Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

04/19/2012

Hey, Mister Pulitzer, What’s Wrong With Fiction This Year ?


Fiction Category Rejected By Pulitzer Prize

For those that haven’t heard, the Pulitzer Prize board said it would not award a Pulitzer in fiction for the first time in 35 years.

Well, how dare they!

The reason why speaks more to the interior mismanagement of the Pulitzer Prize board [read bored :)] than it does to the quality of fiction available on the reader landscape.

Anyway, this post will give a glimpse inside the inner workings of the Pulitzer Prize meanderings.

 of The New York Times has this insight: 

Publishing Is Cranky Over Snub by Pulitzers

One day after the Pulitzer Prize board said it would not award a Pulitzer in fiction for the first time in 35 years, the publishing industry was still seething, with some going as far as offering surrogate winners.

On Tuesday, Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson Books in SoHo, said she would present her own awards to “The Great Night” by Chris Adrian, “We the Animals” by Justin Torres and “Pym” by Mat Johnson.

Publishers Weekly posted a list of books from 2011 that could have been chosen, including Chad Harbach’s “Art of Fielding” and “The Buddha in the Attic” by Julie Otsuka.

On Twitter, Doubleday suggested the Twitterverse choose its own Pulitzer winner (using the hashtag #TwitterPulitzer), immediately prompting nominations like “The Leftovers” by Tom Perrotta and “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Striking a rare note of optimism, publishers of the three fiction finalists said they hoped the books would nevertheless get a boost in a rare year without a winner in the spotlight. “In years past it’s the Pulitzer winner that captures all the attention and all the sales,” said Paul Bogaards, a spokesman for Alfred A. Knopf. “But since this year there was not a winner and there’s much conversation about the finalists, this may be an opportunity and a catalyst for sales.”

The collective shock and sputtering in the publishing industry began on Monday, when the Pulitzer Prize board announced the winners in journalism, letters, drama and music.

Except two categories had no winner: editorial writing and fiction.

Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzers for Columbia University, explained how it happened:

A winner is usually selected in a two-step process in which a three-member fiction jury reviews hundreds of books, settles on three finalists and sends those finalists to the Pulitzer board.

The board then reads the books and meets for two days to determine a winner. A majority is required, and this year the judges could not come up with one.

“Whenever they make a decision, it’s not meant to be a statement about fiction in general,” Mr. Gissler said on Monday. “It’s just a statement that none was able to receive a majority.”

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01/29/2012

Barnes & Noble’s Company Value is $719 million & Amazon’s Value is $88 billion — But …


William J. Lynch Jr., CEO of Barnes & Noble, with a wall full of e-readers at its site in Silicon Valley, where 300 employees are building the company's digital side.

It’s ironic that Barnes & Noble, the bookstore chain that put a lot of indie bookstores out of business (and pissed off many), just may be the new savior of bookstores as we know them from complete annihilation at the hands of the new takeover bully on the block, Amazon!

Read this intrigue by Julie Bosman in The New York Times:

The Bookstore’s Last Stand

IN March 2009, an eternity ago in Silicon Valley, a small team of engineers here was in a big hurry to rethink the future of books. Not the paper-and-ink books that have been around since the days of Gutenberg, the ones that the doomsayers proclaim — with glee or dread — will go the way of vinyl records.

No, the engineers were instead fixated on the forces that are upending the way books are published, sold, bought and read: e-books and e-readers. Working in secret, behind an unmarked door in a former bread bakery, they rushed to build a device that might capture the imagination of readers and maybe even save the book industry.

They had six months to do it.

Running this sprint was, of all companies, Barnes & Noble, the giant that helped put so many independent booksellers out of business and that now finds itself locked in the fight of its life. What its engineers dreamed up was the Nook, a relative e-reader latecomer that has nonetheless become the great e-hope of Barnes & Noble and, in fact, of many in the book business.

Several iterations later, the Nook and, by extension, Barnes & Noble, at times seem the only things standing between traditional book publishers and oblivion.

Inside the great publishing houses — grand names like Macmillan, Penguin and Random House — there is a sense of unease about the long-term fate of Barnes & Noble, the last major bookstore chain standing. First, the megastores squeezed out the small players. (Think of Tom Hanks’s Fox & Sons Books to Meg Ryan’s Shop Around the Corner in the 1998 comedy, “You’ve Got Mail”.) Then the chains themselves were gobbled up or driven under, as consumers turned to the Web. B. Dalton Bookseller and Crown Books are long gone. Borders collapsed last year.

No one expects Barnes & Noble to disappear overnight. The worry is that it might slowly wither as more readers embrace e-books. What if all those store shelves vanished, and Barnes & Noble became little more than a cafe and a digital connection point? Such fears came to the fore in early January, when the company projected that it would lose even more money this year than Wall Street had expected. Its share price promptly tumbled 17 percent that day.

Lurking behind all of this is Amazon.com, the dominant force in books online and the company that sets teeth on edge in publishing. From their perches in Midtown Manhattan, many publishing executives, editors and publicists view Amazon as the enemy — an adversary that, if unchecked, could threaten their industry and their livelihoods.

Like many struggling businesses, book publishers are cutting costs and trimming work forces. Yes, electronic books are booming, sometimes profitably, but not many publishers want e-books to dominate print books. Amazon’s chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, wants to cut out the middleman — that is, traditional publishers — by publishing e-books directly.

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09/19/2011

07/17/2011

Columbia Publishing Course Slow to Respond to Current Realities


I didn't know digital was the coming new wave

Who said the Ivy League colleges are the first with innovation and other learning prowess? A very debatable point, indeed (always has been since their birth, truth be known).

A case in point is illustrated in this article from the New York Times by Julie Bosman

E-Book Revolution Upends a Publishing Course

FOR decades, even after it was renamed and relocated from its original home at Radcliffe, the Columbia Publishing Course seemed unchanging, a genteel summer tradition in the book business, a white-glove six-week course in which ambitious college graduates were educated in the time-honored basics of book editing, sales, cover design and publicity. Not this summer.

With the e-book revolution upending the publishing business, Madeline McIntosh, the president of sales, operations and digital for Random House, stood at the lectern on the opening day in June, projecting a slide depicting the industry as a roller coaster, its occupants frozen in motion at the top of a steep loop.

“You might be wondering if this is the moment where we’re at,” Ms. McIntosh, a tall figure in a slim navy dress, said with a smile, as dozens of students with plastic name tags hanging around their necks watched raptly.

So the summer session began with a focus on “The Digital Future.” Students were schooled in “Reinventing the Reading Experience: From Print to Digital” by Nicholas Callaway, the chairman of a company that produces book apps for children. Managers from Penguin Group USA explained how to master “e-marketing,” and a panel of digital experts talked about short-form electronic publishing — not quite a magazine article, not quite a book — which is so new, the genre doesn’t really have a name.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Carolyn Pittis, the senior vice president of global author services at HarperCollins, told a packed room of students several days into the course. “So it’s very exciting for those of us who spent many years when a lot of things didn’t happen.”

As the students scribbled in notebooks and clicked on laptops, Ms. Pittis recounted some of the biggest developments in the industry so far in 2011. The proliferation of e-readers and the growing digital market share of Barnes & Noble. Amanda Hocking, a formerly self-published author, making a book deal with a traditional publisher. J. K. Rowling’s selling her own “Harry Potter” e-books online. Even the surprise success of “Go the — to Sleep,” a hilariously vulgar children’s book parody that rose to the top of best-seller lists after being widely pirated via e-mail for months.

In the past year, e-books have skyrocketed in popularity, especially in genre fiction like romance and thrillers. For some new releases, the first week has brought more sales of electronic copies than of print copies.

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05/07/2011

The First Ultimate Online Book Site Has Arrived!


Bookish.com will be the ultimate site for all things literaryThree major publishers…Penquin, Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster…have committed to financing a one-stop book marketing and selling site.

The site will be called Bookish.com and will be operational late this summer.

“The site intends to provide information for all things literary: suggestions on what books to buy, reviews of books, excerpts from books and news about authors. Visitors will also be able to buy books directly from the site or from other retailers and write recommendations and reviews for other readers.”…Julie Bosman , NYTimes.

From Julie Bosman:

Publishers Make a Plan: A ‘One Stop’ Book Site

Publishers have spent a lot of time and money building their own company Web sites with fresh information on their books and authors. The trouble is, very few book buyers visit them.

In search of an alternative, three major publishers said on Friday that they would create a new venture, called Bookish.com, which is expected to make its debut late this summer. The site intends to provide information for all things literary: suggestions on what books to buy, reviews of books, excerpts from books and news about authors. Visitors will also be able to buy books directly from the site or from other retailers and write recommendations and reviews for other readers.

The publishers — Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group USA and Hachette Book Group — hope the site will become a catch-all destination for readers in the way that music lovers visit Pitchfork.com for reviews and information. The AOL Huffington Post Media Group will provide advertising sales support and steer traffic to the site through its digital properties.

“There’s a frustration with book consumers that there’s no one-stop shopping when it comes to information about books and authors,” said Carolyn Reidy, the president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster. “We need to try to recreate the discovery of new books that currently happens in the physical environment, but which we don’t believe is currently happening online.”

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12/27/2010

U.S. Publishers Dove Deeper Into Digital in 2010


This year big house publishers have experimented with video ebooks and complex content, digitized their older titles and made their new publications available in both digital and print.

They are accepting and learning to utilize digital e-formats instead of fighting the new trending technology…And, that’s good if they want to adapt, survive and ultimately thrive again!

As a result of this digital acknowledgment, U.S. publishers’ profits are up and looking brighter.

This report by Julie Bosman of the New York Times through the Stateman.com, an Austin, Texas news site:

U.S. publishers expanded digital offerings in 2010

Industry embraces electronic books, sees big jump in sales, but hardcover concerns linger.

The publishing industry used to be afraid of electronic books. In 2010, it embraced them.

Publishers expanded their digital divisions, experimented with video-enhanced e-books, worked on digitizing their older titles and made sure new books were available simultaneously in e-book and hardcover editions.

Now, having laid the tracks for digital growth, they are waiting to see what their efforts will bring in 2011.

“Is it going to be cause for celebration because it takes us to another level and makes books accessible and popular in new ways?” said Anne Messitte, publisher of Vintage/Anchor, a division of Random House. “Or will the story be different?”

E-books now make up 9 to 10 percent of trade-book sales, a rate that grew hugely this year after accounting for less than half that percentage by the end of last year. Publishers are predicting that digital sales will be 50 percent higher or even double in 2011 what they were in 2010.

January could be the biggest month ever for e-book sales, as possibly hundreds of thousands of people download books on the e-readers that they receive as Christmas gifts.

The anticipation of that jump in sales, and a feeling that the recession might have loosened its grip, has dissipated some of the death-of-print malaise that has lingered in the publishing industry for years — and helped soften the blow of a significant drop in hardcover sales this year.

“There’s definitely less doom and gloom,” said Peter Ginna, publisher and editorial director for Bloomsbury Press. “Most of us publishers have seen big gains from electronic books this year. We’ve seen some tailing off of the print sales, but for most companies, the growth of e-books has been so great that there’s a lot of revenue coming from that side that’s sort of gravy for us.”

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12/20/2010

Random House and Marketing Books Directly to Consumers


When you know who is looking for something to download, you can make suggestions directly to that person! Right on. AND, when you know that the download device is a new eReader, you know what that person wants…EBOOKS!

Simple enough concept, even for me.

Well, Random House has used this simple concept to come up with a delightful, functional and FREE marketing device for the holidays helpful to us consumers.

Julie Bosman, New York Times, has the details:

A Christmas Morning Spree

This year, the book publishing industry has its own version of Black Friday or Cyber Monday. It’s called Christmas Day.

On that day, hundreds of thousands of consumers are expected to unwrap new e-readers that they received as gifts, and quickly begin downloading books to read.

Random House, the publisher of Stieg Larsson, John Grisham and Stephen Sondheim, is hoping to be there to make a few suggestions. It has prepared a free e-book, “The eBook Insider,” that is full of recommendations, reviews and book excerpts directed squarely at consumers who have just received e-readers.

“With so many people receiving an e-reader for the first time on Christmas, one of the things they’re going to want to do is go looking for the books they want to read,” said Anne Messitte, the publisher of Vintage/Anchor, a division of Random House. “And we think it’s an ideal moment to really begin helping a reader curate the collection of e-books that they want.”

Unlike the traditional holiday book advertising that takes place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the promotion for “The eBook Insider” is scheduled to begin on Dec. 25, first with social media messaging and then with Google ads and also print ads in The New York Times Book Review and The New Yorker.

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10/25/2010

Self-Publishing a Printed Book–A New Niche?


When you hear of self-publishing today you mostly think of “digital”…Even though most self-publishers offer both digital and POD (print on demand).

However, Blurb, a popular self-publisher in San Francisco who delivers first-quality printed products, has set up a “pop-up” store in SoHo, New York to teach the process of developing a first-class printed book for those who want a physical product…a product allowing them to print their own books easily and relatively cheaply, without the help of a literary agent or trade publisher.

Julie Bosman, New York Times, reports:

Self-Publisher Comes to SoHo

To make a book using an online publishing service, you create the design, add text or images, pay the fee, and in a few days or a week, the finished product is delivered to your door.

But there is the nagging question: Will it look homemade?

Blurb, a popular self-publishing company based in San Francisco, has tried to assuage that fear by planting a pop-up store, its first, in the middle of SoHo in New York. It will be there until the end of the month, complete with displays of finished books created by real customers.

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