Dan Mallory’s unreliable narrative: how to get ahead in publishing


Claire Squires, University of Stirling

People across the global book trade have been engrossed by a ripe scandal engulfing one of their own – publisher-turned-author Dan Mallory, whose novel The Woman in the Window was one of the runaway bestsellers of 2018. One tweet summed up the buzz:

The comment from the literary agent Laura Williams refers to a lengthy article in the New Yorker about Mallory, who writes under the pseudonym A J Finn. As the headline explosively proclaimed, Mallory’s life “contains even stranger twists” than his fiction.

These twists, according to the New Yorker, include repeated lies: about his mother’s death from cancer, his own cancer diagnoses, an Oxford PhD, a job offer from a rival publishing company which leveraged promotion. He also, the article suggests, may have impersonated his brother, sent abusive emails, and – most curious of all – left plastic cups of urine in the New York office of his boss (“messages of disdain, or … territorial marking”, speculated the New Yorker – although it went on to quote a spokesperson for Mallory saying he hadn’t been responsible for that).

The article is careful to present evidence for these revelations via both named and anonymous sources, or to state that certain allegations are unproven. The revelations are either denied by Mallory, or blamed in a statement on “dissembling” produced by severe mental illness.

Even more curiously, Mallory’s uncompleted PhD focused on Patricia Highsmith, author of The Talented Mr Ripley – that twisty tale of a man who murders and then impersonates another. His own The Woman in the Window presents its readers with an unreliable first-person narrator who witnesses – or does she? – a crime.

An unreliable narrator – and an unreliable author? Literary liars and impersonators weave their tales through publishing history. Remember the “memoirs” of James Frey, A Million Little Pieces, which presented as fact made-up scenes of drug addiction and alcoholism?

Fiction-writing fraudsters also abound: prize-winning Australian Helen Darville falsely presented herself as the Ukrainian “Helen Demidenko” and wore peasant blouses ti publicise her book: The Hand That Signed the Paper. Meanwhile JT LeRoy’s novelised tales of an abusive boyhood turned out to be entirely invented, their author represented in public by a (possibly) transgender impersonator.

Who is JT LeRoy?
Brad Coy, CC BY

Literary hoaxers

Mallory joins an infamous line of literary hoaxers, then. But what might this torrid tale tell us about the mental and physical health of the publishing industry?

Social media commentators quickly identified an issue beyond the tricksy questions of truth and lies: that of Mallory’s rapid career trajectory. A “Waspy” family background was polished by an elite US college education, employment at a New York publisher, postgraduate studies at Oxford, a London publishing job and promotion. Then back across the Atlantic to a $200,000 salary and a book deal brokered through his professional networks.

As one much-retweeted comment put it, alongside all the tawdry revelations of the story, it also spoke volumes about the problematic pattern of publishing career paths.

The New Yorker has multiple accounts of how Mallory seemingly charmed writers and fellow publishers, and there’s no implication – other than light borrowing of plots and characterisation – that his writing is not his own. Good looks operated alongside that charm, until the beguilement revealed its multiple deceptions. But the question of how to get ahead in publishing, and those who get to make such rapid ascents, remains.

Glass ceilings, whiteness and class

Publishing and the literary world have serious issues of access and inclusion. The roughly equal number of men and women in board positions in UK publishing does not represent the preponderance of female staff lower down company hierarchies – about 66-80% of people in the industry are women, surveys variously report.

Unsurprisingly this glass ceiling creates a gender pay gap: 16% in 2017 and some even worse figures in 2018’s mandatory reporting from larger companies. Publishing also has its sleaze and #MeToo claims.

In terms of ethnic diversity, a 2018 UK Publishers Association survey showed the BAME workforce of publishing to be under 12%. This is marginally below the 2011 census figure of 13% in England and Wales, but it’s far below the 40% of London, where UK publishing is highly centralised (itself presenting issues of regional diversity).

Repeated surveys have demonstrated publishing’s diversity deficit. Scholarship from Anamik Saha and Melanie Ramdarshan Bold focuses on the challenges of cultural production for writers of colour. Over a period from 2006-2016, Ramdarshan Bold identified, only 8% of young adult books published in the UK were by writers of colour.

Knights Of, who sidestepped traditional publishing by crowd-sourcing funding for a pop-up bookshop to sell diverse books.
Knights of

Like other creative industries, publishing is a middle-class activity, with working-class publishers and writers frequently recounting stories of prejudice and cultural condescension – eg. in publisher Laura Waddell’s Nasty Women chapter, and in Dead Ink’s anthology of working-class essays Know Your Place.

The 2018 report Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries shows publishing’s class demographic to be “especially grave”. Less than 13% of publishers are from working-class backgrounds, while more than 33% have upper middle-class origins.

The whiff of privilege

Such individual and statistical accounts of exclusion demonstrate why the wild story of one already-privileged individual bluffing his way higher and higher up the publishing echelons has caused so much consternation. If the story is true, Mallory repeatedly fooled university admissions offices and publishers’ employment processes. But what employment practices enabled him to rise, even when his story had started to unravel? And how did his apparent charm and good taste enable him to fail upwards? The answers to these questions remain in a dysfunctional swirl of rumour, anonymous sources, non-disclosure agreements and myth-making that probably won’t hurt Mallory’s book sales.

But there are wider systemic and institutionalised issues at play here: the urine scent-marking in the editor’s office (whether proven to be Mallory or not) is a metaphor for the regimes of value in operation within publishing. There is a mystique about taste – a whiff of privilege – that prevails unhelpfully and often prejudicially in the publishing industry. Such inequitable practices govern which hot new literary property we pick up next.The Conversation

Claire Squires, Professor in Publishing Studies, University of Stirling

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Advertisements

Harlequin Changes


The link below is to an article that reports on changes to ebooks published by Harlequin.

For more visit:
https://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/harlequin-ebooks-will-no-longer-work-on-e-readers

Sound Effects and Music Added to Ebooks


The link below is to an article reporting on Google Home and Disney adding sound effects and music to ebooks.

For more visit:
https://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/google-home-and-disney-adds-sound-effects-and-music-to-books

Booker Prize 2018: Anna Burns wins, but the big publishers are the real victors


Leigh WIlson, University of Westminster

In the literary world and among those for whom fiction is an interest beyond simply reading books, a great deal of attention will be given to the winner of 2018’s Man Booker Prize, Milkman, by Anna Burns. The chair of the judges, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, said Burns’ novel, about a young woman being sexually harassed by a menacing older man and set in Northern Ireland, “is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour”.

Of course, each year, following the announcement of the longlist in July, the shortlist in September and finally the winner in October, a discussion takes place as to what each announcement might mean. As the Man Booker is the most prestigious, remunerative and talked about literary prize in the UK, this “what does it mean?” can be made to reach into just about every crevice of contemporary culture.

Anna Burns wins the 2018 Man Booker for Milkman.
Frank Augstein/PA

This year has been no exception – discussion of the longlist was dominated by the inclusion of a graphic novel, Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina, and discussion of the shortlist by the presence or absence of millennial writers. Discussion of Milkman will no doubt be dominated by the history of Northern Ireland, by #MeToo and by the fact that Burns is the first UK-born winner for six years.

In these accounts, the significance of the prize is restricted to thinking about those novels that reach the long or shortlist or the one that is declared the final winner. But a range of work from various wings of literary studies over the past few years can help us to answer the question of what winning means in other, perhaps more challenging, ways.

1. It’s a competition

The underlying claim of James F. English’s pioneering 2009 work in the sociology of literature, The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards and the Circulation of Cultural Value, is that both the power of and the problem with prizes consists in the way they equate “the artist with the boxer or discus thrower”. Prizes are competitions.

But while the publicity might go to the winning writers, the real winners are the publishers, who need not just the increased sales and chances of film and TV adaptations that are likely to follow, but also the less tangible boost to their authority and prestige given by a prize. The real winners are also more likely to be not just any publishers, but those that have already been successful. As the novelist Joanna Walsh, among others, has noted, the Man Booker rules make submissions from small publishers very tricky because of the size of the print run required and the amount of money that involves. Because of this, a win can be a drain rather than a boost, and costs can outstrip sales if you don’t win.

2. A competition that maintains a monopoly

It’s not just that the competition is hard for small presses to enter – the big publishers have an near monopoly. In the 50 years that the prize has existed, literary publishing in English has been transformed from being made up of numerous independent companies, often family run, to being almost entirely dominated by the “big five”. These are Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster. And, further, each of these is itself owned by a multinational media conglomerate.

As the sociologist John Thompson noted in his book, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century, the economies of scale made possible through mergers and acquisitions have created this almost complete monopoly. But through publishing via supposedly “separate” imprints, the big five have maintained an aura of smallness which is more conducive to the “creativity” on which their profits are ostensibly based.

Over the past 20 years, while 12 different publishers appear to have published the novels which were awarded the Prize, six of these wins were for imprints belonging to Penguin Random House. This monopoly is maintained through the prize’s rules for submissions – the number of novels a publisher can submit is directly tied to the number of longlisted novels they have had over the past few years. An imprint already marked as prestigious is more likely to win again.

3. It maintains a certain model of publishing

In his article about Amazon and its relation to contemporary literary fiction, US literary scholar Mark McGurl suggests the extent to which reading of material normally scorned by the literary critic can deliver new insights.

And close reading of the Man Booker’s rules of eligibility – while perhaps dry in comparison to reading the winner on the bus or with a reading group – is also revealing. It shows that it is not just a competition for a small number of large publishers, but that the prize is largely about the maintenance of a certain idea of publishing, too.

The rules of eligibility are almost entirely now about the publisher, rather than the novel or novelist – and key to them is the exclusion of anything with a whiff of self-publishing about it. In order to be eligible, a publisher has to prove that they are based in the UK or Ireland, but the only way of proving this is by having the accoutrements of the conventional publisher. Eligible submissions must come from publishers with ISBNs and head offices who use retail outlets for print books and who publish at least two literary novels a year. Rule 1g, through its strange, uncomfortable tautology, betrays something of just what is at stake in this: “Self-published novels are not eligible where the author is the publisher.”

What the various methods of literary studies can suggest, then, is that, contrary to nearly everything written elsewhere about the Man Booker Prize, it arguably doesn’t really matter which novel wins. Whichever wins, I’d suggest that the real winner is an intensely conventional notion of publishing. It’s an idea of publishing where sales and prestige are the most important consequences of winning prizes and where a few very large publishers dominate.

And, to continue that domination, the most novel uses of contemporary technology, which can open up spaces for the most innovative aesthetic forms become illegitimate. If you want to see examples of this kind of work, look to the recently published novel, Gaudy Bauble, by Isabel Waidner (published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe) – a book of experimental writing published in an innovative way. Under the current rules, such novels could never gain the coverage and attention offered by the Booker. And that’s a great pity.The Conversation

Leigh WIlson, Professor of English Literature, University of Westminster

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Reading the landscape: university publishing houses and the national creative estate


File 20180917 177935 18ukvug.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Alexis Wright, pictured here in 2007 after winning the Miles Franklin award for her book Carpentaria, is one of many writers first published by University of Queensland Press.
Dean Lewins/AAP

Tony Hughes-D’Aeth, University of Western Australia

Review: Reading the Landscape, a Celebration of Australian Writing (UQP).

It is actually quite difficult to imagine what Australian literature would look like without the University of Queensland Press (UQP). Since it was established in 1948, it has done as much as any Australian publisher to shape Australian creative writing. The title of this excellent anthology Reading the Landscape refers to this literary landscape rather than any thematic interest in Australia’s land.

Peter Carey.
Heike Steinweg

Whether writers like David Malouf, Rodney Hall, Peter Carey, Doris Pilkington-Garimara and Alexis Wright would have become the writers they became without UQP is a moot point. One assumes, with the benefit of hindsight and the stratosphere they now inhabit, that they certainly would have. How could we not have Oscar and Lucinda, Remembering Babylon, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence and Carpentaria? How could they not exist? But the fact is that each of these writers, and dozens of others, were first published by UQP.

Against considerable economic pressures, UQP is one of a handful of Australian university presses that continue to produce quality scholarly publications for academic and general markets. While academic scholarship is considered the natural province of a university press, UQP is distinctive in having developed significant fiction and poetry lists from the late 1960s.

Recently, the University of Western Australia’s UWAP has followed UQP in developing fiction (and creative nonfiction) and poetry lists, and last year UWAP author Josephine Wilson won the Miles Franklin for her novel Extinctions. But UQP’s record of discovering, nurturing and supporting Australian writers, is really without peer in the other Australian university presses, and unique in world terms.

Reading the Landscape is a cross-section of living writers who currently publish with UQP or have in the past. At least three generations feature — those who debuted in the 1970s and 80s, those who appeared for the first time in the 90s and 2000s, and the current range of new writers.




Read more:
Grief, loss, and a glimmer of hope: Josephine Wilson wins the 2017 Miles Franklin prize for Extinctions


Julie Koh.
Hugh Stewart

In the first generation, we see not only Malouf, Carey and Hall, but important writers like Nicholas Jose, Peter Skrzynecki and Gabrielle Carey. In the next generation, there are writers like Lily Brett, Melissa Lucashenko, Larissa Behrendt, David Brooks, Venero Armanno and Samuel Wagan Watson. And finally, we have writers only recently to emerge such as Jaya Savige, Julie Koh and Ellen van Neerven.

Those familiar with some of those writers will be reminded, in this anthology, of just why they have been celebrated. Rodney Hall’s Glimpses of Lost Europe, for instance, is a charming reminder of his effortless brilliance. It begins in 1954 like this:

Dr Bródy – philosopher, philologist and metaphysician ­– was grateful to find work in Brisbane as an umbrella salesman.

And spins outwards from there. Various trends and movements suggest themselves from these contributions. One is the turn towards factual stories in the genre now known as creative non-fiction. Another is the rise of the young-adult genre as a powerful and lucrative publishing phenomenon.

One of the creative non-fiction highlights of this anthology is Patti Miller’s riveting account of her uncle’s hang-gliding accident. Icarus is the spellbinding story of a quiet and meticulous man who becomes, in his 60s, a devoted hang-gliding enthusiast, only to have his spine shattered by an accident while landing.

Spiky and lyrical, smouldering and rueful

I was also taken by the quality of the poetry by younger writers like Savige, van Neerven and Ali Alizadeh. Their respective poems were by turns spiky and lyrical, smouldering and rueful. The way that they mix politics and memory, urgency and metaphysics, affirms the continuing possibilities of poetic expression in what often seems like an increasingly prosaic age.

Perhaps most significant, though, is the rise of Indigenous writing visible in the contributions from acclaimed authors like Lucashenko, Behrendt, Wagan Watson and van Neerven (the last three each won the David Unaipon award).

Ellen van Neerven.
Bridget Wood

The appearance of modern Indigenous writing is often dated to the publication by Jacaranda Press, another largely independent Brisbane press, of Kath Walker’s (Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s) We are Going in 1965. UQP published Kevin Gilbert’s People are Legends: Aboriginal Poems in 1978, and as Bernadette Brennan reminds us in her fine introduction to Reading the Landscape, the press contributed very significantly to the emerging study of Indigenous writing with seminal monographs on the subject by J.J. Healy and Adam Shoemaker.

Many of the key Indigenous writers to follow in the wake of Oodgeroo, Kevin Gilbert, and Jack Davis have come through UQP, although the WA presses Fremantle Press and Magabala Books have also been crucial. In van Neerven, in particular, one sees a worthy successor to Oodgeroo, as invidious as that comparison might seem. Oodgeroo’s trademark mixture of acerbic humour and gut-punching honesty shines through van Neerven’s verse, and her poem 18C is a fitting conclusion to the anthology.

Written in answer to the recent controversies that have surrounded the anti-vilification provision of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act, the poem’s 18 stanzas thread in and out of the complexities of black life. The final stanza, and the book’s last words are these:

Courage is telling them what you think of that play, that script they try and write us in will no longer contain us, bring me a new coat of oppression, this one’s wearing thin.The Conversation

Tony Hughes-D’Aeth, Associate Professor, English and Cultural Studies, University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Outrage in France Over Book Award Winner


The link below is to an article that reports on outrage in France over a book award winner – a self-published book winner on Amazon.

For more visit:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/sep/15/french-bookshops-revolt-after-prize-selects-novel-self-published-on-amazon