Jet And Ebony Sold, Ending A 71-Year Run Under Johnson Publishing

23 June 2016

From WBEZ – Chicago:

Last week marked an end of an era for the historic Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Company. After 71-year run as an outlet for the expression of both the highest aspirations and deepest frustrations of African Americans, the family-owned business has sold its iconic lifestyle magazine — Ebony— and the now digital-only Jet magazine.

The magazines were sold to Clear View Group, a private equity firm in Texas that has been described as African-American-owned. Johnson Publishing will retain its ownership of Fashion Fair cosmetics and the company’s extensive photo archives.

Johnson Publishing was founded by John H. Johnson, the grandson of slaves who became the first African-American to appear on the Forbes List of the 400 Richest Americans. His depiction of African-American notables living elegant lives set a new standard for coverage of black Americans. So too did his decision to publish photos of the open casket of the Chicago teenager Emmett Till, who was kidnapped and tortured by white racists in Mississippi in 1955.

. . . .

On the editorial future of the magazines

Kyles: We can continue to be what John Johnson wanted us to be, which is this — not only an educator, an entertainer, but a beacon of hope providing an example and showing people, “Hey, here’s some of the most wonderful things that black people are doing all over the world,” and inspiring people to know that they can do the same.

. . . .

On the “famous story” about her father donning a disguise to get access to and buy one of his offices

LJR: What he did was, in order to buy this building, he actually had to have a white gentleman who was really was kind of the face of the purchase, and my father proceeded to act like he was just a janitor so he could just walk through the building and take a look at it. And that is the nuts and bolts of that story.

. . . .

On the significance of Jet and Ebony as chroniclers of the African-American experience and the continued need for such publications

LJR: I think you will find that a lot of young African-Americans are really searching for, “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” and “What is my past?” I think we’re as relevant now as we’ve ever been. For example, when we did the Bill Cosby cover in fall of last year, it was a lot of controversy.

It was the Cosby family on the cover, but overlaid on that it appeared to be a shattered glass. So it really wasn’t just about the shattering of the Huxables, it was really a shattering of the black family. And it was a question about that and where do we stand on that. And so, these are things that are very, very relevant that Ebony will continue to cover.

Link to the rest at WBEZ

PG had the privilege of meeting John Johnson a long time ago in the offices of Johnson Publishing and Ebony magazine on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The occasion was a reception for some of the executives of a large Chicago advertising agency where PG worked.

Mr. Johnson wanted the agency to place a lot more advertisements in Ebony and Jet magazines and made an excellent presentation about the ascendance of a black middle class across the country. He was a very persuasive and successful entrepreneur. The Johnson corporate offices were much more impressive than those of another well-known Chicago publishing organization of that era, Playboy.

PG doesn’t know if John Johnson noted the wide sidewalks in front of the Johnson Publishing building before he purchased it, but he put those sidewalks to good use. He was known for driving his big Mercedes sedan over the curb and up on the sidewalk, parking it in front of his building. The Chicago police made certain no one disturbed Mr. Johnson’s car while it was parked there.

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How to Become a Ghostwriter

23 June 2016

From author Roz Morris via Jane Friedman:

Could you become a ghostwriter?

Before I ever published anything with my own byline, I’d already sold 4 million books as a ghostwriter.

Book ghostwriting is much more widespread than you’d suspect. Many writers—even well-known names—also use their skills for hire. Sometimes they’re credited. Sometimes they’re completely incognito.

Why do they do it? Well, money—obviously. Established ghostwriters get paid at a rate that’s fair for the time they spend. That’s pretty remarkable at a time when book advances are dwindling and authors are struggling to earn a decent living from book sales. Journalists, too, are finding that ghostwriting is a good career move. While magazines and online publications cut their staff to the bone, the book trade needs reliable wordsmiths who can quickly produce manuscripts to a brief, or interview a notable person to write their life story. But the ghostwriting world is broader and deeper than memoirs and celebrities. The deeper you dig, the more opportunities you find.

Even fiction publishers use ghostwriters. Funnily enough, people are surprised to hear this. But if you’re a fiction writer, you already know you didn’t learn your craft overnight. Neither can many of the people whose names go on novels.

. . . .

Publishers might look for ghostwriters to help an author they’d like to publish. You might spruce up an existing manuscript or write the book from scratch. Ghostwriters are also needed by literary and entertainment agents. A client might have a book idea and need to get a writer on board to sell it to a publisher. Writing book proposals is a significant part of the ghostwriter’s work.

. . . .

You need to be good at interviewing and earning the trust of the subject. That’s lovely if you get on well with them. You have to be willing to respect their work, their achievements and their goals. But sometimes you have to use ingenious wiles to get enough good book material.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Here’s a link to Roz Morris’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Barnes & Noble widens losses, but outlook improves

23 June 2016

From MarketWatch:

Barnes & Noble Inc. reported Wednesday that its loss widened during the final quarter of its fiscal year as revenue was pressured by store closures and lower online sales.

Still, shares, which have fallen nearly 41% in the last 12 months, climbed 6.3% in after-hours trading to $11.10 as the company gave an upbeat outlook for profitability.

For the current fiscal year, the company expects comparable bookstore sales to be between flat and an increase of 1%, and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to range from $200 million to $250 million. The midpoint of that range is slightly better than analysts’ expectations, according to FactSet.

“As we look ahead to fiscal 2017 and beyond, we are focusing on executing a number of initiatives to grow bookstore and online sales, reduce Retail and NOOK expenses and grow our Membership base,” said Chief Executive Ron Boire.

. . . .

Retail sales, which include brick-and-mortar stores and online, fell 2.2% to $850 million. Comparable-store sales declined 0.8% for the quarter. Nook sales slipped 20% to $42 million during the three month period.

The company reported a loss of $30.6 million, or 42 cents a share, compared with a loss of $19.4 million, or 37 cents a share, a year prior. On a continuing operations basis, per-share loss was still 42 cents, wider than the 12 cent loss posted a year earlier.

Revenue declined 3.7% to $876.7 million during the quarter, brought lower by store closures and lower online sales. The company said it operates some 640 bookstores in the U.S.

Link to the rest at MarketWatch

On the Invisibility of Middle-Aged Women

23 June 2016

From LitHub:

A year ago at a literary festival in Wales, I met a woman. It was at a reception at a castle that had a beautiful park and a regal view of the Welsh landscape. I had no companion to the reception, knew nobody there, and was circling with a glass of champagne trying to make it look as if I was waiting for someone who had just briefly stepped out of the picture. Then suddenly a woman appeared in front of me. Hello, she said. Isn’t it a breathtaking view? I nodded, and we shook hands and introduced ourselves. She was British, I was Danish. She pointed at a small man with a cell phone behind some shrubbery in the park: My husband, she said, and who are you with?

I told her that I was with nobody. I also told her that it was a bit strange to be with nobody amid scenery that so much called for somebody. But I’m a writer, I said, I’m used to traveling on my own. She looked at me as if I was mirroring something, and I was: We were both two middle-aged women at a reception without men (not counting the husband in the shrubbery) and it called for some narrative.

The woman explained to me that she had been a very successful lawyer. For over twenty years her career had escalated, she had become a star attorney, and there was not a week where she didn’t have to meet with the people in 10 Downing Street. She was someone, and therefore had to work around the clock and it was great fun, it was super interesting, it was high profile, and it was very exhausting. When she reached her mid-forties her husband (Mr. Shrubbery) had suggested that she slow down. It was too late to have children but never too late to rediscover themselves as a couple, and to be frank she wasexhausted from all the Prime Ministerial counseling. So she let go of her job and found herself a lower profile one. No more cab rides to the center of power, just a briefcase, her 46th birthday coming up, and then the husband who would chew his toast very slowly in the morning. Perhaps he always chewed his toast that slowly, it’s possible, she just hadn’t been around to notice it, but there it was: slow chewing, and she had all the time in the world to witness it.

The worst thing, however, the woman told me and leaned in, was that this career change collided with my disappearance as a woman. You could say that I was no longer somebody, but I was also becoming a person with no body.

I nodded. There was something recognizable in this picture. I said:

So the cars don’t stop for you when you want to cross the street anymore?

She shook her head. I said:

You ask a younger man for directions at the railway station and he ignores you?

She nodded. I said:

You have an interesting conversation with a couple of men and a younger woman enters your circle, and the conversation is suddenly over?

She nodded and I finally threw the ace on the table:

Men you know are leaving their middle-aged wives to date women who are in their twenties and early thirties?

. . . .

I do write books about middle-aged, childless women on the brink of disappearing—or you could say—on the brink of losing their license to live. If a woman has kids, she will always be a mother, but a woman who has chosen not to procreate and who now no longer is young and sexy is perceived by many as a pointless being.

. . . .

The interesting thing is that middle-aged women on the search for essence and their license to live can come off as quite provocative characters. Some people regard them as lacking self control—or even worse; they are conceived of as “self absorbed.” A middle-aged woman who’s not preoccupied with handling herself or taking care of someone else is a dangerous, erratic being. What is she up to? And what’s the point of her being up to anything? She has no children, she has no family, the only thing she has is her own life and what good will that do anyone when she’s no longer a star attorney at 10 Downing Street, or when she doesn’t have a rehearsal space where she can compose her music, or when she’s in the process of turning into spring itself: Overflowing, no longer firm and contained, but escalating, growing wild.

Link to the rest at LitHub

Kindle Instant Book Previews

22 June 2016

Along with many others, PG just received a promo for Kindle Instant Book Previews.

We all know how easy it is to share our favorite pictures and videos online. Now you can just as easily share your favorite book with Kindle instant previews so anyone can start reading the book for free.

. . . .

Kindle instant previews can be embedded on the web or shared as a link via email, text and other favorite apps. Anyone can start reading the preview for free by clicking on the link, just like this example. The Kindle instant preview provides:2px-spacer

• Free content to keep traffic on your site

• Free access to a sample of the book

• Adjustable font sizes for the readers’ comfort

• Direct link to book purchase from Amazon

• Download link to get the free Kindle app

Link to the rest at Kindle Instant Book Previews

This appears to be easy to implement.

Here’s an embedded version of one of Mrs. PG’s books (note the buttons at the bottom of the cover):

.

.

Here’s a link to a preview of the same book.

It’s Frustratingly Rare to Find a Novel About Women That’s Not About Love

22 June 2016

From The Atlantic:

I came of age without a literary soulmate. Growing up, I read every book recommended to me. Nick Carraway’s lucid account of the 1920’s seduced me. Huck Finn’s journey up the river showed me the close link between maturity and youth, and Ray Bradbury taught me to be wary of big government as well as the burning temperature of paper. While the male characters of literature built countries, waged wars, and traveled while smoking plenty of illicit substances, the women were utterly boring.The assigned, award-winning, cannon-qualified books about women were about women I didn’t want to be. Jane Eyre was too blinded by her love for Mr. Rochester, as were all of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice. Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter was too maternal, and no one wants to grow up to be Anna Karenina. These women wanted to get married and have kids. They wanted to whine for 300 pages about a man who didn’t want to be with them. They wanted, it seemed, to be supporting actresses in their own stories. Their stories were equally about the men who shaped them as what they themselves wanted.

These female characters had love stories of heartbreak, but no stories of solitary self-discovery. Like many young adults, I didn’t necessarily want stable. I wanted to drive On The Road and stop off in small towns and drink more than was probably appropriate. I wanted to question who I was and be my own Catcher in the Rye. There are no Jack Kerouacs or Holden Caulfields for girls. Literary girls don’t take road-trips to find themselves; they take trips to find men.”Great” books, as defined by the Western canon, didn’t contain female protagonists I could admire. In fact, they barely contained female protagonists at all. Of the 100 Best Novels compiled by Modern Library, only nine have women in the leading role, and in only one of those books–The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark–do the leading women strive to do more than find a husband or raise their children. Statistically, one percent of the Best Novels are about women doing something other than loving.To be clear, I love a beautifully told love story. I cry during The Notebook and love Mr. Darcy. I’d just as soon advocate for the banning of metaphors as I would for the banning of stories about love (which is to say never). Love stories are needed because they mirror real life. Men and women alike search for and find partners–be they for a moment or a lifetime. Love stories are huge plot lines in real life, but they aren’t everything.

These days, most women develop personal lives before love lives. They struggle, make decisions, and grow up long before they worry about finding a life partner. Women are getting married later with the average marrying age at 27 according to the most recent Pew Report. That’s four years older than in 1990. Additionally, women’s roles in the workforce have changed radically in the last 50 years. Though incomes between men and women still remain unequal, more women are joining and staying in the workforce, even after they have kids. Their literary counterparts, however, don’t reflect that.

. . . .

There are not many books that star a woman without a man to hold her hand and guide her, or a mess of domestic tasks for her to attend to as her first priority. In the 33 years since Housekeeping’s publication, few–if any–books have mirrored Robinson’s example. Female protagonists like Orleanna Price of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible or Margaret Atwood’s Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale, participate in political agendas, fight in wars, and generally have goals other than their love lives. Likewise, some popular fiction has begun to feature leading women with larger career goals and less focus on love. Skeeter of The Help by Kathryn Stockett chooses her career over love as do Edna Pontellier of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and even Andrea Sachs of Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada. These women and their goals are the main thrust of these novels, but they all include a love subplot.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to Dave for the tip.

PG came of age in a different century, but he doesn’t remember caring about the gender assigned to any fictional character in any of his early reading. Scout would have been equally cool and interesting as a boy. Gatsby was as driven and destroyed by passion as Anna K.

PG also disagrees that only a woman author can create an accurate female character. He remembers one of his professors in college (a lovely old woman) saying that Theodore Roethke’s Mediations of an Old Woman was uncannily accurate at capturing the hidden thoughts and feelings of an old woman.

The Western literary canon preceding the twenty-first century is what it is. Absent the unlikely discovery of a new literary genius in a pile of dusty manuscripts, we’re not going to find a striking 18th century female protagonist choosing career over family.

The authors of the 18th century wrote in the context of that age. Elizabeth Bennet would have been a fascinating character in any age, but in the early 19th century, her material self-interest was tied to marrying the right man. If she were going to have any significant personal independence of the kind 21st century women may seek in their careers, Elizabeth’s adult life had to begin by marrying money. Absent such a marriage, her world would become immensely more constrained. Jane Austen certainly understood that, as did her contemporary readers, male or female.

In 21st century America, if you don’t finish high school and go to college, your prospects in life are much narrower than for those who do graduate from college. Some future observer may find this arbitrary condition extraordinarily boring and limiting for one or more identity groups, but that’s the context for our world. Authors who write books set in today’s world will either explicitly or implicitly recognize the class distinctions between a high school dropout and a college graduate (or a Harvard graduate vs. a degree from The Tulsa Welding Institute).

Elizabeth Bennet’s indefatigable determination to not compromise love for money is a terrible career move. It’s like becoming a welder instead of an investment banker. She’ll be giving up income, promotions, influence, a large apartment in a fashionable neighborhood, travel, independence, social status, etc., all for the simple pleasures of living in a shower of sparks joining pieces of metal together day after day.

The true distinction between contemporary heroines with ambitious career goals and important political agendas and Elizabeth Bennet is that Lizzy is interested in love.

Fiction written in the 18th century about subjects other than fundamental and timeless human emotions has disappeared. On the other hand, PBS could not survive without Jane Austen and the Brontës.

There is a reason that romance outsells every other genre, including women’s fiction. It’s the same reason that people read and reread Jane.

“We are all fools in love.”

Writers

22 June 2016

Writers are always selling somebody out.

Joan Didion

New Kindle Announced

22 June 2016

From The Amazon Media Room:

Amazon today introduced the all-new Kindle, making its most affordable reader thinner, lighter, and with twice the memory as the previous generation for the same price, just $79.99. Kindle is offered in your choice of black or white and is available at www.amazon.com/kindle.

. . . .

KindleThinner, Lighter, Still Only $79.99

The all-new Kindle is thinner and lighter and has twice the memory compared to the previous generation Kindle. Now available in black and white color options, the new Kindle features a more rounded design, making it easy and comfortable to hold in one hand at any angle for extended reading sessions. Unlike reflective tablet and smartphone screens, the high contrast touchscreen display on Kindle eliminates glare in any setting, even in direct sunlight. Recent studies have shown that evening exposure to blue light from backlit screens like tablets and smartphones can suppress the body’s production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps the body fall asleep. Because the Kindle display emits no light, you can read anytime without losing sleep. Like all Kindle e-readers, the all-new Kindle has a battery life that lasts for weeks and not hours.

. . . .

  • Export Notes—It’s now easy to export notes and highlights from a book to your e-mail, so you can always have them on-hand for reference. Receive your notes both as an easily printable PDF that’s ready to bring to your book club, and as a simple file you can open in your favorite spreadsheet app. This feature will be available as part of a free, over-the-air software update in the coming weeks.
  • Built-in Bluetooth audio for accessibility—The first Kindle with built-in Bluetooth audio support, Kindle makes it possible for visually impaired users to use the VoiceView screen reader on Kindle to read the content of the screen—including reading books and other Kindle content—without the need for an adaptor. This is enabled through a new out-of-box experience specifically for visually-impaired customers that allows them to pair their Kindle with Bluetooth headphones or a speaker. For other recent updates in accessibility, visit our Amazon blog.
  • Chinese Word Wise Hints—Choose between English and Simplified Chinese Word Wise hints by changing the language in Word Wise settings.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Amazon seems to be willing to invest in additional Kindle ereader sales via new features and aggressive pricing to keep its ebook ecosystem healthy.

If ebook sales were really flattening or declining as articles focused on the traditional publishing world have suggested, PG wonders if the company would be putting more money into ereaders. This is the second new ereader Amazon has introduced in the last three months.

The Story

22 June 2016

Most of those who purchase books from Amazon will likely have already received notice, but Amazon has introduced The Story on Tumblr:

Welcome to The Story, a publication for the Kindle community and passionate readers everywhere. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with your friends and fellow book lovers.

Link to the rest at The Story

The Oxford comma’s unlikely origin

22 June 2016

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