03 March 2014

A Modest Proposal for Publishing, Inspired By the Oscars Pizzas

Last night, there was pizza at the Oscars. Because, you know, even movie stars get hungry. It was a funny gag--well played, Ellen. And nice plate-passing, Brad Pitt.

But it also underscored the American sensibilities that, OMG, it's been like three whole hours since I ate, I'm staaarving and--more notable for purposes of this post--that it's not Real Entertainment without food. Think about it: hot dogs at the baseball game, popcorn at the movie theater, beer at a rock concert. Hell, these days, Americans can barely even drive without some sort of calorie-heavy comestible in our hand or at least at arm's reach in the cupholder--grease and sugar as security blanket, if not co-pilot (KFC Go Cup, take the wheel!). 

As a writer, I'm always wondering how I can sell books, how I can make this writing thing work in an economically sustainable way. It's rough out there, not gonna lie, not least because we live in an era in which many people recoil at the idea of paying more than $9.99 for a book (even though they'll gladly shell out $11 for ninety minutes at the multiplex), a time when, as publisher Dennis Johnson of Melville House recently told The New Yorker"Amazon has successfully fostered the idea that a book is a thing of minimal value. It's a widget."

And there are tons of ideas out there about how to fix this and make publishing sustainable and profitable. But there's one I haven't heard floated.


Publishing industry, hear me out. The path to success is marked by a trail of sticky, greasy, unidentifiable-but-oh-so-tantalizing crumbs and splotches. Movie theaters have known this forever. Snacks. Snacks make the money; the movie's just the thing that gets the consumers there.

First of all, books should come with cupholders. I think this goes without saying. Everything has cupholders these days. Strollers. Bikes. Lawn chairs. I bet there are even big cupholders with little cupholders attached. In 2014, not having them is a major design flaw, and one that could easily be remedied by simply die-cutting the back cover. (For e-books, you'll have to sell them separately, obviously. Presumably suction cups would be involved.)

Second, we need an iconic snack that goes with the literary experience. Not kale chips or edamame or quinoa balls, don't give me any of that Wimpy Book Nerd Stereotype stuff. We need hard-core junk food. If Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser aren't clutching their heads in disapproving agony when they hear about it, then it's not good enough. If they'd serve it at your standard Upper West Side book club meeting, it's definitively a no-go. My first idea is Candy Coated Deep-fried Mountain Dew. I'm sure our technology and manufacturing sectors are up to the task. But, anyway, that's just a brainstorm. I'm willing to continue the discussion. For some reason, I kinda feel like Gary Shteyngart would have some great ideas.

Third, and most of all, hard-copy books should come with snacks. At least for a little while, in this start-up phase of what we should probably just call the Snacking to Save Publishing Program (SSPP). You know, to really make it a whole Package Experience, and to hook 'em on the pairing, like how I eat popcorn and suddenly want to watch a movie. Remember how all those commentary tracks got us to switch from video tapes to DVDs? Also, you didn't hear this from me, but if you include snacks in the experience, you can charge extra. Americans. Love. Snacks.

To this end, America, allow me to start things off by offering you ...


Yes, for the low, low price of just $35 (plus shipping & handling), you get:

- A signed and personalized copy of Europe on Five Wrong Turns a Day! (Wow!!)
- A can of Coke! (Golly!!)
- A bag of tortilla chips--with one chip also signed by the author! (Phenomenal!!)

- A printed preview of my next book! (Just like the movies!!)

Email doug@douglasmack.net to place your order today!! 

Act now and you'll also get a free can of nacho cheese!! (Yumm!!)

... AND A PAPER NAPKIN!! (Whaaat?!)

Remember, that's doug@douglasmack.net. Order now!!


  1. There totally are big cup holders w/little cup holders attached. On strollers, or available separately to clip onto strollers if the existing stroller cupholder situation is unacceptable. Big one for parental coffee/beer, little one for baby's bottle. No lie. One of many reasons we don't own one....

    Also, Gary Shteyngart would *definitely* have some good ideas about this.

    1. Wow, I thought I was just joking about cupholders with cupholders. Satire just can't keep up with reality!


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