24 May 2017

From The Oxford English Dictionary:

 labrish, v.

. . . .

To gossip idly; to chat; to chatter.

. . . .

1935 Daily Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica) 13 Mar. 17/6 Gerardo Leon..sang a Jamaica Mento composed by himself entitled ‘Ooman wa mek yu labrish so’.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary


Why We Are Self Publishing the Aviary Cookbook – Lessons From the Alinea Book

20 May 2017

From Nick Kokonas:

One of the most opaque industries around is publishing, not here online, but good old-fashioned print-books and their digital and audio spin-offs. Poke around and try to find some hard sales numbers and you’ll quickly find that it’s near impossible to do so. You can find bestseller lists from reputable sources like the NYTimes, Amazon and others but tying those rankings to an actual number of books sold at retail is simply not doable. Publishing costs, deals, and profit lines are even harder to shake loose.

About a decade ago, in 2007, book agents and publishers began approaching chef Achatz and me to gauge our interest in creating an Alinea cookbook. Ever since that process started I have wanted to write this post. Having never published a book before I was fairly mind-blown by the terms of the offering and my inability to properly and easily research the process, costs and revenue potential of a cookbook. In the intervening decade I’ve ranted privately to dozens of chefs, restaurant owners, writers of fiction and non-fiction alike, and even a few screenwriters that they should avoid traditional publishing deals if at all possible. I’ve pushed the case in private, but have always been afraid to fully burn my bridges.

Until now.

Back in March of 2007 we received this exact offer from a major cookbook publisher in the US, the first of several such offers that were remarkably similar. I’ve redacted only the publisher’s identity, the rest is verbatim:

Advance against royalties: $125,000

Royalties: hardcover: 8% of cover price on first 15,000 copies; 10% of cover price on next 15,000 copies; 12% on all copies thereafter; trade paperback: 7.5% of cover price on all copies (note that we are not envisioning this as a paperback but nevertheless want to secure the rights)

Territory: world

Subsidiary rights secured by publisher: first serial (90% author/10% publisher); second serial (50%/50%), book club (50%/50%), permissions (50%/50%), other book publication (50%/50%), British (80%/20%), translation (75%/25%), electronic (50%/50%), audio (50%/50%), paper products (50%/50%)

Subsidiary rights retained by author: video, commercial and merchandising, performance

Deliverables: 100 recipes and supporting text by 8/31/07; 150 color photographs delivered as high-resolution digital files with match prints by 8/31/07; recipes must be fully tested and photographs are subject to [redacted’s] approval.

Option: on next cookbook; proposal may be submitted 90 days after publication of the contract work

Buyback: Author will purchase 5,000 copies for resale within 12 months of publication subject to the following terms: non-returnable; orders of a minimum of 500 copies; in carton quantities only; subject to [redacted’s] inventory requirements; at a discount of 50% off the retail price; royalties payable; delivered to a single US destination; to be sold through the author’s own restaurants, businesses, and website only.

For a first book this is considered a great offer. It’s super rare for any chef or restaurant to receive a solid book deal, let alone a restaurant that was less than 2 years old. $125,000 and the guarantee of editing support, printing supervision, and distribution would have ensured that the book would reach a wide audience and be of relatively high quality.

But then I started doing the math. And negotiating. The offer was soon doubled to $250,000 (perhaps too quickly). But it still didn’t add up to me. At a $60 cover price we would net $4.80 per book sold of the first 15,000 units and have recouped only a $72,000 credit of the advance. On the next 15,000 copies, $90,000. For every book sold after 30,000 — and let’s be clear *very* few cookbooks sell more than 30,000 copies — we would recoup at a rate of $7.20 per book and need to sell another 12,222 books before we saw another dime. The advance is just that — an advance against royalties — and just like a record deal the publisher keeps all of the revenue until the advance is fully recouped, if ever.

Out of that $250,000 we would be required to spend the money on all photography, graphic design, pre-press, editing, recipe testing, writing and proofs. With a team of 4–6 professionals contracted for the book this would typically use 70% to 85% of the advance. It could easily end up being more than that for us as we intended to shoot every recipe, its steps and the final dish… something that the vast majority of cookbooks do not do for several reasons.

The photography, color correction, layout and proofs are exacting and time consuming. As important, pages that are full-bleed, 6-color printed drive up the printing costs. That is why most cookbooks — even the best — do not include photographs of every recipe. The pages that are only text, be they recipes or essays, are far cheaper to print and work to save money on the overall production costs. If you unbind a typical cookbook (we dissected a dozen or so with an X-acto knife), you’ll find that pages 20 / 200 (for example) are printed on the same sheet… and don’t include pictures. Multiply that by 40% or more of the book and you’ve saved a great deal of money. Next time you pick up a cookbook try to estimate how many pages are all or mostly words, then page through the book. You’ll be surprised. And now you’ll know why there isn’t a picture of every recipe and dish, even though the ones with pictures tend to be the only recipes readers actually cook.

There is, baked into the structure of the publishing agreement, a mutual incentive to reduce costs. For the authors it is to cut corners on photography and design production to retain more of the advance money. This helps the publisher to keep the printing cost as low as possible. But what were those costs exactly?

I still had no idea what it actually cost to print a major cookbook. That was as hard to figure out as sales numbers. So our team started calling printers in China and Korea, print brokers in the US, and any publishing contact I could find to ask a very specific question: “How much does it cost to print 30,000 copies of a [Very Famous and Successful] Cookbook, do you think?” I was met with responses that were akin to me asking for state secrets that were highly classified. No one would talk.

Until one-day I got lucky. Just by chance I spoke to the print broker who actually worked on the exact bid for that famous book. And he told me precisely: that super amazing cookbook that I truly loved, which at the time retailed for $50 and had won every award imaginable, cost $3.83 per book to print, shrink wrap, and ship to the US. I thought he must be mistaken and I said so. “No way.” He replied, “well that was the first edition, I’m sure the cost has gone down since then.” He thought I was implying that $3.83 per book was too high!

Link to the rest at Nick Kokonas


Thanks to My OCD, I Wrote a Self-Published Best-Seller

25 April 2017
Comments Off on Thanks to My OCD, I Wrote a Self-Published Best-Seller

From author Max Altschuler via MediaShift:

Whenever I leave a room, I flicker the lights on and off twice. If any object isn’t exactly where it belongs — a dish, the remote, the clock by my bed — then I need to fix it before I can move on to the next thing, let alone leave the house.

I know I have some level of OCD. But at this point, I’m not looking to treat it. That’s because I’ve learned to harness it professionally. Without it, I wouldn’t have written a book during a week-long vacation. I self-published it upon return, made six figure profits within months, and turned down an offer from a major traditional publisher — until eventually selling them the reprint rights.

While most people don’t share my obsessions and compulsions, anyone can learn from the steps I took to write and publish in little time.

My career focuses on sales and technology. As I learn things, I store them in compartments in my brain, filing them into specific folders where they belong.

Most people won’t do this mentally, but anyone can do it literally. Within your area of expertise, keep your knowledge organized somewhere, such as document folders in the cloud. As these build up, you’ll have the raw materials for a book. (This applies primarily to non-fiction, but can also help fiction writers store information necessary for the details they’re writing about — historical epics, industries, etc.)

. . . .

Specialized how-to business books of about 30,000 words can do quite well. This is particularly true when you sell a book about selling — to people who sell. I knew this about my market.

Just as importantly, I had established myself as a known quantity within my niche: where sales and technology meet. Through my work at Sales Hacker and the big conferences I was running, I had built up the right connections who would help spread the word. And I had a substantial e-mail list that would make initial marketing a breeze.

In my professional community, Amazon is generally the first place people turn to for books. So I hired an editor to format it and made it available on Amazon, as e-book and print-on-demand.

Soon after, I received an offer from a traditional publisher. But I saw no reason to give another company the vast majority of the money. Later, after months of steady sales, I had moved on to other projects. I agreed to sell the reprint rights to Wiley. They worked with me to expand the book a bit (it’s now at 35,000 words), and made it available in brick-and-mortar stores as well.

Link to the rest at MediaShift. Here’s a link to Max Altschuler’s book. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.


Picasso and the Cultural Rebirth of Chicago

18 April 2017

Yesterday, PG read an article commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of Mike Royko.

PG is certain that most of the world has never heard of Royko, a Polish-Ukranian newspaperman who wrote a daily column for the Chicago Daily News for many years.

When the Daily News closed down in 1978, Royko took his column to the Chicago Sun-Times. When Rupert Murdoch bought the Sun-Times, Royko quit with the comment, “No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in a Murdoch paper.” He finished his career at the Chicago Tribune.

Royko was the quintessential voice of the little guy and the ethnic neighborhoods of Chicago, skewering the politicians of the Democratic party machine and the wealthy Republicans who supported them whenever the occasion arose. And the occasion arose quite frequently. He attended a junior college briefly, but had no formal training in writing other than what he absorbed working in newspapers.

Every day when he got off work, Royko went to the Billy Goat Tavern, the blue-collar after-hours haunt of Chicago journalists. He was well-known for being rude to any slumming young executive types who tried to talk to him while he was drinking.

When PG was commuting to work at his first couple of jobs in Chicago after graduating from college, he read Royko’s column every day. He remembers one Royko column discussing the replacement of Men’s and Women’s restroom signs at Chicago’s O’Hare airport with pictographs – outline drawings in the shape of men and women. Royko opined that this change was necessary because Chicago aldermen kept walking into the wrong bathrooms at the airport.

Following is one of Royko’s classic columns. For some context, Mayor Daley is Mayor Richard J. Daley, who served as mayor of Chicago for twenty-one years and died in office. After a few short-term mayors, Mayor Daley’s son, Richard M. Daley served as mayor of Chicago for twenty-two years. While plenty of their political supporters were indicted on various corruption charges, each of the Daleys managed to skate.

Mayor Daley walked to the white piece of ribbon and put his hand on it. He was about to give it a pull when the photographers yelled for him to wait. He stood there for a minute and gave them that familiar blend of scowl and smile.

It was good that he waited. This was a moment to think about, to savor what was about to happen. In just a moment, with a snap of the mayor’s wrist, Chicago history would be changed. That’s no small occurrence·the cultural rebirth of a big city.

Out there in the neighborhoods and the suburbs, things probably seemed just the same. People worried about the old things·would they move in and would we move out? Or would we move in and would they move out?

But downtown, the leaders of culture and influence were gathered for a historical event and it was reaching a climax with Mayor Daley standing there ready to pull a ribbon.

Thousands waited in and around the Civic Center plaza. They had listened to the speeches about the Picasso thing. They had heard how it was going to change Chicago’s image.

They had heard three clergymen·a priest, a rabbi, and a Protestant minister·offer eloquent prayers. That’s probably a record for a work by Picasso, a dedicated atheist.

And now the mayor was standing there, ready to pull the ribbon.

You could tell it was a big event by the seating. In the first row on the speakers platform was a lady poet. In the second row was Alderman Tom Keane. And in the third row was P. J. Cullerton, the assessor. When Keane and Cullerton sit behind a lady poet, things are changing.

The only alderman in the front row was Tom Rosenberg. And he was there only because it was a cultural event and he is chairman of the City Council’s Culture Committee, which is in charge of preventing aldermen from spitting, swearing, and snoring during meetings.

The whole thing had been somber and serious. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra had played classical music. It hadn’t played even one chorus of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”

Chief Judge John Boyle had said the Picasso would become more famous than the Art Institute’s lions. Boyle has vision.

Someone from the National Council of Arts said it was paying tribute to Mayor Daley. This brought an interested gleam in the eyes of a few ward committeemen.

William Hartmann, the man who thought of the whole thing, told of Picasso’s respect for Mayor Daley. Whenever Hartmann went to see Picasso, the artist asked:

“Is Mayor Daley still mayor of Chicago?”

When Hartmann said this, Mayor Daley bounced up and down in his chair, he laughed so hard. So did a few Republicans in the cheap seats, but they didn’t laugh the same way.

After the ceremony, it came to that final moment the mayor standing there holding the white ribbon.

Then he pulled.

There was a gasp as the light blue covering fell away in several pieces. But it was caused by the basic American fascination for any mechanical feat that goes off as planned.

In an instant the Picasso stood there unveiled for all to see.

A few people applauded. But at best, it was a smattering of applause. Most of the throng was silent.

They had hoped, you see, that it would be what they had heard it would be.

A woman, maybe. A beautiful soaring woman. That is what many art experts and enthusiasts had promised. They had said that we should wait that we should not believe what we saw in the pictures.

If it was a woman, then art experts should put away their books and spend more time in girlie joints.

The silence grew. Then people turned and looked at each other. Some shrugged. Some smiled. Some just stood there, frowning or blank-faced.

Most just turned and walked away. The weakest pinch-hitter on the Cubs receives more cheers.

They had wanted to be moved by it. They wouldn’t have stood there if they didn’t want to believe what they had been told that it would be a fine thing.

But anyone who didn’t have a closed mind·which means thinking that anything with the name Picasso connected must be wonderful could see that it was nothing but a big, homely metal thing.

That is all there is to it. Some soaring lines, yes. Interesting design, I’m sure. But the fact is, it has a long stupid face and looks like some giant insect that is about to eat a smaller, weaker insect. It has eyes that are pitiless, cold, mean.

But why not? Everybody said it had the spirit of Chicago. And from thousands of miles away, accidentally or on purpose, Picasso captured it.

Up there in that ugly face is the spirit of Al Capone, the Summerdale scandal cops, the settlers who took the Indians but good.

Its eyes are like the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off the small and weak. And of every building inspector who took a wad from a slum owner to make it all possible.

It has the look of the dope pusher and of the syndicate technician as he looks for just the right wire to splice the bomb to.

Any bigtime real estate operator will be able to look into the face of the Picasso and see the spirit that makes the city’s rebuilding possible and profitable.

It has the look of the big corporate executive who comes face to face with the reality of how much water pollution his company is responsible for and then thinks of the profit and loss and of his salary.

It is all there in that Picasso thing the I Will spirit. The I will get you before you will get me spirit.

Picasso has never been here, they say. You’d think he’s been riding the L all his life.

Link to the rest, including a couple of additional Royko columns, at the University of Chicago Press, which has published a One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko


How to Organize Your Book Collection

17 April 2017

Note – the authors of this article have written a book about how to organize your life. They categorize their advice by personality types – Smarts, Organics, Classic and Fun Pixies, etc.

From Read it Forward:

The two of us have spent a lifetime surrounded by books. There are literally books in EVERY room of our parents’ house—from a large paperback collection in the basement (!) to our childhood books in the attic to others even in the dining room. We’ve also spent 10 years curating all manner of libraries owned by various Pixie organizing types and we haven’t seen a library yet that we haven’t improved with a little Pixie Magic. First, only keep books that either have meaning, are actively read, produce happiness, or frankly look good on display. Then play around with them using some of our great Pixie tips. Once you take these steps, your books will become both objets d’arts and utilitarian fountains of knowledge.

. . . .

Logical types—Smarts, Classic Structures, and Fun Structures—tend to keep books because they’re manifestations of their achievements. So when pruning, you guys need to make sure each book still mirrors what you want to project to the world. If this only purges one or two books, then focus on paperbacks. They’re meant to be recycled unless they’re out of print or still used. They’re literally disintegrating on your shelf as you read this. If our incredibly stubborn, Smart Structure, bibliophile father can start to consider donating his basement paperback library, then it’s time for you as well. If the paperback pathway fails, hire an organizer to make you justify the logic of holding on to paperbacks you can get online or didn’t even like when you read them. Donate hardcovers you don’t care about anymore or sell that textbook you’ve never referenced in 20 years. Let that poor neglected book be loved by someone, man!

Sentimental types—Organics, Classic Freedoms and Fun Freedoms—tend to keep books as reminders of the past, like old friends. Let’s face it, it’s hard to dump friends! Keep the golden ones (you know who they are) and get rid of the riff-raff. We assure you that tossing a book is much easier than dumping an actual friend. If this method fails, invite your most judgmental Classic or Smart friend over to make you justify every sentimental item in your library. Items you can’t let go of, even after being friend-shamed, should go in a “Later Box” in deep storage for 3, 6, or 12 months. Then without looking inside, keep whatever you miss from the box and donate the rest. C’mon, you forgot they even existed!!

. . . .

While it’s much easier to style a half empty bookcase, it’s not impossible to make one that’s bursting look a lot better. It’s a matter of putting like with like, a few pops of contrast here and there to break up the long line of books and matching frames for your photos to lend cohesion to a varied collection. The only idea you need to let go of is alphabetizing unless, of course, your book collection rivals your local library and you utilize your books on a regular basis. In which case, ask your local librarian for advice! If you’re like most folks, though, Pixie advice should suffice.

Link to the rest at Read it Forward

Here’s a link to Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies for Every Personality

For the record, PG is not any sort of pixie, organizational or otherwise. He doesn’t recall ever being or aspiring to be the least bit pixielike

Of course, as Mrs. PG will attest, PG is not terribly fascinated with the organization of physical objects.

The contents of PG’s computer, however, are a paragon of intelligent organization, his secret well-ordered life. However, even his secret life contains no pixies.



8 April 2017

From The Oxford English Dictionary:

procacious, adj. 

. . . .

Insolent or arrogant in attitude or tone; forward, cheeky; provocative

. . . .

1660 R. Baxter Treat. Self-denyall xliv. 237 The temptations of women, and procacious youth.

. . . .

1796 tr. Voltaire La Pucelle I. iii. 73 Whose Acts exterminate the Race procacious, Of a fam’d Madman we name Saint Ignatius.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary


Hogs Norton

27 March 2017

From The Oxford English Dictionary:

 Hogs Norton, n.

. . . .

A fictional town renowned for its uncultured and boorish inhabitants; often in (depreciative) phrases suggesting that someone is a native or inhabitant of this town.

. . . .

1725 N. Bailey tr. Erasmus Colloq. 317 You saucy Fellow, where was you drag’d up, At Hogs Norton?

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary


A Journey Into the Merriam-Webster Word Factory

24 March 2017

From The New York Times:

 Merriam-Webster, the oldest dictionary publisher in America, has turned itself into a social media powerhouse over the past few years. Its editors star in online videos on hot-button topics like the serial comma, gender pronouns and the dreaded “irregardless.” Its Twitter feed has become a viral sensation, offering witty — and sometimes pointedly political — commentary on the news of the day.

Kory Stamper, a lexicographer here, is very much part of the vanguard of word-nerd celebrities. Her witty “Ask the Editor” video contributions, like a classic on the plural of octopus, and personal blog, Harmless Drudgery, have inspired a Kory Stamper Fan Club on Facebook. One online admirer has carefully tracked minute changes in her hair (which, for one thing, is purple).

But the company remains very much a bricks-and-mortar operation, still based in this small New England city where the Merriam brothers bought the rights to Noah Webster’s dictionary in the 1840s and carried on his idea of a distinctly American language. And this month, Ms. Stamper, the author of the new book “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries,” was more than happy to offer a tour of some of the distinctly analog oddities in the basement.

. . . .

But the real jaw-dropper was the Backward Index, which includes some 315,000 cards listing words spelled … backward.

“It was conceived of as another way of shuffling information,” Ms. Stamper said of the index, which seems to have been produced intermittently from the 1930s to the ’70s. “Basically, someone sat here and typed up all the entries backwards. And then went crazy.”

Craziness is a bit of a leitmotif in “Word by Word.” The book, published last week by Pantheon, mixes memoiristic meditations on the lexicographic life along with a detailed description of the brain-twisting work of writing dictionaries. The Atlantic called it “an erudite and loving and occasionally profane history of the English language” that’s also “a cheerful and thoughtful rebuke of the cult of the grammar scolds.”

Ms. Stamper calls it “a love letter to dictionaries in English,” if one that allows for some mixed feelings.

“People have so many fears about what their use of language says about them,” she said. “When you talk to people about dictionaries, they often start talking about other things, like which words they love, and which words they hate. And it’s perfectly fine to hate parts of the language.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times


Friendships That Saved the World

23 March 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

The “special relationship”: Ever since Winston Churchill coined the phrase to describe the alliance between the United States and Great Britain during World War II—an alliance that later became instrumental to founding NATO and sustaining peace during the Cold War—historians, diplomats and politicians have waxed eloquent (and sometimes indignant) about it. The alliance became increasingly asymmetrical as America’s power grew and Britain’s empire declined, and yet—even to this day—it has remained impressively, sometimes movingly, reciprocal.

Lewis Lehrman’s “Churchill, Roosevelt & Company” offers a detailed look at the special relationship, especially during World War II, when Anglo-American cooperation achieved its most impressive results and faced its most formidable challenges. The book is packed with fascinating detail and illuminates not only the past but the challenges of the present day. The subtitle is “Studies in Character and Statecraft”: Mr. Lehrman makes it clear that, in geopolitics, the two go together.

The origins of the special relationship actually go back to World War I, when the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy joined forces to beat the German U-boat menace. Although British statesmen had wanted the U.S. to join the Allied cause early in the war, they felt that, if need be, Britain could sustain itself against Germany without the help of the Americans.

By 1940, however, such strategic independence was no longer possible. When Churchill reached out to FDR that May as Nazi tanks were pouring across France, he knew that Britain couldn’t survive without American help. Even after Hitler invaded Russia in June 1941 and Stalin became Churchill’s unexpected ally, the British prime minister always knew that victory over Hitler depended on the full engagement of the United States.

Churchill found a willing partner in Franklin Roosevelt. As Mr. Lehrman reminds us, Churchill and FDR saw the world in much the same way—believing that whoever controlled the Atlantic controlled the fate of the U.S. as well as Europe—and both grasped the global stakes if Hitler prevailed. Even so, it took a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s declaration of war four days later to turn America’s material support of the British under Lend-Lease into what Britain desperately needed: an all-out U.S. military commitment.

. . . .

[Wall Street lawyer William] Donovan turned out to be one of a series of envoys that FDR sent to London to manage policy. None were trained diplomats; all were men who combined high intellectual caliber and strong wills with an unswerving loyalty to their commander in chief. They included the banker Averell Harriman; the Republican politician John Gilbert Winant, who replaced defeatist Joe Kennedy at the Court of St. James’s; and FDR’s most trusted aide, Harry Hopkins. Mr. Lehrman quotes British Gen. Hastings Ismay saying that Hopkins “won the hearts of us all, from the highest to the lowest; he had seen everything. We felt sure that he would report to his chief that we were worth backing to the limit.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)


Pearson Posts a $3.3 Billion Loss as It Faces Down a Collapse in Its Biggest Market

22 March 2017

From Fortune:

Pearson, the global education company battling a collapse in its biggest market, said it would take further costs out of the business and look to sell some assets after posting a $3.3 billion pretax loss and a sharp rise in debt.

Pearson, which has issued five profit warnings in four years after students in the United States started renting text books rather than buying them, said its loss included an impairment of goodwill of 2.5 billion pounds, reflecting the challenges facing the business.

Link to the rest at Fortune and thanks to MKS for the tip.

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