Working in Publishing v. Writing (and Unicorns v. Mexican Wrestlers)

In Feature Articles, Guest Contributors by Edward Nawotka

Sloane Crosley

By Edward Nawotka

Sloane Crosley is the deputy director of publicity for Vintage Books and has been called “New York’s favorite book publicist.” She’s also the author of two essay collections: the bestseller I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number, which was published this week by Riverhead. She spoke with Publishing Perspectives about publicity v. writing and unicorns v. Mexican wrestlers.

PP: How do you find a balance between working in publishing and writing your own books?

SC: The assumption is that everyone who works in editorial in publishing wants to write a book, but not so much in publicity. But if you look at Vintage publicity –- a little department that is an enigma wrapped in a puzzle that is wrapped in Bertelsmann –- there are lots of people who have worked here and published. Paul Yoon (Once the Shore), Martin Wilson (What They Always Tell Us), Jen Marshall, Ethan Rutherford…The one thing we all have in common other than having worked here is that none of us has written “the big adult novel.” Maybe that’s where the question of balance comes in. For writing essays, which is what I do, I think you need a day job. You need a daily engagement with the world. I just happen to live in a world where I promote books.

PP: Your first book was a bestseller. Do you ever feel that the writers you’re working with feel in competition with you?

SC: No. They’re either far more talented or far mare famous and usually both. In a way, it’s been good for them. I have kind of an odd name and I actually think people start picking up my pitch calls because they knew me a little. My day job is all about making other people’s lives easier and being kind to others. My natural inclination is not to be the nicest anything on the planet. I have other qualities of course, but it’s good to have a job that just exacerbates that one.

PP: Your first book was published as a paperback original. Have paperback originals gained acceptance in the marketplace?

SC: As time goes on, paperback originals face less and less discrimination with the media. When I first started at Vintage it was really hard because it was seen as catty-corner to being self published. The stigma has been lifted and I think that has a lot to do with the programs at houses like Vintage/Anchor, Picador, Perennial, Black Cat, to name a few.

PP: You’re known as a humorist, but the new book is darker than the first. What’s different now?

SC: I’m 31 years old and there’s definitely a “Hey, I hit my 30s” element. These essays are darker, but also funnier and deeper and more personal. I allowed myself to dig in much more so there is less of a “dancing monkey” aspect. And I’m no Fields medalist, but I think there are six less essays in this book…and are stories in New York, Anchorage, Lisbon. Most are both funny and sad.

PP: If you were writing a pitch letter for Sloane Crosley, what would have suggested I ask in this interview?

SC: Hmmm…Questions I Would Have Asked Myself…

What do you find funny? Is there a topic you have not yet covered that you look forward to covering? In what direction is American humor going? What’s the first real book (no pictures) you remember loving? Why is nonfiction writing better than fiction writing and why are vowels better than consonants? Which would you rather have living in your house: Unicorn or Mexican Wrestler?

PP: So, Unicorn or Mexican Wrestler?

SC: I guess it depends on which one you intend on playing leapfrog with.

DISCUSS: Does working in publishing help or hinder your writing?

VISIT: Sloan Crosley’s Web page for more fun and games.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.