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Flatbush Flashback

War

From Paths of Glory, courtesy The Criterion Collection.
Why is it, you may wonder, that a peace-loving person such as myself uses the imagery of war--Autumn Offensive, Winter Assault, Spring Siege--to describe the ongoing Beaver Street promotional campaign? Because for as long as I've been involved with book publishing, I feel as if I've been at war with an industry that's at best indifferent and at worst overtly hostile to the idea that I might survive as a writer.

Anybody who goes into the book-writing biz for the money is either ignorant, delusional, or has a close relative in a powerful position at a major publishing house. Most people who become writers do it because they have to, because they can't stop themselves, because they hear that voice in their head and they feel a primal need to communicate. That’s why I've been doing it for 38 years

It was in the process of attempting to sell my first published book, Nowhere Man, that it occurred to me that I was at war—an ongoing war of attrition against two powerful forces.

The publishing industry, driven by wilful ignorance and irrational fear, spent 18 years rejecting Nowhere Man because, they said, there’s not enough interest in John Lennon, and Yoko Ono will sue.

Yoko Ono, it’s worth noting, has never sued a writer, not even writers who have, essentially, begged her to sue them in an effort to bring more attention to their book. However, in an effort to stop me from publishing Nowhere Man, she did try to pressure the New York District Attorney’s office to arrest me for criminal conspiracy, a farce I’ve written about elsewhere. When Nowhere Man was finally published in 2000, I felt as if I’d overrun Saigon and my personal Vietnam had come to an end.

As for Beaver Street, if you’ve been following this blog, then you know about my battles with Amazon and Google, two forces arguably more powerful than Yoko Ono. But I’ve said little about why every publisher in the US passed on Beaver Street before, without the assistance of an agent, I was able to find a home for it with Headpress, a London-based indie.

Publishing houses passed, they said, because:

1) Nobody wants to read a non-academic book about pornography that wasn’t written by a porn star.
2) Beaver Street is neither memoir nor history.
3) Beaver Street is neither pro-porn nor anti-porn.
4) We don’t know how to publish it.

All of which also goes a long way towards explaining why Amazon is eating the publishing industry’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, and between-meal snacks, thereby replacing an awful system with a more awful system.

There’s a war out there, baby, and it’s every writer, agent, and publisher for him (or her) self.
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