Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The one in which Virago grumbles about being misunderstood

So yesterday I got the "Literature" catalog from the press that published my book six months ago. I immediately flipped to my series to see my work in all its advertised glory.

It wasn't there.

I read through the titles again, more carefully, just to be sure. It still wasn't there.

And yet there was the book by an acquaintance of mine, published in the same month as mine. And there was the book by another acquaintance, published two years ago. And there was the forthcoming book by yet another friend of mine. (Yeah, it seems all my friends publish with the same publisher, but really, it's just that I've got a lot of friends and acquaintances.)

So, darnit, where was mine???

I've been kind of half-convinced that the series editor and the acquisitions editor stopped believing in my book somewhere in the process, even though they were very enthusiastic at the proposal stage. Did they get bored? Did the finished product and the somewhat critical reader's report (which thought the book, while accomplished and scholarly, wasn't quite sexy enough for my press) diminish their enthusiasm (even though my counter-argument to the series editor seemed to convince the press to go ahead)? This seeming failure to promote my book seemed to solidify my somewhat paranoid impression.

I was heartbroken. My book was doomed for obscurity, to be purchased only by family members. (Oh, and also by Bullock's family friend who's never even met me -- I find this utterly charming and a testament to the halo of genuine midwestern niceness that surrounds Bullock and his whole family. But I digress.)

And then I realized something....

This was the *literature* catalog. And my book has a bleepin' HQ number (cultural and social history) even though it's a literature book. *That's* why it's not in there.

This is still a problem, but one that has nothing to do with my press not believing in me, but rather with the Library of Congress catalogers misunderstanding my work or else not bothering to read the introduction and thinking that the first noun in the title was a metaphor rather than the literal subject of the book. See, my book is called something like The Romance of Happiness and Early Modern Scottish Shepherd Society (heh -- that's a funny title), and in the word "Romance" I'm playing with the genre term -- the subject of the book is that genre -- and also its multiple metaphorical meanings. But clearly the cataloger thought the main subject was "Early Modern Scottish Shepherd Society" and the rest of the title was expressive but not substantive. Or rather, that the rest of the title was secondary (despite coming first), since they did manage to put Romance - History and Criticism as the *second* category in the list of standard LOC categories assigned to it. Sigh.

Of course, if I'd published with a smaller press, maybe the editorial side would have communicated to the marketing side that my book belonged in the literature catalog, despite its HQ number.

So, question to the wise and experienced ones out there: should I contact the marketing department at my press to see that my book gets in the Literature catalog next time? Or should I just go on making sure they send it out to the right journals for review and sending it out myself to various book competitions, just to make sure it's getting read by lit people, and hope that word of mouth and citation and review and so forth get it noticed? I also, btw, sent the necessary info and material to the MLA bibliography to make sure it got indexed, which it hadn't so far -- I'm sure, again, because of the HQ number.

Oh, I also have to make sure that our flagship campus buys it, which they haven't done so far, because the Med-Ren center there has a "new acquisitions" section of their newsletter, which I know I always read.

Anything else I could do to get the word out?


Anonymous said...

Yes, that HQ number of yours is a true pain in the keister: when I assigned chapters from your book in my Fall 2007 "Early Scottish Shepherd Literature" graduate seminar (wink wink), I had to go way down into the bowels of the Illinois library stacks to locate it instead of ascending to the English literature section.

I don't see why you can't berate Large Commercial Publisher of Academic Work to shift your book's position within their catalogs. Otherwise, I think you're stuck with word of mouth, citation, and review. I'll make sure to update my footnote on your work in Against All England once I get the corrected files back from the copy editor at Notre Dame.

In addition, I name-dropped you and your scholarship to some people I'm working with who are planning a collection. You will hopefully hear from them soon (if you haven't already).

Doing my part for Dr. Virago's career!

Jeffrey Cohen said...

You should grumble, and even ask them to do a mailer for your book in recompense. You should also ensure that the book has been sent to every journal you wnat it reviewed in: the press you are talking about is notoriously bad on that one.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Well, heck. I walk a fine line between disciplines too (I'm a historian, but I use literature as a historical source), and although my book was in the right place in the publisher's catalog, it had never occurred to me to check its Library of Congress listing. Sure enough, I'm in the PQs, not the DPs where I belong. Damn the LC catalog!

Anonymous said...

You can check the holdings of some UK libraries here

I also know that the most appropriate University in the UK for your book has it, uses it, likes it.

Dr. Virago said...

Hey, thanks for the advice everyone. I so hate to be confrontation, grumble, be the squeaky wheel, etc., but really, I should be in the Lit catalog, shouldn't I?

And Anonymous, whoever you are (you seem to know who I am!), bless you!