Saturday, November 29, 2008

Another One Bites The Dust

The closing of Impetus Press located in Iowa City reminds us here at Wylie-Merrick what it’s like to fight the good fight and lose. Although we are not closing our doors, we have had to close to new writers. However, this story reminds us of the extra effort it takes to operate in what’s known as “Fly Over Country,” the backwater a few of the editors we deal with probably will never see or understand.

Art happens where it happens and, even though New York City thinks of itself as the center of the universe, most art happens elsewhere. It just ends up on one of the coasts because that’s where all the big buildings are, and it’s way easier and much hipper to have a book launch in a big building next to a great catering facility than it is to have one in the school gym next to a local steakhouse, even if they have really good steak.

Excuse me for being bitchy, but when I read about Impetus Press closing, it saddened me to think that yet another source for good books had been defeated by the unrelenting tide of mega bookstore returns. It’s also sad that poor distribution has claimed yet another victim in the war of art—or at least a good read--over commercial glop. It saddens me that what Willy Blackmore, whose great-grandfather was John Farrar of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and writer Jennifer Banash have failed not because they didn’t have a decent product, but because of a bad economic climate and the overwhelming tide of book returns. And yet another small publisher is gone. What would John Farrar think of a present publishing system that allows a distribution mess that favors the bookstore over the publisher? What would he think of an industry in which his great grandson failed even while trying to publish in the tradition that made his press world famous?

Impetus tried to publish books in the old tradition, books that created readers instead of cookie cutter novels that are published to give their readers instant gratification-beach reads and glop that’s forgotten the instant the book is dropped in the sand. As was once said, a great novel changes its reader—not anymore.

Not anymore.

Publishing today looks for the next best-seller or which small publisher’s backlist can be next acquired. Art is not even considered as great new authors wait in the wings for spaces consistently occupied by the same big name authors. They wait patiently for their voices to become silent or fall out of favor. Unfortunately, many of them give up.

Impetus was only in business for three short years, but they made quite an impact during that time. Jennifer loved her authors and she and Willy are trying to place them with other presses. We wish them all good luck and God’s speed.


Travis Erwin said...

Sad times indeed.

Ann Victor said...

Very well said!

Sharpie said...

"Art is not even considered as great new authors wait in the wings for spaces consistently occupied by the same big name authors."

It seems hypocritical to bemoan others doing what you are doing yourselves.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Sharpie, from my perspective what may seem hypocritical to you makes perfect sense to me, especially in this tight market. I can only represent what markets dictate. If no one wants the product, it doesn't make sense to stock more.

Anonymous said...

Sharpie, it seems that frustration aimed at an agency won't really help. We live in a Walmart generation and sociologically speaking true works of art/literature challenge people to do something that is never easy and even less so in this environment - accept for just a moment that a state anomie that requires one to think can be better than living a life in a pavlovian cage.

The ease with which people walk into a store and know exactly where to buy what they want, what it will cost and who made it comes with a host of personal and public sacrifices. Perhaps the most tragic of these are the effects that our modular, formula driven, discount world has on the one person in this system who could do something to prevent companies like Impetus from closing their doors.

The sad truth is that the consumers as a whole become lazy, less able to think clearly, more prone to suggestion, weaker against challenge and in time they eventually may find themselves so ignorant of the processes at work that they no longer know how to challenge the monoliths who provide them their services at an ever declining quality and ever rising cost.

Like drug addiction, it is a trap that is not easy to escape nor change, but a literary agent can not bear that responsibility alone. The truth is that the author, publisher, agent, distributor and every other link in the chain of commerce all worship the same god - the buyer.

Those looking for someone to blame need not look farther than their own wallets. If you want good works to sell- demand good works at the marketplace and be willing to pay the price necessary to get the quality that you really want. Buy what matters to you and win the hearts of others with the gold to do the same.

Anonymous said...

"...instant gratification-beach reads and glop that’s forgotten the instant the book is dropped in the sand."

Hey, it's not easy to churn out that glop! If it was, all the literary types would be churning out glop to support the creation of their literary masterpieces instead of working dayjobs or worse, right? Think about it.

Anonymous said...

Sharpie, what Mr. KajuXian has graciously said, for those who cannot understand the educated English language is: "Put your money where your mammy flappin' mouth is."

jennifer Banash said...

We cannot tell you what your support means to us at a time like this. It broke my heart to close our doors, to tell our authors that we could no longer continue. The feeling of failure, of letting down these wonderful people we so believe in, is overwhelming. Thanks again for your kind words in this dark time. We are still trying to place every author we can, so if you have any suggestions, please let us know.

Jennifer Banash