Given the publishing industry’s many complexities, one would assume that the many imprints that pump out books harder than four ventricles burdened with an endless rush of cholesterol-heavy canapes would have the whole branding thing down. But as Sarah points out, this is not really the case at all. The smaller presses do indeed know their audiences and choose the volumes that fit. But while attempting to identify the qualities of a particular house is certainly an interesting parlor game, I’m wondering if this is really matters all that much. After all, publishing houses are in this business because they want their books to sell and make money. If the bottom line (that would be revenue) shows that one particular imprint is profitable and another is not as profitable, presumably this creates a sense of competition within the larger company. But an equally important question to consider is whether or not the people who bought Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn probably wouldn’t be able to tell you that it was published by Little, Brown and Company. If the various imprints under one publishing house exist to create the illusion of choice, then Sarah’s question is perfectly valid. But perhaps this all comes down to internal politics, or all this is a way of ensuring that a production process doesn’t get huge and unmanageable (although I suppose if all the imprints abandoned their imprint names for the corporate moniker, you could have Random House III, Penguin IV, and so forth). So the real question is this: if all this is about profit, does branding really matter in the end? It certainly matters for the indies, because many of them are designed and set up to cater to a specific audience. But if a corporate publishing house that has ineffective branding among its imprints makes more money than one that has their branding together, and the results that are rewarded are the quarterly revenue of all imprints, then it’s small wonder that only a handful of people care about how their imprints appear to the general public. Will more aggressive imprint branding sell more books? Well, this assumes that the people behind an imprint can explain to you what the hell their imprint actually stands for. It might help if someone starts systematically asking publishing people this basic question.
Top Shelf if having a $3 sale for the next ten days. There’s something in the area of 125 graphic novels available. So if you want to load up on comics or sample the waters, this is a great opportunity to help support one of the best indie comics publishers.
Over at Jacket Copy, David Ulin continues the ongoing discussion of Denis Johnson’s noir serial, “Nobody Move.” Part 3 was just unrustled to newsstands.
Terry Teachout doesn’t do Wagner. Funny that. Yesterday, I found myself arguing with someone about the pros and cons of Wagner. Oddly enough, I feel similarly about Bob Dylan, who is perhaps the most overrated, needlessly imitated, and excessively celebrated songwriter of the 20th century. Which is not to say that I entirely loathe Dylan. I’ve listened to just about every album through Shot of Love multiple times, and I like “Destination Row” quite a lot. But if we’re talking popular songwriters, I’ll take Davies, Porter, Arlen, Waits, Young, Wilson, Costello, Cohen, Lennon, Springsteen, and Weller — hell, even Prince — any day before Dylan. My inability to “get” Dylan probably has more to do with me. Each of the above cited songwriters had a goofy side that offset their intensity. It’s not that I can’t appreciate angst or deep brooding. Far from it. I’m just deeply suspicious of any artist who can’t be bothered to blow a raspberry from time to time. (And does “Rainy Day Woman No. 12 & 35” really count if everyone was shitfaced during the recording session?) You can find humor within the bleakest Mike Leigh film. You can find absurdity within James Joyce, Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, and Dostoevsky. But Dylan doesn’t have much of this — at least not to my ears. Of course, if there is some Dylan opus that I’ve completely overlooked, I’m happy to be set straight.
The invisible pregnancies of presidential daughters. Yeah, I’d say that Slate was overreaching. Maybe just a mite. Of course, William Saletan has a history of writing these generalization-laden essays. Witness his “Who really wants to debate the morning-after pill?” article and his strange fascination with IQ by race. What next? Will Saletan start lauding Samuel George Morton’s junk science? Or will we get a Saletan essay on whether women voters are naturally inferior to men? I’d like to see some intrepid journalist — if they can’t afford to hire anybody, maybe they can have an intern do this — run around the Slate offices with a ruler and start measuring the penises of all the male contributors. From here, this essential data can then be siphoned into a 4,000 word investigative article (or perhaps a weekly “discussion”) on the relationship between penis size and rhetorical ability. These are, after all, the most important issues of our time. (via Joanne)