster. Kind of like literary life in New York.

At any rate, the really important thing, as the Quill Awards like to point out, is that all this idiocy will somehow encourage people to read.

January 11, 2007 8:58 AM |



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Reviewing the state of reviewing


9/11 as a novel: Why?


How can critics say the things they do? And why does anyone pay attention? It's the issue of authority.

The disappearing book pages:  

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Thrillers and Lists:  

Noir favorites, who makes the cut and why



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