The Art Delivery System

December 30th, 2005 · 1 Comment
by DavidThayer

The Year of Living Dangerously? 2005 can lay no such claim in the halls of the publishing kings. In the book world this was more along the lines of The Year Jose Canseco became Our Greatest Living Writer. Jose, I tip my cap to you and hope that Google engineers will capture your oeuvre now that the steroids have worn off, mine, not yours, for imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I want to be a great writer too.

Juiced was a surprise bestseller. Was it art? It told the truth, a truth that needed telling especially for those pondering careers as major league pitchers, those tortured artistes with mound and resin bag. You don’t have to tell them that the literary headwinds are blowing straight out when a guy steps to the plate bulging in places no bulge had any business bulging, a scrappy little utility man now popping out of his sleeves all muscled up from signing book contracts. Surprise bestseller? Not from sixty feet away; this is the year that book reviewers finally learned how to spit between their teeth.

Sure, this may not be a publishing trend. I can foresee a series here though, Juiced followed by Semi-Juiced, followed by total collapse of the Farm System where young writers have traditionally honed their craft in towns like Visalia, Prince Henry, and Walla-Walla. These aspiring types warm up in the bullpen under the watchful gaze of the Query Letter Coach. She’s all business because she knows that these kids have got one shot at the bigs these days, it’s all or nothing, because the specter of Hollywood’s travails loom large. Wary executives in NYC can only shake their heads at their brethren on the Coast; sure it’s fun to do business from the cockpit of a drophead Lagonda, but films come and go in the blink of an eye, even with Tom Cruise attached, even with trailers running between Metamucil ads stirring the viewers with graphic images of Angelina Jolie eating Visigoths for breakfast. Yet the glimmer of envy stirs wintry hearts; they try putting Patricia Cornwell on TV but she only frightens people, and yet, book people have adopted film speak.

Pitching of course has taken on a whole new meaning; you have the long pitch, the treatment, the synopsis, the marketing summary, and, of course, the elevator pitch. The artist must be prepared at all times, twenty four seven, because the opportunity to deliver art to the masses might arrive at any moment, in a parking lot or a hallway, or God forbid, waiting with a ticket for a complimentary drink. Two feet away from the golden promise of a Bud Lite, some guy wants to know what your book is about. You recognize him…he’s huge, he’s an agent with bicoastal contacts and your mind is blank except for useless fragments of recycled images of Scooter and Judy…pitch to the man!

Steroids…it’s about steroids. Oh yeah, and vampires. And the zeitgeist. Ripped from the headlines…hell, I don’t know, I’m an artist. These drinks are free, aren’t they?

File Under: The Business of Publishing

1 response so far ↓

  • Booksquare // Jan 1, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    I hear the Son of Juiced was just optioned by a major publisher. Bidding war. Things got ugly. There places tobacco juice should not be allowed.

    The drinks weren’t so free after all.