Acquisitive Minds

plus, ducks

There’s been a lot of publishing news lately, stuck in the gaps between all the news news. Changes at the top of the Big Five, Obama’s memoir sucking all the air (and paper) out of the industry, a salacious story about Skyhorse, a profile of a very bottom-line focused Big Five CEO. I am not linking to these — I want to ensure none of you get the impression this newsletter will help you keep up with publishing news!—but I have been happy to see more coverage of the goings on inside houses, and also relieved that just about none of the bad newsy bits impact Belt directly. My notes are from a *small* press; these notices are from Big Ones.

Here in Cleveland, we have been focused on finalized covers for our spring ‘21 titles (so pretty!), completing a slew of Parafine Press projects, writing royalty statements and counting our dimes in advance of issuing those October 1 royalty checks, publicizing our titles (Aaron Sorkin has a film about the Chicago 7 coming out in a few weeks, which has led to an uptick of interest in our August memoir by one of those 7), and acquiring new titles.

Acquisition is my bailiwick, and I have been receiving more proposals than usual lately (a curious twist of our press’s growth over the past few years is that we still do not receive that many proposals. Many of our titles still start with me reaching out to writers). I am heartened to be receiving more cold pitches, though I would like more agents to put us on their radars (hint hint if you are out there). The single most flattering way authors find me is when a publisher or editor from another press send them our way. What high praise! This has happened several times lately, and I am gleeful about the one yes I gave to all the proposals I’ve received lately, from a writer who came to me by way of a publisher (and press) I’ve long admired.

If I were to do a demographic analysis of the cold pitches I receive, I would find about 60% of them come from white men over the age of 60. Good for you guys! Love the energy and discipline. Another 35% come from white men under the age of 60.

No ageism here: we published two debut books by writers over 70 in 2020 (and one received The Smartest and Most Deserved Review last week). No sexism either! And no surprise: I’ve been receiving pitches for articles and books for long enough to know that women are far less likely to land in my inbox; I gotta go seek them out. Still, acquisition remains a wheel in our press that needs more grease. If I were smart, I’d spend a week reading Stuff Online, identifying some smart women whose sensibility I think are consonant with Belt, and writing them emails.

But I won’t lie: much of my time these days still involves recovery from my house fire last month and the bonus related disaster, throwing my back out. These drugged, dazed days help me cope with the News-News, much of which none of us could do much about if we were whole and healthy, anyway. And I spent a surprising amount of time searching YouTube for videos of cantors singing Alveinu Malkeinu over the weekend. This one has the best 2020 pathos. Now, I’m sitting on my new balcony overlooking Lake Erie watching ducks paddle about. Deep history and everyday moments: these provide succor. They endure.

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