Thursday, January 08, 2009

One of my best jokes, gone for good

One of my favorite contract negotiation stories involves an entertainment lawyer in LA who was reviewing a book publication contract from a Big Ol' NY publisher. The BONY publisher had their usual boilerplate, plus all the stuff the agent had asked for. The lawyer was basically reviewing a done deal.

The lawyer called the VP for contracts and rather stiffly demanded a new clause. "The author's name must be on the cover of the book." The VP was rather astonished the lawyer asked for this, since of course, the author's name is always on the cover. It would be like putting "you must write the book in English" in the contract.

Well, the VP and I have laughed about that story more than once; usually when one of us is being a total nit picker about something. I've told the story myself in talks I've given about book contracts.

And then, today, I discovered via a Tweet from that clever publisher Richard Nash at Softskull Press, that my joke must now be retired.

Here's the cover of one of their new books:

There's an interesting discussion here of how the cover was chosen (and the publisher's initial response)

I'm sorry to lose one of my favorite jokes, but it's interesting to note that with electronic sales venues now, having all the info on the actual book cover might end up going the way of the dodo bird.

By the way, here's the link to Amazon in case you want to know what the book is about!

My pal Lauren over at BiblioBuffet reminded me of a book that needed no title:


All Adither said...

That is too funny. Book must include punctuation and page numbers. Now I have to click through and see what this book IS about.

JES said...

Okay, having read the stuff you linked to, I get it.

But what the heck is on the book's spine???

Kelley said...

amen, Lauren. amen.

spyscribbler said...

Interesting. My first thought was Velvet Underground, too. I think it works for those who know the inspiration, and it will probably make others curious.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

I can hear the booksellers now:
Yes! We have no Bananas!

But I don't get why a biography of Marc Eliot has a picture of Cary Grant on the cover...

Jim Lamb said...

This is definitive proof that marketing people should stay out of the glue room.

Indigo said...

In the case of the Banana book (How else would one describe it without a title), this is a case of less is not always better. I'm one of those people that a catchy title would more likely appeal to my sense of interest. It's not the artwork your trying to sell, but the words themselves. (Hugs)Indigo

BJ said...

The Banana book does have a real name: Rebels Wit Attitude: Subversive Rock Humorists. It's just not on the cover. And the other is Cary Grant: A Biography. I checked that out, because I could just imagine librarians lynching the publishers for giving them books they couldn't possibly catalogue.

Sarah Jensen said...

Thanks Jonathan, I laughed.
And I must be the only perv here. The banana book didn't come off as a comedic take on Rock n Roll to me.
I didn't think slapstick either.
And Cary needs nothing more. :)

Elissa M said...

The Cary Grant cover is fine, but I would so not even pick up a book with nothing but a banana peel on the cover. Be interesting to know if it sells well.

Jane Smith said...

This is nothing new. Years ago (20? 25? It was in the 1908s I think) an acquaintance of mine had a book of his reissued via a new publisher, and they missed his name off the cover entirely in favour of the author of the foreword, who just happened to be the Duke of Edinburgh.

Funny, that.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Wow. I hope I'm correct in assuming that the title and author are at least printed on the spine.

If I saw a cover with such a lack of information in the store though, I would pick it up out of curiosity. Whether I'd buy it would depend on the subject matter, but it would at least grab my attention.

I have a friend who's studying media law right now and is always warning me to put that type of clause in my contract (should I ever get one). I guess I can't roll my eyes at him anymore.

seldom malkied said...

I have a friend, lets call her Saba (its her name) who's just written and self published a book with a title, okay - but no author anywhere!

When this was pointed out, rather than clap her hand to her forehead, she went into a long dissertation on Lacan and French literary theory, about the essential redundancy of the author.