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>A role model in better clothes

>When I got an email from Robin Smith with the subject line “Someone we both love,” I thought, oh God, I really cannot handle another death right now. But I perked right up when I opened it and saw that rather than an obituary, it was a link to a New York Times article about My Secret Boyfriend.

But I’ve decided to promote Tim Gunn from Secret Boyfriend to Middle-Aged Role Model because he’s an example of how someone can make a big career shift in the autumn of one’s life, moving from the academic slog of deaning to the high-stakes glamor of brand management. Of course, he had a television show to help him do it, whereas I only have you, dear readers. On the other hand, I have a boyfriend, so ha ha ha ha ha ha Mr.-I’m-So-Alone-Gunn.

Wouldn’t that be a great job, though? I mean in publishing? Gunn’s new job at Liz Claiborne is to “to bring a sense of excitement about fashion to a corporate culture known for blandness and to effect a change in the perception of its brands, from outdated to fashionable.” The difference in publishing–a considerable one, I think–is that it’s a business where fashionable has become what it’s all about, so my job would be instead to get them to straighten up and fly right. To paraphrase Paul Hazard, give them books, give them wings. Let Tim Gunn be the fashion spinmeister; I’ll go out and prove you don’t have to stick fleurchons all over a book to make kids like it.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >If you don’t already, you really need to add Blogging Project Runway to your list of blogs to read. They have frequent Tim sightings and news …. just a thought.

  2. >Roger, you’re already doing that.

  3. Roger Sutton says:

    >But it’s not working!

  4. >You don’t know it’s not working. You’d have to do the whole Jimmy Stewart thing — you know I mean –my brain is too much in rewrite mode to remember….but what would it all be like without you?

  5. Andy Laties says:

    >Hasn’t publishing ALWAYS been about fashion? Or — to use the older word — taste?

    That’s why Mainstream American Publishing got robbed blind by international mega-conglomerates. No-one was minding the store; from the 60s to the 90s they were all busy playing footsie with one another. They got robbed blind. Thus for instance it happened that “The Cat In The Hat” is a copyright owned by Bertelsmann, “Charlotte’s Web” is a copyright owned by Rupert Murdoch, etc. etc. etc.

    I wish you success in your quest to get Publishing to turn away from its distraction with Fashion and Good Taste and perhaps pay more attention to ensuring its own systemic integrity. But: big money is rather distracting for the individuals who run this particular craps-table. Thus we get big takeovers, with lots of fine old titles getting put out of print every time it happens.

  6. Anonymous says:

    >thank goodness for Andie Laties! One might add to his list – who now owns the copyright on Tolkien? Isn’t it an Irish textbook company? And note that a “new” Tolkien book has just surfaced!

  7. Andy Laties says:

    >Well the only silver lining to the fact that the big conglomerates abandon lots of fine books when they take over a great longtime-private publishing house is that these great old copyrights are then up for grabs. Thus we have Starbright republishing Fran Manushkin’s “Baby Come Out”, while Tricycle (a division of Ten Speed Press) has taken on the Remy Charlip books “Fortunately” and “Arm In Arm In Arm” — these three are titles that Murdoch (AKA Harpercollins) slashed from the Morrow backlist catalog at takeover time several years ago. The more fools they!

    The ineptitude (read: inability to benefit from careful publishing of “quiet” books) of the mega-corporations does provide opportunities for the rest of us. They can do fashion, we can do integrity.

  8. rindawriter says:

    >Sadly, so often, though it sseems like integrity leads to poverty…in more ways than one…

  9. Andy Laties says:

    >Why is it sad that integrity leads to (material) poverty?

    Why is this question so peculiar?

    I mean, it’s a given that SPIRITUAL integrity is ALLIED to material poverty, right? (Taking a Vow Of Poverty for instance is a GOOD thing.)

    What’s so wrong about living your life according to ideas like “Ars long, vita brevis” and “Give peace a chance”?

    Every time I get a handwritten note from David Godine thanking me for my recent order, I feel this sense of — what — simple reality. Why can’t it be a wonderful thing that publishers like David EXIST? You know, he took on that Black Sparrow Press backlist and the potential remuneration for doing so surely was in the negative by any reasonable hard-headed financial projection (with the exception of the Charles Bukowski books I guess, but in that case why not just put all the rest of the books out of print?).

    There ARE great individual publishers out there, and more wading into the business every day. It’s certainly in part the task of Horn Book to support their activity, in my opinion. By the way, Roger: how is your percentage as far as reviewing Small Press titles? Have you thought about devoting special effort to supporting the Small Press (or, the Indie Press)??

  10. Roger Sutton says:

    >Well, David Godine would probably tell you we do a lousy job with small presses, his in particular. I wish we did do better with small presses; I also wish small presses did better books. Production values for such are far better than they were ten years ago but there’s still an editorial amateurishness that too often gets in the way. (NOT wish Godine’s books, I should hasten to say!)

    I’m very happy when we review a book from a publisher we haven’t reviewed before, but I can’t say we’ll cut them a break.

  11. Andy Laties says:

    >Well, I would interpret your comment to mean that you strive to be “Source Neutral”, i.e. you do your best not to attend to the name of the publishing house, when determining which books to review.

    As a bookseller I have tried several different formulae. I’ve opened four different bookstores, and each time, I’ve used a different screen through which to sift possible titles to sell. I used a Source Neutral approach for The Children’s Bookstore, but I’ve never done it since. The Horn Book strikes me as the sort of review publication which ought to strive for this kind of neutrality. What it means, in my opinion, is that there is room in the market for review journals that can (could) compete with The Horn Book. I don’t think you need to do anything different. I just think you need a robust group of competitors, some of whom would pay special attention to Independent Children’s Publishing or Small Press Children’s Publishing.

    I bet there’s a lot of advertising money being left on the table…

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