The Future Of Book Publishing Is The Player Of The Game

Perhaps you recall Neil "Style" Strauss as the author as such works as Motley Crue: The Dirt, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, and The Game. Get used to it - he's the future.

You've probably heard about the massive blood-letting at Harper-Collins and the general sturm und drang currently rattling the publishing industry. =According to today's Wall Street Journal, the industry's knight in shining armor just might come in the unlikely package of nebbish-turned-pick-up-artist Neil Strauss and his new Harper-Collins imprint It Books/Igniter. So far, Strauss' baby has signed "The World According to Bozo the Clown" by the late Larry Harmon, and a tome on modern day gangsters from Hoffa to (Paris) Hilton," and Strauss plans to be intimately involved in every aspect of production.

Make of this what you will - the article makes the point that, financially, the Harper isn't allocating resources to the new project that would otherwise have gone into retaining employees - it marks a distinct agenda for a house that very publicly fired polarizing editor Judith Regan over her perceived vulgarity and commercialism. Of course, it's not that simple - Regan's decision to run O.J. Simpson's (sort-of) tell-all was the excuse, and the powerful editor was never short of enemies - but as Sara Nelson notes, there was always a sense that the sort of commercial, vulgarly successful titles ReganBooks pushed were unbecoming. "But even amid all the enmity, there was a sense among some both at the company and outside of it that Regan's real problem was less the O.J. book — even if it was a bad call — than her personal style; not her low-brow proclivities, but her bad PR."

It would be naive to suggest that Regan was found unpalatable purely because she's a woman - Regan was, by any standard, a difficult personality, and this economy doesn't leave room for gentlemanly qualms - but it's also true that in a world filled with successful writers and editors, they've chosen to pass the mantle to a man who made himself famous writing about the way to get a woman into bed. Strauss' forte, thus far, has been shmucks redeeming themselves - yet still relishing and profiting from their bad behavior. In the tradition of pulp, his bestsellers have been juicy but couched in just enough traditional morality to make them acceptable reading. In this way, his literary m.o. doesn't differ much from his pick-up-artist tactics: the tricks and negging and peacocking are, at the end of the day, always justified as a way to find love. Regan, it's true, never provided an "aww" moment, and Strauss is adept at it. But it's a little grimy to think of publishing, an industry famously well-populated with powerful women, being taken in by a PUA, even a "master" one.

Reganomics, Or How To Publish Like A Porn Star [Wall Street Journal]