Tuesday, March 9, 2010

NBA finalist goes the Koch route

John Edgar Wideman has abandoned major publishers for the independent hustle.

Wideman has received the MacArthur Genius grant, two Pen/Faulkner awards and was a National Book Award finalist. He has written more than 20 books, both fiction and nonfiction, mostly for Houghton Mifflin.

His newest book, Briefs: Stories for the Palm of the Mind, will be self-published through print-on-demand service Lulu.com.

This is a surprising move if it is about the money. Simply put, major publishers still offer the most returns. There is a growing self-publishing scene, and it may eventually become as lucrative as the majors (at least, for authors of Wideman’s caliber and cache.) But, right now, the major publishers are still your best bet to make money.

However, Wideman indicates this has more to do with him wanting control over marketing strategies.

“I’ve been thinking about alternatives for a long time. I like the idea of being in charge. I have more control over what happens to my book. And I have more control over whom I reach,” he said in an interview with Publishers Weekly.

There is a third possible explanation for Wideman’s decision. Briefs is, as its title implies, a collection of short stories. Those are difficult sales, even for a recognized author. It might be possible that Wideman had trouble placing it, so he went the POD route. (I want to clarify that I don’t have any evidence for this third hypothesis. I don’t know that Wideman had difficulty finding a publisher for Briefs. It’s just another possible reason for his partnership with Lulu.)

Either way, I don’t question the man. He’s a MacArthur-certified genius.

On to the next one: Peter Hedges, writer of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, listed his five favorite book-to-movie adaptations. (No, Tricia, Rebecca did not make the list.)

Next: I don’t follow college basketball, so this is my March Madness.

Finally: I received The Tao of Wu for Christmas but didn’t read it until yesterday.

“I believe death is the biggest hustle there is. It’s the biggest scam — because you can say what you want about it and nobody can prove you wrong.”

Thank you, Rza. I forgive you for Digi Snacks.

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

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