| Don’t Write Alone
Interviews Publishers Brunch Believes Book Memes Can Bring Us Together
In an interview with Catapult magazine, Publishers Brunch shares how Instagram memes foster a sense of community in the publishing industry.
If you’re reading Catapult and you also have an Instagram account, odds are high that you’ve come across very funny and awfully specific memes about books and the publishing industry.
Maybe you’ve seen this one , an image of Begging Bernie Sanders requesting a galley of Jennifer Egan’s latest novel. Or this one , the movie poster for Britney Spears’ film debut Crossroads repurposed as the cover for Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads . Or even this one , a personal favorite: the yassified cover of Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation . They’re all extremely niche and invariably good—and they’re all by the Instagram account @publishersbrunch.
Since its first post on August 10, 2021, the account now has an audience of over 11,000 followers, made up of citizens from across all echelons of writerly and readerly communities, as seen here . The content skews literary (there are plenty of Sally Rooney jokes), but the classically slapdash look of memecraft— memework ? memery ?—makes it all feel approachable, even if the punchlines themselves are esoteric more often than not.
There’s an irreverent intelligence to the memes, whether they’re skewering nepotism in the industry or demanding that book executives de-platform fascists . Publishers Brunch is evidently someone who works from within the belly of the beast, calling for workers’ rights and doing so with levity . Therein lies the account’s success, the way it calls attention to inequalities at work (and the fever-dream idiosyncrasies of our book industry), especially in a capitalist age when we might fear retaliation for holding accountable the people in power. Memes as tools of the proletariat—who woulda thunk?
I recently had the opportunity to speak to Publishers Brunch themself. I approached Ms./Mr./Mx. Brunch for an interview and they agreed to a thirty-minute chat via Instagram DM on the condition of anonymity. This interview includes screenshots from our conversation to verify authenticity; the transcript has not been condensed or edited.
Matt Ortile: Hi PB! Thanks again for agreeing to an interview today — you ready? ?
Publishers Brunch: yes! so ready!?
MO: Awesome! Let’s get right to it: First off, what inspired you to start @publishersbrunch ?
PB: I had been mulling over the idea of a publishing meme account for some time, well before I got the page off the ground, but I think the real catalyst was the pandemic moving us all to a WFH set-up. Suddenly, most of our interactions in the book world were via social media. It felt like the right time to start these conversations about the realities of our work.
PB: Also, I got dumped and, as one of my friends put it, “posting through it” lol
MO: Omg! Bless, I so feel that ?
MO: And yeah — WFH really did something to our brains.
MO: Speaking of, you asked followers to tell you about their return to office plans at their respective publishing houses / book businesses, and you shared them in your stories as fyis.
MO: What trends did you spot? What was surprising, or more likely–unsurprising?
PB: I was glad to see that most houses / agencies were sticking to working from home or empowering employees to choose where they wanted to work. I wasn’t surprised to hear that plenty of assistants and lower-level employees responded that their managers were coercing them to come in, in spite of official company protocols. I wish I was!
PB: Most surprising was hearing that smaller/”progressive” companies that were demanding workers return to the office– especially during the surge!
MO: Totally!! It’s like, put your money where your mouth is!
MO: Do you think followers were more honest with PB?
MO: Vs. if they were, say, interviewed by bigger outlets interested in these industry trends/stories?
PB: My hope was to create a venue to share honest stories/experiences, so I’d like to think so! If you’re not in a media-facing position in the industry, say editorial or production or wherever, it can be daunting to speak to reporters. Especially if you’re not sure who you can trust to protect your anonymity. Though you’re very nice! Proof they’re not all bad haha
MO: “If you’re not in a media-facing position in the industry, say editorial or production or wherever, it can be daunting to speak to reporters.” 100 percent!!
MO: and lol thank you! I’m such a fan of the account so ofc this is an honor for us at Catapult too
MO: The meme account era of industries is really booming and I’m glad to see it happening with publishing
MO: there’s you and @xoxopublishing … are there others? is there a publishing meme account mafia??? ?
MO: (not trying to doxx, promise!!)
PB: Thank you!! And I love @xoxopublishinggg !! Obsessed with their stories– that’s where all the piping hot tea is spilled lol
PB: I’m a big fan of @unionize_publishing and @damagedbookwrkr , and the newer @xoxobooksellinggg . And official union accounts for HCP, Politics & Prose, etc post a lot of great information for workers as well!
MO: Love the way you’re calling in folks here, that’s awesome ✊?
MO: As you mentioned, PB highlights issues of racism, sexism, inequity, and the abuses of power in the publishing world — and does it through memes!
MO: What do you think memes can do that the usual Discourse cannot?
PB: I think the power of comedy can’t be overstated! Memes provide an outlet for sharing our collective experiences, from the good (free books) to the bad (racism, sexism, inequity, etc). Publishing woes, but make it funny!
PB: Memes are also endlessly shareable on social, which can help foster a shared sense of community. Like, we all go through this, but we’re in it together.
MO: tooootally, you’re right, that communal sense of meme culture — something shared — does so much to help
MO: we’re at the end of our 30 minutes, so my last question:
MO: publishing has spent a lot of time talking about how it wants to improve……do you think it ever will? ?
PB: I’m optimistic! It’s heartening to see the younger generation of publishing rise up, so to speak, and call attention to these issues. I just hope that we all don’t burn out in the years to come! Maybe more memes can help with that lol
MO: yessss we have to pave the way, thank you for that chaser of hope! ??
MO: oh and very quickly lol: which of the memes that you’ve posted is your personal favorite?
PB: hahaha oh man, I love all my children equally, but I was very proud of my recent A LITTLE LIFE / Borat crossover. Second to that would have to be the bucket hat memes that started it all! •