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Emily Gould: Books And Business

As a twenty-something aspiring writer living in Brooklyn last year, my teacher gave me suggestions of modern writers to read. Among those writers, she stressed Emily Gould’s work. She explained that Gould’s writing was controversial and that many people had issues with it. I was immediately intrigued and bought Gould’s book, And The Heart Says Whatever, that same day. Three things were true to my existence at that time: I was a woman, I was a writer, and I was a waitress. Reading Gould’s essays felt like reading someone who was also somewhat defined by those things and was doing okay, or even better than okay, in the woman/writer industry. Born on October 13th Gould is a Libra, (diplomatic and urbane, as the astrologists say). She was born in Maryland, was accepted to and dropped out of Kenyon College, and then moved to New York City. In New York, she worked at Gawker, where she alone turned the job description “blogger” into a household word. Since resigning from the site in 2007, she has published a book, created the show Cooking the Books, (where she invites an author to her apartment and they cook something related to the book) become a certified yoga instructor, and rumor has it that she’s working on a second book.

The thing about Gould that really stands out is that she is ruthless in her ambition. While writing this, I read many interviews with her and watched videos of her speaking. It seems that people view her as somewhat of an enigma, which is funny because she writes non-fiction. One of the things that really tickled me when I watched her speak on the New York based TV show, The Digital Age, was that writing non-fiction is almost a defense mechanism.

“When you put everything out there, what’s left for people to say about you?” she asked, and then laughed admitting, “I guess they will always find something.”

They always found something. Gould held her own over the past couple years where she has been called brutal names and publicly attacked and humiliated. But she always climbs out back on top. She’s beginning to remind me of that Puff Daddy and Mase song, “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down.”

So what is the jack-of-all trade Emily Gould up to now? On a recent blog post on Emily Magazine, she says:  “Financial self-sufficiency is a big deal, especially for women, whose liberation has historically coincided with their financial freedom.  It takes courage to admit that you’re not doing okay, and to begin doing something about it. I spent a lot of the past year trying to figure out what, besides writing, I could do to make money.”

Well, so did a lot of us. But we didn’t come up with what she did.  This past October, Emily Gould and Ruth Curry created Emily Books—an independent e-bookstore that specializes in “mind-blowingly awesome, criminally under appreciated works of fiction and nonfiction.” This is how it works: Buy a subscription to Emily Books for $159.99 and receive a new e-book every month in your reader, hand-selected by Emily and Ruth.

Emily Books is the first venue where you can directly buy indie e-books for e-readers. The books that are available now are Inferno by Eileen Myles, No More Nice Girls by Ellen Willis, and just added to the mix is Glory Goes and Gets Some by Emily Carter. Gould explains that she can understand that people might assume they are choosing Feminist books, but what they are actually doing is much larger: Choosing books with singular, unmistakable voices, that should be available to a wider audience, and that a good amount of those voices will include queer and women writers. Emily Carter’s short story collection about addiction and recovery is “grandiose, wild and whiny,” a book that the Times and Target’s buyer probably wouldn’t like, that Amazon wouldn’t “get,” but a book that Gould and Curry absolutely love.  Gould and Curry prefer to keep their list of pending books a surprise. All Gould will disclose about 2012 is that we can expect to see a book about someone who had sex with a chicken in a movie.

Gould is prepared for most questions that will come up, such as “Why not just wait and see whether it’s a book I think I’ll like, instead of buying a subscription?” Or: “Maybe it’s good to be encouraged to read something you might not choose for yourself?” she answers.

You have to hand it to Gould. She takes a crack at things. It’s courageous to give your all to a business that hasn’t been tested in any form. It could plummet or it could sky rocket. Trial and error. I don’t really see how Emily Books won’t work, as it’s the only thing exactly like itself, but it will be interesting to see how it progresses in the next year.

Gould says:  “A lot of us grew up hearing ‘Do what you love and the money will follow,’ which is great advice for people who love neurosurgery or filing briefs. Do what you love 70% of the time and spend the rest of the time doing various things you hate, or that are difficult for you, and see what happens, might be better advice.’  It was for me, I think.”

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