Galleycat reports that HarperCollins are inviting romance fans to contribute to a romance ebook, one chapter at a time.
Jane Friedman, CEO of HC, says 'We're creating an online community that will bring the fans closer to the authors we publish. If you are a fan and you get a communication from Julia Quinn, somebody you've been reading for years, then you'll be a fan of hers for life. And I think you'll become a fan of Avon's for life.'
Well, yes. And replying to fan letters always was a good idea. But now we're into 'online communities', which means that, to be a successful writer, you have yet another (unpaid) burden added to the list. Time was, all you had to do was write the books.
Grumpier than me
Actually I don't have any real reason to be grumpy. I don't depend on the book business for a living. In fact, I barely deal with the book business at all, except through a minimally profitable contract with a distributor (the UK wholesaler Gardners), who (extremely efficiently) send out whatever books of mine that people are eccentric enough to order. But there are those who are really involved in the book business, and have put their professional lives on the line for it.
One such is M.J. Rose, who has a background in marketing and advertising, as well as a successful track record in writing novels. In a recent post on Buzz, Balls and Hype, M.J. complains bitterly, giving examples other than her own, of publishing firms which, in her opinion, are still stuck in the Middle Ages and show no awareness of the need to change their ways.
Mass market blues
Went down to the bookstore, saw my baby there --
Yes, went down to the bookstore, saw my baby there.
Marked down to a dollar, can't get paid nowhere.
Or something like that.
Also on Buzz, Balls & Hype, M.J. Rose reproduces, with permission, James Grippando's piece for the MWA about the (alleged) death of the mass market paperback.
I must confess that, like the first commenter on the article, I was not too impressed by the reasoning in this one. The author almost suggests that buying anything other than a hardback at full price is immoral, and I wouldn't care to go down that route myself.
'Though the purchase of used books is not even the remote equivalent of pirating music off the Internet...' he says. Well that's good to know.
The Golden Age of Detection
Jon Jermey, mentioned here on 26 July, kindly drew my attention to the Golden Age of Detection Wiki, or GADetection for short, which is a very promising resource.
As its name suggests, the site is 'a comprehensive collection of material relating to the Golden Age of Detection - roughly from 1920 to 1960 - covering authors, books, magazines, ephemera and other details.'
First explorations suggest that this contains a great deal of useful information. For example, two of my favourite crime novelists are Margery Allingham and Colin Watson (click on their names for sight of my earlier essays on them). Here on GADetection both are featured, though not surprisingly there is far more about Allingham than Watson, who seems to have kept a low profile.
The General Discussion section also provides such gems as Ronald Knox's Ten Commandments for Detective Fiction. Knox, by the way, was one of the many clergymen who were fascinated by the classic detective novel.
There's a story about a clergyman who read whodunits, and I think it's in Colin Watson's Snobbery with Violence. It seems the clergyman went to his local bookshop and poked around for something to read (in the whodunit line, of course), without success. He then asked the bookshop owner if he could help. The owner suggested this, and suggested that, but every time the clergyman, sucking his pipe, answered succinctly, 'Read it.' Eventually the bookshop owner's patience ran out. 'Well then,' he said tartly, 'you'll just have to read a proper book, won't you?'
Aiming too high
Publishers Lunch links to a New York Times article about crime witer George Pelecanos. 'Mr. Pelecanos, 49,' says the NYT (and doncha just love that 'Mr'? Respect, eh?), 'is part of a fraternity of writers, including Dennis Lehane and Richard Price, who push the boundaries of crime writing into literary territory, exploring character more deeply than many crime novelists dare, introducing challenging social themes and bucking expectations that everything will come out all right in the end.'
Which is a load of crap, for a start. Anyone who thinks that there is anything praiseworthy about a crime writer who pushes into literary territory has a few screws loose. Crime writing belongs out in the mean streets, and should be printed on pulp.
Furthermore, the NYT is puzzled that 'critical acclaim has failed to translate into the kind of sales that Mr. Pelecanos's publisher, Little, Brown, believes he deserves.' As if critical acclaim was ever worth a pitcher of warm spit. I don't think Mickey Spillane ever got any critical acclaim. 'If the public likes you,' said Spillane, 'you're good.'
The National Free Press
The National Free Press is a new publication produced in Canada, and aimed chiefly, I suspect, at Canadian readers. It places a great emphasis on freedom of speech, and you can read the May/June issue for free online.
A healthy lifestyle
Maud Newton tells us that one Thomas H. Benton, an understandably pseudonymous college professor, has been talking to his English students and asking them why they want to do a PhD. Here's what they came up with:
Formative experiences with reading as a child: being read to by beloved parents and siblings, discovering the world of books and solitude at a young age.
Feelings of alienation from one’s peers in adolescence, turning to books as a form of escapism and as a search for a sympathetic connection to other people in other places and times.
A love for books themselves, and libraries, as sites of memory and comfort.
A "geeky" attraction to intricate alternate worlds such as those created by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and George Lucas....
There's a lot more to the list than the bits I've quoted, and it gets worse, if you can believe that.
Does this sound thoroughly unhealthy to you? Because it sure as hell does to me. I always knew that Eng Lit students were a sad, misguided lot, but it's faintly unnerving to have it demonstrated in public.
There is no obvious way of finding out who is resposible for this site, but it gives every indication of being a commercial operation rather than a site run by mad-keen amateurs. Users are invited to register, and they get to read extracts from every featured book. The titles of the latter are displayed in a box on the right and they change pretty rapidly as you browse.
Louise Weir is director and co-founder of this site, and I see that in 1990 she won an award for book promotion of the year, so presumably the whole of this latest venture is paid for by publishers. Also on board is Sarah Broadhurst, who for the last twenty-five years has been the Bookseller's paperback preview person. I may be wrong, but it rather looks as if self-publishers in search of a bit of free publicity need not apply.
Perhaps not so revolutionary
Several bloggers have noted that Penguin UK have announced the arrival of their brand-new company blog, as of today, 31 July.The Literary Saloon is quietly amused by Penguin's claim that they are offering 'the first blog from a mainstream publisher' -- the Lit Saloon links to at least 16 others.
Lynne Scanlon on Borders
Lynne Scanlon is a person who has worked at a high-level in the book trade, and her views on developments at the US bookseller chain Borders are therefore better informed than most. And there are quite a few other ideas in the comments section.
On the Road in full
A number of bloggers (e.g. Dibs) have reported that the original typescript of Jack Kerouac's 1950s novel On the Road has been found and will now be published as he originally wrote it.
Frankly, I'm not sure that anyone who wasn't around in the '50s is going to get too excited about this. And for me, On the Road never quite hit the spot. However, Kerouac is (says he with a sigh) 'taught' these days, so I suppose academe will welcome the news as it will give them something to chew on. 'Compare and contrast...'
L. Lee Lowe has begun to post chapters of his YA fantasy novel Mortal Ghost on a purpose-built blog, at the rate of one a week. A new chapter will appear every Friday, at the end of which the whole thing will be available as a free PDF.
All at sea?
I haven't looked at a map, but I suspect that it's impossible to live in the UK and be more than -- what ? -- sixty miles from the sea? Anyway, we've all been there, which is more than can be said for some who live in mainland Europe, Asia, America, and Africa.
Margaret Muir is a writer who has sailed on a barquentine on the Indian Ocean and crossed the Atlantic on a clipper; she has even sailed on Cook’s Endeavour replica. Not surprisingly, therefore, her 2005 novel Sea Dust involves a sea voyage.
On her blog, Margaret also has something to say about HMS Victory, and Mary Rose.
To the barricades, old codgers!
Raymond Tallis is a Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Manchester University, and in today's Times he tells us that he sees the elderly as the chief defenders of human liberty.
Where, then, are we to look for the guardians of freedom? This is where the growing cadre of healthy elderly people may be increasingly important. They no longer hope for promotion or preferment. They are not required to bite their tongue or grovel. They have no targets to deliver on, no need to devote themselves to the futile productivity of academe, no asinine mission statements to write or respond to. They are at liberty to think and to say what they like. They can therefore shout out what those who have families to feed and careers to promote — and so must remain on-message at all costs — would not dare mutter in their sleep.
Hear, hear, sir! Well said. Aux armes, citoyens!