I should be packing. Tomorrow I catch a plane to the US to start my American book tour: it’s L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and New York. I’m thinking of doing a travel diary, so you can check in to see just how glamorous a book tour really is. Stay tuned.
“Hilarious... Company is Mr. Barry's breakout book” The New York Times
“A raucous black comedy... sublimely Kafkaesque” Kirkus Reviews (starred)
At Zephyr Holdings, no one has ever seen the CEO in person. The beautiful receptionist is paid twice as much as anybody else, but does no apparent work. The sales reps use relationship self-help books as sales manuals, and one is on the warpath because of a missing mid-morning donut. In other words, it's an ordinary big company.
This is the book that asks the questions: When is physical violence an appropriate response to management policy? Why is that one reserved parking space always empty? Taking an extra donut from the team's basket: is that a sign of a motivated go-getter, or a sociopath? And this sea of incompetence and insanity they call a workplace: it can't really be that way by accident, can it?
Displaying blogs about Company. View all Max's blogs
Oh, it’s a red-letter day in the Barry household. My third novel, Company, goes on sale today. It’s also my 13th wedding anniversary. (Yep, teen bridegroom. What? It’s not so weird. It is not.) And—and—my baby girl just rolled from her back onto her front! Yes! Big achievements all round!
Somewhat scarily, the first week or two will largely determine whether Company is a sales success or not. If it starts strong, bookstores will leave it placed up the front of the store, or include it in special deals. But otherwise, it’s a quick one-way trip to the jungles of General Fiction. You don’t have long to establish yourself as a winner on those New Fiction shelves, no sir, and there’s a long line of up-and-comers ready to steal your shoes. So good luck, little Company.
I found three new reviews today: a nice capsule from People Magazine (“biting, hilarious”) and two rippers from Entertainment Weekly and Forbes. What I especially love is that both decline to give away the book’s big twist, something I thought no reviewer would be able to resist. But EW says:
To disclose what occurs after page 80 would rob any enjoyment from the book. It’s that twist that saves Barry’s third novel from becoming as drab as the office he describes and establishes him as one of the keenest and shrewdest minds in corporate satire. Utterly original… A-.
while Forbes pumps me right up:
Barry’s accomplished an impossible feat—he’s written three books without succumbing to a sophomore slump. Insightful and devlish… if you’re reading a management book right now, any management book, put it down and get this instead.
I’m building a collection of links to reviews that don’t contain big spoilers in the Company Reviews section.
And for those who want a little taste before plumping their hard-earned, I’ve just posted an extract from Chapter One. Enjoy! (I hope.)
While researching Company—I mean, while doing unrelated things in the hope that something would happen that I could use in the book—I heard lots of corporate horror stories. Some funny, some terrifying, most in the same theme: it’s amazing just how clear a company can make it that you’re completely unimportant.
Some of these stories went into my novel, but there are so many others that I’ve created a new web site to capture them: Tales of Corporate Oppression. I want it to become a repository for the best, funniest, and most appalling stories of everyday workplace inhumanity out there.
This is where you come in. If you’ve got a tale, help me get started: jump on in and submit your story. If you don’t, you can still read other people’s tales and vote for them.
In other news, I’ve updated the Company section of this site to include a description of what (more or less) the novel is about. It’s relatively spoiler-free, so should be safe reading… but if you’re one of those people who doesn’t want to know anything at all about it, I applaud you. Assuming you’re motivated by a desire to preserve the mystery, that is, and not because you have no intention of ever reading it. If it’s the latter, I’m not so impressed.
Doubleday has made up some Company coffee cups and Mission Statement posters and I’m allowed to give five away. This is fantastic, because usually this stuff goes to uninterested magazine editors already drowning in book-related collateral, and not to fans, who would stab their own mothers for it.
It’s like this: Company is set within a fictional corporation named Zephyr Holdings, and Doubleday’s cups and Mission Statements have Zephyr logos on them. There’s no mention of me or the novel, which seems a little odd for promotional merchandise, but then it does make them even more cool and obscure.
If you’d like to win a coffee cup and Mission Statement poster, all you need to do is get yourself on my mailing list. You can uncheck the relevant boxes so you don’t get my blogs by e-mail, if you want: the important thing is that you be on that list, and have followed the instructions to validate your email address. Don’t join multiple times, or I’ll disqualify you.
On Monday January 9th, 2006, I’ll randomly select five people from the mailing list and e-mail them. If I don’t get a reply or at least a vacation autoreply within a few days, I’ll draw somebody else.
Thanks to Doubleday for making this possible! It’s very cool of them.
(Note: I know from experience that a bunch of you are going to write in saying how much you’d love a Company coffee cup and you once had a Snoopy coffee cup but it got broken and through some process I can’t quite follow only a Company cup will make your life whole again so can I please just slip you one on the side. But I’m sorry, I can’t: I only have five to give away.)
Update: To clarify, yes, naturally everyone already on the list is automatically eligible.
A few months before a book is published, Advanced Reader Copies, otherwise known as ARCs, start floating around. These are slightly shabby-looking versions of the final book, mailed out to people in the media so they can get a review into print by the time the book goes on sale.
ARCs have “NOT FOR SALE” printed on them, but of course there is a bustling mini-market, fed by critics who don’t particularly want to hang on to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of books. So the ARCs find there way onto ebay* or into second-hand bookstores. If you’re dying to get your hands on a particular novel, these ARCs can look very tempting. But should you buy one, or hold out? Let Uncle Max be your guide.
Neither the author nor the publisher sees any money from sales of ARCs. This may not bother you, and I sure don’t consider it a hanging crime—if publishers didn’t think ARCs were a net generator of sales, they wouldn’t produce them, right?—but you should be aware of it. I know a few readers who shelled out big bucks for ARCs thinking some of that money was going to end up with me. In fact, it doesn’t even count as a sale. Your cash goes only to the retailer and the critic who originally bounced it along.
(I have to admit, there is something annoying about the idea that a critic might get a free copy of my book, write a crap review of it, and then—because they don’t like it, you see—sell it on ebay to someone who otherwise would have bought a real copy. That’s like gouging my eyes and then kicking me in the nuts.)
The other issue with ARCs is that they’re advanced—that is, they’re printed before the final round of edits. In the case of Company, you get 99.5% of the story, but you also get a sprinkling of typos and clumsy sentences I only fixed at the last minute. I made around 50 minor changes in final edits, and while you’d struggle to spot most of them, I made those changes for a reason. A few are reasonably significant; I also inserted a new joke that, while perhaps not a world-beater, amuses me.
Then there’s looks: the ARC has low-grade artwork that I did on my word processor, while the real thing features slick stuff from Doubleday’s art department. The ARC is also missing that jacket copy I sweated over, and is a somewhat fragile paperback, having not been designed for long-term use.
This shouldn’t prevent you from buying an ARC, if that’s what you want. They make good collectors’ items, since, relatively speaking, there are so few of them. (Even I don’t have a Syrup ARC any more.) But if you’re after the story, I think you should wait for the real thing. Don’t pay ten or twenty or (dear God) thirty bucks for an ARC. For that kind of money, you shouldn’t settle for a draft.
* (Some sellers on ebay don’t make it clear that they’re selling ARCs. There are two right now that make no mention of this at all. But they are, because the real things haven’t been printed yet.)
Doubleday has nailed down my Company US book tour, so if you’re interested in listening to me orally mangle my novel and write amusing things on your copy, you’re in luck! Providing, of course, you live in one of a very small number of cities:
- Los Angeles, CA
Wednesday January 25th, 2006
- San Francisco, CA
Thursday January 26th, 2006
- Seattle, WA
Saturday January 28th, 2006
- Portland, OR
Monday January 30th, 2006
- New York, NY
Wednesday February 1st, 2006
If you can’t make it, here’s the one-line summary: I’m taller and more Australian than you expect.