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Archives: November 2008

Black Friday Book Buying Guide

9780140143454L.jpgJust in time for the annual post-Thanksgiving gift-buying spree that American retailers insist on calling “Black Friday,” Penguin has published an author-driven gift guide for literary types.

The What To Give & What To Get guide features 37 big writers explaining which books they want for the holidays and which books they will give as gifts. Some highlights:

Wall Street guru Michael Lewis is staying a million miles away from gloomy financial books this holiday season–giving Philip Pullman’s mystical series His Dark Materials to his friends while asking for Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers as a gift.

At the same time, Julia Alvarez is giving her family Can’t Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research by Sue Halpern and hoping somebody will give her a copy of Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama. (Via Jacket Copy.)

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Inside David Browne’s Rock & Roll Book Deal

030681515X.jpgEarlier this week, rock journalist David Browne scored a deal with Da Capo press for 2011–a book entitled, Fire and Rain: How Rock & Roll and America Changed in 1970. As GalleyCat headed out for the Thanksgiving holiday, we caught up with Browne to find out more about his brand new book.

Da Capo also published Browne’s recent rock tome, Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth. A prolific music journalist, Browne also wrote the biography, Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley.

This Rolling Stone contributing editor explained how the deal came together: “My agent Erin Hosier went for it right away, and Ben Schafer, my editor at Da Capo, which did a very nice job with Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth, wanted to work with me again, so it all came together pretty fast.”

Browne explained why the 1970s might speak to contemporary readers: “The parallels between then and now are uncanny: OPEC was essentially created in 1970, the Weather Underground had its ‘greatest hits’ (so to speak) that year, and thanks to an unpopular war, the country was heading into a recession. One of the things we can learn is that tumultuous times really do make for great art, and we can also learn that for every ending is a new beginning (Think of all the great work Paul Simon, Neil Young, John Lennon and others did after this period). Crashes can be as good for art as for rebuilding an economy.”

Read more

How To Sell Books on Amazon Kindle

thehole-large.jpgEarlier today, the NY Times contemplated book-buying freezes at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and company-wide bonuses at Hachette–diagnosing the “split personality” that has spooked writers around the country.

In these strange times, one writer used Amazon Kindle to re-configure his career. A few months back, horror novelist Aaron Ross Powell uploaded his Mormon-influenced zombie story, The Hole, to Amazon Kindle. In a recent essay, he explained that step-by-step process for anybody interested in adding content to Amazon’s Kindle.

His post joins today’s news about the upcoming release of the Kindle 2. From uploading tips to formatting to pricing ideas, the essay is a good place for aspiring digital book authors and editors to look for ideas:

“I set the price at $3.49. Amazon knocked twenty percent off to $2.79. That put the book firmly in the impulse buy category. The novel has sold relatively steadily since publication, with a slight bump in October (people like to buy horror stories around Halloween, oddly enough).”


The Dying Publishing Lunch Hour

thanks.gifPublishing folks around the city are losing their lunches, the NY Observer reports. Just in time for National Eat Lots of Food Day, Leon Neyfakh finds out just how hard the economic crisis has hit the lunchtime meetings in the publishing industry.

The article includes quotes from HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham, retired Viking publisher Al Silverman, and Holt editor-in-chief Marjorie Braman. Most industry insiders bemoaned the loss of these creative expenses. Norton editor Bob Weil gave an insider glimpse at how lunches work:

“[M]eals regularly yield projects that end up being important to him, such as the collection of short stories by previously unknown physician Terrence Holt that he bought from Nicole Aragi six months ago after hearing about it over dinner. Also [Weil added]: ‘Someone at The New Yorker recently gave me a tip on someone who’s a boxer and a philosopher–that came from a lunch!’”

Bonus points: Any guesses on the identity of that philosopher-boxer?

First Glimpse of the New Kindle E-Reader


The first photos of the next generation of Amazon’s Kindle digital reader were confirmed yesterday–including that October photo from Boy Genius Report.

According to that site, Kindle 2 will be charged with a USB cable, rather than the current generation’s special charger. Experts speculate that the new machines will be available “early next quarter,” along with a student version which will arrive next year as well. (Via.)

In related Kindle news, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports that the NY Times has 10,000 subscribers paying almost 14 bucks a month to read the paper on the Kindle–estimating these subscriptions gross $1.68 million a year. In the end, they don’t believe the current incarnation of the Kindle can succeed. What do you think?

“I think for the Kindle to reach mainstream success, it’ll have to shift its focus from being an ebook reader with a junky mobile web browser to being a great mobile web browser with an ebook reader attached. It’ll have to become something more like the iPhone with a bigger screen and better battery life,” wrote the Journalism Lab. (Via.)

How To Write For Video Games

514Ec9fS6GL._SL500_AA280_.jpgAs publishers struggle with the recession, many writers are looking for work in unexpected places. Some are even looking past television and movies towards the next big thing–the blockbuster world of videogames like Gears of War.

Over at Slashdot, a young writer asked videogame experts: “I’m an enthusiastic hobby gamer with a real passion for well-developed games. But there’s very little guidance out there on getting exposure as a writer in this world … How can I get involved in writing for the game industry?”

That question resonated, generating nearly 150 responses–some from industry professionals. One writer advised: “[P]ut together your portfolio. In the case of games, you’ll want to have some dynamic media – sketched storyboards (art shouldn’t matter too much, so keep it simple), play or movie scripts, and/or, ideally, game mods that have your name in the writer-line.”

Another videogame writer listed a crowded resume that will sound familiar to any writer cobbling together a living in the 21st Century. The entry also included helpful bibliography:

“I did as much writing and design as possible, in whatever areas I could get my hands on: news writing, graphic design, web design, and the creation of a fake fast-food franchise run by ninja named Ninja Burger. When the time came to get into video games, all that experience helped immensely. Design is design; writing is writing. The more you do of each, the better you get at it. I wrote about games, I designed games… I even co-wrote and co-designed an [online game], but my time spent designing church bulletins, editing news columns, writing copy for a comic book catalog and doing technical writing all helped me learn not just the ropes, but all the knots as well.”

What’s New With… SharedBook?

caroline-vanderlip.jpgEarlier this year, SharedBook unveiled a collaborative venture with Golden Book to personalize children’s books like The Poky Little Puppy, and when we met with the company’s CEO, Caroline Vanderlip (right), at their Wall Street headquarters a few weeks back, she was enthusiastic about extending that model further. SharedBook has established additional partnerships with publishers participating in its online children’s book store, where consumers can order books with customized dedication pages. The program is set up so that publishers can still maintain their online footprintse; a personalized edition of Pinkalicious, for example, is available for $34.95 from either the HarperCollins website or the SharedBook children’s store. (The most recent partnership, established just this week, brings LucasBooks into the fold with a personalized edition of a new novel about the Millennium Falcon—the first time the personalization option has been made available for a frontlist title.)

And SharedBook’s collaborations aren’t limited to publishing houses—the company has also created affiliate relationships with independent bookstores like Tattered Cover (Denver, CO) and Capitol Book and News (Montgomery, AL) as well as websites like and Kidmondo.

Vanderlip also filled us in on the most recent developments with Book It!, the newest version of the former “Blog2Print” widget, a tool enabling readers to select content from any participating site, save it to a clipboard, then create a book around it. “Content owners are showing as strong an interest in that as the consumers,” she told us, as we delved into the potential applications for academic coursework and the ways in which the prepared content could be further personalized before publication. See, in a similar vein, last year’s “Create-a-Cookbook” project… one of several new ways of packaging and selling content that Vanderlip optimistically predicts will help transform the economics of the publishing industry. “We’ve had some good luck with people who finally understand what our tools can do,” she said of the past year’s developments. “There’s been an enormous research effort to find more and more ways to enhance the product… digital innovations with value propositions to the end user. Some companies are more limited in what they’re willing to do than others, but I think that’s always the case.”

John Updike and Rachel Johnson Win Bad Sex Awards

shirehell.jpgConfirming a prediction from GalleyCat readers, John Updike won a lifetime achievement award at the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Awards. In addition, the editors of the Literary Review awarded the annual Bad Sex prize to novelist Rachel Johnson for Shire Hell.

Johnson was proud of the award: “I’m not feeling remotely grumpy about it. I know that men with literary reputations to polish might find it insulting … but if you’ve had a book published in the year any attention is welcome, even if it’s slightly dubious attention of this sort.”

Heavy-hitting nominees on the shortlist included John Updike, Russell Banks, and Paulo Coelho. Updike won the lifetime achievement award after being nominated four times over the course of his career. Here’s a link to Updike’s shortlisted passage from 2005 Bad Sex nominee, Villages:

“Faye leaned back on the blanket, arranging her legs in an M of receptivity, and he knelt between them like the most abject and craven supplicant who ever exposed his bare a** to the eagle eyes of a bunch of crows.”

Food Writers and Editor Launch New Site

9780767930727.jpgJust in time for Thanksgiving, a former book editor and a team of food writers have joined forces to build a new online library for amateur chef called Cookstr. Founded by Will Schwalbe, the former Editor-in-Chief of Hyperion Books, the new website takes a curated approach towards cooking.

From the release: “Cookstr is a chef-based recipe search that provides recipes from cookbooks written by over 200 of the top chefs and cookbook authors, such as Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Alice Waters, Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, Daisy Martinez, powered by a sophisticated search engine.”

The foodie site features a different food writer or expert every day, and according to the NY Times, the business model “ultimately, is to sell copies of these authors’ books.” Today’s featured writer is Nava Atlas–who wrote the book Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons for Random House.

Paperback Fever: Excerpt from Thomas Pynchon’s Upcoming Private Detective Novel

OEditions3.jpgAs the publishing world braces for a cold, cold New Year, some literary minds think that paperbacks could flourish in a recession.

Over at the Millions, C. Max Magee argues that paperbacks “could save paper and space and entice younger readers for whom $25 for a hardcover and $14 for a paperback is too much money to risk”–citing Harper Perennial’s new Olive Editions (pictured) as a good example. What do you think?

The gold-era of the bestselling paperback books traditionally required a certain kind of story–hardboiled crime, bodice-ripping romance, gory horror, or Beatnik poetry. As you ponder, here’s an excerpt of Thomas Pynchon’s upcoming private detective novel, Inherent Vice. We grabbed this excerpt from the Penguin catalog, it’s a paperback waiting to happen:

“She came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to. Doc hadn’t seen her for over a year. Nobody had. Back then it was always sandals, bottom half of a flower-print bikini, faded Country Joe and the Fish T-shirt. Tonight she was all in flatland gear, hair a lot shorter than he remembered, looking just like she swore she’d never look. ‘That you, Shasta? The packaging fooled me there for a minute.’ ‘Need your help, Doc.’”