Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Sea and Bottle

Ok, so I published a new book, and it's free for all: a web-book. Sure I would have loved to see "The Sea and Bottle" nicely bound and being all book-like, but in Israel today, actually letting a publishing house publish and market your book, is financial suicide.

Consider: I put several months into writing the skeleton of "I'll Meet You Halfway", then a few weeks into marketing it to the publishing houses. It went through a year and a half of editing, with no less than three editors in two publishing houses working on it along with me. When it got published I took a month off my other obligations and pushed it, visiting bookstores, trying to get radio and newspaper coverage for it.

It's been six months since the book was published, its hayday on the stands is now past. I was notified this week by my "Zmora-Bitan", Israel's most prominent publishing house, that I will be paid 4311 Shqels (About 1,200$ U.S.) in royalties for the sales of these six months. devide this into two years of work and you will find that I made about 40$ a month. It's fiscally wiser to give the book away for free than to publish it, at least you avoid the massive loss. It's actually wisest never to write at all.

This isn't only my problem. Books in Israel are marketed in away that deeply hurts the authors, even when they sign what they consider to be good contracts. "I'll Meet You Halfway" was not once sold for its original price. it was on sale since the moment it came out. I have some difficulties with how it was promoted, but the major issue is the sales technique.

There's only one reason to still compose books in Hebrew, and that is to use them as Molotov cocktails against a corrupt establishment. Mind you, the book market in Israel is incredibly alive. A lot of money exchanges hands here over literature, but only certain hands, and those aren't the hands that write. The current system, which features agressive marketing schemes, unhealthy mergers between presses and bookstore chains and ploys aimed at controlling more shelf space, is killing Hebrew literature.

"The Sea and Bottle" is a diptych, opening with a set of maritime associations and leading to the tale of my family's near demise in the Holocaust. Its publication is an act of protest.

www.hayamve.blogspot.com

11 comments:

Yaelian said...

I am sorry to read about the difficulties of an author here in Israel, did not realize it was that hard. Gosh,receiving such low roayalties must be really depressing.So how come people still write books here?
I will try to read your newly published web book, on one hand thanks for putting it there and on other hand, it is sad that you could not get it published as a real book. Chag Sameah, Juval.

Bastarbut said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
eyalm said...

although i'm a broke student (a.k.a. Tafran), i actually did find (and did buy) the book "i'll meet you halfway" for the full price, maybe on the only day it was sold for that price. anyway, i enjoyed it and even full price is pracatically the price of just over 3 beers in jerusalem these days...
happy passover everyone

Yuval said...

Eyalm, I'm honoroed. Yaelian - I could probably publish it, I chose not to. The reason people still write books is that they posses a creative urge, which is an easy thing to exploit...

Anonymous said...

Who gives a toss that a middle class journalist has to borrow the next months rent from his parents …yet again. He has just spent the last month living in Paris on Brie poor thing. You really have nothing to say to anybody who cares about anything that really matters. I read your blog for the pure banality of if all . The escape from the actuality is a pure tonic, keep it up.

Theodore said...

Hi Yuval,

we should talk sometimes...

I saw you got a new dog, it's cute.
Why did you call it "Anonymous"?
It's funny the way it nibbles at your shoes...

Thank you for bringing me through Paris,
I wish you had seen Guillaume but,
I have to give it to you that your sight in those swamps is cunning.

Take care,

Theo

Bastarbut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yuval said...

Dearest anonymous. Your assumption that I am dependent on my parents is unfounded, as is your claim that I am a "middle class journalist". In a land where income can never be trusted to even arrive, being a middle class journalist is nearly impossible. I worked my ass off in Paris, and that's for money I'll only see in several months if at all. The apartment was a swap and we had to hitchhike back and forth to Frankfurt, which is the only place we could afford to fly.

Yes, we had oysters, and I hope you get to have oysters too, when the opportunity arrives. I actually find beauty in the tension between tons of rice and pasta, cooked at home to save on expenses, and a half dozen of oysters to which one treats his beloved by the Seine.

Moreover, the cause here has only little to do with me. If literary writing is not rewarded, writing becomes moonlighting, if not a hobby, and its quality disintegrates. Those who enjoy reading Hebrew literature should be quite worried, since soon the output of good literature in this language will shrink considerably.

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