Death By Committee

Sarah Weinman is discussing the long road to the bookshelves for Sam Lipsyte’s HOME LAND, which ended up being published in the UK before finally showing up here as a trade paperback.

And furthermore, the growing trend of many
houses to vote by committee — something that can be lethal to a
satirical novel like HOME LAND. One
editor who tried to buy it, only to have his editor in chief kill the
sale, argued that the decision-making by editorial committee at most
major houses around the city "tends to flatten out the aesthetic."

I’ve been there, more times than I’d like to admit.  My upcoming novel THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE made the rounds all over New York. I got excited every time my agent called to tell me that an editor absolutely loved it. Inevitably, the book was killed in committee every time. I finally told her not to tell me anymore if an editor was enthusiastic about the book…I only want to hear about it if it made it out of committee. I never got that call.

After two years of bouncing all over NY,  the book finally ended up at Five Star, which will be publishing it in hard cover in November. Five Star has become known in mystery circles as the home for "published authors’ unpublished manuscripts"…the book gathering dust in the drawer… and I am thankful for them (they also published my novel THE WALK). They’ve picked up quite a few midlist series/authors that have been dumped by their publishers.  Lately, Five Star has been making noise, and raising its profile considerably in the publishing biz, with critically-acclaimed books like Harry Shannon’s MEMORIAL DAY and Bob Levinson‘s ASK A DEAD MAN, which got a starred review in PW and hit the LA Times bestseller list this week.

The imprint is run by famed book packager/editor Marty Greenberg and author/editor  Ed Gorman. They don’t buy books by committee… they do it the old-fashioned way.  Their editors read manuscript and, if they like’em, they buy’em. They also do something else the old-fashioned way — they treat their authors with respect, pay them promptly, publish quickly,  and put out handsome books.

4 thoughts on “Death By Committee”

  1. Wow, Lee. Thanks for the nice talk about Five Star. I just wanted to add another name to Greenberg/Gorman and that’s Mary Smith the Five Star editor at Thornike Press. She’s fought for the line since its inception, getting us better covers, better distribution and really getting books to reviewers. We’re happy to be the original publisher of theis year’s Edgar nominated Richard Aleas novel LITTLE GIRL LOST. Again, Lee, thank you very much for the kind words. (And yes it’s hoot to see Bob Levinson, one of the world’s great guys, on the LA Times list.)

  2. I wasn’t aware that Greenberg & Gorman were two of the forces behind Five Star, but I’m not surprised. I’ve been impressed with the books they’re publishing since I started seeing them over the past year. I’ve reviewed a couple and enjoyed them a lot.

  3. Hi, Lee. Thanks for the good words. I’ve really enjoyed working with Five Star (Mary, Ed, and John Helfers) and just ordered a copy of “The Walk.” I love their stuff, and the people have been great.


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