Monthly Archives: May 2012

Do editors not say no because they can no longer say yes?

31 May 2012

From FutureBook:

When I was starting out in the book business the commonly accepted period for an editor to consider a submission was one month. Longer than that was not only considered rude, but unprofessional. If you couldn’t make your mind up after a month then that probably meant you didn’t care for it sufficiently to be the person to take it on, were too indecisive or too disorganised.

Above all though I was told it was a matter of respect to the writer: the people on whose shoulders we all of us stand. Every manuscript we ever look at represents years of distilled effort and hope and deserves to be treated with fundamental respect.

. . . .

None of us are perfect: any agent or editor is processing more submissions than they comfortably know what to do with and things do fall through the cracks, but the death of communication skills has reached epidemic proportions. It has of course coincided with the period when the power and authority of editors has been eroded as never before. Do editors not say no because they can no longer say yes?

The slowness and tortuousness of the acquisition process generates some absurd scenarios. It is far from uncommon for books to be acquired a full year after submission.

. . . .

It is certainly not an efficient system. Agents are (by and large) sympathetic to the tough times publishers are having and we all know that books are acquired by committee and that that can take time and be something of an arbitrary and political process. Editors do not need to pretend (as they generally do) that the decision to acquire is theirs alone.

Not only is that pompous, but their failure to communicate, even to say no, really does anger authors. They hate it with a passion. Rightly so. They feel messed around and treated with contempt: at best some sort of cats paw to the editor’s career, to be kept in play just in case they might be making a mistake in turning it down and at worst like a talentless waste of space polluting the world with their trash: not even worth rejecting.

. . . .

One of Amazon’s more brilliant strokes has been the way in which it has made common cause with the internet’s huge authorial community against the ‘legacy’ publishers. Every self publishing success that Amazon helps create seems like one in the eye for publishers to all of those authors out there who feel angry NOT because they were rejected, but because of the WAY they were rejected, or because no one actually bothered to respond at all.

Link to the rest at FutureBook and thanks to Tony for the tip.

Strange Bedfellows

30 May 2012

From The Economist:

JAMES DAUNT, the managing director of Waterstones, once described Amazon as a “ruthless moneymaking devil”. On May 21st he announced a Faustian pact with the online retailer. Mr Daunt will not only sell Amazon’s Kindle e-reader in his stores, but will also streamline the process by which customers can buy Amazon’s e-books while they browse the shelves. The aim, he says, is to improve the Waterstones shopping experience.

Critics think he is mad, comparing the move to Sainsbury’s inviting Tesco to set up shop within its branches. Earlier noises about a partnership between Waterstones and Barnes & Noble, an American bookstore chain with a rival e-reader, could have created competition for Amazon. This deal, by contrast, seems to strengthen the internet giant. Amazon has already cornered some 90% of British e-book sales, according to Enders Analysis, which tracks the industry. Waterstones’ plan threatens to send yet more customers towards e-books and Amazon, reinforcing its stranglehold on the market.

. . . .

But Mr Daunt, who took charge of Waterstones last July, defends the deal by explaining that while readers like e-books, they also like bookshops, particularly those with well-curated choices, helpful staff, Wi-Fi and a café. He laments that Waterstones moved too slowly to launch its own e-reader, but insists it is now wise to accommodate the device most people prefer. Customers still buy print books, he adds.

. . . .

Though e-book sales are rising, Mr Daunt is gambling that they will level off at around a third or even half of the market. He can take heart from the music industry, says Benedict Evans at Enders Analysis. Though music is “the perfect digital medium”, there is still a decent, albeit declining, market for CDs—more than 86m albums were sold in Britain in 2011. “Books will be even more resilient,” he says. Publishers and sellers hope so.

Link to the rest at The Economist and thanks to Hunter for the tip.

From Basilisk to Bandersnatch – Children’s Imaginative Language Use

30 May 2012

From the University of Oxford:

Innovative use of language, a firm grasp of technology, and a thirst for unusual words are just some of the findings revealed about how children use language according to new Oxford University Press (OUP) research.

The research was compiled by lexicographers in OUP’s Children’s Dictionaries team based on an analysis of thousands of short stories sent into a BBC radio competition for children in the UK.

A summary of the report has been released, revealing a wealth of information about children’s patterns in language, grammatical structures, and vocabulary use.

The results show that children are extremely inventive in their storytelling and language use, with many stories focusing on genetic experiments, espionage, and futuristic gadgets. Favourites of the researchers included the ‘fingerlaser,’ a planet-shrinking ‘zaporator’ and the ‘electrostone’, a device that can disable electrical circuits. Robotic hybrids such as the ‘dog-bot’, ‘robo-dog’, and ‘teacherbot’ grabbed adults’ attention in equal measure.

. . . .

The research also found that many of the words contained in children’s stories are repeated from celebrated writers – suggesting a continued love of reading. Words included creatures such as J.K. Rowling’s basilisk and hippogriff, J.R.R. Tolkien’s orcs, and Lewis Carroll’s bandersnatch.

Link to the rest at the University of Oxford

Things need not have happened

30 May 2012
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Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.

Neil Gaiman

TREEbook, a New Time-Triggered E-book Format

30 May 2012

From Publishers Weekly:

In a phone interview, Medallion president Adam Mock said the name of the new e-book format,TREEbook, stands for Timed Reading Experience E-Book, and said the technology goes far beyond adding video or animation to an ebook. The new format will allow authors and publishers to embed multiple storylines, or narrative branches, into a story that are triggered by readers behavior or even lack of action.

. . . .

“The TREEbook is a time sensitive e-book with multiple story branches,” Mock said, “and the beauty is the passivity of the technology. There aren’t active decisions to be made—its not a choose your own ending approach—you can read the book without being aware that the story is changing. The time triggers are not in your face.”

. . . .

Mock describes the TREEbook technology as creating “branches,” and said a TREEbook is “alive and wants you to engage with it.” Once downloaded to a device with TREEbook compatible e-reader software, the book essentially learns your reading style, measuring the reader’s individual reading pace, time of day reading and length of reading sessions and uses this personalized data as the basis for triggering new narrative events in the book. While each TREEbook novel has a main narrative, the format allows an unlimited number of storylines to be introduced based on these triggers. If a passage says the hero has 5 minutes to stop a bomb from going off, if the reader does not keep reading for the 5 minutes, they will likely either miss the bomb or miss a chance to stop the bombing and arrive in its aftermath.

“If you stop reading or forget to pick up the book, the book knows and will continue on and you might miss something. TREEbooks can include all kinds of easter eggs and side stories, its all up to the creativity of the author to come up with new playful options.”  Mock said the publisher can even send out notifications to the book alerting readers that they may be missing new events if they don’t pick the book up within a certain time frame. While Mock emphasized that the books still have “one standard reading experience,” he said, in fact, two friends reading the same book will likely confront different narrative events based on the pacing and quirks of their individual reading habits.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

This sounds like one of those technologies which could be either cool or annoying.

Les Mis – Again

30 May 2012

Les Miserables fans can never get enough.

An Early Self-Publishing Story

30 May 2012

From the Writer’s Almanac:

It was on this day in 1849 that Henry David Thoreau self-published A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, his first book. It was an account of the two-week boating trip Thoreau had taken with his brother, John, 10 years before, from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and back.

. . . .

Since A Week was initially rejected, Thoreau was only able to publish it by paying for its printing from its sales. Four years later, after paying off the printing debt, Thoreau wrote in his journal that his publisher had delivered the remaining unsold copies to his home. He wrote, “I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself.”

Link to the rest at The Writer’s Almanac

Strange Template Issues

30 May 2012
Comments Off on Strange Template Issues

PG just noticed that the links at the top of the blog have spontaneously changed their appearance.

He’s working on a fix and apologizes for any inconvenience.

UPDATE: The problem that appeared was that two page links, Contract Collection and Social Networks, had somehow started to wrap so the top Nav bar showed the second word in each of these links on a second line below the first instead of on a single line.

PG’s fix was to edit the title of each page by inserting an invisible space –   – between the two word title for each page.

If this causes the Nav bar to look strange for anyone, please send a message to PG through the Contact link to tell him what you see.

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