“The pandemic memoir An American Crisis has become a financial and ethical headache for Penguin Random House, dragging the company into the scandals that prompted the governor’s resignation announcement,” reported the New York Times yesterday. It amounts to “a publisher’s worst nightmare.”
Hmm. I’m not saying that EDITH is a direct response to trends like “let’s give prominent person millions of dollars to author a crappy book no one desires to read” which we see in big publishing. But stories like these do fuel our motivation.
Here’s the thing: The problem is not that the publisher is being drawn into scandal—and are they really? They just stand to lose a big pile of money. The problem is that the only conceivable reason for pursuing this Andrew Cuomo book deal in the first place had to have been sheer boredom. For the publisher, it never made commercial sense. Most political memoirs aren’t exactly art, or even sentimental favorites. Boredom is the only rationale for publishing it that I can think of. Meanwhile many more worthy books weren’t pursued or published with the support they deserved. Point is, the energy in publishing is moving toward the edges, toward the independents, and the startup collectives taking risks out of joy and conviction, and for the pleasures of collaboration, not out of cynicism (or—have I typed it enough times?—boredom). Or so I’d like to think.