From what I read, the publishing industry is a backwater in the media world; it is still charmingly human, with lots of people getting paid (though not well, as a rule) to pay extended attention to words. It’s mostly not a great money machine.
Even the underbelly – which specializes in extracting cash from would be writers who aren’t content to just dump whatever they’re writing into a blog – is old-fashioned. The money extractors are cousins to the song-poem folks. They still have the human touch. The taking is a ‘hands on’ business.
I’m on the mailing list of a company that hires itself out to pitch books.
They’re kind of fun, in that “My dad’s got a barn, we can put on a show” way. The pitches, not the books, which appear to be mostly from authors who became enthralled by something – end of the world thrillers, sword and sorcerer stories, heartwarming family tales, you get the idea – and said “Hey, I can do that.”
For all I know, maybe some of them can. Some of them apparently do it over and over again, grimly or happily turning out title after title, year after year.
The real authors, one suspects, are the pitch writers, whom I imagine going to work and facing piles of books for which they are the sole, sad audience. It must be numbingly hard work, especially if it entails actually having to read the book you’re pushing.
Consider this pitch:
“Everyone loves to wonder ‘what if,’ but it took one very creative writer to take it to the next level and imagine what would happen if a modern-day Jesus became a judge on a famous TV talent show, a ‘sacred’ Simon Cowell!”
Ummm, confession time. I have never, ever considered Jesus coming back as Simon Cowell. I feel lacking, for that.
But wait, there’s more! as the pitch would say.
Turns out Jesus, herein called ‘Josh,’ “is launched into a celebrity-driven world where the demons that need to be exorcised are usually in the contestants!” and “he is a threat to the economy; after all, nobody needs drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any other vices when their hearts and minds are healed.”
And then… (spoiler alert!) “Josh’s real task is not for his own people but to help the Dalai Lama return to Tibet.”
Somehow all four gospels of the New Testament are included, with “exact chronology,” we are assured. Judas is a public relations man (nothing new in that) and there is a live! on-air! assassination.
And if you’re still not convinced, the pitch includes the following third party endorsement: “If you loved the Da Vinci Code you will fall on this book with cries of delight.”
One imagines a pitch writer party on a Friday afternoon, after a week’s slog through the unwanted, piling all those thrilling! startling! intriguing! titles on the floor, and falling on them with cries of delight, before rising to pour another drink. Small enough reward for hard labor in the word business.