Monthly Archives: November 2018

Barnes & Noble -5% after sluggish earnings

20 November 2018

From Seeking Alpha:

Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) is down 5.3% after the company reports Q3 earnings.

Revenue was down 2.5% during the quarter and comparable sales were off 1.4%.

Only a few analysts are covering B&N these days, meaning that the company’s earnings beat holds a bit less weight. Still, the EBITDA loss of $2.3M compares favorably to the consensus mark of -$12.1M.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

PG suggests the lack of analysts covering Barnes & Noble is an indication of how much the company has shrunk and how few investors are interested it anything it does.

Canadian literary prize suspended after finalists object to Amazon sponsorship

19 November 2018

From The Guardian:

A much-loved Québécois literary prize has been suspended after the five finalists for this year’s award publicly protested at its sponsorship by Amazon.

The CA$5,000 (£3,000) Prix littéraire des collégiens, running since 2003, is intended to promote Québécois literature and is decided by a jury of hundreds of students who select their winner from a selection of five works of fiction written in French by Canadian authors. But after this year’s finalists, the writers Lula Carballo, Dominique Fortier, Karoline Georges, Kevin Lambert and Jean-Christophe Réhel, discovered that Amazon Canada would be the prize’s new principal sponsor, they wrote to Le Devoir urging organisers to reconsider.

“Our great unease comes from the dangerous competition this giant has with Quebec bookstores. Need we remind you of the precariousness of the book trade and literary publishing? Need we mention the inhumane methods of this online giant, which constitute a danger for small traders and culture at large?” they wrote.

. . . .

“Could the [award] do without the money from Amazon? Find sponsors more in line with the values ​​it stands for?” they asked. “Unfortunately, we believe that by uniting with Amazon, the prize is failing in its principal mission, which is to ‘promote Québécois literature today’ … We believe that the defence of Québécois literature and the promotion of a multinational that harms bookstores … cannot go together.”

After the letter was published, organisers announced the prize would be suspended. In a statement, co-founder Claude Bourgie Bovet said the decision was the “direct result of the distressing reaction of many parties in the Quebec book trade following the recent announcement of major support”.

. . . .

Amazon has been approached for comment. The online giant had said, when it was announced as sponsor for the award, that it shared the programme’s “commitment to fostering a love for Québécois literature, both in the region and abroad”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG will note that Quebec bookstores only serve those who live within a reasonable distance and can afford to pay what the bookstores and the publishers have decided they need in order to survive and prosper.

According to Statistics Canada, 19.4% of the provincial population of Quebec live in rural areas (areas with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants and a population density below 400 people per square kilometre). How many bookstores are within a reasonable distance of this rural population.

How many bookstores are located within First Nations communities? How many indigenous authors are published by traditional publishers in Quebec? How do the hurdles faced by indigenous authors seeking publication via traditional publishers compare with the hurdles faced by indigenous authors seeking publication via Kindle Direct Publishing?

Da Vinci Code’s Dan Brown on how to write a bestseller

19 November 2018

From The Guardian:

The piano music is insistent, melodramatic. The scene begins under a vaulted ceiling and medieval candelabra reminiscent of the Great Hall in Game of Thrones. The camera pans across a vintage typewriter, intricately sculpted animals, antique bowl, statuette of a monk and relief carvings of knights. It roves around a dimly lit, dark wood library. Suddenly, unexpectedly, a bookshelf swivels on its axis to reveal a secret passage.

Out steps the master of the page turner in blue shirt and jeans, his sleeves rolled up. He settles into a chair, leans against a red cushion, crosses his legs and smiles. A screen caption says: “Dan Brown Teaches Writing Thrillers.” Brown, who has shifted 250m copies of his novels and seen them translated into 56 languages, is the latest big name to join MasterClass, the online celebrity tutorial company (he is donating his fee to charity).

Despite the distinctly old-fashioned format – middle-aged white man dispensing wisdom direct to camera – this is Brown’s love letter to the creative process. The 54-year-old can’t tell you what idea to have, he says, but hopes to provide a roadmap on how to turn it into a story. His class includes chapters on finding that idea, choosing a location, creating heroes and villains, doing research (but not so much that it’s an excuse to procrastinate), creating suspense, writing dialogue and editing and rewriting.

The good news, Brown assures writers staring at a blank page, is that your idea does not have to be startlingly original. Ian Fleming’s James Bond, for example, always defuses the bomb and gets the girl. The key question is how he does it. “Every single idea has been done over and over and over,” Brown explains in the film. “You don’t need a big idea. You need big hows.”

Like parts of a car engine, the key elements of a thriller include a hero, a goal, obstacles that seem to make it impossible and, of course, a moment when the hero conquers the villain. Don’t get overcomplicated, Brown urges. “Build the foundation of your novel with a single brick: make it simple, make it easy to follow. Will Robert Langdon find the virus and save the world? Will Ahab catch the whale? Will the Jackal shoot his target?”

Among his first lessons are the three Cs: the contract, the clock, the crucible. “These are the elements that not just thrillers have but all stories have,” he explains at his publisher’s offices in New York. The contract is the promises made to the reader that have to be kept, so earn readers’ trust.

“The idea of a ticking clock: you go back to even something as gentle as The Bridges of Madison County. Her husband’s coming back in a few days and these two people have got to figure out if they’re going to be together. If they met in a town and there’s no husband coming back, and there’s no ticking clock, it’s not an interesting book.”

And the crucible? “That’s one of my favourites: this idea of constraining your characters and forcing them to act. If you look at the end of Jaws, you’ve got these people sinking on a boat and a shark’s coming toward them. The ocean’s their crucible: they can’t go anywhere, they have to deal with the problem. If they had a perfectly healthy boat and some big engines, they could just outrun the shark and the book’s over. But they’ve got the crucible.”

. . . .

His early books made little impact and he began to question whether he could make a career of it. But then he came up with The Da Vinci Code – in which Harvard code specialist Robert Langdon discovers a series of cryptic clues in the works of Leonardo – and thought it the exact book he would like to read; millions agreed. Published in 2003, it became one of the bestselling novels of all time and was turned into a film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks.

Does success like that become a burden? “I definitely had a number of weeks when I became self-aware. You type a sentence and say: ‘Wait a minute, how many millions of people are going to read that?’ And you read it again and see the word ‘there’. You suddenly say: ‘I didn’t even spell that right.’ You become the guy trying to swing the baseball bat who’s thinking of how to move the muscles and you’re crippled.

“I think that’s very common across many disciplines when you have success. I was fortunate pretty quickly to be able to say: ‘Wait a minute, you just need to do what you did the last four times, which is to write the book that you’d want to read and if you read this paragraph and you’d like to read it, you’re done.’ I was able to move on from that and write The Lost Symbol, which I was thrilled with and did great and a lot of people like it better than Da Vinci Code.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

 

Intuition is the key

19 November 2018

Intuition is the key to everything, in painting, filmmaking, business – everything. I think you could have an intellectual ability, but if you can sharpen your intuition, which they say is emotion and intellect joining together, then a knowingness occurs.

~ David Lynch

Light Blogging Today

19 November 2018

Posts will be fewer in number today, but return to the usual frequency tomorrow.

All is well at Casa PG.

Memories from my TV/Movie Experience

19 November 2018

From Rick Riordan:

Recently I asked you guys what kind of team you’d like to see in charge if a Disney-led Percy Jackson reboot were to happen. Again, I have to warn you this is completely HYPOTHETICAL, just wishful thinking, not based on any concrete plans in the pipeline. Even if some reboot happened someday, I would have ZERO control over it, because those rights were signed away before the first PJO book was even published and, like most authors, my contract was very standard in that Hollywood controls all things and all decisions about the movie. The author may or may not be consulted, but the movie folks have final say on everything. There is a widespread myth (ha!) that authors have much more control over movie decisions than we actually do. Even the most powerful authors (yes, the ones you are thinking of right now) have WAY less influence and control than you think they do. Nobody talks about that though, because when a movie is just coming out it is in the studio’s interest for it to SOUND like everybody was very involved and pleased with the final product. In reality, the best we authors can hope for is a good team effort, where everyone gets along, has the same vision, and works together well. Sometimes, that happens . . .

Thinking about reboots even hypothetically made me remember the process I went through with those Percy Jackson movies. I was indeed consulted at some points, about some things. I did my best to give feedback that would help. At the time, obviously, I couldn’t really share any behind-the-scenes information with you guys, the readers, but since these conversations are now almost ten years old (yikes!), I thought you might like to take a look at some of the correspondence and suggestions I sent to the producers while they were planning THE LIGHTNING THIEF movie. I hope this will give you a sense of what I was trying to do behind the scenes. Whether/how much the producers listened to my ideas, I will let you be the judge. As I’ve said many times, once I saw the final script and saw what they were doing on the set, I realized I had to step away for my own peace of mind. I never saw either of the movies in their final form. What I know of them, and how I judge them, is based entirely on my experiences with the producers and on the final scripts. The SEA OF MONSTERS movie is a whole ‘nother story, but it followed basically the same process.

. . . .

Should a reboot happen some day, in some fashion, I would hope, like you, that it would be a great adaptation that is faithful to the books and fun to watch. The fact that Disney has now acquired the rights from Fox may be hopeful news, but it doesn’t change my contractual powers (which are zilch). Still, I’ve let it be known that I would be happy to consult and advise IF they want me and IF the new project was undertaken by a completely different team than the one which made the movies. I think that would be important. Fresh eyes. Fresh ideas. Hopefully people who know and are passionate about the books. I have no desire to go through my first experience again and see the same results. If I felt like that was going to be the case, I would have to stay away from the project completely. In the future, if some project actually does get underway, I may not be able to comment on it for contractual reasons, but you can tell how I’m feeling about it by what I do or don’t say. Am I talking about it? Promoting it? Sharing cool things? I am probably happy. Am I completely ignoring it and never mentioning it on social media? Yeah . . . that’s probably not a good sign. For instance, check out my website, rickriordan.com. Do you see any indication there that the Percy Jackson movies ever existed? No. No, you do not.

. . . .

From January 2009 note to producers

Hi XXXXX,

I understand that a decision has been made to age the main characters in the film to seventeen. As no one wants to see this film succeed more than I do, I hope you’ll let me share a couple of reasons why this is a bad idea from a money-making point of view.

First, it kills any possibility of a movie franchise. I don’t know if you or your staff have had the chance to read farther than The Lightning Thief in the Percy Jackson series, but there are four other volumes. The series is grounded on the premise that Percy must progress from age twelve to age sixteen, when according to a prophecy he must make a decision that saves or destroys the world. I assume that XXXX would at least like to keep open the option of sequels assuming the first movie does well. Starting Percy at seventeen makes this undoable. I’m also sure that XXXXX (for) the first Harry Potter movie, some in the studio argued for making the characters older to appeal to a teen audience. Fortunately, they took the long view and stayed true to the source material, which allowed them to grow a lucrative franchise. This would’ve been impossible if they’d started Harry at seventeen. The same principle applies here.

Second, it alienates the core audience. I’m guessing those book sale numbers are important to XXXX because you’re hoping all those kids show up at the theater. The core readership for Percy Jackson is age 9-12. There are roughly a million kids that age, plus their families, who are dying to see this film because they want to see the pictures in their imagination brought to life. Many of these kids have read the books multiple times and know every detail. They are keenly aware that Percy is twelve in the first book. By making the characters seventeen, you’ve lost those kids as soon as they see the first movie trailer. You signal that this is a teen film, when the core audience is families. I understand that you want to appeal to teens because they are a powerful demographic, and conventional wisdom says that teens will not see movies about kids younger than themselves. Harry Potter proved this wrong, but aside from that, deviating so significantly from the source material risks pleasing no one – teens, who know the books are meant for younger kids, and the younger kids, who will be angry and disappointed that the books they love have been distorted into a teen movie. I haven’t even seen the script yet, so I don’t know how much the story has changed, but I fear the movie will be dead on arrival with a seventeen-year-old lead. (At this time I had no idea who might be cast)

I’ve spent the last four years touring the country, talking about the movie. I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of kids. They are all excited about the movie, but they are also anxious. Most of these kids have no idea which studio produces which film, but everywhere I go, they say the same thing: Please don’t let them do to the Lightning Thief what they did to XXXX(another movie from the same producers) Don’t let them change the story. These kids are the seed audience for the movie. They are the ones who will show up first with their families, then tell their friends to go, or not go, depending on how they liked it. They are looking for one thing: How faithful was the movie to the book? Make Percy seventeen, and that battle is lost before filming even begins.

Thanks for letting me say my piece. I care too much about the project to see it fail.

Link to the rest at Rick Riordan

The price of light

18 November 2018

The price of light is less than the cost of darkness.

~ Arthur C. Nielsen, Market Researcher & Founder of ACNielsen

China’s Children’s Book Market: Big Numbers, Local Talent

18 November 2018

From Publishing Perspectives:

While other markets around the world reported relatively stable children’s book sales in 2017 (with small increases or decreases), China’s children’s book market grew by 9.66 percent—and this is its lowest growth rate in the last 10 years.

. . . .

This slower growth comes after a decade of huge changes for Chinese book publishing, and the children’s book sector in particular, in which the average annual growth rate over the last 10 years is 19 percent.

. . . .

Children’s books—picture books, in particular—are relatively new in China. At the Bologna Book Fair earlier this year, Haiyun Zhao, deputy director-general for SAPPRFT’s department of import administration, told Publishing Perspectives that modern picture books have been on the market in China only for about 15 years.

In this short amount of time, Chinese publishers have built up the domestic children’s book sector by bringing many foreign titles to the market and by developing authors and illustrators at home.

Ren reports that 22,834 new children’s books were published in China last year, and 19,607 titles were reprinted. Sales reached 17.55 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion) in 2017, up from 3.9 billion RMB (US$561 million) in 2008.

. . . .

The main reasons for this rapid growth, Ren told the audience, are China’s massive population and peoples’ increasing willingness to spend money on books. More people are reading, he said, and parents are spending more money on books for their children than before.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

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