The Questionless Books Interview: Editor, Blogger, and Writer Jason Boog

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Jason Boog

In The Questionless Books Interview, I get a whole bunch of books people (from authors to editors to publishers to sales/publicity/production people, booksellers, designers, librarians, readers, etc) to "answer" a series of unspoken "questions". The results highlight a delightful mix of the opportunities and challenges facing our sector: from doom and gloom to sunshine and rainbows, and every irony in between.

After spending two years on top of a mountain in Peace Corps Guatemala, Jason Boog chased the dream of every skinny Midwestern writer boy with glasses: to starve to death in New York City. He's an editor at MediaBistro.com's publishing blog, GalleyCat and an adjunct instructor at New York University’s School of Journalism, and has written for The Believer, Salon.com, The Revealer, and Peace Corps Writers. He also worked for three years as a staff writer at the investigative reporting publication, Judicial Reports.

Jason's Links:

MediaBistro
GalleyCat
The Believer
Granta
Salon
Evernote

I am...The publishing editor at mediabistro.com, a blogger at GalleyCat, and a literary nonfiction writer.

I am known to...compose six to eight blog posts a day and write long form literary nonfiction.

I do this in...GalleyCat, The Believer, Granta, Salon.com, and other places.

I do this because...I was never really good at doing anything else.

I do this when I...have a spare moment--holding a sleeping baby, on the subway, while walking, in bed, at coffee shops, and sometimes, when I'm lucky, at a desk.

The way I do this is...on Evernote, a program that syncs my writing across my smartphone, my laptop, my desktop, and my tablet. Ever since my wife and I had a beautiful baby girl I've had to change my usual writing strategy (hand-write in a notebook and type into my laptop at a later date) because I've lost a lot of free writing time. So I write on whatever device is available and most convenient at the particular moment I can write.

At his/her core, a Writer is...somebody who tells stories.

As opposed to an Author, who is...a person who managed to actually publish the stories they tell in a book.

A Writer is responsible for...telling the best stories they possibly can.

As opposed to an Author, who is responsible for...telling the best stories they possibly can and working as best they can with an agent, editor & publisher to share their Book with the world. I think this is changing, however. More below...

At its core, Publishing is...the business of printing, packaging, coding and distributing stories in as many different places as possible.

As opposed to Editing, which is...polishing manuscripts into polished and publishable material for a Book.

A Publisher should always...take advantage of the new digital tools, formats, and communities that will help their authors.

As opposed to an Editor, who should always...help a writer polish a manuscript into something beautiful before passing it along to a Publisher.

A Manuscript that's ready to be read by others is...not ready to be published. It is ready to be read, critiqued, re-edited by the writer many, many times before the writer ever attempts to get published.

As opposed to a Book that's ready to be ready by others, which is...a Book that has been read, critiqued, re-edited by the writer many, many times, edited by an Editor, and published by a Publisher.

A Manuscript should always...be critiqued & revised by at least three kinds of people: a friend, a disinterested reader, and a professional writer.

As opposed to a Book, which should always...follow the Traditional Publishing Model. That's what I would have said until recently. But now I think things are changing and our definitions must be more flexible.

Up until this sentence, I was describing the Traditional Publishing Model. It has worked wonderfully for many years, and I still recommend that my writer friends try and follow this route before they do anything else with a manuscript. HOWEVER, these are tough days for both Writers and Authors--advances are shrinking, bookstore space is diminishing, and there will be less and less book deals in the future.

Therefore, this model will not work for everyone in the future and many writers will take the self-publishing route to becoming an Author. I don't think this is a bad thing, but it will change the publishing landscape forever.

In this strange new world populated by more and more self-published work, I would still urge writers to follow these steps to becoming an Author:

1. Read, critique, re-edit your work many many times before publishing.
2.Make sure your manuscript has been critiqued & revised by at least three kinds of people: a friend, a disinterested reader, and a professional writer.
3. Hire a freelance editor to help you polish the manuscript, if at all possible.
4. Make sure you have the best resources (and, if possible, outside support) possible for publishing a readable and well-formatted book.
5. Use social networks, media, book clubs, friends, family, bookstores, and anybody else you can enlist to help share your book.

At its core, Bookselling is...sharing your love of a book with another person.

As opposed to Book Marketing, which is...sharing information (and, in the best cases, love) about a book with as many people as possible.

The smallest unit of narrative is...The phrase "Once there was..."

The biggest reason to anticipate the future is...the fact that digital books encourage people to read more books than ever before and the fact that the Internet helps people share & discover books better than ever before.

The biggest reason to be scared of the future is...we will have thousands and thousands of new books to choose from, but less guidance from traditional gatekeepers like publishers, traditional book reviews & mega-bookstores. This trend isn't completely scary by itself, and will, I hope, be refreshing in the long run. However, this trend will make it much, much harder for writers to support themselves as the traditional publishing economy changes. I wrote a long essay about this here.

In the future we will all...read more books in more formats.

At his/her core, a Reader is...somebody who loves reading the stories that writers love to tell.

The ideal Reader is...somebody who loves all the same things I like to read and write about (in no particular order & these are just examples off the top of my head): how New York City writers survived during the Great Depression, private detectives, Old Time Radio dramas, hypothetical cool eBooks with video in them, G.I. Joe, fake memoirs, comic books, H.P. Lovecraft, Werner Herzog films, pulp fiction, good bad movies, postmodern trickery, extended metaphors, experimental nonfiction, real-life authors as characters in fiction & nonfiction, Raymond Chandler, Sigmund Freud, libraries, narrator voice-overs, dreamy imagery, Jorge Luis Borges stories, librarians, and people talking about books on the Internet.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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George Murray

George Murray’s six books of poetry include The Rush to Here and The Hunter. His most recent books, Whiteout and Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms, are published by ECW Press. He is the editor of the popular literary website Bookninja.com.

Go to George Murray’s Author Page