Friday, July 15, 2011


Publish Or Privish


Privish. A word formed from "privately published."

In a negative sense it means a strategy by a book publisher to sabotage the release of a controversial book. For example, the book "DuPont: Behind the Nylon Curtain" by Gerard Colby was privished after a DuPont family member raised a stink after seeing an advanced copy of the book. Due to pressure, the publisher Prentice-Hall cut the number of copies for distribution and slashed the advertising budget.

In a neutral or positive sense privish can also mean a choice by a writer to limit distribution of printed works to very few people. The advantage of this type of privishing is that is only shared with readers who are really interested in the work, not its format or status.

Some people consider this type of privishing in a negative light because it implies that the members of the writer's inner circle won't criticize the writing. I don't mind criticism if it's constructive and practical.

So when it comes to my words on paper, call me Ray X, Privisher.


ADDENDUM: 8/14/11

I decided to have my own take on privish. In my case it's going to mean "privileged publishing." Privish in the sense of private publishing is pronounced "prie-vish." Privish with my new definition is pronounced "priv-ish." So those still receiving my paper zine should feel privileged -- all two of you. [G]

6 comments:

X. Dell said...

Hmmm. Why bother publishing it at all, then? Compare that to St. Martin's Press and their treatment of James Hatfield's Fortunate Son. Like St. Martin's, Prentice-Hall could have recouped editing and vetting expenses by selling the rights to Soft Skull, or any other young upstart publisher.

If the book were libelous, then again, there's no need to put it on any shelves. You'd just pulp it at that point.

The only reason I can think of for Prentice Hall to run away from this story is pressure from the DuPonts.

Ray Palm said...

X. Dell:

I get the impression that privishing in the bad sense was a way of sorta fulfilling the contract with the writer while allowing some wiggle room in case the author took legal action.

The link at Wikipedia in my post includes this observation:

Colby's Du Pont: Behind the Nylon Curtain was published by Prentice-Hall in 1974, but the industrial clan apparently felt threatened. The dirty tricks began just as Colby's marriage was crumbling. He made the mistake of befriending a fellow journalist supposedly doing a Du Pont-related story for Ramparts magazine. The guy turned out to be a paid infiltrator.

Behind the Nylon Curtain was dropped as a Book-of-the-Month Club selection only 24 hours after it had been chosen. A positive story in Time magazine was similarly spiked. Even though Nylon Curtain ranked among the country's top 50 best-sellers, Colby's publisher slashed the print run by one-third. When a New York Times critic deemed the work "something of a miracle," readers had a hard time finding copies.


I first heard about this through an article in an alternative newspaper published in Bulrington, Vermont, Seven Days. Here's the link:

http://www.7dvt.com/2003/muckraking-marriage

An excerpt:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned the damages award in September 1983. The court stated that, while DuPont's actions “surely” resulted in the book club's decision not to distribute Zilg's work and also resulted in a change in Prentice-Hall's previously supportive attitude toward the book, DuPont's conduct was not actionable. The court further stated that the contract did not contain an explicit “best efforts” or “promote fully” promise, much less an agreement to make certain specific promotional efforts. Printing and advertising decisions were within Prentice-Hall's discretion.

So screw mainstream publishing and media. And screw the plutarchy, too.

Ray Palm said...

I also found this YouTube video:

Into the Buzzsaw: The Myth of a Free Press by Gerard Colby

X. Dell said...

I've read a bit of the book Inside the Buzzsaw, specifically the essay by Christina Borjesson. So I look forward to clicking on that link.

Doug said...

(Ray, I don't mean to contradict your assertion, but you said this in a public forum.)

(Of course, I guess our method of posting on blogs that are read by a select few--well, at least, mine is--is essentially privishing despite being publicly available, merely because there's so much else out there to distract people. It's hiding in plain site, in a manner of speaking.)

(Not sure why I'm putting all of these paragraphs in parentheses.)

Marvin the Martian said...

Okeydokey, Mr. Privisher.

The captcha is "geeze". As in, a geezer is one who has a tendency to geeze.