Monday, March 12, 2007

33 1/3rded -- Not


In earlier postings, I've mentioned that it's become an ambition of mine to write a book for Continuum Press's "33 1/3" series. I've read about 30 of these virulently collectable monographs devoted to classic albums, and even when the books turn out to be something other than what I expected, I always enjoy or learn something from them. Late last year, I sent a multi-title proposal to series editor David Barker, introducing myself and suggesting a half-dozen or so titles I could tackle. He wrote back to inform me that he wasn't reading new proposals at that time, suggesting that I check his blog regularly for updates about when he would be accepting proposals again. So I began to haunt his blog, and eventually there came the awaited cue.
Dr. Barker cautioned everyone that he would consider only proposals about individual titles, and only one per applicant, please. I had some time in which to ponder the question of what to write about, and -- as you can surmise from my choice of illustration -- I finally settled on Jefferson Airplane's 1968 album CROWN OF CREATION. At the time I wrote my proposal, I didn't think it was necessarily the Airplane's best album, but "33 1/3" books seldom are about the best albums of any given musician or musicians -- they've devoted books to Elvis Costello's ARMED FORCES, R.E.M.'s MURMUR, Joni Mitchell's COURT AND SPARK and Sly and the Family Stone's THERE'S A RIOT GOING ON, to name a few (all undeniably interesting and good fodder for books, but hardly "Best ofs"). More importantly, I found I had most to say about CoC and thought it also provided the ideal vantage point from which to discuss the group's other work. So I wrote a thorough proposal and sent it off.
As January rolled around, I found myself with a free month, more or less, and not knowing how available I would be later in the year, especially with VW bound to resume its monthly schedule, I decided to go ahead and write the book on spec.

I finished the book in a matter of weeks (except for an interview I was hoping to add with the album's producer Al Schmitt), in the process convincing myself that CoC really is Jefferson Airplane's finest studio album. I put the manuscript aside as I waited for the proposal deadline of February 14th to come to pass. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Barker's blog presented a staggering list of close to 450 proposals received. Among these were three other Airplane proposals, one for SURREALISTIC PILLOW and two for AFTER BATHING AT BAXTER'S, which were especially antagonizing as the series observes a strict "one book per artist" rule. Even without these, the competition was formidable.
A couple of days ago, on Saturday, I received a form letter from Dr. Barker informing me that my proposal had not been chosen. While accepting this unhappy news, I couldn't help but write back to let him know that the book existed, that I had written it on spec, and would be glad to submit it, especially as it had ended up quite different to the description I gave in my proposal. I'm still awaiting an answer, but I'm skeptical. He's made his choices. Either one of the other Airplane albums was chosen as more a more commercial selection, or they didn't go with the Airplane at all. (CoC scored a gold record within its first year of release and remains the second best-selling of the Airplane's albums.)
So now I have a book about CROWN OF CREATION on file and not a single idea of what to do with it. Having read more than half of the "33 1/3" books, I'm convinced it would be a worthy addition to the series. It's adventurously devised in accordance with the spirit of the band I was writing about -- a compendium of music criticism, music journalism, autobiography and screenplay. I could self-publish it, I suppose, but I'd rather place it with a company with a track record of publishing books on rock music and getting them reviewed and into libraries.
If any of you have any recommendations about where my latest book might find a home, please let me know.

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