Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chiming in on "Shine"

People are all atwitter (literally) over the National Book Awards You're-Nominated / No-You're-Not hokey pokey dance with Lauren Myracle's "Shine." For those unfamiliar with the story, I encourage you to read the snark-free Publisher's Weekly article on the debacle. Go ahead. I'll wait...

ShineIn a nutshell, earlier this month, the National Book Foundation contacted Amulet Books, "Shine's" publisher. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall. The conversation may have gone something like this:

NBF: A book you've published has been nominated as a finalist for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature.

Amulet Books: Outstanding! Which title?

NBF: "Shine."

Amulet Books:Lauren Myracle's coming-of-age mystery about a Southern community dealing with homophobia and the fallout from a hate crime?

NBF: That's it.

Amulet Books: Brilliant! We can't wait to tell Lauren. Thank you so much for your call.

~hangs up~ 

General celebrating, hooping & hollering commences. Because, really, how often does one's book get into the Top Fr%&@king 5 Books of the Year? In the words of every Oscar nominee:
"It doesn't matter whether you win or not. It's an honor just to be nominated."
This week, however, the National Book Foundation "regrets that an error was made" and "apologizes for any confusion or hurt it may have caused Lauren Myracle." Imagine what a fly might have overheard on that call:

ChimeNBF: When we last spoke, I was calling to congratulate you for publishing a book that was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Amulet Books: Thank you. We are honored.

NBF: Yes. Well. You're not.

Amulet Books: I beg your pardon?

NBF: We regret that we called you in error. The book that's really nominated is "Chime."

Amulet Books: "Chime." Not "Shine."

NBF: Right. "Chime." By Franny Billingsley. No hate crimes in it. Witches. Spirits. Spells. Golden eyes. Tawny hair. That sort of thing."Chime" is in. You're out.

Amulet Books: How. Did this. Happen?

NBF: (chuckling) It's a funny story.

Amulet Books: ...???

NBF: The judges misunderstood the book title when it was read over the phone. Kai thanx bai.

~hangs up~

Stunned silence reigns.

Good grief.  Talk about a "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" moment in publishing.

So let me get this straight: For the National Book Awards, the titles of the finalists are read to the judges over the phone.

Just the titles? Not title and, oh -- I don't know -- author? Or title and synopsis? Or (work with me here) title and publisher? Just the titles.

This could cause significant problems. Imagine, for instance the confusion that could arise over hearing that "Double Shadow" was nominated. "Which book would that mean?" the judges might ask.

Sooo many "Double Shadows."
At most companies I've worked for, and when working with clients, when it comes to important communications, we like to employ a little thing called e-mail. Or texting. Sometimes, when we want to kick it old school, we actually print something out on paper.

That's not sarcasm. It's solid business advice that the National Book Foundation might do well to consider. Write it down. You're the NBF, for heaven's sake. You promote the printed word.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh here. What's your take on the situation? Chime in below...


Anonymous said...

What a horror show. A nightmare for the author and publisher. OTOH, hopefully it will bring the book more attention, bring in a wider readership (any press is good press...).

I agree that their system needs some checks and balances. I would hope that from now on they will learn from this nasty gaffe.

I would like to ask that you reconsider this sentence, "Don't have people with serious speech impediments . . . make important phone calls!" People with disabilities, including speech disabilities, experience serious job discrimination. We are as fully capable of making important phone calls as anyone else. The idea of people with disabilities, including speech disorders, as incompetent or stupid is rampant and damaging. Even as a joke, it makes an impact. (In fact, often people with speech and community disabilities are the butt of jokes.) I'm sure it was not your intention to add to this problem, just as I know that you, as a writer, know the power of words and language.

Thank you for listening.

Anonymous said...

Oops. That was supposed to be "communication disabilities," not "community disabilities."

Ami Hendrickson said...

Aftergadget: Agreed, I was insensitive. Offending section has been removed. Though it still amazes me that the best explanation they could come up with was "we were misunderstood when we said 'Chime.'"

Thanks for commenting. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much, Ami. I appreciate it.

Yes, it is astounding. I hadn't even known about this issue before you posted about it. I always learn something new from your posts.