The Internet is a strange thing. I’m ambivalent about most of what people do on it, but since I’m not terrified of it, I was a plausible candidate for any of the several internships I applied for this summer. They have different names—”online outreach internship,” “digital media internship,” “Web strategy internship”—but basically, they’re all I’m Not Terrified of the Internet Internships.
The company I finally signed up with isn’t just terrified of the Internet, they hate it. It’s a nonprofit literary publisher that lands grants on the strength of its back catalog, which includes several national award winners. The founder, who’s in the 70-Something-and-Still-Feisty-But-Also-Kind-of-Crazy demographic, has a long history of being able to convince foundations that he can take their money and use it to publish books without seriously fucking anything up. It’s true that he can do that, but it’s also true that the books are read by fewer and fewer people. The publisher’s solution has been to jack up prices, print everything in hardcover, and describe the books as “craft editions.”
Nothing here goes on the Internet. The Internet is the enemy. My hire was forced by the three under-50 board members who told the founder he had to get the company on Facebook and Twitter, or else no one would take us seriously. He doesn’t believe that, and plans to ignore me and the Internet I represent as much as possible.
Representing this Internet-hating company on the Internet is like trying to have a conversation with your ex and his new girlfriend: you keep everything positive and superficial, and skate around the fact that you actually hate him, hate her, and hate the conversation. Sample tweets:
Our author Alec Robinson talks about why he’s proud to be in print! [link]
Check out these stunning letterpress designs by the studio that prints our chapbooks. [link]
Welcome to Twitter: @RoseColoredBooks, a proudly independent poetry store in Oxford.
The arms-length relationship with the Internet is ironic given that this is a literary publisher: an enterprise founded on the premise that there’s value in putting a lens on reality, on valorizing the subjective. “The Internet isn’t real,” grumbled my boss when he resentfully hired me. You wonder what ditch-diggers and plumbers would have to say about letterpress chapbooks.
So here’s my summer: using one medium to promote another, all in the service of freeing writers to express themselves and advance human imagination through institutionally sanctioned channels. This should be good practice for writing short stories that will be graded by a TA being supervised by a professor who was hired by a dean who liked the books the professor published through a company owned by an international conglomerate. The business of literature, the science of art.
Whatever. Like all writers, I basically just want to get paid and get laid.