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ROYGBIV: One side of an exchange about publishing

Thursday 3/7/24

Here’s what I have to say about Lauren Wein. 

Each day, I get up and I know there are thousands of Lauren Weins. 

If you look at her bio, you’ll see her various stops. 

I’ll be on FB, and I’ll see some terrible writer sharing news of their big book deal. 

The writer will be the exact same person with the exact same shit and the exact same background as all of these people. 

Maybe it will be a press I’ve never heard of. 

That’s what happened the other day. 

Turns out this press was an imprint of a major 

An imprint is like a subdivision—an arm. 

And Lauren Wein was the editor. 

At each press along the various stops of her career, I sent her books. 

Most of them. 

Most of my books 

I never heard back, I’m pretty sure. 

If I heard anything, she turned me down. Made something up. 

Look at her bio. This is someone who thinks a book is good because Obama read it. Like he has a clue or isn’t some bullshit artist 

Look at the titles of those books on her page. It's just generic slop that has no value whatsoever.

Look at the generic covers 

So I know I have zero chance 

With her 

This is all there is 

And how it works 

Cookie-cutter bullshit 

They actually think that’s what’s good or what anyone wants

These are simple, simple, simple children 

But entitled, evil children 

Incredibly stupid children 

Do you remember the spectrum of colors? 

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet 


Let’s do a metaphor 

Everything interesting is in v now

But that’s way, way, out there because of how lazy everyone, how reliant they are on shit falling on top of them if they're going to know about it

Out there like Pluto 

Everything else in life, in publishing, in society, the shit people are into, is way the fuck back in r where it falls on you. And that's the only reason--it fell on people. Otherwise they wouldn't have a clue about its existence, this shit they don't actually care about 

Interesting stuff is rarefied 

Top of the highest mountain 

People don’t go up there 

They sit on a couch at the bottom 

That’s life 

They're not really into it.

It's just a matter of shit falling on top of them

And that has to be your expectation with people. Until and if you find a way to change things.


That’s how it is and is gonna be 

Those are the rules of the game. Again, until you change them. You get them changed. Because of what you got and what you are.  

But back to publishing 

If I sucked 

If I couldn’t write 

If I knew fuck all

If I looked the part 

Was generic 

Lauren Weis would give me a book deal—through my agent 

Listen to this 

There have been very few great writers in the history of the world 

Some other writers have had their moments 

A story here, a paragraph there 

But there are lots and lots of great musicians 


I’ll tell you 

Writing is harder than anything, so there’s that 

But musicians work at it 

They play and play and play 

Jimi Hendrix lived with his guitar in his hands 

Musicians eat, live, sleep music 

Writers aren’t that way 

They don’t write all day 

They write rarely 

People thought it was crazy that sometimes Hemingway wrote 1000 words a day 

Why do you think I’ve always cared more about musicians than writers? This is why. They give me so much more because they’re better at it 

Re: the Billie Holiday piece…

Ironically—given what I was told this past week by a child—that Holiday piece was not an op-ed in form or content. 

It was a Wiki-style infomercial 

A generic primer 

That’s what nonfiction is now 

Because even Wikipedia is up the mountain 

Wikipedia is now as in-depth as you can go 

If you read the bio, you’ll see that that guy just had a Holiday book come out with Knopf. That’s at a major. There are only five major presses.

The writer is clearly no Holiday expert 

And if you look at his previous books, you’ll see one on Sylvia Plath, another on John Kerry or whatever 

He’s not even a generalist 

A generalist knows something, at least, about a bunch of subjects 

He doesn’t 

He comes along, looks shit up from basic, primary sources—and Wikipedia—and voila: book deal with major. He's also one of them. And he's cookie-cutter. Replacement-level writer doing replacement-level writing.

Now what do you think would happen—or did happen—if I sent Knopf my Holiday book proposal? And with my background? With all that I've written about her and published? All the interviews I've given?

You know the answer. 

There’s plotting, envy, and hate, sure. 

But you need to know the role environment plays 

You know what happens often when an editor sees a story of mine? 

They don’t know what to make of it. It's so beyond the shit they swim in all day long

People are products of environment 

If everyone in that environment says “This thing is good,” people come to think it is for the reasons stipulated by the environment. Or at least enough to essentially brainwash themselves.  

What I’m doing is such an extreme to them 

It confuses them 

They can’t say it sucks because it's obviously on this totally different level

But they’re very uncomfortable. Plus, you have the envy, hate, how insecure I make them feel, etc.

So they shut it down. Say nothing. 

Wiggle out of it.

That's when you're not dealing with the thousands of them coming from the place of hate, envy, insecurity, etc.

“Big Bob and Little Bob” is a crazy extreme to them 

It doesn’t even look like writing as they know it 

And believe it should be 

The very idea of writing something to be read and enjoyed is wholly off their radar. Look at the shit on the blog from Granta, Paris Review, New Yorker, and so forth. No one actually wants to read any of that. No one actually likes Motorollah. Obviously. If anyone said they did to you in a conversation you'd laugh at them. But no one would say it because no one would ever think it.

“Bob” is the apex of what a human can do. And there is nothing of greater intrinsic appeal. What it is and what it could do with the amount of people it'd do it with is not the issue. Having them know about it is.

Our species has produced nothing by anyone else at its level 

It’s what happens when someone has an ability no one has had and works at what he does for every second of his life for half a century 

Every word is perfect 

An alien could take that story, shoot it into the processor on the space ship, and know everything there is to know about humans. In a work that was also as entertaining as something can be.

But to publishing people? They can’t handle that. 

These people get up and MFA shit is their day, every day. That, or just the genre mindlessness and formula. But whether it's MFA or genre, it's all interchangeable within those two subdivisions. And equally formulaic. Worthless.  

As for Knopf: my Holiday book is about living with her art. How the art, across her career, can impact your life and who you are. How you experience life and the world. 

This guy’s book was a cookie-cutter Wiki product about her last year. He seriously wrote an op-ed—as such—about her being under-sung. Which is crazy. The most basic thing about Holiday is that she’s a famous jazz singer. There isn’t anything more basic. More primary. And that was his big revelation. It’s like coming along now and saying, “Here’s my big reveal! The Beatles were from Liverpool!” Well, no shit. We’ve known that for sixty years. We’ve known this most basic thing about Holiday since the 1930s. But they want the “no shit” shit. Not the “that’s fascinating” stuff. 

We are so fucking stupid and uneducated now that Wiki and Wiki-type stuff is the new “go-to” of depth, research, and expertise. It’s the new big book at the way back of the big library. 

Also: People won’t go to Wikipedia on their own. That’s the role now of books and articles. They are Wikipedia in all but name. 


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