In Memoriam-Felix Knauth

Many years ago I edited and published a book titled WINGS AND ROOTS by Susan Terris. The book involved a boy, crippled by a childhood disease. Susan later introduced me to a friend who was an inspiration for the book, Felix Knauth. Felix suffered from polio as a child and had a leg brace. He grew up to do many things, all in service to others, and when I met him he was retired and living a full life.

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The Game Changes

Various sources are reporting two separate developments that, combined, initiate the next stage in the evolution of publishing. Not surprisingly, both involve Amazon. Continue Reading →


The Good Life at Rasiglio

Last week I wrote about business at the fair. Now that I am back in the US, I want to prolong my memory of the meals we shared with friends and colleagues. Here are some highlights.

Bologna 2011

The fair is over and the assembled hordes have departed. This was my 30th and, in one word, this fair was noteworthy for its efficiency. I don’t know the official attendance numbers, but I do know attendance was way down. Usually the parking lots are full, here they were seldom more than half filled. The restaurant in Hall 29 was closed for the first time in my experience. And the halls were not so crowded that the walk between appointments was a constantly shifting slalom run. But everywhere I looked—all day long, all week—people were sitting across from each other at tables looking at and talking about books. The people who actually do the buying and selling of rights were doing their work, steadily and efficiently. The rest of the bodies that crowd these parking lots, restaurants, and halls are students, supernumeraries, and tourists. The economy has made this a leaner affair, but, I suspect, not less productive.

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The week that still is.

As many of us gather our bags and begin the pilgrimage to Bologna for next week’s Fiera del Libro per Ragazzi, events that I mentioned in a blog earlier this week continue to unfold. Apparently Amanda Hocking has landed at St. Martin’s for an advance reported to be over $2 million for her new YA paranormal series. This resets the bar for self-publishing success stories. Good for her!

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When she was a baby,  I called her Wild Belle Hiccup, but now…

So far this week!

For the last couple of years I’ve given a lot of talks addressing the impact of digital change on the publishing industry. I always say that things are changing very quickly, so quickly that what I say on Monday will be old news on Friday. Well, I was wrong.

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A Red-bellied and Downy Woodpecker face-off.

How to Make (and Publish) a Book

My 6-year-old granddaughter, Belle, gave me this for my birthday.

how to make a book

1. Sloppy coppy
2. rite
3. dro pickshers
4. dummy (osomy)*
5. read over
6. puplish
7. love the book or don’t love the book

*Belle felt that “dummy” was mean and proposed “osomy”—her spelling of “awesome-y”—as an alternative.

She added #7 just for me, because I’m a “puplisher.” If there is anything about the whole process that is missing from this list, I don’t know what it is.

“love the book or don’t love the book” are words to live by.

And that’s all she wrote.

And it was good!

Looking back on the day, it was good. Thank you all.

Enjoy the day!

Today is my 61st birthday and I’m sitting pretty. Thanks to all and sundry for making it so. 

Slush is dead

Recently I was on a panel at an SCBWI conference in Austin, Texas. The conference was fabulous! At the end of the day, a panel was convened. Among others on the panel were four senior publishers—not elderly, other than me, but people with a lot of miles on their odometers. The inevitable questions about submissions were raised and apocryphal stories about manuscripts pulled from the slush pile were solicited. Like all apocrypha, there is truth in the stories, but it is buffered by time and tailored to the hopes and dreams of the audience. Although I didn’t share mine, I, too, have a few examples that would warm the cockles of an aspiring author’s heart. … A few examples, collected over three and a half decades, out of tens of thousands of unsolicited submissions, a Himalaya of manuscripts.

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Things that make no sense to me #1

There’s an interesting review of Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin in The New York Times this morning. It made me want to read Chatwin’s classic, In Patagonia. This was a pure impulse buy, the kind enabled by ebooks that I am painfully prone to. So I went to Amazon to see if the book was available for the Kindle. It is, for $12.99. I’m not adverse to paying more than $9.99 for an ebook, but I wonder why I should when it’s a deep backlist title such as this. Then I noticed that I can get a paperback for $10.99, again from Amazon. So I checked Barnes & The ebook price is the same, $12.99, and the paperback price is $11.13. What makes no sense to me is why the publisher thinks—and the ebook price is set by the publisher under the agency pricing model—a consumer would spend more for the ebook version, which is really only a license to read the book, than a paperback. As it happens, this is not a book I want for my overfull bookcases; I wanted it on my ereader so that when I’m flying to Italy next month for the Bologna book fair, I’ll be able to read it. I tend to read travel books when I’m traveling, but I’m not going to pay a premium for the experience. Anyway, my impulse to buy the book dissipated and Penguin lost an easy sale. How does this pricing serve anybody, be it the publisher, author, bookseller, or reader?