A blog about Bloomsbury Academic's 33 1/3 series, our other books about music, and the world of sound in general.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I get to write one of these books?

Every 18 months or so, we put out an open call for proposals - announcements are made on this blog. We don't accept proposals at any other time.

2. When did the 33 1/3 series start?

The first six books were published in September 2003 - on Dusty in Memphis, Forever Changes, Harvest, The Village Green Preservation Society, Meat is Murder, and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

3. When will it finish?

That could be construed as impolite. We genuinely don't know. Maybe after 100 volumes, maybe a little after that...

4. What's the best-selling book in the series?

As of today, it's still Meat is Murder by Joe Pernice, which has been the best-selling book since the series started. The Kinks and Neutral Milk Hotel books are not far behind.

5. Why doesn't my local bookstore stock these books?

There's not a great deal we can do about that. Several of the bigger branches of Barnes & Noble carry the series, and many more Borders stores will be stocking the series very soon. Plenty of awesome independent record stores carry the series, so they're always worth checking. And Virgin Megastores, too. In the UK, it seems like FOPP is a good bet, and some branches of Waterstones. Amazon.com and .co.uk carry all of the books, and you can always buy them direct from us through the Continuum website.

6. Why on earth are you publishing a book about Celine Dion, if this is a series of books about the best albums ever made?

The (modest) remit of the series is simply to publish interesting books about interesting albums, and Carl Wilson's book promises to be very interesting indeed.

7. I've never read a book in the series - what would be a good one to start with?

Gosh, that's a tough one. These books are really quite different. You could try the R.E.M. book, maybe, or the Beatles one. A lot of people like the Kinks book, too.

8. How do I write one of these books?

See answer no.1, above.

9. Why are these books so inconsistent and unpredictable?

Well, we've always encouraged the writers to try different approaches; not everyone will like all of these. We try to make it clear, on the back cover of each book, what the contents are like. If you're looking for straightforward music journalism, you might want to avoid the books on the Smiths, the Replacements, and the Band, to name a few.

10. What the hell happened to the My Bloody Valentine book?

It's out, now.

11. What the hell happened to the London Calling book?

The original author has, for various reasons, been unable to finish the book in time. We'll be announcing a new author for this book very shortly. We are very sorry about this. The book will absolutely be worth the wait.

12. What does "33 1/3" mean?

It's a bit like MP3, but different. 33 1/3 is the number of revolutions per minute at which a vinyl album should be played.

13. Which books are coming out next?

Coming up very soon are the books on Steely Dan, PJ Harvey, and A Tribe Called Quest. After that we'll have a little summer break before unleashing a few more books in September - U2, Belle & Sebastian, and a couple of others.

14. Why is there only one Radiohead/Beatles/Dylan book in the series so far?

From the start, we've had a "one book per artist" rule, on the assumption that the series would probably disintegrate after about 25 books. We are starting to realise that this rule may not be entirely practical, from a sales point of view. Next time we look for some more proposals, we'll probably ditch this rule, unceremoniously.

15. Is it really worth paying $55 to see the Jesus and Mary Chain play at Webster Hall?

No, but let's go anyway!


hickcity said...

OK for London Calling. Is there a mystery with Radio City? It was listed as an accepted proposal, but was absent from your recent future release schedule. Just curious. Oh, and now that we're past 40 titles, when can we expect 33 1/3 Greatest Hits Vol.2, and another guest essay contest?

David said...

Oops, you're right - I just fixed that in the future release schedule. The Big Star book is definitely happening. More news on Greatest Hits Vol 2 soon.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see how abandoning the one book per artist rule will affect the next batch of proposals. On one hand, there are certainly some already-covered artists that deserve it; The Smiths (especially given the nature of the Meat Is Murder book), The Velvet Underground, The Beatles, Radiohead, David Bowie, and Wire all spring to mind. However, so many albums by artists who have not been covered would surely make great books (several of these have seen proposals); Odessey and Oracle, Music Has the Right to Children, Spiderland, Since I Left You, Remain in Light, Tago Mago.... here's hoping that we still see a bunch of "new" artists in the next batch.

Anonymous said...

Looking at it from my side of the pond in sunny London, what with the exchange rate & all that, I'd say that 55 bucks to see the Jesus & Mary Chain was an absolute bargain - unless there's something I should know about Webster Hall...

Anonymous said...

It would surely be an injustice to publish a second book concerning an artist already covered and not yet have a volume on Midnight Oil's magnum opus "Diesel and Dust."

Just thought I would point that out.

Anonymous said...

Books in spanish too, please

Anonymous said...

wasn't there, at various points, supposed to be books on Television's Marquee Moon, De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising, and Big Star's Sister Lovers?

David said...

Terry, you're quite right - I don't know what I was thinking!

Marquee Moon: change of author, book still happening, should publish in 2008.

3 Feet High: was under contract, but then was cancelled.

Sister Lovers: can't remember if this was ever under contract or not; anyhow, Bruce Eaton's Radio City book is the one that's definitely happening.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see the one-book-per-band rule disappear.

I haven't been to Webster Hall in years, but when it was The Ritz in the '80s, it was the best rock club in NYC, bar none.

Marc Caputo said...

I want the De La Soul book!!


Sorry, top 3 albums of all time to me. Sign O' The Times is one, and the third varies like the weather.

Anonymous said...

if the one-book-per-band rule is negotiable (and it probably should be) is there a hard-and-fast rule against authors having more than one book in the series?

Anonymous said...

The Ritz! I remember it well. Played there with The Higsons in '84. I know, I know - I don't look old enough...

Anonymous said...

it would be so sad if the series ends . . . I love all these books. It can't just end after a hundred or so. I need to know that future generations will be enjoying new books in the series when I am long and dead.

Anonymous said...


I'm just wondering if someone who has no previous publications has a shot at getting a proposal accepted. This isn't sour grapes talking, but I'd like to submit a new proposal when you start looking for them again in 18 months, and I want to make sure that a lack of music-related previous publications would be an automatic "no-go." If so, I'd better get on building a portfolio. If not, I'd better get thinking about new and fool-proof proposal ideas!

While I'm at it, are there any specific "red flags" that would make you and the other editors there automatically reject a proposal? Just curious.

Pardon the anonymity of this comment. The login won't recognize my password, so I have to post this way. Thanks!

--Artie Fisk

David said...

A couple of answers: there has been a rule against authors writing more than one book in the series, but perhaps we should drop that next time around too, along with the "one book per artist" rule. (He says naively, inviting approximately 750 proposals, next time around...) And Artie, as for the "no previous publications" question, that would certainly not be an automatic "no go". If a proposal's vibrant enough, passionate enough, informed enough, we could very well sign it up.

headflap said...

Which volume was published in the shortest amount of time after its subject's release? I'm gonna guess "Endtroducing..."

Anonymous said...

Headflap: Try OK Computer, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and 69 Love Songs (which takes the cake, unless I'm forgetting something).

David: I'm a bit worried about allowing authors to do another book. To make a great addition to the series, the author has to have just the right level of attachement to the subject album. Both the OK Computer book and the Stone Roses book failed at this (Green was far too reverent, Griffiths not nearly reverent enough). How many albums can fit this description in the author's eyes?

headflap said...


I might be the only 35 year old in the world who thinks that OK Computer is very overrated. Of the lot you list I see myself checking out the NMH first. I have In Utero and Doolittle waiting on my shelf and about a half dozen others on my amazon wishlist. The Who Sell Out was excellent.

tapeinhead said...

Thanks for the FAQ. It has answered many of the questions I had about your series. I enjoy each one for very different reasons. I believe I have bought at least seven of them: Love, Jeff Buckley, David Bowie, Velvet Underground and Nico, Prince, Radiohead, The Smiths, and soon PJ Harvey. You have done an excellent job, and I am sad to hear that you will only be publishing 100 books. I look forward to hearing what will be next. Keep up the good work!