Granta's Grand Control (1,483 words)
Ever since I bought the Granta issue called "Krauts!" the journal has had a special place in my heart. I was studying German around the time of the Reunification, and found that the blend of articles by top authors Granta published as a "group portrait" perfectly captured the strange truth about German culture in search of itself.
The outright audacity of the issue title "Krauts!" is in sync with the equally daring approach taken in Granta's 14-year control mailing, "Throw Away This Envelope" (see below right.) Inside, the editor's letter reveals that this explosive reverse psychology is actually a trick playing on (a) the notion that this is not a tea-sipper's literary supplement, and (b) the difference between High Literature and literature more broadly understood.
Birth of a Control
Granta's main editorial offices are in London, but all of the U.S. direct mail efforts are handled from the New York office, says Amber Hewins, circulation director.
Granta's control package was written circa 1985 by Bill Buford, Granta's first editor after the magazine's 1979 relaunch. Over the years, the mailing package has been modified slightly from campaign to campaign by current Associate Publisher Sally Lewis and Editor Ian Jack, among others. The design for the original was done by then cover designer Chris Hyde, and for the current package by the late Tibor Kalman, who also created the distinctive Barnes & Noble author-portrait design.
Bill Buford today is the literary and fiction editor for The New Yorker. "[The 'Throw Away' package] evolved from promotional pieces we were using in 1979," Buford recalls. "While we were reasonably savvy about the direct mail business for such an amateur, arty literary magazine, my thinking about the direct mail piece was directly inspired by a loathing for most direct mail.
"It was occasioned by an assumption that we were selling a magazine of good writing ... the standard was literary, not mass market. The direct mail piece should try to convey that [standard] in the same way the magazine tries to convey that in its coverage and concepts," he says.