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October 8, 2013

The age of Amazon still needs editors like Max Perkins

Max-Perkins-Editor-of-GeniusPDFs may have replaced galley proofs, but Hemingway’s editor still has lessons to teach the literary world.

by Gavin James Bower

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius is reissued this month, 35 years after it was first published – but what can the man who told Ernest Hemingway to “tone it down” and lived to tell the tale teach us about publishing today?

Random House founder Bennett Cerf described a lunch in 1925 with Theodore Dreiser, author of An American Tragedy, and Horace Liveright, the book’s first publisher. Liveright had struck a deal with Dreiser: if he sold film rights, Dreiser would receive a one-off payment of $50,000; if Liveright got more than that, the difference would be split 50/50. Liveright later handed Dreiser a cheque for $67,500 over lunch – only for Dreiser to storm out of the restaurant, accusing his publisher of ripping him off. “Bennett,” Liveright told Cerf as he recalled the lunch, “let this be a lesson to you. Every author is a son of a bitch.”

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June 25, 2013


HaigBy Matt Haig

This is the first blog I’ve written since writing blogs for the respectable charity Booktrust. Booktrust gave me no rules for writing blogs, except that they said I couldn’t swear. So after six months of non-swearing I have been bursting to fucking swear. I really fucking have. I just need to get it out of my system.

Anyway, thought I’d start as predictably as ever, and give some fucking writing tips. Here they fucking are:

1. Don’t think that being published will make you happy. It will for four weeks, if you are lucky. Then it’s the same old fucking shit.

2. Hemingway was fucking wrong. You shouldn’t write drunk. (See my third novel for details.)

3. Hemingway was also right. ‘The first draft of everything is shit.’

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May 3, 2013

Translators for Dan Brown’s New Novel Work in a Secret Bunker

dan-brown-inferno-bunkerBy Christopher Shultz

Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown’s latest novel Inferno is due out on May 14th, and many fans want to know as many details about the book as possible. It’s another narrative featuring Robert “Tom Hanks” Langdon, and he’s investigating a mystery behind Dante’s Inferno. That’s about all anyone knows.

The reason for this? Brown’s publishers have apparently taken some extreme measures to ensure no plot leaks reach the public, at least in the translation process. From January Magazine via the Love German Books blog:

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April 17, 2013

SA startup Paperight wins prestigious innovation award at London Book Fair

london_book_fairIf you haven’t heard of Paperight, the network of independent copy shops that print books, it’s time to pay attention: the South African startup is capturing the imagination of the world’s publishing industry. On the heels of being named one of the winners of the O’Reilly Tools of Change Startup Showcase held in New York City, the startup from Cape Town was awarded the Digital Minds Innovation Award at the London Book Fair — one of the world’s most prestigious publishing events.

The showcase held Sunday night at the Digital Minds Conference, a precursor event to the London Book Fair, was a pretty big deal. The event that inspired conversation about evolution, innovation and disruption in the publishing industry, included keynote speakers such as authors Neil Gaiman and Robert Levine, as well as Will Atkinson, Sales and Marketing Director at Faber & Faber.

Paperight, funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, beat out seven other shortlisted candidates by popular vote. The audience favoured Paperight’s solution to book distribution problems in South Africa: by allowing photocopy shops to print books cheaply, quickly and — crucially — legally, Paperight is increasing access to books where they have never been physically and financially accessible before.

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November 22, 2012

Tim Ferriss and Amazon Try to Reinvent Publishing

Filed under: e-tailers — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:24 am

The official publication date for “The 4-Hour Chef” is Tuesday.


Tim Ferriss, the author of the “4-Hour” series of self-help books for young men, hails from the nutritional supplements world, where the product is going to rot in the warehouse unless customers feel it is going to change their lives forever right now. Amazon, more than just about any other large tech company, does not pretend it sees any value in the old order.

Bring these two elements together in the publication by Amazon of Mr. Ferriss’ new book, “The 4-Hour Chef,” and the result is a lot of noise, hype and anger, as well as some hints about the future of book publishing. Here are a few preliminary conclusions:

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September 11, 2012

Howard Jacobson: ‘I write fiction. The others write crap’

The Booker winner on his new, ‘funniest-ever’ book, his scorn for genre fiction and why he’ll never wear a T-shirt.

By Elizabeth Day

Your new novel, Zoo Time, features a publisher who has committed suicide, an agent in hiding and a novelist harangued by book groups. Is publishing doomed?

It’s not my experience that my publisher shot himself or my agent is always hiding from me but I wouldn’t have written it if I didn’t think there was something worrying about, not so much publishing, but the state of the book… some of the things that I play with, some of the jokes I make, attack things that need to be attacked.

You write acerbically about genre fiction…

I’m contemptuous of genre things… You go into a good bookshop like Foyles and see a kind of “vampire room”. I was sitting in the American Embassy a while back, trying to get a visa, and every woman in the room was reading the vampire series – you know, the one with the black cover and the bit of blood. Now people are reading soft porn! What happened to the fun of reading a good book? There are people who, when they say they prefer Henry James to Fifty Shades of Grey, they do actually mean that.

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August 30, 2012

Victoria Barnsley: ‘We can’t think of ourselves as book publishers any more’

Victoria Barnsley of HarperCollins: ‘In some respects, publishing 12 years ago had more in common with publishing in the last century than now.’ Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Observer

HaperCollins’s chief executive is about to launch an e-atlas – and, she says, that’s not the only way the world is changing.

By Juliette Garside

As the trays of cheese and wine begin to circulate for this autumn’s book launch season, one of the UK’s biggest publishing houses will be pinning its hopes not on a hardback, but on an app designed for tablet computers.

Alongside celebrity autobiographies from Victoria Pendleton and Cheryl Cole, and John Major’s history of music hall, HarperCollins will be unveiling a digital reinvention of the Collins World Atlas. “It’s the culmination of years of work, and it’s going to be really ground-breaking,” says Victoria Barnsley, UK and international chief executive of the book publishing arm of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

The app presents a collection of globes suspended in space. One shows a satellite view; others are themed by population, energy or telecommunications. A few swipes, and the world lights up according to which areas have mobile coverage, or consume most oil. The information is, of course, always up to date.

“We can’t think of ourselves as book publishers any longer. We have to see ourselves as, you know,” Barnsley hesitates to use the cliché, “multimedia content producers.”

Her flower-scented Hammersmith office, with its plush upholstery and charcoal-grey walls so dark the eyes have to adjust, is a world away from the warehouses across town on east London’s Silicon Roundabout, where most new digital products are being produced.

But HarperCollins appears to have wholeheartedly embraced the e-book revolution that followed the arrival of Amazon’s Kindle reader in the UK in 2009. Barnsley predicts that within 18 months, over half of revenues from her fiction titles will be digital: they already are in America.

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July 31, 2012

Are Audiobooks Preparing to Overtake Ebooks?

Filed under: Audiobooks — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:58 pm

  By Joe Daly

If you were the CEO of a large company and your board of directors earmarked $20 million to be allocated at your discretion, what would you do? Build a new office complex? Increase marketing costs? Install one of those fancy toilet seats with a built-in heater and satellite radio?

How about give it away?

That is precisely what is doing and unsurprisingly, it has nothing to do with altruism.

In 2012, the Amazon-owned offered authors a $1 “honorarium” for every audiobook sale made through their website. If attracting the attention of authors is your goal, free money is a slam dunk way of achieving it. There is, however, far more to the offer than its attractive financial component—authors who agree to make their titles available in audiobook format through not only reap a buck for every sale, but they additionally receive the expertise and manpower of Audible’s sales and marketing divisions, as well as additional advertising materials for promoting their work. And just for the heck of it, authors get a free copy of their audiobook.

Notice that the preceding paragraph made no reference to the role of the publisher in this financial arrangement. This is because the publisher is cut straight out of the deal. The buck passes freely and without encumbrance from the teeming coffers of Audible to the back pocket of the grateful author. While such an arrangement cannot impede or alter publishing rights previously negotiated between the author and publisher, it nonetheless offers writers a substantial incentive to cut their own side deal.

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May 25, 2012

The Art of the Hand-Sell, Part I

By Peter Brown Hoffmeister

What does the new publishing model look like? Who sells what, and to whom? And if Borders is gone, is Barnes & Noble the biggest player? Or is Amazon? Will there be another big chain in the future, and will that chain’s numbers be built upon the sales of its touch-screen readers, its magazines, or its mall-like foodcourt?

These past five years, I’ve felt like an old lion with a zoo being built around me. And I’m only 35 years old.

And what role will independent bookstores play in all of this? Will indies disappear like 8-tracks and cassette tapes, nostalgic vestiges of the past, or will they stay small and viable like vinyl? What will happen as books are self-published and marketed through social media and micro-blogging, as a Facebook “like” takes precedent over all else?

It’s hard to tell.

But we still know one thing. As readers continue to read, they will find authors and titles they love. And when they love something, they’ll put that something into the hands of a friend or family member. They’ll say, “Ooh, this is SO good. You have to read it.”

As long as bookstores exist, people will keep buying books because the person next to them puts it in their hands. Literally. As Sherman Alexie writes in “Superman and Me”: “Books,” I tell them. “Books.”

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May 22, 2012

The Long & Winding Road: Part III – Talking To Agents

Filed under: Publishers — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 7:11 am

Recap: The Long & Winding Road is a multi-part essay about my endeavors to get an agent and publish my first novel. Part I discussed writing my first novel and seeking representation, Part II discussed “revision hell.”

By Kelly Thompson

In my experience thus far, I found nothing is truer of publishing than the age-old adage of “hurry up and wait.”  And never was it more apt for me than at this stage of my quest for an agent.

After The Girl Who Would Be King was forwarded to my friend’s agent connection, things started happening very quickly. First and foremost, I almost fell off my chair when I realized which agency it was (heretofore referred to as “Top Agency”). Then I did fall off my chair when I learned the agent had asked for my phone number so that we could speak about the book. We spoke on the phone that evening for perhaps twenty minutes. He obviously hadn’t finished reading it, but he was very interested. He asked a lot of wonderful questions both about me and about the book, and it was the single greatest phone call of my life up until that point. Even more amazing was that this had all happened in the span of a few hours. Well, multiple years and a few hours. But who’s counting?! It was incredible.

The next day I got on a plane for a visit home with my family, and because I was already unemployed, I extended the trip so that I could stay and help out while my father was laid up after surgery. Waiting, especially while “on vacation,” was brutal.

Everything up to this point had happened so suddenly, but now I somehow knew I had to settle in for the long wait.

However, about a week into my waiting, I got an email from the agency that had re-requested the full manuscript back in October, which we’ll now call “Dark Horse Agency” (not because they were in any way lesser than “Top Agency”, but because they came out of nowhere). “Dark Horse Agency” was loving the book. They hadn’t finished it yet either, but they wanted to let me know that they were interested and they’d be getting back to me within a few weeks.

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