Diana Wynne Jones, who wrote the “Chrestomanci” series beginning with Charmed Life (1977), The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (1997), and Howl’s Moving Castle (1986, which became an aniimated film directed by Hayao Miyazaka) among many other works, died on Saturday in Bristol, England. She was 76. Jones won two Boston Globe-Horn Book Award honors, the British Fantasy Society’s Karl Edward Wagner Award for having a significant impact on fantasy and the Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention.
Neil Gaiman tweeted “Rest in Peace, Diana Wynne Jones. You shone like a star. The funniest, wisest writer & the finest friend. I miss you.”
I knew her only through being a fellow World Fantasy judge with her a few years back. I had great respect for her work and knew many who felt as Neil did about her. But the experience was not a pleasant one. She was not in good health then, seemed uncomfortable conferring with us in email–certainly forgiveable–and, in the end, frightfully misunderstood something in the emailed discussion, got angry, went off and said some rude things publicly (something that simply is not done when one is a World Fantasy judge), and then quit on us.
I suppose one could say I did not see her best side.
However, when the World Fantasy Association gave her a Lifetime Acheivement Award on November 3rd 2007, the speech Sharyn November read for her (she could not attend due to her ill health), gave me more of an idea of who she was and perhaps, other than her outstanding work, she might best be remembered by it–even if, at the time–it was a bit long. I quote from a posting onFanPop:
I am really very grateful for this Award. It is one of the first given to a woman, and to two women [the other winner that year was Betty Ballantine] at that. [Wynne Jones was somewhat in error on that. Previously Carol Emshwiller, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, Madeline L'Engle, Ursula K. Le Guin, Evangeline Walton, and C.L. Moore had all been given the honor.] When I first started getting work published, I used to have wistful thoughts at the way all important awards were given to men. Women, I used to think, could be as innovative, imaginative and productive as possible — and women were the ones mostly at work in the field of fantasy for children and young adults — but only let a man enter the field, and people instantly regarded what he had to say and what he did as more Important. He got respectful reviews as well as awards, even if what he was doing — which it often was — was imitating the women. But you have changed all that.
Thank you for being so enlightened.
Women, large-minded, formidable women, have played an almost exclusive part in helping my career. I have hardly ever dealt with a man – at least, when it came to publishing: when it came to personal help, I have always relied heavily on my husband, John Burrow, who has come unfailingly to my rescue during those times when I walked despairingly about the house, saying I would never manage to write another word. (This tends to happen to me a lot). And he was always the only person who could convince Susan Hirschman of Greenwillow that what she was proposing was illiterate. He is a professor of English, and she respected that. I need to thank him, and also my three sons, who, as children, read my stuff and gave me very frank criticisms.
Richard was always very sensitive to places where I had got things *emotionally* wrong (‘You should make this a bit *nastier*, Mum’) and Mick never said much, but when he did, I fell over myself to put whatever-it-was right, because he was always spot on. Colin was helpful too, when he was young, but on reaching his teens, complained that typescripts always went back to front on him and that he disapproved of happy endings on principle.
Whatever, I have to thank them all.
As for these formidable ladies I spoke of, the first I have to thank is my agent, Laura Cecil. Before I was introduced to her, I had been trying to get published for ten years, and publishers’ responses ranged from ‘Who you?’ to ‘What do you mean, breaking all our rules and protocols?’ right on to – this was over EIGHT DAYS OF LUKE, whose plot depends on someone striking a match to summon Luke/Loki – ‘We can’t publish this: children shouldn’t play with fire.’ ! The moment Laura came on the scene, I struck gold at Macmillan, London, and I have to thank her for that, and for about forty more years of the same.
Laura introduced me to the formidable Marni Hodgkin at Macmillan. Every other member of her family has won a Nobel Prize for something, and I often felt that Marni should have won one too, just for being herself. Robert Westall once phoned me tremulously, after Marni had had him in her office about his latest book. ‘It’s like being brainwashed,’ he said. ‘She pulled every part of the book to pieces and made me put it togwether differently, and I found myself adoring her for it. It – it’s unhealthy!’
Now I don’t do being brainwashed, so my relationship with Marni was always rather stormy.
This is where I learnt what literary agents are *really* for: they are for pulling you off the throat of your publisher. Marni always had to make a change in every book, regardless of whether it was necessary. Laura had to do a lot of work on me there, until the solution came to me. You see, in those days, there was only the one typescript – you couldn’t just do another printout as you can with computers – and I would take the typescript meekly home with me, find the places where Marni was insisting on changes, and cut those places into irregular strips. Then I would stick them together with tape in just the same order, utterly unchanged, and send it back. ‘Oh,’ Marni would always say. ‘Your changes have made such a difference!’
And, like Robert Westall, I adored her. She published three of my books in one year. She encouraged me, simply by wanting to pay all that attention to those books. And all writers need this kind of encouragement. It is the best kind there is. So I have to thank Marni quite devoutly.
The other person I have to thank is the redoubtable Susan Hirschman at Greenwillow. Susan published everything I ever sent her, promptly and efficiently, and was thereby my other main encouragment. If I was slow with the next book, there would be a gentle, steely enquiry, and that was all. That was all it took. Nevertheless, Laura had to wrork on me here too, not on plot changes, because Susan always loved stories and didn’t tamper there, ever. With her it was all about *words*. It goes without saying that there was the matter of translating from British English to American, which always made me restive; but the main things were often quite absurd. I remember particularly the Great Muesli Row, in which Susan stated categorically that there was no such thing as Muesli in the United States; while I tried indignantly to draw her attention to the shop across the street from her office, where the window was filled with Muesli. I think she must have gone and looked in the end, because Muesli was not replaced with oatmeal.
Actually, I loved Susan for her categorical ways and wish she hadn’t retired. She flew hundreds of airmiles to hear me speak, and if she couldn’t get there, she alway demanded a copy of the speech. What better encouragement can a person have?
Actually Sharyn herself gave me encouragement of a different kind the day the news about the award was leaked. It was the day before my birthday – which was both joyful and gloomy, because there is nothing like a *Lifetime Acheivement* Award to ram it home to one that one is now seventy-three and decidedly getting on in years. And people have lately been writing books and learned articles and student theses on my work, which makes me, frankly, feel as if I might have died without noticing the fact, or else that they mean some other Jones.
They always call me ‘subversive’, which in a way I am, although, looking back on my relations with Marni and Susan, I think that ‘intransigent’ is a better word. One learned article, however, described me as ‘rooted in fluidity’, which took me aback a little. ‘Good Lord!’ I cried out. ‘That sounds as if I’m a hydroponic lettuce!’
Anyway, Sharyn said to me,’This is only an award for your lifetime *up to now*. Don’t you dare go and *die*!’ And I don’t intend to, thanks to Sharyn. I intend to go on and write the perfect book, which I know I haven’t done yet. Meanwhile, you can all feel very proud and pleased that you have given this award to a woman who is the world’s first hydroponically grown writer.
Thank you very, very much.
Diana Wynne Jones
I very much doubt is Diana Wynne Jone would wish to rest in peace. She’d probably prefer to continue to stir things up.
This from Peter Osnos. As he says, “Ultimately, a successful bookstore, on any scale, depends on a specific understanding of how to make the most of the outpouring of books and the digital transformation that will attract readers. Whatever else Borders does in the months ahead, it needs to recover its belief that real book-selling is an art (with all the peculiarities that entails), as well as a viable business.”
Publishing Juno Editor/Paula Guran on 04 Jan 2011
Readers and authors—especially of sf/fantasy—should read agent Joshua Blimes’s post Borders” Post-Mortem. Blimes accurately and concisely lays out the history of Borders as a retailer. As he states: “Let me be clear, I want Borders to survive…we need more than one big chain” and gives a single-book example of why. But his post also explains “it seems very likely that Borders will be seeking court protection in the weeks or months to come…”
Some interesting points from the Book Industry Study Group survey of consumer attitudes toward e-book reading. Data was derived from a nationally representative panel of book consumers. Out of nearly 65,000 possible panelists drawn from the last 18 months, respondents were qualified for the BISG e-book survey by indicating they had either purchased a “digital book or e-book” or owned a dedicated e-reader device (such as Kindle, NOOK, or Sony Reader). This process yielded a survey sample of 750 e-book consumers. (PG: This seems to be a very small sample! Out of 65,000 potential responders they could only find 750 who had even bought an ebook?)) Although the press release is inexact, the results seem to be taken from the period of July 1-to October1, 2010. See press release for more.):
- More than 40% of e-book readers have reduced the number and dollars spent on hardcovers and paperbacks.
- Retailers are becoming more important than publishers as a source of information about e-books.
- General fiction and mysteries are the fastest-growing e-book genres.
- More respondents received e-readers as gifts than bought them for themselves.
- Respondents who bought devices for themselves most often were motivated by suggestions from friends.
- The iPad has only a marginal impact on the popularity of the Kindle and Nook.
- Heavy to moderate book buyers want e-devices that don’t have a lot of other options.
- The iPad may bring new and light e-book buyers into the market.
Barnes & Noble is rearranging its teen fiction section chain-wide this week by separating out the two most popular genres—paranormal romance and fantasy and adventure—from teen fiction. Teen series will be absorbed into the appropriate category, and two bays will be devoted to bestsellers. One will change weekly to reflect the top 10 teen fiction bestsellers; the other will be organized by genre and display top teen picks. According to a B&N spokeswoman, teen fiction is the biggest book growth category at Barnes & Noble, and, in terms of volume, the second largest subject, behind adult fiction.
The decision over which titles to put where was made in conjunction with some of Barnes & Noble’s largest publishing partners. Combined, the new paranormal and fantasy and adventure sections are slightly larger than teen fiction.
Coment: Interesting, however teens and younger readers have been buying “adult” sf/f and paranormal, too.
Publishers Weekly reports on a recent Harris Poll:
The poll, conducted among 2,775 U.S. adults online this past August, found that among those who say they read at least one book in an average year, equal numbers—about eight in 10—said they have read a novel or nonfiction book in the past year. Almost half (48%) of fiction readers said they read mysteries, thrillers and crime novels, while a quarter read science fiction (26%) and another quarter (24%) read “literature.” One in five said they read romance novels (21%) and one in 10 have read graphic novels (11%) in the past year. Chick-lit (8%) and western (5%) books are less popular among respondents.
Among those who read nonfiction, 31% read histories, 29% read biographies, and 26% read religious and spirituality books. Lesser numbers have read political books (17%), self-help books (16%), current affairs (14%), true crime (12%), and business (10%) books in the past year. Respondents aged 18 to 33 are more likely than other age groups to read “literature” (42%) and graphic novels (18%). Readers 65 and older are more likely to read mystery, thriller, and crime novels (61%) and westerns (9%). Women are more likely than men to read mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels (57% versus 39%), romance (37% versus 3%), chick-lit (12% versus 4%), and religious books (30% versus 21%). Men are more likely to read science fiction (32% versus 20%), history books (40% versus 23%), political books (25% versus. 10%), and business books (16% versus 4%).
It appears they didn’t ask about fantasy, yet fantasy supposedly outsells science fiction.
As they did last year, Orbit books put a summer intern to work looking at (some, but not all) fantasy covers. This year’s results note, among other things, fantasy cover clichés (“castles”, “glowy magic”, and “swords”) are in decline, but dragons held steady. Damsels are rarely found in distress these days, but they found ‘more than 70 bad ass women — and that’s with a really strict definition of “bad ass” (must be either armed, in a fighting stance, or riding a motorcycle). Thanks to to the rise of urban fantasy (also known as paranormal fantasy) 2009′s covers were dominated by tough, well-armed women who are more likely to glower than cower.’ A futher report concentrated on “changing fashion in urban fantasy heroines”. Among the “findings”: “Abs are in: Fantasy’s heroines are spending less time at the tattoo parlor and more time at the gym, as toned midriffs overtook tattoos as the favored accessory”…and stiletto heels are out.
So, looking at Pocket Juno’s covers, we guess we do not have many “bad-ass heroines”. In 2009, only the cover of Amazon Ink met the Orbit definition. We don’t get much “badder” in 2010, either: Only Amazon Ink, Shadow Blade, and Shadow Chase meet Orbit’s definition.
And we still have—intentionally—not a single tattoo or gun
PW Daily is now reporting what appears to be mass confusion at Dorchester. Dorchester’s editorial director is now saying. “Dorchester is going digital, but only for the next six months,” despite the publisher announcing late last week that it would be dropping its mass market publishing program, releasing all its titles in e-book format and publishing select books via print-on-demand. Anonymous sources are saying various things, the editorial direct did not respond to questions about why her take on the publisher’s plans directly refutes what Dorchester’s president told the press, etc. Best to read the PW Daily article yourself. Personally, I know some anonymous sources who have had financial problems with Dorchester. I’d posit that none of this confusion is boding particular well for anyone.
On a brighter note. Subterranean Press has reached agreement to publish an exclusive Hard Case Crime volume, which will also be the first in the series to debut in hardcover. Volume #69 will resurrect a pair of early Lawrence Block novels: 69 Barrow Street and Strange Embrace, bound back to back in the classic “doubles” format, featuring brand new art by Robert McGinnis. Charles Ardai had “packaged” Hard Case Crime for Dorchester.
Juno has certainly gone through a lot of changes since the first blog post on 06 May 2006 02:51 pm. And it is still evolving.
I’ve thought long and hard about what this 1000th post should be. I still am not sure I should be so open about our biggest news. I’ve noticed editors don’t really say all that much publicly about a lot of stuff. There are good reasons for that. But Pocket Juno is different and so am I, so…
Instead of a-title-month for 2011, there will be six Pocket Juno books (and all are super—of course, I will soon be telling you more):
- Jan 2011: Arcane Circle (Circle Series #4), Linda Robertson
- Mar 2011: Rogue Oracle (Oracle Series #2), Alayna Williams
- June 2011: Shadow Fall (Shadowchasers #3), Seressia Glass
- Sept 2011: Concrete Savior (Blood Redemption #2), Yvonne Navarro
- Nov 2011 Blood Sacrifice (Bloodlines #5), Maria Lima
- Dec 2011: Virtual Virgin (Delilah Street #5), Carole Nelson Douglas
Beyond 28 November 2011—what I assume is the release date for Virtual Virgin—I don’t know.
All I know is that I continue as editor of Pocket Juno, that this is the full schedule for Pocket Juno 2011, and that I’m not offering contracts at the moment for future titles. (So, right now, no need for submissions.)
Yes, there are authors and books whose series have hooked you and characters you already love missing from that list. You wanted to see more and soon. And you wonder what the future will be for those on that list too. I know, I feel the same way—except more so.
I think we all understand that the better the sales, the brighter the future for any author.
One thing most readers—and writers and even some editors and many publishers—don’t understand is just how little control one (whether that “one” is a corporate entity or an individual) has in this business these days over so many factors. Publishing is in the middle of some very interesting times, so that makes it even more unpredictable. And Pocket Juno is just a tiny part of publishing.
Steve Wasserman (literary editor of Truthdig; former editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review; former editorial director of Times Books at Random House, as well as editorial director of Hill & Wang at Farrar, Straus & Giroux; currently a literary agent) wrote on the impossibility of predicting the future of publishinga s a whole:
The predicament facing the publishing industry is best understood against the backdrop of several overlapping and contending crises: The first is the general challenge confronting publishers of adapting to the new digital and electronic technologies that are increasingly rendering traditional methods of production and distribution obsolete, and undercutting profit margins; the second is the profound structural transformation roiling the entire book-publishing and book-selling industry in the age of conglomeration and digitization; and the third and most troubling crisis is the sea change in the culture of literacy itself, the degree to which our overwhelmingly fast and visually furious culture renders serious reading increasingly irrelevant, hollowing out habits of attention indispensable for absorbing long-form narrative and the following of sustained argument.
There are ideas percolating for Juno, but they haven’t completely brewed yet. I can’t be pessimistic because the future may be even more exciting and fulfilling; but I can’t be overly optimistic either, one never can be in such “interesting times”.
I’m striving for a sort of zen balance right now.
Publishing Juno Editor/Paula Guran on 06 Aug 2010
Publishers Weekly Daily is reporting that Dorchester — whose strongest division is romance, but who also published horror, westerns, etc. — is dropping print publishing “in favor of an e-book/print-on-demand model effective with its September titles that are ‘shipping’ now…the editorial team remains intact, but the number of titles released monthly will likely be reduced from over 30 to 25. ”
Print copies will still be done for its book club business and “selected titles” will be printed-on-demand. There will be no more mass market paperbacks for retail distribution.
Prsident John Prebich said the company is working out a new royalty rate with authors and editors are talking to authors about the changes. Dorchester’s e-books are available at most major vendors and compatible with most platforms at an average price of $6.99. Trade paperbacks will be priced in the $12 to $15 range.
As far as the decision to drop the mass market format Prebich said: “These are like pioneer times in publishing. We felt like we needed to take some chances and make a bold move.”
Publishing Juno Editor/Paula Guran on 05 Aug 2010
A touch of Frost: the story of Penguin’s secret editor
She brought Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and Dorothy L Sayers to the masses and revolutionised the way we read, yet the life of Eunice Frost, the Penguin editor who devoted herself to the paperback, has been largely forgotten
* * *
…Eunice Frost became an editor at Penguin in the late 1930s and went on to be its first female director. Along with the firm’s founder, Allen Lane, she revolutionised the way we read by making good writing accessible to anyone for the price of a packet of cigarettes. So much was she the guiding spirit of the historic house that its penguin mascot and logo is named ‘Frostie’ after her. In 1958 she became the first woman in publishing to be awarded an OBE for services to literature.
Yet her name never appeared on any book, and even those who knew her well are still in the dark about the specifics of her life and the causes of her chronic regret. She died alone in 1998 at the age of 82, surrounded by piles of paper 5ft high. All this was scooped up one day by the Penguin archivists and brought to the Bristol basement in a van. Much of it could not be saved, and that which could has barely been looked at since…
Worth reading in full if you have any interest in the history of publishing.
In the U.S., Pocket Books expanded on Penguin’s idea and produced the first mass-market, pocket-sized paperback books in America in early 1939: Wikipedia
In a desperate effort to find a trendy new fantasy subgenre to succeed the ebbing vampire craze, Razorbill Books executive Graham Childress decided this week to throw all his professional weight behind a new series of novels featuring minotaurs, the bull-headed, human-bodied creatures of ancient Greek mythology. “Everywhere I go, I hear people talking about minotaurs,” Childress said at a publishing conference, frantically trying to drum up enthusiasm for the planned trilogy about a bad-boy minotaur who transfers to a new high school and eventually falls for the one girl who can see the pain and sensitivity behind his brooding exterior. “Plus, labyrinths are really hot right now.” The first installment of Razorbill’s minotaur series is slated to hit shelves on Dec. 14, the same date three rival publishers will release novels featuring a bad-boy mummy, a bad-boy cyclops, and a bad-boy Mayan vision serpent.
Steve Hockensmith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, from an EW.com blog:
Q: These things seem to come in waves: There’s vampires, then zombies, and then maybe werewolves…
I will boldly predict that it’s not going to spread to mummies. It’s not that somebody won’t write a wonderful werewolf romance and have that go through the roof, but it’s hard for me to imagine it turning into a phenomenon. But then again if you had said to me ten years ago that zombies were going to be huge, “Buy zombie stock now!” or “I have one word for you my friend, zombies,” I don’t think I would have seen it, so what do I know. But I do think that if you do look at vampires and zombies, it makes sense. There’s something about them, don’t ask me to write a thesis explaining it all, but it just feels right, whatever buttons they push for people. I can’t think of another monster that has something like that, something very visceral, like zombies or vampires. Maybe werewolves come close. With zombies, they’re people, it addresses that fear of death, that we’re all just rotting meat, and sort of puts it in our faces. And then there’s very sensual thing that’s become a very big part of the vampire mythos. See I don’t think you’re going to find that with, um…
Q: Black Lagoon creatures?
Exactly, I don’t think anyone’s going to get all hot and bothered about the gill-man that shows up at the high school. All the girls are mooning over him and want to know his secret.
Vaughn’s essay on her departure and new deal is more than interesting and shows her savvy, guts, and intelligence. She realized, “My name is worth something right now and I have to strike while the iron is hot.” She’s taken a chance and I hope it pays off. Good reading for anybody in this business.
Last month, author Jim Hines began collecting information from professionally published novelists. His goal was to learn how writers broke in, and to use actual data to confirm or bust some of the myths about making it as a novelist. His Novel Survey Results, Part I is very interesting…
Been looking for something concise on this and, thanks to Shelf Wisdom and further comments from publishing veteran Jack McKeown (director of business development for Verso Advertising and president of Conemarra Partners), here’s some interesting information from last week’s Digital Book World, plus further news and opinion from McKeown (and some remarks from moi). The primary focus is a Verso survey of 5,600 consumers weighted to mirror the U.S. adult population and conducted late last year.
Among the findings:
- Nearly half of avid readers prefer to shop in bookstores, even though their purchases don’t reflect that.
- A hybrid market is developing, whereby many people will buy and read both e-books and printed books, not exclusively e-books.
- E-readers will likely represent 12%-15% of the market in the next two years and have not reached a near-term tipping point.
- Amazon’s “hissy fit” of the past week settled some important pricing issues.
- Baby boomers and older Americans who are avid readers number 41 million, and, given the proper attention, these readers could buy more books. [Personal Comment: But, she wonders, what do we aging hipsters read/buy? No one knows.]
- Because of demographic issues, the music industry’s difficulties are not an accurate model for the book business. [Personal Comment: This is a big "duh", but really involves a lot more than demographics. I highly recommend that everyone in publishing read Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age by Steve Knopper in order to understand just how screwed-up the music industry became.]
- Book buyers’ preferred shopping locations are local independents (21.5%) and chain bookstores (21.4%), followed by online retailers (20%), book clubs and others (10.7%), and big box retailers (10.5%). [Comment: with a 1.6 +/- margin of error, I's say this means that the top three are equal. Further, how many readers HAVE a local bookstore that can supply all their needs?]
- Avid readers (defined as the 28% of the US population 18+ years old who read more than 5 hours per week) skew older: 35% of respondents 65 and older are avid readers while just 20% of respondents age 25-34 are avid readers. McKeown noted: “Older Americans represent 41 million, or two-thirds, of the country’s 62 million avid readers.” They are even more likely than less-frequent readers to prefer shopping in an independent bookstore.
He said that while he is not sure whether this is a generational or chronological phenomenon–”will younger Americans read and buy more books as they age?”–the book industry can at least try to sell more books to older readers and seek to convert younger more casual readers.
If booksellers target avid reader baby boomers and convince them to buy two more books a year, “that would be $1 billion topline growth for the industry,” McKeown said. And because baby boomers will be around for a while yet, “this could be a decades-long opportunity, not a near-term one…the older market could be the cash cow that drives the industry’s efforts in digital marketing and digital publishing.” [Comment: Not sure I agree with this given we do not know what they buy. The market might already have more than can be consumed.]
- The most important marketing tools for selling books in bricks-and-mortar stores are author publicity and in-store events, staff recommendations and bestseller sections, while for online sales, search engine results are most important.
- Online and in the “real world,” the final purchase decision is driven by the author’s reputation, personal recommendations, and price. [Comment: So, "brand name" wins. But -- will readers try a NEW author for a reduced price?]
- Fully 49% of respondents said they will not buy an e-reader in the next year and only 25% said they are very likely or somewhat likely to buy one, and much of the resistance comes from older, avid readers. Approximately 3.5 million-4.5 million e-readers have been sold in the past few years, and “the data suggests that trajectory will flatten out,” McKeown said. “E-reader penetration could be 12%-15% of the market over two years. There is no near-term tipping point for e-reader.”
- Data also showed that “avid readers who own e-readers are splitting purchases between paper and e-books,” McKeown continued. “They are not buying fewer books than other avid readers. This speaks to me about the evolving hybrid market. Avid readers have preferences about paper and e-books, but the two are not mutually exclusive. Readers will move between both realms at their own pace.”
- Many respondents, particularly men 55 and older, are likely to buy hardcover books with a digital version for a modest extra charge. Among all respondents, 42.9% would consider such a bundled purchase.
- Data about where e-readers are used showed that reading at home for leisure is most popular (27%), followed by traveling or commuting (24%), reading in bed (14%), during breaks at work (9%), and studying or school reading (6%). The low figure for school “bears out the failure of eInk devices to win a beachhold with students,” McKeown said. He noted the
failure of Amazon’s program that provided Kindles to college students at a select group of colleges. [Comment: My highly academic son despises ebooks because you cannot highlight, write notes, and easily flip trough an e-book to study. Further, you are yoked to a powered device that can run down or be tethered to electric socket. Etc.]
- There was a major split among respondents over appropriate pricing for e-books: Fully 28% favor prices under $10; 28% accept prices between $10 and $20; while 37% are undecided. Only 7.5% are open to paying “hardcover-like prices” of more than $20 for an e-book.[Comment: Again, there is no differentiation made in what type of books. My theory is that readers of mass market paperbacks already feel ripped off at $8 a book. Price makes a big difference to them. Price makes a big difference to genre readers who buy a lot of books. If you buy fiction in hardcover, then you want a reasonable discount...etc.]
- Even before the recent Amazon-St Martins showdown, McKeown said, “we sensed the pundits and $9.99 fanatics did not reflect the avid reader consumer mindset.” He called the grades of price acceptance similar to traditional hardcover, trade paperback and mass market segmentation. “It seems that the $10 crowd is motivated by price,” he continued, but others who truly want to read a book and are engaged with authors will accept somewhat higher prices.
- Already 28% of e-reader owners have downloaded pirated editions of books, and 45% of males under 35 have done so. McKeown suggested that in response to piracy, the book business needs “to avoid the knee-jerk approach of the music industry, which made things only worse.” A carrot approach that includes trying to encourage pirates to pay–as well as DRM controls–should be part of the equation. [Comment: Read the Knopper book. More importantly, how many of those pirates would have bought the books at all? Just because you pick up something free doesn't mean you'd pay money for it. As for DRM: Doctorow's Law: Any time someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn't give you the key, it's not being done to your benefit.]
- E-Reader Trends
Amazon links are being removed from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Web site as a response to the removal of many of their authors’ books from Amazon’s ordering system. “Our authors depend on people buying their books and since a significant percentage of them publish through Macmillan or its subsidiaries, we would prefer to send traffic to stores where the books can actually be purchased.” SFWA is redirecting book links to other online retailers.”
Here’s reading a book with our new app, “iBooks”…
Bookshelf of books, there’s a button on upper left corner that’s the Store. They’ve created the new iBook Store, fully integrated with the iBooks app. Download and purchase apps right on your iPad. Top chart list, NYT bestseller list. Five of the largest publishers: Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Hachette Boook Group.
Here’s a demo. Hitting the store button is like a secret passageway. It flips around. If you’ve used iTunes or the App Store, you’re already familiar. Prices look like they very between $7.99 and $14.99. Buying Teddy Kennedy’s memoir. You can get a sample if you want, but Steve’s going to tap and buy. Downloads right onto the bookshelf. “It’s just so simple.” Just tap if you want to read. Tap anywhere on the right fo flip forward, on the left to flip back. Drag page if you want to slowly turn the page. Go to Table of Contents and pick a chapter.
Photos, black and white, color, video in your books. Change the font size if you want, bigger or smaller. Change the font: Baskerville, Cochin, Palatino, Times New Roman, Verdana. That’s iBooks.
Using epub format. Most popular open book format in the world. Very very excited. Think iPad will be a terrific e-book reader for poular books and textbooks…
Internet, e-mail, best device for photos. Great for enjoying music. Video is phenomenal. Runs almost all 140,000 apps on the App Store as well as a whole new generation of apps. And it has a new iBooks application with iBook Store. Carry literally thousands of books around on your iPad. And the iWork suite for doing productivity.
Comments: And get this: Price starts at $499.
Epub is good news, not another format to deal with. Notice Random House is not on board yet? They also showed iPad versions of New York Times. Apple’s taking on Amazon with the iBook Store. Jobs: “We’re going to open up the floodgates for the rest of the publishing world starting this afternoon.”
Today’s Wall Street Journal article article on “The Death of the Slush Pile” made me go, well, at least “Aaarrrgh!”
Before I vent specifically, allow me to point out:
- *I* take unsolicited manuscripts (aka slush).
- So do Tor and Ace/Roc Science Fiction & Fantasy. Maybe others.
- Genre magazines take slush, too.
- Of the current Pocket/Juno line-up Stacia Kane, Linda Robertson, Maria Lima, Laura Bickle/Alayna Williams (yes, yes, she’s the same person — more on that later) all initially came from slush. Carole Nelson Douglas was/is represented, but our first contact was personal and not through her agent. As for the original small press line-up, almost all came from the slush pile.
Now, to the WSJ article:
1) They mix screenwriting and book publishing. They are comparing apples and oranges and shouldn’t have. I won’t address the Hollywood side of things.
2) The article completely ignores that there are simply more submissions these days than ever. Wordprocessing and the Internet have made a great many more people think they should be authors. So has the “starification” of popular authors — since the media play up blockbuster authors, huge advances, and the tiny minority of writers who make big bucks, folks think becoming an author is an easy road to riches. Nothing could be further from the truth.
3) WSJ: “As writers try to find an agent—a feat harder than ever to accomplish in the wake of agency consolidations and layoffs…” Is this true? I don’t think it is in publishing.
4) WSJ: “Book publishers say it is now too expensive to pay employees to read slush that rarely is worthy of publication. At Simon & Schuster, an automated telephone greeting instructs aspiring writers: “Simon & Schuster requires submissions to come to us via a literary agent ….Company spokesman Adam Rothberg says the death of the publisher’s slush pile accelerated after the terror attacks of 9/11 by fear of anthrax in the mail room.” Okay, treading softly here since Pocket is part of S&S and Juno is part of Pocket. Yes, I am sure that it is not worth paying employees to read the amount of slush they get. No arguing. However, as many smaller publishers are learning, you can automate email submissions and avoid even compute viruses, so anthrax and mailrooms need not be a concern.
5) WSJ brings up rejections of Rowling, Meyer, etc. What articles like this never point out is that often many rejections come because the manuscript is submitted to the “wrong” publisher or editor. You may have a wonderful YA novel — well, don’t send it to me. Pocket Juno does not publish YA novels. Or short story collections, or horror novels, or space opera, or thrillers, or novels with male protagonists, or…etc. Want to count that as a rejection? I don’t. I count it as a misguided submission.
One plus for the WSJ article: In a sidebar, a Random House editor mentions that editors “travel, they get around. They look at writer’s conferences, at MFA programs. They look at magazine articles and at blogs. That’s what editors do, they sniff things out from so many different sources.” This is true for me, at least. Especially about personal contact. I wish I still went to as many conferences as I used to. I find it a valuable way not only to meet potential authors, but to make contact with readers and “sniff out” the future vibe.
One more thing: The WSJ article is subtitled: Even in the Web era, getting in the door is tougher than ever. Is it? At least in in sf/f, authors have been discovered online via blogs. Romance and erotica writers are often starting out in ebooks these days. And the networking — what you can learn from others and who you “know”, in any career, is always something to consider — you can now do as an author due to the Web is a whole new universe for authors.
And yeah, that’s where I got started, too, online.
According to USAToday: “…at least 17% of all book sales tracked in 2009 were related to vampires (and assorted other undead creatures, including zombies) or the paranormal (including paranormal romances). That was up from 14% in 2008, which in turn was way up from 2% in 2007….” In addition to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight vamps, Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novel series “…had nine titles in the top 100 sellers of the year, and P.C. and Kristin Cast, the mother/daughter team who write the House of Night series, had six. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith is No. 48 on the list. Expect that trend to continue in 2010, again thanks in part to Meyer…. Eclipse, the movie based on the third book in the Twilight series, swoops into theaters in June, and the paperback reissue of her 2008 adult hardcover The Host is out April 13.”
Crains notes that according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 75% of sales, overall unit sales through December 20 droped just 3% compared to the same period in 2008. Note that Bookscan tracks about 75% of sales, but does not include Walmart or ebooks. As ebooks are estimated to have jumped from roughly 1 percent of the market to approximately 4 percent of the market in 2009…it looks as if book sales have at least held their own in a recessionary economy.
If you are interested in the publishing industry, you might want to read Richard Curtis: What Changes Do You See for Book Publishing in the Next 10 Years? over at Galleycat. Can’t say I agree with all of them, but they are interesting.
According to preliminary estimates released October 11 by the U.S. Census Bureau to Publishers Weekly, bookstore sales dropped 0.9%, to $1.03 billion in October. For the first nine months of the year, bookstore sales were down 0.7%, to $13.56 billion. Sales fell for the entire retail segment in October, although the 2.3% was the smallest drop in three months. For the first nine months of 2009, retail sales were off 8.2%. (Under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books only and do not include “electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale” or used book sales.)
However, now (reported by Shelf Awareness) the Association of American Publishers is reporting net book sales rose 10.2% in October, to $725.8 million, with net book sales up 4.1%. Publisher numbers for e-books were particularly noteworthy, with October sales of $18.5 million, compared to $5.2 million in 2008. Year-to-date ebook sales (January-October 2009) reached $130.7 million, a 180.7% increase compared to $46.6 million for the same period last year. According to AAP, trade market e-books currently account for 3% of total trade sales. (AAP’s figures are “as reported by 89 publishers to the Association of American Publishers.”)
Meanwhile Bookscan reports overall book sales for the year so far:
Week 50 2008: 698,549,000
Week 50 2008: 716,514,000
(Nielsen BookScan’s US Consumer Market Panel currently covers approximately 75% of retail sales. Data does not include sales from Wal-Mart, Sam’s, BJ’s, or libraries.)
A couple of days ago I started to write about Harlequin launching a self-publishing unit. Real work got in the way of finishing. In the meantime, many more folks were heard from: SFWA made a statement as has MWA, and yesterday, in response to RWA’s hissy fit, Harlequin announced they were taking the Harlequin brand name off their new Horizons self-publishing unit.
Whatever other folks and organizations felt about Harlequin teaming up with Author Solutions (who has taken over earlier self-publishing companies AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford, Wordclay and Xlibris and has an arrangement similar to Harlequin’s with Christian publisher Thomas Nelson–which evidently caused no noticeable outrage), it wasn’t something I was personally thrilled about. And now calling the horse by a different color doesn’t really change much.
If nothing else, self-publishing is a choice a writer needs to make only after seriously considering it and only if they understand the amount of money they commit may never be recovered. Read the SFWA’s Writer Beware article on he subject for a good idea of what should be considered. The truth is that most self-published books sell very few copies. (Author Solutions’ CEO Kevin Weiss stated in a 2009 New York Times articlethe average sales of titles from any of the company’s brands at around 150. One assumes this includes books sold directly to authors. According to a 2004 NYTimes article, 40% of iUniverse’s books are sold directly to authors.)
All too often impatient and overly optimistic writers feel they will be the exception. They think only of positive outcome.
Your chances of selling a lot of self-published books are slim. If you want to pay the money and take that chance, that’s up to you, I guess. People spend lots of money on hobbies. They never expect to make it back.
And with Harlequin Horizons you won’t even be making much off of being self-published.
As for or being discovered by a “real publisher”, those chances are slim, too. And when the leading publisher of a particular genre — a genre that probably has more aspiring writers than any other — decides to profit from exploiting writers dreams? That’s where the ethical ick comes in. The initial Harlequin Horizons Web content read: “Reach the stars and prove dreams do come true. Titles published through Harlequin Horizons will be monitored for possible pickup by Harlequin’s traditional imprints.”
You are paying to be in a new kind a slushpile. In fact, Harlequin plans to make authors they have rejected aware of their service.
You pay your $600-$1600 to get your book published. You can put lots more into it, of course. There are also “extras” you can add on to basic packages. (Like editing, a $5,400 marketing package, the $4800 trailer with voiceover, etc. You are also going to be paying them for more copies of your book than are provided in most packages.
Oh, yeah, trust me, this is a profitable set-up for both Harlequin and Author Solutions. They not only profit from you paying to be published, they profit from every book you sell.
Of course, my favorite part of this whole scheme is the editorial services. Obviously your material wasn’t good enough to start with, so editing is sure to improve it. Line editing is .035 per word; content editing (“all the features of a Line Edit for grammar, punctuation, word choice, sentence structure, capitalization, and spelling, as well as added focus on restructuring sentences and streamlining your work style”) is .042 per word. Developmental editing is .077 per word. (Whoa! I should be making a LOT mot than I make…)
(Psst! Aspiring Authors! Send me $10,000. I’ll see what I can do for you! No promises, of course.)
If you want more on all this: Author Jackie Kressler brings up a lot of other ethically icky points and provides a summation now that Harlequin has blinked.
Not that this is over.
And just because it is Monday and we mentioned booksales in general last week and because people often accuse me of being the doom-and-gloom type, so I like to bring little rays of sunshine just to prove them wrong (not that I’m disregarding the disclaimers here):
PW Daily reports: “Bookstore sales jumped 7.0% in September, to $1.58 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Monday morning. The increase was most likely due to gains at college stores and the release of The Lost Symbol in the middle of the month. Despite the September increase, and an upward revision in the August numbers, bookstore sales through the first nine months of the year were still down, albeit only 0.7%. Sales for the period were $12.52 billion. For the entire retail market, sales were down 6.5% for September and 9.7% for the year to date.”
BTW: Under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books only and do not include “electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct
sale” or used book sales.
Wasn’t going to say anything about this brouhaha over a book published by the British Fantasy society, a collection of interviews with writers called In Conversation: A Writer’s Perspective. Volume One: Horror. Sixteen writers are included. All were male.
And, since BFS chair Guy Adams apologized, saying he hoped the discussion had “made other editors and publishers realize that this kind of lazy sexism is unacceptable and to watch their own lists in future…”
Really. Had firmly resolved. Not. To. Say. Anything.
I got out of the horror trenches a long time ago. For a lot of reasons. Don’t keep up on it, really. But…
As the debate played out a bit, I did see some suggestions pop up as to women who might be suitable to include in such a book. But not many. So, I felt, well…maybe I should say something…
In Conversation: A Writer’s Perspective. Volume One: Horror is edited by James Cooper. The 16 interviews are with authors Ramsey Campbell, Tom Piccirilli, Greg F. Gifune, Conrad Williams, Joe R. Lansdale, Gary McMahon, Brian Keene, Stephen Gallagher, Jeffrey Thomas, Peter Crowther, Tim Lebbon, Ray Garton, Mark Morris, Gary Fry, Graham Joyce and Norman Partridge.
I know about half of these gentlemen personally. I’ve at least met a couple of the others. I’ve even edited a couple of them. Had to google a couple of the names.
As someone who used to interview people who wrote horror, I do understand that access—just getting the connections made and a willing interviewee—can be a problem. Could confine one.
And with a book conversing with “horror writers” you have another problem. I won’t go into the whys and wherefores, but there are good reasons authors do not wish to be called “horror writers” or even have their work dubbed as “horror”. (I might also have made the book about writers of “horror and dark fantasy”…never mind…)
But, knowing full well several of the women would not wish to be interviewed as “horror writers”, I’d say these were examples of female novelists who might be conversed with:
Joyce Carol Oates
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Laurell K Hamilton
I’d also include these writers, but I don’t think they are currently active in the field of adult dark fiction
Poppy Z. Brite
I’d include these writers if I were allowed to interview authors who have made their mark with short fiction rather than novels
But, as I said, I no longer keep up on horror. There may be women I’m forgetting or am too out of touch to know of. This is “top of my head stuff”.
It might also be interesting to note that these were among the fifty bestselling “Fiction Overall: Horror/Occult/Psychological” titles for the week ending 09/20/09 according to Bookscan:
1. Chosen to Die, Lisa Jackson
2. The Likeness, Tana French
3. Sweetheart, Chelsea Cain
7. Plain Truth, Jodi Picoult
8. Skin Trade, Laurell K Hamilton
10. The Doctor’s Wife, Elizabeth Brundage
10. Interview With the Vampire, Anne Rice
16. Perfect Match, Jodi Picoult
18. Somebody Else’s Daughter, Elizabeth Brundage
25. Nantucket Nights, Elin Hilderbrand
34. Edge Of Evil, J.A. Jance
39. The Year Of Fog, Richmond Michelle
44. The Vampire Chronicles Collection, Anne Rice
47. Beneath The Bleeding, Val McDermid
Of the remaining 35 places, Stephen King held six; Dean Koontz, Chuck Palahniuk and James Patterson each held three.
Understand this is NOT the “fantasy” list or the “romance” list. This is specifically “Horror/Occult/Psychological”.
* * *
Now, I don’t know why Mr Cooper and the British Fantasy Society decided to compile these “conversations” into a book. Maybe they were just horror writers Mr Cooper happened to have interviewed and he put them all into a book.
Again, although this list dates back about 14 years (I quit doing interviews in 2005 entirely), some are—I’m sure—not of re-publishable quality, and most would have to be updated a great deal…
But, in theory, if I took that approach and was putting together a book from past interviews I’ve done, this would likely be the list: Clive Barker, Poppy Z. Brite, Doug Clegg, Tananarive Due, Dennis Etchison, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Golden, Elizabeth Hand, Laurell K. Hamilton, Joe Hill, Nancy Holder, Graham Joyce, Caitlin Kiernan, Kathe Koja, Joe R. Lansdale, Brain Lumley, China Mieville, Kim Newman, Joyce Carol Oates, Norman Partridge, Tim Powers, David J. Schow, John Shirley, Michael Marshall Smith, Peter Staub, Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem, Andrew Vachss, and F. Paul Wilson. Still almost a third HAPPEN to be female.
[I was shocked to discover I've never interviewed Ramsey Campbell. If I had, he’d be there. But then again there are plenty of writers I've never interviewed.]
* * *
[Added later: Please read the Guardian article linked to below as "Attention pundits" -- otherwise this will not make sense to you.]
Okay, one last thing I should not say: Attention pundits: There is a difference between “paranormal romance” and “urban fantasy.” Yes, there are books that cross over, but if you actually READ ENOUGH OF THE BOOKS you will see the difference.
Why am I so hung up on not calling all of these books “paranormal romance”? Because, as I mentioned in the preface to this blog entry, back in the summer of 2006 I wrote an introduction to an anthology and tried to make an argument that PERHAPS the term “paranormal romance” could POSSIBLY be broadened and be inclusive of a broad range of fiction. I WAS WRONG. It was already too late for such a repositioning. So now I try to inform.
If you want a “lump it all together” term, MAYBE “urban fantasy/paranormal” might do.
And yes, there are books with vampires in them that can’t be called “horror”.
* * *
I really, really, really am NOT going to saying anything else about something cropped up in some discusssion of the BFS volume [in the Guardian article and elsewhere]: urban fantasy and paranormal romance being a ghetto for women writers. Except this: Sweetie, it’s not a ghetto and no one is confined by it.
According to PWDaily Simon & Schuster has issued a new policy statement regarding its stance about the online piracy of digital books. They will be working “to stop online piracy as promptly as we can.” When piracy is discovered the S&S legal department will act “quickly to notify site operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) by issuing copyright infringement notices both for electronic versions of our books and for the sale of unauthorized physical editions at online booksellers.”
S&S acknowledges that copyright enforcement of online piracy “is by its very nature an imperfect science. But as the potential for this kind of behavior is amplified in the digital world, keeping our content secure, enforcing our copyrights, and creating a robust marketplace for easily accessible, reasonably priced content will be the pillars upon which we build our future as a digital publisher.”
Of course only thievery of e-books/copyright is dastardly. FUN piracy — Jack Sparrow, Treasure Island, The Pirates of Penzance, Captian Hook, space pirates, Frenchman’s Creek, Captain Blood, and other such swashbuckling etc. — should not be reported.
(I’m mentioning this to have a flimsy excuse to post pictures of Johnny Depp and Errol Flynn on the blog…)
Publishing Juno Editor/Paula Guran on 14 Sep 2009
For those of you who’ve ever heard me blathering ad nauseum about publishing in general or simply have an interest in it, I recommend reading Daniel Menaker reflections in Barneasandnoble.com Review two years after his departure from Random House, where he was a Senior Vice President and Executive Editor-in-Chief on mainstream publishing that these occasions. “It is written primarily from the point of view of a medium- or senior-level acquisitions editor at a major trade house in New York City, the center of the publishing world. It applies principally to the publication of original hardcover books. ideas are drawn from publishing as it stands — maybe I should say “stumbles” –right now…”
Charlaine Harris, the bestselling writer of the Sookie Stackhouse novels that are the basis for HBO’s hit television show True Blood, made an impressive showing on the August 9th, 2009 New York Times Bestseller List with each of the nine books in her series appearing on the list simultaneously. That’s an unprecedented NINE iitles — eight paperbacks and one hardcover –on The List simultaneously. Harris has, btw, announced a new three book contract, so Sookie Stackhouse’s adventures will continue into 2014.
The Penguin/Berkeley press release descibes the books thusly: “Not a traditional mystery, nor pure fantasy or romance, Dead Until Dark  and its sequels broke genre boundaries to appeal to a wide audience of readers. Each subsequent book about the telepathic barmaid and friend to vampires, werewolves, and various other odd creatures, has drawn more readers.”
The media world is agog at the Disney acquisition of Marvel…partially because there haven’t been many huge M&A deals being done in this economic climate and geez — all sorts of people are playing with the obvious mash-ups and crossovers. (Fave written one so far: “The 7 Dwarves vs. The Fantastic Four: When the last surviving members of a race of woodland demi-humans hold a naive princess hostage, the original super-team springs into action! Whistle while you clobber.” From Woot.com. Superpunch has some great images including the one displayed here.)
Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada’s comments via Twitter seem ecstatic (teensy bit of irony there as he’s been known to be derisive about comic rival DC’s corporate ownership ), Disney paid a premium price, and both companies probably need to reinvent themselves. The Mouse is a known hardballer in many ways, but, hey, as long as you make them money, they love you.
I, of course, wonder about distribution (because I am a publishing geek and I like the Diamond folks). Marvel is currently distributed via Diamond Book Distributors; HarperCollins distributes books published by Hyperion Books and Disney Book Group. How shall the twain meet?