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Ron Hogan

GalleyCats (and Other Critters), Get Ready!

Every year around this time, GalleyCat invites publishing industry professionals (including published authors) to send us pictures of your cats, dogs, and other pets—preferably either engaged in holiday cheer or something book-related. (See here for examples from last year’s holiday season.) Be sure to tell us a little something about you and your pet… actually, this would be a perfect opportunity to answer our previous question about publishing’s brightest moments this year, wouldn’t it?

We’ll start things off with senior editor Ron Hogan‘s rag doll, Clo.

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The Public Speaking Circuit in the Digital Age

One of the great things about writing for GalleyCat over the last four years is the opportunities that have come up to speak about the publishing industry at conferences like Tools of Change and BookExpo America, as well as teaching workshops about the online world. So far, I’ve enjoyed my public speaking learning curve, but I’m still well aware of how much room there is for improvement, which is why I was glad to see two new books from Scott Berkun and Cliff Atkinson.

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Scott Berkun was one of the more engaging presenters at last February’s Tools of Change—people were actually ditching the panels they’d originally selected when they read on Twitter how awesome he was doing. And Confessions of a Public Speaker is a lot like that talk: It’s got plenty of meat to it, but it’s also loaded with personality. Berkun draws upon his own best and worst experiences to help readers understand “the science of not boring people,” as he calls it in one chapter, and to work your way through even the most adverse conditions. If nothing else, you’ll learn that even the top public speakers have their flops, but of course there’s a lot more to Confessions than that; I’ve already begun incorporating some of “the little things that pros do” into my own practice.

I mentioned that people found out about Berkun’s TOC presentation through Twitter—that’s an important illustration of what Cliff Atkinson is talking about in The Backchannel. Atkinson looks at how Twitter and other real-time social media tools have affected conference speeches and panels by making it possible for audience members to comment on what’s being said, not just to other attendees but to anybody else in the world who’s following along. After running through the upsides and downsides of that, Atkinson offers some useful advice on how to play to the backchannel. Basically, the argument goes something like this: If you know you’re going to get tweeted, how can you break down the themes of your presentation to their most tweet-friendly, and up the odds that what people say about your presentation is what you’d hoped they’d say? I’m not 100% sold on all the suggestions—the idea of taking “Twitter breaks” in the middle of presentations to answer questions and gauge audience satisfaction is one I’m still grappling with—but Atkinson does a great job of discussing the reality of what Twitter has done to conferences (especially tech-oriented conferences) in the last year or so, and it’s something I’ll be thinking about this week when I’m sitting in the audience at mediabistro.com’s eBook Summit, watching everybody speak.

AvantGuild: Around the World with Kristin Harmel

Last summer, we threw a party for Kristin Harmel to celebrate the publication of Italian for Beginners, her latest novel. Now, in the latest installment of mediabistro.com’s “Book Keeping” series, Harmel discusses the international aspects of her fiction, from how traveling informs her writing to the reactions of readers outside the United States. “The book that seems to have resonated the most in Russia,” she says by way of example, “is The Blond Theory, which is about a woman who feels like men don’t like her because she’s so successful and intelligent. So she feels like she has to dumb herself down to be appealing to men. I get these emails from Russian readers telling me that this book taught them to feel free to be themselves. That’s really gratifying to me to think that something that I wrote at my dining room table in Orlando, Fla., resonated in St. Petersburg, Russia.”

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 $55 a year, and start reading those articles, receive discounts on mediabistro.com seminars and workshops, and get all sorts of other swell bonuses.

How Will We Remember the Publishers Who Delayed eBooks?

Since Simon & Schuster and Hachette Book Group announced their plans to delay digital publication of some or most of their frontlists (with HarperCollins following suit the very next day, publishing insiders and observers have been trying to sort out the long-term consequences—and as the argument about whether Hachette CEO David Young and his peers were going to “preserve the industry,” as he hoped, or add another nail to its coffin continued, we saw somebody compare all the second-guessing by people who’ve never run a publishing company to “telling Mariano Rivera that he should have thrown that last pitch high and inside.”

And we thought: You know, there’s an even better metaphor to invoke here, although we will have to beg the forgiveness of GalleyCat readers who don’t follow baseball.

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Make no mistake about it: This is a critical moment for “New York” book publishing, and a solid eBook strategy is going to be essential for continued success. But by insisting that the hardcover remain the primary object of value, when digital options are ready to flourish, are these Big Publishers creating a moment analogous to former Boston Red Sox manager Grady Little‘s decisions during the last game of the 2003 American League championships to keep Pedro Martinez on the mound at the start of the eighth inning and then again as the Yankees began to eat away at the Sox lead? Despite an excellent track record overall, Little’s legacy in Boston remains clouded by the eventual loss of that game and the failure to reach the World Series, followed shortly thereafter by his departure from the team.

But, you know, as clever as that metaphor feels, the reality is maybe not so simple.

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Cathy’s Book Not Just for Paper Anymore

Remember about three and a half years ago, when Cathy’s Book generated a brief flurry of controversy because its embedded product placements spurred kneejerk protests from anti-commercialists? Since then, the paperback edition has been revised to turn the mentions of Cover Girl products back into generic makeup references, and the book has spawned two sequels… which reminded me that during all that hoopla, we never really got a feel for what the book was about. (Which is a bit surprising in retrospect, as it turns out to have been near-perfectly pitched, in an indirect way, at Team Edward members.)

cathysbook-app.pngWell, now Running Press has converted the first third of Cathy’s Book into a 99-cent iPhone app, where the marginal drawings have been converted to pop-up links, short animated films are used for certain key scenes, and readers can touch the phone numbers and make the calls right away. (An iPod Touch version simulates the phone calls, but can still reach out to relevant websites if there’s a WiFi connection.)

“As a publishing company, we still believe in reading,” Peter Costanzo, the director of online marketing at the Perseus Books Group, told us as he demonstrated the app at a coffee shop recently, “but we’re still trying to reach kids in a way we think they want to be entertained…They’re experiencing the story in a way they never could with this,” he said, tapping a copy of Cathy’s Book lying on the table.

The idea is that this digital version of “what technically is a backlist title” will, along with two planned sequels covering the rest of the Cathy’s Book storyline, spur interest in the full series, which so far includes Cathy’s Key and Cathy’s Ring: a $2.97 multimedia experience aimed at convincing young readers to buy two trade paperbacks list-priced at $9.95 (though discounted at online bookstores). Overall, Costanzo admits, there’s an interesting question to be settled over time: “Are we promoting this as an app or as a book?”

To which we’d raise two of our own. If it’s an app, the challenge then becomes: Apart from compelling content, how do you convert app users to book readers? And if it’s a book: How do you make money on app projects priced at 1/3 the cost of a trade paperback which aren’t simply converting text to a digital format but involve no small degree of intensive labor, beyond hoping users will move on to “real” books afterwards? If you’ve got ideas, we’d love to hear them…

The Most Metal Fantasy Cover of 2010?

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We’ve mentioned a few instances this year where we’ve preferred the British book jacket of a particular title to its American counterpart, but in this case the opposite is true. From the moment we saw the cover to Empire in Black and Gold, the first volume in Adrian Tchaikovsky‘s Shadows of the Apt series, in the Pyr Books catalog a few months back, we were impressed with the heavy-metalness of it all. It wasn’t until last week, when the ARC turned up, that we went online looking for info on Tchaikovsky and found the original British cover, which struck us as awfully generic. Pyr clearly took the win by hiring Jon Sullivan to emphasize the action elements in the series; check out the two covers for Dragonfly Rising (the immediate sequel) for further confirmation. (Though not quite as metal, the US cover for Dragonfly is still quite arresting, and leaves no room for doubt as to whether there is action packed into the story.)

Even Tchaikovsky’s British publisher seems to have caught on; when the fourth book of Shadows, Salute the Dark, comes out early next year in the UK, it will feature Sullivan artwork that adheres to the character-driven visual tone established on the first three covers but still manages to incorporate some dynamism. Tchaikovsky himself has declared it “the best cover yet” in the series, and the SF blog Speculative Horizons agrees: “It’s in keeping with the other covers in the series, yet manages to look completely different at the same time.”

So How’d Your NaNoWriMo Go?

As this year’s National Novel Writing Month reaches its conclusion, we wanted to spotlight some advice that you may find helpful right about now.

“You’re not really done,” observes Justine Larbalestier. “Not even if you managed to finish a whole novel in one month.” (“Though if you did,” she adds, “congrats!”) Now it’s time to start thinking about rewriting… well, maybe in a week or so, after you’ve had a chance to decompress. It’s important to remember that you’re the one who sets the agenda here, not the book. Or, as Maureen Johnson puts it, “the book is your b%^#h.” (Well, she’s writing for an all-ages readership, after all.) That applies to NaNoWriMo, too, she adds—so you didn’t finish your draft tonight? So what? The important thing is you made a conscious decision to start writing, and you wrote, and you can keep writing. “Don’t use the fact that you are currently a little bit behind as an excuse to stop,” Johnson exhorts. “This is your opportunity to finish a book. So finish a book!”

Zondervan Pulls “Kung Fu” Christianity Guide

deadly-viper-artwork.jpgTwo years ago, Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite published a book called Deadly Viper: Character Assassins, “a kung fu inspired book on leadership integrity” that did well enough to attract the attention of Zondervan (the Christian publishing arm of HarperCollins), which released a new edition last month along with a new study guide. But the efforts to raise the book’s profile and engage a larger audience also brought it to the attention of Asian-American evangelicals like Eugene Cho—and though he acknowledged the good intentions of Foster and Wilhite (describing them as “brothers in Christ”), he also observed that the ersatz Asian imagery throughout the book was offensive because it perpetuates stereotypes and caricatures.”

“The reality is that we’re all prone to judging books by its cover,” Cho continued,” and the reality is there are folks who are judging Asians by the cover and we’re tired of fighting these stereotypes and caricatures.” A few days later, Cho and others voiced their concerns directly to the authors and publisher, and commented that “our correspondence with Mike and Jud… only re-affirmed the positive feelings I have had of them and their ministry.” As a result of that dialogue, Zondervan agreed to recall Deadly Vipers, with CEO Moe Girkins apologizing for the offense the book caused while expressing “love and support” for Foster and Wilhite and encouraging them to rework the material into “a better presentation.”

Today, the Deadly Vipers website has been rebranded as the home of “People of the Second Chance.” “In the past few weeks of learning, loss, tears, and experiencing a significant valley in our lives,” Foster and Wilhite write, “we are more certain than ever that God does his best work in brokenness… We have this simple belief that deep inside of all us we are desperately wanting grace, forgiveness, second chances and a fresh start.”

Is Team Edward Enabling Domestic Violence?

bella-edward.jpgFor at least a year now, we’ve been hearing complaints about Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight series and how creepy the relationship between Bella and Edward is—keeping in mind that while Edward looks like a teenager, as a vampire he’s old enough to be Bella’s grandfather. Then we saw a post at science-fiction blog io9 over the weekend, positing that their grand romance, especially as it’s depicted in New Moon, has all the signs of an abusive relationship. Well, fifteen of them anyway, from “Does your partner control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?” to “Does your partner accuse you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships?”

The conversation at io9 (which is where we got the movie image), sparked by the original LiveJournal post, is lively. As one commenter interprets things: “Writing a novel about a moody, exotic, pretty, totally awesome vampire guy who is inexplicably obsessed with some random, average high school girl is practically a licence to print money. But, surprise, it also accurately reflects that the kind of relationship that would develop from her desperation: being taken advantage of by a moody, exotic, pretty, totally awesome abuser.” Other people say it’s just a bunch of books (and movies) for teens, or it’s our modern Romeo & Juliet, so back off. But what do you think?

Holiday Weekend Video Break: “Going West”

You may have seen this video making the rounds—we discovered it through Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and quickly discovered The Rumpus had featured it as well—but those of you who haven’t seen it yet are in for a treat. After watching the short film, produced by the New Zealand Book Council, we wanted to learn more about the author who inspired it, Maurice Gee, and we found a very helpful page on the NZBC website, but we also discovered that almost nothing of Gee’s work seems to be in print in the U.S. at the moment—save for two novels for younger readers, The Fire Raiser (first published in 1986, with an American edition in 2007) and Salt, the first volume in a new fantasy trilogy.

It looks like a trip to the library may be in order, to see if Gee’s novels have been published in the United States and allowed to fall out of print; it does seem odd to us that an author hailed as “[one] of New Zealand’s greatest living artists,” let alone one of its “most significant writers,” should have such a small literary footprint here.

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