Interview with Bookslut Part 2 of 2

Reader Logoby Mike

Interview with Jessa Crispin,
Editor & Founder of

Part 2 of our interview.
For part 1 click here.

How easy did you find it to start earning from freelance writing?

Easier than it should have been, especially considering how awful I am at pitching. Luckily, I tend to fall into long-term assignments, like regular columns and being a regular contributor to certain publications, so I don't have to pitch very often. I think I had one phone conversation with the editor of The Book Standard, thinking there was no way in hell they would give me a job, and ten minutes later I had talked myself into a weekly gig. May the Book Standard rest in peace.

Highs and lows during the years?

The highs have been the people I have been able to meet and work with: Elizabeth Bachner, who is so smart and funny and interesting. Barbara J. King, our resident anthropologist, who I always look forward to reading, and Dale Smith, our poetry columnist, who I met because I interviewed him for Bookslut and who is now one of my dearest friends. Caroline, my assistant, without whom I could not function on a daily basis.

The lows have been, you know, tricky times with advertising as the industry gets weird and panicked, disappointments with where I thought I wanted Bookslut to go, only to discover it was the wrong direction entirely.

What was that original direction?

For a while I thought Bookslut would naturally go into publishing. Then every time we moved towards that, I'd be talking to someone about partnering up or something, and I'd just start to feel dread. An overwhelming sense that this was all wrong. It took me ages to figure out why, and that's a very long conversation, but basically I finally knew it would be a mistake for me personally.

How did you build your reputation?

No idea. I'm very Midwestern in that I just do the work that is in front of me. I just did the work that was in front of me for six and a half years. Somehow, there were just always readers, and I'm appreciative that they exist. (I'm not even entirely sure what my reputation is. I really try not to be distracted by what other people say about Bookslut, because alongside any "Oh, it's great," there will always be someone out there, calling you a dumb bitch.)

Any interesting stories from Bookslut's dealings with authors or publishers?

Yes, but for the most part, those are better told over a couple of drinks, off the record.

Where do you hope to take in the future?

I have my plans, but they're top secret.

What do you make of the current climate for new writers?

I do not envy them. It's a hostile environment. The old way of just writing a book, signing an agent, finding a publisher to nurture you is long, long gone. But also, how exciting to be working right now, when things are changing. You have to be fluid and quick on your feet and inventive, but that stuff is all fun.

Can you offer any advice to new writers?

You have to take responsibility. No one is going to make you a star, baby, you have to do it yourself.

How would you like to see the publishing industry develop in the future?

I would like to see the small publishers thrive, the ones with real identity and passion for books. I don't pay as much attention to the industry side as I used to. I'm more interested in what the creators will be doing.

What is your view on self-publishing?

Right now, unless you have a platform and a good designer and the stars on your side, you're better off setting your wallet on fire. It will be near impossible to get noticed and find readers. Sometimes it works; there are good self-published comics, and the new, brilliant Alinea cookbook was self-published, but those are exceptions. So much that is self-published is just awful. Really, painfully bad.

Thanks Jessa and good luck next year in Weblog 09!

To visit click here.


Paul Burman said...

What a wonderful interview, Mike. Have bookmarked and Neil Gaiman's journal as a consequence, to keep an eye on what's happening there. Cheers.

the Amateur Book Blogger said...

Yep - a great insider's view, from a different perspective. Thanks Jessa and Mike!

Mrinal Bose said...

Bookslut is one of those few blogs I've been addicted to for quite a while. I find Jessa quite irrepressible, and love to read whatever - even the occasional crap - she writes. Only, I didn't knew she was so beautiful - physically, I mean. Thanks for her picture.

Unknown said...

So much fun: you asking what we all want to know and Jessa Crispin's straight-forward, personable answers.
Nice, too, to see her interview with Neil Gaiman smack in the middle.

Stella said...

Another excellent interview, Mike. This was more than a hoot and a half. Even a double hoot, I'd say.