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Archives: October 2009

Book Stock Watch: Barnes & Noble Boost

barnes-noble-logo.jpgIn bookselling news, eWeek analyzed five ways Barnes & Noble (BKS) could beat (AMZN) at the e-reader business. Here’s a sample: “the right leveraging of its retail space could give Barnes & Noble a broad venue through which to push its product–particularly if they allow features such as in-store Wi-Fi browsing of text. Unless signs a deal with a big-box store such as Best Buy, it’s restricted to online.”

GalleyCat has been tracking the stock performance of the major companies that influence the bookselling business. We created this chart with eight publicly-traded publishing stocks hand-picked by our readers–including company name, symbol, current stock price, and price increase or decrease at week’s close.

-Name- -Symbol- -Last price- -Change-
The McGraw-Hill Co. MHP 28.78 -1.31
Books-A-Million, Inc. BAMM 8.66 -1.18
Borders Group, Inc. BGP 1.94 -0.25, Inc. AMZN 118.81 -3.77
Barnes & Noble, Inc. BKS 16.61 -0.18
Wiley John & Sons Inc. JW.A 35.22 -0.41
Scholastic Corporation SCHL 24.88 -1.13
News Corporation NWS 13.6 -0.44
Google Inc. GOOG 536.12 -14.93
Apple Inc. AAPL 188.5 -7.85
Sony Corporation SNE 29.39 -1.15

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Advice for Young Poets

“Think about the whole of things, as opposed to thinking about right now or about how much there is to eat at the moment or what the problem is necessarily today,” said poet Jericho Brown when asked to give advice to young poets.

Brown was one of the ten writers honored at the 25th annual Whiting Writers’ Awards this week. GalleyCat prowled the aisles of the 2009 Whiting Awards, interviewing a number of the winners about their writing lives, the recession, and the future of literature. The ten recipients each took home a $50,000 award for their literary efforts.

Here’s more about the author, from his website: “Brown worked as the speechwriter for the Mayor of New Orleans before receiving his PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston. He also holds an MFA from the University of New Orleans and a BA from Dillard University.”

Mark Sanford Celebrates Ayn Rand

GovernorSanford- OfficialPortrait.jpgIn the last week, literature met politics in two national publications–with some interesting results.

After losing his own book deal, South Carolinia Governor Mark Sanford has turned to literary criticism–singing the praises of novelist Ayn Rand in a Newsweek essay. Here’s a sample: “I still believe firmly that her books deserve attention, and in that regard, Anne Heller‘s Ayn Rand and the World She Made provides important and meaningful insight into the evolution of Rand’s world view. “The Fountainhead” is a stunning evocation of the individual and what he can achieve when unhindered by government or society.”

If that wasn’t enough political literary criticism, The Daily Beast ran a series of video interviews with novelist, Philip Roth. The interview followed the best practices for authorial web videos: unexpected questions, simple editing, and broken into easily-watchable clips. Here’s a quote from “It’s a good book. “Dreams of my Father” is a good book. I read it with great interest, in part because it was written by this guy who was running for President. I found it well-done, very persuasive, and memorable too.” (Via Mediaite)

How to Find the Best Literary Twitter Chat

twitter-logo-large.jpgEvery week editors, writers, readers, and publishers engage in sprawling literary discussions on Twitter. All the microbloggers in the audience should join their local Twitter chat.

Highspot created a handy-dandy list of some popular literary Twitter chats to help you find a chat. The list included the following hashtags, follow the links to read posts:#editorchat, #followreader, #kidlitchat, #litchat, #platformchat, and #writechat.

We’re sure GalleyCat readers can remind us of more, add your favorites in the comments. In the meantime, here’s some good advice about following literary chats, from the article: “Use the Twitter search page and enter the chat’s hashtag. This will pull up all the tweets for that chat. Set up a new column in TweetDeck using the chat’s hashtag as a search term. Again, this will pull up all the tweets for that chat. Use an app such as TweetChat.”

Writing Contest: One Object, Six Words

balllighter2.jpgHow many words do you need to tell a story about an inanimate object? Smith magazine has teamed up with Significant Objects for an interesting contest–asking writers to compose a six-word story about that photograph.

Here are the details:”Can you create Significance for this Object in just six words? The winning response will be published on the Significant Objects site, and more to the point, on its eBay store. Proceeds from that auction go to the author of the winning submission.”

Ernest Hemingway created the first six-word story about an inanimate object as well, famously writing a tragedy with two simple sentences: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The Smith magazine contest ends on Friday, November 6, at 8 pm EST–submit your entry today…

How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal

mollieglick23.jpgToo many writers have a great nonfiction book idea but don’t know how to pitch the book to an agent. A special one-day-only sale at can help you write that pitch and meet an agent.

Today (October 30) only, you can get 30 percent off all multi-week courses when you sign up using promo code SAVE30 while submitting payment. You can use that discount to get book pitching ideas straight from an agent. The Nonfiction Book Proposal class is held in New York, starting November 5. This course is taught by Mollie Glick (pictured) from Foundry Literary + Media.

If your work or life schedule won’t permit classroom visits, will also offer a Nonfiction Book Proposal online, starting November 18. Here’s more about Glick’s course: There is a basic formula for nonfiction book proposals and when broken down into parts, this formula can be easy to learn. By workshop’s end, you’ll be armed with a fully realized proposal that you can take to agents and start selling your book.”

Fourth Story: Alternative Reality Soap Operas for Teen Readers


(Fourth Story Media CEO Lisa Holton looks on as creative development and marketing manager Ariel Aberg-Riger browses the Amanda Project website.)

“I was thinking more and more about how we publish books and how we reach our audiences,” Lisa Holton told us as we sat at the work table Fourth Story Media shares with Cookstr in their South Street offices, “and about how young people incorporate technology into their lives. How do we develop traditional book publishing but marry it to various online and digital media in a way that makes sense to readers?” Last summer, after leaving her position as Scholastic‘s president of trade publishing, Holton launched Fourth Story as an incubator for the multi-platform stories she had in mind for young readers.

The first venture—The Amanda Project—is now in play, as HarperTeen has published the first in a projected eight-volume series. The initial story was developed by Melissa Kantor, whom Holton had first published back at Hyperion, with individual volumes assigned to different authors. At a website (developed in collaboration with Happy Cog Studios), readers who’ve gotten sucked into the story of three high school classmates, who weren’t friends to start with, banding together to figure out what happened to the one girl they had in common, can create online personae for themselves and add new perspectives to the weekly mini-puzzles supplementing the narrative in the print volumes. (“They’ve immersed themselves way more deeply than we thought they would,” Aberg-Riger confessed; at one point, putting the clues in one puzzle together, the teen players began to organize a trip to Paris—sending the Fourth Story office into a frenzy before they realized the girls were just plotting out their characters’ travel plans.) The first four books will tell one story arc which, combined with the revelations gradually unfolding online, will set up a second story arc for the back half.

The effect, we commented to Holton, was like a participatory soap opera, or a massive Dungeons & Dragons campaign with one dungeonmaster and hundreds of players; she brought up the classic text-based puzzle games Infocom created for home computer owners in the 1980s, which set us both on a nostalgia kick for their adaptation of The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, one of the truly great interactive fictions. (Interestingly, that was the second time this month we’d found ourselves in that conversation!)

“A lot of adults had a really hard time grasping this,” Holton says of the way the books and the website link together into one overarching immersive narrative, “but I would explain it to a 13-year-old girl and ” (she snaps! her fingers) “she’d get it in 30 seconds. In fact, beta users used to tell us it took them a long time to figure the website out, and it would turn out ‘a long time’ was five minutes.” Inspired by the initial success of The Amanda Project, Fourth Story is already preparing another series, a science-fiction-themed narrative aimed at young male readers. “In some ways, this is radically different than what I’d been doing for the last 20 years,” Holton reflects, “but the basics are still the same… What’s the story? And how do you think readers will be interested by it?”

Self-Publishing Success Makes Big Publishing Splash

Earlier this year, we told you about Notes Left Behind, a family’s self-published account of their daughter’s struggle with brain cancer, and the inspiration she continued to give them after her death, that achieved great success after an appearance on Good Morning America, which led to a significant deal with William Morrow just days later. The new edition of the book—which includes photographs of Elena Desserich and her family, along with some of the notes that she’d carefully hidden around the house for them to discover once she was gone, and the family did an interview Wednesday morning with the Today show…

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Wednesday was like “a one-day Cinderella story,” HarperCollins creative director Lisa Sharkey told us during a phone call yesterday afternoon; that eight-minute segment on Today led to an appearance on the AOL home page and “most searched” status at Yahoo! later in the day. “We’ve always been very big cheerleaders for the book, the family, and the cause,” she added, noting that proceeds from the book’s sale go to a foundation the Desserich family established to fund research into a cure for the pediatric brain cancer that took Elena’s life. “We really hope that it takes off as a book for parents the way that The Last Lecture did for adult readers.” And, she predicts, that desired uptick is likely to be spurred by the book’s arrival in actual bookstores this week, once browsers are able to see for themselves the care with which Morrow designed their edition.

Some European Publishers Avoid Pricing Battles

wmlogo.gifAs American stores battle to have the lowest price for new books, some European publishers are, for better or for worse, exempt from fighting these pricing squabbles.

A few weeks ago, Walmart (WMT) slashed book prices online, reducing the “10 pre-selling books on its website” to $10 apiece–sweetening the deal with free shipping. This move touched off a book discounting war in between (AMZN), Walmart, and finally, Target (TGT). According to the Wall Street Journal, many countries in Europe are protected from these price wars through fixed price system–illustrating how stores in France and Germany must sell books at the publisher’s price point.

Here’s more from the article, outlining the scope of two different countries: “The system protects independent booksellers and smaller publishers from giant rivals that could discount their way to more market share. Along with some 7,000 bookshops, nearly 14,000 German publishers remain in business.Together, German companies published more than 96,000 new titles last year. In the nearly four-times-as-large U.S., 275,000 titles were published.” (Via Publishers Weekly)

AvantGuild: Memoir Isn’t Just Writing About Yourself

Walter Kirn gives members the inside story on expanding an essay he wrote for The Atlantic in Lost in the Meritocracy, a memoir of his “undereducation of an overachiever,” in the latest installment of the “Hey, How’d You…?” series. “After I wrote the essay, I had a sizable response in the letters of personal outpourings,” he recalls. “Everyone, it seemed, had been less happy than they were supposed to be and less well educated than they were pretending to be.” So he set out to write something bigger, but realized that all those experiences he had weren’t enough in and of themselves: “You think when you sit down to write a memoir that you have a story to tell because you have yourself and what happened to you, but that doesn’t make a character in a story… You can’t just record a sequence of events and have a narrative,” he explains. “The conventions of storytelling are even more important when you’re telling a real story than when you’re telling a made-up one.”

ag_logo_medium.gifThis article is one of several features exclusively available to AvantGuild subscribers. If you’re not a member yet, you can register for $55 a year, and start reading those articles, receive discounts on seminars and workshops, and get all sorts of other swell bonuses.