A Novel Concept with Bethanne Patrick

A Novel Concept with Bethanne Patrick
A Novel Concept with Bethanne Patrick

Nov 02 2023 | 00:36:48

Episode November 02, 2023 00:36:48

Hosted By

Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes

Today Stuart talks to Bethanne Patrick about her podcast, Missing Pages. Being a critic of your professional industry can go one of two ways, horribly wrong or positively eye-opening. Bethanne’s podcast, Missing Pages, is all about the controversies in the publishing industry. From the way that big publishers treat their authors, to plagiarism, to scams, to literal snake oil salespeople, the publishing industry is no stranger to controversy. Bethanne dives deep into these controversies while also conveying deeply meaningful and thought-provoking stories to her listeners.

Missing Pages is an investigative podcast hosted by world-renowned literary critic and publishing insider Bethanne Patrick. Book bans are on the rise across America. With the rise of social media, book publishers are losing their power as the industry gatekeepers. More and more celebrities and influencers are publishing books with ghostwriters. Writing communities are splintering because members are at cross purposes about their mission. An all-new season of the investigative podcast Missing Pages premieres on October 23rd. Produced by The Podglomerate.

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Today you’ll learn about:

  • Bethanne’s writing journey
  • The stories behind Missing Pages 
  • The problems in the publishing industry 
  • Feedback and response from the community
  • The future of Missing Pages, podcasting, and the literary industry
  • Podcasting as a literary form
  • Audio and video podcasts



Bethanne Patrick’s website: https://www.bethannepatrick.com/

Missing Pages: https://listen.podglomerate.com/show/missing-pages/

Podglomerate: https://podglomerate.com/ 

Castos Academy: https://academy.castos.com/ 

Castos, private podcast: https://academy.castos.com/privatepodcast/ 

Castos, website: https://castos.com/ 

Castos, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/castos  

Clubhouse video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8729ZpWpmIw 

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: It seems fairly common for someone to make a podcast about their occupation, kind of like this one that you're listening to right now. In fact, it might be one of the most common categories out there, but it might not be quite as common to make an investigative series about the scandals in your own industry. [00:00:19] Speaker B: We are not looking at the publishing industry from any kind of marketing angle. That's not our job. And the thing that is really wonderful to hear is the feedback that I get from individuals in publishing who say, I am hooked on this podcast. [00:00:43] Speaker A: Next, Beth Ann Patrick takes us inside her podcast, Missing Pages, a podcast all about the world of publishing and sometimes the darker side of it. My name is Stuart and this is Audience, a Casos original series where we go behind the scenes of all kinds of podcasts to explore their creative process. Before we get to all the creative stuff, here's a quick note for our podcasters out there. Creativity is the most important part of the process and without it, your podcast or your show won't get very far. But you also need a support system, which oftentimes means money. We can help you there. Casos lets you monetize all of your episodes, even the old ones, with a press of a button. There's no chasing sponsors, no extra editing work, none of the headache. You can even tap into your own support network. Let your audience directly support your podcast through one time or recurring donations with castus commerce. For more information, check out the links in our show notes. Okay, let's get back into it. [00:02:02] Speaker B: I guess the background on me starts with being a writer and then goes on to my being a book reviewer and critic and then to being an author. So I've done a lot of different things in the book world. Basically, I started out trying to freelance and I found it really tough. I really hate pitching things. And so when I realized that I could start writing book reviews and get like regular money for book reviews, I thought, this is great because I can read. I love reading. And then along the way, as I had some different jobs and got more involved in digital things and startups, I launched a couple of places like Shelf Awareness for Readers. I helped launch Book Riot, and then I thought, okay, what I really want to do is write books. [00:02:55] Speaker A: I'm kind of going beth and Patrick has done just about everything in the world of publishing. [00:03:01] Speaker B: Stuart. So I started writing books for National Geographic. And then I edited an anthology called The Books That Changed My Life. And just recently, I published my debut memoir, life B. And I am now working on a second memoir, I hope Knock on Wood and all that good stuff. [00:03:21] Speaker A: She's become one of the top literary critics around with her work making the rounds on NPR books. The Washington Post and the La Times. And now comes perhaps her most audacious project yet, a podcast called Missing Pages, which is an original series from the Podglomerate. It's an investigative podcast that mainly looks at scandals and publishing plagiarism, influencers, liars and scammers. It turns out there's quite a bit of drama behind some of the books we read. While Missing Pages might not shed the most flattering light on the literary world, it's received praise from Beth Ann's Peers and is another accomplishment in her impressive career. [00:04:05] Speaker B: When Missing Pages was originally conceived by people at the Podglomerate, including our executive producer, Jeff Umbro, who is the CEO at the Podglomerate, it was going to be kind of a fun gossip show about things that had gone wrong in publishing and people who had done things, silly things, criminal things, noteworthy things. And when Jeff brought me on as host because he knew about my experience in the publishing industry, he got me at a time when, you know, finishing up my memoir and thinking really hard about psychological things, and not just psychological things as they are, but also about how they affect us in our everyday lives. And so we would discuss ideas for scripts, and I would say, well, what if this person had been depressed? Or why would someone say they were bipolar and do all of this lying when lying isn't necessarily part of bipolar syndrome, right? It's just not. I mean, anyone can lie, but you don't lie because you're bipolar. So as we were working on the scripts, the other producers and I just kept going deeper and seeing that not only did individuals who had perpetrated scams or problems probably have some deeper issues to talk about, but then we saw that the publishing industry as a whole has deeper issues to talk about. And I'm not saying we're the only ones who realize that, okay, there are plenty of podcasts and other writers who have talked about really deep problems, everything from misogyny to lack of diversity and classism in publishing. But Missing Pages was something where we wanted to make sure we could make things transparent to our audience of readers. People who really love books, care about how they're published, and also care about the process of having those books published. [00:06:13] Speaker C: I feel very confident saying that Missing Pages is a very different approach and I think maybe kind of a risky one, because you are kind of lifting the veil a little bit. You're giving everyone a peek behind the curtain to the publishing industry, and not in necessarily the most flattering way. So I'm curious, what has the feedback been like from people within? [00:06:39] Speaker B: Your know, it's been so positive. And let's face it, you're right, Stuart. We are not looking at the publishing industry from any kind of marketing angle. And I know exactly what you're talking about. I know lots of people who do those kinds of marketing podcasts. And look, they can do great work when they're supposed to. That's not our job. And the thing that is really wonderful to hear is the feedback that I get from individuals in publishing, from authors to people on the sales side to editors, lots of editors, lots of publicists who say, I am hooked on this podcast. I just zoomed through the eight episodes, and when are you going to launch season two? Because I absolutely love it because I didn't get any permission for names in advance. I don't want to talk about the authors, but a couple of them are really well known, and I love the fact that they are in big publishing. Okay. These authors who tell me they love missing pages, they're right in the middle of it, making the money, writing the books again, going through the tours and all that kind of thing. But that doesn't mean that they don't have things to criticize. That doesn't mean that they don't appreciate our bent on criticism. I haven't heard from anyone saying, you were so unfair, or you got this completely wrong. Most of the criticism I've seen of missing pages has to do with my voice and delivery. Right. And you don't worry about that so much. But I haven't seen a lot of criticism saying, you guys are just doing a shoddy job. Everyone knows that we're very careful about reporting, fact checking, getting legal reviews done, and that we do our best to give as much information as we can. There are times when we can't get an interview with someone, or someone is gone and can't be interviewed. So there are things that have to be left out. But I haven't heard, at least not yet, from anyone saying, you're really ruining your career in publishing. And part of that is because I have never worked in house at one of the big five publishing companies. I have had a long career in publishing, but it's been not necessarily in the outside, but definitely more on the reporting and writing side rather than being someone who earns a salary from a publishing house. [00:09:27] Speaker C: I like your delivery, by the way. To me, as a narrator, you're a character in the show. And I think when I listen to it, to me especially, your monologues and your narration very much sound like you're reading some sort of literary critique in The New York Times or Washington Post or something. Just your cadence, your delivery, the way sentences are structured. And to me, I think it does two things. I mean, I think it speaks to the ethos of, like, do what you know and be yourself when you're making a podcast. And two, I think it just kind of gives it very much that I don't know, it just gives it very much the show itself and the narrator is the character. And I don't know if I articulated that very well, but there's nothing wrong with your delivery or your voice. [00:10:15] Speaker B: Thank you. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. And again, the response and the audience seem to be coming from inside the house. It's publishing people who are always talking to me about this. Of course, I know there are other readers and people who listen to it, but I think we've gotten great responses from our own industry, and that makes me really happy. [00:10:39] Speaker C: I want to go inside the show a little bit. Sure. We said you have eight different episodes. Each episode centers around one particular person and or scandal. And I've listened to every word of the first eight episodes. Grant, I haven't gotten thank you. Yeah, I haven't really gotten into the bonus episodes quite as much. But the meat of it, these first eight episodes, one of them was Carolyn Callaway. And of course, she was such a sensation. And that's one that I have a lot of memories of as her scandal unfolded. Can you give us just, like, the 30,000 foot view of Carolyn Calloway? [00:11:17] Speaker B: Yes. Well, Carolyn Calloway is one of the original instagram influencers. And she got her start because she had gone to Cambridge University in England. I can't remember which college she was in at Cambridge, but she started posting these sepia toned photos from her time there. And it was when filters were getting very popular, and using them really drew people to certain Instagram feeds. So first, here she is, she's an expatriate at a storied English university, and she's making it seem like her life is perfect. And then she moves back home to New York and she starts doing all of these OD things that she says are about creators. And they're not necessarily scams, but they're scam y. For instance, one of the things she did before she left the West Village was to have these workshops where you'd go to her apartment and she'd basically have everyone sit in the floor and she'd serve, like, salads on newspaper and low tables and say, we're all going to create something. And it'd basically be a piece of paper with some dried flowers glued onto it. I mean, it's all kinds of crazy little things like that. And she was charging, like, $150 ahead for these events and people. For instance, Natalie Beach, who has a new book out called Adult Drama natalie wrote about her in New York magazine. That was quite a scandal. And Caroline, so just to keep going, winds up selling her memoir to Random House for almost half a million dollars. And then she doesn't write it. This is the best part. She doesn't write it. And finally, after a couple of years, random House is like, you have to pay us back. We gave you this huge advance. And she didn't have the money anymore. So she opened an OnlyFans account to make the money back. And she did make the money back, and she paid Random House back. Then she moved to Florida to take care of her aging grandmother, and now she's shown up again in Vanity Fair, I believe, saying, I've got my new book ready. I've sold it. And she is such an American story. You can do anything you want to do. You can try anything you want to try. You can go from rags to riches to rags again. And she fascinates so many people. I am probably a little too old to know a Caroline Stan, but I absolutely understand where the fascination is coming from, because she just doesn't know. She's young and lovely and has all this possibility and privilege, and she just does whatever she wants with it to see what will stick against the wall. [00:14:21] Speaker C: Yeah, I mean, first of all, the visual of eating a salad on a newspaper has just completely ruined my appetite. [00:14:29] Speaker B: Right. [00:14:31] Speaker C: Thank you for that. I was pretty hungry, so I don't have to worry about that right now. Yeah, I think there was that you covered it pretty well in the episode where she had one of these workshops where people could sign up for it and they would be given a meal and all this stuff, and she just didn't even bother to work out any of the logistics. She had this tour planned where she was going to go from town to town and people could come sign up for it. And she didn't book any spots. She didn't secure any type of catering or anything like that. I mean, it was firefest before it was firefest. [00:15:08] Speaker B: It was absolutely firefest before it was firefest. And look, she even still sells a little bottle of serum, face serum that she calls snake oil. She's not even hiding behind anything. She's like, Look, I'm a purveyor of snake oil. That is also what fascinates me about Caroline Calloway. My colleague Kevin Young, who is now the director of the National Museum of African American History, wrote a book a few years back called Bunk. And Bunk is a lot about look, Caroline Calloway is white. So am I. Bunk is a lot about how hocum and scandal play into American racism, okay? And I'm not trying to claim any of that here. Caroline is not being oppressed in any way because of her race. What I'm saying is like PT. Barnum and some of the other famous American hucksters of history, caroline is putting it like she's just like, here I am. Here I am. I am trying to bamboozle you. If you like this, come on, come into my world. And that is more American than anything I can think know. Just not even trying to pretend that you are legitimate or that you have something special, but behind the scenes, I don't know, it's just hydrogen peroxide in a can or something. Caroline is you know, what I have to offer is sort of an atmosphere. It's not even influence. I don't even know what influence she's purveying. It's just this. [00:16:54] Speaker C: Think I think it was your first episode. It was Kavya Vidswanathan. And that's an interesting story because it deals with her book and the allegations made against her of plagiarism. And I think you leave kind of an open ended question there. Was she a perpetrator or was she a victim? Because she was pretty young, I think, when this all happened. And you kind of leave the door open, maybe suggesting, hey, look, there were a lot of people that could have helped her out along the way that didn't. Am I thinking of that correctly? [00:17:25] Speaker B: You are. And also, look, I lied a few minutes ago when I told you that all the criticism was about me and my voice. No, we did get some criticism on this episode because people wanted us to come to a more pointed conclusion. Kavia Viswanathan was 19. She was a Harvard I can't remember if she was a first year or sophomore right now. And she had written this huge novel when she was in high school that was a novel of Irish historical fiction. Just hilarious, right? That first of all, that's what a, I don't know, high school student wants to read or write. And also that this company or this agent or whatever, however it went on, wanted was not this big novel she'd written high school, but they wanted her to work on and I'm using those words deliberately, a more fluffy, chiclet kind of book that was titled how Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life. I think I've got the title correct right now. And she was accused of plagiarism because the author, Megan McCafferty, who is a very well, best selling and highly acclaimed writer of this kind of fiction, I think they found something like 40 passages that were almost exactly the same when they compared the two manuscripts. Now, here is the thing. If Cavia had actually been the one to write the manuscript, then that would be a clear cut case of plagiarism. But she was working with a book packaging company, and book packaging companies have their own kinds of processes, and no one knows about this one. And I believe that Kavia probably signed a very tight legal agreement not to discuss details of working with that company. And I don't want to spoil anything for someone who might listen to the episode, but basically, she hadn't done an interview in 15 years. She's now in her early 30s. She's a human rights attorney. She went to law school, and she had some new information to give us. And is it like, will blow you the top of your head off? Maybe not, but it was definitely something that we wanted to remain open ended about because of her age when this whole thing started, and also because one of the things I found absolutely horrifying about Kavia's entire case, if you will, is how rough the media was on her. Katie Couric did a hardball interview with her, treating her almost as if I've seen interviews on networks with Donald Trump that have been kinder than that interview. Okay. And then Kavia's parents died in an airplane accident, and things would start appearing in places like the New York Post, et cetera, saying, teenage plagiarist parents killed in an airplane accident. Come on. What a horrible way to use someone's past. So I didn't want to go all hardball on Cavia or on that particular packager. I wanted to just get as much information as possible and leave it up to the know. [00:21:16] Speaker C: You talk about being fair and objective, and I think it's in episode six where you tell the story of Anna March, and you were very fair of in it, but you were also part of that story. Tell me about Anna March. [00:21:31] Speaker B: Anna March was and that's how I knew her. She had aliases before that. I'm not sure exactly what her real name is. She's gone by delaney, Anderson, Anna Delaney. All kinds of different names. But I met Anna because she'd done some stuff in La with writers that I knew well. And so when she was coming back to the East Coast, she's supposedly from DC. And lives in Rehoboth, Delaware. We don't know that for sure, but they said, oh, in DC. You've got to talk to Bethan Patrick. She tweets as the book Maven. She knows a lot of people. She'll be able to help you start a literary community. She had started something she called Litfolks La. And she said she wanted to start something called Litfolks DC. So I meet her. She was very warm, very, very genuine, wanted to do all kinds of things complimentary, flattering. But she was very well informed. It wasn't empty flattery. She'd actually read my stuff, read other people's stuff. She was really good at finding her marks. And this is something I've learned since this experience with Anna March, is that a lot of people who are scammers, scam, people who have never been scammed before because they can tell who is really open to this kind of thing. Like, if you have been scammed, if someone's pulled a grift on you, you have a certain reserve and a know, let's talk about this, but let me do some due diligence. And she knew that the people involved in this entire year or so that I knew Anna March, that all of us were really quite open and trusting. We had not been scammed. So I decided that I would open up my side of the story for the podcast because it hadn't really been told. The whole thing had been covered very well by Melissa Chadburn and Caroline Kellogg at the La Times. And so it had been reported on. The facts were there. But my side of things was a different side. My side was very slowly learning that Anna was not on the up and up, that she wasn't who she said she was. That in fact, and I'm not sure if we talked about this in the episode or not, Stuart, but eventually from various people I spoke to who were also part of this, I don't think she wrote any of the things that she published, even some of these really terrific essays she published in Salon. I'm not sure if Anna wrote any of it. She was very good, as I found out. And again, I won't be specific because this is not necessarily published. She was very good at getting people who were terrific writers to create everything for her. So she used people to build a life as a writer that she could then use to get more writers and literary people to donate money to things. And we found out in the course of getting the article in the La. Times, there was a woman she had scammed, let's say ten years ago, and this woman had a note, or what do you call it? Is it a lian, a note, some kind of thing against her version of Anna? Maybe a Delaney Anna for, like, $70,000? It was crazy. I mean, she scammed an NPR affiliate. She scammed a literary organization. She was out to scam more writers and literary people. Is she doing that because she thinks that cultural organizations are so easy? It's certainly not because she's going where most of the money is. It's a really OD story. And so I thought the more details I could give, the more life I could give to this story, the more people would understand that it's not just something on the news, not just another thing like this happened to actual people. She hurt people. And that's the thing about season one of Missing Pages. We really wanted to talk about individuals who had different reasons. Sometimes the reasons were because they were damaged and ill. Sometimes the reasons were because they were actual criminals. Sometimes it was because they didn't understand what they were getting into. But we wanted to show how individuals could really make things tough in publishing. [00:26:41] Speaker C: Yeah, and I think that comes across in every single episode that you did. I think at one point, too, you mentioned that more than a dozen people, I think, came together to kind of make this. And I think I imagine that's one parallel between making a podcast and writing a book. It's never just the person whose name is on the front cover. It's usually kind of like this barn raising type of effort. What has that been like for you, working with the Podglomerate? [00:27:13] Speaker B: I love the idea of the barn raising, stuart that's so great. The amish barn. Have I mentioned Jeff, Umbro, our executive producer and CEO? I worked very closely with our season one producers, jordan Aaron and Kayla Lippman, and the three of us, it was just the dream team. It was so much fun because we each had very different strengths and very different experience in podcasting as well. So that led to some real changes in scripts as the months went by. It took us a while to put this together. We also have an amazing marketing team headed by Joni Deutsch, our VP, and Matt Keeley who works with her. We have a couple of other colleagues now in the marketing department and they are absolutely amazing. I just want to get people's names wrong. And I know since know live right now, I'm going to do Morgan Madison shout outs to you. It took people in advertising, it took people in engineering. Chris Boniello, who was originally brought on to do the final engineering on each episode, is now basically our VP of production and project management. And working with him is a dream. He's just so organized and lovely. So working as a team that actually works, working as a team and collaborating this way earlier, Stuart, you were talking about this show being something about creators talking to creators, and I've had some pretty tough team experiences in the past. I mean, we all do, right? Everyone has ups and downs. This one, even when we have problems, even when we get to a sticking point, there's always a way around it. One of us will come up with something. So it's been very positive. I don't know if we're going to do a season three. It might be a different format, I'm not sure. But what I do know is I will come out of this whether we have two seasons or 20 seasons, I'm going to come out of this feeling really good about what we've done. I have come to appreciate podcasting, not as simply another form of entertainment, even though it is very entertaining, but I'm starting to think of podcasting as being its own literary form. And I'm teaching creative writing at American University here in DC. And I know, for instance, one of my colleagues last year actually used missing pages in one of her classes. It was actually assigned to her class. I may assign it to one of my classes this fall as well, and not necessarily because I want them to have to hear me, but because I want them to appreciate the narrative nature of podcasting. When I first started listening to podcasts, I was doing it because my husband was really into them and he listens to a lot of people like Mark Marin. And what listening to Mark Marin gave me was an appreciation for the fact that you're going along with someone's voice in your ear, right? You have to really want to be with that voice especially. I think Mark's podcasts are like an hour long or whatever and he's just riffing, so you have to think about that. But I also now have started listening to my own batch of podcasts things I like. And for instance, I'm a huge Nightvale fan. I love their books, their wordplay, their use of language, their spookiness and eeriness. And I just find those to be something that's beyond just getting a voice in your ear, right? And there's so many I mean, I could talk about so many different podcasts, but I believe that we're seeing a real renaissance in the podcasting arena now of people saying, oh, this doesn't have to be just about crime. We can have stories about other things as well. We can have different kinds of narrative. We can have Sci-Fi or horror or romance and tell these stories. And let's face it, people might not be reading in print the same way they once did. People love audiobooks. Why shouldn't a podcast like an old fashioned newspaper serial novel, ala Dickens why shouldn't a podcast be like and the only other thing I was going to say is, I'm working on another memoir. And one of the things I want to do for that memoir is I'm not going to say too much about it right now, Stuart, but I'm definitely going to be choosing and listening to podcasts that have to do with it so that I really enrich my own feel for the subject through podcasting. [00:32:27] Speaker A: It might be true that everyone's a critic, but not everyone can critique the industry they've spent their life in in a way that is thoughtful, scathing, graceful, personal, and somehow still objective all at the same time. But that's exactly what Bethann and the folks at the Podgomerate have managed to do. And even if you've never aspired to be a writer, missing Pages is just a gripping collection of good human stories that are worth giving a world. You can find it anywhere you get your podcast and [email protected]. Also, Bethan's memoir, Lifebee, is available on our website. Bethanpatrick.com, here's a little bit of what it's all about. [00:33:09] Speaker B: So Lifebee is a memoir about how I found out that I had double depression, which is really something people don't know about a lot. It combines chronic depression with major depressive episodes. And I thought I was doing everything that I could to not be depressed. I was taking antidepressants, I was going to therapy, I was exercising, and I was still very depressed. So about six, seven years ago, I finally pushed and got to a new psychiatrist who gave me a new diagnosis and a new treatment plan. Totally changed my life. That's the life. Be I am delighted to say that the response has been really, really wonderful. People do understand what I was trying to do, and I've gotten messages, not hundreds, but many messages from people saying, this has helped me understand myself, or It's helped me understand my family history better, and those are the things I really wanted to do. [00:34:18] Speaker A: And now it's time for our podcasting tip, where our guests bestow some wisdom upon the rest of us. [00:34:26] Speaker B: Hi. I'm Beth Anne Patrick from the podcast Missing Pages. And this is my podcasting Tip. When I get on whatever platform we're using, I make sure to leave my video on, because one. Of the things I found is that using my hands when I'm talking really helps me not read straight off the page. It really helps me sound much more dynamic and lively. And I try not to look at myself, but I try to make sure I'm on screen so that my producers can see me and make sure I'm not going way off the edge. But I wanted to say that that's my tip. Look at your hands. Use your hands. It can really give you a little more oomph in your voice. [00:35:17] Speaker A: Audience is a Casos original series. Our founder and executive producer is Craig Hewitt. Production assistance is provided by Esell Brill, Jocelyn D'ivor and Marnie Hills. Our website and logo design is courtesy of Francois Brill, our head of product here at Castos. All music comes from the storyblocks library. And a special thank you to the folks at the Podglomerate. Bethan teamed up with the Podglomerate to create missing pages, and they also work with podcasters of all stripes to help promote their work. You can learn more about everything they're [email protected]. This episode was written, edited, narrated and produced by me. I'm stuart barefoot. Check out Audiencepodcast FM for more episodes or just search for it anywhere you get your podcasts next time on Audience. I chat with Elaine Appleton Grant from the podcast. Sound judgment. [00:36:13] Speaker D: It's not that all of the hosts we love feel like friends, but it's a very common thing. So it's been my feeling for a really long time that we listen, we come back, we especially come back and become loyal and become fans, not because of the topic, but because of the host.

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