Sort of Comical

Somedays, Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada (film version) is my role model. (Also on the shortlist? Nancy Pearl.)

Part of it is Priestly has embraced her hair color in a way I have not.

But part of it is this quote, when she explains to Andi, the so-called main character of The Devil Wears Prada, the role the fashion industry plays in Andi’s life whether or not Andi knows it.

Here it is: “‘This… stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”

At this point in the movie, I knew Miranda was the real main character, the real lead. She embraces her passion, defends her profession, and owns it. Miranda has ambition and is proud of both her work and her career. When Andi acts as if there is no connection between “fashion” and what Andi wears, Miranda corrects her.

And yes…. I’m trying to figure out just how to rework it for books, especially all the steps that go into making a book that some people don’t realize. People may not realize the connection between all that goes on in connecting a book to a reader, but it’s still important and it still happens.

How’s this?

‘This… stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to the bookstore or library or Amazon and you select… I don’t know… that mystery, for instance, and you don’t care who the publisher is or the agent or the editor, it just has a cover you’re attracted to and the blurb sounds good. And you think, oh, great, once the ebook revolution comes I can buy my books for ninety nine cents because the author will sell straight to the reader.

But what you don’t know is that that book started as work of literary fiction and the author was in writers group that suggested it was stronger as a mystery.

And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that the agent told the author to drop the backstory about the secondary character’s childhood in Indiana, and then knew which editors specialized in the cozy mystery that book had become and knew just what publishers to send it to.

And then it was bought, and the editor and author worked for months revising it page by page, and no, I’m not talking spelling and grammar. And then other people designed the book, and selected font, and created a book cover. Reviewers and buyers were sent advanced copies, and even though it wasn’t the final polished version, reviewers and bloggers wrote about it and librarians decided to carry it and booksellers bought it. And a bookseller who was reading the reviews and publishers catalog thought that people would like the book, and put it where you would find it.

That book represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the publishing industry when, in fact, you’re reading a book that was selected for by agents from a pile of slush and by editors from a pile of submissions.”

I know, it’s not quite right yet. And I’m clearly aiming at the Andis in the world, not at those who “get” this. Any suggestions for additions, changes, revisions?

5 thoughts on “Sort of Comical

  1. I like your idea, here, Liz, but … your version inadvertently does very short shrift by the author and the long lonely path of writing. There are indeed many books that are shaped by many different heads, as you describe, but there are many more in which the driving force truly is the author’s individual intent. In this latter case, the editor and marketing people are doing their best to package and “sell” the book so that it honors the author’s intent and has its best chance to attract its “right” audience. Not every book is for every reader, just as not every sweater will become every woman. (And the slush mention is actually only relevant for first novels, in most cases.)


  2. Nancy, I think the “and the book started…” could be pumped up in terms of crediting the work of the author. I mentioned writers groups, but it’s more than that in what brings the author from the first draft to the final version (whether its traditional publishing or not). What I was trying to capture is that it’s not the first draft getting published, and what are the things that go into the rewrites, revisions, and drafts. And as for sweaters — as a librarian, I think a cardigan is for everyone! (kidding.)


  3. Love this, Liz! Especially as a not-yet-published author and a librarian. I’m not sure the Andis of the world of books will ever quite get it, but you’re definitely on the right track.

    It’s also a nice post to point people to if they want to know why I will never ever self-publish a book.


  4. Sondy, when I consider reviewing self published books I look either to who else has reviewed them or to what the author says about their publishing path. I just bought a novella by Courtney Milan, and was impressed in an interview or comments (maybe at Dear Author?) where she mentined using an editor, two copyeditors and a proofreader! That’s an author who gets it. Meanwhile, I saw a different self pubbed author say “if I spent the money on the editing, I couldn’t sell enough books to make it up.” I’m wondering if tweaks to the author part should include something about all the reading and writing an author does …


  5. I’ve been offered some really horrible self-published books to review. Then a friend of mine self-published — and her book is one professional edit away from being a truly great book. But it’s not quite there. And the library didn’t buy it. And I haven’t seen professional reviews. And I think it’s kind of a shame, because it is a good book, but not what it could have been. And hardly anyone knows about it.

    Kind of ironic, but my grown son just told me he wants to start an e-publishing company. I’m going to refer him to this post to help him think of all that’s involved in publishing.


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