This fall, the South Dakota Historical Society Press
will publish Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder
full of "not-safe-for-children tales includ[ing] stark scenes of domestic abuse, love triangles gone awry and a man who lit himself on fire while drunk off whiskey" (or, more academically put, "full of the everyday sorts of things that we don't care to think about when we think about history"). They've been blogging the process of research, annotation, and publication at The Pioneer Girl Project
, as well as stories about crabs
, a new letter from Pa
, really useful books
, as well as photos
and a series of interviews
with the researchers involved via
On 28 June, Santa Cruz typographer Adam Lewis Greene submitted his Bible-as-literature project Bibliotheca to Kickstarter for one month of crowdfunding. Within 27 hours, the project had attained its $37,000 funding goal. People kept pledging support. By 26 July, following publication of a Verge article about the project, backing passed the $1 million mark. Two days later, when the fundraising period closed, the project had raised $1,440,345 from 14,884 backers. "No notes, no chapter numbers, no scripture verses. Just the text." What the Success of Bibliotheca Tells Us About the Future of Publishing
. [more inside]
Killing Conservative Books: The Shocking End Of A Publishing Gold Rush
A decade ago, mainstream publishers became convinced they could make millions by churning out books for the right — and now the bubble may be bursting. (SLBuzzFeed)
...one of the jobs of a publisher, I really believe, is to keep all forms in play, precisely because it is in keeping all forms in play (which forms are themselves always being reshaped in some fashion as they come into contact with each other) -- that creativity has the widest possible purchase on how things might turn out. Eileen Joy
, co-director of open-access quasi-scholarly print-on-demand press Punctum Books
, gives a talk on the state and future of open-access publishing
in the academy and the arts.
Ruby-Strauss learned his craft working for the notorious Judith Regan, in whose shadow all lowbrow publishing still operates. In college at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he had been a comp-lit major who scoffed when friends talked up popular sci-fi books. “I was too pretentious,” he says. “I was reading Camus.” (A far way from that to Tucker Max, I noted. “Is it?” he replied.) Under Regan, he came to appreciate the simpler beauty of “books that sell.” He acquired a book by shock-rock star Marilyn Manson and then a series of pro-wrestling books, still his highest-selling titles ever. He once took Regan to a match, where he remembers her looking around the arena and declaring happily of the crowd, “You could sell them blank pages!”
(SLNewRepublic) [more inside]
"Not very many people read. Most of them drag their knuckles around and quarrel and make money. We’re selling books. It’s a tiny little business. It doesn’t have to be Walmartized."
Superagent Andrew Wylie, who represents Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, Elmore Leonard, and Philip Roth, among others, talks about the future of publishing, his on-again-off-again relationship with Amazon, and "effete, educated snobs who read," with the New Republic.
"I was curious to see how many of these books there actually are
, so I did a search for books with 'The' and 'Daughter' in their titles on Goodreads. Afterward I spent some time copying and pasting all instances of The ___’s Daughter into an Excel spreadsheet. How much time? A lot..." [more inside]
The American Historical Association just released a statement that "strongly encourages graduate programs and university libraries to adopt a policy that allows the embargoing of completed history PhD dissertations in digital form for as many as six years.
" The statement is aimed at publishers who are disinclined to consider books based on dissertations that have been made freely available in open access databases. Some responses cite a 2011 survey, "Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities?
," that found most publishers self-reported they would indeed consider publishing such dissertations, but also suggested university libraries are refusing to buy books based on dissertations that have previously been available online. "The Road From Dissertation to Book Has a New Pothole: the Internet
," a 2011 article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, quotes editors who are wary of publishing such books, and discusses the process by which students can restrict access to their work at companies like ProQuest, "the electronic publisher with which the vast majority of U.S. universities contract to house digital copies of dissertations." [more inside]
"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son
loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf
, which would later be called The Harvard Classics
." (Via) [more inside]
What Is the Business of Literature?
Publishing is a word that, like the book, is almost but not quite a proxy for the “business of literature.” Current accounts of publishing have the industry about as imperiled as the book, and the presumption is that if we lose publishing, we lose good books. Yet what we have right now is a system that produces great literature in spite of itself. We have come to believe that the taste-making, genius-discerning editorial activity attached to the selection, packaging, printing, and distribution of books to retailers is central to the value of literature. We believe it protects us from the shameful indulgence of too many books by insisting on a rigorous, abstemious diet. Critiques of publishing often focus on its corporate or capitalist nature, arguing that the profit motive retards decisions that would otherwise be based on pure literary merit. But capitalism per se and the market forces that both animate and pre-suppose it aren’t the problem. They are, in fact, what brought literature and the author into being. [more inside]
Last August, a book titled "Leapfrogging" hit The Wall Street Journal's list of best-selling business titles upon its debut. The following week, sales of the book, written by first-time author Soren Kaplan, plunged 99% and it fell off the list. [...] But the short moment of glory doesn't always occur by luck alone. In the cases mentioned above, the authors hired a marketing firm that purchased books ahead of publication date, creating a spike in sales that landed titles on the lists.
's Hatchet Job of the Year
rewards "the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past 12 months," with the winning critic taking home a golden hatchet and a year's supply of potted shrimp. 2013's winner
: Camilla Long, for her devastating review
of Rachel Cusk's divorce memoir, Aftermath
. Among other things, she described it as a nasty, bizarre memoir written by a "brittle little dominatrix and peerless narcissist." (Via) [more inside]
Karyn Reeves collects Penguin paperbacks. She reads and reviews a Penguin a week
. She also blogs about Penguins (such as the elusive green Penguins
) and showcases classic Penguin book covers
. Nonfiction fans may want to check out her list of Pelicans
- or visit the Pelican Project
at Things Magazine (previously
The book publishing world is merging into behemoths in order to better negotiate with Amazon. Rupert Murdoch (HarperCollins) has made an offer
to buy Penguin for $1.6 billion
. This just hours after Penguin said it was in talks to merge with Random House to create a 'Random Penguin' with nearly 25% of all English-language book sales. Either way the reputation of Penguin could soon be in tatters.
As one agent said, "Authors have told me they are frightened by a Random House takeover, but terrified by a HarperCollins one."
Romance novel covers are a frequent subject of ridicule. But they have also featured highly talented illustrators like Alan Ayers
, Pino Daeni
, Elaine Gignilliat
, Phil Heffernan
, and Albert Slark
. [more inside]
"The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe
project uses database technology to map the trade of the Société Typographique de Neuchâtel
(STN), a celebrated Swiss publishing house that operated between 1769 and 1794. As the STN sold the works of other publishers alongside its own editions, their archives can be considered a representative source for studying the history of the book trade and dissemination of ideas in the late Enlightenment." [more inside]
Don't judge a book by the ad on its cover. [Guardian.co.uk]
Chalk it up as another brilliant innovation – or a sign of the impending apocalypse – as China Daily reports that publishers are making space on the front covers of books for advertising
. Apparently the "first book to carry an advertisement" is an account of the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma, written by his mother, which was published in March adorned with "the logo of a well-known Chinese textile manufacturer".
Barnes and Noble is spinning off Nook into a subsidiary business
after a $300M deal with Microsoft which gives the Redmond company a 17% stake, bringing an end to a patent dispute
between the two companies and sending shares skyrocketing
. Commentary from John Scalzi
and Tobias Buckell
. Meanwhile the Kindle Fire, Amazon's competitor to the Nook tablet, has grabbed over 50% of the Android tablet market
E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey
started out as Master of the Universe
, an adults-only Twilight
fanfiction posted under the pseudonym Snowqueens Icedragon
. The erotica re-imagining of Bella Swan as a 21-year-old college student and Edward Cullen as a 27-year-old billionaire -- with BDSM tastes -- was published by Australia's Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing in May 2011; names and details linking it to Stephenie Meyer's bestselling trilogy were changed (...for the most part
). In recent months, the book has gone viral
, selling more than 250,000 copies (over 90% in ebook format) and landing the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List. Last week, E.L. James sold republishing rights for the Fifty Shades
trilogy to Vintage Books in a seven-figure deal. [more inside]
If Nicholas Carr is right, and consuming words on a screen is a "more primitive way of reading," then the iPad is a little bit Neanderthal and a little bit Prometheus. Its potential for creative ways to interact with literature makes it more than just an e-reader. And while it took more than a year and a half since the iPad's launch, some publishers are beginning to experiment with that potential. Last year saw several forays into innovative literature apps, most notably T.S. Elliot's The Waste Land
; Atlas Shrugged
and On The Road
also received the "enhanced" app treatment.
(Salon.com co-founder, NY Times Book Review columnist, author) and Maud Newton
(writer and critic for The NY Times Book Review, Granta, The Awl) have both written extensively about digital reading and publishing and they've launched The Chimerist
, tagline: Two iPad lovers at the intersection of art, stories, and technology.
: [more inside]
... the solar system in book
Amazon.com has taught readers that they do not need bookstores. Now it is encouraging writers to cast aside their publishers.
“Everyone’s afraid of Amazon. ... If you’re a bookstore, Amazon has been in competition with you for some time. If you’re a publisher, one day you wake up and Amazon is competing with you too. And if you’re an agent, Amazon may be stealing your lunch because it is offering authors the opportunity to publish directly and cut you out."
(Some adventures in self-publishing.) [more inside]
, pig stealer
, and man from Ireland, Julian Gough invites you to join him on an adventure in "a love-based mutant version of capitalism."
Unbound - like Kickstarter but for books.
The idea is simple, authors pitch their idea and interested readers then pay a specified amount to bring the idea to life. [more inside]
The Guardian has a new series
of webchats with various people in the publishing industry starting with literary agent Karolina Sutton
. Also various writers are asked: Can you teach creative writing?
‘We feel that the stories in this book are such that if your nerves are not of the strongest, then it is wise to read them in daylight.'
For a certain time, in every second-hand bookshop in the UK you would always be able to find a musty and dog-eared copy of one or more of the Pan Books Of Horror Stories
edited by the splendidly named Herbert Van Thal. Now the first is being re-printed
. [more inside]
(an original paperback publisher that distributes the Hard Case Crime
series and is home to Leisure Books
, which is "the only mass-market house with dedicated lines for Westerns [four books a month] and horror [two books a month]," and which also publishes a romance line that features six to eight titles monthly) will transition to an e-book only model.
Perhaps only temporarily?
Perhaps not so temporarily after all
! Currently, e-book sales account for just 12% of Leisure's business, and their overall sales saw a 25% loss over the course of 2009. Popular horror novelist Brian Keene has already jumped ship from the house, citing lack of payment for his work.
"This post touched me in places I've never been touched"
Over at Salon, Laura Miller talks about those little belches of beatification -- Book Blurbs
. The Guardian is running a contest
where you (Yes, YOU!) can try to out praise all comers by blurbing The DaVinci Code. [more inside]
"I scored the publishing coup of the decade: his final book. And then I blew it."
Cory Doctorow gives a talk
at Bloomsbury on book pricing in the internet age (47min video)
In Publishing: The Revolutionary Future
, Jason Epstein posits "The resistance today by publishers to the onrushing digital future does not arise from fear of disruptive literacy, but from the understandable fear of their own obsolescence and the complexity of the digital transformation that awaits them... The unprecedented ability of this technology to offer a vast new multilingual marketplace a practically limitless choice of titles will displace the Gutenberg system with or without the cooperation of its current executives." [more inside]
The announcement of the iPad
earlier this week has prompted a lot of discussion about ebook prices among publishers and their sales partners. That discussion took a major turn yesterday when Amazon pulled the buy buttons for Macmillan's books off their site
. Many of Macmillan's titles are still available through Amazon, but only through third parties. Right now, one of the largest publishers in America is no longer available from Amazon because they can not agree on ebook prices. [more inside]
Ursula Nordstrom—the "Maxwell Perkins
of the Tot Department"—was, from 1940 to 1973, head of the Department of Books for Boys and Girls at the New York publisher Harper & Row, and until 1979 had her own imprint there, Ursula Nordstrom Books. A legendary editor
known to her authors as UN, she published the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Margaret Wise Brown, Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak (whom she is credited with discovering) and, to not a little controversy, E. B. White
). One of "the last generation of devoted letter writers," she wrote nearly 100,000
during her five decade career at Harper, of which 300 of the most amusing, acerbic, and illuminating are collected in Dear Genius
by Leonard S. Marcus, the first hundred pages of which can be read at the Harper website
. [more inside]
Revenue reality of a bestseller
. Lynn Viehl's Twilight Fall
was a top 20 mass market paperback bestseller. Here, she analyzes and posts
and discovers "If I published only one book a year, and it did as well as this one, my net would be only around $2500.00 over the income level considered to be the US poverty threshold.
Perhaps you have seen the recent video of flies zooming around a "German trade show" like little banner planes
? That "German Trade Show" was the Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse
)—the most important event in the book publishing world. It's international; all the major US publishers go, as do many agents, to meet their foreign counterparts and to buy and sell projects amid publishing's eternal and ever-present air of fatalism
. This year's fair had some interesting subplots, the most visible of which was the complicated dance the organizers did with this year's guest of honor
, China, as accusations of censorship (on the part of China) and of brown-nosing (on the part of the fair's organizers) flew. [more inside]