How Not to Back Your Authors

ONE OF THE BIG arguments used by advocates of publishing’s “Big Five” conglomerates in their debate with Amazon is that they support their writers. NEW POP LIT asks the question: Do they?

Here’s an exchange of emails which took place October 7 between NPL editor Karl Wenclas and an unnamed publicist at Random House’s Vintage Books division. The publicist did not sign his/her emails. A ghost? A computer program?


Hello! Has Random House released a statement regarding its author, Tao Lin, and the recent scandal he’s been involved in?

Would a Random House representative (or the author himself) be available to answer a few questions about the situation? 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Karl Wenclas

(From VintageAnchorPublicity)

You should contact Meville House.  They published the book RICHARD YATES.  We do not comment on books we did not publish.

Tao’s more recent book Taipei is listed as a Vintage Contemporaries Original.

Not yours?


(From VintageAnchorPublicity)
It is, but the controversy is about his book from Melville House. You should talk to Melville House.

There you have it. The person/ghost/program behind the unsigned emails is clearly running away from the matter. Could a publicist for a politician or sports team get away with such behavior? Well, maybe.
The questions we planned to ask, by the way, were not about the “Richard Yates” book. They were/are questions fitting to ask his biggest, most recent publisher. Here are the questions:

1.) Have sales of Tao Lin’s book gone up because of the controversy?
2.) Does Random House/Vintage Books have regrets about publishing him?
3.) Will Vintage change its marketing of Tao Lin because of the controversy?

Business-oriented questions appropriate to be asked of a publishing company. The unknown publicist seems to have inadvertently answered #2 and #3, anyway.

p.s. We’re still waiting on a response from Melville House!



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