Publish and be damned?

Years ago, I lived with an editor for a well-known publisher who used to spend many of our evenings at home reading through manuscripts while watching tv, drinking too much wine and talking to me.  I was with her the evening she pencilled “reject” on the last page of the ms of Valley of the Dolls.

Stephen King, William Golding,  Rudyard Kipling, J K Rowling, Richard Adams,  and William Faulkner are amongst the many eventually famous authors repeatedly rejected by publishers.  But there must have been vastly greater numbers with equal or better talent who were rejected and remained in obscurity.

But why do academic books have so many words? If it is information you need, then the conventional nonfiction book is an inefficient way of getting what you are looking for. Do we want to sip through 250 pages of consomme when it could be reduced to a jus of 20% or less of that? But would you be prepared to pay £17-18, or $30-34 for a book with say, 80 pages? And if it could be reduced to 80 pages, wouldn’t that make it easier to download and print, than buying it as a conventionally produced book? And then there is Kindle……

I buy as many books as ever, but barely read beyond the boredom which sets in after a few pages. I haven’t been surprised by anything I have read for years. I can remember reading Freud, Marx, Jung, Plato etc  at the Hendon reference library for the first time when I was about 14. As exciting as initial hearings Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Beethoven, Chopin, David Bowie.

Has anyone anything new to say?

Most of the publishing proposals I see are safe, inoffensive and guaranteed to upset no vested interest or cause too much excitement or endanger academic careers. But I would prefer Free Association Books to be the publishing partner to courageous writers with something new and controversial to communicate.

I will publish and be damned  – but send me the damned good (non-fiction) stuff please!