Tag: Publishing

Institutional Inertia – Example of

One thing we could do right away was to disencumber the office of a number of pointless routines that had proliferated through the years. For every new book signed on, for instance, Blanche and Alfred had each demanded a long, insanely detailed form to be filled out and filed – the green form, the pink form. Blanche’s forms were still being churned out two years after her death: No one had said to stop. Alfred’s were hardly more to the point. A good deal of unnecessary make-work was being ground out daily. We had an “office manageress” who walked around the office hectoring the secretaries: “Type faster, girls. Type faster.” There was a weekly meeting at which the elders discussed reprints of the backlist: The cost of manufacturing, say, 750 copies of an academic book on American history from 1938 was announced, the book in question was handed around, the discussion went on until a consensus was achieved. It had to be a consensus because no one was in charge, and since time immemorial, one of the chief activities of the browbeaten Knopfies had been to dodge direct responsibility lest the wrath of the gods descend.

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Robert Gottlieb