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December 6, 2013

T.S. Eliot, as Faber & Faber Editor, Rejects George Orwell’s “Trotskyite” Novel Animal Farm (1944)

animal-farm-coverBy Josh Jones

We’ve written recently about that most common occurrence in the life of every artist—the rejection letter. Most rejections are uncomplicated affairs, ostensibly reflecting matters of taste among editors, producers, and curators. In 1944, in his capacity as an editorial director at Faber & Faber, T.S. Eliot wrote a letter to George Orwell rejecting the latter’s satirical allegoryAnimal Farm. The letter is remarkable for its candid admission of the politics involved in the decision.

From the very start of the letter, Eliot betrays a personal familiarity with Orwell, in the informal salutation “Dear Orwell.” The two were in fact acquainted, and Orwell two years earlier had published a penetrating review of the first three of Eliot’s Four Quartets.

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October 30, 2013

How to Succeed as an Author: Give Up on Writing The rancid smell of 21st century literary success

Filed under: Publishers — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 9:02 am



Parents whose offspring aspire to artistic careers find themselves in the invidious position of either trying to crush their children’s hopes or encouraging a pursuit with poor prospects that will probably pay beans. Had I a seven-year-old who declared that she wanted to be a writer, as I did at that age, I worry that I might spontaneously exclaim, “Are you crazy?”

Make no mistake, I’ve led a great life—yet one that, fiscally anyway, may be decreasingly on offer for young writers. Advances are down. Typically for fiction these days, my latest novel has sold roughly two (for the author, less lucrative) e-books for every hardback. Publishers are more impatient than ever—and they were never patient—with a first novel that doesn’t make a splash.

Besides, your talents are equally endangered when a book does make a splash. If you really want to write, the last thing you want to be is a success. Now that every village in the United Kingdom has its own literary festival, I could credibly spend my entire year, every year, flitting from Swindon to Peterborough to Aberdeen, jawing interminably about what I’ve already written—at the modest price of scalding self-disgust.

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September 6, 2013

Not a closed book just yet

Books+textbooks+dumpedBy YOLISA MKELE

South Africans are rapidly losing their taste for books. This is according to recent data, which shows a sharp decline in the sales of printed books.

Four major publishing houses confirmed that print book sales were waning.

According to Elitha van der Sandt, CEO of the South African Book Development Council, there are only 500000 regular book-readers left in the country.

Steve Connolly, managing director at Random House Struik, said total sales, excluding school textbooks and academic titles amounted to R1.58-billion in 2012, R1.59-billion in 2011 and R1.62-billion in 2010.

“There is clearly a downward trend here, and 2012 would have seen a steeper downward curve without the contribution of Fifty Shades of Grey,”said Connolly.

He said, as a result of the decline, it now takes significantly fewer sales for books to become “bestsellers”.


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June 14, 2013

Beware of book blurbs

shutterstock_74882698-620x412The Washington Post did not review Martin Amis’ latest novel favorably, but the book blurb suggests otherwise

By Prachi Gupta

As book blurb whore/not whore Gary Shteyngart will tell you, writing book blurbs is an artform — but it’s also a bit of a farce.

As Washington Post fiction editor Ron Charles points out, the book blurb from the Washington Post on the front of Martin Amis’ “Lionel Asbo” (which Charles did not review favorably) is so disingenuous, it borders on lying:

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June 7, 2013

John Green On Self Publishing: Publishers And Bookstores Are Necessary, To Say Otherwise Is ‘An Insidious Lie’ (VIDEO)

John GreenJohn Green is a cult author with more than 1.5 million Twitter followers, a hugely popular Tumblr page, and more than a million YouTube subscribers for the channel he shares with his brother. He headlined Carnegie Hall this year, and we featured his latest book The Fault In Our Stars for a month in our Book Club, which has been on the New York Times Young Adult Bestseller List for more than a year. He talks directly to a huge online following that loves him – so shouldn’t he start self publishing his work?

Many people say that he doesn’t need the middle men of booksellers and publishers in order to make money, that his popularity is evidence that he could strike out alone to increase his profit margin. But as Green says, isn’t only about the money, it’s also about the quality of the editing and the support he gets from the existing publishing, bookstore and library structure.

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April 12, 2013

Record numbers sign up for World Book Night

Filed under: Publishers — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 10:38 am

wbn_logo_2013 | By Joshua Farrington

World Book Night has had a record number of givers sign up, with more than 23,000 people volunteering to hand out books in their communities.

More than half of the applicants have never taken part in the event before, with people applying from across the country, including the Scilly Isles and Outer Hebrides.

Taking place on April 23rd, World Book Night will see delivery service Yodel distribute 400,000 books to giver collection points, while a further 100,000 books will be sent directly to hospitals, prisons and care homes in an attempt to reach communities with low literacy levels.

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April 11, 2013

Ending the book famine for the blind

A text to braille computer display.

A text to braille computer display.

By Marcus Low

A treaty that has the potential to change the lives of millions of blind people is at risk of being hijacked by publishers who show no sympathy for the difficulties faced by blind people across the world

It has been estimated that only 0.5% of books in South Africa are available in formats accessible to blind people. For the United States, less than 5% is the often quoted figure. I am slightly skeptical of these statistics, but there can be no doubt that the situation is very bad. It is what some call a “book famine”.

In practice it means that many visually impaired learners and University students in developing countries don’t have access to textbooks. Even at the comparatively well-off Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch, it was up to volunteers to scan and edit the textbooks I needed during my studies. I received many books late. Others not at all. (If you wonder why the most likely place where you will see a blind person is sitting outside CNA with a guide dog collecting money, at least part of the reason is that access to education –and thereby employment– is significantly restricted by poor access to books.)

Twenty or thirty years ago little could be done about the book famine. Printing braille books is simply too time-consuming and resource intensive. Technology has since changed things completely. Today visually impaired people can read books on computers using text-to-speech technology, magnification, by means of so-called braille displays (expensive devices that have one line of changeable braille), or normal audio books. Technically speaking, every book on the planet that was once a word, text or other kind of file can now quite easily be made accessible to blind users. Instead of 0.5% or 5%, we have the technical capacity to be close to 100%.

Yet, even in the era of iPhones, Google Books and pocket-sized supercomputers, the book famine persists. There are two reasons for this.

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March 29, 2013

Books aren’t dead yet

stephen_king_kindle-620x412Self-publishing fans and the tech-obsessed keep getting it wrong: Big authors want to be in print — and bookstores

By Laura Miller

Without a doubt, book publishing is an industry in a state of flux, but even the nature of the flux is up for grabs. Take a recent example of the traditional tech-journalism take on the situation, an article by Evan Hughes for Wired magazine, titled “Book Publishers Scramble to Rewrite Their Future.” The facts in the story are indisputable, but the interpretation? Not so much.

The news peg is the success of a self-published series of post-apocalyptic science fiction novels, “Wool,” by Hugh Howey. Available as e-books and print books from Amazon, the series became a hit, and Howey recently sold print-only rights to a New York publisher, Simon & Schuster. Print-only because Howey and his agent determined that they were making plenty of money selling the e-books on their own.

Wired characterizes this as a “huge concession” on the part of Simon & Schuster, and in one sense it is: The publisher won’t receive any e-book revenue, and it is in e-book format that “Wool” has seen its success so far. On the other hand, “Wool” is not only already very popular among the genre fans who made it an e-book bestseller, it’s also an object of curiosity for the many otherwise-uninterested people captivated by Howey’s rags-to-riches story in the Wall Street Journal. (By far the best-selling e-book by self-publishing exemplar John Locke is not one of his thrillers, but “How I Sold One Million E-Books.”)

Yes, it’s notable that Simon & Schuster shelled out a six-figure advance for this deal, but publishers have been known to offer similar advances for books that they only hope will find a large audience. “Wool” is that rare thing in book publishing, a known quantity, and a series on top of that, so there are multiple titles to sell.There is surely a sizable untapped market for print editions of “Wool” because e-books remain only 25 percent of the book market.

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Bestselling Authors Help Promote Straw Paper

14430-v1-338x338By Leigh Anne Williams

Random House of Canada has published special collectors’ editions of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and Alice Munro’s Dear Life printed on paper made from straw rather than trees.

The Vancouver-based environmental organization Canopy worked with Random House and its imprint McClelland & Stewart to produce the special editions as way to raise awareness of alternative papers and to encourage the development of commercial-scale development of straw-based papers.

“Now more than at any other time in our history, we need to bring our intelligence and imagination to sustain our life support systems,” Munro commented. She praised Canopy for working “with a pure passion and unwavering conviction” to protect forests and inspire innovation.

Martel said,“Using straw paper for my book demonstrates that there are elegant solutions that keep the world’s towering trees standing.”

The signed special editions are printed on paper that combines chlorine-free wheat and flax straw with post-consumer recycled content. The flax-straw came from and was processed by Canopy’s technical partners, Alberta Innovates. The paper was produced by Quebec’s Cascades. The printer for Life of Pi was Friesens in Manitboa and Toronto-based Webcom produced Munro’s Dear Life.

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March 19, 2013

Dale: Booksellers have publishers ‘over a barrel’

Iain Dale

Iain Dale

Publisher and former Conservative Party politician Iain Dale has hit out at the big booksellers, including W H Smith, Waterstones and Amazon, saying they have publishers “over a barrel”. Speaking at the Independent Publishers Guild conference this morning (7th March) Dale also repeated a call he made ten years ago to abolish “sale or return”.

Dale, founder of the political publisher Biteback Publishing, reserved his harshest criticism for W H Smith, which he said was “very willing to take publishers’ money and sell no books in return”.

He added: “Whenever I have done business with W H Smith they demand a large “marketing fee”—some might call it the book trade industry of protection money— to place our books in their stores.

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