Buzz Worthy News
In this week’s Buzz Worthy News: the best library ever, authors predict the future, celebrities publishing books, and selling books to China.
Buzz Worthy News is Cuddlebuggery’s weekly news post bringing you all the best information about the book and blogging world, particularly for the venn diagram of people who overlap between the two. For new releases and cover reveals of all the best Young Adult fiction, check out our Sunday post: Hot New Titles.
The Best Library EVER
Sometimes, when I can’t sleep at night, I lie awake and fantasize about the best library in the world. (Okay, so maybe I’m thinking about all the naughty things I’d like to do to Lee Min Ho, but I think about libraries, too. Not at the same time or anything. That would be weird. Or maybe awesome. Lee Min Ho and a room full of my favorite books… As Joey from Friends famously said, “Put your hands together!”)
Anyway, as I was saying, when I think about the most awesome libraries, I think of more books, more parking (our library’s parking lot is insanely small) and more hours. Well, Norman, Oklahoma has you covered on that last one.
The country’s first 24-Hour automatic library will soon open in Norman, OK—home to the University of Oklahoma, among other things. According to Oklahoma City news channel KFOR, the small, canopy-like structure was installed at the Irving Recreational Center and will serve as an eastern arm for the Pioneer Library System.
The system works pretty much like a Redbox machine, except you use your library card, rather than a credit card, to check out books, movies and CDs. According to The Norman Transcript, each library will house about 400 combined items. Users can also pay fines with credit cards, return books, and pick up reserved items.
Take that, Siegler! Who says libraries are behind the times, or relics of a dying age? They are awesome and ahead of their time! And good for you, Oklahoma! I hope California is stinging a little bit that a different state came up with this idea first. (I live in Cali, so don’t think I’m making fun of it. I’m just jealous we don’t have our own 24 hour library.)
There are a lot of installations in China. But this is the first United States installation. We were very excited to be first to bring it to Oklahoma, and more importantly, the city of Norman.
Please, oh, please can we get one in our town? I can think of several times where I’ve thought to myself, “It’s midnight and I just finished book #1. I REALLY REALLY need book #2 right now!!!” Who’s with me?
Simon & Schuster Decide Sci-Fi/Fantasy Is Worth Money
It comes as no surprise to me that Science Fiction and Fantasy books make money. Apparently Simon & Schuster had no idea, though. Until now. The publishing powerhouse recently announced their intention to form a new imprint (as yet unnamed) headed by their current VP of Children’s Publishing.
Although S&S has published a range of science fiction and fantasy authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin and Anne McCaffrey, it doesn’t have a dedicated imprint for the genre in either its adult or children’s departments. “A lot of content comes our way that we find compelling, but which won’t work in teen sections [of bookstores],” Anderson said. “We don’t want to use that as an excuse to not publish books for a growing market.”
Growing market??? Dude, you just said you published freaking Anne McCaffrey and you act like Sci-Fi/Fantasy has come out of nowhere in a crazy surge. *shakes head*
Anderson expects to publish 12 to 15 hardcovers annually starting in spring 2015, although he said he hoped to be able to release a few titles by fall 2014. In addition to publishing in traditional print formats, the imprint will publish in a variety of digital formats, including e-only and serial publishing. A “handful” of titles from existing S&S authors will likely be moved under the imprint, Anderson said, and that “most” new sci fi/fantasy at S&S will be published under the imprint.
This is really cool and I’ll be very interested to see what comes out of it!
Authors Predict The Future!
Come one, come all, to the Prophetic Author Parade! See the authors predict future technological devices! Be amazed by their uncanny ability to see into the future!
In a story that makes absolute sense to me, the Huffpo points out several authors who imagined a device or concept that ended up being invented many years (or not so many) later.
Wells’s is one of those books that, sadly, may have changed the course of history with its technological predictions. Physicist Leó Szilárd read the book the very same year that the neutron (of neutron chain reaction fame) was discovered. Wells wrote:
“Certainly it seems now that nothing could have been more obvious to the people of the earlier twentieth century than the rapidity with which war was becoming impossible. And as certainly they did not see it. They did not see it until the atomic bombs burst in their fumbling hands…”
Now that is just chilling. Other less scary inventions: Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward written in 1887 described debit cards, Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey conjures up images of the iPad, by talking about eNews read digitally in a format that changes every day, and Skype like video chatting is written about in E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops.
Now if we could only get that babelfish up and going! It would be so awesome to watch Kdramas without having to use subtitles.
Supposed Publishing Fail
So, a while ago Amazon decided they were going to be a big bad publisher, like all those other guys. They hired Larry Kirshbaum (former CEO of Time Warner Book Group) and they opened up offices in New York, where all the cool publishers hang out, and everyone was like… “Whoa, Amazon, force to be reckoned with!” Well, it turns out that may not be the case. Kirshbaum is leaving Amazon and rumor has it, they are making some changes to that whole imprint plan of theirs.
“We can confirm that Larry Kirshbaum is leaving Amazon on January 17. Larry joined us two and a half years ago and has been instrumental in launching our New York office, including our New Harvest partnership, and establishing our children’s book business. We’re sorry to see him go, and wish him the best of luck as he returns to life as a literary agent.”
Amazon swears up an down that they’re not having issues, but some say evidence suggests otherwise.
But things didn’t go as planned, in part because Barnes & Noble refuses to carry Amazon Publishing titles in its stores. As I wrote in 2011 in my story “The truth about Amazon Publishing,” bricks-and-mortar bookstores are still one of the major ways that readers discover new books, and online sources haven’t picked up the slack. Barnes & Noble’s refusal to carry Amazon titles mattered less for Amazon’s niche-y science fiction, romance and mystery books, which it could target to very specific audiences on its website. But the big, general titles that Kirshbaum wanted to publish needed more of a push from bookstores, and they didn’t get it.
This was very frustrating for Ferriss. When The Four-Hour Chef was published in 2012, he tried to promote it as “the most banned book in U.S. history” based on the fact that Barnes & Noble wouldn’t carry it. But it never hit the general New York Times nonfiction bestseller list the way Ferriss’s previous books had.
In other words, Amazon, no one wants to sell your books in their bookstores. I’m a bit skeptical, myself, because this is really supposition. While it is possible that Amazon majorly fracked up their big publishing push, until we have hard numbers, we don’t know for sure. As the author pointed out:
“I think that no matter how well I do — even if I sell a million Kindle copies, for instance — there will be people in the book trade who call it a failure because they’re using different metrics,” Ferriss told me in 2012.
Precisely! It could be either way, and we have no way of knowing, because we don’t have the numbers.
Here is what I don’t get. I think we’ve already established that the major book publishers are bass ackwards when it comes to their decision making sometimes. Especially when it comes to new technologies. Why in the world would Amazon, who most would tout as forward-thinking, try to be like an industry that is heading toward massive change? I say, do what you do best, Amazon! Push your e-books, your indies and your online bookstore! Don’t hire a CEO from an old world technology. Get some new blood, someone who will look to the future, not someone who wil do what is already being done. Innovate, for goodness sakes! That’s what you do best. (I really hope Daphne Durham works out.)
Tell Kickstarter To Hold Off On Crowdfunding Books
There’s a new crowdfunder in town. For books, anyway. Unbound, a UK startup company, aims to be the kickstarter of books. Which, well, why exactly? As we’ve already seen, Kickstarter is currently funding books. (They fund just about anything, really, including an anime game based around the tentacle molestation of school girls.) Dan Kieran knows why, and he can’t wait to tell you about it!
Unbound was founded on a very simple ethos: to bring authors and readers together and to give them all a better, more engaged experience of the publishing process. With this funding in place, we are ready to enter the second phase of our plans.
He’s an author and his business partners are all writers (and publishers) so they have the necessary insight to really help authors market and fund their work, I guess.
Unbound authors receive 50% of all profits made on their projects (compared with the 5-10% royalty they would get from traditional publishing channels). So technically they might make less initially, but they get to make much more of their fans, and they get to control access to their fans rather than the traditional publishing house.
You know, I kind of see the appeal. Unless you are the most talented person in the world—or have a lot of friends willing to give you services for free or cheap—publishing on your own can be expensive. You have to get a cover artist and a copy editor (let’s hope, anyway) and someone to format. Perhaps you want to market your books through various book emailing services. Some of them costs hundreds of dollars for a single advertisement. If you had that kind of capital ahead of time, you could cover those costs and make a superior product.
On the other hand, if you CAN get those services from reliable sources for cheap, it might be better to direct publish using Amazon’s KDP or Smashwords, who have royalties of 60-70%.
Book Lovers Unite!
Stories like this always make my heart grow three sizes after I read them. Let’s discuss World Book Night, shall we? World Book Night is this great night once a year when readers in your community that want to own books, but can’t necessarily afford them, are given books by authors and publishers. Authors waive their royalties, and publishers cover all the costs for the special additions. Then the 30-35 books (20 copies each per location) are passed out by volunteers at local libraries and bookstores. It’s an awesome event that happens on April 23rd.
That lead-up is to tell you that they announced the books they’ll be giving away this year.
“This year’s book selection is the most diverse ever, and we’ve increased the total number of picks this year to 35 in order to welcome in more authors and publishers,” said Carl Lennertz, WBN U.S. executive director. “We have our first graphic novel, our first university press pick, and the first Asian-American authors,” adding that as before, the WBN has a book in English and Spanish, and two of the picks will also be available in Large Print editions. Lennertz also said that in early 2014, the organization will announce a proprietary e-book in partnership with e-book technology company Livrada.
Some of the authors in this year’s selection: Diane Ackerman, Stephen Chobsky, Joseph Heller, Carl Hiaasen, and Elizabeth Wein.
Everybody And Their Celebrity Brother Publishes A Memoir
So apparently all the celebrities in the first world decided that now was about the time to publish a memoir. Seriously, guys, I read about 3 of them this week. (Avert your eyes, Kat Kennedy!)
First up, Angelina Jolie is shopping around her autobiography.
At least three US publishers are locked in a battle for the rights to her autobiography. A source at one confirmed: “Whoever gets her will be sitting on a gold mine. “Her book is guaranteed to top the bestseller lists in virtually every country on the planet and even an advance of that size would be recouped within weeks.”
I won’t lie, I’d read it. Jolie appears to have a fascinating backstory, based on some of the more interesting things she’s said in interviews. She does have kids, though. I wonder if that will make her think twice about what she wants to put in there. Still, it must be pretty juicy, because the bidding is up to $50 million. (Of course, she’s probably just going to donate it all to a charity, given her track record there.)
Although no synopsis has yet been written Jolie, who in 1999 won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Girl, Interrupted, has indicated she will reveal details about her life, including:
Her years as a Hollywood wild child, dabbling in drugs and even self-mutilation after her actor dad Jon Voight, 74, left home.
Her bizarre marriages to British actor Jonny Lee Miller, 40, and Billy Bob Thornton, 58, whose blood she once wore in a vial on a chain around her neck.
Her liaison with actress and model Jenny Shimizu, 46, about whom she reportedly said: “I would probably have married Jenny if I hadn’t married Jonny.”
Her feelings about Jennifer Aniston, 44, who was still married to Pitt when they began their romance while shooting 2005 film Mr and Mrs Smith.
In other news, Mr. David Beckham releases his own biography (in pictures) this week in the form of a photo book that spans his entire soccer career. I don’t know about you, but I’m seriously hoping for a lot of this:
There will be other photos, besides the obligatory sexy body shots, of course. Some of them are definitely swoonworthy for other reasons.
The father-of-four’s new autobiography David Beckham, which charts his phenomenal football career with 150 images, features a photo of him and his three sons at his final club Paris Saint-Germain.
“One last time with my boys as a champion,” the caption reads. “Thank you for sharing these special moments in my life and career. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love you boys.”
I think I’m about to DIE from the sweetness of it. The book hits the market October 30th, so run right out and grab your sexy-filled copy!
And now, in probably the most disturbing and heartbreaking of the new books, Corey Feldman’s memoir Coreyography releases on the 28th. This is not a book for the weak of heart, guys. I could honestly barely make it through the article. There won’t be a lot of quotes with this story, but let me summarize it for you: Hollywood is filled with pedophiles and according to Feldman, many of the most evil and powerful are still at large.
The man who abused Haim on the set of “Lucas,” now “walks around, one of the most successful people in the entertainment industry, still making money hand over fist,” Feldman writes, without naming the big shot.
Feldman has been very open about the abuse of his past—from his parents and other authority figures—for years, so some of the information in the book isn’t new. On the other hand, I don’t think Feldman has ever said anything about his relationship with Michael Jackson before. (Please, correct me if I’m wrong.)
In the midst of all this, Feldman was palling around with Michael Jackson. The two would later have a falling out, but at the height of Feldman’s fame as a teen heartthrob he and Jackson were good buddies. Jackson never made any sexual overtures to him, Feldman insists…
You know, our society tends to deride these young stars for partying, drugs, and calling attention to themselves in the wrong ways, but perhaps (or most likely) there is a reason they are acting out. After all, we have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors.
China And Others Are Ready To Buy Our Books, But At What Cost?
In two seemingly unrelated stories about China we have our controversy of the week. The first story comes to us from New Republic. In a somewhat dramatic article, Nora Caplan-Bricker posits that the Asian nations, such as China, will be what saves the publishing industry here in the United States. (Personally, I still see e-books as being the answer, but there’s no reason why we can’t put another layer of cash on that cake.)
In emerging economies all over the world, U.S. book publishers are angling for new audiences. When Penguin and Random House announced a merger last year, Publishing Perspectives deduced that Penguin’s growing operations in India, China, and Brazil, and Random House’s dominance in Latin America, played a part in negotiations. Amazon extended its reach to Mexico this August and is already peddling two million titles there. A recent report from the Association of American Publishers shows sales by U.S. publishers abroad rose more than 7 percent between 2011 and 2012.
Who can disagree that China’s 1.3 billion people (almost 95% of which are literate) buying American books would be a good thing? The problem is, doing business with countries like China has a cost, and that is censorship. From an article in the New York Times:
Chinese readers of Ezra F. Vogel’s sprawling biographyof China’s reformist leader Deng Xiaoping may have missed a few details that appeared in the original English edition. The Chinese version did not mention that Chinese newspapers had been ordered to ignore the Communist implosion across Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. Nor that General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, purged during the Tiananmen Square crackdown, wept when he was placed under house arrest. Gone was the tense state dinner with the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev when Deng, preoccupied by the throngs of students then occupying the square, let a dumpling tumble from his chopsticks.
This is because in order to do business with the new markets, publishers and authors must often compromise the quality of their books in order to make that great bottom line.
Mr. Vogel, a professor emeritus at Harvard, said the decision to allow Chinese censors to tinker with his work was an unpleasant but necessary bargain, one that allowed the book to reach the kind of enormous readership many Western authors can only dream of. His book, “Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China,” sold 30,000 copies in the United States and 650,000 in China.
“To me the choice was easy,” he said during a book tour of China that drew appreciative throngs in nearly a dozen cities. “I thought it was better to have 90 percent of the book available here than zero.”
And look, his reasoning may not be just about the money. Perhaps in this particular case, he thought the book was valuable, even with some of its content missing. The idea, the question itself, about whether or not it’s worth selling books to China—even if their content is changed as a result—is one worth discussing. Who are we to judge the values that China puts forth? Who are we to say that they’re wrong for tampering with a few lines of text here and there? The problem is, it’s becoming more and more prevalent as publishing companies/authors realize bending to harsh Chinese strictures is the only way to do business.
Such compromises, almost unheard of just five years ago, are becoming increasingly common as American authors and their publishers are drawn to the Chinese market. With a highly literate population hungry for the works of foreign writers, China is an increasing source of revenue for American publishing houses; last year e-book earnings for American publishers from China grew by 56 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers. Chinese publishing companies bought more than 16,000 titles from abroad in 2012, up from 1,664 in 1995.
Let’s be clear here, when you sell your soul to the devil, he comes for his piece of flesh. And sometimes the cost isn’t worth the money you make.
But while best-selling mysteries like “The Da Vinci Code,” by Dan Brown, or classics like Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” are often faithfully translated, the authors of sexually explicit works or those that touch on Chinese politics and history can find themselves in an Orwellian embrace with a censorship apparatus that has little patience for the niceties of literary or academic integrity.
Qiu Xiaolong, a St. Louis-based novelist whose mystery thrillers are set in Shanghai, said Chinese publishers who bought the first three books in his Inspector Chen series altered the identity of pivotal characters and rewrote plot lines they deemed unflattering to the Communist Party. Mr. Qiu, who writes in English but was born and raised in China, said that he had reluctantly agreed to some of the alterations, and only after heated discussion, but that others had been made after he approved what he thought were final translations. “Some of the changes are so ridiculous they made the book incoherent,” he said in a phone interview. Having been burned three times, he said he has refused to allow his fourth novel, “A Case of Two Cities,” to be printed in China.
Some authors—Hillary Clinton, Alan Greenspan, and James Kynge, to name a few—have resisted, but potentially at great financial loss. J.K. Rowling made $2.4 million dollars last year. Walter Isaacson—author of the Steve Jobs biography—made $804,000. It’s also well known that cash advances for books are down and the industry is in turmoil, thanks in part to the move from paper to digital and many publishing companies loss as to how to change with the times. It’s not an easy decision to make, and once the decision is made to compromise, there’s still a chance your book could end up in a strange limbo land.
Even if the process remains opaque and unpredictable, publishing executives say the broad outlines of China’s censorship regime have changed little in recent years. Topics that deal with ethnic tensions, Taiwan and Falun Gong, the banned spiritual movement, are off limits, and books that contain even a passing reference to the Cultural Revolution or contemporary Chinese leaders can expect fine-toothed scrutiny.
Gone are the days of the 1990s when Chinese publishers would buy boundary-pushing titles from abroad and hope to sneak them past the censors. The country’s 560 publishing houses are required to employ in-house censors, most of them faithful party members. Then there is the General Administration of Press and Publications, whose anonymous apparatchiks can order the removal of chapters or kill an entire book.
In the end, there is no quick and decisive answer. Each author/publisher must make the decision for themselves and live with the consequences. Let’s hope that the conversation is one that continues to be broached. And who knows? Maybe someday China will change their policies. Neil Gaiman talks about one such occasion in his address to The Reading Agency that I found fascinating:
I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?
It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.
Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.
I want to live in a world where books and the dreams they give people could literally change worlds. Wouldn’t it be great to think that someone in China could read a book and be prompted to change the future of their country? That is my hope, and one I will continue to hold onto when I read stories about censorship in China.
Look, I’d love to write a never-ending stream of news, but I have other things I have to accomplish during the week. So here are some stories that I thought were interesting, but I didn’t have time to write about. Enjoy!
And finally, I just can’t say this enough, the text of Neil Gaiman’s speech is AMAZING. Please GO READ IT.
Here are some quotes:
And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.
Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals…
…But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.
I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally…
…I think we have responsibilities to the future. Responsibilities and obligations to children, to the adults those children will become, to the world they will find themselves inhabiting. All of us – as readers, as writers, as citizens – have obligations. I thought I’d try and spell out some of these obligations here.
I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing.
We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.