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Archives: May 2007

Announcing…the Tesco Book Club

Tesco and Random House are teaming up to launch the Tesco Book Club, reports Booktrade.info. Tesco will select one Random House Group title each month which will be featured in their stores nationwide, branded with Tesco Book Club branding. The launch title, INNOCENT TRAITOR by Alison Weir, will be followed by ONE GOOD TURN by Kate Atkinson in July. The books will be Tesco Special Editions with a branded bookmark and each will feature “exclusive extra content”. Titles will also feature in Tesco Magazine and be promoted to Tesco.com customers via an email campaign.

Observe the Man Behind the Curtain

michener-uys.jpg

If your bosses are away at the Javits tomorrow, setting up for the BookExpo, and you’re looking for something to do, or if you’re a thriller writer who’s said to yourself, “Hey, I should get me one of those deals to do a James Patterson book, you might want to take a look at the long, long essay Errol Lincoln Uys has put up on his website about co-creating The Covenant with James Michener. “I am no good at plotting,” admitted Michener (right), but Uys “showed such a mastery of and predilection for plotting that again and again he came up with dazzling ideas which immediately attracted my attention.” Uys describes how he wound up actually writing several passages in the final, published version of the novel, and how Michener subtly bullied him into not making hay of that fact—though he was also highly supportive as Uys went on to write his own epic, Brazil, which the NY Times described as “very much in the Michener style, with all the strengths and shortcomings that implies.” (Originally published by Simon & Schuster, the novel was reissued a few years back by Silver Springs Books.)

As I say, it’s long, and spread out over several web pages, but for any professional writer who’s thought about taking on the role of (un)credited co-author, Uys’s experience can be highly informative.

First Quarter Results for BAM, Borders

PW Daily reports that sales at Books-A-Million rose 2.1% in the first quarter ended May 5, to $116.3 million while earnings jumped 40%, to $2.1 million. The revenue gain came despite a 0.5% decline in same store sales in the period. The increase in earnings was attributed to fewer discounts as well as a minor increase in operating expenses.

Meanwhile, losses are growing for Borders as it faces a difficult sales environment and a shortage of exciting new releases, according to Business Week. The company said it lost $35.9 million, or 61 cents per share, in its fiscal first quarter ending May 5, compared with a loss of $20.2 million, or 31 cents per share, in the prior year quarter. Excluding costs for store closings and other nonrecurring items, Borders said it lost $29.9 million, or 51 cents a share, even greater than projections of losses of 38 cents per share.

New Boss for HarperCollins UK Children’s Division

The Bookseller reports that HarperCollins Children’s Books has recruited Mario Santos as its new managing director, reporting to HC m.d. Amanda Ridout starting October 1. Santos was previously senior vice president and head of business development at Chorion, the intellectual property development business responsible for the Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton estates and the Mr Men brand. Before that he worked at Marshall Editions and Dorling Kindersley.

Ridout said that HC planned to “substantially grow” its children’s business over the next few years. Santos said: “I am delighted to be joining the talented team at HarperCollins at such an exciting time for children’s publishing, and I look forward to working with them to develop and grow the business in the short and long term.”

The Hunting of the Book

This week’s edition of New York Magazine has an unusual slant on the obligatory summer reading feature, instead taking a more competitive approach to this season’s most notable debut novels, which MFA students are likely to score big, which authors will be taught in 50 years and what books are regrettably overlooked. Yours truly seems to have lucked out by singling out David Markson‘s work, as Wayne Koestenbaum‘s vote elevates the author of “seminonfictional semifictions” to the so-called winner.

Twin Lit



The Times meets the Mulgrays
, 68 year old identical twins who have always done everything together – from wearing the same clothes, sharing the same bedroom and enjoying the same books and TV shows. Now, after 31 years, Helen and Morna have collaborated on NO SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES, a crime novel just published by British independent Allison & Busby.

Started more than 14 years ago, it is the result of thousands of hours of painstaking writing and rewriting. Each of its 86,000 words was a joint endeavour. :We have both spent 31 years as English teachers so have always loved writing,” Morna said. Helen added: “We used to do it in the holidays, but back then it was just a hobby. When we retired we had the time to do it seriously.” Certainly a noteworthy accomplishment, and one that seems to mark literary history in the UK. But one suspects the irony meter went off just a bit when reporter David Lister discovered neither twin married or had a serious boyfriend. “What we have is unique,” explained Morna. “Once you have found your perfect companion, it’s difficult to get anybody else to match up.” Then again, considering one finishes the other’s sentences and they work well together as writers, outside influences might be a hindrance, not a boon…

What Did You Get Your Copyeditor?

deanna-hoak.jpgDeanna Hoak (right) has a lot of fans in the science fiction/fantasy community, even though her name has never appeared on a book jacket. She’s a freelance copyeditor who’s worked over dozens of manuscripts, including nominees for the genre’s biggest prizes. So a group of writers, led by British novelist Paul Cornell, have started a campaign to get Hoak an award at the next World Fantasy Convention this fall, nominating her in a special category for industry professionals.

“Deanna Hoak is one of the unsung heroes of science fiction and fantasy,” says Chris Roberson, in one of many online testimonials, “and it’s high time that people started to sing about her.” Her other champions include high-profile SF writers like China Miéville and Alan Dean Foster, as well as Prometheus Books editorial director Lou Anders. “Thank you all,” Hoak writes on her blog. “I know it’s a huge long shot as a copyeditor, but I’m incredibly happy about it anyway.”

Networked Books, Tentative and Complete

ourspace-cover.gifIn OurSpace: Resisting the Corporate Control of Culture, professor Christine Harold suggests that traditional “culture jamming” techniques—such as parodying or defacing consumer icons to propagate “subversive” messages—have reached their limits in terms of genuinely challenging capitalism. Instead, according to the OurSpace jacket copy, “she advocates a more inclusive approach to intellectual property that invites innovation and wider participation in the creative process,” focusing on recently developed strategies like open source technology and the Creative Commons license.

To demonstrate her support for the philosophy of collaborative culture, Harold and the University of Minnesota Press have created a wikipedic home page for OurSpace that links to the full text of the book’s final chapter, “Inventing Public: Kairos* and Intellectual Property Law.” Harold not only invites discussion on the chapter’s ideas, she asks readers to provide their own real-life examples and advice for resisting corporate culture.

*A term from Greek rhetoric defining, basically, an instance of expression unique to the special circumstances in which it was generated.

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Atlanta’s Weaver Flips to Magazine Pages

Teresa Weaver doesn’t have to worry about her precarious position at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution any longer. She’s got a new job at Atlanta magazine, where her monthly column will debut with the summer issue. She’ll also, according to the press release, “work with publishers on arranging book excerpts and other book-related features.”

Meanwhile, AJC arts editor Julia Wallace insists the institutional changes that drove Weaver to the magazine world aren’t as bad as everybody makes them sound. “We are adding some jobs, merging some, and dropping others,” Wallace told AJC readers, but “will there be a reduction in the number of reviews? That’s not the goal.” Wallace describes the paper’s approach as placing as much emphasis on reportage on the local arts scene as criticism of its works.

It’s Not Just a Book Review Crisis

If you’ve been following the “Campaign to Save Book Reviews” at Critical Mass, the blog that trades off the prestige of the National Book Critics Circle even as NBCC officers are careful to disassociate themselves from its more controversial outpourings, you’ve gotten a steady stream of information about their scramble to save the job of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution book review editor, Teresa Weaver. But the NBCC’s narrowly focused coverage, and its high-profile petition rallying around Weaver, may have kept many of us outside Atlanta from realizing the true severity of the situation. As Steve Dollar (a former AJC critic himself) writes for Musical America, other AJC writers have been deemed redundant, including the critics covering classical music and the visual arts. Although the theater and food critics are safe for now, Dollar reports, “everyone else, including such workhouse types as pop music critic Nick Marino, was required to reapply for jobs which may—or may not—be similar to their present assignments.”

I accept that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for the NBCC’s not mentioning any of this since it first took up Weaver’s cause in mid-April: It is, after all, the National Book Critics Circle, and their reaction to Weaver’s plight is shaped by related difficulties at other newspapers across the nation. That said, if the crisis in cultural journalism is not limited to literary criticism, we need to see more explicit acknowledgment of that. Instead of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra having to create a separate petition to save the classical music desk, why aren’t we hearing about one big movement to save as much arts coverage as possible?

Instead, the NBCC has provided us with lopsided commentary that emphasizes the culturally healing power of literature at the expense of all the other arts, like Richard Ford‘s assertion that without Weaver’s book reviews, Atlanta “could very easily be a wasteland.” (And maybe I’m just riding the bitter bus to my basement in Terre Haute, but I get a perverse glee out of noticing that Ford blamed the problem on “the nouveau riche people” controlling the paper, apparently not aware the paper is a holding of Cox Enterprises, a media conglomerate owned by two sisters in their mid-eighties* who inherited the family business from their father, who bought the Journal in 1939 and the Constitution in 1950.) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette book critic Bob Hoover is one of the few NBCC posters to acknowledge that “newspapers have not really targeted book pages specifically” and “every section has taken a hit, except sports.” If it’s important for book review editors and reviewers to reappraise their role in the current media infrastructure, perhaps it’s equally important that they stop treating their dilemma as an isolated tragedy, and start brainstorming with a wider group of people about how to ensure the continued viability of their professions.

*Preparing this post over the holiday weekend, I was not aware of the death of Barbara Cox Anthony Monday, and regret any awkwardness the oversight may have caused readers.

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