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The Six Stupidest Things My Publishers Have Ever Said

I would never make a blanket statement that all publishers are idiots.  They aren't.  But a lot of the publishers I've worked with clearly are.  With that, the six stupidest things these publishers have ever said.

(Names anonymous and quotes sometimes paraphrased)

1.  "Call Google and tell them to remove that!"

My publisher noticed a blogger had offered a scorchingly harsh review of one of his many terrible titles.  A review that was now appearing as the #1 returned search item when you Googled that very book's title.  He told the office technological guru--really just the one fat, bearded nerd in the office--to do the above quote.

2.  "Ask them why they aren't buying!"

Any time I returned from a book event--this publisher never attended--and I'd proudly tell him how many books were sold, he wouldn't pat me on the back and say, "Good job."  He'd instead wonder why the book hadn't sold to other people.  If 200 people were at the signing and 199 bought, he didn't care about those 199, he only cared about the one.  And, what was I to do for that one non-customer?  Why "Ask them why they aren't buying!"  How he wanted me to do this I am not sure.  I imagined jumping up from the table where dozens of people were waiting for my autograph and chasing down a guy I saw casually scoff and then exit.  "Excuse me, sir, excuse me, sir.  Can I ask you a question:  why didn't you buy my book?"

3.  "E-mail everyone and tell them to cancel their Amazon orders!"

This sounds too crazy to be true, but the first day my book went for pre-order sales on Amazon it immediately jumped from unranked to inside the Amazon top 5000.  Not too shabby, I thought.  Far too shabby, my publisher thought, apparently not pleased with Amazon getting 55% of his cut.  So, he told me to e-mail any one that had already bought via Amazon--how would I possibly know such a thing?!--and get them to cancel their orders and instead buy my book from his terribly-designed, user-unfriendly company website where he would get 100% of the cut.


Later, that same day, the aforementioned "office technological guru," e-mailed me (in ALL CAPS, natch), to further get me to try and push all future sales to the terribly-designed, user-unfriendly publishing company website by both denigrating the world's largest online retailer and bashing the very economic system that would hopefully make our book a bestseller.

5.  "Blurbs sell books."

I'd always hated blurbs and thought they were a waste of time to acquire and, more importantly, didn't aid in the selling of books.  My publisher disagreed and refused to go to press until I had some blurbs.  "Blurbs sell books!" he constantly shouted.  There's certainly some debate on the matter (which I discuss in video form here).  Long story short:  I was forced into getting blurbs.  And, actually, my blurbs did help me sell some books, my publisher might have been right with this stupid statement.

6.  "This 'Jersey Shore' show seems to be popular.  How can we get you on the show to promote your book?"

This statement occurred after my publisher accidentally got sucked into a "Jersey Shore" marathon one weekend while his grandchildren were visiting.  Considering Snooki and Sitch sold the fuck out of their books (sarcasm), maybe I should have stumbled over to Seaside Heights for a surprise walk-on.

I wish the above things had never been said to me, but they unfortunately were.  Hopefully, with my next book, and next publisher, I will be the only one saying stupid things.

Authors--if you have the balls to reveal them in the comments (feel free to be anonymous):

What is the stupidest thing your publishers have ever said?


*Who Cares Who Published It?
*Self(ish) Publishing
*The Vanity of Not Self-Publishing
*The Five Things "Go the Fuck to Sleep" Can Teach Us About the Future of Books

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Comments (13) Trackbacks (2)
  1. Wow. Beyond idiotic. Was he taking stupid pills?

  2. “Your book isn’t science-fiction! Put a monorail or something in it.” — David Hartwell, an alcoholic former editor at Ace, describing “Wet Goddess,” my memoir of my love affair with a bottlenose dolphin.

  3. Hilarious, pithy, and good advice. Glad I found you. @quoththeraven11

  4. Here’s one of my personal favorites: “We only publish true stories.” (In response to a query about creating an illustrated historical account of John Wesley Powell’s first exploration of the Grand Canyon.) See the published book here:

  5. One great sales developper is practiced from hundreds of failure.

    One professional books printing company is ready to work with you for your bookds printing.
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  6. I don’t know if this is stupid or just sort of loony but here’s one going back a few years when being “selected” by the Literary Guild was A Very Big Deal: My ed told me my book was “too Jewish” & that the Literary Guild didn’t like “Jewish books.” So I went thru the ms over & over, wondering WTF the ed was talking about–no Jewish characters anywhere to be found. Desperate, I finally changed the name of one character to a name that sounded Italian. Apparently that did the trick because the ed had no more suggestions.
    PS: The Literary Guild selected the book.
    Flash forward a few years— the same ed (different book) told me to put in Jewish characters. The reason: The Literary Guild thought lots of readers were Jewish & that having a Jewish character would help get a Lit Guild selection. So I made two of the characters Jewish.
    Guess what? That book also got selected.

  7. “This ‘Jersey Shore’ show seems to be popular. How can we get you on the show to promote your book?”

    There are two possible ways you could make this happen. 1. Start a fight with one of the men on the show. 2. Have sex with Snooki. I’m not sure which would be worse.

    But I love the presumption that Jersey Shore viewers are readers. That may be the dumbest part of that quote.

  8. Zu große Brüste sind i. d. r. anlagebedingt ansonsten neigen aufgrund der Eigenschwere zum Absinken darüber hinaus die Unterbrustfalte, sodass schließlich eine bedenklichkeit Mastoptose resultiert.

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