Wednesday, December 03, 2008

People Who Think They Know Much More Than They Actually Do

If this had been an Onion story --sadly, it's not; it's from the Observer -- the headline would have read something like "Ex-Editorial Assistant Explains All of Publishing: Makes Plans for World Domination from Indian Hedge Fund."

The best part? This quote:
Such observations were above Mr. Wolff’s pay-grade, however, and when he tried to raise them with Hachette’s CEO, David Young, he was not encouraged.
"Not encouraged!" David Young is a better sport than most CEOs if his response to a brand-new entry-level drone trying to tell him how to completely change his business was to "not encourage" that kid. I'd "not encourage" him with the toe of my boot.

And I came to this from a link from the New Yorker's book blog that called Wolff a "Hachette insider." No, dear New Yorker, an ex-editorial assistant who worked at a company for perhaps a year is not "an insider."


Kaz Augustin said...

All the decorative bunk to one side, Andrew, you have to admit that the idea of publishers paying insanely exorbitant funds for books from second-rate celebrities is one that's oft been bandied about in recent times.

But my main issue is with the CEO not encouraging him comment. I'm in the IT industry and know well of many CEOs who not only accept emails from staff (I'm due to attend a meeting where one SVP is actively soliciting questions regarding the current economic climate), but also walk the floor just so they can chat with the lower pay-grades. Now, it could be that publishing is Different (as I constantly read), but the concept itself is not that outlandish.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Kaz: It wasn't the idea of accessible CEOs I was mocking -- there are plenty in publishing -- but the idea of a brand-new editorial assistant explaining to the head of the company just what's wrong with everything. Most of us have more common sense than that.

(The Observer writer probably deserves most of the force of my sarcasm, since the piece was written as if Wolff was a massive publishing expert on the basis of one course and a short stint at one company.)

There are some media darlings who get overpaid for books in the US, certainly, but that's much more of a problem in the UK -- a much tighter market to begin with, which tends to overheat with every new trend anyway. The people who get overpaid in the US are mostly the steady producers -- the Grishams and Steels and Robertses of the world. And they, arguably, are worth it.

Anonymous said...

LOL, yes, but Wolff might make a fine small press operator some day. And then when he actually gets to deal with the booksellers, his views might change a little bit.

There has been a basic problem the last several decades in that trade publishing is a slow but steady growth industry and that corporations have not been patient with that -- I don't think it's unfair to acknowledge that problem. But if trade publishing did try to go back to the gentlemen's club of the thirties these days, then it would simply die off.

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