Category Archives: publishing

The changing novel

Time magazine predicts (this week) a coming new hierarchy of books, with traditional print editions, professionally edited, at the top. At lower shelves (pardon the pun) of the continuum it claims will contain print-on-demand versions, as well as e-books — and let’s not forget fanfiction.

The picture:

(M)ore books, written and read by more people, often for little or no money, circulating in a wild diversity of forms, both physical and electronic, far outside the charmed circle of New York City’s entrenched publishing culture. … If readers want to pay for the old-school premium package, they can get their literature the old-fashioned way: carefully selected and edited, and presented in a bespoke, art-directed paper package. But below that there will be a vast continuum of other options: quickie print-on-demand editions and electronic editions for digital devices, with a corresponding hierarchy of professional and amateur editorial selectiveness. (Unpaid amateur editors have already hit the world of fan fiction, where they’re called beta readers.) The wide bottom of the pyramid will consist of a vast loamy layer of free, unedited, Web-only fiction, rated and ranked YouTube-style by the anonymous reading masses.

Interspersed throughout the piece are platitudes: Publishing isn’t dying.

I don’t like the sound of this snippet:

We can expect a literary culture of pleasure and immediate gratification. Reading on a screen speeds you up: you don’t linger on the language; you just click through. We’ll see less modernist-style difficulty and more romance-novel-style sentiment and high-speed-narrative throughput.

Actually, I don’t like the sound of other parts of this proposed new future. But its basis seems reasonably sound. What does this mean for writers (big picture)? For editors and proofreaders?

Via Shelf Awareness.

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NPR’s best foreign books you’ve never heard of

Yesterday NPR had a spot, The Best Foreign Books You’ve Never Heard Of, in hopes of broadening our reading horizons.

Sounds good to me! And this may be just the time.

Britain
• Jonathan Coe, The Rotters’ Club and The House of Sleep

Russia
• Victor Pelevin, The Sacred Book of Werewolf and Buddha’s Little Finger
• Boris Akunin, The Winter Queen
• Ludmila Ulitskaya, The Funeral Party

Albania
• Ismail Kadare, The Three-Arched Bridge and Spring Flowers, Spring Frost (Read Excerpt)

Hungary
• Imre Kertesz, Fateless, The Pathseeker (Read Excerpt)

Portugal
• Antonio Lobo Antunes, What Can I Do When Everything’s on Fire?

Norway
• Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses

Egypt
• Naguib Mahfouz, The Thief and the Dogs
• Muhammad Yusuf Quayd, War in the Land of Egypt
• Alaa Al Aswany, The Yacoubian Building

Japan
• Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Mexico
• Carlos Fuentes, The Death of Artemio Cruz

They’re also taking suggestions.

(Via Shelf Awareness.)

Wholly God: The Story of a Perfect God and his Peculiar People by Sandy Faulkner

Another book I proofread is out! Unfortunately, this one’s in limited availability.

Wholly God: The Story of a Perfect God and his Peculiar People by Sandy Faulkner

I really enjoyed this book. Sandy Faulkner’s style shines.

Books to look for this fall

Or: Hooray, something other than politics!

The Seattle Times posted a list of 40 titles, including fiction and nonfiction, to look forward to this fall. Apparently conventional wisdom in the book publishing industry has said, don’t release any major titles during the election cycle, but also apparently that’s gone out the window, with releases this fall scheduled for titles from successful authors.

Via Shelf Awareness.

The Reluctant Colonel by Michael J. Merry

The 618-page ARC of The Reluctant Colonel by Michael J. Merry AndiLit sent to me.

Set in the fictional Central American country of Maraguay, The Reluctant Colonel relates the story of a 1964 coup, its leaders and their ensuing efforts of setting up a new government. I did feel hampered by my lack of historical knowledge of the time period, though; perhaps the book would be helped by a brief overview of the historical setting, from real life. I felt Merry might have had a political message, but I wasn’t educated enough about the time he wrote about to recognize it.

Some of the points I make here certainly reflect on the self-publishing platform, BookSurge, rather than on the author.

I like how much space the interior pages have, and how large the text is, but actually the text might be a bit too big. Six hundred-plus pages is enough to be daunting to some readers. Making the font slightly smaller, along with a couple other changes (see below), would not only make the book less daunting, it would also decrease production cost of the physical product.

By the third chapter I wondered if this — with all its brief chapters and snippets from different periods of time — would be a better short story collection, with the same characters recurring. It seems there are just too many interruptions, especially early on. (This solution didn’t plausible later.) I also felt disoriented, because of the numerous flashbacks to various points in time, never knowing what year it was. Perhaps BookSurge didn’t allow Merry to add these notations?

I did get into the story once I was about 100 pages into The Reluctant Colonel. The story, as it directly relates to the coup and its aftermath, is quite nice.

I dislike the crass language and views of women in the book. It’s degrading, and not in the least funny. As I try to see this from the writer’s perspective, I think these interludes were probably intended as comedic breaks from the intense action? I would much prefer, though, that the action continue straight through, without these awful chapters.

It really needs to be edited. Words can be removed, which shortens the work. Rewording in places could eliminate the stilted feeling on some pages. This is so important. There are also problems with capitalization (mostly words being capitalized when they shouldn’t be), punctuation, and with how Spanish words are thrown in and handled.

These problems really kept me from enjoying the book as much as I could have. Perhaps some of these issues were addressed before the final copy was produced. However, I’m somewhat doubtful that they were, since I ignored for this review the corrections that were found and submitted to BookSurge (presumably by the author?), according to a printed sheet tucked inside the pages. Regardless, I hope they were fixed.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Blogs saving books? A conversation, part 3

This is, as the title states, part 3 of this discussion. If you haven’t kept up, please see part 1 and part 2 before reading this installment. This part consists of a review of the bloggers’ side, focusing on one person’s post, and my overall conclusions.

Ready? Here we go!

The other hand’s take:

    1. Trish states that book reviews on blogs are given as much respect as book reviews in newspapers, citing the myriad of authors and publishers sending ARCs to book bloggers these days.
    2. “Blogging is inherently informal.”
    3. Book blog reviews are written in a conversational style, “like I’m chatting with a friend.”
    4. The point of blogging is to be self-indulgent.

My response: To point one of the internet advocate: Yep. Apparently many book publicists find value in the work of book bloggers in promoting their books. To point two: Again, yep. For the most part, blogging is informal, and I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. Some blogs are more professional than others.

On point three: A conversational style isn’t all bad. It isn’t all good, either. There are pros and cons to both conversational, informal writing and professional, formal writing. Books are often discussed in both voices. It seems the Unites States (maybe the world is?) are becoming more informal. Even newspapers are becoming more informal. Isn’t the fact that such formal stanchions as the book review sections of newspapers are dying some evidence of this? This is the way of the world. It’s not all bad. Why fight it?

Point four: Here is where I take issue with Trish and the book blogging community that is up in arms about Warren’s critique.

Trish writes:

Blogging is the place that I can say, I can do what I want when I want to and I can make it look however I want. If I want to say like or alls or dude or WHATEVER, I can. More importantly, the reason I read bloggers’ book reviews is because I don’t want some pompous ass talking about things like What’s the book’s place in the canon.

I know blogs exist that stand on this platform of I Can Do Whatever I Want. I don’t read them. It’s Ethics 101 that to be an upstanding member of any society, one’s freedom stops where another person’s begins. It’s smart to waiting before pushing the Publish button if you’ve written in anger. Sure, we have freedom of speech, but I also have freedom to not intentionally hurt other people. Mrs. Chili wrote a nice post about this recently. Maybe the freedom Trish was thinking of wouldn’t be painful to others, but it’s a slippery slope.

I’ll be the first to say, I don’t consider this blog a book blog, exactly. My reviews are skimpy and can hardly be called full reviews. I started, this year, to catalog each book I read here in part just for personal reference; I’ve started a list each year, intending to write down each book I read for a full year, but the list is always abandoned by about February. This blogging plan is working much better for me — it’s August and I haven’t messed it up yet.

However, I have been thinking about improving my reviews here — beefing them up and making them more meaningful. I still struggle with how much I can say without giving something away, though. I haven’t taken Book Reviewing 101 like Warren suggests.

I’ll end on this note: I’m not sure what newspaper book reviews have done to sustain books; I’m not sure they exactly need saving, even. A point from Warren I think we can all agree on: “Blogs stoke public interest.” Isn’t that what the old media reviews were intended to do?

Whew! Made it through. Your thoughts?

The editing mind

Thanks to a link in the comments here yesterday, I’ve got a snippet today from a book editor turned writer.

David Ebershoff, whose book The 19th Wife was just released, edited Norman Mailer’s last book. Here’s some of what he said in a Saturday interview with NPR.

If I stepped back and thought about it, sure, I was intimidated. But ultimately, I’ve always been a reader, since I was a kid, I feel most confident when I’m reading. And so, when I’m told I’m going to be Norman Mailer’s editor, I might get a little anxious about that, but once I had a manuscript in hand, I felt I knew what I was there to do. And I knew that the best way to respect Norman, or any other writer I work with, was to be fully honest with him and to bring my sharpest pencil to the manuscript. And that’s what I did.

See here to hear the full piece.

Pandora’s Clock by John J. Nance

I picked up an advance reader’s copy of Pandora’s Clock by John J. Nance at a garage sale last month. I thought it sounded like a good story, so I got it. And I read it (finished earlier this week). It was only after I got it home and had begun reading it that I realized it was originally published (this ARC is for the hardcover, first edition) in 1995. I’ve linked above to the newest paperback, since Amazon doesn’t have any of the hardcover in stock.

Since it was an ARC, I had this disorienting feeling when this “suspense thriller” mentioned technology. The CIA still using dot matrix printers? No on on a huge 747-400 has a normal cell phone? It’s necessary to explain PDAs to the reader? Pay phones are still available and in use? What’s all that about? But then I realize, this book came out in the mid-1990s. I didn’t have a cell phone in 1995, and I don’t think I knew anyone who did. OK, maybe that’s all fine. The dot matrix, though, I’m still questioning. I know people still used dot matrix printers in the mid-90s, but I’m doubtful that the CIA still used them then. Good laser printers existed then, and they weren’t all that expensive. OK, enough of that.

I could certainly tell that it was an ARC — there were errors in the text that otherwise would be wholly surprising from a Doubleday book.

This was a quick read. The story places an professor on a jumbo jet bound for New York from Frankfurt, Germany, a couple days before Christmas. He’s been, apparently, infected with a scary virus, which killed the two other people who had it. Add in recirculated airplane air, a renegade operation within the CIA that’s joined forces with what looks like a terrorist plot, and one or two burgeoning relationships, along with several interesting characters aboard the plane, and you’ve got this book.

Here’s Nance’s website.