Posts Tagged ‘The Stranger’

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The editor’s despair?

October 19, 2010

A British literary agent, writing under the pseudonym Agent Orange sees a possible transformation of the current publishing business model:

Here’s a modest proposal. Let’s get rid of editors. Seriously, would publishing be better off without them? Should we abolish lunch?

Any agent worth their salt will be able to tell you many recent stories of editors – senior, well known editors – who have loved books that the agents have submitted to them but for which they have failed to gain the support of their colleagues.

Of course editors are as status conscious as the rest of us and are keen to present themselves (particularly to agents) as mighty forces within the organisations they work for. But in unguarded moments it is possible to get them to concede that the majority of the projects they take forward get shot down during the acquisition process – often for reasons that seem to them to be obscure or arbitrary ….

…. Let’s say I pitched a novel at this meeting, everyone agrees it seems a good idea, solidly in genre, with a marketable author. The publishing director then decides which editor should read it. They love it, others agree and the publisher offers. Fantastic, everyone is happy, except one has to ask, what is the role of the editor in this process?

Traditionally agents pitch books to editors (lunch!), get them fired up, send them the book, the editor loves the book, drives that ‘passion’ through acquisition and editorial, sales conferences. They choose the image on the jacket, the blurb, even the title and author name in many cases. They are the publisher, the apex of a pyramid with sales, publicity, design and marketing all feeding into them. They own the project.

If, as is increasingly the case, that is simply no longer true, then what are they for?

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Google Editions: The giant looms larger, starting this summer

May 6, 2010

Google LogoDespite some legal questions remaining to shape the final outcome, Google plans to open its own online bookstore over the summer. Details come from CNet’s Tom Krazit:

Google announced plans last year to offer public-domain books for free in the Epub format, and the report did not specify what format it will use for the first-run in-print books it sells through Google Editions.

A Google representative confirmed that the company plans to launch Google Editions in the middle of this year, but declined to be more specific on the timing.

One key difference between Google’s approach to digital-book sales and the approaches used by Amazon and Apple is that Google customers will not be able to download books sold through the store: they’ll be accessible exclusively through a Web browser. That has some advantages for Google, in that it side-steps messy DRM (digital rights management) questions and allows it to offer the service for any device, rather than having to negotiate deals.

However, it means Google will have to create a mobile version of Google Editions that can support offline reading. It might also change the pricing equation, given that customers wouldn’t actually have their own copy of the books they purchase. Google declined to comment on the pricing structure for Google Editions, although Google’s Dan Clancy told The New Yorker in April that it would let publishers set the prices for their books.

The Stranger‘s Paul Constant notes an important question about the Google model:

This is a weird approach. Part of the whole tablet/e-book explosion of the last year has been about making sure that books are available to their purchasers around the clock, and that the devices have the battery power to sustain long periods of reading. Internet access consumes a lot of power in mobile devices, and it’s still not available everywhere. Will people be willing to buy online-only e-books? And how much will they be willing to pay for them?

Meanwhile, Google’s settlement offer with various industry groups may also revive a large number of copyright-protected books that are out of print. Presiding Judge Denny Chin has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and is expected to issue a ruling before his departure to a new bench.

Stay tuned. The times, they are a’changing, so there is plenty more drama to come. What will the publishing industry look like this time next year? Or five years on? As e-reader services evolve, will the battery warmth of a pocket reader ever come to properly replace the feel of a worn, comfortable book? Can you make an e-reader smell like an old, comfortable, favorite book? Would it be creepy if someone actually managed to pull that off?

-bd

(Paper or electronic, we’ve got agents, editors, and publishers all working to adapt their own lives to the new technology, and that means they should be on the forefront for their writers, too. If you’re ready to dive into the untold adventure of writing and publishing in the twenty-first century, it will help to have some smart and friendly people on your side. And there’s no better time or place to meet them than September 24-26 in Newport Beach, the Eighth Annual Los Angeles gathering of the Southern California Writers’ Conference. And just to prove how smart and friendly we are, we’ll knock $75 off your registration fee if you sign up before June 1, 2010. Hey, it’s better than breaking your kneecaps, right?)

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(Insert Title Here)

November 11, 2009

Fun stuff from around:

  • Short fiction online: Rebecca Lee’s “Bobcat.
  • Book reviews: Ted Wilson on The Bible.
  • Emanuel Faye drags Martin Heidegger back into the news.
  • Lemony Snicket finds a new home.
  • Breakfast serial: Del Rey will publish King/Straub novel The Talisman as a serial comic book.
  • Book review: Speaking of Stephen King, Paul Constant has a few things to say about the newly released behemoth, The Dome.
  • And speaking of Paul Constant … actually, no. You know what? I’m out.

And now, for absolutely no reason at all:

Short story cartoon

(I have no proper attribution for the above frame. If I discover the artist’s name, I’ll definitely include it here.)

-bd

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Books and bacon

June 27, 2009

The annual BookExpo America took place a couple of weeks ago in New York. Did you miss it? I did. Went right by without me even noticing, but that’s okay because, well, it usually does.

I think I posted something or another about Paul Constant’s coverage of the event because I was hard up for material. And that’s probably the same this year, since I haven’t shown my face around this blog since February. As to that, I’ll spare you the gory details and simply say that yes, I know feeling sorry for myself isn’t an excuse. My sincere apologies.

But this isn’t about me. How many times have I said that? Oh, right ….

So … um … oh, yeah. Paul Constant brought us his thoughts and observations concerning “The Slow, Moronic Death of Books (as We Know Them)“.

It’s strange that the only sign of growth at this BEA was in the number of journalists present, and that the people running BEA somehow seemed to think that the presence of more journalists was going to save them, considering that journalism just saw its most terrifying year in memory, too. It felt like the two industries were clinging together out in the ocean, drowning together. Since most of the bloggers were new to the party, none of them were asking any of the hard questions. No one was asking editors why they didn’t think twice before tossing out seven-figure deals for books based on zany blogs that anyone with half a brain could read for free on the internet. No one seemed to notice that major presses like HarperCollins weren’t asking booksellers what they wanted to sell or what their readers wanted to read. Instead, there were well-attended panels about making an insignificant amount of money off of Twitter. A sizeable number of booksellers were unwittingly attending their last BEA, because their bookstores are likely about to downsize or close. A bunch of people tried to hustle another bunch of people into buying something they didn’t want. Some of them succeeded, but most of them didn’t.

After the convention, MobyLives, the blog for indie publisher Melville House, published a postmortem titled “BEA Is Over… for Good?” I’m not so sure that it was the last one, but it was certainly a milestone: By the time next May’s BEA rolls around, at least one of the major publishers probably won’t be around to see it. The age of the giant conglomerate publisher is over. Publishing has always been an industry that has seen razor-thin profit margins if it saw profit at all, and the corporate model isn’t satisfied with a business model that optimally remains 1 or 2 percent above zero growth. The only way that 2009 will be considered a good year for the publishing industry is in comparison with the unprecedented disaster of 2008. People will tsk-tsk at the numbers and write endless, boring blog posts about it, which won’t be read by anyone except other people writing endless, boring blog posts about it. Here we were in the epicenter of publishing, at publishing’s big yearly event for insiders, and it was almost completely crushing any belief I had in the future of publishing. I don’t enjoy attending funerals, so unless things drastically change, I’ll probably never go back to BEA.

Cheery, no?

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The Strange (#1)

December 5, 2008

Okay, look, I owe you one.

No writing exercises, no befuddling sexuality. Just pure strangeness. Try this on:

    In mid-November, one Tammy Lewis rolled on her bishop, pleading guilty for her role in a Social Security scam that saw a religious leader collecting checks sent to the corpse of a ninety year-old woman decaying on a toilet.

Okay, show of hands … which of our mystery writers are cursing quietly to themselves and saying, “Reality! Always beating me to the punch!”
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Random notes for a happy day

October 31, 2008

Just some random notes on this happy day:

  • Do you write “dammit”, or “damn it”? And if you stick God into the mix, do you compound the word into “Goddamn”? How about, “Goddammit”?
  • Megan Seling of The Stranger noted, “[A]re there any other words in the English language that have three consecutive pairs of letters like the word bookkeeper does? I can’t think of any. Then again, I suck at Scrabble.”
  • To this day, the word “misled” bothers me, because when I was a kid, I read an Encyclopedia Brown story in which the solution to the mystery was a badly-written note. According to our hero, there is (was) no such word as “misled”. Did common vernacular somehow change this rule sometime in the last forty-five years? Or was I reading a subversive pinko Cold War-era counterfeit Encyclopedia Brown book?
  • I feel like introducing you to one of my most enduring pet peeves: The word “transition” is a noun, damn it!
  • Oh, yeah, another pet peeve: The phrase “pet peeve” is annoying and unnerving, much like children singing off-key for the amusement of sitcom viewers.

Happy Hallowe’en, everyone. Click the jump for a treat.

-bd

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The view from down there from up here

June 19, 2008

From Larry King’s back yard to Staples Center, Paul Constant brings us a view of this year’s BookExpo America. Reflecting on celebrities and booksellers, the demise of Book Sense and the embarrassment of its successor, Amazon’s Kindle, the strangeness of major publishing houses and the warmth of the smaller outfits—even his thoughts on nuclear holocaust—and … oh, yeah, the perpetual demise of the publishing industry, The Stranger‘s book critic offers the kind of perspective you might well expect from an acerbic weekly alternative tabloid out of our great northland.

Er … um … did you get all that?

Good.

The publishing industry has been “dying” for decades. As with every year, there are fresh signs of imminent demise. Publishers Weekly, the industry standard magazine for reviews, recently made the shocking decision to cut freelancers’ pay by exactly half—from $50 a piece to $25—and newspapers across the country are cutting their book sections either drastically or entirely. To certain people this is a sign of the End Times, but it’s really a kind of corrective measure. The book-reviewing community had allowed itself to shrink, lazily, into a boring, self-reflexive subindustry with little value to a general-interest reader. But good reviews, well-written ones, are published on blogs and websites and in other alternative news sources now more than ever. These are places that, unlike newspaper book-review sections, actually treat book reviews like pieces of writing with value unto itself, more than just your standard buy-this/don’t-buy-this gloss. Nevertheless, people in publishing point to what’s happening in PW and major-market newspapers as yet another sign that the industry is about to disappear.

-bd

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Stranger Than Fiction (#1)

May 31, 2008

Futility? Obviously I’ve been feeling morose.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to find some way to justify my prior post about sublimated incest and, finally, days late, of course, what I was overlooking struck me like the proverbial heap of bricks.

That said, our first installment of “Stranger Than Fiction”.

After all, this was part of the problem I was having dealing with the idea of a Purity Ball. On the one hand, I don’t think I ever would have come up with a road story about driving across three states to shack up with my daughter in a hotel and then pledge to enforce her sexual purity in front of a roomful of people. Really. Maybe that says something about how flat is my creative arc of late, but still, even if I did invent such a tale, would it be readable? At what point do we look at a character or plot and say, “No. No way. Absolutely no freaking way. Just … no.”
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Inflatable aliens, Japanese stewardesses, Typhoid Buby, and more filking (this time with Hobbits)

March 29, 2008

So the update on Norwescon is only about a week overdue. Um …. yeah. That would be my fault, obviously, but I’m guessing nobody noticed.

So first up, the Saturday reports from The Stranger‘s Paul Constant:

What? This is how it goes up here in the great northland. Maybe this would all seem strange to me if I spent more time in southern California.

The Sunday reports are a little more interesting. Well, sort of. It’s a perspective thing.

  • Norwescon Sunday: Report One — Umm … yeah. So, how do you feel about erotic inflatable aliens? ‘Nuff said? Actually, no, it’s not. It seems this report deals with the Saturday-night parties, and should not be viewed by persons of delicate sensibilities or who have at least a half a brain. I won’t say anything about setting hair on fire, either. I mean … whoops.
  • Norwescon Wrap-Up — And y’all thought Typhoid Buby’s poetry cram disaster at SD22 was bad …. Beware, though, as this report includes disturbing notions on “fanfic”, and the phrase “Hobbit Filking”, which scares me even more than the words “Hobbit Country Dancing”.

And that’s pretty much it. I was thinking about a way to work in a happy hour update just for Ed, but it’s only peripherally relevant, and the related event has already taken place … some two-thousand miles away. Er … yeah.

-bd

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Dragons, filking, and Scott Bakula (oh, and the Phillip K. Dick Award)

March 22, 2008

Norwescon 31 is taking place as I write this. Well, I think they’re probably wrapped up for the evening, and drinking themselves stupid over toasts to Scott Bakula. And me? Well, I had no idea. No real excuses, either. I just wasn’t paying attention.

Paul Constant was, however, and the literary man for The Stranger has been checking in at Slog now and again. The big news is apparently the announcement of the Phillip K. Dick Award winners.

The Special Citation, or runner-up, went to From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, by Minister Faust. I read this one, and I’ve got to say, I’m pretty disappointed. It’s not a very good book, an unoriginal satire on superheroes and power and blah blah blah.

And the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award this year is Nova Swing, by M. John Harrison, a kind of noir-y alternate universe story. Harrison’s previous serial-killer novel, Light, was excellent. Harrison’s speech was read by a surrogate, since he couldn’t be here, but it was a good speech, mainly about how he’s all about growing beyond the idea of personality being a consistent thing, that we are a bunch of actions who are consistently retroactively explaining our actions, and that justification is what we think makes us us. It was a good speech, and people read from all seven books on the short list before the prizes was announced and there is, thankfully, no actual statuette of a prize (a Dick prize could be banned in certain states, I’m sure) because they decide to give the winners the money instead. How civilized.

In the meantime, entertain (or torture) yourselves with Mr. Constant’s reports from “SeaTac’s biggest science fiction convention”:

  • Norwescon Report One: Get the skinny on gypsy sluts, masculine insecurity, and Klingon community service.
  • Norwescon Report Two: Two words, dragons and filking.
  • Norwescon Report Three: Find out abut Vader’s Fist, raucous Scott Bakula fans, why Lovecraft is still popular despite being a horrible writer, and the importance of costumes.
  • Norwescon Report Four: The Fantasy Flower SmackDown, creepy dolls, and the death of schoolgirl fantasies.

My mother’s in town this weekend, so it’s not like I’m going to rush off and catch the Hobbit Country Dancing, the slide show on “Evolving the Star-Trek Replicator”, the evening’s filking concerts, or the workshop on Advanced Polyamory. But, hey, I’ll also miss Dan Simmons, so there is a hint of tragedy about it. Point being, I expect there will be further reports, so I’ll just have to update y’all vicariously.

-bd