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NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller Had Two Book Contracts, Finished Neither

If I Had Something to Say

Writing a book is not the same as writing for a daily paper. It exercises completely different “muscles” in your brain (we hear) and takes a lot longer.

That may be why Bill Keller is still paying back an advance to Simon and Schuster for a book he never completed.

He never completed two, actually, he says in Sunday’s magazine.

In 2002, the NYT published an essay by writer Joseph Epstein that cited a survey saying 81 percent of Americans “feel they have a book in them.” Don’t believe it, Epstein said. “Why should so many people think they can write a book, especially at a time when so many people who actually do write books turn out not really to have a book in them — or at least not one that many other people can be made to care about?”

That apparently includes Keller. Editors are only human, after all.

The Lit Agent Of The Future Is Also A Self-Publishing Consultant

Some agents are turning to consulting, acting as expert advisors for writers who might not have been able to get a traditional book deal (and it seems like only celebrities and people with hilarious tumblrs are getting book deals these days).

PBS Mediashift talked to three agents who are making the transition:

Ted Weinstein, an agent who reps mostly nonfiction, said that self-publishing “has added one more serious option for my clients when we are looking at all their possible opportunities.” He said that “big publishing” has never been set up to publish anything but books, but authors have always had to turn supplemental material into articles (to promote the book), create worksheets (to promote the book), etc…self-publishing allows all that stuff to be “published” along with the book.

Laurie McLean is “incorporating self-publishing into every one of my clients’ career plans for backlist titles, experimental fiction, shorter works, and more,” and helps her clients learn to do their own social media and marketing.

Laura Rennert is an agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and she’s started a program where the agency will actually act as the publisher. They handle formatting, conversion, cover design, jacket copy, editing and proofreading. Unlike a self-publishing company, the agency doesn’t charge fees other than the 15 percent commission after recouping costs.

Penguin CEO Sees Bright Future For Publishing

And thus presumably a bright future for all who work in it.

In a wide-ranging interview in today’s Wall Street Journal, Penguin CEO John Makinson discusses books versus Kindles and why they both have a place in the market.

“I looked the other day into the sales of public-domain classics in 2009, when all those books were available for free. What I found was that our sales had risen by 30% that year. The reason is that we were starting to sell hardcover editions—more expensive editions—that people were prepared to pay for. There will always be a market for physical books, just as I think there will always be bookstores,” he said.

Interestingly, Makinson says that Penguin should be selling some books digitally at the $2 price point, which would seem to be a direct competitor to self-publishers like Amanda Hocking (who has since signed a deal with a traditional publisher). “This is a new market that can’t exist economically in print. You can’t manufacture, ship and store a book at those prices. But we as publishers probably need to participate.

“We’ll look at new content that maybe we can popularize in different ways. We’ll also look at our backlist. Maybe there are customers for westerns at $1.99. What we need to be really careful of is ensuring that this new market doesn’t compromise the sales of Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwell and Ken Follett.”

Okay, so unless your name is Ken Follett, your job is probably secure. And if your name is Ken Follett, you’re still probably fine.

A Slightly Biased Review Of ‘Be Your Own Best Publicist’

Confession: we’re biased.

It might be because one of the coauthors of this new book, ‘Be Your Own Best Publicist,’ Jessica Kleiman of Hearst, offered to send this book as a review copy back in 2010. (The other co-author is Meryl Weinsaft Cooper, managing director of the home and lifestyle division at DeVries Public Relations.) Since the book was about how the average working stiff can use PR techniques to improve his career, we were intrigued.

That copy never arrived.

Follow-up e-mails months later (“Hey, still interested in reviewing your book….um…hello???”) received no reply.*

Finally we were contacted by another blogger who had a copy she didn’t want. Did we want it? By this time, perhaps not, but whatever, we’ll take a look at it.

So that is why we’re a little biased here. Perhaps a publicist that doesn’t actually send review copies when requested is not really the best publicist. (On the other hand, we’re also feeling like we owe this book something after trying so hard to get it, so we’re biased both against and for it.)


The book is a breezy easy read that contains little new information (there are chapters on dressing for interviews–make sure your shoes are polished and you’re not wearing distracting jewelry–yawn!) yet is a nice pocket-sized (almost) summary of the same stuff bigger career guides will tell you in more words.

Read more

A Slightly Biased Review of ‘Resumes For Dummies, 6th Edition’

Why are we biased against this book? Because we are not, apparently, the right demographic.

‘Dummies’ author Joyce Lain Kennedy (also author of the nation’s first syndicated career column ‘Careers Now’) is not a technophobe, as far as we know. But judging from her Twitter account she also is clearly not a technophile.

Resumes For Dummies, even in the new updated 6th edition (Wiley, $16.99), shows it.

First, the good. About 75 pages here are dedicated just to examples of resumes from people in all sorts of industries, including a number of “resume makeovers” that show great before-and-after examples of how to refresh a tired CV. If you haven’t written a resume in a few years (or if you’re a student who hasn’t written one ever), these, and the chapters that precede them, will be indispensable.

The easy trick to creating a custom resume for every job application (just make a “master” resume that’s about five pages too long and trim what you don’t need) is pretty clever for those who haven’t heard it before.

We’ll say it again: we’re fans of a lot of this book.

That being said, the sections on social media and mobile job applications are bewildering. Some sentences are bizarre but parseable: “After the internet caught job-search fire in the 1990s–instantly whisking resumes to and fro–little new technology changed the picture until the social Web groundswell burst upon us in the mid-2000s.”

Some literally do not make any sense:
“You can protect your identity in its purest Web form by buying a domain for your name –”

Some sections are not only nonsensical, they actually contain bad advice, like the sidebar explaining how HTML5 will violate the privacy of everybody on the internet. Worse, there’s the section where Kennedy advises jobseekers to send a short synopsis of their qualifications when applying for a job via a mobile app, because smartphone screens are too small to hold their full resumes.

We’ll let that one sink in for a second.

Does Kennedy not have a good editor?

CONCLUSION: Buy this book for the resume examples and other evergreen content. Don’t expect to get a technology crash course.

But you don’t have to take our word for it! Check out three sample chapters at the For Dummies store.

FTC Disclosure: Yeah, Wiley sent us a copy of this book to review gratis. We’re pretty sure the free-ness didn’t cause us to pull punches, but you decide.

E-Books Could Prove New Revenue Stream For Times Journalists?

Joe Pompeo at Yahoo reports on media outlets’ forays into e-book publishing.

It’s interesting stuff: the New York Times released an ebook early this year compiling mostly previously-published work from 49 Times journalists on WikiLeaks; the book’s sales didn’t reach Amanda Hocking levels but it’s done well enough that the Times has put out a paperback edition.

The paper is already “actively thinking about its next ebook” so the ROI must be pretty decent.

Time‘s $7 ebook on the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill, adapted and expanded from an article that ran in the magazine, reached 400 on the Kindle bestseller list, and Foreign Policy sold 1,000 copies of a book on the Middle East within the first week of its launch at $5 a pop. “This is going to be a terrific growth area,” editor Susan Glasser told Pompeo.

Well, go media organizations.

E-Publishing Bingo

Sick of hearing the arguments for e-publishing? Keep score with the Electronic Publishing Bingo Card by John Scalzi (himself an author no stranger to electronic publishing).

Regardless what side of the debate you fall on, it’s a pretty great card.

‘Tiger In The Kitchen,’ From Laid-Off WSJ Reporter, Out Today

In 2009, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan lost her job as a fashion writer at the Wall Street Journal. But a week later, she’d signed with Hyperion to write a food memoir.

Joe Grimm spoke to Tan about what’s happened between then and now.

Apparently, a lot. Not just the researching and writing of the book, but building her platform:

“‘I carried a notebook with me whenever I went into the kitchen or whenever my family was telling stories. Everyone has a different version of events.’ She used a camera and audio recorder to take notes.

“As she reported and wrote, Tan found material that she knew would not make the book. She poured that into her blog. The writing there already has helped her land a magazine piece with Food & Wine. She does a weekly piece now for The Wall Street Journal and will have a piece about her book this week in Newsweek.”

Another tidbit: She wrote the original proposal–all 11,000 words of it–in a month when she realized her job at the WSJ was in jeopardy. A month!

Now she’ll be doing travel, food, and fashion writing and seeing where her new status as author takes her.

The book is officially out today.

Are You A Moral Author? HarperCollins Hopes So

A new clause has been appearing in book contracts being sent out by HarperCollins to authors, reports eReads. It gives the publisher the right to end a contract with an author if “Author’s conduct evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals, or if Author commits a crime or any other act that will tend to bring Author into serious contempt, and such behavior would materially damage the Work’s reputation or sales.”

In other words, Harper can cancel an author’s contract (and require her to repay her advance) if she is…immoral?

EReads explains: “Does this mean that if you covet your neighbor’s wife, Harper could cancel your contract? Probably not…Where the morals clause is more likely to come into play is when your sin damages Harper’s ability to sell your book. [Brooklyn attorney F. Robert] Stein puts it this way: “I strongly suspect that HarperCollins could care less about their authors’ morals…unless and until a moral indiscretion threatens to reduce the value of the author’s book. Imagine if former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer had, during his term in office, contracted with HarperCollins to write a book entitled I Choose to Be Purer Than Caesar’s Wife. Once Spitzer’s dalliances with multiple prostitutes became public, the potential audience for that book would likely have dropped precipitously, and HarperCollins’ ability to recoup its advance would have been seriously compromised.”

As many commenters have pointed out, “public conventions and morals” is a slippery slope. Who defines the term? It seems like a fairly clear-cut example of a company going too far.

Read the actual contract language at the original post.

No Dummies Here: Wiley Posts Modest Growth

John Wiley and Sons posted a growth in revenue of 1 percent and a nice 22 percent boost in profit for the second quarter of fiscal year 2011, the company reported today.

Wiley publishes a number of scientific and technical textbooks and journals but is perhaps best known in the lay world as publisher behind the “For Dummies” series.

Textbooks and scientific/technical journals offset a poor quarter for the company’s professional/trade division.

President/CEO William J. Pesce added that e-book sales for the past six months in the professional division more than doubled, bringing in $10 million.

While sales of consumer books were flat or down, Wiley released an “enhanced” e-book in the iTunes store in October. A photography book that also contains videos and interactive features, “Lights, Camera, Capture” went on to become the top-grossing app in photography and the 29th-top app overall.