Thursday, April 07, 2005

Postcard Secrets

My friend, who shall here-to-fore be known as Link-Master Mike, sent me this link to PostSecret, a blog that accepts handmade postcards that reveal a deep, dark, often funny secret about its maker. The best cards are posted on the site, while the rest are (presumably) returned with uniform rejection letters that say something to the effect of, "Sorry, your postcard isn't right for us at this time. Good luck publishing it elsewhere. - The Editors"

The timing of this discovery, as is often the case with the timing of the Link-Master's notes, is perfect because just last night, over a $20-sandwich-and-glass-of-wine dinner ($20 eff'n dollars!), I was talking with a friend about "dis"honesty in the workplace and whether omission was actually a form of lying. The conversation began with a comment about knowing that you are close to a person (or real friends) because you occasionally fight with them. The fact that you fight with them means that you care enough to tell them what you honestly think even if you know it will make them unhappy or angry.

The conversation moved on to the fact that generally people don't speak their minds out some sense of "civility" and "politeness." The old saying goes, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." What a fucking myth! What horseshit advice! We might as well tell each other, "Just repress your feelings." I guess that's not so nice, but it's basically the same thing.

Then I went on one of my characteristic diatribes about office culture. This rant was about how a lot of people I know are basically scared to say what they really think, afraid of confrontation or direct disagreements with someone even if their opinion has merit, and occasionally downright dishonest in acquiescing to ideas with which they don't agree. It's madness! Sometimes people are so busy being civil to one another that much of what they say and many of their interactions are simply fabrications. This will probably get me in trouble, but in keeping with speaking my mind...

It's infinitely worse when dealing with authors, who must be appeased, flattered, and generally satiated at a wretched cost to honesty. In the end, the ego-stroking and appeasement doesn't really help sell books (which is everyone's basic objective here). Personally, I have taken the position of full-disclosure. When I talk to authors I answer their questions and concerns honestly and (perhaps) crudely. I'll tell an author openly that they have a small ad budget because we're only printing 15,000 copies of their book, and the reason we're only printing 15,000 is because our retail outlets have only ordered 12,000 copies. Would we rather sell 100,000 copies of your book and spend tens of thousands of dollars advertising it? Sure, but the market won't support that. This is a business, and we try to make it work the best we can. There's always a good reason for the decisions we make, and if an author thinks we're skimping on ads for a book, it's probably because we haven't been honest enough in explaining to him or her why we haven't advertised more. We want to sell books as much as anyone (the author included) - there's no reason to hide from the truths behind that.

So yeah, this honesty thing - look into it, folks. It's one investment that's actually worth the risk. Otherwise you can keep sending your postcards to PostSecret. Look for one that says, "One of our author's book sales suck because she writes about characters with whom people can't identify and generally dislike. I've never shared this info with her because I'm afraid she'll leave for another publishing house." [If you thought I was going to link that statement to a particular author's book on Amazon, you're f*cking crazy!]


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