Vampire Novelist's Reputation at Stake
Stephanie Meyer had managed to write the extremely popular Twilight series and developed a legion of fans. Now that is coming back to bite her a little lower than the neck. The last book was apparently so poorly written that Entertainment Weekly gave it a D rating and many fans of the series are now talking about setting fire to it
. That makes me wonder two things. First, could there have been some extremely heavy editing or even ghosting
(thematically appropriate, at least) on the earlier books? Not that it's impossible for an author to have an off volume, but when it goes that far south, you have to ask.
Secondly, fame is clearly a double-edged sword. Who's going to buy the next book?
Labels: authors, books
Joss Whedon's Three-Part-Internet-Only-Take-That-You-Villains Musical and a Review: Soon I Will Be Invincible
As a society, we must be in reaction to superheroes in comics and movies, because there is a mini-wave of takes from the super villain's viewpoint. Let's start with Joss Whedon.
No one could reasonably claim that Joss Whedon was wed to formula. I thought the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was brilliant (and the writing and execution of the rest of the series weren't too shabby, either). During the Writers Guild of America strike, Whedon started writing a three-part musical about a low-rent super-villain called Doctor Horrible
- and they're all streaming for free this week only
But what first got me thinking about super villains was the amusing Soon I Will Be Invincible
, a debut novel by Austin Grossman. The novel rests on two points of view: that of super villain Doctor Impossible, who has an IQ of 300 and rookie superhero female cyborg Fatale. And there is the battle between good and evil, with people trying to take over the world in one way or another, but it's not always clear exactly who is doing what. Addressing childhood, shame, love, lust, and the weird twists of fate that make us who we are, the book shows how sometimes the difference between one path in life and another might be a chance word, a bit of kindness, and someone understanding. My daughter wasn't too fond of the writing, though for the most part I enjoyed it, with trite comic book dialog craftily placed to create a kind of character chiaroscuro, only the contrast not being between literal light and dark, but the metaphoric public and private parts of someone's psyche that help define the whole person. There were times that I thought the story got badly out of hand - for example, one character realizes the real identity of another and states it, when a hint would have done the trick and left one area of tension and suspense for resolution at the end for greater effect. But overall, worth the read and a book I can recommend. Check the link for an excerpt and pointer to where you can get a copy.
Labels: authors, comic books, directors, Internet, musicals, novel
The Thoughtful Side of Cassanova
The Guardian has an article on a new biography of Cassanova
. Some newly reopened archives in Prague are providing food for literal thought. Aside from Cassanova's legendary amorous adventures (which included a few men as well as women, supposedly), he was an otherwise busy man:
In addition to the vast History of My Life, he wrote a total of 42 books and plays, including a translation of the Iliad, a five-volume science-fiction novel, mathematical treatises and opera libretti. He was also a committed follower of the Kabbalah, the mystical Jewish cult holding a deep fascination for him to the extent that he attributed his life's successes to its power.
Labels: authors, books, history, literature
How Many Libraries Is Your Author In?
Someone on a writers' board pointed out this resource: a site that purports to tell you
in how many libraries you can find the work of a given author. I have no idea how accurate this is, but it's amusing, none the less.
Labels: authors, books, libraries
New Author Signing Record
Ken Follett, a British writer who is apparently popular in Spain, set a new world's record for an author signing copies of a book at a single sitting, knocking off 2,050 in three-and-a-half hours at Madrid's book fair, according to an AFP story
. The old record of 1,600 ... was also held by Follett.
Labels: authors, books, record
How To Turn Off Someone Doing You A Favor
A press inquiry email list called helpareporter.com lets journalists mention story ideas to those who might might have sources or information available. It costs nothing and is generally useful. Peter Shankman, the PR person who runs it, has posted an interesting interchange with someone who signed up for the service and, apparently, took umbrage at the welcome auto response
Quite a hard-assed reaction, eh? I wondered about this willingness to "share with reporters" and went to her site
. I eventually found what a viatical settlement was, after some poking about. But, my, much of the site to me radiates irritation and unpleasantness. For example:
This website has more than 200 pages of free information. More information is available through our books, many of which can be borrowed from your local library. Please do not contact us for additional free information. We have neither the time nor the resources to allow us to respond -- and we do receive many inquiries each week. However, when there are a number of questions on the same issue, such as "Should Investors Pay Premiums?" we will publish a Special Report.
And how is she supposed to hear the questions when she's telling people not to ask her questions, just to buy the book? Jeez.
Labels: authors, insurance, journalism, PR
Life for Kenyan Writers
I came across this article about ecnomic reality for a Kenyan writer
, and pass it on. Interestingly, except for the value of the currency and the extreme book piracy, it doesn't seem all that different from what I've seen in the US.
Labels: Africa, authors, books, publishing
Book Launch 2.0
This post's title is actually the title of a Youtube video
by author Dennis Cass
about the pain of an author trying to promote a book in a Web 2.0 world. It's very funny in a low-key way, and I'm tempted to buy his book as a show of support. Actually, if I were really with it online, I'd probably find a way to download the book for free, helping to make all his marketing work for naught. No wonder writers drink.
Labels: authors, books, humor, marketing
Romance Writer Loses Publisher Over Plagiarism
According to the Associated Press, Signet Books will no longer publish popular romance writer Cassie Edwards
. It seems that Ms. Edwards had repeatedly taken descriptions, sentences, and sections from reference books and magazines without any form of attribution. The problem was first found by a romance lit blog with the great name Smart Bitches Love Trashy Books
. Congratulations to them for unearthing the literary theft, and I'm shaking my head at either AP or the Boston Globe, which replaced Bitches with B------. J--z.
Labels: authors, blogs, books, plagiarism
Simpson Ex-Agent Accomplice After Fact?
The New York Observer reports that O.J. Simpson's former sports agent, Mike Gilbert, is coming out with a book called How I Helped O. J. Get Away With Murder
According to a brief announcement published this afternoon on industry Web site Publisher's Lunch, the book will "detail O.J.'s late-night confession" and offer new evidence showing that Simpson did kill his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her boyfriend Ron Goldman. The book also promises "information on Gilbert's crucial role in obtaining the not guilty verdict and why he stayed silent for so long."
I have a dozen words: What a pig. Murder accomplice after the fact. Don't buy his book. Oh, and then there's this:
Some of the proceeds from the book have been pledged to the Make-a-Wish foundation, according to the posting on Publisher's Lunch-- a commitment most likely motivated by the public outcry sparked back in November 2006 when HarperCollins announced plans to publish O. J. Simpson's kinda-sorta confession, If I Did It.
Let's add two more: blood money.
Labels: authors, book, crime, publishing
Grisham Has Healthy Attitude
I just read this AP piece about John Grisham
. He apparently - correctly - views what he does as straight entertainment, not literature in the slightest:
"I'm not sure where that line goes between literature and popular fiction," the mega-selling author says. "I can assure you I don't take myself serious enough to think I'm writing literary fiction and stuff that's going to be remembered in 50 years. I'm not going to be here in 50 years; I don't care if I'm remembered or not. It's pure entertainment."
Now out with his 21st book, he's likely right, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Not all writing has to be high literature or something that will last the ages. But I'd hope, at least, that any writer would try to make what he or she did as polished and pleasing from the view of the craft as possible. If not, I can't imagine something that would be duller and more painful to undertake.
Labels: authors, books, writers, writing
Publishers and Rejecting Winners
Last Sunday there was an amusing New York Times article by David Oshinsky
. The topic was how at least one publisher - Alfred A. Knopf, whose long-time editor Ashbel Green is retiring at the end of this year
- had managed to turn down a host of promising books, including Anne Frank's diary ("a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions"), Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth
(Americans weren't "interested in anything on China"), and George Orwell's Animal Farm
("impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A."). Other rejects? Jean-Paul Sartre, Mordecai Richler, historians A. J. P. Taylor and Barbara Tuchman, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Anaïs Nin, Sylvia Plath, and Jack Kerouac.
What is interesting is to remember that this type of article appears periodically, and people always seem tickled by the fallibility of publishers' sensibilities. But the story is hardly new. Walt Whitman had to self-publish Leaves of Grass
at first. Dozens of publishers snubbed the original Chicken Soup for the Soul and What Color is Your Parachute - neither on the same literary level, but evidence that the publishing world can't even reliably predict tastes of the mass market. And with the growing demand for authors that have a "platform," it makes me wonder how many resoundingly good books, stories, poems, essays, biographies, histories, and other works of the mind fall to the wayside, never to be seen other than by friends and family.
Labels: authors, books, New York Times, publishers, rejection
Beauty and the Writer
Sharon Steel apparently has a great eye for the ltitle
things that undermine our collective intelligence - like the apparent need of book marketers to play up the sex appeal of authors. Her Boston Phoenix article
nails yet another of the nails in the coffin of literature:
But in the post-do-me feminist, post–Harry Potter publishing climate, nobody can predict what the Next Big Thing will be. So it makes sense, if you can’t force a phenomenon, to attract readers to books the same way you’d attract them to another human being. Instead of confining sex to the text, publishers have been quietly whoring out their authors in the best way they know how.
At one time it was enough to be an author with something to say. Then you had to have "platform," because the publishers wanted someone
to sell the damned book so no one had to take a risk, even though that's what business really is about.
But now? They want models, actors, pretty boys and girls. How many great authors of the past would make it today? Look at the pseudo biopic, Becoming Jane, about the supposed lost love of Jane Austen. Who did they get to play Austen? The lovely Anne Hathaway, when the author was not a raving beauty. Heaven forbid that Hollywood case someone ... plain
in the role.
But perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on the movie. The trend to make writers prettier and the center of romantic intrigue has been around a long time, particularly for female authors. I spoke with Austen scholar Emily Auerbach
, a professor of literature at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and author of Searching for Jane Austen
. "Early relatives and editors and critics censored her words, tried to distort her image, actually added ringlets to her portraits to make her look more feminine," she says.
The family, riding the business that Austen become, actually rewrote parts of her letters to make her sound sweeter when, in reality, her sense of observation and descriptive encapsulation could be even sharper than in her books. "For example, she wrote about some neighbors, 'I was a civil to them as their bad breath would allow,'" Auerbach
says. The family changed the halitosis reference to something like "as circumstances would allow." Becoming Jane
tries to summarize Austen's genius for satire and the comedy
of manners with the line, "Their love story was her greatest inspiration." Forget the literate family, early evidence of her gift, her wide reading and critical eye. It all comes down to the romance of the pretty characters. (Heaven help any similar treatment of someone like Nabokov with Lolita hanging in the background.)
Sadly, I don't expect any of this to change, except for the worse. I know writers in their 40s, 50s, and 60s - talented, practiced, with significant life experience - who will never get the break. Not young enough or pretty enough. There are times I begin to understand that J.D. Salinger's hermitage is not simply psychological quirk, but at least in part a clear perception of the essence of commercial publishing. The non-pretty authors may suffer, but I think society loses far more: a chance at some self-knowledge and, perhaps, a touch of soul.
Labels: age, authors, beauty, Becoming Jane, Boston Phoenix, Emily Auerbach, Finding Jane Austen, Jane Austen, Sharon Steel
"Got a Deal, Woe is Me"
The New York Observer has a somewhat amusing piece
about the pain some authors find when actually going about their business of writing books.
But the humor is pretty dark and condescending if you're in the business. I don't know why so many writers seem to go on and on and on and on and ... well, you get the idea. It's a litany of self-pity that more shows how clearly off-balance some writers are. Of course, some of the journalists quoting these authors may just want to believe that working a staff job or concentrating on something other than books they can't sell is better than writing a book. Or perhaps the people working the media beat have perverse senses of humor.
Labels: authors, books, deal
Writer Reality TV
Clearly someone in the entertainment industry has finally cracked. A new show called The Ultimate Author
is looking for contestants - who will compete for a book deal and the chance to spend a year learning how to promote the final tome. Yes, folks, you too can jet down to Ft. Lauderdale in June and wilt while you wait to see if you have what it takes to be freakishly bookish. And compelling television this will be, as the show's site explains:
Contestants in this competition must be smart enough to spell well, creative enough to coordinate a themed book club gathering, savvy enough to handle an ambush interview, wise enough to develop an effective marketing plan, and talented enough to help design an eye-catching book cover.
Every week there's a new genre and contestants have two hours to write a chapter. Two hours
? Anyone on this show actually ever write a chapter of anything? Let's see - 3,000 to 5,000 words in two hours means typing anywhere from 25 to 42 words a minute on the average without a break and no thought and planning. Oh, yes, this will
be interesting reading. I can hardly wait to see the footage of people. Sitting. And. Typing.
Labels: authors, books, reality, television
Book Publishers Say We Give Up - You Decide
Here's a link to an item I ran in my BizBlast blog because it should be near and dear to the hearts of readers: book publishers looking for audiences to tell them
what to publish. At least they're starting to tacitly admit that they never knew what they were doing in the first place...
Labels: authors, books, marketing, publishing
David Sedaris on Author Tours
Some of the following was in a Pages article I had written a year or two ago on author tours
Anyone wondering about the popularity of humorist David Sedaris need only attend a stop in one of his author tours: he had close to 2,000 people at one New York book store alone last year. And he has looked forward to them all, including this summer's rounds for the paperback version of Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy. "My agent – I don’t know if he thinks I’m lying, or if I don’t realize how horrible it is," he says.
But even with his existing audience from his National Public Radio work, he had one dark night of the sojourn on his first tour. "Everywhere else it had gone well, but I got to Los Angeles and only four people were there," Sedaris remembers, "and two of them were friends of mine. They just thought, 'Oh, he’s a loser.' It was humiliating. Then I think what if my whole book tour was two weeks of that?"
I spoke with him as he was getting ready in Paris to leave on another tour the next day, which meant being up all night. "I always do that before I leave on a trip," he says. "I’m going to get screwed again – screwed out of an hour sleep." Well, maybe more.
He does enjoy doing tours. "My agent – I don’t know if he thinks I’m lying, or if I don’t realize how horrible it is," he says. “If you go and there are 500 people there, then it’s fun. I could be wrong, but when I started my tour last June in New York, I think they had 1800 people at the Barnes and Noble in union square. I could be wrong and maybe it was 1200." Days of almost empty stores are pretty much over. He shows up two-and-a-half to three hours in advance.
Still, there's no doubt that tours are a grind. Sedaris is flying from one city to the next, usually spending only a day. “Then so much of your life is taking place on planes and airports," he says. "So I’m writing the word flight in every story.”
Because his schedule is tight, Sedaris has no time to play tourist, so the fun must come in the stores.
“It’s nice if you have a theme or say I’m working on a story and does anyone have information on this?" he says. "For the paperback tour for Me Talk Pretty One Day, [I noticed that] everyone in America has a tip jar," he says. "I started putting one on my signing table." His best take was $180 in a night. "I said I’m spending it all on myself."
Then he started charging for the more unpleasant requests, like the one or two people an evening, thinking they are original, who ask him to sign someone else's book. "If someone came up with a telephone and said, 'Would you talk to my sister?' I'd say, 'Yes, for ten dollars.'" He's given priority signing for smokers and adults with braces and offered travel packets of pain relievers with each signature, but many people wouldn't take them. "Especially men who’d say I’m OK. I’d say do you think you’ll never get a headache?" He guesses that only 10 percent of the men took the sealed packets while 80 percent of the women did. Maybe the women knew something that the men didn't: there could be a book tour just around the corner, waiting for you.
Labels: authors, marketing, Sedaris, tours