Grand Central Publishing executive editor Rick Wolff has been given a new job as publisher and editor-in-chief of the Business Plus imprint, while retaining his current position within GCP along with its attendant responsibilities; “Rick will need several business cards to contain all these titles,” Grand Central publisher Jamie Raab jokes in her internal memo announcing the promotion, “but with [his] wide-ranging interests and editorial strengths, these titles fit the bill.” Wolff’s portfolio of business authors includes CEOs Jack Welch and Ted Turner, financial advisor Robert Kiyosaki, and No Asshole Rule lay-downer Robert Sutton.
In other revolving door news, Beaufort Books—which vaulted into the publishing spotlight after the success of If I Did It—has announced that it’s promoting Erin Smith to the position of marketing and publicity manager. Smith joined Beaufort in 2007 after working in the sales and marketing departments at Midpoint Trade Books.
So my panel at the Writers League of Texas conference in Austin last weekend went really well—one of the most fun moments came early on, when Dallas Morning News book review editor Michael Merschel plopped that plastic USPS bin on the table and explained to the authors in the audience that he gets enough books every day to fill at least one of them. Sara Nelson, sitting next to him, said they have it even worse in the Publishers Weekly offices; they get about 200 books a day, and only review 100 a week. (I’m not buried under quite so voluminous a load, but it’s a rare weekday I don’t get at least half a dozen books at my maildrop.) Given those odds, it’s easy to see how your book can get lost in the shuffle, so everybody was hoping we’d have some advice on how to stand out from the pack. (Even if you do get notices, however, it’s best to have realistic expectations; in her keynote address earlier that day, Nelson spoke about how her insider status assured plenty of media attention for her 2003 memoir, So Many Books, So Little Time, but the hoopla didn’t move her sales past “respectable” into runaway success.)
I’m sitting between Eileen Flynn, the religion correspondent for the Austin American-Statesman, and local NPR producer Ian Crawford, and the fact that they’re both journalists on a beat other than books was of no small import; one of the recurring themes during our hour-long conversation was the importance of having something to say beyond “I have a new book out.” (“So do 500 other people this week,” I commented. “What makes you so special?” It sounds mean, but it’s the question you really do have to figure out.) Both Flynn and Crawford discussed how they call upon authors who can speak eloquently about their chosen subjects in relation to current events; I reiterated my argument about why storytelling is such a crucial element of successful book trailers. We all agreed that blogs have changed the playing field, though we have probably different takes on the long-term prospects for the book review as we know it. Then again, as I told the audience, it’s not as if people want their book to be reviewed so they can finally find out if it’s any good or not; they just want to get their name in the paper.
Remember the online Julia Spencer-Fleming giveaway two weeks ago? St. Martin’s was providing new subscribers to its mystery newsletter with PDF downloads of the first two novels in Spencer-Fleming’s series on the eve of the publication of her sixth, I Shall Not Want. Well, the results are in, and I’m told (informally) that thousands of readers took the downloads, and that the first week sales for I Shall Not Want were double that of her previous hardcover, last year’s All Mortal Flesh.
So that’s one possible plank in the argument that a controlled free release can attract new readers for an author. By allowing readers to discover Spencer-Fleming’s characters at no cost, it appears they may have motivated some of those readers to keep following the storyline. The results are admittedly vague; it would be interesting to see whether the paperbacks of books three, four, and five experienced similar bumps.
Steve Delahoyde of mediabistro.com’s design blog, UnBeige, checks in on this year’s Chronicle Books design fellows and how they spent their time with the company, as reported on the publisher’s blog. Be sure to click through the latter link for the product shots; like most of what Chronicle does, they’re awfully gorgeous.
Jeff VanderMeer, who was recently named Assistant Director of Wofford College’s Shared Worlds Creative Writing Program writes on his Ecstatic Days blog “most of the short fiction I’ve read recently that I’ve been most passionate about has come from female writers.” He’s posted a list of the “newish or under-appreciated short fiction” fantasy writers he’s most excited about these days which include:
Kelly Barnhill – romantic use of language in the best sense without being melodramatic, with a sharp and deep imagination behind it all.
Aimee Bender – sometimes formally experimental, always mischievous and curious
Kate Bernheimer – renovator of fairy tales, not afraid to get into uncomfortable places
Judy Budnitz – more removed at times, which allows her the distance to create an interesting space between situation and character; unique worldview
L. Timmel Duchamp – openly and bravely political, not afraid to play with form and structure, and should already be more widely known
Julia Elliott – skirts the edge of fantasy often, creating characters wherein the world is seen as fantastical through their eyes; a master of extended fantastical metaphor
Kelly Eskridge – dreamlike at times, sharp as nails at others, with a nice variety of approaches
I like that although this is a company blog, it has no qualms with promoting other books and authors that relate to their own mission and has a great voice to it as well. The blog covers the intersection of the art and publishing worlds by blogging on stylish books, authors, events, web sites, and even includes style points like:
1.1. When meeting a famous photographer at a publicity event, it’s considered a faux pas to ask him to take a picture of you and your friends. He’s “off-duty,” as they say, and besides, you think he’s going to create his next masterpiece with that pink Casio digital you picked up at Circuit City? You wouldn’t hand a famous calligrapher a ballpoint pen and ask him for an autograph, would you? Sigh… you probably would.
⇒You’ve seen me complain about book trailers that string a bunch of photographs and captions together—but I’ve also explained how that format can be successful if you apply a consistent visual aesthetic towards telling your story. In the three-and-a-half-minute promotional film for Rock and Roll Never Forgets, the first in a new series of mystery novels featuring a superstar rock guitarist, Deborah Grabien uses still photos and film footage, along with expository captions and voice-over dialogue, to create an inexpensive alternative to actually going out and staging a concert at Madison Square Garden and an interrogation by an NYPD detective. (Why a New York police officer has a Southern accent, I’m not quite sure, but maybe that doesn’t jar non-local ears so much.)
(UPDATE: Grabien emails that the character in question is originally from the South, an ex-DEA agent from Miami. “So the accent? Authentic.” I should have known!)
⇒Ace publicist (and you have no idea how long I’ve waited to use that gag) Valerie Cortes has turned the fall frontlist from the science fiction imprint and its fantasy-driven counterpart, Roc, into a five-minute music video. The format probably won’t completely replace meeting with sales reps for a while, but it’s catchier than PowerPoint, that’s for sure.
⇒Impetus Press is another independent publisher that’s been using Twitter as a promotional tool, but they’ve added a twist: Ultra-abridged versions of their novels that fit within the 140-character constraints of the micro-blog.( Here, for example, is Jennifer Banash‘s Hollywoodland: “Doe eyes. Hair: Blonde, Eyes: Blue. This face. My face. White hot. Dallas smiles, eyes narrowing. A glass eye. Wolf eyes. My face…”) It’s an interesting creative challenge, when you stop to think about it. Any other authors want to take a shot at condensing their novels into a white-hot dot?
If you’re looking for the most up-to-date developments in the e-book sector, even I’d tell you that the blog you want to be reading is TeleRead. Now the site’s coordinator, David Rothman, reports that he’s sold a genre-bending novel called The Solomon Scandals to Tennessee-based Twilight Times Books, which will make the book available in both electronic and trade paperback formats. “Mass paperback, translation and movie rights are available,” Rothman says, “hint, hint.”
The press release describes the novel’s plot elements as “illegal spying on American citizens, an IRS/CIA building collapse, Washington-weird sex scandals, blackmail from the Oval Office, a gossip columnist’s suicide at the Watergate and a car bombing.” Many of which, Rothman adds, he first conceived when he began writing the novel on an electric typewriter in the 1970s… And as his writing technology choices have upgraded, so too have his publication choices; Rothman says Twilight Times will be releasing the novel in DRM-free electronic editions, including the ePub format that has emerged as a likely industry standard in recent years.
When Michael Ian Black, author of My Custom Van, announced his feud with David Sedaris, I wanted to get to the bottom of things and asked him for the reasons behind it. Here’s what he had to say:
David Sedaris has spent the last decade gaming the best-seller lists, which doesn’t seem fair. There are literally NO OTHER memoirists out there who have cracked the best-seller lists because David Sedaris is hogging every single spot. (Augusten Burroughs, James Frey, Chelsea Handler, and all other best-selling memoirists excluded). I see myself as the Rocco Mediate to his Tiger Woods. I am standing up for all of the journeyman literary humorist/essayists out there just trying to claw our way onto the leader board alongside Mr. Sedaris. And to think that he’s doing all of this from FRANCE??? It’s mind-boggling. Where does he get off writing about stuff while living in France? That’s soooo early-to-mid 20th century. Why does he get to live the glamorous life of an ex-pat while the rest of us are in the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, just struggling to pay the bills? Why does he get to eat unflavored yogurt and crepes loaded with Nutella and bananas while real Americans are choking down Chicken McNuggets and microwave popcorn? It’s wrong. It’s un-American and it’s wrong. I’ll even take it a step further: it’s not just un-American. It’s anti-American. He’s happy to take American dollars from over here and spend them in cute French patisseries; in a sense, he is using the greatest currency in the world, the United States of America dollar, to subsidize a country that didn’t even want to invade Iraq! And he seems completely unapologetic about that fact. You asked why I am doing this? I can give you the answer to that question with one word: The United States of America.
I’ve reached out to Sedaris’ publicist at Little, Brown but have yet to receive an official response. Meanwhile, Black just announced a contest on his blog to Transform Sedaris into a super-villian.