were certain people whose calls Tomas was always relegated
to taking. One was Janet, our book reviewer.
book reviews were often five hundred words and three sentences, with lots
of long, vaguely poetic, but impenetrable, phrases. At one stage we limited
her to a certain number of reviews, so she called and sniped at the other
book reviewers, which was just not good policy.
it too late to say we're sorry?
decided to cut the book reviews altogether, mainly because we weren't
generating very many good ones. Within a month of rudely blowing off Janet,
her own first book came out, Oprah selected it, and she probably became
a millionaire overnight.
of my most uncomfortable moments at Speak was when Dan decided he was
not going to allow a certain writer into the office. The writer was knocking
on the door and when somebody knocks, my inclination is to answer it.
Even if it was a stranger who wanted to visit, I had seen Dan let them
come in. But this day he just wasn't going to open the door.
always insisted on showing up in person, often unannounced, and talking
ad nauseum. One day when we were screening calls, he rang from outside
wanting to be buzzed up. I put my foot down and didn't let him in, but
he still managed to get into the building.
We were sort
of milling about the office for three minutes as he was knocking over
and over again. He knew we were in there. I don't think we were even trying
to be quiet.
He had come
by not long before and would not stop talking about his personal experience
with a particular article, how it had changed his life, all of this hyperbole
crap. We couldn't get him out of there with a crate of tear gas. As time
has passed, I've ridded the magazine its more difficult writers, even
if they weren't necessarily the least talented. Life's too short to have
to work with wienies.
least someone was smiling in the office.
Dan seemed excited about selling the magazine, as long as he could keep
control of the editorial. He took a whole lot of something the morning
of his big meeting and didn't feel safe to drive, so he asked me to drive
him there. He came out an hour and a half later and was clearly not pleased
with how things had gone.
buyer was a sinister foreign businessman. The two of us sat at a large
conference table. I had a proposal prepared by my lawyer and he tossed
it aside and said, "As
two men we can sit here today and make a deal. But you get lawyers involved
and it will take forever." Then he added,
"I would like to include my lawyer. He is a good man."
to give me a generous employment contract and allow me to keep a small
percentage of the magazine. But I would have no control, and no guaranteed
position-- I could have ended up washing windows. When I rejected the
offer, he dramatically slid a copy of Speak in front of me, pounded his
finger on it, and said, "Why
do you do this magazine?!" I was very nervous and said something
like, "Well, hopefully
to produce something that I can be proud of." He interrupted me
and said, "Wrong
answer! You do this for the same reason you do everything. For money!
And I am offering you money." Obviously he didn't
The thing that always frustrated me about Dan, more than anything else,
is that he never took the bull by the horns as far as promoting the magazine
and himself. He was always so modest and insecure. I felt that the magazine
could take off, that there were a lot of outlets, even early on, where
people would have been interested in doing an article or interviewing
him, but until he felt the magazine was perfect, he didn't want to do
that. I thought, "There
is so much being wasted here." But I couldn't take over for him
because I have the same problem, and of course I wasn't the publisher
I don't think Dan was as vocal as he could have been. He could have been
out doing interviews and all that sort of thing. It's ironic that when
Speak is over he'll have to sell what it was and who he is in a way that
he never did when it was all happening.
I spoke with Dan for the first time on the phone, I tried to exact a narrative
from him about starting the magazine; what motivated him, how he felt
about creating something tangible, unique, a mode of communicating with
thousands of people around the world. He seemed unable to acknowledge
the accomplishment of pulling off a national magazine. He was not only
not interested in glorifying it, he didn't seem to have time to contemplate
who really succeed are the ones who not only don't mind publicity, but
know how to actively promote themselves.
his current rate of distribution, Dan would have needed to reprint
business cards in 2148.
I was never
satisfied enough with the magazine that I even wanted it to be seen, which
is admittedly odd since I spent so much time on it and by nature it was
a public project that required people to be interested in it. When I met
people away from work, I never mentioned the magazine, or I'd just say that
I was an editor. I printed five hundred business cards three years ago and
I probably have four hundred and ninety left.
got a lot of play in the design press, which Dan resented a bit. But that
was happening because I was granting interviews, sending pictures of spreads.
He could have achieved similar things on the editorial side, but he was
a lot more resistant.
is much easier to come by than general press; there are lots of design
magazines and books, it's a self-promoting business, they hand out awards
every five minutes.
If I felt
any resentment, it was because designers didn't seem to be reading Speak.
Plus, we weren't selling more ads; the design may have hurt ad sales.
A magazine like RayGun got lots of design press, every designer knew about
it, but it never generated much ad revenue or sold many magazines relative
to other national music titles. At one point it was only a vehicle for
its art director's fame, which was all it deserved to be. I didn't want
people to perceive of Speak in the same way. Still, it was inevitable
to the degree that much of our designer audience couldn't tell the difference.
has labeled me as this strange designer doing, as some have said, unfathomable
design. Granted the first issues were like that. Some of it is visually
interesting, just as visual stuff, but that's just the kind of design
that Dan resents, and I resent, too.
Early on, I thought Martin's design was the only reason to pick up the
magazine. I encouraged him to go all out. If it didn't look cool, I don't
think we would've sold anywhere near the magazines that we sold. But as
the editorial improved, there was more tension between Martin and me.
Suddenly I was saying, "You
can't do this anymore." "You can't do that anymore." "I don't like color."
make these pronouncements, he would give me categorical statements, but
he was actually much looser on what he liked and didn't like.
I have always hated lots of color and Martin tended to go overboard whenever
he'd use it. We typically would go to lunch together during the design
of the first issue. But one day I let him go by himself, then I sat at
his computer. I didn't know what I was doing, but I changed these bright
colors on a fashion feature to a muted, dark green. I thought that was
a subtle way of telling him I didn't like what he was doing.
up with a pale yellow, which wasn't bright and was ultimately the best
choice. I think Dan would agree that his dark green would have been a
bad choice. Today we would just sit together and look at it; it's not
such a subversive thing.
someone who deals with praise well, he seems almost surprised to hear
it. Of course that lets me off the hook because I'm not great about giving
does say something like, "I
think that's pretty good" or "I'm
really happy with this spread," it's such an amazing thing to hear,
it kind of just makes me feel calm for the whole day. Whereas that might
be nothing for some people, I always assume people are going to dislike
what I do.
give me praise, I don't attend to it, but I attend to criticism very seriously.
That's not necessarily a good way to be because you can never enjoy the
fruits of your labor. Whenever I get an issue of Speak, I'm pretty critical
of it and how I might have done things differently.
Too much news is bad news. >>