Tag Archives: Publishing

Publishing is about much more than book sales

“When we talk about publishing these days, we have to talk about much more than book sales, even more than the written word and books themselves. We need to talk about all the things we do with and around books, our engagement with book culture.

In other words, we need to talk about publishing as a cultural practice, as something that contributes to or even constitutes who we are as individuals, who we are as citizens. We need to talk about publishing as a socio-cultural activity that helps us to understand our place in the world.

Publishing expresses and shapes our societies. It even plays a part in the kind of nations we live in. It would be wise, therefore, to broaden the conversation about it to more than sales figures.

In short, we need to shift our attention from publishing as a business process to thinking about publishing as an act of culture.”

From: theconversation.com/publishing-should-be-more-about-culture-than-book-sales-54173

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Literary Creativity in Intrinsic Motivation

“A creative writer should be motivated by interest, challenge and satisfaction, and not by external pressures, otherwise he/she will fall by the wayside when external forces fade or when they cannot withstand the editorial pressure.

A renowned psychologist at Harvard University, in her research, invited art experts to assess the work of 29 professional artists.

Unknown to the experts was that each artist had been asked to submit 10 commissioned and 10 non-commissioned works. The experts rated the non-commissioned works as being more creative than the commissioned ones. The study ascertained a link between intrinsic motivation and creativity.

It states that the higher the creator’s intrinsic motivation, the more creative and original one will be. What kills literary creativity […] is the desire for instant fame and money.”

From: mediamaxnetwork.co.ke/people-daily/162827/what-separates-genuine-writers-from-shoddy-ones/

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Literary Auction Hype

Literary

Auctions unfortunately do not look at literary merit as much as they look at commercial merit. And when heavily marketed commercial books hammer the message: “read this book, read this book,” it skews independent judgement of even the most die-hard reader, forcing them to, at least, take a peek at this latest curiosity that everyone is talking about. Given that time is our most precious commodity these days, such peeks come at the expense of other books that may have grabbed the reader’s attention through non-promotional means.

I’m hoping that the author whose work was auctioned and who is now left to sign with the winning publisher, would use their judgement, take the long term view, and let the auction be used only as a yardstick to determine the “potential value” of their book. I’m hoping that they will settle on the publisher whom they feel will be the best fit for their career (after all, there will be more books in the pipeline from this author, we hope) rather than going with the highest bidder on just this single auctioned work. For the highest bid also comes with the highest expectation, and an author who does not earn his advance could get dropped for their next book by an “over-generous” publisher.

And as for readers, I hope that they … will stick to their own reading lists, compiled through due diligence rather than hype, and that they will not take those time-wasting detours just because an at-risk publisher has thrown the rest of his money after his moment of weakness at an auction and is touting the compelling but distracting message: “Read this. I put too much money behind this damned book and I need your help to bail me out!”

From: northumberlandview.ca/index.php?module=news&type=user&func=display&sid=34539

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Writers or Performers?

“In my first 15 or 20 years of authorship, I was almost never asked to give a speech or an interview. The written work was supposed to speak for itself, and to sell itself, sometimes even without the author’s photograph on the back flap.” –John Updike, The End of Authorship

A publishing contract is now more than an invitation to write. It is also a request for performance. The author becomes, as John Updike puts it in The End of Authorship, a “walking, talking advertisement for the book”. The very year the American novelist gave this speech in Washington, a publisher told me in passing: “Of course, we’ll fly you to the festivals, get you reading at shops and libraries.” Of course. One does not simply have talent, which Flannery O’Connor insisted was vital for a literary vocation. Now one is a talent: an artful player, with all the ambiguity of each word.

My point is not that there is anything necessarily vicious or vulgar about performance, or that we have lost a literary golden age: from enlightened literacy to primitive orality. The Romans regularly held public performances, in which poets tested their verse in a public laboratory. (Or lavatory. “You read to me as I shit,” complained first-century poet Martial in his Epigrams.) Pliny the Younger lamented that his listeners did not obey audience etiquette: “two or three clever persons … listened to it like deaf mutes.” Greek philosophy itself began with public performance; with the need to grab interest along with intellect. Put simply, we are not the first era to ask writers to tap-dance, and this request does not automatically corrupt literature.”

Read More: smh.com.au/entertainment/meet-the-author-why-writing-is-no-longer-just-about-the-words-20150512-ggywy3.html

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Book Publishing Industry Survives Without Big Data

But can it continue?

“It is one of the cruel truisms of the book business that publishers rarely have much insight into how their products are actually used. This is not for lack of curiosity on a publisher’s part but because of the structure of the industry:  books are almost never sold directly to end-users. They are sold to libraries and the wholesalers that service libraries; they are sold to your local bookshop; and they are sold to online vendors; but rarely is a book sold directly by a publisher to the person who reads it.  Book publishing, in other words, is a game of intermediaries. Sitting upstream, publishers have little insight into what is happening downstream. This is an invitation to make bad business decisions based on unproven assumptions about how books are actually used, and as an industry, book publishers have accepted that invitation over the past few years and made a series of big mistakes. It may be hard to roll back these decisions, but if we don’t know what they are and how they came to be, we are likely to keep making more of the same.”

From: scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2015/03/12/what-we-got-wrong-about-books/

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Novels as Weapons of Propaganda

“During the Cold War, the CIA loved literature”…

“Books were weapons, and if a work of literature was unavailable or banned in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, it could be used as propaganda to challenge the Soviet version of reality. Over the course of the Cold War, as many as 10 million copies of books and magazines were secretly distributed by the agency behind the Iron Curtain as part of a political warfare campaign.”

Doctor Zhivago, “The book, by poet Boris Pasternak, had been banned from publication in the Soviet Union. The British were suggesting that the CIA get copies of the novel behind the Iron Curtain. The idea immediately gained traction in Washington.”

“The newly disclosed documents, however, indicate that the operation to publish the book was run by the CIA’s Soviet Russia Division, monitored by CIA Director Allen Dulles and sanctioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Operations Coordinating Board, which reported to the National Security Council at the White House. The OCB, which oversaw covert activities, gave the CIA exclusive control over the novel’s “exploitation.”

“The “hand of the United States government” was “not to be shown in any manner,” according to the records.”

Read more: http://m.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/during-cold-war-cia-used-doctor-zhivago-as-a-tool-to-undermine-soviet-union/2014/04/05/2ef3d9c6-b9ee-11e3-9a05-c739f29ccb08_story.html

To be sure the CIA has its tentacles in the American publishing world, too: https://spywriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-cia-ideology-and-american-literature/

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Near Literary Abortions – Books and writers that almost were not published

Publishers and literary agents do not always know better. Here are some books / writers that almost did not become published:

“Not only does this bog down in the middle, but the author tends to stay too long with non essentials. He seems to have little idea of pace, and is enchanted with his words, his tough style, and that puts me off badly.” Re: The Ipcress File, by Len Deighton.

“Things improve a bit with the rebuilding of the village but then go to hell in a hack at the end. Perhaps there is a public that can take all this with a straight face but I’m not one of them.” Re: Welcome to Hard Times, by E.L. Doctorow

“It does not seem to us that you have been wholly successful in working out an admittedly promissing idea.” Re: Lord of the Flies, by William Golding.

“A duller story I have never read. It wanders a deep mire of affected writing and gets nowhere, tells no tale, stirs no emotion but weariness.” Re: In the Cage, by Henry James.

The novel is “… rather discursive and the point of view is not an attractive one.” Re: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” Re: Untitled work by Rudyard Kipling.

“You’re welcome to le Carre – he hasn’t got any future.” Re: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, by John le Carre.

“… superficial and unconvincing. I do not see this book as a very well told story on any level.” Re: The Assistant, by Bernard Malamud.

“It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.” Re: Animal Farm, by George Orwell.

“A long, dull novel about an artist.” Re: Lust for Life, by Irving Stone.

“It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for the scientific reader.” Re: The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells.

“It contain unpleasant elements.” Re: The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde.

Frederic Forsyths The Day of the Jackal was rejected by nearly 50 publishers.

Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles was rejected by six publishers.

Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October was rejected by over two dozen publishers.

Jack King’s The Fifth Internationale was rejected almost 500 times.

John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was turned down by 28 publishers.

Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times.

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times.

The list goes on… As George Bernard Shaw said: “I object to publishers: the one service they have done me is to teach me to do without them. They combine commercial rascality with artistic touchiness and pettishness, without being either good business men or fine judges of literature. All that is necessary in the production of a book is an author and a bookseller, without the intermediate parasite.”

No Democracy without Independent Publishing

“Sadly, now, publishing is almost entirely a matter of profitability, meaning that if you want to publish something that is immediately profitable, it’s very rare that it will turn out to be predicated on strong ideas, or dissident ideas.”

“That’s a big problem. It has considerably reduced the amount of good books published”.

… “without a free publishing industry, there can be no democracy.”

“Books today have become mere adjuncts to the world of mass media, offering light entertainment and reassurances that all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds … The resulting control on the spread of ideas is stricter than anyone would have thought possible in a free society.”

Sources:

http://www.thewhitereview.org/interviews/interview-with-andre-schiffrin/

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2013/12/books-must-stop-beingasideshowtomassmedia.html

Quick Writers

“New writers tend to think that editing merely means a brief read through for typos and spelling errors. That is the very last thing to do. The best writers re-write and re-write.

Too many […] Authors are going into the world of letters with dreams of instant stardom. For them, it was more important to see their book published than to make sure it is a quality product. They are approaching writing the same way one would approach the selling of second hand shoes with an eye to quick profit and a big launch with a lot of deep pocket donors. They have no desire to go through the pains and hassles of a thorough editorial process.

Make sure you are not one of those writers.”

From: m.allafrica.com

I Doubt therefore I Write

“The brains of writers aren’t filled with only yet-to-be-penned stories. They’re loaded with insecurities, doubts, and uncertainties. These can range from the minor to the more melodramatic (My writing is a mere shack to Faulkner’s pa . Why bother?)

And I won’t even dwell on the disheartening contemporary literary landscape. Snooki is a New York Times bestselling author. How’s that for soul-crushing?

It’s easy to become defeatist and even disillusioned when rejections roll in and when the unexplainable, unjust literary success of dimwitted celebs destroys our faith in the American public’s ability to appreciate good work.

In the face of rejection and dismay, from where can we draw encouragement?

Famous Writers Show: Rejection and late bloomers abound.Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t begin writing until she was 44. She published the first of the Little House books when she was 64 years old. While Charles Bukowski’s first story was published when he was 24 years old, he didn’t receive a major offer from a publisher until age 44. He published his first novel, Post Office, at age 51.

And it’s no secret that a tremendous number of now-famous books were rejected—some multiple times. William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying failed to earn him enough royalties to support his family. E.B. White was a firm believer in “the doctrine of immaculate rejection.” When he mailed in his manuscripts, he included a stamped envelope for the rejection letter.

The point is, even the writers whose work we now revere didn’t have an easy go of it; even the best didn’t instantly achieve success.”

More: http://www.business2community.com/content-marketing/how-to-overcome-the-most-common-writing-obstacles-according-to-the-literary-greats-0379054

SpyWriter Jack King || “A new King of thrillers on the horizon” || Author of Political Thrillers || http://www.SpyWriter.com