Authors’ Walk of Shame

By Kathryn Comment

Typically, authors’ jeremiads against the publishing biz bemoan their books’ covers, their books’ lack of publicity, their books’ clueless editors, and their own shameful attempts at self-promotion. This one does all that, but adds one element to the story which — as obvious as it seems — I haven’t seen before:

All this business about making books made me unenthused about writing because when you make a deal and money is involved, even small potatoes money, you have to relinquish control. In my case that meant a late publication date, virtually no marketing, poor distribution and a cover that doesn’t work. Just didn’t seem worth it.

I think about this as I wheel my daughter Mamie around the neighborhood for her afternoon walks. Last week we checked out Jonathan Safran Foer’s new seven million dollar house. Do I want that? Well, I’d like a house for sure, but do I want to be embroiled in the business of books to get it? …

How many authors — raise your hands — have “just happened” to pass by there? How many stopped to stare? How often do Jonathan and Nicole look out their windows and see, across the street, lone figures with looks of anguish on their faces better suited to rainy nights in pet cemetaries than sunny days on tree-lined streets?

They couldn’t have known, buying their house, how quickly other writers would make it a symbol — of enviable entitlement, plum success, ostentatious satisfaction. And, whether or not we writers actually pass by it, our references to it and jokes about it suggest a fixation reminiscent of stalking.