Tuesday 28 October 2008

Why Age Will Never Wither Nor Custom Stale a Book's Infinite Variety

Have you guys noticed that the new poster girl for the Sony E-reader is no less than Alice in Wonderland herself?

You can watch Alice shrink and enter the Sony eReader on this page.

Cds, ipods and the internet have well and truly killed the vinyl record. The email has practically ended the use of the fax. If even Alice in Wonderland is willing to front a device that may help hasten the demise of the book, then what hope is there? Is this the beginning of the end for the book?


I was at the 18th birthday tea of our lovely young friend, Ati (happy birthday!) where I came face to face with The Reason Why Age Will Never Wither Nor Custom Stale a Book's Infinite Variety.

At the party I met Michael and Linda Falter who are publishers of a kind unlikely to be harrassed by wannabe children's authors.

Michael and Linda publish manuscripts ... ANCIENT manuscripts.

This is the limited facsimile edition of The Rothschild Miscellany,
reproduced here with the kind permission of
Facsimile Editions Limited

Their company is called, appropriately, Facsimile Editions:
Since its foundation in 1981, Facsimile Editions has become world-renowned for reproducing ancient manuscripts with unparalleled accuracy, careful scholarship and meticulous attention to detail.
We've all probably seen illuminated texts in the dusty glass display cases of museums and libraries.

Well, they showed me one of their facsimile editions, the Rothschild Miscellany, and I wanted to weep. Here it was to hold in one's hands, the minute illustrations painstakingly reproduced, the gold hand-tipped, even the worm holes that get progressively smaller as you turn the pages are retained.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I wanted to rub my face against it but that might have been alarming so I focused on not drooling as I gazed upon its pages.

The Miscellany was a collection of "miscellaneous yet connected texts ... illustrating almost every custom of daily life in a Jewish Renaissance household". It was compiled by a wealthy Jew in 1479. My husband describes it (wittily?) as a "rich guy's Daily Me" of the period. You can read more about it here.

Their latest releasd work is the Book of Esther, and I can only urge you to go to this page of their website and click the green arrow buttons to see the scroll unscroll. The story of Esther unfolds from right to left, in intricately illustrated scenes which change progressively as the scroll unrolls.

Illustrators, behold!
This is the limited facsimile edition of an image from The Megillat Esther, reproduced here with the kind permission of Facsimile Editions Limited

I was devastated to hear that they didn't have a showroom where I could bring some booky friends and spend time with these gorgeous objects.

Seeing and touching these books, it was so totally clear to me.

Books are too fabulous to lose and we should do all that is in our power to ensure their survival in the face of all the realities of the Digital Age.

Friday 24 October 2008

The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride and Us Too

The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride Youtube book trailer
I was going to focus today. FOCUS!

But when I heard about the Steffi McBride book, all the little bits of blogging material that I've been trying to ignore in the name of writing my novel came rushing to the fore - so important to share this, especially in the current downturn. So I've got to just quickly tell you about Steffi McBride and all the other stuff that might be meaningful to the Rise and Fall of Us as writers.

I heard about Steffi McBride in today's Guardian RSS feed which highlighted Andrew Croft's new novel The Overnight Fame of Steffi Mcbride - or more precisely, how the author is using Web 2.0 to the hilt to promote the novel:
But what, arguably, makes Steffi more interesting than your average airhead celeb is that she's the figment of an author's imagination and these tantalising - or annoying - insights into her star-studded existence come courtesy of her updates on Twitter, the social media "microblogging" site, and her Facebook page. Read the article
The book trailer is appealing (a bit long but quite appealing - makes authors want to rush out to the nearest drama school in search of cheap but capable talent to star in their book trailers). And suddenly all that wasted time in Facebook turns out to be an investment in my future success as a writer ... I'm off to friend Steffi now (for the record, her friend count is only 33 at the moment, will be interesting to check back in a few weeks). It will also be interesting to see what FB does to the page. FB took down the FB page of Vern, Sarah Macintyre's wonderful comic creation for the DFC comics, on the basis that Vern was not human.

The article appears on the heels of a series of guest blogs on book marketing running on the agent Nathan Bransford's blog . Bestselling author Michelle Moran (Nefertiti) blogged in two parts. The first part was about the nitty gritty of the business, the lingo, the marketing department, the publicity department ...
So you’re a few months away from publishing your debut novel. Your publishing house has suggested that you pitch in to help promote your own work, but you don’t have the first clue as to where you should start. Or perhaps you’ve already published your first book without doing any of your own publicity and marketing and now the hard realization has hit that this time around, without a significant change on your part, your career is going to end as quickly as it began. Now you’re willing to try something – anything. But what works? What doesn’t work? What should you be doing? Michelle Moran on Book Marketing Part 1
Michelle's second blog was about blogging, websites, online reviewers ...
... don’t be afraid to try new ways of publicity and marketing, even if you’ve never heard of anyone else doing it before. This is what a great publicist will do for you, and what you want to do for yourself. There are so many ways of promoting a book that aren’t widely used, and many of them are free. Michelle Moran on Book Marketing Part 2
And finally, the guest blogger on Nathan's blog today is M.J. Rose (The Reincarnationist), who shares this lovely kernel:
Not even the most brilliant pr and marketing can sell a book people just do not want to read. M.J. Rose on Book Marketing
Having gotten that off my chest, I can now go back to work. Enjoy, everyone.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Tripping the Blight Unfantastic

This is Carol Burnett as Scarlet O'Hara, in the scene where
Scarlet too proud to be poor makes a dress out of curtains. Except this Scarlet O'Hara leaves in the curtain pole.

This unfantastic economic Downturn has everyone speculating about the future.

The Media Guardian actually wondered if there was a silver lining for TV.
Sipping champagne, more than one TV executive said that when the economy goes down the pan, people turn to home entertainment to cheer themselves up.

"Depression time is a good time for entertainment programming," says Rob Clark, vice-president of worldwide entertainment and production for FremantleMedia, home of The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent. "People don't want to go home and be clobbered with dreary stuff." Read more

Apparently rental firm Lovefilm had a 40 percent jump in business since the credit crunch began.

Hey, does that mean people will be READING more as well?

Well, not quite so, based on according to this report on the ongoing Frankfurt Book Fair:
Looking at the numbers, the answer is yes, it already has been. There are fewer exhibitors here than there were last year (7,373 compared to 7,448), and a recent survey of 90 German publishers shows that business was down 3% in Germany over the first nine months of the year.
However, like their TV counterparts, there is much optimism amongst publishers:
But publishers here are resolutely optimistic about the fate of books in a recession - one agent said that "books are good in the good times, and great in the bad times". In the words of Richard Charkin, former Macmillan chief, now Bloomsbury executive director, "banks may crash, derivatives flounder, hedge funds wither, dotcoms rise and fall but somehow or other writers, publishers, booksellers, literary agents, publishing consultants and old bookish friends always manage to congregate for the autumnal bunfight known by the single word, Frankfurt".
It's a good time to remind ourselves WHY we are in this business. It's because we like to write, not because we like money. As Justine Larbalestier (Magic or Madness) blogged today:

I keep coming across wannabe writers who believe that writing is an easy way to make heaps of money. Nope.1 Your odds of being paid good money to write novels year after year are vanishingly small. Most published writers aren’t.

I cannot emphasise this enough: If you don’t love writing don’t try to get published. (emphasis mine!) Read more

And speaking of calamity, disaster and poverty, Julie Bertagna (Exodus, Zenith) over on Facebook posted this link about great children's books about financial ruin!

Thursday 9 October 2008

As Recession Looms, Consider Signing Up for Big Brother

I guess one of the great things about having an agent, is that the rejections come more quickly.

No, really. If you know a publisher has passed on your manuscript in two weeks rather than eight months, then you have room for strategy.

But it's still a bummer.

Even more of a bummer is if your submissions have coincided with this extraordinary economic downturn. If you have been in a coma for the past few weeks, here is a quick video explaining the financial crisis. Because this is a writer's blog, we got Hank Green, brother of award-winning author John Green (An Abundance of Katherines), do the explaining:

An agent friend told me the other day: "It's not just about quickly drawing your reader in. It's about quickly drawing a publisher in."

And then of course, you find out that David Walliams, star of Little Britain, has published a children's book. No, it's not about child transvestites.

You can't even hate him because apparently the book is not half bad (I had a peek at Waterstones and dang, it looked quite good) - he is a writer after all.

We can't begrudge David Walliams his children's book because he's
first and foremost a writer. Look, even Quentin Blake approved.

And you realise that now more than ever, publishers are going to be looking to celebrity to make their dough. And some celebs can actually write.

So here's a cunning plan.

Apply to become a Big Brother inmate. You only need stay for, oh, two days.

Germaine Greer managed to stick it out for six days before marching out because it was so unhygienic.

Two days would qualify you to add "former Big Brother inmate" to your query letter which immediately qualifies you as a B-List celeb ... which immediately also qualifies you as a publishable author (especially if you do something suitably ghastly that hits the headlines while you're in the Big Brother House).

Who knows, you might even sell more books than Katie!

Success is built out of small sacrifices like these.

Monday 6 October 2008

The Great Literacy Debate: What is the Future of Reading?

The New York Times is running a series debating the future of reading.

In July, the NY Times wondered if the new realities of the web signaled a change to reading habits:

As teenagers’ scores on standardized reading tests have declined or stagnated, some argue that the hours spent prowling the Internet are the enemy of reading — diminishing literacy, wrecking attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only through the reading of books.

But others say the Internet has created a new kind of reading, one that schools and society should not discount. The Web inspires a teenager like Nadia, who might otherwise spend most of her leisure time watching television, to read and write.

There was a video interviewing a family in which reading habits fall along a generational divide.

Screenshot of NY Times Video
Click on the screenshot or here to view the NY Times video.

Today, the NY Times series focuses on video games as a way to get children reading. According to the article, a recent poll by the Pew Internet & American Life project found that 97 percent of children 12 to 17 play games on computers, consoles and handheld devices.

Apparently, librarians in the States are using games to bring teenagers into their libraries.

Inspired in part by such theories, librarians now stage tournaments for teenagers with games like Super Smash Brothers Brawl and Dance Dance Revolution. In the first half of this year, the New York Public Library hosted more than 500 events, drawing nearly 8,300 teenagers. In Columbus, Ohio, nearly 5,500 youngsters have participated in more than 300 tournaments at the public library this year.

“I think we have to ask ourselves, ‘What exactly is reading?’ ” said Jack Martin, assistant director for young adult programs at the New York Public Library. “Reading is no longer just in the traditional sense of reading words in English or another language on a paper.”

In the UK, I hear that the super duper Jubilee library in Brighton holds Playstation tournaments!

Scholastic, the American publisher of Harry Potter has already published The Maze of Bones, the first of a series tied to a web-based game. Ricky Riordan (Lightning Thief) wrote The Maze of Bones and has outlined the story arc for the rest of the series.
“My main concern was crafting an adventure novel that would stand on its own, even if kids never access the Internet at all,” Mr. Riordan said.

During the brainstorming phase and after he wrote a manuscript, Mr. Riordan worked with editors at Scholastic, who suggested details that could be worked into the novel so that they could also be used in the game.

“There’s a lot of commonality between what makes a good game and a good book,” Mr. Riordan said. “Whether you’re a gamer or a reader, you want to feel immersed in the story and invested in the action and the characters, and you want to care about the outcome and you want to participate in solving the mystery.”

More about the Maze of Bones (The 39 Clues series) here.

Many authors, I imagine will throw their hands up in despair at this new turn of events.

But if you really think hard about it, what lies at the heart of this new movement is a love of Story.

And Story is something we authors can always work with. It's just a question of how.

Saturday 4 October 2008

School Visits ... Part of My Letting Other Folks Do The Talking Season

Some canny readers have noticed that I've been very brief for the past couple of weeks, letting other blogs or vlogs do the talking. It's because ... pssst! I've just started a new novel! Very exciting.

Now that I got that off my chest, here's Don Tate from the Crowe's Nest blog, explaining the secrets of school visits. Read his very informative article here.

If you can't see the video, this is the youtube page.

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