Over the past month or so, as I’ve been learning about the publishing business, one of the things I’ve been looking for is a good writer/reporter who covers the industry. I know where to get wire-service rewrites of industry press releases: what I want is someone who knows the business inside and out.
Today, while digging through some dusty old search results, I came across the name Marion Maneker attached to two different stories from late spring concerning Amazon and its Kindle e-reader. Both were written by Maneker for a site I’ve never heard of — The Big Money — which seems to be a sub-section of Slate.
At the bottom of both stories I found this:
Marion Maneker is the former publisher of HarperCollins’s business imprint.
I don’t know anything about HarperCollins’ business imprint, or even about Marion Maneker. But the Amazon/Kindle stories seemed to be written from the point of view of someone who knew the lay of the publishing land.
If you want to understand book publishing, you need to think less Bloomsbury and more Gambino: The five big companies are like the five families. Imprints are crews with plenty of ambitious upstarts looking to make their bones. And every once in a while even a good earner has to get whacked to send a message.
What’s not to love? I particularly liked the analogy here:
But the dirty secret of the book business is that publishers have issued advances –- a guarantee against future royalties that is like a bond –- the way banks pumped out mortgage-backed securities and CDOs. They did it recklessly and with abandon, hardly doing any meaningful research. Author advances are the original no-doc mortgages. They base their lending decision on nothing more than a feeling that the author is good for the money.
Is that right? I have no idea, but it sounds right, and at the very least it’s worth noodling.
If you have a favorite voice working this beat, let me know.
Update: A day after putting up this post, while doing more reading about the publishing industry, I ran across another dirt-dishing voice with a similar (but different) last name: Daniel Menaker, who is a “a former Executive Editor-in-Chief of Random House” and “fiction editor for The New Yorker.”
In fact, I’d bookmarked a link to one of his pieces several weeks ago, but been unable to get back to it. So consider this a two-fer: Marion Maneker and Daniel Menaker, both former employees at corporate publishing firms, both now writing about the publishing industry, and both apparently completely unrelated to each other. Weird.
— Mark Barrett