Last week a quirky little book from Quirk Books made the literary radar for several reasons. First, its entire concept is cheeky in the extreme: "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," authors Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, is a mashup of the venerable Austen's most famous novel and the fevered scribblings of a modern creative (really, Grahame-Smith is too inventive to be called a hack!). Here is the author bio: "JANE AUSTEN is the author of ‘Sense and Sensibility,' ‘Persusasion,' ‘Mansfield Park,' and other masterpieces of English literature. SETH GRAHAME-SMITH once took a class in English literature. He lives in Los Angeles."
Second, the book was sent out to several dozen book bloggers with an even cheekier letter that began "Hey blogger friends" and included the line "If you don't abide by these conditions, we will never work together again." While Quirk Books PR Melissa Monachello has apologized for the letter, posting on two blogs that "I just wanted to say that I'm sorry to have offended so many of you with my letter. I realize now that it came off as condescending, but it was actually meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Clearly, that tone was lost. There are good explanations for the other complaints, such as why we had the embargo, and I also understand your concerns with fair use. The way I discussed the embargo and excerpt practices in the letter came off all wrong. I sincerely respect and value what bloggers have done for the book publishing world in general and in particular -- with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Without independent blogs and bloggers, our book would not have been such a success. I hope you can all accept my apology. It won't happen again. And please, know that in no way was Seth involved in any of this.," the tone of her letter touched a nerve on Twitter and has gotten bloggers talking about how pitch letters and releases should be structured. (Full disclosure: I blogged about that here and here.)
Third, and by far the most significant development, around April 10, Grahame-Smith signed a deal with Grand Central Press to write "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" for an advance of about half-a-million dollars.
Did I just type half-a-million dollars? For a book skewering one of our greatest presidents as a vampire hunter?
Yes, I did. Because what really matters here is not Grahame-Smith's new book contract or anything his publisher did right or wrong; what really matters is that Grahame-Smith hit the market at a perfect moment. There's been just enough Austeniana ("The Jane Austen Book Club," "Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict," last year's PBS The Complete Jane Austen television series) to foster a backlash, and just enough sustained interest in zombies (2006's "World War Z" by Max Brooks, the movie "Shawn of the Dead" ) plus continued fascination with the mashup concept to make "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" the kind of silly fun that gives everyone - Austenites, zombie freaks, pop culture fans, serial readers, and more - a lighthearted, inexpensive, yet inventive fad to follow.
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