Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hearing Books

The UNESCO Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted in Paris on November 16, 1972. By signing the Convention, 187 nations pledged to protect World Heritage Sites and their own national heritage.

Twenty-eight audio books for visually impaired children were released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) office in Beirut and Al-Hadi Foundation for Audio, Visual, and Language and Communication Disorders. The project was part of the Beirut World Book Capital 2009 and consisted of children’s stories registered on CDs and accompanied by sound effects. It is the second of its kind, as last year about 50 similar books were published all over Lebanon.
The representative of UNESCO, Suleiman Suleiman, stressed the importance of book stores in spreading information and added that UNESCO has always been ready to support member states in developing cultural programs. The project was especially important because not only did it provide information to the visually impaired but also helped them get integrated in their society.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Since its soft launch in 4th quarter 2009, inkpop already has more than 10,000 members and nearly 11,000 submissions, including novels, poems, essays, and short stories. The visitors are teens ages 13 and older, from 109 different countries and territories.
Boy, I wish I had this when I was a teen...
I started my first novel in Mrs. Cochran's Novel Writing Club, back in middle school. The only resources we had at our disposal (remember, we were living out in the middle of the desert in Saudi Arabia)  was Strunk & Whites ELEMENTS OF STYLE, a prodigous school library, our teachers and our imagination for ideas. Now look at the resources available to young writers fingertips...

Inkpop, from HarperCollins Publisher's teen publishing unit, is a platform aimed at young readers and writers. It's a a combination of community publishing features, user-generated content, and social networking elements. There are thousands of young writers out there (Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon at fifteen) who now have the opportunity to showcase their work.
The launch of inkpop continues Harper Collins overall digital strategy designed to build and expand its direct-to-consumer business. Inkpop will be the anchor of HarperCollins's ongoing teen strategy, enabling the company to have a continuous dialogue directly with its audience to determine what the community cares about, as well as an unfiltered look at what's in and what's out.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Finding Community

The writing profession is reeking with this loneliness. All our lives we spend in discoursing with ourselves. . . . The loneliest people in the world we writers are. Except that, while we are conversing and laughing with ourselves, we manage to shed our loneliness . . . to scatter it as we go along -  Fred Hobson

When I got serious about writing, that I was going to sit down and complete an entire book, no matter how painful, I realized that I needed, no craved, the company of other writers. I wanted to know how they had scrapped together their determination, got serious and well, written a book. The first thing I did was go to Google – always dependable, honest, and factual. On-line I found an amazing array of resources for writers. In particular I found Verla Kay’s Blue Board, an amazing waterhole for writers at all stages of their careers. It’s a place where people share information, commiserate, talk about publishers, agents, the writing process, good news and bad. There are many sites that offer this sense of community – She Writes, Goodreads, Jacketflap, SCBWI, Redroom and others. The information I’ve learned over the years from other writers has been invaluable – it’s guided me in choosing my agent, researching publishers, understanding contracts and innumerable other things. So if you’re feeling a little lonely, writing away in your corner, jump on the information super highway and find some friends.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Publishing A'mazoning

Kindle Currently has 90% of ebook Market - TBI Research

Amazon is launching a new "70% royalty option" for the Kindle. Under this option, Amazon will pay authors and publishers a royalty of 70% of the list price of Kindle books, which is a far higher per-copy royalty than most authors receive on physical book sales (including the standard Kindle book royalties).

This new plan will encourage more authors to "go direct" to Amazon (or at least force their publishers to sell ebooks at a substantial discount). This, in turn, will increase the pressure on traditional publishers to cut prices on wholesale Kindle books. And that, in turn, will transform the Kindle business from a big money-loser into a very profitable business for Amazon.

The traditional publishing industry feels that cuts in ebook prices will wipe out what little margin the publishers have left, thus preventing publishers from paying authors big advances and, thus result in fewer good books being published. But, as ebook prices drop, unit velocity will increase, leading to higher revenues. So this is where the book industry is headed, whether traditional publishers want it to or not. Amazon's new plan should help shorten the time it takes to get there. The plan should also solidify Amazon's already tremendous dominance of the ebook business.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Publishers with Heart

Just in from Publishers Lunch: Publishers Donate to Haiti
On Friday Random House, Inc. announced a $100,000 corporate contribution to be shared by the American Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund and Haitian health-care provider Partners in Health (led by Paul Farmer, the subject of Tracy Kidder's MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS). The publisher told employees they will match their donations, dollar for dollar up to $1,000, to any tax-qualifying Haitian earthquake relief organization until June 1.
Parent company Bertelsmann has also announced a 100,000-euro donation to children's relief organization Plan International.
In a different type of relief effort, Simon & Schuster's Pimsleur division is providing free downloads of their Haitian Creole language program, in cooperation with major resellers, through March 31, "in an effort to support volunteers aiding the millions of people affected" by the earthquake.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Main Entry: bib•lio•ther•a•py
Pronunciation: \ˌbi-blē-ə-ˈther-ə-pē, -ˈthe-rə-\
Function: noun
Date: 1919
: the use of reading materials for help in solving personal problems or for psychiatric therapy; also : the reading materials so used
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

How do you take a child away from a life disrupted by war, civil disorder or natural disaster? Physically, it may be impossible, but you can transport their mind to another destination, another world filled with adventure, drama, security and hope. The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) sends books to such children – their fund promotes the therapeutic use of books and storytelling in the form of bibliotherapy, and the creation or replacement of collections of selected books that are appropriate to the situation. Their hope is that they not only provide immediate support and help, but also make a long term impact in the communities. IBBY’s goal is to give every child the Right to Become a Reader. Hear Hear.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Global Peace & Civil Rights

The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America - Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967

Martin Luther King Jr. brought visionary change to our country and his extraordinary efforts and sacrifices helped lead us to a day when we see an accomplished, educated and charismatic African-American president elected to the White House.
However, few people remember that Dr. King was in staunch opposition to the war in Vietnam, which was waged in the “national interest,” as are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan today. For him, peace and civil rights went hand in hand. People asked why he was raising the ire of the US goverment by oppossing the Vietnam war and how that could derail his efforts for civil rights -- but for him it was a moral obligaion to fight injustive everywhere he saw it. In his own words, spoken April 4, 1967 "Beyond Vietnam: A time to Break Silence".
"Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help Haiti

On October 17, 1989, I was frantically calling San Francisco from London. For twenty-four hours I dialed my parent's number and couldn't get through -- The Loma Prieta earthquake, 6.9 on the richter scale, had hit, and telephone lines were down, or jammed. Those hours were distressing beyond belief -- and now, as I watch the destruction in Haiti I can empathize, at least a tiny bit. San Francisco was built to withstand the next 'great one'. Haiti, poor and improvished, is facing the full brunt of the catastrophe. I'm sure you've seen calls for help, so let me chime in. Help if you can!
Partners in Health
In an urgent email from Port-au-Prince, Louise Ivers, Partners in Health clinical director in Haiti, appealed for assistance from her colleagues in the Central Plateau: "Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS... Temporary field hospital by us at UNDP needs supplies, pain meds, bandages. Please help us."
Founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, this nonprofit health delivery program has served Haiti’s poor since 1987. To donate for earthquake relief, go to:
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
Doctors Without Borders was working in Haiti prior to the quake with a staff of 800. Here is a report on January 13, 2009 with a link to their donation page.
Haiti Action
Haiti’s grassroots movement – including labor unions, women’s groups, educators, human rights activists, support committees for prisoners and agricultural cooperatives – will attempt to funnel needed aid to those most hit by the earthquake. Grassroots organizers are doing what they can with the most limited of funds to make a difference.
Grassroots International
Long time Food First partner Grassroots International has a long history of working with organizations on the ground in Haiti. Grassroots has committed to the extent possible to, “provide cash to our partners to make local purchases of the items they most need and to obtain food from farmers not hit by the disaster.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Survival of the Fittest

It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change – Charles Darwin

When talking of changing publishing paradigms I mentioned independent booksellers and how the rapidly morphing publishing industry is affecting their business. I ran across a very interesting article, Evolve or Die: Why Reinvent Independent Bookstores? by Praveen Madan and Christin Evans, proprietors of the Booksmith in San Francisco. He relays some sobering statistics:
In 1993, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) had 4,700 member stores. By the start of 2009, the number had fallen to 1,600. We are seeing an average of about 200 independent bookstores close every year.
In order to compete in the new age of publishing, Indies need to evolve, as Darwin states, to survive with the times, or go extinct. Indies must struggle with key questions as they look to the future -- What business are they in? Who are their customers? and What are they competing for? Many indies are stuck in a time warp – quaint, dusty, technologically stagnant shops that haven’t changed much in decades (many, sadly to say have not utilized the internet wisely). While Indies have become frozen in time, consumer tastes, market realities and the competition have been marching on at warp speed.
Praveen and Christin are hopeful though – they feel that this is this is a time of great opportunity for Indies, in five key areas: Building literary communities and providing author services for writers; Enhancing the browsing experience of customers; Making print on demand books available; and by Tapping into new markets since only ½ of adult Americans read, that’s half the market left! So for Indies, Carpe Diem – do or die!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Changing Publishing Paradigms

U.S. publishers had net sales of $24.3 billion in 2008, down from $25.0 billion in 2007, representing a 2.8% decrease. Association of American Publishers (AAP)

I tend to keep my “other” work life separate from my writing life, but increasingly, I’ve find the two coming together. I live and work in Silicon Valley, surrounded by technology. During the day I look at patents, inventions and technologies covering a huge array of industries – Increasingly I’m watching how technological innovation is bumping up against traditional publishing.
Ten years ago, there was no Google, no iPod, Kindle, Fastpencil or Smashwords -- Amazon had only been in business for 5 years. A lot has happened in the last decade that is compelling the publishing industry to take a look at traditional ways of doing business in an increasingly digital age.
Technology today, more than ever, has a disruptive impact on publishing. The Internet, print-on-demand and ebooks are some drivers for change. They impact multiple points of the publishing value chain—from the way books are published (authors can go direct to the reader), distributed (electronic marketplaces), sold (e-tailers) and read (ebooks). This is an interesting trend where technology is enabling increased number of books, but fewer bookstores – Independent Booksellers are in trouble, as are the big guys (Borders closing UK stores)
There have been massive lay-offs at major publishing houses, including my own, Simon & Schuster. S&S recently reduced its sales force, and I was sad to see our field rep in California, to Independent Booksellers, let go. Even book reviewers are facing extinction, such as Kirkus, which nearly hit the chopping block. But this is the world we live in – change is needed for survival. Many have prophesized the end of the printed book, but I don’t know – I own a kindle, but I still love to pick up a paper book, crack it open and inhale the fresh paper smell. Let’s see what the future brings…

Thursday, January 7, 2010

More Debuts

Three other debut novels are coming out this week from fellow 2k10 authors.

ISLAND STING, by Bonnie J. Doerr
Kenzie didn't realize her first summer in the Florida Keys would be murder.Cute guys, awesome boats, endangered species, gun-toting thugs. Angelo's wild world rocked hers.

THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer R. Hubbard
After his secret girlfriend’s death, seventeen-year-old Colt finds the notebook she left behind, but he is unprepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship.

LEAVING GEE'S BEND by Irene Latham
Leaving Gee’s Bend is historical midgrade in which a ten year old girl during the Great Depression sets out to save her sick mother and records her adventures in quilt pieces.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kirkus LIVES (well, maybe)

Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it -- W. Somerset Maugham

Kirkus's death may have been greatly exaggerated as the latest news comes in...

At the end of 2009 it was annouced that Nielsen Business Media would shut down the venerable Kirkus Reviews. Just a few days into 2010, the news  is much more positive -- Kirkus Reviews will continue publication for the foreseeable future.
According to an internal memo obtained by DailyFinance, Kirkus managing editor Eric Liebetrau says "there is a buyer in the works" and until the deal closes by the end of this month, the magazine will "resume business as usual under the Nielsen umbrella."
So let's see if the reviewers at Kirkus keeps authors awake at night...!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Fellow debut author Kitty Keswick's book, FREAKSVILLE, comes out this week. 

Here's a little blurb about the book:

A group of teenagers, trapped in a haunted theater on the night of a full moon, find out that ghosts are the least of their worries…
Every woman in the Maxwell family has the gift of sight. A talent sixteen-year-old Kasey would gladly give up. All she wants is a nrmal life. Shopping and talking about boys with her best friend and long-time sidekick, Gillie Godshall, consume her days. Until Kasey has a vision about Josh Johnstone, the foreign exchange student from England. The vision leads her into new realms, a lead in a play, a haunted theater ... and into the arms of Josh. Yet, both Kasey and Josh have secrets lurking in dark corners. Can Kasey’s new romance survive FREAKSVILLE?

If you enjoy awesome paranormal books, check it out!