The publishing industry is one of the most puzzling of all and there is hardly any information about the tricks of the trade and how it works. While there are many books on the art of writing and teaching how to write a best seller, there are a very few books about publishing industry have been written and published. There is very scant information available about the realities of how books make it to market; and most of the information is much more cloudy.
But often times, a novel comes along that pulls back the curtain a little on the publishing industry that gives us so many wonderful stories every year. If you’re wondering what it’s really like to work in publishing industry, here is a list of six books about publishing industry that offer a coup d’oeil of the gritty reality.
The Accident by Chris Pavone
This is the second novel by Chris Pavone, whose debut was the immensely successful “The Expats.” The Accident takes place over the course of one day. It begins with publishing agent Isabel Reed finishing reading an anonymous manuscript called “The Accident.” This concerns the life story of a media mogul, Charlie Wolfe, and secrets in his life and career which threaten to expose all kinds of scandals about both him personally, and the government. Isabel’s career is suffering something of a downslide – and, in many ways, this novel has a great deal to say about the state of publishing, as well as being an exciting thriller. She passes the manuscript to her old admirer, Jeff Fielder, an editor who is keen on conspiracy theories and could also do with a huge publishing success.
A lot of chasing and dodging, not to mention a fairly high body count. Standard fair for a thriller. But I enjoyed this book for the very crisp descriptive writing and the dead-on characterizations of upper-crust New Yorkers in the publishing world. Or are they caricatures? Maybe some of both, but brilliant and a little bitchy in a fun way.
Bestseller by Alessandro Gallenzi
The story begins with Jim, a compulsive writer of a dozen still-unpublished novels, who will do anything to gain the fame and fortune he knows he deserves. Then we meet Charles Randall, the founder of an independent press with a (justified) hatred of modern publishing and the loathsome corporate monkeys who sack him from his own company. Charles is the pivot on which the whole sorry tale revolves. He is the only one with any real integrity, the only one who still believes in the virtue of the printed – not published – word. They are the two ends of the circle, the wannabe writer who will do anything for success and the once-respected publisher who only wants the privilege of printing obscure Hungarian poets in fine bindings.
It’s certainly an education into the ways of the publishing world, if a dispiriting one and for anyone who has ever had any dealings with publishers and agents, it serves only to confirm what we already knew.
Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell
Suzanne Rindell brings the late 1950s, specifically the bustling, cutthroat New York City publishing world, to life through the connections between three young people who collide over a debated manuscript. The three first-person voices fit together like a dream. It’s an expert evocation of Beat culture and post-war paranoia over communism and homosexuality. Walking into Eden’s office with her, especially, you’ll think you’ve landed on the set of Mad Men.
This classy, well-plotted follow-up will win the author even more fans and tide us all over until the film version of The Other Typist – produced by and starring Keira Knightley – appears.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
A well written book with some humour beneath the pathos. The characters of the family involved are memorable and believable, and even the secondary characters are fascinating. There is also a sizable amount of New York real estate information and media/publishing drama sprinkled in which actually manages to heighten the setting; the author’s descriptions of New York in the fall are particularly lush. However I enjoyed the book very much.
Cyberbooks by Ben Bova
This book has a strong comedy element, and should be read as such. It is a tongue in cheek, satirical dig at the traditional publishing industry. It is easy to see this going right over the head of some readers, but once you get it, the story takes on a life of it’s own.
The story centers around Carl Lewis, the inventor of the first ever E-reader. He finds himself embroiled in the machinations of two rival traditional publishers, a handful of suitably Machiavellian characters, and a court case brought on by various interest groups who cannot see beyond their own self interest.
Even though this book is now thirty years old, and has been overtaken by the technology of publishing (which has proven it’s prophecy mostly right) it is still worth reading, just to look into traditional publishing, and for the entertainment value. I can’t help wondering how many of Bova’s hilarious views on that industry are (or were) actually based on fact. This is one of the best books about publishing industry.
The Man on the Third Floor by Anne Bernays
This book packs a lot into 184 pages, it portrays a moment in the main characters life without going through a lot of detail on how he got there. It takes place in New York during the 1950’s where paranoia regarding communism and the investigations into anti-American activities are being pursued. The main character works in a publishing house, and lives with his wife and two children in an upscale neighborhood. He also has a secret, his part time chauffeur is also his lover. The book comes to a conclusion when the main character is confronted with all these realities at the same time and is forced to choose one life over the other.