BOOK: Publish This Book by Stephen Markley (2010)

While out browsing in a bookstore recently (local! independent!), I came across this one in the New Non-Fiction pile.  I’ve been working on a novel myself lately (partly hence the temporary Boyfriend hiatus, I’m afraid, but I’m hoping to get a new write-up posted next week), and while I don’t fully believe I even want to try to get it published, just tinkering with it has gotten me intrigued about that entire process.  How does that work, exactly?  I mean, I sort of have a publisher interested, kind of maybe, but I assume if I ever do decide to go that route, I’m going to have to know a few things about the next steps.

And so, that’s why I picked this book up.  Oh, for kicks, mostly.  I ended up BUYING it, though, because, as it turns out, while this is, in fact, a book about how to publish a book, it’s not at all what I just made it sound like it is.

Stephen Markley, before writing Publish This Book, was a struggling writer  working mostly in content (writing for web sites like, for example).  He’d written a couple of books (a novel, a travel memoir) but never had any luck getting them published.  That’s when he came up with this idea — why not write a book that is ABOUT publishing a book?  Why not  write a book about publishing the very book you are writing?  And while you’re at it, while it’s already that weird, why not also make it absolutely hilarious?

I knew I was going to like this one when I read the back and found it riddled with goofy footnotes.  Sure, that’s a gimmick, and I can see at least three of you rolling your eyes from here — but it’s the sort of gimmick I would employ, to be honest, so I was already feeling a connection.  A lot of his humor was right up my alley, in fact, and I started reading it the moment I made it mine, then spent the afternoon sitting across from my spouse cackling with glee every 2-3 pages (the spouse is currently reading and loving Joe Hill’s book of scary stories, 20th Century Ghosts, by the way — that’ll be next up for me as soon as he’s done).  This is a really funny book.  It’s funny and weird and clever and very entertaining.

Or, at least, it WAS.

Here’s the problem with a book like this.  After a little while — I’d say roughly the half-way point — the gimmick starts to get a bit tired, and the book about publishing the book starts to feel more like the writer, who now has a contract and hasn’t finished the book yet, trying to figure out what to say to get a book about publishing a book all filled up.  It got repetitive.  It got boring.  The style got old.  The stories got kind of tedious.  I stopped laughing.  Eventually, I started to get sort of impatient and annoyed.

This book is on the long side — 469 pages — and it could’ve benefited a great deal from the heavy axe of a sharp editor.  Maybe that’s the book Markley can write next?  EDIT This Book?  That said, if he does, I’ll tell you this much: I’ll be first in line for a copy.  Because as sloggy as this book ended up being, there’s no doubt in my mind that Markley is smart, funny, and full of a lot of truly unique ideas.  I look forward to seeing what, if anything, he manages to publish yet.

Recommended, at least for the first 200 pages.  See what you think.


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2 Responses to “BOOK: Publish This Book by Stephen Markley (2010)”

  1. RogerBW Says:

    I sometimes help to organise science fiction conventions, and have therefore dealt professionally with publishers.

    The more I do this, and the more I witness their organisational skills, the more amazed I become that any book ever makes it as far as the printer, let alone to actual bookshops.

  2. megwood Says:

    I’ve only worked directly with journal publishers myself, and I can tell you, they aren’t any better!! Except they also happen to be in enormous positions of power, which only makes matters that much worse!

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