edsel

24 Big Lit Names

There are 24 big lit names featured in our first “Lit Question of the Month” forum discussing the contemporary short story.

They’re from all parts of the new literary universe.

They gave 24 striking answers, here.

(Why the Edsel photo? The car is a classic example of a giant manufacturer trying to force-feed the public a product it didn’t want. Is the same thing happening with the giant publishing conglomerates?)

Outmaneuvering New York

ONE of our missions at Detroit-based NEW POP LIT is to outmaneuver the mandarins of the Manhattan-Brooklyn literary world.

We’ve just done it!– obtaining the first U.S. publication of one of Belarus’s most exciting writers, Andrei Dichenko. This exactly one day after Belarus author Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for literature. Read Dichenko’s work now, ably translated by Andrea Gregovich.

This scoop is proof that we’re hungrier, tougher and faster than the pseudo-intellectuals. (Also more fun.)

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Our Dally in The Alley Report!

TABLING AT DETROIT’S DALLY IN THE ALLEY

The speed at which the “Dally” street festival is growing is astounding. In the 1990’s I lived in the same north Cass Corridor neighborhood that hosts this amazing urban street fair. I can remember when the event was confined to the long alley behind buildings. I remember when it expanded to neighboring streets. Now the event has overflowed onto a large chunk of Midtown Detroit.

The fair is twice the size of what I remember from 1998 or thereabouts. It’s as much as 50% bigger than the last time I attended it, when I was in town in 2008. In some respects for vendors it’s become too big. While the Allied Media Conference in June didn’t have enough traffic to suit our purposes, the Dally at times had too much; the vendors jammed helplessly in their spots watching the unending flow of people who were not there to purchase but instead, frankly, to get drunk. This was late evening, once the sun vanished.

How did we do from a sales standpoint?

I’ll use the mantra, “Not as well as we hoped but better than we feared.” For about a three-hour window we did very well, catching interest with Kathleen Crane’s eye-catching “ALOHA FROM DETROIT” t-shirts (soon to be on sale at the main http://www.newpoplit.com site), as well as with our prototype lit journal with its equally eye-catching Alyssa Klash cover. There were scores of other vendors selling Detroit t-shirts. Everyone who commented to us on the matter–at least a hundred people– said we had the best.

The weather was quite cool, and threatened rain for much of the day– moments of dark clouds overhead punctuated by occasional drops. We took a risk in that we were one of a handful of vendors who didn’t have a tent. (A big change from Dallys I remember from the past.) I’d decided not to spend $75 on renting a tent! Low overhead is how NEW POP LIT has decided to operate. It will remain the case as we move further into print book publishing. This is how we plan to takedown the bloated book giants– with a fast, streamlined operation.

Toward the end of the evening, when vendors had more time to chat, one of them complimented us on how we operated. He said the way to do it is to focus on a few products– your best movers– instead of having a ton of stock, which he had. Many vendors had large tents and many racks, holding as much merchandise as a store in a shopping mall. Their operations took hours to set up and take apart. He pointed out to us a rack of clothing he was selling at a large discount– items created or acquired long ago for another festival. Yet behind this rack were many, many other arrays of clothing and other products– a large investment which would have to be moved at event after event after event.

We had as much merchandise as we thought we would sell. We sold a large percentage of our main features. Some of the authors’ books we had with us were more problematic.

This was for a number of reasons. First, in face-to-face selling you can focus only on one or two items (much of what we sold was with sharp verbal effort). You’re focused first on what people ask about. Display– the look of a product– is crucial. Second, with our own products we were free to use creative discounting. I sold the NEW POP LIT prototype at two dollars off the cover price, because it’s not a finished product. (The real printing will take care of minor glitches and typos.) For the t-shirts we varied the price depending on crowd interest, which started slow in the morning, peaked in the afternoon, then dropped off a table when the beer drinker partyers arrived by the tens of thousands. (The Dally is one of the best pure parties anywhere– and I’ve been to a few, including the Indy 500.) Our attitude was that of vendors at a European or Arab or African open air bazaar– we were ready to bargain, and did so. In hindsight, we should’ve gotten permission from the authors who’d sent us books months ago to do likewise for them. But then, many books can’t be discounted and avoid a loss.

The great artist-writer “I’m not Picasso” Dan Nielsen had given us permission to do what we wished with his entertaining chapbooks, which added to our flexibility, because on a couple occasions when potential buyers were hesitating I said, “I’ll throw in the Dan Nielsen art-lit book,” and made the sale. Kudos to Dan. All marketing experts say it’s better to add value than to drop the price much. There were price points beneath which we wouldn’t go for anything. Well, except at the very end of the night when we were ready to pack up! Most of what we sold was close to the original price we’d set, but not at it.

There was much to take note of. One is how few real punks there were at the event– though punk bands dominated the stage inside the alley itself. (We were positioned closer to the techno/house music stage.) The Dally in the Alley was traditionally, for decades, a mainly punk affair– but except for the fashion-punk variety, the real punk person seems to be a thing of the past. With exceptions. A wild punky couple were struck by the photo of Jessie Lynn McMains we had at the front of our table and bought anything by her they could get their hands on– including the NEW POP LIT journal, which contains an amazing story by Jessie– one of the best stories you’ll ever read anywhere.

The punk couple, and other readers, will be sure to equally enjoy Kathy Crane’s tough “Aloha from Detroit” story in the journal. Inspiration for the t-shirts.

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The vendors on either side of us were FANTASTIC. Unbelievably friendly and helpful, seeing that for this event we were virtual neophytes. I sold at many zinefests in the past, but the Dally in The Alley is an entirely different creature. Especially what it’s morphed into. But it retains the same DIY cooperative vibe it’s always had.

It’s hard to describe here the full experience. I parked our vehicle almost a mile away– yet when the festival reached its peak, the crowd had expanded that far. On sidestreets outside the designated grounds, vendors had set up unofficially to hawk their wares. Bars on all sides had their own music events taking place. Is the Dally now comparable to Mardi Gras? To the big Austin music festival? It’s getting there.

Kudos to the neighborhood folks who put the Dally on, keeping the legacy going. They did an amazing job.

-K.W.

Franzen latest

Discounting Franzen’s Purity

ARE THE BIG 5 IN TROUBLE?

Seldom has a book received as much advance hype as Jonathan Franzen’s 563-page novel, Purity, due out September 1 from the Farrar, Straus & Giroux company. Advance reviews, articles, and interviews are multiplying across the internet. Seemingly every Manhattan Monopoly literary person has been unleashed to gush over the thing.

No one is announcing the size of the advance Franzen and his agent, Susan Golomb, received. A million dollars? Easy. Two million? Three? We can only speculate.

THE QUESTION

The question is why the publisher is ALREADY heavily discounting the book, before it’s even been released. This moment Amazon is selling it, under pre-order status, for $15.40– which is not quite half off the novel’s $28 cover price. Is FSG afraid that they otherwise won’t move copies?

The contradictions of Manhattan publishing may be catching up to the industry. The advance given to Franzen, as we said, no doubt was sizable. His agent, Ms. Golomb, doesn’t come cheap, and took her cut of the payment. Farrar also has a large suite of offices– on expensive New York real estate– to pay for, as well as phalanxes of editors and publicists and other staff people. Farrar, Straus & Giroux has also budgeted a huge sum for advertising and other avenues of publicity.

Purity is not just FSG’s, but the entire New York City-based industry’s, big book of the season. From the novel they need to obtain sales and prestige. By all accounts (biased, certainly, from a host of literary media flunkies) the novel is perceived to be a great artistic triumph. Jonathan Franzen is the industry’s leading novelist. His previous two successes sold millions of copies. He has a built-in, long-sustained and proven reputation. His image has been on the cover of Time magazine– and may be again this time. The book has all the earmarks of a “sure thing.”

Why, then, the discounting?

Is Farrar, Straus & Giroux panicking already?

(Could they possibly fear that Jonathan Franzen is not in fact a very exciting writer?)

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What’s the truth of the matter?

The truth is that Jonathan Franzen produces what can be called coffee table books. They look impressive. Their author carries a ton of prestige. They’re the kind of thing which rich people in New York or in plush suburbs across the country will purchase to show off as indications of their taste and breeding. The novels look fine placed on coffee tables. “Oh! Jonathan Franzen,” house guests will say. “His latest!”

Owning the plodding novels is like possessing the latest model Rolls or Mercedes. But few people actually read them.

Ian Lahey

NPL Author Ian Lahey Featured in ‘Short and Happy (or not)’

by Lloyd Poast

Short stories are becoming increasingly popular in today’s fast paced lifestyles. Between careers, family, social life, and the latest episode of The Walking Dead, not everyone has the time they’d like to devote to a full length novel. In an attempt to help those looking for a quick literary fix, S&H Publishing, Inc. has released a new anthology entitled Short and Happy (or not), featuring 36 stories by such authors as Rob Johnson, John Byk, Ellen Barnes, and New Pop Lit contributor, Ian Lahey.

Ian has two entries in the anthology, both exploring the relationship between a subdued assistant and an authoritative professor, which showcase his penchant for humour, adventure, and killer endings.

The first, Coprolith, is a light-hearted romp into the Chilean rain forest where Hikari Sukei, a paleontologist from Osaka, and Dillings, his displaced and mildly annoyed assistant from Leeds, go chasing after a dream. This tale of dreams and dinosaurs has a surprise ending that’ll leave you smirking well into the next story.

Doesn’t Matter explores the lighter side of advanced physics when a scientist attempts to change the world, but his assistant fears he will not only change it, but effectively delete it.

Ian initially thought that he would only have one story in the anthology, but fate had other plans. “I had originally sent just one story, Doesn’t Matter, and then I got into an email exchange with the editor, Dixiane, so I sent in a second story, Coprolith as well, more to justify the fact I was using her “submissions” mail address than anything else. When I found out both had been accepted it was a double surprise. I hope readers will enjoy reading the stories as much as I did, writing them.”

Able to be equally enjoyed lying on the beach or curled up in front of a fireplace, Short and Happy (or not) is a fun read flowing with the energy of writers truly in love with their craft. Featuring both new and established authors, as well as a variety of genres including science fiction and fantasy, this internationally flavored anthology is a recommended addition to anyone’s reading list. Short and Happy (or not) can be purchased from Amazon or directly from the publisher’s website.

Catch Ian Lahey’s interview with NPL here, as well as his stories Matt Murphy: Private Eye and The Janitor.

Sabrina Lloyd Poast

Sabrina

By Lloyd Poast

Archie comics have always been a symbol of the simpler pleasures in life. Nearly every household in the seventies and eighties had a dog-eared Archie digest laying around where the adventures of Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and the rest of the gang could be picked up and read for a quick smile.

Last year, Archie Comics surprised readers by placing those same loveable teenagers from Riverdale into the pages of a zombie apocalypse called Afterlife with Archie. The very mature and dark series was both a critical and commercial success which proved that Archie could pull off horror as well as comedy.

This October, the company continued to capitalize on their newfound notoriety and reinvented everyone’s favorite teenage witch, Sabrina, releasing their newest entry in the horror field entitled Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. If the rest of the series is anything like the debut issue, Archie Comic Publications has monster on their hands. Sabrina is amazing.

Born of a mortal woman and a warlock father, Sabrina is raised by her two aunts and the first issue follows her from birth until her early teens. Along the way, we also meet her familiar, a talking cat named Salem, and her warlock cousin, Ambrose. With superb writing by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and art by Robert Hack, the creative team have developed an atmospheric supernatural thriller that blends the classic chills of Rosemary’s Baby with the youthful cool of The Lost Boys. While there may not be long haired teenage vampires cavorting about a large Jim Morrison poster, Robert Hack’s artwork is appropriately creepy with a slight retro feel that is a perfect complement to Aguirre-Sacasa’s story. His images seem to creep out of the panels and stick in your subconscious, preying on many of the universal fears everyone has. The introduction of Madame Satan is especially well done.

In addition to the new monthly story, each issue of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will also reprint a classic Sabrina tale, adding even more value to an already impressive package.

The series is a must have for horror fans and now is the perfect time to jump on board with Issue #2 about to be released. After the startling conclusion of the first issue, Sabrina’s teenage crush, Harvey Kinkle, doesn’t seem to be himself. In fact, he doesn’t seem human. When the Witches’ Council refuses to help her, Sabrina turns to Madame Satan for comfort. Will Sabrina save Harvey or succumb to Madame Satan’s ol’ black magic? Find out when Sabrina #2 is released on November 5th.