Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Purple Day party and more about huge advances

Of course, I forgot a camera.  Of course, my phone photos did not come out, which is really upsetting because I took a photograph of the little girl who started it out, Cassidy Megan, who was in a gorgeous ballerina dress, sitting serenely in a chair eating a purple cupcake.  Purple Day was stared by her because she was tired of being shamed at having epilepsy and wanted to raise public awareness. (The real Purple Day is the 26th--this was a party.) Organized in part by the brilliant writer Jessica Keener, there was media, there was music--and there were other writers!  I got to hug M. J. Rose, Susan Henderson and Jessica, and I met a lot of people.  Held at Dylan's Candy Bar on the Upper East Side (what a place!  Heaven for candy lovers like me), it was just a blast. (And the goody bag was to die for--purple cupcake, chocolate, skin cream, more chocolate, nail polish, cookies, more chocolate, eye shadow in purple tones, and of, course, more chocolate.)

I usually am a shy one at parties, but this was so warm, and so much fun.  And before the party I slipped into Bloomingdale's.  I haven't been there in years because I prefer funky little shops, and the first thing I saw was a woman laying on a table getting what looked like a back massage in the middle of the store!  Then there was an alarming Barbie exhibit, with one whole section devoted to Barbie-like clothing!  Come on, gals!  Do we really want to dress like a plastic doll with hard breasts?

I also want to comment on the 5 million advance paid out to the author of The Time Traveler's Wife for her second book.  She says she would have liked to have stayed with struggling and fabulous publisher MacAdam Cage, but instead took the money. (Yes, I know, that is a hard figure to turn away from!)  In this climate, where houses are failing, bookstores are closing and writers are having tough times, I really think an advance that huge is part of the problem. There have been countless articles already about how huge advances that don't earn back ruin publishers (and make it that much tougher for other authors). Was this really necessary? Yes, I know many people think she is a fine writer (Although I admire her style, I found Time Traveler's Wife book repetitious and unmoving.  I know this is shocking to many, but I did.) Couldn't she have taken a smaller advance and if she is worth 8 million, earned it in royalties?   Believe me, I am not sour grapish--I want all writers to succeed.  I want publishing to thrive and bookstores to flourish and  I am a bit of a Pollyanna who wants everyone to be happy. But hearing that advance figure made me worry for her publisher, and for truly, for all of us.


Clea Simon said...

Oh I was just reading that about the "Time Traveler's Wife" followup! I don't blame her -- we gotta grab it when we can. But Scribner is being silly and short-sighted! I think they're headed for a fall..

Caroline said...

But she already IS a millionaire from sales of her first book--she isn't a struggling writer--and she will easily make a terrific amount from her first book. I just feel this is going to hurt Scribner, and in the end, all publishers, because then, to compete, they all have to offer these huge advances, which they can't support.

Jessica Keener said...

Caroline, thank you for coming to the Purple Day event. It's amazing to me that a little ten-year old girl has inspired so many people to raise awareness about epilepsy. What a funny contrast between her and what you describe happening across the street at bloomies. That's life, right? I was thrilled to finally meet you in person. Thanks so much, again, for coming. Jessica

Leora Skolkin-Smith said...

I found it disturbing, too, Caroline. Not just for the purely economic bruise it will no doubt inflict on the business and others needing some support but for its example of what is really going on.

Gina Sorell said...

I don't blame her either, but of course it will have an effect. As an actor, I see this all the time. Everyone who is "below the line"...gets way less money than everyone else. If a movie star is getting 20 million and or a TV star is getting 1 million an episode, it trickles down to the little guys, who get told that there is no money above scale to pay them. No money, no transportation, no extras for wardrobe...sigh. I have worked on huge features and have brought my own clothes and shoes...because it would be "really helpful, as there was no money left in the budget." And I was happy to, because I love working and knew it to be true.

When one person is getting a gagillion dollars...there actually isn't much left over to divide among everyone else. It makes, making a living a lot harder.

But if someone offered me 5 million. I'd take it. The final decision, or even the burden of the way the business is done, shouldn't have to lie with the artist.

But I do wish that he pie would be divided from the get go...a lot more evenly.

Caroline said...

OK, I don't want to blame another writer, either, but I do think this is not a good situation for all writers and all publishers.

Gina Sorell said...

I agree and I share your frustration. The system needs to change as it is continuing to hurt the very people it is supposed to be championing...the artists.
It's a really scary time to be an artist and I just hope that things get better.

Jeff Lyons said...


I think the publishers are a huge part of the problem. All they have to do is change how they do business with authors and work with agents and writers to come up with a revenue sharing/royalties scheme that is win/win. It can be done, but we writers have to step up and be willing to not buckle to the fear that if we don't take the carrot we get the stick. I don't blame anyone here either, but writer and publisher are accountable for not thinking about the future of the industry and focusing on the fear-factor of the here-now. Let's all try to have some vision and look past the zeros to an industry that can support us all in the long run.

Lecture over.


Caroline said...

I absolutely agree with you, Jeff. The industry is in trouble and advances like that don't help. All of the publishers have to start offering lower advances (and higher royalties to offset them) and writers need to understand that we really are all in this together.

Katharine Weber said...

And now comes the ridiculous Sully 2-deal for 3.2 million. The second book are inspirational poems, clearly a way of working the joint-accounted thing to spread the losses.

Caroline said...

Inspirational poems. Oh sigh...Katharine. I think the industry is in trouble. if all publishers would give more reasonable (not millions) advances and a bigger chunk of the sales (so if writers think they are worth ten million, they can earn it) things would be better all around. The model has to change. People have to earn their greed, so to speak. I see that 5 million figure and I think how many other writers could have benefited from that money for publicity. A deal like that makes me feel that publishing is digging its own grave. And for the record, I still think they all should publish books in a cheaper quality paperback format. if they all did, reviewers would be more likely to review them, and there would be none of this nonsense about which is prestigious and which is not.

Jeff Lyons said...


Just shoot me now.

maybe my book of limericks has a chance? They're very Irish and tasteless. Good for at least 2 mil.



Clea Simon said...

Inspirational poems? Give me a break! Either a way to break up the accounting or to tie him up so nobody else gets a book out of him before he's forgotten. Sheesh.

Gina Sorell said...

Oh, wait..yup, threw up in my mouth a little bit.

As for Paperbacks...I totally agree!!

Caroline said...

It's this way in the film biz, too. Huge star salaries are killing the movie industry, as well. I mean,truly, does Julia Roberts really need or deserve the millions that she gets for every film? (Does Adam Sandler?!!!)

Leora Skolkin-Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caroline said...

Every time a comment is deleted, I get insanely curious.

Leora Skolkin-Smith said...

Oh, dear. I deleted it because I wasn't sure it made any sense and because I'm chicken. Anyway, just so you won't go insane,dearest Caroline, here's what I added. It was about how Roberto Bolano worked as a dishwasher, waiter, etc. and never thought his work would ever get published. It had brought me back to the basic primal love (and despair) of writing I miss so much when I read about writing as "big business advances". I didn't want to be too provocative, I'm always being accused of being some kind of "Elitist" because I really don't see writing in a business model and end up saying: what the fuck is going through the heads of those Scribner, et. al editors to even believe this was about anything other than commerce...ok, so they are going to sell copies. But that's NOT the same as selling literature and the blurring of these boundaries continues to perplex me. They are selling a product, like detergent or soap, that's okay with me,(just don't call soap or detergent a diamond or it's get's aggravating to us lovers of real diamonds and blurs boundaries) but I just wish they would stop claiming that this was about writing, or good writing, or "literature"??? I guess I never expected to get paid, I think, I'm thrilled when anyone actually does put out $$$, really using a business/professional model for art/writing is going to always fail at capturing what art really is about for me anyway--so here is what I wanted to quote, it just gave me some perspective. what's erroneous, for me, is the whole notion of the business model as being apt, appropriate, even useful. And having to always be trampled by business concerns when...what are they? They are about business. That's all. And business is not the only model we have available to evaluate our achievements, and the achievements of others. Especially in the arts.

Readerville days have taught me that I will be skinned alive for being an "Elitist" for saying all that's why I deleted! I learned the hard way, perhaps, to keep my mouth shut! goes (deep breath)

From Maud Newton's wonderful blog:

"Two new novels by the late Roberto Bolano discovered among his papers
Two novels by the late Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, once hailed as "the finest writer of the present century", have reportedly been found among his papers in Spain.

By Fiona Govan in Madrid
Last Updated: 7:08PM GMT 10 Mar 2009
Roberto Bolano: Two new novels by the late Roberto Bolano discovered among his papers
The novels reportedly came to light among piles of documents, notebooks and diaries discovered after Bolano's death in 2003 at the age of 50 Photo: AFP

The previously unseen manuscripts were entitled Diorama and The Troubles of the Real Police Officer, according to a report in La Vanguardia.

The newspaper said the documents also included what is believed to be a sixth section of the epic five part novel 2666, which created a stir when it was published in English last year.

An important and adventurous writer

The novels reportedly came to light among piles of documents, notebooks and diaries discovered after the author's death in 2003 at the age of 50.

Bolano died in Spain after spending the last part of his life in the Costa Brava region, where he worked a series of menial jobs including washing dishes, selling jewellery to tourists and as a night watchman at a campsite in order to support himself, a wife and young family while he pursued his literary ambitions.

"I am sure I will die unpublished," is one quotation attributed to his diaries by La Vanguardia. In fact he published a novel at the age of 43 and shortly before his death of liver failure he was unanimously acclaimed by his peers at a literary conference in Seville as "the greatest Latin American writer of his generation".

Bolano posthumously grew in popularity after 2666 was translated into English and was one of the New York Times's top 10 books of 2008. His novel The Savage Detectives appeared on the same list the previous year.

The recent discovery follows that of a previous work, entitled The Third Reich, which was found after his death and shown to publishers at the Frankfurt book fair in October.

Publication of the books would add to the number of works by Bolano due to appear over the next few years; the English translations of three novels and four collections of stories are already scheduled for the end of 2011. "