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Archives: January 2009

John Updike, Irish Pornographer?

1229003767326-1.jpgGranta has marshaled an army of John Updike supporters from all over the literary world, building a growing online memorial to the late author. Contributors include Jane Smiley, Garrison Keillor, and Susan Minot.

While many added serious literary tributes, a few authors added lighthearted memories to the collection. Recently, Updike won won a lifetime achievement award at the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Awards, so he might have appreciated this tribute from author Colm Toibin:

“I grew up thinking that John Updike was an Irish writer because his novel Couples was hidden on the top of a wardrobe by my mother in the company of Edna O’Brien‘s The Country Girls and John McGahern‘s The Dark. I thought all three of them were Irish pornographers and was filled with excitement at the possibility that I might one day read their work.”

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Authors Respond To the WaPo Book World Closure

28119_logo.jpgOne hundred authors, ranging from novelist Tony D’Souza to Salon.com editor Joy Press, signed the National Book Critics Circle petition to save the Washington Post Book World’s stand-alone section. Nevertheless, as GalleyCat reported, the section will close.

Update from Ron Charles, Fiction Editor at Book World: “Book World as a stand-alone section has three more issues: Feb. 1, Feb. 8, and Feb. 15. And Book World as an entity will continue to exist with all its current staff.”

The Book World section will still exist online. While some see the closure as an opportunity for online reviewers, the NBCC’s post embodies the fear and anxiety that some feel about the state of the traditional book review.

Add your thoughts in the comments section. Here are thoughts from author Amanda Vaill: “For too long, newspapers all across the country have made these sections advertising ghettos for publishers and booksellers, and have insisted that the revenues thus generated should be the section’s only means of support. I wouldn’t be the first to wonder why newspapers don’t demand that sports teams and venues support sports sections.”

Spoon Lead Singer Rocks the Book Party Crowd

While we were out partying with the business book bigwigs Monday night, Brian Raftery was throwing a party downtown to celebrate the publication of Don’t Stop Believing, his account of “how karaoke conquered the world and changed my life.” The evening featured live backup music from the Punk Rock/Heavy Metal Karaoke Band, and among those who rose to the occasion was Britt Daniel, the lead singer of Spoon—seen here performing Wire’s “1 2 X U.”

One of Raftery’s friends has posted more photos from the evening.

Memorial Services for John Leonard, Ellen Miller

johnleonard-ellenmiller.jpgThe literary community was saddened last November by the death of essayist John Leonard. A memorial service has been planned for Monday, March 2, at 6:00 PM at Landmark on the Park (160 Central Park West); among those scheduled to join Leonard’s family in remembering his life and work are Toni Morrison, Victor Navasky, and Gloria Steinem.

Meanwhile, many of us are only just know learning of the death of Ellen Miller; the 41-year-old novelist (Like Being Killed) and creative writing teacher died of a heart attack on December 23. Her friends and family will hold a memorial service on Sunday, February 8, at NYU’s Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House (58 West 10th St.) at 4 p.m. Space is limited, and those who wish to attend are encouraged to RSVP with Stephanie Foster at smfostersays [at] yahoo [dot] com.

AvantGuild: This Agent Keeps Pitching After Deals Are Done

regina-brooks-headshot.jpgEarlier this week, mediabistro.com’s “Pitching an Agent” series featured Regina Brooks of the Serendipity Literary Agency, who takes an active role in the marketing and publicity for her clients, including an ongoing relationship with a video production company so all her authors can have book trailers. She also works closely with businesses that will place bulk orders, which can be especially useful since nonfiction authors make up roughly 65 percent of her client base.

ag_logo_medium.gifThis article is one of several mediabistro.com features exclusively available to AvantGuild subscribers. If you’re not a member yet, you can register for $59 a year, and start reading those articles, receive discounts on mediabistro.com seminars and workshops, and get all sorts of other swell bonuses.

Small Presses Lead Digital Push

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Bestselling author Tom Clancy is the latest brand-name author to create digital copies of his work. At the same time, smaller companies like Soft Skull Press, Akashic Books, and Ugly Duckling Presse are all building e-book platforms with scarce resources.

According to Christian Science Monitor, these indie presses have sponsored the “most extensive restructuring efforts” on the digital book front, leading the industry in the race to digitize book lists.

Here’s an excerpt from the article by Matthew Shaer: “[T]he Association of American Publishers noted that e-book business had more than doubled for the month, to $5.1 million. Over the course of the year, e-book sales were up 63.8 percent. It is in these figures that many industry analysts see hope for the publishing industry at large, which is turning slowly — and not without some grumbling — toward mass digitization.”

John Grisham’s Law School Confusion

The Associate book cover.jpgNovelist John Grisham had to revise one hundred pages in his new novel after he discovered that Princeton has no law school.

The bestselling author told Above the Law that his Ivy League setting for The Associate was disrupted when he discovered that his hero couldn’t attend school at Princeton. While a research assistant conducted interviews with New York lawyers as background for the book, Grisham took his manuscript on a geographical tour.

Here’s the excerpt: “Then I went to Cornell, but I flipped open a copy of The Broker and saw that the first characters you meet went to Cornell. I used Harvard for The Firm and I didn’t want to set the law school at Columbia or some place in the city. I had a scene on a train … that I really wanted to keep, so I ended up in New Haven … I was a sick puppy when I realized there was no law school at Princeton.”

To Brand or Not To Brand

Should authors have a brand? The debate has raged for years from conglomerate publishing house boardrooms to poetry dive bars.

Over at Slate’s business magazine Big Money, Jill Priluck takes a look at the state of the branded author. She studies how authors like James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell (featured in the GalleyCat video above) have earned millions with carefully-branded fiction, but wonders if the model could possibly sustain more than a fraction of authors during this recession.

Here’s an excerpt, laying out some smart figures:

“Independent advertiser Verso, which recently launched targeted online advertising, now spends about $2,000 to $3,000 per book on marketing, a fraction of its budget a year ago … In today’s fickle marketplace, the Internet–with blogs, videos, Twitter, and other promotional tools like Amazon’s Author Stores–is the modern-day equivalent to hand-selling.”

Amazon Sales Rise 18 Percent in 4Q

amazon-logo.gifAgainst all odds–beating a publishing recession and a lukewarm gift-buying season–Amazon’s sales climbed 18 percent compared to 2007 in the fourth quarter.

Net sales were up to $6.7 billion for that period, surpassing the $5.67 billion the company earned last year in the same quarter. The biggest jump in sales came in the Worldwide Electronics and Other General Merchandise sales, up to $2.89 billion–growing 31 percent compared to 2007.

The company’s press release also noted that Amazon Kindle digital titles increased to 45,000 at the end of the year–103 of the 112 books on the NY Times bestseller list. The company also boasted of Kindle versions for “8 of the 10 metro areas in the United States.”

Biz Book Community Bonds Over 800-CEO-READ

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As Portfolio publisher Adrian Zackheim (right) began his contribution to an impromptu “This Is Your Life” celebration of 800-CEO-READ founder Jack Covert (left) at the launch party for The 100 Best Business Books of All Time Monday night, he remarked on the breadth of the biz-book subculture that had turned out for the event: “It’s nice to see the extended family all in one room,” he said. Almost the entire staff of 8CR had flown in from Milwaukee, most of the Portfolio team was in the room, and we spotted people from Palgrave Macmillan, FT Press, and other houses, plus various agents and freelance publicists…not to mention Seth Godin, who was not only on the all-time list (for his early book Purple Cow) but was also getting a nod for writing Tribes, which 8CR had dubbed the best business book of 2008.

Although the main theme of Monday night’s party was to celebrate the book’s publication, co-author Todd Sattersten, who recently succeeded Covert as the bookstore’s president, took the opportunity to toast his predecessor’s 25-year tenure, going back to 1984, when the company began as an offshoot of Milwaukee-based Dickens Books. “[Jack] got a table, he got a chair, he got a phone, and he got an empty Rolodex,” recalled Carol Grossmeyer—and she wasn’t even sure at first that the punk-rock loving, noir mystery-reading Covert could pull off selling business books to a nationwide executive readership. And yet 8CR flourished, even though, as Godin joked, “At least once a month when I tell people to order a book from 800-CEO-READ, they ask me, ‘What’s the number?’”

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Afterwards, guests browsed through the piles of books that 8CR had selected as 2008′s best in various business sub-categories, as well as getting Sattersten and Covert to sign their copies of 100 Best. Many in the room were enthusiastic about the ripple effect the book could have, noting that only three of the books it cited were currently out of print. “Not only is Jack going to sell business books for his own company,” Zackheim said, “he’s going to be selling them for all booksellers.”

(photos: Kathrine Berger)

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