Okay, all short story and indie press fans--some seriously good news: Tod Goldberg's stellar collection SIMPLIFY (which was, of course, the first OV Books title) has just been named a finalist for the Southern California Booksellers Association (SCBA) Award for 2006. Tod is up against several of his local colleagues, including OV Board member Aimee Bender for her also-excellent collection WILLFUL CREATURES. As if this news wouldn't be great enough as is, the awards dinner coincidentally happens to be taking place on October 21, during OV's first-ever Los Angeles "extravaganza" of sorts: we have three readings taking place between the 19-22 October, at Village Books, Dutton's, and Borders Westwood, with amazing line-ups including Tod himself (and me), Holiday Reinhorn, Rob Roberge, Aimee Liu, Kate Milliken, Stacy Bierlein, Leelila Strogov and Cheryl Alu. So, capper of all cappers, I get to attend this swank little dinner with Tod, as the editor of one of the finalist books! With news like this--and a reason to buy a new outfit--even I am at a loss for anything cynical to say about publishing tonight.
This is an important victory for OV Books, as a brand new press, in several ways. Remember, this is a collection Tod's own agent (who happens to be really cool, but thinks like agents think) initially didn't even want him to publish with OV Books because we were "too small." But between a second printing, reviews in places like the LA Times and Washington Post, and now this, I have to admit that I'm feeling like we didn't do too badly, and that if OV Books hadn't stepped up, this would probably still be another short story collection collecting dust on an agent's desk or in a writer's drawer. SIMPLIFY is one of those books helping to prove the success of both short stories AND indie presses, and it does it while being a damn good, page-turning read.
But wait, did I say I couldn't think of anything cynical to say about publishing? Well, I lied. Because now that I think about it, even with great successes like these, OV Books has still lost money on this book, remember? This certainly isn't Tod's fault (I've never met a better self-marketer; we learned scads from him) and I don't think it's ours either--our distributor got more than enough copies of the book into stores for OV Books to have made a profit, and we sent out about 100 review and publicity copies and set up events for Tod all over the country. Despite everyone doing everything right, however, we've still only made about as much money as we spent on the first printing (slightly less, actually), never mind the second printing and the events we threw and plane tickets we bought. This gets me thinking--is this ultimately what separates the independent presses from the corporates: that we are over the moon about great reviews and award nominations, EVEN IF we lose money, whereas for the corporates everything is about a bottom financial line? I suspect this may really hit the nail on the head. OV Books will not only count SIMPLIFY as a great success even if it doesn't make a profit--we will turn around and publish ANOTHER book, marketing it just as vigorously and being thrilled by its every good review and its available bookstore presence, even if it doesn't make money either.
Hmm. Something's wrong with this picture, though, isn't it? Because how many great, award-nominated, well-reviewed, outstanding works of literature can OV Books--or any press--publish and lose money on before we . . . well, go broke? So before I start thinking about how . . . success can lead to failure, or something like that, and get off on a cynical riff again, let me suggest something else: if you haven't yet bought and read SIMPLIFY, now would be a great time to do it. And tell your friends to do it. Tell your mom to do it. The equation is pretty simple--the book deserves to be read, and OV Books needs it to be bought if we're going to survive to keep doing this. I mean, come on, we love Aimee Bender and all, but how much fun is it to have Tod up against books published by the big corporates? How much fun would it be if he WON? And how much better if we can keep thriving years into the future so that other deserving books like Wycoff's O STREET can go on to get rave reviews and award nominations too? (And I can guarantee that she deserves it!)
But my cynicism is fleeting tonight--back to what I should wear to this event. I just have to point out the incredible irony that, after never weighing more than about 110 pounds in my entire adult life, I suddenly have my first novel published and end up being photographed for feature stories, doing scads of book events, and going to fancy award dinners only AFTER being pregnant and blowing up so that most of my previous "dress up" wardrobe no longer fits me, including my shoes. Life just doesn't allow a girl much glamour.
Okay, and now for a P.S. that doesn't relate to Tod, or my shoes, at all. For those who follow this blog, you know that I write on it so sporadically that I rarely give much follow-up information on previous entries. However, I have two tack-on pieces of information here that I want to pass along. They are as follows:
1) My mother is doing fine, after her heart attack and stroke in June. It was all an insane ordeal and we're still pretty convinced that it was medical malpractice, but as my friend Dave Greenberg, who is an attorney, says: You only have a medical malpractice case if you can prove some kind of devastating and lasting damage. So while we are rejoicing that my mother is not a vegetable, or worse, this effectively means that we don't have a case. Which is probably a good thing anyway, since if there's one thing that a near-death in the family reminds you of, it's that life is way too short to spend on petty, meaningless shit like taking people to court and trying to get money out of them, and is much better spent on things like taking your mother to get a pedicure or bringing her with you to push your baby in his first ride on a baby swing.
2) I am going to revise my new novel for my agent. As some of you know, I was very resistant to doing this because the reason my agent asked for said revisions was that 4 (corporate) editors all told her my novel was "too episodic" for the market, and I therefore assumed that this suggestion was strictly market-driven, not based on any actual legitimate aesthetic or creative reasons, and that pissed me off, especially after having a conversation while a bit drunk on Jameson's with some like-minded writers in a bar. However, after taking my novel to Beaver Island, Michigan and spending 10 days with it, I have come to the (somewhat embarrassing) conclusion that . . . well, my novel needs some serious work. A bit of this (especially at the beginning) has to do with it being too episodic, as the editors said, but more of it has to do with the fact that the novel has an ending that was both too "busy" and too long, and so I'm pretty much drastically redoing the ending. I recently had a flurry of intense emails with my friend Cris Mazza about this whole issue of what it means to pursue a corporate publishing deal while simultaneously being a champion of the indie presses as an editor, and having published my first novel through an indie press, and the dialogue has given me a great deal to think about. That said, I now realize I should revise this novel before showing it to any editor, at any press. So I've had a rather humbling personal illustration in the lesson: Just Because Corporate Publishing Is Market-Driven (And Possibly Evil) Doesn't Mean Your Book Doesn't Need Work. But thanks to all for your feedback, and let the debate rage on, even if it is no longer exactly applicable to my particular novel . . . at least until the revision is done.