I hope the beer in hell is non-alcoholic.
October 23, 2013 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Ruby-Strauss learned his craft working for the notorious Judith Regan, in whose shadow all lowbrow publishing still operates. In college at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he had been a comp-lit major who scoffed when friends talked up popular sci-fi books. “I was too pretentious,” he says. “I was reading Camus.” (A far way from that to Tucker Max, I noted. “Is it?” he replied.) Under Regan, he came to appreciate the simpler beauty of “books that sell.” He acquired a book by shock-rock star Marilyn Manson and then a series of pro-wrestling books, still his highest-selling titles ever. He once took Regan to a match, where he remembers her looking around the arena and declaring happily of the crowd, “You could sell them blank pages!” (SLNewRepublic)

The University of Maryland ranter previously.
posted by Rustic Etruscan (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I like this guy.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:29 AM on October 23, 2013

This guy is the publishing equivalent of Nick Naylor in Thank You For Smoking. But this piece also reads like a carefully crafted bit of PR fluff, following the same template: He's edgy! He'll offend you! But that's what makes him so successful! Also he's charming! Honey badger don't care!

There's really not much there there, though the fact this guy exists gives you a sort of interesting glimpse into the publishing netherworld.
posted by emjaybee at 10:27 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

“It shouldn’t be about the book but the money you can make from the book,” said Ruby-Strauss’s boss, Jennifer Bergstrom.

Oh - okay then. Money for the win!
posted by Arbac at 10:38 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Money is the objective measure of all virtue! And this won't cause profound and fundamental ethical problems at all! Bleah.
posted by JHarris at 10:51 AM on October 23, 2013

There is something to be said for giving the people what they want. On the other hand, if that were the case all popular music would sound like Oasis.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:52 AM on October 23, 2013

Compare and contrast with this, also from the New Republic.
posted by nubs at 11:10 AM on October 23, 2013

When Steve Buscemi writes a book, I bet he hopes this guy sells it
posted by Renoroc at 11:22 AM on October 23, 2013

It’s what worked for the Betches and for one of last year’s biggest successes, a young adult novel about cancer by a man named John Green. His earlier efforts had drawn critical praise, but what made The Fault in Our Stars different was that Green now has a million subscribers to his YouTube video blog.

That phrasing makes me doubt Noreen Malone's book cred.
posted by redsparkler at 11:27 AM on October 23, 2013

The logic behind this seems to be that if you sell out hard enough you can buy your integrity back at a discount.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:44 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

He also did Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States. Make of that what you will

(And it's not as if the rest of the team isn't pushing nonsense.)
posted by IndigoJones at 12:15 PM on October 23, 2013

Money is the objective measure of all virtue!

Money is how people with no talent keep score.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:44 PM on October 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Small amounts of money made from large amounts of sales is an objective measure of how well you are serving your audience.

Selling a single piece of art to a collector for $1 million isn't terribly interesting because it represents the opinion of a single person. Selling 1 million copies of a book to 1 million people objectively demonstrates widespread appeal.

Of course that doesn't mean the book is *art*, but we can leave that for snobs to decide. They have a long history of telling us what we should embrace and appreciate instead of what we actually do, and bless 'em.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:51 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

He edited (the non-ghostwritten) "Have a Nice Day" by Mick Foley, which was very good. I read and enjoyed it despite having not watched professional wrestling since I was ten. It was an honest, eloquent, and compelling narrative of a living made on the back of a meticulously maintained outsider persona.

Applying the term "lowbrow" to this book is not just classist, it's also ignorant. Putting aside all issues of good vs. popular, "Have a Nice Day" can compare favourably with a lot of more "highbrow" autobiographies on their own terms.
posted by 256 at 1:45 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Money is how people with no talent keep score.

Money is how people who need to keep score, keep score. That and pageviews. And likes.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:46 PM on October 23, 2013

If you're flogging content to lots of people, you soon find that - mostly - the stuff that sells well isn't the sort of stuff that's particularly improving, related to the truth, wholesome or tasteful. Not that content which does have some sort of moral integrity won't sell, but if you want to make money the odds are better if you hold your nose.

This is really annoying, especially if the populist tosh is Actually Wrong and squatting in your magisterium. It's far easier, if you can, to shrug your shoulders and let life carry on - there's nothing wrong with millions of copies of books about wrestling, unless you're of the opinion that "there's nothing wrong with the working class, as long as they aren't enjoying themselves". A million books saying that Shakespeare masterminded the moon landing hoaxes is harder to stomach, and a million books saying that vaccinating your kids will make them autistic is something which demands an effective response.

Being a publisher - well, decide what sort of publisher you want to be. If it's selling anything that turns a buck and you have a nice line in The Protocols Of The Elders of Zion, then I'll work against you and try to persuade others to do the same. If you sell harmless tosh and use it to help publish the good stuff, then go for it. If you concentrate on the good stuff and go bankrupt, that was a mistake but god, do I understand your motives.
posted by Devonian at 8:50 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

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