Friday, September 28, 2012

Be Your Own Publisher

Are you looking for a business that will lose money but win acclaim?

Do you want to be invited to trendy cocktail parties in New York City? Gain access to the homes of the publishing elites in the Hamptons?

And here's the key question---do you want to be in a position to publish your oft-rejected manuscript under an imprint that was once the standard-bearer of the small, independent press?

MacAdam/Cage is for sale.

Founder David Poindexter has found himself in a precarious position, in which his business has lost so much money that it is no longer tenable. There have been rumblings for some time, with rumours of financial difficulties and assurances that the debts were settled, but a new lawsuit is apparently the straw that broke the publisher's back.

Penguin (they've been quite lawsuit-happy these days, haven't they?) filed suit against MacAdam/Cage for absconding with the e-book rights to Girl In Hyacinth Blue. It's not that Penguin is seeking all that much money, but when you're skint, you're skint.

Mr. Poindexter hopes that an interested party will come forward, someone like him only fifteen years younger. And fifteen years less jaded by the harsh reality of the publishing world.

A small press has a small reach, and it takes financial backing to support a staff that can get a publisher's catalog into the brick and mortar stores. Then there's the brave new world of digital publishing, which falls outside of the old-time business model that has held publishing in its grasp since the 1930's.

All you need is money, and you can pick up MacAdam/Cage for yourself. You can take on the task of acquisition editor, selecting what sort of book you'd like to become known for.

Maybe you'd decide that your own manuscript wasn't good enough. Maybe you'd expand into more romance and mystery, two genres that sell well but aren't exactly the sort of literary fiction that MacAdam/Cage has been known as. As for erotica, well, the company's logo could be viewed in a different light if necessary.

With enough money, you could do what you wanted.

Except earn a good return on your investment.

You'd make more by tucking your cash into a savings account at the local bank.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Gathering Vs. The Emigration

Ireland is calling on its sons and daughters to come for a visit.

You can almost hear your mammy piling on the guilt, can't you. Would you be coming home, so? That McGuire boy, he's coming home. If it's not too much trouble.

The Gathering has its own website, without an Irish mammy doing a voice-over, which would be more effective than any graphics or slide show could ever be.

For all of 2013, the island nation will host a variety of events that are intended to separate the tourist from his money, whether those dollars are U.S. or Australian. Tourism has fallen off of late, and the country is highly dependent on tourism as an industry.

Everything has fallen off, all over the world, but the fall was particularly hard for the Irish who didn't know what prosperity felt like until the Celtic Tiger changed the country. Losing it has proved to be a difficult time, and you've only to read some current Irish fiction to get a sense of how painful a lesson it's been.

Unemployment is up, reminiscent of the bad old days, and it seems that emigration is going up as well. More people are leaving, just like so many of us did back in the 1980's. And every decade preceding that one, going all the way back to the Famine years and before.

So to the 46,500 Irish men and women who left their homeland in search of work, come home for a visit. Join the descendants of the other millions who did the same.

Leo Varadkar admits that the Irish grew arrogant as they grew rich, thinking that they didn't need the tourists any longer. They didn't need to emigrate, either, but that's also a relic of the recent past. The tourism minister assures you diaspora members that those days are over. Everyone knows they're underwater financially, and you'll be welcomed back with open arms, some cead mile failte, and gratitude that you've shown up at all.

You'd make your mother very happy, you know. It's the least you could do. After all she's done for you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I'll Gladly Write Tomorrow For A Sweet Advance Today

Sure I'll write you a book, Penguin.

A book to help teenagers cope with depression? I can do what Elizabeth Wurtzel couldn't seem to accomplish, and my advance wouldn't have to be $33,000. I'd settle for a third of that, and spare everyone the whinging.

I blog, Penguin. You want a blogger to write a humorous book, now that you've given up on Ana Marie Cox? She accepted your advance, but didn't deliver. I'm reliable. That's the sort of thing the old Ursulines drilled into my skull and the Jesuits reinforced. You won't be suing me for breaching a contract.

Penguin has gone to court, to force a few of their would-be authors to return advances that were paid out for books that were never written.

Non-fiction is sold to publishers based on a sales pitch and the author's platform. If you're famous enough, you can get a literary agent to represent you, come up with a contract, and then you're handed a check that is supposed to help you financially while you write your book.

The problem is the publisher's when the author doesn't deliver, and so, Penguin is forced to sue a few prodigal writers who took the money and never delivered a marketable product.

Given that these contracts were signed several years ago, how likely is it that the authors still have the money stored away in some bank account, and can return it upon a court's decree?

They're likely to argue that they tried to deliver the goods, but for some reason Penguin didn't accept the work. After all, these contracts were based entirely on speculation. No one guaranteed a great book would arise from a logline.

But as long as publishers are willing to take a chance, why not take a chance on me?

I could write a memoir of my hip-hop ministry and my falling out with Louis Farrakhan, and it would be a book as honest as Herman Rosenblat's telling of his Holocaust survival.

Right, Penguin is suing Mr. Rosenblat as well, for delivering a novel and claiming it was non-fiction. And Conrad Tiller's been served with a lawsuit as well, for failing to pen his promised opus of hip-hop and the Nation of Islam.

It's all for show, these lawsuits. Penguin will go right on signing non-fiction authors and giving them money based on a sales pitch and a platform. The business model won't change. As long as other authors have financial success to bring in profits, Penguin won't need to.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Porcine Apocalypse Is Upon Us

I have lost my reason for living.

The worst possible news has come from the National Pig Association, and I see myself starving to death by this time next year.

There will not be enough pigs to go around. Shortages of pork products! No rashers! No streaky bacon!

It's death we're staring in the face.

Because of drought conditions, the price of grain to feed those plump hogs has driven countless farmers to cull their herds. After all, it makes no sense to feed a pig that won't bring in enough cash to pay for its upkeep.

All those potential hams have already hit the market, and there won't be many coming up the ranks to take their place.

Just try to find yourself a lovely Limerick ham for Easter dinner next spring. You won't be able to afford it, if the butcher is even carrying such an expensive product. He'd have to hire in added security to prevent thefts.

The black market will thrive, and who knows what some clever food chemist will concoct to trick our palates? Tofu-ham? Soy rashers? I'd rather starve.

Take action. Be proactive.

Buy all the pork products you can, right now.

Enjoy, because tomorrow we may die....without the main ingredient in a good fry. What's left, so? Spuds and buttermilk?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Banks Don't Have Money These Days

There was a time when a robber would hold up a bank because that's where the money was.

Not any more.

The banks are failing. They loaned all their assets to property developers and those developers went bust, so there's the money all gone and not coming back. Unless the European Union makes another donation to that most worthy cause, the bailout fund.

Where's a robber to go, so?

A pair of clever criminals figured out that as long as those with a few euro are still eating in style, the money is to be found in a restaurant.

They hit the Rustic Stone on Saturday night, the busiest and most lucrative night for a restaurant.

And lucrative it is. The fine dining establishment in Dublin is owned and operated by star chef Dylan McGrath. He's been on television, so he's famous in Ireland. Not too hard for a computer-savvy criminal to put two and two together and come up with a plan.

The two men, faces covered by balaclavas, entered the premises at the end of the night, when the only people around would be a few staff members cleaning up.

Then they cleaned up, taking in up to 10,000 euro after relieving the staff of their cell phones. No YouTube video of this robbery getting posted online, thank you very much.

Gardai have no leads. Without a description of the perpetrators, it's difficult to pin down any particular criminal element. Chances are good that they'll start by asking about recently sacked staff who would know that the restaurant would present a tasty target worth the effort of buying a new balaclava and obtaining a gun.

So if your significant other has a lot of cash to throw around suddenly, An Garda Siochana would like to hear from you.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Write What You Know: Erotica

Admit it.

You got your first look at E.L. James and thought, She's writing erotic fiction? This housewife-y creature? What does she know about pornography?

Good fiction is all about writing what you know, and sure Ms. James could have done hours of research, but for really good porn, wouldn't you trust an author who knows a thing or two about the subject?

Little wonder that Beth de Guzman at Grand Central Publishing snagged a novel in a pre-empt. For those left hungry for more after consuming the complete "Fifty Shades" trilogy, they'll be ready for a pornographic feast and that means big sales...and big profits.

Porn star Sasha Grey will soon shine as a literary light.

The star of Butt Sex Bonanza and I Wanna Bang Your Sister has penned a novel that she says will bring the erotic novel back to its origins. It's to be all about female sexuality as a mysterious force, all sensuality.

The Juliette Society is sure to be highly anticipated by those who question the bondage themes that were made popular by E. L. James, in which the female is weak but willing.

Ms. Grey's protagonist will be a strong woman. So are we to expect more of a dominatrix type? Whips and chains, but the male half of the relationship getting tied up? We'll just have to wait for the first excerpts to be leaked to find out.

With her many experiences in porn to draw from, Ms. Grey had plenty of varied material (to say nothing of varied sexual positions) to flesh out her imaginary characters. As an actress, she's used to the world of pretend, which is not to say that her female characters are going to fake anything. Her flights of literary fancy will be influenced by her experiences as an actress on a stage set, in which reality is what lighting and stage sets make it to be.

And the best part of all?

E-books are discrete, no covers to tip off your seatmate on the train that you're delving into pornography rather than Saul Bellow. While the hard copy (no pun intended, no Viagra jokes please) might not be a runaway best seller, the digital version could outstrip Ms. James' sales figures.

For now, sex is selling as a mainstream commodity. Whether the book-buying public will still be interested, or will have grown jaded, is a gamble that the publisher is making. They might want to push publication forward, to catch the wave before it breaks up on the shore.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Not Sized For Airbus Landings

Smartphones have replaced the old-fashioned map with satellite images and GPS and that voice that tells you to bear left or continue.

You don't actually know where you're going, do you? You just listen to the machine tell you which way to turn and then you're there.


If you happen to be flying across Ireland and ask Siri to find you the nearest airport, she'll steer you wrong. You'd realize that as your undercarriage clipped the trees and mowed down the flock of sheep.

There is a slight error in Apple's new map feature which shows the limits of translating English into computer-speak.

Airfield in County Dublin is not, as it turns out, a place to land airplanes. Even though it shows up on Apple's map as such. There's an airplane icon and everything.

If you did happen to put down at Airfield, you'd find yourself wandering a working farm that is quite close to Dublin City. Bring the kiddies, by all means. They'd enjoy discovering where their food comes from or where the wool for their jumper originated.

But it honestly is not a branch of Dublin Airport, nor has Shannon Airport migrated to be closer to the shops in Dundrum. 

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, who's generally busy dragging his feet when it comes to investigating the Magdalene laundries, notified Apple of the error with all due haste. He should know if there's an airport there or not. Airfield is in his constituency, after all.

It's all well and good to make use of electronic mapping. Unfortunately, we're losing the ability to read a proper map, and our helpful gadgets don't always perform as expected.

And airports get placed where they do not exist.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mommy Porn Is Selling

If you're not finding much luck in landing that big publishing contract, maybe you need more bondage in your manuscript.

Over at Penguin, in their Berkley Books Division, they've just signed Maya Banks to a contract so fat it's obese. Seven figures, a deal whipped into shape by Trident Media's Kimberly Whalen, and all the author must do is deliver three books of mommy porn.

It's fifty shades of bondage these days as publishers seek the blockbuster novel that will prove profitable.

Following the success of E.L. James, Penguin thinks they can ride the wave, but their author is an established writer with a following, although there's no telling how many of Ms. Banks' readers are into that sort of thing.

If you write romance, it's time to rethink your male character, and as for that whole notion of a strong female protagonist? Forget it. That's old school.

Women want to be dominated. They want to be tied up, they want pain. Well, not real pain. In mommy porn, no one gets hurt and has to go to the hospital.

Which is a good thing, because when someone shows up at the ER with a vibrator stuck in their sigmoid colon, that radiation technologist who seems all concerned is laughing at the patient, and will then share the story with people like me over drinks on a Friday night.

Then there was the guy with the vacuum cleaner hose....I should collect all those stories and put together a series of mommy porn! But under a pseudonym. You wouldn't want your mother to know you'd written something so dirty.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Free Speech, Free Market

If a product is not available in one market, but can be found in another nearby, you can bet that the merchant in question will make that product available.

And so, the Irish Daily Star published photos of England's future queen en deshabille. Very much deshabille-ed, in that the Duchess of Cambridge was sunbathing without her bikini top.

Pictures that the British press refused to publish, after a French gossip rag had already done so, made the photos that much more valuable. Plenty of prurient interest exists in England, and not being able to see something scandalous made some people want to see the snapshots all the more.

A decision made at the lower levels of Irish Daily Star authority was based on financial considerations. Hey look we've got those photos! Buy our paper! It's not far from your British eyes, just across the Irish Sea!

The British owners of the Dundrum-based sheet were never consulted as to whether the pictures should have been run. Neither was Denis O'Brien of INM, which jointly owns the Irish version of the Daily Star with Northern & Shell.

Michael O'Kane, editor of the Irish Daily Star, (the website is dark and cold these days) could have been stopped, but none of his superiors was listening to RTE news on Friday afternoon when he announced his intention to publish the pictures. He didn't see any reason not to. The Irish aren't part of the United Kingdom, now, are they? Kate isn't in line to be the Queen of the Irish any time soon, right?

Northern & Shell has threatened to close the Irish Daily Star, while INM insists such a reaction is excessive.

But can the tabloid survive an avalanche of official inquiries?

It's a fare bet that Mr. O'Kane will be looking for employment elsewhere in the near future. His decision to publish the pictures relies on a loophole in the code of conduct for Irish journalists, but who would agree that reproducing half-naked pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge on holiday is in the public interest?

Friday, September 14, 2012

THE O'Brien Wants The Pictures Back

It takes some doing for an Irishman to maintain his family's title and lands for centuries.

Despite all the wars and troubles and Cromwell's best-laid plans, Conor O'Brien is a baron yet, the eighteenth Baron Inchiquin to be exact.

And he'd like his family's portraits back, if it's not too much trouble.

THE O'Brien, head of the clan, no longer presides over his holdings from Dromoland Castle. That was sold to an American billionaire back in the 1960's. It's a hotel these days, and a very popular venue for weddings. If you want to experience the accommodations of Irish peerage, you have only to make a reservation.

To better dress up the hallways of the castle, Mr. O'Brien (or His Lordship, if he prefers) donated several family portraits that depict his notable ancestors.

The portraits are valued upwards of a couple of million euro, and what you see on the walls of Dromoland Castle are all originals.

Those who operate the place haven't been maintaining those valuable paintings, in Mr. O'Brien's opinion, and he went about taking them back.

He says he arrived with a specialty removal firm in the middle of the night to limit disruption to the guests. Mark Nolan, the hotel's general manager, feels that the baron arrived like a thief in the night to abscond with his own property that he shouldn't have been taking.

The matter is in the hands of the High Court, which will have to determine if His Lordship had the right to remove the paintings without providing the hotel with copies to replace the gaps in the gallery.

Baron Inchiquin, THE O'Brien, not just any old O'Brien, claims that he terminated the loan. He has a family member interested in purchasing them, to bring him some cash but keep the heirlooms in the family.

The hotel wants and needs copies because they're selling Inchiquin-ness at their five-star lodging, and without all those images of former barons staring down at the guests, it isn't the same.

Hard to argue with THE O'Brien, especially if the judge hearing the case is a member of the clan. He'd have to defer to the clan's king, you see, which would not make Mr. Nolan particularly pleased.

You'd have to imagine that the hotel is going to lose this round. The O'Briens didn't hang on to their title and land for centuries by backing down, and they've faced worse than a lawsuit over the years.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stepping Out Of The Time Machine

In publishing, it often comes down to timing.

You might have a brilliant manuscript, but if the publisher just bought something similar, you're too late. And unpublished.

There is an entire industry within publishing that exists to crank out books in response to current events. When news happens, the market for books related to that news are hot sellers. After the fact, you're too late.

That woman who President Bill Clinton did not have sexual relations with, Ms. Lewinsky, is said to be making the rounds of the major publishers. She has a book to sell, or so goes the rumour.

To date, and it's been a lot of dates fallen behind us since the blue dress scandal, she hasn't spoken about her affair with then President Clinton.

Was it more than an encounter or two in the Oval Office?

People wanted to know back in 1998, but does anyone much care in 2012?

That's what will determine whether or not a publisher makes an offer or politely shows her the door.

Will the public buy the book in numbers sufficient to meet the advance, and what might be the size of an advance that could be covered by predicted sales? If the manuscript were on offer in 1999, it would have been an astronomical figure. Over a decade later, with Mr. Clinton's good works in Haiti now part of current events, the story is worth less.

Even tales of Washington-behind-the-scenes would be dated. A few years after the impeachment proceedings that brought us the stained dress saga, Ms. Lewinsky went off to London to study economics, and her knowledge of capital city politics is stale.

What would drive readers to hop into the time machine and turn back the clock to the Clinton administration? If there is something in Ms. Lewinsky's manuscript that would be compelling today, she can make a sale.

Otherwise, a minor player in publishing will offer her a small advance and throw the book out there, hoping for the best.

And it won't have anything to do with the quality of the writing. It will be all about the subject matter, and whether or not a publisher finds it relevant to today's book buyer.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Embracing Religious Liberty In A Uniform Manner

There was the case of the South African oranges, back in the time of apartheid. The checkers at Dunnes Stores in Ireland wouldn't check them out, and discouraged the customers from buying. A boycott was on, to urge South Africa to recognize the rights of the black population.

One thing led to another, the checkers went on strike, and eventually Dunnes Stores stopped carrying South African oranges.

Now the iconic Irish shop has a new problem, but religious freedom is a far more sensitive issue than buying fruit.

The average Dunnes Stores employee is accustomed to wearing a uniform. It's required of schoolchildren, and when you've spent your formative years in the same outfit, day in and day out, wearing a uniform at work isn't much different.

Loreta Tavoraite didn't grow up in Ireland, but in Lithuania, so the whole uniform business is probably new to her.

She didn't grow up as a Muslim, either, so wearing a hijab is also a novelty.

Here's where the cultures clash. Ms. Tavoraite insists that she must wear the hijab because now she's embraced Islam, but there's no hijab in the Dunnes Stores uniform. Dunnes Stores told her she had to stick with the required apparel, she didn't go along with the program, and was not allowed on the shop floor.

Out of uniform, you see. Everyone working at Dunnes Stores must look alike. How else will the customers know who to approach if they need assistance?

Well, there she was, unable to work because she wasn't in uniform. So by not working, she lost her job.

What else does anyone do, with the entire world influenced by American culture and their Bill of Rights?

Ms. Tavoraite has sued for unlawful termination. It isn't her fault that she switched religions in mid-stream. It's the fault of Dunnes Stores for not recognizing her religious dictates.

That's the problem with this global economy we live in. Everyone seems to think that they have rights in Europe that are in reality an American invention.

Dunnes Stores is against introducing changes to their clothing code because it will open the door to apparel chaos. The next thing you know, the Wiccans will be making their demands, and who knows what the Santerians will be asking for. It simply won't do.

In all likelihood, someone will come up with a hijab that will be added to the acceptable uniform, perhaps a headscarf that is color coordinated to the already regulated blouse.

Then someone else will show up with a Bible and commence to proselytize. It's a requirement of the Catholic faith, isn't it? To go forth and spread the word?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Down With This Sort Of Thing

It's safe to assume that author E.L. James is rolling in money. Her bondage-themed novels, in all those shades of grey, has been a best-seller.

Not up for the Man Booker prize, oddly enough, but she gave the public what it wanted.

Some of the public, however, doesn't want what she's written.

Wearside Women In Need does not find the novel erotic. The women's abuse shelter sees domestic violence within the pages, and they plan to bring attention to their assertion that Fifty Shades of Grey is less of a novel and more of a how-to book from the crimes of serial killer Fred West.

Plans are in the works to build a bonfire of Ms. James' books (we're assuming that doesn't include the digital version) in a display that has already started people talking.

So is the trilogy a depiction of activities staged by two consenting adults, or does it promote abuse of women?

The question is lost in the shelter's manner of protest.

To some, the idea of burning books suggests the heavy hand of the Nazis, who banned and burned any art that they deemed unsuitable. To others, it is a stark reminder of the bad old days in Ireland, when sexual repression led to the banning of several books.

Critics are decrying the notion of censorship as expressed by a bonfire of books. It demonstrates intolerance, they say.

Well, yes. That's what the shelter wants to demonstrate. Intolerance for domestic abuse, for violence against women, and when those who deal with abused women on a daily basis read Fifty Shades of Grey, that's what they see, glorified as romance.

So it's down with this sort of thing from Wearside Women In Need, while others fear a new round of mind control from authority figures.

The two sides aren't arguing the same point.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tablets R Us

Does your child really need a tablet?

Will the Tabeo become the must-have baby shower gift of the future?

Toys R Us is being squeezed by the likes of Wal-Mart, which has also taken to selling toys at low, low prices. That being what Toys R Us does, it's been stiff competition.

When a company is facing that sort of competition at the price level, it has to find some other niche to set it apart, and for reasons unknown, the suits who run Toys R Us decided that a tablet device was the answer.

The Tabeo is aimed at children and will be available only at Toys R Us. There'll be no price code scanning on your smartphone with a link appearing that takes you to a competitor selling it cheaper. If your child must have a Tabeo, you must buy from Toys R Us.

And once you've gone to the big box toy store for that Tabeo, you'll buy whatever else you might need because you'll consider the price of fuel to power your car to another store where a few things might be less dear, if not for the petrol you'd have to burn to get there.

A few more pennies into the Toys R Us pocket, but when your focus is deep discounts, the profit is made in volume and slim margins.

So you're sitting there wondering what the toy merchant could do to a tablet to make it different and more desirable than all the other tablets that are out there. It's not as if it's the only tablet running on Google's Android system.

As Ann Zimmerman pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, parents are likely to pass down their old tablet to the wee little ones while they upgrade to the latest version of the iPad. If they can avoid spending more money, they will, and hand-me-downs have long been a staple of cost-cutting at home.

One thing Toys R Us can do is build in parental controls for web surfing, but then again, it's easy enough to set those controls on your own. Parents would also find educational games appealing, but there are plenty of games geared towards children already. Can Toys R Us really invent something so compelling that it will drive sales?

It sounds like a case of hopping on the bandwagon after the circus has already been through town. Two years ago, it might have made a difference. Now, with money as tight as ever, it's unlikely that another electronic device will save Toys R Us from extinction.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Pentagon Promotes Former SEAL Book

The story has been running for some time now, giving author Matt Bissonnette a wealth of free publicity that will see his book at the top of the New York Times bestsellers.

No Easy Day was laid down on September 4, but the Pentagon continues to make a great deal of noise about classified information and proper vetting. The publisher had pushed back the release date when the complaints first aired, but nothing concrete was done to block publication.

According to the Pentagon, Mr. Bissonnette's first-hand account of his action in a remote Pakistan village has violated his SEAL oath of secrecy. His book details the mission to take down Bin Laden, and he claims it is a blow-by-blow account, bringing the reader along with the SEAL team as they avenged the murder of over three thousand innocent people.

Because it was a mission cloaked in secrecy, the Pentagon has made it known that they are of the opinion that their experts should have had a first look at the manuscript. It was up to them to determine if classified information was inserted into the pages.

Talk, but no action.

You'd think that the Pentagon is doing pre-release publicity for the book, as if they want to repay Mr. Bissonnette for his bravery by ginning up sales.

Through their spokesman, the Pentagon has made it known that they believe there is secret stuff inside the book, since the author went and hired an attorney versed in special ops to look over the manuscript. If there were no secrets, the reasoning goes, why pay for an attorney to look for them?

What more could you ask for as an author?

The military is shouting from the rooftops that your book is all that. No need to trust the author's assertions that he was there and this is how it went down. The Pentagon has, in essence, verified his claim.

In its most recent blast of book promotion, the Pentagon is threatening to take Mr. Bissonnette to court. They sent a strongly worded letter to Penguin, owner of the Dutton imprint that published the book, but as far as Mr. Bissonnette's attorney is concerned, he was not required to submit his manuscript to the Pentagon for review. End of story. Both hardcover and e-book.

While the reading public is snapping up copies, Penguin is anticipating a high sales volume and a sell through. Mr. Bissonnette is counting up his royalties and tabulating the expense of a good defense attorney. The Pentagon is promoting his book by hammering it, but the Pentagon could still try to sue him for violating his SEAL non-disclosure agreement.

So what are they waiting for?

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Remaking An Old Brand

When an executive takes a notion to fluff up the corporate cushions, they often end up doing a complete make-over of the offices.

They look over the reports prepared by the accounting department and realize that they have to make changes if they are to keep their plush office and all the power that they've accrued. Failure typically results in an exit, and in an era of high unemployment, who wouldn't want to keep their job?

At Penguin, as at every other major publisher, sales are declining and there hasn't been a major breakout literary star for ages.

Enter Susan Kennedy.

As President of Penguin Publishing Group, she developed a strategy to freshen up her team. In her mind, that meant bringing in young people who were not entrenched and who did not have tight relationships with old literary agents delivering the same old manuscripts.

Marilyn Ducksworth had to go. After 28 years with Penguin, in spite of her previous successes, Ms. Ducksworth was marginalized until she couldn't take it anymore and she left.

Her team was dismantled, her authority diminished. It was made clear that she was not wanted, and if she stayed, she would be moved down the corporate ladder and possibly find herself in a dark corner of the basement, filing reports.

If she were the only one, it might have been a successful strategy that Penguin employed to get rid of an old employee and make it look as if that employee left of their own accord.

Ms. Ducksworth filed a lawsuit charging age discrimination, and she has backed up her assertion with examples of fellow executives, all of them well beyond the age of forty, who were also shown the door or diminished into submission.

Ms. Kennedy may have felt that the impending arrival of Coram Williams as new CEO of Penguin Group spelled her own demise if she didn't redecorate and make the place look better than what it was. She sought to revamp Ms. Ducksworth's department by cleaning house, but it just happens to be against the law to fire someone because they are old and outdated.

The case will drag out in the courts, and if Ms. Ducksworth has enough evidence to back her claim, she will end up with a settlement to close out this particular chapter. She will then be free to sit in Central Park and feed the pigeons. At her age, it's unlikely that she'd land a similar job to the one she left, with equal authority and salary.

The old folks, however, will still be gone from Penguin and Ms. Kennedy will be free to install her new employees, to do what she set out to do in the first place. The lawsuit and its costs will be nothing more than the price of doing business.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Apologies Ad Infinitum

Sorry, says the Bishop of Clonfert. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Didn't know any better.

Yes, Bishop John Kirby didn't know about pedophiles way back in those long ago days of the late 1990's.

Does it seem that long ago to you?

It wasn't until 1999 that Bertie Ahern, An Taoiseach at the time, apologized to all the victims of Ireland's policy of incarcerating poor children in small pockets of hell run by the Catholic Church.

So before that day, who knew about priests abusing children?

Among the clergy, that is. The laity had a notion early on, well before Bishop Kirby copped on.

He's sorry, the bishop, that he moved a couple of child abusers around the diocese after they were caught abusing children. The power of the confessional wasn't enough to erase the problem from the hearts and minds of the pedophile priests. Who would have thought a sacrament would fail?

It isn't entirely the bishop's fault, of course. He notified authorities, but what garda in 1990's Ireland would dare prosecute a member of the clergy? Unless the bishop marched the miscreant down to the station and demanded that the offender be locked up, the issue would have been swept under the rug.

And the priest would have been moved along to some other parish, to be dealt with by some other community that had no idea their new minister was thinking how he might groom one of their children.

The apologies have begun to wear thin.

Everyone is sorry. But nothing has been done, after all these years, to compensate the victims of the abuse who have to find ways to live with their nightmares. Nothing has been done to assist the families of those victims, who deal with the fall-out of the damage inflicted, who mourn the suicides and cope with the alcoholics.

Isn't it true that actions speak louder than words?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Autumn Season

The summer is officially over.

In publishing, those lazy Friday afternoons where the executives fly off to their summer homes in the Hamptons has concluded.

The literary agents are back in their offices, getting caught up on queries and complaining about those who have nothing else to do on a holiday weekend but submit query letters.

Back to writing, writers.

Arse in chair, pen in hand (or fingers on keyboard). The days are shorter and the nights grow longer. So too should your manuscript be increasing in length.

It will be getting cold soon enough, and you won't want to be outdoors, face turned to the sun. And that will be true for the literary agents as well, who have little better to do than search with fresh interest for that gem of a novel that will bring in much needed cash to fund their winter sun holiday.

Back to the manuscript, to writing and editing.

The summer is over. The autumn season is upon us.