“In re-organizing the priorities of book publishing—by inventing new models rather than trying to repeat past success, by valuing ingenuity over magnitude, by thinking of sales as a way to make great books possible rather than the point—indie presses aren’t just becoming the places where the best books are published; they’re already there.” Over at The Atlantic, Nathan Scott McNamara writes on why American publishing needs indie presses. For more of his writing, check out his essay on Denis Johnson for The Millions.
Jason writes in with this question:Is there a single site just listing new releases from a wide range of publishers?Oh, how I wish there were. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why no one seems to keep lists like this. There are scads of places you can find new music releases, but websites that do this for books are basically non-existent. After I started working at the book store I realized why, 99.9 percent of new books do not have a "hard" release date. That is, publishers do not tell everyone in advance that a book will be out on a certain date. Instead, they just ship them out when they're ready. Usually the best information you can get is that a book will be out some time during a certain month. Sometimes you can go to Amazon and see this in action. They might list a release date a couple of weeks from now, but you will see that the book is already in stock. This is because Amazon.com sets the release date towards the end of the expected release window so that customers will not be disappointed by a book that is past its release date and still unavailable. At the brick and mortar stores, you will sometimes find that one store has gotten a given book in before another store because the publisher takes its time getting the shipments out. There are, of course, exceptions to all of this. Any major book, say something by a bestselling author or an ex-President or maybe the next Oprah book, will have a "street date" dictated by the publisher. Bookstores often receive the books prior to the street date, but they can get in trouble for selling them too early. The big books are released on a specific day so that publishers can get the most out of the highly concentrated media blitz that they orchestrate for them. Because of these irregularities it's impossible to put together a weekly list and very difficult to put together a monthly list. When you consider that 175,000 books were released in 2003 (according to Bowker), the possibility of any sort of comprehensive list is daunting. Having said all that, there is one website that manages to produce a decent list, which I use from time to time. You'll find that it only lists the most prominent couple of hundred fiction books in a given year. But it gives you a good idea of what's on tap. It's called Overbooked.org. If anyone has come across a better site please enlighten us. Thanks for the question, Jason!
"Is starting a literary magazine a gamble?" editor Sean Finney asked a crowd of inebriated sophisticates and sophisticated inebriates at the NYC launch party for Canteen. The answer was lost in a wash of drink orders. Even if it turns out to be "yes," though, Canteen seems well positioned to walk away with a few chips. I'm not just saying that because publisher Stephen Pierson is funding this operation with his winnings as a poker pro, or because I contributed a story to the debut issue. Or okay, probably I am, at least partly. Still, Canteen offers readers an unusual mix of personal essays, fiction, poetry, and contemporary art.Andrew Sean Greer's remembrance of failed novels past and chef Dennis Leary's truly weird manifesto about the Restaurant of the Future are both funny and original. But careful attention to the visual is what strikes me as most promising about Canteen. Few literary magazines lavish such attention on full-color photography, painting, and illustration. Often, this is because editors want to focus attention on the text... and more power to them. But visual art and literature should have as much to say to one another today as they did in the heyday of Gertrude Stein. Finlay Printing, which used to print the late, lamented Grand Street, has produced a handsome successor. For more information, check out www.canteenmag.com.
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Over at Electric Literature, John Freeman profiles Year in Reading alumnus Ben Lerner, newly minted MacArthur genius and author of two novels in which “the political opens a path for the personal, just as the personal urges him to engage the political.” Freeman writes, “This blending—of perception and politics—comes right out of how Lerner sees the world in real life.” Pair with Christopher Wood’s Millions review of Lerner’s 10:04.