Archive for ‘Publishing’

February 19, 2011

February Thoughts from South Asia

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BY KULPREET YADAV

 

Prof P. Lal, one of the most loveable Indian Publishers, closes his final book

I won’t talk about the literary festivals that are proliferating in India these days like wildfire (but don’t take me as someone who is averse to them). Rather, with esteemed reverence I would like to remember one of the India’s greatest publishers and writers, Prof P. Lal, who passed away recently. His ‘Writer’s Workshop’, during the five decades plus of its existence, published many famous names of the present times: Vikram Seth, Anita Desai, Shashi Deshpande and Raja Rao, to name a few.

 

I got to know about Prof P. Lal about four years ago and spoke with him on a few occasions. This was the time when I was looking for a suitable publisher for my novel. I had spoken to about a dozen editors and publishing house receptionists or so, and the only one who spoke to me with excitement was Prof Lal. Not just that, he also gave me a few words of encouragement, something that did a lot to my confidence and for which I am forever indebted.

But sadly, I couldn’t publish with Writer’s Workshop (I repent it to this day). And the only reason I didn’t publish my first title with him was due to the simple fact that WW didn’t have a distribution setup. Mr. Lal’s love for books was so deep-routed and his idea of books so unique that he hand-bound the books himself in lovely and colorful Indian sarees (the traditional clothing of Indian women) cloth pieces from his house at Kolkata, in north east India, and the book numbers were kept as low as 100, something like a limited edition.

During one of our recent conversations, I requested him to accept a small donation from me for the Writer’s Workshop, which his website announced they needed. I was honored because, not only did he accept my offer, but he also made it a point to talk about my small gesture on WW’s website. It is still there now. Aside from this, there was a poetry collection I had been working on, too, about which I told him and he asked me to send it for consideration. But since it wasn’t fully ready, I couldn’t send it. Now, perhaps, I never will. Worse, no one as good might ever be willing to see it.

 

A father at 94

Well, this got me thinking, I mean, how is it possible to father a child that is biologically one’s own at 94?

But it has happened right here in India! The man who achieved this feat asserted, according to a national daily, that it’s due to the food he had consumed when young: three liters of Buffalo milk, half a kilo of almonds and half a kilo of ghee (melted, clarified butter) everyday. It’s a magic formula to remain virile until the final breath, if you go by his theory. Food for thought for scientists, I guess.

In a race to unsettle the previous record holder, another Indian man who fathered a child at 90, this nonagenarian farmer is not just happy, he is bubbling with newly attained fatherhood and posing for pictures in his village in India’s northwest. He has called this unique achievement, ‘The God’s gift’. His wife is in her mid-fifties.

An important question: Is it not the responsibility of a parent to consider, before bearing a child, if he or she has enough residual time to bring up the child properly? But at 94 he can hardly be blamed to worry about such issues. And as Hugh Hefner, CEO of Playboy enterprises, recently said during his engagement to a Playboy model 60 years younger, ‘When you’re in love, age is just a number.’ Let’s watch out: he’s 84.

 

When it’s for the family, it pays to fight the weather

With the onset of a particularly aggressive winter this year, it hurt many of us to see so many people stuck at the airports all over Europe and America, spending Christmas and other holidays sprawled on hard benches or floors. So the question is: is it really worthwhile for you to jettison your travel plans, or the possibility of being with your loved ones, for the fear that the weather may play a spoil sport?

I would like to share what happened to me when I was confronted with the option and the opportunity came for me to visit my family at Delhi, nearly three thousand kilometers from where I am stationed. The newspaper had reported diversion of 76 flights during the last few days of December yet I grabbed the opportunity to visit my family with both hands and booked myself a flight for the first of January. And as luck would have it, the aircraft arrived in the afternoon on a clear day and on time. So you see, it does pay to fight the weather.

December 19, 2010

December Thoughts from South Asia

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BY KULPREET YADAV

John Lennon – We Imagine you!

The two people who impacted me the most when I was teenager growing up in downtown Pune, a large city in India’s Midwest, were John Lennon and James Hadley Chase. John’s gone for thirty years now.

Why do crazy people spot and erase such geniuses? It’s a question that I have been wondering about recently. Imagine if we had John’s songs for a decade or two more. I can’t imagine, can you? I think only John could tell me how and with his untimely demise our right to vivid imagination has been stolen away. The BBC, in a specially aired show on the eve of the anniversary of his death, showed young college students singing his songs at campuses in America and other places. I guess the songs of John Lennon will continue to live forever – just like him. This I sure can imagine.

 

Publishing ruckus in India

Throughout India, there is a lack of publishers, surely not enough for the appetite of millions who have the aptitude to pen down their stories, poetries or observations. Understandably, many from foreign shores are queuing up, which leads to strong emotion here, but if you are alongside me here in India you will see the point. A recent article in a leading weekly has pegged the publishing industry in India growing at twenty percent, an enthusiasm that is slated to sustain for at least five more years. Recently, U.S.-based publisher Hachette set up their India office and more are rumored to follow.

The traditional Indian publishing industry, if they intend to survive this invasion, need to put their houses in order. Distribution and sieving through each submission that comes their way is the key. While the former might be easy to figure out, it is the latter that is the real problem. A publisher friend says he has time and resources to read only five percent of what he receives.

 

Winters at Port Blair

While my family is braving the chills in Delhi, I am all bandana, shorts and T-shirt clad here at Port Blair, an island city in the middle of the Bay of Bengal. It’s December and here the weather is as good as it can get. There are people – Indian tourists and irregular foreign ones – everywhere you see. It’s good fun to visit bars in the evenings and I do just that on most days. At the bars everyone wants to sing, most men can be heard boasting their stories at the tables with others around the table not necessarily listening, and the girls are their giggly best. But I still miss my family. Anyone who has stayed away from his wife and kids for over two months at a stretch can feel my pain.

 

***
Kulpreet Yadav is a novelist, short fiction writer and a poet from India. You can visit his blog here.

December 4, 2010

THIS Reads: e-Hoarding the Best Online Lit Mags

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

A couple of months ago I explained in THIS Reads how my library is home to an exhausted number of big-name titles and not so many lesser known, underdog books. Believe it or not, the problem is still troubling me. No, I haven’t been brainwashed by Penguin and Random House into zombie-walking to the nearest Chapters or some other chain store looking for the ex-president’s memoirs. And no, it’s not an odd catch-22 that I’d like to go out and pick up a copy of The Sentamentalists, the biggest small press book in a long time (although if you happen to miraculously find a copy, I’d love to borrow it once you’re finished).

No, the only problem troubling me is that I can’t find enough independent literature. I’ve become a bloodhound sniffing out anything under the radar. I thrive on the minnow-like, unheard author’s view of the sharks and whales in the rest of the sea. I obsess over the small press.

Lately, in order to feed my habit, I’ve taken on a risqué lifestyle quite frowned upon in the current reality TV age: hoarding. But my home isn’t billowing with pocketbooks and paperbacks. I want to avoid all the dirty stares. So, I’ve come up with the perfect little secret – the big “H” without any of the kickback – e-Hoarding. I’ve taken to spending many late nights turned early mornings searching the web for any sort of underground-lit I can find. And this month in THIS Reads, I’m going to let you in on some of the best online literature collectives I’ve found so far. I must say, in terms of niche writing, finding stuff that’s brand new and fresh is easiest through online journals. How ironic, you’re reading one right now.

Without further ado, I give you my e-picks of the month:

PANK – This is one of the best free literary magazines I’ve come across. They publish monthly with tonnes of new poetry and prose from writers worldwide. But that’s not saying much once you read a bit of PANK – the stuff they put out is very high calibre. Contemporary, relevant, cutting edge, the best adjectives represent what PANK is all about.

Abjective – Along the same lines as PANK, Abjective e-publishes great fictional prose and poetry, but there’s a catch. Abjective comes out weekly with only one piece of either poetry, prose, or creative non-fiction. It’s a stripped down literary ‘zine – the only thing on the site is the current piece and a minimalist description of the Abjective manifesto. If anything, it keeps you on your toes in anticipation for the next issue only every few days away.

My e-journeys in the past month have also brought me to Mel Bosworth’s Grease Stains, Kismet, and Eternal Wisdom available as a free e-book (yes, free!) at Brown Paper Publishing. The short novel of about one hundred pages is an interesting read, it definitely doesn’t bore with its parameters of lust, drugs and borderline insanity. But I won’t ruin it for you because you can, just as easily as I did, read it yourself.

Oh, and keep reading this, it’s also free, independent and full of great writing.

November 18, 2010

Small Book Wins Big Prize: Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists Snags the Giller

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists winning the Giller Prize, Canada’s highest literary achievement, does more for CanLit than for Skibsrud. That’s taken lightly though, because the young, thirty-year-old author of a highly esteemed novel will feel the Giller effect of worldly recognition and mass sales in the ball park of 75,000 copies. But even that sounds miniscule compared to the real story behind The Sentimentalists. When this novel was first published in 2009 by Kentville, Nova Scotia micro-press Gaspereau Books, it was in a wiry run of 800 copies.

That’s what makes this year’s Giller so unique in the world of CanLit, and so groundbreaking. The Sentamentalists is the smallest book ever to win the prize, which pays a pleasant $50,000, and beat out two big commercial novels, David Bergen’s The Matter With Morris and Kathleen Winter’s Annabel. Winter’s novel was also nominated for the Writer’s Trust and Governor General’s awards. Last year’s Giller winner was long time CBC newscaster Lynden MacIntyre for his widely successful novel The Bishop’s Man. In its fifteen year existence, past Giller winners include Alice Munro, Joseph Boyden and Margaret Atwood. No one saw the major literary award centering in on something as obscure as Skibsrud‘s novel, an account of her father’s life as a soldier in the Vietnam War.

At the same time, The Sentamentalists contended with other underdogs, including Sarah Salecky’s This Cake Is For The Party and Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting, two considerably smaller books, thought their quantities were at least in the thousands when recommended by the jury.

Once the 2010 Giller longlist was announced, Gaspereau owner Andrew Steeves turned down commercial offers to mass produce copies of The Sentamentalists. “If you are going to buy a copy of that book in Canada, it’s damn well coming out of my shop,” Steeves proclaimed in an interview with the Globe and Mail. He’s since changed his tune, telling the press on Monday that Vancouver publishers Douglas & McIntyre will be producing 30,000 paperback copies by the end of the week, with an additional 20,000 lined up when demand bubbles again.

Also currently hitting the news is a dash of Giller controversy. Ali Smith, British author and one of the three Giller jurors this year, reportedly tipped off a publishing friend during the middle of deliberations about her love of Skibsrud’s novel. The National Post reported that Smith’s friend, Tracy Bohan of The Wiley Agency, may have taken the advice a little too seriously, because she sold foreign printing rights of the book to a UK Random House imprint with a release date set for next March. Giller president Jack Rabinovitch acknowledges the information sharing was out of line, but was done innocently.

Meanwhile, Steeves at Gaspereau in Kentville, Nova Scotia is trying to keep his head above water while pumping out 1,000 hand-printed and hand-bound copies a week, with enough on backorder to keep them in business until e-books really do take over the world. Oddly enough, The Sentamentalists is available online as an e-Book from Kobo. Since the announcement of Skibsrud’s win last week, Amazon.ca has her novel topping the bestseller list ahead of Keith Richard’s Life and George W. Bush’s Decision Points. Beating out famous names like that is no little feat.

August 3, 2010

From Book to iPad: The Digital Graphic Novel

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BY LACEY N. DUNHAM

Remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories from when you were a kid? You read a page or two and then the narrative stopped so you could decide where you wanted to go next:

 

    If you decide to follow the dark hallway in the haunted house, go to page 14.
    No way! If you decide to leave through the back door and into the overgrown yard, go to page 18.

 

Inevitably, I always ended up either a coward or dead and yet I continued to hunt out the latest adventure from the library.

Cognito Comics and Tall Chair Inc. have introduced a sleeker, multimedia driven (not to mention more adult) concept that drove the books I loved as child. Calling it “a new immersive graphic entertainment experience,” the companies have teamed up to create Operation Ajax, a narrative non-fiction telling of the 1953 CIA backed coup to overthrow Iran’s prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, an event that shaped present political conflicts in the Middle East.

More than a graphic novel, Operation Ajax comes with an iPad app that will allow the reader to open up a world of additional information, from historical photos to original documents, without leaving the narrative. Several publishers, including Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette, have piloted similar “enhanced texts” for both novels and non-fiction books, The New York Times reported, but Operation Ajax, alongside the Tall Chair Active Reader app, is the first such for graphic novels.

In addition to historical documents and footnotes, Operation Ajax is an animated narrative. In an advanced reader’s copy mock-up on flash, I read part of Operation Ajax as Cognito Comics’ Executive Producer Daniel Burwen guided me through the text. The animation is fortunately sparse, a decision that differentiates the animated graphics in Operation Ajax, an enhanced graphic novel, from the animated graphics of something like Persepolis, the film. It’s a fine line to walk, and Burwen acknowledged as much during our conversation. Originally packed full of animated panels, the Cognito Comics team realized “less is more,” Burwen said. “We wanted something more elegant.”

Elegant also applies to the hidden passageways that take the reader beyond the narrative to embedded historical documents. Burwen emphasized that the Tall Chair Active Reader provides a reading experience different from clicking on links in a web browser and then making your way back to the story. The goal is stay within the pages of the book by having all the factual information and research that inspired the novel effortlessly available.

Burwen, whose professional background is in games, said he was looking to do something “with more of a social impact.” Although a fictional character created from an amalgamation of government agents is the conduit for telling the story in Operation Ajax, the narrative non-fiction follows historical events.

Investigative journalist Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah’s Men, the best-selling book about the CIA-backed Iranian coup, is working closely with the Cognito team to check historical accuracy on the illustrated spin of real events. Kinzer is also writing introductions to each chapter.

Operation Ajax will be available online this fall.

June 4, 2010

Fight the (corporate book publishing) Man!

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

Indie authors unite! The Next Generation Indie Book Awards are accepting submissions until March 2, 2011 (so don’t fret, you have plenty of time to finish your books). The contest is presented by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group in cooperation with Marilyn Allen of Allen O’Shea Literary Agency, and works to promote the best of worldwide independent publications.

There are sixty categories including E-books, GLBT, Multicultural, and Novella from which winners are selected by a panel of expert editors, writers and publishers. The best overall fiction and non-fiction winners each receive $1,500, second place fiction and non-fiction winners receive $750, and third place fiction and non-fiction winners get $500. $250 goes to the Best Design Book entry, and individual winners of each category get $100. All finalists and winners will be listed in the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Catalogue for book buyers, and gain exposure on the Next Generation website for the following year. Check out the 2010 Winners and Finalists here. Furthermore, the best book of each category will be reviewed by top literary agent Marilyn Allen (Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark) of Allen O’Shea Literary Agency for possible representation.

To enter, you must complete an online entry form and make sure your books arrive at the Next Generation Indie Book awards office by March 2, 2011. Entries require a fee of $75.00 per title for the first category entered, any other categories entered for that title require a $50.00 fee. Two copies of the book must be sent for the initial category entry, and one copy for each additional category. You can enter as many titles in as many categories as you wish. Finalists and winners will be notified by May 15, 2011, with an official announcement for the public following shortly after on the website.

If you are sceptical about the Indie Book Awards, check out past winners’ testimonials. Not only do top winners receive cash prizes, but having your book mentioned as a finalist and reviewed by Marilyn Allen may open a number of doors within the publishing world.

May 21, 2010

It May Not Be Winter, But There’s Still Slush

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Slush piles are those sad, sad places where unsolicited manuscripts sent to publishing houses go to die. In a recent post at Sargastic Irrelevance, the implications of virtual slush piles are discussed as writers now have more options to publish their own books, a task that requires significant talent with self-marketing. Self-publication is one way to see one’s book in print but without the financial back-up from a publishing house and the aid and knowledge of a publicist, getting published might be easier but getting read might not.

April 8, 2010

Write Away #31

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Why not write AND publish?

Click the link for today’s special Write Away at The List Anthology.

(Note: Deadlines for submissions on this writing prompt is May 15.)

April 8, 2010

PenguinGroupUSA’s Rap Video

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With cameos galore!!

February 4, 2010

Amazon vs. Macmillan & The Future of Book Publishing

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From a blog post by author Caleb Crain on the Amazon vs. Macmillan debacle:

“What’s perhaps most breathtaking about the Amazon-Macmillan dispute is how little, finally, is at stake: should the highest price of an e-book be $9.95 or $14.95? No one dreams any more that it’s going to be $28. What’s being fought over is control, and the reason control is being fought over so viciously is that the only way such massive cost savings are going to be achieved is by consolidation–by collapsing a few of the intermediary steps somewhere between the creation of a book and the reading of it. Will you some day download your e-books directly from Farrar, Straus & Giroux’s website? Will Amazon some day be the publisher of Jonathan Franzen’s novels? Some future between these two outcomes is more likely to happen, but precisely where the division will fall remains to be seen. Authors, in the meantime, had better ask their agents to negotiate their e-book royalties very carefully, seeing as how, while the titans rage, the financial analysts have already factored into their bottom lines the expectation that someone else will be eating our slice of the pie.”

January 31, 2010

Amazon vs. Macmillan: Resolution?

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On Saturday, the New York Times reported on a dispute between online bookseller Amazon and one of the big six publishing houses, Macmillan. The long running dispute centers around the price Amazon would offer electronic copies of Macmillan titles, including the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and Jeffrey Eugenides’ Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex, among other great literature and hot hits. The disagreement turned to fiasco this week when Macmillan stated they would not distribute newly published titles to Amazon unless the price for electronic books was negotiable. Amazon retaliated by removing all Macmillan titles for purchase from their database (consumers could still purchase the books through any of the third party sellers linked to Amazon).

Amazon’s attempts to use its leverage as the largest online seller of books failed, The Washington Post reports this evening. An article picked up from TechCrunch.com says that Amazon will sell the Macmillan titles for $14.99 at the publisher’s request and let consumers decide if the price is worth the purchase.

January 28, 2010

The Color of Reading

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The blog, White Readers, Meet Black Authors (whose subtitle is Your Official Invitation Into the African American Section of the Bookstore) is a resource for promoting black authors and the challenges authors of color face in the publishing industry. Speaking of…..

Bloomsbury Publishing is in trouble for a second time for placing a white woman on the cover of a book about an African-American girl. Justine Larbalestier, an author whose book Bloomsbury also whitewashed, is quoted on her blog as saying the jacket debacle isn’t merely an oops, but “is part of a long history of marginalisaton and misrepresentation. Publishers don’t randomly pick white models. It happens within a context of racism.” Third time’s the charm?

January 20, 2010

A New (Old) Way of Publishing Books

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Check out this video from the Espresso Book Machine, a print-on-demand bookmaking invention recently released to the market.

 

 

At a cost of $100,000 or more, I am dubious that the Espresso Book Machine is going to save the book publishing industry by providing a quick and easy solution to consumer demands. Also, the quality of print-on-demand books is significantly less than typical books with no option for hardcover. While Time Magazine may have hailed the Espresso Book Machine as the “invention of the year” I think the reality of longevity for the machine is limited.