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Zoom Book Tours: 5 Authors on Publishing in a Pandemic

wired.com – Friday January 1, 2021

WRITING A BOOK is a lonely pursuit, one that can take years of solitary work. Selling a book is another story. Authors give talks in cramped storefronts, schmooze at luncheons, and learn to casually discuss their belabored creative project as commercial content. The publicity circuit can be dispiriting, sleazy, and exhausting. It can also be exhilarating, liberating, and fun—a chance for people who spend a lot of time alone with their thoughts to feel like someone’s heard them. This year, releasing a book into the world became another task largely undertaken solo, at home, staring at a screen. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the publishing industry to reimagine its process for convincing people to buy its latest offerings. Even the industry’s fanciest nights, like the National Book Awards gala, took place as digital events, with participants glammed up and sitting at home.

WIRED asked the writers behind five of our favorite 2020 tomes to tell us what it was like to release a book during quarantine. Here’s what they said.

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Why this forgotten punctuation mark should be revived

fastcompany.com – Thursday December 24, 2020

The first writing systems were continuous streams of type. Punctuation did not appear until the third century BC, when Greek librarian Aristophanes introduced the period to signal pauses while reading aloud. In the eighth century, English scholar Alcuin of York introduced the question mark to signal uncertainty. In the 14th century, Florentine leader Coluccio Salutati introduced the exclamation mark to signal intensity. Since then, punctuation has played a larger role than we ever could have thought—we have chosen one of these three marks to end every sentence since.

Jump forward to 1962, when New York ad executive Martin Speckter spotted a new typographic trend. Ads were asking excited, exclamatory questions, using “?!” to end the sentences. The cumbersome pairing and wasted space irritated him.

As the editor of the magazine Type Talks, he was in a position to suggest a solution. He wrote an article proposing a new end mark: the interrobang. Its name combined interro for interrogate and bang—printers’ slang for the exclamation mark. Its design combined the question mark and exclamation mark.

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Will the PRH–S&S Combination Be Too Big?

publishersweekly.com – Sunday December 13, 2020

It seemed impossible that the acquisition of Simon & Schuster by Penguin Random House the day before Thanksgiving could be overshadowed by a bigger industry event, but that is what happened when book publishing’s long-running trade show and convention, most recently known as BookExpo, was canceled. As the buzz about the end of BookExpo has cooled down, industry members continue to digest the news of PRH’s pending purchase of S&S, the nation’s largest and third-largest trade book publishers, respectively.

When the acquisition was announced, the Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, and the Association of American Literary Agents (formerly the AAR) all issued statements that were critical of the deal. While each organization had a particular take, all shared one thing in common: they were concerned about the increasing consolidation within trade publishing.

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Sign on the Dotted Line

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach

firstwriter.com – Saturday December 12, 2020

I just sign blank contracts for books and whatever strikes me as a good idea is what I write about.
~ Roger Zelazny

Contracts seem daunting because the language they are written in is arcane and the contract terms are ones you’ll have to live with, probably a while beyond the life of the book. In this case, fear is a good thing. We should regard the contract with a certain amount of trepidation and not simply sign because we’re drooling with eagerness to be published.

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At the start of this year, I could barely sell my writing. These 10 online classes, books, and podcasts helped me get published in The New York Times and land 2 literary agents.

businessinsider.com – Thursday December 10, 2020

At the beginning of 2020, I was half a year out of college and already burned out. I was rejected from dozens of writing jobs, barely published anywhere, and unclear as to what editors were looking for. As a first-generation immigrant, I wasn't sure I could navigate the hurdles of the American publishing world, and I wondered whether writing was a viable career choice at all. 

10 months later, I've written for major news outlets including The New York Times and The Washington Post, and have even been signed on to write a book with two literary agencies: Folio in the US and Peony in the UK and Asia. 

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Writing a novel: It gets easier, but also it doesn’t

dailycal.org – Sunday December 6, 2020

I’ve always loved stories. As a child, I would ask everyone I knew, “If you were to write a book, what would it be about?” The people I asked were rarely self-proclaimed storytellers and never writers, but often they would spin stories for me anyways to satisfy this sudden and new curiosity. I would listen to their outlines filled with magic and home and family, and I came to understand that the only distinguishing feature of writers was that they wrote.

I’ve found that nearly everyone has a story sitting within them, waiting to be told. But writing something as long as a novel is a daunting task. Life moves on. It rushes past quickly. Stories die untold, forgotten in the daily motions we follow. The first draft is rarely written.

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Éilís Ní Dhuibhne: The writer as an older human being

rte.ie – Friday December 4, 2020

I am a short story writer. I write in many other genres - novels, children's books, plays, non-fiction - but my favourite literary form is the short story. Why? I think it is partly a lazy reason. When I started writing, and publishing, way back in the 1970s, short stories were what I wrote. And although I moved on to novels in due course, I became more and more interested in finding ways to create short stories. I like writing them because they can be written quickly - the first draft can be scribbled down within a day or two. Even if the rewriting takes weeks, the heart of the story is pinned down fast.

That means I can catch the idea, the mood, the feel, of whatever inspiration is concerned and preserve it, before it flies away. A character in an Alice Munro story, Family Furnishings, compares writing to grabbing something out of the air. It’s like that with a short story. It’s like catching a leaf as it falls from a tree, putting it between the pages of a book, then examining it, reading it, finding out what it has to tell you. That may be a lot more than you thought when it came floating down, red or gold or russet, in the autumn air. But no matter how much you develop it, it will still be that leaf that you caught at a certain moment in time.

A novel is quite different.

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How I Got Here: Stellar and Body+Soul’s editor-in-chief on how she went from receptionist to the job of her dreams

fashionjournal.com.au – Tuesday December 1, 2020

Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how on earth they managed to land that wildly impressive job? While the internet and social media might have us believe that our ideal job is a mere pipe dream, the individuals who have these jobs were, believe it or not, in the same position once, fantasising over someone else’s seemingly unattainable job.

But behind the awe-inspiring titles and the fancy work events lies a heck of a lot of hard work. So what lessons have been learnt and what skills have proved invaluable in getting them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?

Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to women who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awe-inspiring jobs, exploring the peaks and pits, the failures and the wins, and most importantly the knowledge, advice and practical tips they’ve gleaned along the way.

This week, Stellar and Body+Soul‘s editor-in-chief, Sarrah Le Marquand, tells us how she made it in the highly competitive world of women’s publications. Sarrah initially wanted to be a political reporter and completed an honours degree in government. While completing her honours thesis, she worked as a receptionist for Pacific Magazines, and it was here she realised her passion for media, dreaming up feature article ideas while manning the switchboard.

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The Monster Publishing Merger Is About Amazon

theatlantic.com – Thursday November 26, 2020

Penguin Random House purchasing Simon & Schuster is not the gravest danger to the publishing business. The deal is transpiring in a larger context—and that context is Amazon.

In 1960, Dwight Eisenhower’s attorney general, William Rogers, read the paper with alarm. He learned that Random House intended to purchase the venerable publisher Alfred A. Knopf. Rogers began making calls to prod his antitrust division into blocking the sale. In those days, monopoly loomed as a central concern of government—and a competitive book business was widely seen as essential to preserving both intellectual life and democracy. After checking with his sources, Rogers discovered that the merger would yield a company that controlled a mere 1 percent of the book market, and he let the matter drop.

Not so long ago, Democratic and Republican administrations alike wouldn’t hesitate to block a merger like the one proposed today, which intends to fold the giant publisher Simon & Schuster into the even more gigantic Penguin Random House. How big would the combined company be? By one estimate, it might publish a third of all books in the U.S. This deal is so expansive that it’s hard to find an author to write about it who isn’t somehow implicated. Based on the odds, I suppose, it’s not terribly surprising to reveal that I’m published by Penguin Random House.

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Publishers are 'scared' of funny novels

chortle.co.uk – Friday November 20, 2020

British publishing is scared of funny novels, according to Caimh McDonnell

The former stand-up, turned author said he first released his witty thrillers himself because he couldn’t find a publisher who would take them.

Even though his next title, The Stranger Times, is being released by a traditional company,  Transworld, he said: ‘A couple of editors said they didn’t want to put in a big offer because they were scared of the funny.

[Read the full article]

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