My understanding of what it means to be a publisher has been skewed ever since I first heard the word. My mom was reading A Wrinkle in Time to me—I must have been around 8—when she explained that my great-grandfather had published the book. She told me how Madeleine L'Engle had taken the story of Meg Murry, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe to publisher after publisher, only to repeatedly be rejected. After being turned down by 26 or so houses, the book came to my mom’s grandfather, who read it and loved it, but "was afraid of it," L'Engle later said. He did say he would buy the book, [...]
BUST magazine operates out of a loft on 27th street and Broadway, above an awning that says Reiko Wireless Accessories. On the evening I visited, a bit before Christmas, young staffers rode up with me in the elevator, sharing swigs from a plastic bottle of whiskey. In the office they broke away, laughing and chatting, settling down at computers underneath walls covered in posters and stickers. One featured a giant image of Joan Crawford from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and the text "BUST Magazine says no wire hangers ever!"
The magazine's editor in chief, Debbie Stoller, was in a state. She waved me to the conference room in [...]
From time to time, The Awl offers its space to everyday citizens with something to say.
Another day, another battle between some country with publishing laws and America's top advertising company, Google. Now it's Portugal complaining about Google being an Internet business—the same Portugal that is usually in the news for causing the latest worldwide financial panic. Whenever I see stocks are plunging these days, I pretty much know without checking CNBC that Portugal is up to no good again. The other day my boss made a joke and said, "What is this Cyprus place, anyway? Some breakaway autonomous zone of Portugal?" And he might be right, who even [...]
If you enjoy reading Kindle-brand electronic books on your iPhone or iPad, you've surely had moments when the best idea seems to be just erasing all your ebooks. There's something about the shoddy copy-editing and optical-character-recognition errors and lame single jpeg of cover art and terribly rendered illustrations that really puts a spotlight on the bad corporate non-fiction titles you've somehow spent $13 a piece to accumulate "in the cloud." Wouldn't it just be better if Kindle developed a "killer app" that would erase all of this garbage?
"In shipping the latest version, apparently the company's QA testers somehow missed a bug that can delete your entire book collection from [...]
If you're the kind of lifelong dupe who bought a book by Lance Armstrong, there's really no helping you. But, still, the wheels of justice must turn, etc., and both law firms and the U.S. Postal Service depend upon those bulk-mailed class-action suit notices. So a couple of consumers in California have gone to federal court in hopes of making a big deal over the long-known truth about Lance Armstrong, the professional drug dealer and sports cheat.
Rob Stutzman and several others who bought Armstrong's "It's Not About The Bike" and "Every Second Counts" have filed a lawsuit in Sacramento federal court. It alleges Armstrong duped them into believing [...]
Tenth Of December, George Saunders' first collection of stories in six years, comes out January 8, 2013—if you missed it in The New Yorker, you can read the title story here. Below is the style sheet used in-house by the book's editors and production team. In the lists of preferred spellings for words and names (Death (personified), de-elfify, doinking) and other guidelines comes a reminder of what makes Saunders so much fun to read. Remember: Hyphenate compounds made up of nouns of equal value: "elf-baby" (97).
If you have anything to do with the book industry, you are probably nauseated by the mere mention of that industry's annual tradeshow, which started on Monday and wraps up today. But not everyone is some sort of book fanatic—some people just read books and are innocent about the disgusting process that brings them into being, like little children who don't know that babies are generated via fucking. I know this because in the comments on every blog post or news story about book publishing ever, there's that person who asks "But if an author's book doesn't earn out its advance, does he have to give the money back?"
#1: Don't apologize for being late with a Starbucks latte in your hand.
— GS Elevator Gossip (@GSElevator) December 19, 2013
Last night, the author of the "parody twitter account" (*shudder*) called @GSElevator—that's short for Goldman Sachs Elevator, you see—was escorted out of the closet by Andrew Ross Sorkin.
To anyone who'd ever met anyone who worked at Goldman Sachs, it was obviously fiction, as in, made-up, invented, concocted. So was his writing on fashion and manhood at Business Insider: It was sometimes hilarious but almost never had the ring of truth. In recent times, the account has grown quieter and less specific, although apparently it [...]
Vikram Seth's agent appears to be publicly litigating his book deal with Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin, an arm of Penguin Random House, a co-owned subsidiary of Bertelsmann and Pearson plc. (That's just fun to type.) According to the Mumbai Mirror, the hybrid publishing monster asked for their $1.7 million advance back. Seth's publication date was supposed to take place in 2013, and he has apparently not delivered A Suitable Girl, his poorly named sequel to A Suitable Boy, which came out TWENTY. YEARS. AGO. (How crazy is that.) Why? And how? What a fishy story. It's impossible to believe that any publisher won't just sit out the [...]
Chances are you have at least a couple of Lonely Planet guides on your bookshelves, or in a box in your parents' garage along with very thin tax returns from the 1990s or early 2000s. I still have a couple of very outdated books—not for the informational value today, which is minimal, but because they're time capsules of how those countries were when I was traveling around years ago. And now BBC, which has owned the independent travel guide since 2007, is selling the brand at a big loss to some American billionaire who may also have fond memories of the densely packed books.
The books still sell pretty [...]
Long ago, before foreigners got the Internet, a real pleasure of foreign travel was picking up the International Herald Tribune and reading the Dave Barry column and some "Classic Peanuts" on the half page of comics. There was news, too, but you already knew the headlines from the BBC World Service or SkyNews or CNN International playing in the hotel lobby. Still, it was nice to sit in a cafe and not work and read a good newspaper, especially one with such a romantic name: The International Herald Tribune.
There were a handful of really good columnists and reporters (especially on the Arts, Fashion, Food and Architecture beats!) who were [...]
Having trouble with iCloud? Confused by CrashPlan? Today's smart tech consumers are getting ready to purchase the sturdiest backup media of all: human DNA. The mad scientists behind a weird new study say that the double helix of genetic code has been successfully used to store all kinds of documents, including audio files and text of Shakespeare's sonnets and "a picture of their office," because most of what we digitally save is silly garbage. (Future archeologists will likely be baffled by the discovery of, say, a flash drive holding nothing but hundreds of weirdly filtered pictures of somebody's entrée with a glass of wine in the background. "These [...]
"Right now, only two of the six largest American publishers allow libraries to lend all of their e-books, and one of those two sells licenses that expire after twenty-six check-outs…. Publishers have tried charging libraries higher prices for e-books. They've tried introducing technologically unnecessary 'friction,' such as a ban on simultaneous loans of a title, or a requirement that library patrons come in person to the library to load their reading devices. The friction frustrates library patrons and enrages librarians, and even so, it hasn't been substantial enough to reassure the publishers who are abstaining from the library market altogether."
"I am currently copyediting my second Twitter-to-book manuscript in a month. It is a trend I find [Darth Vader voice] disturbing…. The one I’m wrestling with now is incredibly whatever-the-real-opposite-of-clever-is. I won’t give the Twitter feed's name here, since I don’t want to be an über-douche about it, but seriously, it’s not good…. Some guy who works in television as a writer on a popular sitcom keeps a Twitter feed where he and a few friends enjoy retweeting others’ posts that are at once self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating, in which it’s obvious that the main thrust is the self-aggrandizing part and therefore the tweeters are shown to be kind of [...]
In November, Knopf bought a 900-page debut novel by Garth Risk Hallberg for almost $2 million. It’s a tremendous gamble, regardless of the book’s quality, if one that many publishers were happy to make: more than 10 houses bid more than $1 million, according to the Times. Predicting a novel’s fate in the commercial or critical marketplace is a fool’s gambit, as indicated both by works like the first Harry Potter novel, which was repeatedly rejected before becoming, well, Harry Potter, and by expensive flops like Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons. The novelist Curtis Sittenfeld said, "People think publishing is a business, but it’s a casino."
But what if publishers [...]
Although no one currently on staff at The Paris Review ever worked directly with George Plimpton, the legacy of the editor of 50 years obviously looms large over the publication. Coincident with the 60th anniversary of the magazine is the release of the documentary Plimpton!: Starring George Plimpton As Himself. The cover of the Spring 2013 issue of The Paris Review was a photograph of a poster made by the French artist JR—Unframed: George Plimpton, 1967, from a photograph by Henry Grossman—designed to look like a cover (the Spring 2013 cover, in fact) of The Paris Review pasted on a wall in Paris.
There are as many layers in [...]
Sheryl Sandberg's book acknowledgements, of course, run for seven-and-a-half pages, thanking 140+ people. (Mandatory disclaimer: I have not read the book. Also, I never will.) But that is really pretty outrageous, and it is true that book acknowledgements, whether for fiction or nonfiction, have gone absolutely bonkers. Lorin Stein's got a pretty great historical take—"You don't see Joseph Conrad thanking Ford Madox Ford"—but when did this really begin? Well!
From this nice little profile of Karen Russell, the Pulitzer-shortlisted author of Swamplandia!, comes this nugget. Tom Wolfe's lastest, "Back to Blood," which went with him five years ago when he left FSG, for the cost of around $7 million, has sold 62,000 copies to date. (That's according to Nielsen BookScan, which does not record sales at WalMart, Sam's Club or BJ's. Not sure how well Tom Wolfe performs at WalMart anyway though!) That's at least a hundred bucks in advance per copy sold. These things happen.
Writers have contorted relationships with publishers, probably because they excel at projection. Particularly this is true now in an age where publishers sue writers for undelivered manuscripts. Something about this has the ring of the disinheriting vengeful father, if you're paying half-attention, until you snap to alertness and realize that it's just a business that wants its money back.
There are writers who dream of selling books, the kind who when they were little children for some reason fantasized about having bound books with their names upon them. No one dreams, yet, of having an .epub file with his name in the metadata. (Or does someone? Who knows [...]
Mike Shatzkin, a "widely-acknowledged thought leader about digital change in the book publishing industry" (his bio), counsels that Brightline, Barry Diller and Scott Rudin's new ebook publishing company with the fun and talented Frances Coady, "would appear to be poised to compete with major publishers for major books." And: "Diller and Rudin, with their Hollywood roots, certainly have access to many of the great story-creators and storytellers." True, but they have two bad choices there in order to compete: explain the finances behind ebooks to authors who are used to being overpaid—"Hey, you get 50%! Of something between zero and infinity dollars!"—or, overpay those authors up front, and [...]