• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Don’t Hate Me Cause I’m Beautiful

Saw Moneyball over the weekend. I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been thinking about publishing the whole time, namely the phenomenal success of Michael Lewis: Liar’s Poker, The Big Short, The New New Thing, Moneyball, The Blind Side, etc. My daughter pipes up, “Mommy, why don’t you get Michael Lewis for a client.” Sure, sweetheart, I’ll do that as soon as grow a third leg.

I was also taken with the whole method of evaluating “underperforming” players and their likelihood of getting on base known as sabermetrics. I kept wondering if there was an equivalent system in publishing by counting reviews, features, NPR hits, an author’s Twitter followers, Facebook friends, high school creative writing  prizes and willingness to blow Comedy Central hosts to determine if they could get on the bestseller list and in what position, top five, bottom five, extended list, etc.

Is the game stacked?

35 Responses

  1. I can’t help but respond with humor. I’ve been sleeping with an editor for a major newspaper for three years now. Publishing-wise, it’s gotten me nowhere.

  2. the winklevoss twins are pitching pistachio nuts now.
    the whole world is stacked. aces on bottom, aces on top. the same people keep getting aces.

    • So the trick is to get that first ace. You just have to keep playing the cards you’re dealt until it shows up.

      • I support this theory. Perhaps some people have cheat cards up their sleeve, but it’s life, so there are more than 52 in that deck, and they’ll keep coming till you stop.

  3. To some extent. It reminds me to ask, How many great, well-written novels never see an agent because the Query Letter is not well-written???


  4. For the winners, no. For the losers, yes. It’s a variation on Einstein’s relativity theory.

  5. I am eager to see that movie. As far applying the publishing equivalent of sabremetrics to authors, I don’t see how it would work reliably. Successful outcomes in baseball are clearly defined. Bestsellerdom seems much more unpredictable, doesn’t it? At least as far as what books get hit out of the park.

  6. The deck is imaginary, no matter what Brad Pitt says.

  7. It’s not stacked . . . it’s superstitious.

    Ah, just out of curiosity and purely hypothetical . . . which Comedy Central hosts?

  8. Oh, yeah–what Sarah W. asked. Inquiring minds want to know. Hey, if Stewart’s asking…

  9. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Aces up the sleeve. Somewhere there’s a rule book – a secret society knock – some revelation. I really hope I never find it because I’ve gotten very comfortable in my cluelessness.

  10. It’s all a formula of luck and timing and talent and magic and luck and luck and luck and luck all multiplied by timing and luck. It’s whatever strikes America’s fancy or Oprah’s fancy or someone-famous’ fancy at the exact time when the rest of America is waiting to hear about what ought to strike their fancy next because there they are, wallets open, bookshelves empty, waiting to fancy something new. It’s mostly magic, black magic, white magic, the magic that you find in your Cracker Jack at the ball park. It’s timing, the elusive timing, the timing that makes it so that your book comes out at the exact time when something happens that makes your book seem transcendent, amazing, mythically gorgeous and bewitching. It’s…

    Wait, I could just blow a Comedy Central host? Which one?

  11. I think you’re onto something. Is it just a coincidence that Bill James’ initials turn out to be BJ or is their a connection between formula-for-success and the hand that feeds it?

  12. Yes the deck is stacked but it’s not one deck.

  13. Decks will always be stacked but Patti Smith trumps Michael Lewis every time.

  14. The game is a mystery, so impossible to stack.

  15. The deck is stacked. Fight it.

  16. Maybe. Some definitely have an advantage going into the game, but some people just won’t take no for an answer. I grudgingly concede my inlaws were able to instill that in their kids. They want it all and fully believe it is theirs to take. I tell my husband not to expect too much in selling my book. He tells me not to expect too little. If it doesn’t sell – for decent money mind you, I haven’t done my job. Believe, he says. If I ever manage to grow a sense of deserving I will be his crowning glory.

  17. Depends who is shuffling and arranging that deck – at the moment, I seem to be at the wrong card table. Perhaps Old Maid or Go Fish should be my game, as the present situation feels like strip poker and all I’m holding is a pair of jokers.

  18. I think the winning formula for Michael Lewis is simply that he’s an amazing writer. I could read his books all day. The he made a story about subprime mortgages riveting will never cease shocking me.

  19. I meant “that he made”

  20. Yes it’s stacked but less so now than before. There are all kinds of things and enterprising author can do to help level the playing field that were not available to them a few years ago.

  21. Of course the game is stacked — in favor of which house, I don’t know, but not mine. And the game has neither quality control nor manners, either.

  22. In an interview for the Guardian today one of my favorite writers said something so true and powerful I have to share it.

    “I refuse to lie to children,” says Sendak. “I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.”

    Life is a stacked deck. Games just keep our minds off the inevitable.

  23. the more acquainted I’ve become with the publishing world the more I’ve come to see it as a very incestuous (and surprisingly tight-knit) industry, but I’ve also found that to be true of a number of business enclaves from securities law to medicine to cotton…none of them meritocracies, well I shouldn’t say none…more that there is a two-tiered system, one where success is tied to who you know and who you blow – connections -having the right cards in your deck and the other where success is more or less earned…though even there connections must be made if efforts are to be recognized. And that realization has certainly had a chilling effect on my only literary endeavors. It’s made me wary of the few connections I have established (friendships really that have been worth my while regardless of whether they hand me a card), recognizing that the closer you are to a person, the harder it is to be honest with them about their work. It’s much easier, for me at least, to be candidly critical of writers I started out with, wannabes like me, because I expect, even rely upon the same from them, than it is my more established writer friends…most of whom already have a deeply ingrained sense of the quality of their work, often inflated by Aces they were dealt, and while I have a decent reputation as an editor amongst my writer peers, I’m less inclined to be frank with my friends holding a pair of Aces than my friends who got cards from an honestly shuffled deck…all of which is to say the whole stacked-deck thing is self-perpetuating and ultimately self-defeating if your goal is to do the best work you can do…though it is hard at times to sit back and watch happen if you love a good story, I mean really love a good story, live for a good story, and find an increasingly corrupted marketplace giving you fewer and fewer (talking books and movies here) genuinely good stories…

  24. If anyone knows that answer, you do.

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