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May 05, 2005

I Keep Meaning to Mention...

by Ron Hogan

...that I wound up going to the very end of the Small Press Center's Round Table Writer's Conference, even though I hadn't quite finished the feature story I was working on, because I really wanted to hear what PW's Sara Nelson, Michael Cader of PublishersLunch, and Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House had to say about "the future of publishing." Dennis says it's an "exciting time" for indie publishers like him, because "the big guys are going to get bigger and bigger, but they're also going to get dumber and dumber." Michael advised writers to "ignore all trend pieces" in media coverage of the publishing industry because there never is an actual trend behind any of them, while Sara ended up talking a bit about the PW relaunch that was still a few days away then, correcting an audience member who had heard about the plans at Kirkus to take money to review people's books and thought it was going on at her magazine, and to point out that the "novels with gimmicks" trend (to which Dennis chimed in with Foer's name) was just the fashion of the moment and reminded us that Dan Brown is "very traditional in form and style." And, as Michael pointed out, the biggest demographic in the bookbuying public is the 50+ crowd.

The Q&A period got a bit silly at times--e.g., "Do you see books becoming shorter because people don't have time to read?"--but it was a pretty lively discussion, and the general consensus seemed to be that we'll have publishing around for a bit longer. Afterwards, I was chatting with Marie Mockett, who introduced herself as a fan of the site (which made me feel very cool), and she gave me some very good scoops on panels from the previous day in which several book reviewers claimed to pull back the curtain on how books get reviewed and on how Dave King's The Ha-Ha found its way from his desk to America's bookshelves. I also ran into Blair Tindall, who promised to send me a copy of her memoir, Mozart in the Jungle, as soon as the next batch of galleys are ready--can't wait to get my dose of "sex, drugs, and classical music."

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