June 16, 2011

Publishing perspectives, indeed

by

Ann Patty posing with one of her bestsellers

Another big house snob has taken a cheap shot at Johnny Temple and Akashic books for their mega-success with Go the Fuck to Sleep: Just two days after we noted bizarre jealousy attack number one, in a seemingly smart column at Publishing Perspectives, Ann Patty, former executive editor at Harcourt, takes the little indie to task for a line in the book that mistakenly uses the transitive form of the verb “to lie” when it should have used the intransitive. Interestingly, she says the mistake is not the fault of the person who wrote the sentence:

Where was the editor on Go the F*ck to Sleep? Where was the copy editor, the proofreader? How did that laid slip by them? Isn’t it their job to protect the writer from such an embarrassing mistake?

Of course, there’s the de rigeur flip gesture to fairness: she says she …

… recently encountered equally egregious blunders in a major title from a large, prestigious publisher. The bestselling writer is highly regarded, much awarded, and taught in English and writing departments at universities. The editor is seasoned, smart, and
serious.

But you’ll note she doesn’t name the big house in question; nor the book; nor the editor, nor the author, both of whom it seems she knows personally.

What is it about the success of a little indie that drives people like Patty — a 25-year veteran of conglomerate publishing — to a level of such petty vindictiveness? It’s especially odd, considering that in the end, the conglomerates weren’t so kind to her: she was one of several high-level executives fired after the ’08 crash.

Yet using her editorial guidelines, as the writer of this diatribe, she is blameless for its own notable failures of editorial ethics. We can only ask: Where were her editors?

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives

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