Auld Lang Syne, etc.

Well! Dear Author-friends, look at that! it is very nearly the End of our Year! A year which has, in all honesty, been a smorgasbord of delights for our person, not least because it has brought us all of YOU. This little Rejectionist creature has taken on a life of her own, to the extent that we sometimes in times of difficulty ask ourself what the Rejectionist would do (show up to work drunk and in strange outfit, punch Enemy of the People on subway (after first making sure EoP was not our POPS HA HA HA OH POPS IT JUST NEVER GETS OLD!!!!), throw manuscript across room shouting WHAT IS THIS GARBAGE DO YOU PEOPLE FUCKING HATE ME, eat a puppy).

We are daily astounded and delighted and amazed and filled to the brim with joy and gratitude that all you divine people keep coming back here!!!! and you say such clever things!!! and legitimate industry professionals have been so kind to us!!! and for reals, are you SURE? has there not been some mistake, where you meant to read a blog that was, like, useful, and wearing sensible shoes, and not making smacking noises when it chews? and WTF, y'all, our job is GETTING PAID TO SIT IN THE SPINNY CHAIR AND READ ALL DAY. Who gets to do that? Seriously, how is that even a JOB? That's what we do for FUN. Even better, we get to work for an agent who is smart and funny and really really nice, we get to hang out in bars with attend readings given by Real Writers who are "Steve's" fabulous, fabulous, insanely talented clients, AND we get to send people emails telling them their books are good, which never stops making us happy. Our job is possibly the best job ever, and believe us, we have had a whole lot of jobs, and know of which we speak.

With that, Author-friends, we are going to take a brief sabbatical from being the Rejectionist and return to the less exciting activity of being our own self from now until the New Year. No queries! No manuscripts! No witticisms of "Steve!" Just, you know, frolicking around New York, taking lots of naps, and possibly even giving some attention to our Novel, which has been sulking in a corner muttering sotto voce that we did not move to New York in order to talk about ourself on the internets all day. And when we return on January 4th you had better be READY, because 2010 is going to be the year we RAISE THE BAR OF AWESOME, and y'all had BETTER BE THERE WITH US.

Are you going to send us mediocre queries? NO YOU ARE NOT. Are you going to give up halfway through your book? NO YOU ARE NOT. Are you going to make us read anything that is less than ten-thousand-times-rewritten-until-it's-totally-perfect? NO YOU ARE NOT. Are you going to send us THE BEST BOOK EVER? YES YOU ARE! BRING IT! NOW GET TO WORK!!!!!

Last Minute Assistant Gift Guide

Dear Agents,

In this festive holiday season, let us gently entreat you to remember the bravest little foot soldier of your office, without whom you surely could not operate with the formidable efficiency and panache that engenders such admiration in the hearts of your colleagues. Who dispatches your legions of hapless and ill-informed query-ers? Who firmly tells your Least Favorite Client Who Always Wants to Process His Exceedingly Difficult Divorce that you are "in a very, very important meeting" every time said client calls? Who has quietly memorized your preferred ratio of sweetener to foam in your gourmet espresso beverage of choice, your favorite flavor of Vitamin Water, your mom's birthday, and your dog-walker's cell number? Who discreetly corrects your potentially embarrassing typographical errors? Who made you a BAZILLION FUCKING DOLLARS by plucking the best-selling book franchise in the known universe out of your slushpile? Why yes indeedy, your BELOVED ASSISTANT. So why not show your appreciation with some serious fervor this year? Bonuses are always welcome, but a thoughtfully chosen gift makes assistants feel extra-extra special. And so, without further ado:

1. One can never go wrong with a nice bottle of whisky. Assistants need their drinkies.

2. A sickly assistant is totes unsightly. Why not bestow upon hard-working Susie or James the gift that keeps on giving all year round!

3. A super-tasty dinner can be a treat for you, too! Assistants LOVE fancy dinners. Oh boy, do they.

4. And finally, nothing says, "Le R., thanks for all your hard work this year" like a pair of Haider Ackermann leather trousers. Mmmmmmmmm.


le r.

FRIDAY: Or, This Week In Queries, Which You Should Definitely Be Holding Off On Sending Until January, Just Saying, But Whatever, It's Your Funeral

Total queries: 87 (slow week! everyone is in a food coma!), form rejections: 83, requests for fulls: 4, girls next door with astonishingly firm breasts: 3, semi-autobiographical novels based on badly ended relationships: 17, evil Russian scientists: 4, mangst novels (that would be man+angst): 13 (!!! what, did you fellows have a bad week, or something? Jesus, have a cocktail and buck up a little), super-nice personal rejections with useful commentary for manuscripts previously requested: 5, manuscripts featuring "pure evil": 2, manuscripts that are "Twilight meets Don Quixote": 1, authors who have told us that our emails are "keeping hope alive in their hearts": 1, manuscripts that are, like, blowing out the left hemisphere of our brain with their awesome: 1, representation offered by "Steve" to authors of manuscripts that are, like, blowing out the left hemisphere of our brain with their awesome: 1 (and WE ARE SO EXCITED ABOUT IT PICK "STEVE" AUTHOR-FRIEND PICK "STEVE" PICK "STEVE" PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO YOU EVEN KNOW HOW GOOD YOUR BOOK IS DO YOU? IT'S SO FUCKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!! DO YOU KNOW WE TOLD "STEVE" WE WANT YOU FOR CHRISTMAS???? PLEEEEEAAAAAAAAASE PICK "STEVE" PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!!!).

On an unrelated note, "Steve" brought his son to work this morning, and it is pretty much a barrel of puppies watching someone negotiating a contract over the phone with a four-year-old dressed as Batman hanging off his leg shrieking WHERE IS MY JUICE I WANT TO SIT IN THE SPINNY CHAIR. Which is kind of what we want from today also, come to think of it.

Author-friends, Meet Carleen Brice

Carleen Brice is the author of the novels Orange Mint and Honey and Children of the Waters as well as the nonfiction books Lead Me Home: An African American's Guide Through the Grief Journey and Walk Tall: Affirmations for People of Color. She's edited the anthology Age Ain't Nothing But A Number: Black Women Explore Midlife. In 2008, she won the Breakout Author of the Year Award from the African American Literary Awards Show, and in 2009 she received the First Novel Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. She's also the genius mastermind behind the blog White Readers Meet Black Authors, where her posts are sometimes serious, sometimes hilarious, and always thoughtful and incredibly smart.

Please tell everyone a little bit about who you are and what you do.

I’m a writer, with 2 novels published. While promoting my first book I realized that there’s some kind of disconnect with fiction in which books with black characters and/or written by black authors are considered as “black books,” i.e. only for black readers. There are some exceptions—particularly when you look at literary fiction. But the truth is that even though I and many of my writer-friends have a spectrum of readers, our books haven’t truly crossed over.

In conversations online with friends I jokingly threw out the idea that somebody should start a Buy a Book by Somebody Black and Give it to Somebody White Day to get white people to read more black authors, and somebody should start a web site that introduced books by black authors to a wider readership. I got lots of positive emails from the people following the thread, and it dawned on me that maybe I was that somebody. After all, you don’t have to be a web master to start a web page or a blog. So I did. Last November I launched the site White Readers Meet Black Authors and designated December as National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give it to Somebody Not Black Month.

I usually post on Tuesdays. I post lists of books for gift ideas (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.), book reviews, and commentary. My aim is to spread the word about the good books that maybe people aren’t hearing about and to raise awareness about the particular issues black American writers face.

Publishing has historically marginalized writers of color as either genre writers of "urban fiction" or literary writers of "ethnic" fiction. In other words, books by people of color can only be about slaves, gangsters, or people living in other countries (with the underlying assumption being that "regular" books are written for, by, and about white folks). Do you see any signs of hope that that's changing?

I look hard for signs of hope because I need hope to keep going. So yes I see them. But only because I look really hard for them. If I didn’t look hard, I would be enormously discouraged. The author Bernice McFadden published an essay on her blog that Zora Neale Hurston wrote in 1950. It pretty much still applies today. Especially when authors Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant have recently written an essay called Writing White about crossing over. But if I focus too much on that I’ll just go to bed forever, and that wouldn’t really help anything.

Since I started the blog, I’ve received many positive comments and emails from every kind of reader. I think I’ve helped sell a few books, and that makes me happy. In essence I’m a bookseller (I even worked at two bookstores and in libraries)—I like matching people with books. So I focus on how we can do more of that. I also get some negative comments from people who don’t agree with the points I’m making or don’t get my sense of humor. To each his own.

It’s only been a year or so since I’ve been publishing fiction myself and blogging about it, so I can’t say that I’ve seen any major changes in publishing about how they position books by black authors. As you know, everybody’s hurting and everybody’s scrambling. It’s tough out there for people who care about books and stories right now no matter what their race. Galleycat started their “People of Color” feature and a few people in the biz have admitted in blogs that race/racism does play a role in how publishing works. That’s very validating. Some people tend to believe if a book is good it will be on the bestseller lists and if it’s bad it won’t get published or it will flop and that is so not all there is to it!

What would you like to see shift within the industry to make it more inclusive of/welcoming to readers and writers of color, and to reflect the diversity of the reading public?

I would love to see books treated as books. So if a book is women’s fiction, I’d love to see it marketed broadly to women, not only black women. What tends to happen is that my books and books like mine have to become popular with black audiences and then cross over. And it’s maddening! It’s maddening to see a book like The Help get marketed to all readers and a book like The Air Between Us get lost in the shuffle. Similar subject matter. One author is white; one is black. Is that the reason why one took off and one didn’t…? Probably not the only reason, but it’s hard to believe it’s not part of the reason. I’d love to see L.A. Banks’ vampire books shoot up the bestseller lists like Charlaine Harris’ books. I’d like to see HBO or some other channel turn them into a series like True Blood.

I’d love to see a white writer called “the new Pearl Cleage” or "the new Attica Locke” instead of always vice versa. I’d love to see book reviewers compare books by genre and subject matter instead of by authors’ ethnicity.

What are some specific things that readers and industry people can do to be better allies? Resources for allies (i.e. websites, books) that you like?

Editors, when you get a book by a black author, think of it as a book. If you love the story and you think others will love the story, tell everybody about it, not just black people. If The Kite Runner, Shanghai Girls and Best Friends Forever can be considered universal stories, why can’t Before I Forget, What Doesn’t Kill You and Third Girl From the Left ?

Inviting me to do this interview helps get the word out. I was on a panel at BEA last year. That helps.

I hear from so many white people who say they never look at the picture on a book and therefore have no idea whether the author is white, Latino or whatever. I believe that’s true. I doubt that most people go into a store and decide "I only want books by white authors." However, I can guarantee you that if you don’t make an effort to look around and find books by a variety of writers, the vast majority, over 95% of the books you’ll read, will be by white authors.

That decision is being made for you by editors, marketers, booksellers at every point along the way. If you’re okay with that, then cool. But if you’re not, if you don’t like the idea that the powers that be are limiting what you’re exposed to, make the small effort to find more. I feel that way about books by Latino, Native American and Asian authors (again except for a lucky handful). If I don’t make the effort to read them, I probably won’t because I won’t be exposed to them. I won’t be considered their audience.

And finally: What’s up with assuming that if a black person is on the cover it’s not for you? Come on now, black people have been selling Pampers and Campbell’s Soup and lots of other things for years that aren’t just for us.


There are quite a few good blogs out there: RingShout, Color Online, BronzeWord Latino Authors, The Brown Bookshelf.

I have more links on my site.

Some books you've read recently that pleased you?

I just loved Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts Jr. It made me cry. So did The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow (coming in Feb.). Feminista by Erica Kennedy and Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead made me laugh. Big Machine by Victor LaValle made me laugh, cry, wince, wonder and more.

I have a list of 50 great books that would make excellent holiday gifts at IndieBound. And one for Amazon shoppers.

Today's Font Joke


We Love You, Elliott Bay

We were saddened but not surprised to hear last week that our dearly beloved Elliott Bay Book Company is moving house from its venerable Pioneer Square location to new digs on Capitol Hill. Elliott Bay isn't just a bookstore; for us, it's something more like a church. We've been perambulating its creaky wooden aisles since we were in diapers, and walking through its front door feels like coming home for us in the same way as seeing the tall blue Olympics on the horizon or catching the salt breeze off the Sound. We used to daydream about the day we'd be the one standing at the author podium making bad jokes to a packed house. If we try hard enough we can still smell the cedar bookshelves and the dry clean scent of old books. All of our best-beloved first editions are former denizens of Elliott Bay's shelves, and some of our favorite author stories (the THINGS WE COULD TELL YOU about that SLEAZY ASSHAT William T. Vollmann, Author-friends!) come from our brief stint as a bookseller and events staffperson there, where we palled around with the likes of before-they-were-famous Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon, and one time got to bring Margaret Atwood a glass of water. We spent every day with people who, like us, care more about some books than about most people, who can correctly answer questions like, "Can you tell me the name of that book with the yellow or possibly pink cover that I think was about either Africa or marshmallows and used to be on the left-hand side of the bottom shelf over there?", who are hands-down some of the smartest and funniest and weirdest and joyfully crankiest people we've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Y'all are welcome to your e-readers and your Brave New World, dear ones; we'll take real people, real books, and real community. As long as places like Elliott Bay continue to exist, we can rest a little easier, knowing there is somewhere at least in this world we will always be at home.

Moving is not an end; it's only a change. We'll miss that immense old place and its secret passageways, odd little nooks, and crooked stairs; but more than anything, we want to see one of the greatest bookstores in the country survive. You are in our heart, Elliott Bay, and we wish you the very best of luck in your new home. We'll definitely still visit.

Another Brief Note On the Importance of Proofreading

Resting On Our Laurels As Well As the Laurels of Others

As you may remember, a while back we had a Contest (which, if we do say so ourself, was the most amazing contest in the history of publishing, thanks to YOU!!). Contest winner Ulysses has posted his Prize, a critique of his query by our illustrious person, on his very thoughtful blog. We do not generally engage in query critiques, as there are people who are much better at it than we are to help you; but if you are curious as to what it might look like if we sharked you, go investigate.

Terminator Offers Some Lessons for the Salvation of Your Novel

We were so excited for Terminator: Salvation, we cannot even tell you. All our intellectual snobbery is reserved for books; when it comes to the cinematic experience, we demand constant explosions, post-apocalyptic scenarios, lots of aliens/robots/asteroids, and/or large-scale natural disasters (with occasional exceptions made for arty French films, obvs). After reading uniformly negative reviews of TS, we felt some anxiety about coughing up $14 to see it in a theater, and only got around to watching it this weekend. Well, nobody was lying. TS is a profoundly dumb movie, and not dumb in a gleeful Independence Day sort of way, with bad jokes and Jeff Goldblum being all cute. HOWEVER, something quite fortuitous happened in the first quarter of the film, when we realized that TS is flawed in the same ways a lot of the novel drafts we reject are flawed, and thus has a number of Instructive Points to offer our dear Author-friends (you see! we think about you ALL THE TIME! Do you feel loved, or what?). So here, out of the goodness of our blackened and desiccated heart, we present Imperatives of Fiction-Writing as Demonstrated by "McG."

1. You need a plot. You really, really do. A Good Idea ("What if it's the future! And robots are the boss of everything and this hot non-emotive dude has to find this kid who is actually his dad and send him back in time before the robots kill everyone!") is an excellent start, but a Good Idea is NOT sufficient to carry the entire vehicle of your novel. We don't care how highfalutin' your concept or your prose is; you leave out the plot and you are going to bore us out of our skull, and not because we are too stupid to comprehend the brilliance of your talent. You REALLY EXTRA-ESPECIALLY need a plot if you are working in genre fiction. Bonus points if your plot MAKES SENSE (see No. 2).

2. You need to demonstrate a chain of causality. You cannot just cut to your main character and his Trusty Sidekick of Color testing their Secret Weapon in the center of the Robots Valley of Death, in the middle of the night, apropos of nothing. Particularly after you have told us that the robots guard their turf assiduously and are extra-good at blowing people up in the dark. Why? Because your poor reader is going to be all like HOW THE FUCK DID THEY GET INTO THE MIDDLE OF ROBOTS DEATH VALLEY and not all like OOH HOW THRILLING! ROBOTS DEATH VALLEY! and the one thing you never, ever want your reader to be doing is being all distracted from your novel by piddly logistical details. Which leads us to:

3. You need to be consistent. Yes, it is an eighties-classy and awesome image (and perhaps the only classy and awesome image in this entire stupid movie) to have John Connor sticking a GNR cassette into a boombox and pressing play to serve as a robot-distracting ploy. But guess what? IT'S TWO THOUSAND EIGHTEEN. We would have trouble finding a GNR tape and a boombox with which to play it RIGHT NOW, in the waning hours of 2009. Are we supposed to believe JC popped over to the nearest Goodwill so as to procure these items? Or perhaps he clutched his childhood tape-player and GNR tape collection to his manly breast through a nuclear apocalypse? Again, Author-friends, when you throw in stuff that you think is cool but makes no sense in the context of your book, your reader starts to hate and distrust you, and that is so not what you want happening. KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS, dear ones. Kill 'em dead.

4. Your universe must have rules. Even if you are writing science fiction. Like, if you are creating a post-apocalyptic world controlled by robots but grounded in reality? Where people are still normal people just trying to survive and defeat said robots? You cannot impale your main character through the heart and have him continue to frolic about. You don't get to have your hero conveniently stumble across the robots' nuclear reactor, which they have left in the middle of the floor. Our Support Team would also like to point out that you don't get to fly a helicopter through a nuclear explosion, because nuclear explosions emit an electromagnetic pulse that shuts down everything electrical within their blast radius. You get to make stuff up, Author-friends, but you don't get to make stuff up that is totally implausible in the context of the world you have created.

5. You need to know what you're aiming for. The lovely INTERN had a very excellent post on this topic a while back. Maybe what you actually want to make is not a science fiction film but a killer Nine Inch Nails video, which is a supremely worthy goal in itself. Broken? Maybe one of the greatest albums ever, and we are completely unembarrassed to tell you that Nine Inch Nails opening for David Bowie at the Seattle Center in 1995 (we are a LOT older than you think we are, y'all) is to this day one of the best live shows we have ever seen. But a two-minute video is not a feature-length film. Just saying. Also, this is probably less relevant to your Novel, but if you use Nine Inch Nails in the preview you should FOLLOW THROUGH and get old Trent to do the soundtrack for your movie because otherwise Rejectionists get all excited ("OMG EXPLOSIONS AND ROBOTS AND THE APOCALYPSE AND NINE INCH NAILSSSS!!! EEEEEE!!!!!!!") and then feel let down and cranky when the soundtrack of your movie turns out to be Christian Bale grunting a lot.

6. You need a plausible grounds for romantic activity. By "plausible grounds" we do not mean "narrowly evading sexual assault thanks to rescue by hot dude." Narrowly evading sexual assault does not, in our experience, make the ladies feel frisky. In fact, can we retire the "narrow evasion of sexual assault thanks to rescue by hot dude" as a plot device FOREVER? CAN WE LET THAT ONE GO PLEASE? THANK YOU.

7. If you are going to use people of color in every "trusty sidekick/lesser-villain/mute adorable biracial child who serves as an indicator of the foxy foxy multiracial future" role WHY DON'T YOU GO OUT ON THE LIMB OF CRAZY AND MAKE A PERSON OF COLOR ONE OF YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS JUST TRY IT WE GUARANTEE IT WILL NOT KILL ANYONE.

Okee, there you go. Revise, little ones, REVISE!

Gift-Giving Recommendations Part Two: More Books For the Wee Nippers

More YA/MG love, as requested by beloved Author-friends Susan and Loretta. For this we brought in a Consultant: our dear friend Emiko, who works as the youth program coordinator in a domestic violence shelter and is, as she likes to tell us a lot, still seventeen in her brain. Also she is awesome. Here are her suggestions.

Books for Slightly Dorky Young Persons Who Read Above Their Grade Level

1. East, by Edith Pattou

2. The Abhorsen Trilogy, by Garth Nix

3. The Mysterious Benedict Society series, by Trenton Lee Stewart (added bonus: best covers ever)

4. The Pellinor series, by Alison Croggon (We LOVE these. They have some dark (slavery, warfare, scary scary monsters) and sexy (nothing scandalous or anywhere near as creepster as Twilight, we promise) bits in 'em, maybe more approps for slightly older nippers, depending on your parenting sensibilities.)

Books For Young Persons With Learning Disabilities

1. The Warriors series, by Erin Hunter

2. The Sisters Grimm series, by Michael Buckley

3. The Septimus Heap series, by Angie Sage

Just Wait Until You See Our Self-Help Book

We loves us some New Year's, Author-friends; it's our second-favorite holiday (after our birthday, obvs). We love fireworks, silly parties, champagne, running around at midnight shrieking, and we love, love, love making New Year's Resolutions. We write up an exhaustive list, type them out on fancy paper with our beloved seafoam green Coronado, tape them up on our wall, and forget about them immediately. Last year's resolutions are right next to our "No Mercy" stencil a few feet above our head as we type this, where they have been hanging for the last year, and we could not for the life of us tell you what they are (although "be less hateful" is an annual favorite, which is obviously working out for us really well).

So THIS year we decided to do something new. We are giving our Resolutions a dry run in the month of December, to test them out for the new year and make sure they're going to work out for us. Rather than lay about all month in a torpid state of boozy indolence, promising ourself that Next Year Will be Different, and then encountering the massive shock of industry and Turned-Over Leaves in the frigid early weeks of January, we are ON IT RIGHT NOW.

What does this have to do with you, little ones? Well, why don't you try it? For the next 20* days or so be VERY VERY FIRM. Let us say, hypothetically, you are planning to Resolve on writing every day next year, even if it's only for a little bit. What better month to commit to your Art than this one? If you can manage to write every day in December, a month notorious for its spectacular eruptions of familial crises, general meltdowns, and orgies of consumption,** then you can do it all next year, no probs. How about it, Author-friends? You with us?

IN TOTALLY UNRELATED NEWS today we are feeling quite displeased with the voters of Switzerland and the state of New York. KNOCK IT OFF, ASSHATS! In the immortal words of Rachel Zoe, that shit is literally, like, giving us a heart attack inside our body. GAH.

*You may have the week of the holiday you celebrate off, as a reward.

**You don't HAVE to buy a bunch of crap or eat a bunch of weird stuff, you know. Just saying.

Author-friends, Meet Andy Hunter

Andy Hunter is one-half of the team of masterminds behind Electric Literature, a brand-new quarterly anthology of contemporary short fiction. Only on its second issue, Electric Literature has already received glowing accolades from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and a host of other publications. Why? The magazine is available on paper, via e-book, or on your iPhone; it promotes itself through Youtube videos by its authors; its editors are optimistic forward-thinkers who publish unknown writers next to the likes of Colson Whitehead and Lydia Davis; they pay authors $1,000 per story. Oh yeah, and that whole Rick Moody twitter thing.

Please tell everyone a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Ideally, I get up at 7 am and work on my novel, which is about a cult leader who is lonely and has misgivings. After a couple hours of writing, I begin my day job, which is writing about recent neuroscience and its potential ramifications on education, public health, and aging. Then I walk to Electric Literature's cozy-yet-industrial office space in downtown Brooklyn and work into the evening. I'm always behind on everything I'm doing, and sometimes I stay out late, drink beer, and oversleep, compounding the problem.

Why did you start Electric Literature? Where would you like to see the magazine go?

Scott Lindenbaum (my partner at EL) and I worked on The Brooklyn Review, a literary magazine published out of the MFA program at Brooklyn College. One day I spoke to a distributor who told me only 40 independent bookstores in the US carried literary magazines. "That can't be true," I said, "every store I go to carries them." "Where do you live?" he asked. "Brooklyn." "12 of them are in New York," he said.We quickly realized that starting a paper lit mag was a dubious proposition--first, it's a lot of work and money for a very small readership, but also, when there are already so many good ones, how do you differentiate yourself?

Meanwhile, pessimism about the prospects for literary fiction abounded among writers we knew. Hell, it abounds in writers as successful as Philip Roth, even. A friend’s novel almost disappeared into Harcourt’s acquisitions “freeze”; the stock market crashed; things were grim.Books were a lifeline to us when we were growing up. And when you see something you love being threatened, you defend it. We didn’t want to start another free, unpaid online literary magazine. We wondered, could the forces that seem to threaten literature be marshaled in its defense? We conceived of our distribution model, which uses eBooks, iPhone Apps, and print-on-demand to avoid a prohibitively large printing bill. This allows us to pay writers, which was a priority for us. And we decided to try to learn how to use this internet thingamgob to broaden the reach of literary fiction, through things like videos, Twitter experiments, and the like. Crazily enough, it seems to be working.

Do you think embracing innovative formats is the only way for fiction publishing to survive? Would you say it's been a successful approach for you?

Yes, I guess I do. I understand the sentimental attachment to books, and I have never read anything longer than 1000 words off a screen. In other words, I am a reading Luddite, like many in the literary world. But what is a book, but a transmission of thought from one person to another? It isn’t the paper and glue that we truly value.

If you’re growing up now, you write and read electronically. Paper documents are no longer the most efficient way to communicate an idea. Thus, it’s inevitable that books are going to become collector’s items and art objects. Like vinyl. The question is, are readers of literary fiction going to become like vinyl collectors—a small, devoted subculture? I think literature has too much to offer the human race for us to allow that to happen.

Embracing new formats been successful for us. It’s not perfect. Most people still shop at bookstores—thank God, because we love bookstores, and that’s one of the main reasons we offer a paperback. But there are advantages, too: No production cost. Unlimited distribution. Never out of print. eBook sales are doubling each year, and in September 2009, more eBooks than games were published to iPhone App Store.Electric Literature started early. The eBook market is still maturing. But we think it is clearly where publishing is headed.

There's been a huge positive response to the magazine, which seems a healthy indicator that the demise of literature has been much exaggerated. What gives you hope for The Future of Publishing? What are you looking forward to?

I wrote an editorial on this subject, which you can read here. Basically, I’m looking forward to all the great new work, in new forms, that will come out of this transition. The human need for storytelling isn’t going away. People are going to begin to use new technologies and formats in ways that inspire others, and while major publishers may see their role diminish, publishing as a whole will see a boom in small and self-publishers. 375,000 books were published in the US in 2007. 480,000 books were published in 2008. Who can look at those numbers and see the death of publishing? What we are seeing is democratization, not death.

Some books you've read lately and found pleasing?

I only really have time to read short stories submitted to EL right now. I have finished just two novels in the past five months: Netherland, by Joseph O’Neil, and Lowboy, by John Wray. I recommend both. Pat DeWitt’s Ablutions is my favorite book of 2009, of the few I’ve managed to read.

Electric Literature also has a Facebook page, a twitter (RICK MOODY, Author-friends!), and a blog.


Just when we were all like, "Oh, SURELY, universe, SURELY after that Wall Street Journal interview we could not POSSIBLY find a reason to love Cormac McCarthy MORE," there is THIS. Oh, Cormac! CORMAC! You want help writing your lady novel, you let us know.

We will make you some more young-person book recommendations next week after consulting Experts, dear Author-friends. Off to trample dreams and break hearts! MMM DELICIOUS!

Possibly We Got A Little Carried Away With Our Holiday Gift Recommendations

Buying books for people is our favorite. It's a way to show how well we know/how much we love them, and it is a point of great pride for us to find THE MOST PERFECT BOOK for a person we adore (except for Le R. père, whom we are continually tormenting with leftist economic treatises we know he will never read BUT OUGHT TO, POPS). Please find below our completely unscientific list of suggested titles for various persons in your life, which has absolutely no relation to books published recently, books that are currently popular, or really anything other than the dark workings of our little brain. Please feel free to suggest further potential giftees (Pretentious Friend, Physics-Nerd Cousin, etc.) for whom you would like to see book recommendations this week and we shall do our best. Moonrat also has a fab holiday list of Author-friends whose books came out this year, the sharp-witted Laura "Waffle Iron" Combreviations has compiled a list of famous authors' holiday recommendations, and our new best friends at WORD Bookstore will act as PERSONAL SHOPPERS and also ship online orders of over $50 for free! SO WHY ARE YOU STILL BUYING PEOPLE WEIRD PLASTIC CRAP THEY DON'T NEED, HMM? Onward!

Books For Your Mom

1. The Angel's Game, by Carlos Luis Zafon

A gleeful, no-holds-barred nod to Charles Dickens, peppered liberally with doses of Gothic and swashbuckle. It's all here: villainous publishers who may or not be the devil, improbable body counts, vertiginous plot twists, tormented artists, underground labyrinths, haunted castles, impossible loves, and pretty ladies. Zafon's shamelessness is matched only by the magnificence of his prose, which lovingly captures the dark-and-stormy-night campiness with reckless abandon, and occasionally ventures into surprisingly insightful territory. Sheer joy. For moms who liked The Historian or The Da Vinci Code.

2. The Love Letter, by Cathleen Schine

A snappy and independent lady bookstore owner of a Certain Age discovers a love letter whose sender and intended recipient are unknown, and embarks on a delicious quest to discover its origins. Immensely funny, romantic, silly, and smart. For moms who like romance.

3. Someone Knows My Name, by Lawrence Hill

The life of feisty and sharp-witted Aminata Diallo, a woman born in Bayo, West Africa in 1745 and sold into slavery. Aminata's journey takes her from the American South, through the Revolutionary War, and to the free black settlements in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone. Aminata's ferocious courage and strength make her an unforgettable heroine, and Hill has a virtuosic command of his material. For moms who like historical fiction or Say You're One of Them.

4. The Book of Salt, by Monique Truong

This gorgeous novel tells the story of Binh, the Vietnamese cook employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in 1930s Paris. Delicious, wildly original, and full of vivid descriptions of the city as well as wryly funny meditations on food, race, class, and the meaning of genius. The Book of Salt is a fascinating and brilliantly imagined portrait of three complex and remarkable people. For moms who liked The Guernsey Literary and Sweet Potato Peel Society.

5. The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City is one of those rare nonfiction books that reads like the most un-put-downable of novels. Telling the simultaneous (and startlingly parallel) stories ofthe legendary architect of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and one of the nineteenth century's most nefarious serial killers, this thrilling and meticulously researched book is as suspenseful as any fictive whodunit. For moms who like mystery and true crime.

Books for Your Pa

1. The Long Fall, by Walter Mosley

The latest from Devil in a Blue Dress author Mosley is set in New York and introduces the character Leonid McGill, ex-boxer and hardboiled-but-repentant PI. Mosley is as on his game as ever, and writes about New York with masterful flair. For dads who liked The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

2. Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, by Jeffrey D. Sachs

A thoughtful and lucid exploration of the handbasket we're headed to hell in, and strategies for getting out. Extremely readable and beautifully argued case for an economics of international cooperation and sustainable development. For dads who like economics or are unrepentant Republicans AHEM, POPS.

3. A Time of Gifts, by Patrick Leigh Fermor

In 1933 Patrick Leigh Fermor was expelled from school for flirting with a young lady. Rather than get respectable, he decided to walk across Europe by himself. A Time of Gifts is the story of his journey, full of hope, intelligence and gorgeous prose. An elegant and personable history of pre-war Europe as well as an account of an unorthodox voyage by a truly extraordinary person. For dads who like history and travel.

4. Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill

Hans, a banker in post-9/11 New York, living in the Chelsea Hotel and trying to deal with a marriage in shambles, strikes up an unlikely friendship with the charismatic Trinidadian Chuck Ramkissoon. Neither Hans nor Chuck are quite what they seem, and the result is this near-perfect novel, which earned comparisons to The Great Gatsby. Riveting and thoughtful. For dads who liked Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

5. The Man Who Smiled, by Henning Mankell

Intricately plotted, character-driven noir mystery from Swedish genius Mankell, whose Kurt Wallander series is pretty much flawless. For dads who liked The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Books For Difficult Young People

1. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken

Dastardly villains, plucky orphans, plots to overthrow the government, and a cast of characters worthy of Dickens, with the irrepressible and cheeky Dido Twite at its heart. Aiken's Wolves Chronicles, of which Willoughby Chase is the first, are some of the most underappreciated books in the history of children's literature, populated with lively, sharp-witted children; bumbling, inefficient adults; and more kidnappings, skullduggery, and absurd plot twists than you can shake a stick at. For pre-teenagerish young persons who like fantasy.

2. Thirsty, by M.T. Anderson

The vampire book to end all vampire books. Like anything else M.T. Anderson does, Thirsty is relentlessly smart and darkly funny, a genre novel that breaks every convention and turns genre on its head. Proof that the only thing funnier than vampires is teenage vampires. For preteen to teenagerish young persons who like fantasy and paranormal.

3. Fledgling, by Octavia Butler

Shori Mathews is a 53-year-old vampire who looks like a ten-year-old girl, who awakens at the beginning of the novel badly burned, starving, and amnesiac. She must discover who she is--and who's after her--using only the clues she unearths on her perilous journey. In the hands of MacArthur-grant-winning science-fiction master Butler, the vampire story gets a mind-blowing new life (har har). For teenagerish young persons who like fantasy and paranormal.

4. Caucasia, by Danzy Senna

Birdie, a biracial girl in 1970s Boston, is the child of a liberal white mother and an intellectual father whose marriage disintegrates when her mom throws in her lot with gun-running activists. Birdie's mom takes her underground and demands she pass as white, while her darker-skinned sister and her father disappear in Brazil. Senna's bestselling first novel is an incisive look at adolescence and identity. For teenagerish young persons who liked Liar.

5. The Neddiad, by Daniel Pinkwater

Or really, anything by Daniel Pinkwater, the master of total lunacy. Constantly goofy and totally original, his books are peopled with weird jungle-exploring uncles, giant avocados, girls named Rat, and boys from Mars. Somehow he makes it work. For pre-teenagerish young persons who are slightly dorky.

Books For Someone You Are Courting

1. The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov

Hilarious, sexy, and maybe the most awesome love story in the history of the universe. You can read it as a viciously funny satire of 1930s Soviet Russia, and you would obviously be correct, but you can also read it as the story of Margarita, a feisty young lady passionately in love with the hapless genius-writer the Master, who literally goes to hell for him. Oh yeah, and has a great time while she's there. Also: features Satan and giant talking cats. Best if: Obscure Object of Desire is real sharp cookie.

2. The Old Man and Me, by Elaine Dundy

Witty and full of surprises, this totally endearing love story does that most difficult of things: takes two utterly unsympathetic lovers and turns them into completely likable protagonists. The story of young, foxy, and duplicitous Honey Flood and her unorthodox courtship of literary great C.D. McKee is a delight from start to finish. Best if: OOD is much older or younger than you.

3. The Electric Michelangelo, by Sarah Hall

The gorgeous and melancholy story of a Coney Island tattooist in the 1920s and the enigmatic circus beauty he falls in love with. Vividly imagined and lovely. Best if: OOD is an artiste .

4. Written on the Body, by Jeanette Winterson

The story of a married woman named Louise and her super-hot love affair, narrated by the lover, whose name and gender are never specified. Parts of this book will make you go and take a cold shower. Best if: You are in early stages of passionate affair with OOD/OOD is married to someone who isn't you.

5. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery

The story of a cantankerous concierge, an unlikely romance, and a precocious twelve-year-old who has decided suicide is the only answer to the futility of the modern condition. Bittersweet and joyful, a delightful meditation on class, love, and reasons to stay alive in a world that is often reluctant to offer them. Heartbreaking and very, very funny. Best if: OOD is someone you want around for a long time.