In an essay on The Huffington Post, Benjamin LeRoy, formerly of Bleak House Books and now a publishers at Tyrus Books, says that, "I sometimes worry that publishing leans too heavily on the escapism and that we run the danger of over-escaping,"


The essay is here:


He also says, "I'm not knocking it and I wouldn't even know where to begin in selecting those titles or the responsibilities and stresses that come with moving 20, 50, 100,000 units of written Hollywood. But I think it's important to fight for what makes the book special--the human connection."


("Written Hollywood," I love that. He also uses the term, "Clap-along justice," which I think is fantastic).


Personally I'm a big fan of small presses like Bleak House and Tyrus (I'm going to start saying that I left Harcourt and St. Martins to be with a small press, ECW - instead of that the big publishers dropped me ;)


What do you think?



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Historically, escapist entertainment seems to do well during hard economic times (see: screwball comedies during the great depression, etc.). I think combined with the rise of American anti-intellectualism since the Reagan years, that need to escape makes "serious" books a much harder sell than they were in the first two-thirds of the 20th century. We like our psychosexual fantasy thrillers, and we like them unexamined.
The size of the publisher is important only in the regard of how much support they can provide to the author. From a reader perspective, I doubt most readers, even serious readers, could tell you who who publishes their favorite authors; it's the author's name that sells the book, not the publisher. I know Elmore Leonard is with Harper Collins because I won a contest for one of his books on their web site. I've read everything Dennis Lehane has written, and I couldn't say for sure who publishes him. (Might be Harper Collins as well, but I'm not sure.) Read all of Declan Hughes's Ed Loy novels; have no idea who publishes him. I know John is with ECW because I've paid attention to your publishing travails, so that knowledge has little to do with ECW and much to do with keeping an eye on you.

It occurs to me that's not really what you're asking, that the crux of the discussion is focused more on escapism. To some extent, all recreational reading is escapism, but I have no interest in the current trend for "escapist" thrillers. Give me a feasible story about people who might exist somewhere other than in the author's juvenile imagination. Anything by Richard Price (I finished CLOCKERS yesterday) over everything by Brad Thor.

(I am well aware I am strange, relative to the general population.)
I may come around to liking small publishers very much indeed. Others have said it before me that authors get more respect from a small publisher. Respect means a lot to me. Loyalty also means a lot. For that, I'll gladly accept smaller advances. From what I've seen, a number of the smaller publishers insist on turning out quality books by quality authors. All of that is good. One may find greater happiness there than with the big houses.

Of course, speaking of fantasies and escapism, there is always the dream of one's book taking off madly, and then having the big boys come begging, and then putting on the screws. :)
"Of course, speaking of fantasies and escapism, there is always the dream of one's book taking off madly, and then having the big boys come begging, and then putting on the screws. :)"

LOL - wouldn't that be lovely, Ingrid. It boggles my mind how publishers (especially if they give you a small advance) can spend nothing on advertising, co-op space or marketing, and then blame (and drop) the author because nobody bought the book. I mean, I did my part and tried to sleep with Lindsay Lohan, but she wouldn't give me the time of day - and Tiger Woods was a flat-out No ;-)
I hope you enjoy the experience, I.J. I'm loving it so far. Such a big difference. You have more control over the entire project and the pub actually cares what you think.

The only time I've heard authors complain about small presses were when they'd got sucked into small vanity presses or shady houses. But authors with small presses seem happy. And I see more and more there are authors ditching big houses and going with smaller presses.

As for quality products, can't agree more. The covers from the small press I'm with are breathtaking. That's the one thing I looked at when searching out small presses, how their covers and books looked.

Best Wishes!
Give me a book I can read on a trip and finish it and the trip saying, "Yeah. That was good." ;)
Dana! I love what you said in that first paragraph! Too true! It comes down to support! You can be with a huge pub but if you're not getting a good slice of the pie, what difference does it make? I speak from experience as you all know.

What's funny is how when I was with the big guys, I had friends who were with small presses saying they were so happy. And there I was, with a big pub and miserable. I figured nothing is worth losing your enthusiasm for writing or the publishing world. So I sought out small presses and even epresses. It's hard for a crime author to break into epublishing so I didn't have luck with them. But found a great small press. The book isn't out yet, but all I can say is from what I see, I'm happy. They are already starting to promote me and the book.

I love how they do it. We work as a team and promote every authors' books, not just our own. It feels so good to be apart of folks who truly support you. I see why small press authors say they love the experience. Being with a small press has reminded me how much I love writing.

Big pub made me bitter.

Best Wishes!
Escapism is one of the things that drives popular fiction, whether in Victorian England or the Modern US. Some of our great books were escapist literature.

Thanks for the URL and incidentally, there is a terrific article at Huffington on the same page by Auto Penzler entitled, "Noir Fiction Is About Losers, Not Private Eyes." You can find it by going to the page you suggest for the escapist article.
Thanks for the heads up on the Penzler article. He's absolutely right. I think the style of writing is where most people who confuse PI and noir fiction go astray. They may read similarly, but the content and outcome are dramatically different.

I just wish someone would come up with a better term than "hard boiled" to describe the non-noir stories written in that style.
My favorite definitions of hard-boiled vs noir are these: in hard-boiled, everything's fucked. In noir, everything's fucked, and so are you. I wish I knew who to attribute that to--it's brilliant.
Christa Faust said something very much like that at last year's Bouchercon. Something along the lines of, "In noir, your fucked in a fucked landscape. In hard-boiled, the landscape's fucked, but you might be OK."
Christa Faust has a good handle on it.

My one word definitions:

Hard boiled = tough

Noir = screwed


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