Thursday, September 13, 2018

Should Book Industry Encourage Arguments Like The Serena Williams Meltdown?

In the recent Women’s U.S. Open Tennis Championship, Serena Williams lost her cool on several occasions. She argued with the ump over a warning about illegal communications from her coach. Then she was penalized a point when she incurred another penalty – unsportsman-like conduct (she destroyed her racket by bashing it into the ground in response to losing a game).  She would then banter again with the ump, disgusted she was accused of cheating (coaching infraction), which played a role in the one-point penalty, accusing him of being a “thief” for stealing a point from her. She would cry, yell, meltdown – even appeal to the people who run the tournament – and then finally succumbed to her opponent, who outplayed her all day in a surprise upset.  All of this makes me wonder if authors lose their cool – and if doing so has any benefit.

Of course in sports there are many stories of clashes between player/coach and umpires/referees.  There are also tales of fights between opposing players. Sometimes teammates get at each other’s throats.  Sports, a physical activity in a very public arena, engender arguments, fights and explosive outbursts.  But in the world of book publishing, battles take place differently.

How many closed door discussions take place where an author fires a literary agent, or a publisher tells an author it doesn’t believe a book is worth publishing and demands a refund of the advance?  How often do publishers or authors confront a book critic who gave a bad review?  How many times do readers contact authors to demand a refund for what they perceived was a crappy book?

I would love to see more fighting – in public – involving books.  Controversy sells.

We already have the typical stuff:

·         People who are the subject of a scathing book will not only criticize the book as untruthful, they’ll threaten lawsuits and seek to undermine the credibility of an author.

·         Some authors get in trouble with the law for poor personal behavior – domestic abuse, DWI, fighting, rehab, etc.

·         A book ban or protest breaks out over a controversial book.

All of that is good for the book industry but I want to see more Serena-like outbursts that challenge the rules and the judgment of an industry.  Serena, a champion player and a crybaby who abuses umps, lost her cool.  Sure the sport is hypocritical and inconsistent when it often fails to enforce coaching penalties or regulate heated exchanges between players and umps, but she exploded and her controversy became a bigger story than who won.  Some authors need to raise the roof and create a controversy that goes beyond their books.

Why?  Controversy sells books and puts media attention on a quiet industry.

Let’s at least get some verbal volleys going where a writer lashes out at a publisher for failing to do its job. Then let’s have a book editor lash out at a writer who mistreated him or her.  Follow it up with a literary agent confessing to hating to pamper some of his authors and their oversized egos and undersized works. Let’s see someone get in the face of an award’s committee and tell them they can’t judge talent because they lack talent themselves.

I don’t want to see anyone get hurt – no burning down of anyone’s house or violent beatings – but a few shoving matches, lots of cursing and screaming, and a few legal proceedings should get things going nicely.

Okay, is something wrong with me that I want to see people get emotional, angry, and accusatory?  Look, these confrontations work in politics, sports and business.  Let the book publishing world go beyond its words to generate interest in books.

Too much of the book industry’s conflicts are kept in secret and behind closed doors.  We’ll never know if a best-selling author told his publisher to drop dead or if a literary agent, perhaps in a drunken stupor, told her author he is talentless.  We’ll never know if two book publicists at a publishing house decided to slug it out in the men’s room or if an acquisitions editor got punched in the face by an author. I have to assume all such things have happened but hush money, ego, threats, or other inducements forced the participants to be quiet about losing their control.

Sports is out in the open.  Million-dollar, human machines wear their emotions out on the field and court. Things get heated.  Athletes battle with themselves and everyone around them is looking for an edge or an excuse.  Those in book publishing may not seem to express themselves physically, but many are filled with fear, jealousy, anger, and hate as they are judged for their judgments, creativity, and success.  All that I ask is for a few good fights to break out in the open.

Then someone can write a book about it.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute Conference.

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