Monday, December 13, 2010

Google eBooks

Google eBooks is all about choice, so you can use just about any device you own to read any book, anywhere.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Books for Africa

Books for Africa is the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent. 
When it began, in 1988, Books for Africa had a simple name and a simple mission: to collect, sort, ship, and distribute books to children in Africa. The goal was to end the book famine in the continent. Since its inception, Books for Africa has shipped more than 23 million books to 45 countries across Africa. In 2009, they shipped approximately 1.6 million books to 20 African countries. 

To add to that phenomenal number, children's book publisher Capstone, donated $5 million worth of books to the effort. Nearly 300,000 overstock books have been shipped from the publisher's warehouse in Mankato, MN, to the Books for Africa offices in St. Paul, MN. The books are now being sorted and packaged for shipment to Africa. It is the largest donation ever received, and will supply hundreds of school libraries across Africa, helping to increase levels of education and literacy across the continent. In 2009, the publisher donated more than 37,000 books to the organization.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Diamond in the Slush

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS was released on July 21, 2007, and sold 11 million copies on the first day of its release, breaking Rowling's earlier records for the fastest selling book of all time.
The Deathly Hallows, Part One, hit the movie theaters as of midnight last night. As I plan my night out to see it, I can't help but remember that J.K. Rowling had to deal with a lot of rejection before Alice came into her life. Who is Alice? She was Bloomsbury Publishing's chief-executive, Nigel Newton, eight-year-old daughter, who read the manuscript and convinced her father of its brilliance.It was Alice who saw the diamond in the slush pile, which led her father to eventually acquire the book, sending J.K. Rowling £2,500. Not a bad investment since the Potter series went on to sell 400 million copies.

Such gems are often lost in slush piles and most writers slog through to find their route to publication. When Stephen King submitted his first book he was told: "We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell." His novel CARRIE went on to sell more than one million copies and established his career. George Orwell's ANIMAL FARM was rejected as a cute kids' fairy tale and was told by an publisher that "It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.'' James Joyce's collection of short stories Dubliners was turned down by 22 publishers before it was published by Grant Richards. THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK was dismissed when a publisher noted: "The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift the book above the curiosity level.'' When William Golding tried to publish LORD OF THE FLIES, a reader from Faber & Faber famously branded it as "an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull".

Many of today's best known authors have had to persevere in order to get to where they are today. I'm sad to see Harry Potter coming to its end, but am hopeful other diamonds will be pulled out the slush for our enjoyment!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

One Billion and Counting...

In 1993 Zahur Klemath Zapata developed the first software to read digital books. Digital Book v.1 and the first digital book is published ON MURDER CONSIDERED AS ONE OF THE FINE ARTS, by Thomas De Quincey

The latest report out by Forrester Research predicts that ebook sales will reach$966 million in 2010 and that by 2011, the amount will be $1 billion. In 2009, ebook sales were $169.5 million, a small portion of the $35Billion publishing industry. Forrester reports that as people get the hang of reading ebooks, they shift their book-buying from hardcover or paperback to ebooks.

James McQuivey of Forrester states that "the average eBook reader already consumes 41% of books in digital form." Those who've taken the plunge and gotten a Kindle or other ereader have an even higher percentage: 2 out of 3 books they read are ebooks. Amazon illustrated this in their announcement that in its spring quarter it sold 143 for every 100 hardcover books. Forrester found that only 7% of online adults who read books read ebooks, highlighting that there is room for growth.

The question for publishing is whether ebook sales will simply cannibalize current hardcover and paperback sales, or whether there might be a windfall of converting formats.  If people who have the paperback edition of "Twilight" buy it again as an ebook, publishing will profit. But if they skip it, and instead choose to buy Stephenie Meyer's next novel as an ebook instead of getting the hardcover, the bottom line shrinks and that billion looks less promising...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Adults Who Love Kids Books

 In 1919, the Macmillan Publishing Company hired the first children's book editor in the United States.
Martha Parravano and Roger Sutton of Horn Book Magazine have released a wonderful new resource: A FAMILY OF READERS: THE BOOK LOVER'S GUIDE TO CHILDREN'S AND YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE. The books is filled with essays and reviews on multiple genres of books, which is separated into four sections;
1. Reading to Them - Choosing and sharing board books and picture books with babies and very young children.

2. Reading With Them - Launching the new reader with easy readers and chapter books
3. Reading on Their Own - Exploring what children read — and how they read — by genre and gender.Respecting the reading privacy of the young adult.
4. Leaving Them Alone - Respecting the reading privacy of the young adult.
From MOTHER GOOSE and ELMO to THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, there is a wide range of books for all types of readers. It's an amazing resource for adults to share their favorite books and love of reading to the children in their lives.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On Line Writing Groups

How many screenwriters does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Ten.
1st draft. Hero changes light bulb.
2nd draft. Villain changes light bulb.
3rd draft. Hero stops villain from changing light bulb. Villain falls to death.
4th draft. Lose the light bulb.
5th draft. Light bulb back in. Fluorescent instead of tungsten.
6th draft. Villain breaks bulb, uses it to kill hero's mentor.
7th draft. Fluorescent not working. Back to tungsten.
8th draft. Hero forces villain to eat light bulb.
9th draft. Hero laments loss of light bulb. Doesn't change it.
10th draft. Hero changes light bulb.

I am a big proponent of finding a writers or critique group -- it has a two fold benefit. First, it is key in helping the craft of writing - there is nothing better than having supportive colleagues review your work and provide constructing criticism. Second a writers group also provides a wonderful place to be with other writers who understand, emotionally, the writing process. My own critique group is invaluable -- I credit them with helping me hone my writing skills and getting me to where I am today.Writers groups can meet in the real world, as mine did, or can be virtual as well. I've also worked with writers, exchanging manuscripts via email, and that to can be very helpful.  

Two months ago, a new online writing community, based in the UK, was launched. Called Quillant, its aims, as shared by found Chris is to -

"recreate the classic writing group over the web. It is a different type of site for writers; it is about developing your work-in-progress with like-minded others and working together towards your aims."

"You create a profile in which you state the type of writer you are -– novelist, poet, playwright, 
etc. -– and the genres that you work in. matches you with similar writers and you form a writing group together. You work collaboratively, exchanging feedback on your work line by line.   

I'm all for collaboration, and with technology, perhaps we can do more of it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Old Truths are Todays Truths

St. Francis de Sales is the patron saint of writers. 
Prayer for Writers (taken from Saintly Support: A Prayer for Every Problem)
May the Lord guide me and all those who write for a living. Through your prayers, St. Frances de Sales, I ask for your intercession as I attempt to bring the written word to the world. Let us pray that God takes me in the palm of His hand and inspires my creativity and inspires my success. St. Francis de Sales, you understand the dedication required in this profession. Pray for God to inspire and allow ideas to flow. In His name, let my words reflect my faith for others to read. Amen. 
We writers can be our own worst critic - we worry ad nauseum about our writing style, our characters, our plotting technique (or lack thereof); we wonder what our agent thinks of the current manuscript on his/her desk, we worry about getting that first or subsequent book published... the concerns are endless, especially these days, in tough economic times. Success seems harder and harder to attain, obstacle seem insurmountable -- but that's human nature I guess. Then you think back to the good old days when things seemed easier... or did they? 
Reading an article by Jennie Nash, in the Huffington Post put things in perspective. In her article, The Making of a Novel: 8 Enduring Truths About Publishing, she talks about a book she's been reading, DEAR GENIUS: THE LETTERS OF URSULA NORDTROM, Nordstom being he children's book editor at Harper's in the 50's & 60's, responsible for some of the world's most enduring children's books -- think the LITTLE BEAR books, Maurice Sendak's masterpieces, Louise Fitzhugh's HARRIET THE SPY and many others. In it she sees 8 Truths that were evident then, as they are today:
  1. The creative process takes time. Nordstrom's authors started books and stopped them, came up with ideas and abandoned them, turned one idea into another as they searched for the best stories to tell and the best shape for their stories. There are not overnight successes.
  2. Writers need critics. It's hard to imagine that a book like WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE was ever anything less than perfect, but Nordstrom picked apart all her writers' stories, questioning every word of the story and every line of art. She was ruthless. And it worked.
  3. Deadlines loom. Nordstrom is forever writing her authors to ask, "Where are your pages?"
  4. The sales people matter. Nordstrom travels to Boston and Los Angeles, among other places, to attend sales conferences and pitch the books she's working on. She talks about what illustrations to put in the catalog to capture the sales' people's attention, and how to present the stories in the best light.
  5. The competition is at your heels. We think of today's marketplace as being wildly competitive, but it wasn't so different back in the day. Nordstrom would go to great lengths to prevent her writers or illustrators taking a contract from a competitive house, and she seemed to hate it when a competitive house came out with a book she considered great.
  6. It's good to win awards. Nordstrom had many Newbrry and Caldecott winners, and there was always much rejoicing because awards almost always mean bigger sales. Nordstrom often spoke about wanting to help her writers and illustrators make enough money to stop doing their day jobs.
  7. Books need champions. Nordstrom helped usher a book to publication that included the first-ever homeoerotic scene between teenage boys. (She was a staunch believer that books should never speak down to children -- it's very inspiring.) She wrote several letters to leading psychologists in order to get a quote that would lend the book credibility.
  8. Making books is satisfying work. What comes through Nordstrom letters is, above all, a sense of absolute joy. She obviously loved her work in a very profound way -- and that love is still the only good reason to do it.