New Toys

This post is not about books or publishing. It’s about two new toys. One is enabling me to write and post the blog: we have incorporated WordPress into the namelos website. Previously in order to post a blog I needed to open the webpage in DreamWeaver and muddle through the HTML code, cutting and pasting. I was always afraid that I’d muck something up and crash the site. It took considerable effort and effectively squashed any enthusiasm I had for blogging. Now, however, I can type and click away, using the WordPress toolbar, which is intuitive, easy, and fun. This may make me a more frequent blogger, if not a better one. You get to judge.

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A Seasonal Ramble

November 20, 2010
Fall is traditionally the busiest season in publishing and that is no different out here on the lunatic fringe.

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Interim Report

August 9, 2010
The last month four months have been full. Since returning from Bologna I’ve conducted two workshops on “Editing for Writers,” attended BEA, spoken to two SCBWI groups, one in Chicago and the other in Hammond, IN, taught at the Highlights Foundation writers conference at Chautuaqua, and, last weekend spoke at NYPL on all things digital. At namelos, we’ve licensed the paperback and ebook rights to our first novel, POD by Stephen Wallenfels, to Penguin to be published next summer on their adult list. We’ve also licensed Aus/NZ rights to Allen & Unwin. We’ve published our second title, a brilliant first novel entitle DEPARTURE TIME by Truus Matti (translated from the Dutch by Nancy Forest-Flier) which has received starred reviews from both Kirkus and School Library Journal. Our third novel, THE FORBIDDEN LAND by Betty Levin is available now with an official publication date of December 1, 2010. And our fourth novel, THE SUNDOWN RULE by Wendy Townsend, will be available in a few weeks with a spring 2011 publication date. Life has been busy as well. Our second grandchild, Gustandean, was born in May.He’s growing into his name. Our 400 raspberry bushes are in and coming along well. Our house in Pennsylvania is on the market, although that process was interrupted when thieves broke in a stripped all the copper piping out of the basement. And, a great sadness, our beloved dog, Shadow, died. Life continues to deal a mixed hand.
As we move into middle of August, the industry rattles and shakes. On the digital front by far and away the most interesting development is the deal Andrew Wylie cut allowing Amazon to publish exclusively ebook versions of titles by some of his agency’s most prestigious authors. There are only 20 or so books involved, but this is all about the principle. If authors and their agents succeed in separating ebook rights from print rights, publishing as we know it is over. I can’t imagine this opening gambit will succeed, but I do love opening gambits and there will be more as these issues are tested. In other news, Amazon announced that ebook sales have surpassed hardcover sales. Surely they will surpass paperback sales soon. And Barnes & Nobles is for sale. For publishers, these are interesting times.
We’re hoping to take some “slow time” between now and Labor Day. Given all the wheels that are turning, it’s not at all clear what that will look like. Be that as it may, enjoy the rest of your summer! We’ll be back after Labor Day.

Some many (e)books, so little (real)time.

The last month has been invigorating and exhausting. The official publication of our first title, POD by Stephen Wallenfels, the Bologna book fair, and the launch of the iPad account for much of the busy-ness. I’m about to head off to conduct a workshop on “Editing for Writers” for the Highlights Foundation, and, so, I can’t write at length now, but here are some items that I will address at more length when I land.

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eBook Caper—Front Street and namelos

In cooperation with Boyds Mills Press, we are very pleased to offer you free copies of four new Front Street novels. Here is Kent Brown’s letter explaining the caper.

I normally trash any e-mail that includes the word free in it. And I often ignore any that mentions e-book, as I’m not up to date on that technology. But I concocted this experiment and egged on my friend Stephen Roxburgh, who is an early adopter of e-books and things high tech. I got used to seeing him in a rocking chair engrossed in his Kindle. Stephen has been a student of the book in whatever format most of his life and is articulate on the importance and magic of story, independent of platform.

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Caveat venditor!

The wrestling match between the established print media and the new digital media is now a tag-team match: Macmillan/Apple vs. Amazon and everybody vs. Google. Publishers and agents and many authors have a strong vested interest in the match and have had a lot to say. But not much is being reported about what consumers think, and, as I see it, they are footing the bill.

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"Completely negative and pessimistic"

I recently read a manuscript that I loved and offered the author our contract which the author then submitted to the Authors Guild for review. The author wrote back to say that the response was “completely negative and pessimistic.” In light of this, the author, although still enthusiastic, understandably had a few questions for me. Here they are, along with my response.

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Publishing the new, old way. Part II

Enormous changes are taking place in publishing even as I type. Last Tuesday Publishers Lunch broke a story that Apple has been negotiating with the Big Six (Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins) to supply content for what we all assume is the imminent arrival of a tablet device, possibly to be announced this Wednesday. The next day, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon was changing the deal with its Desktop Publishing clients (individuals and small publishers), from a 65/35 split in Amazon’s favor to a 70/30 split in the client’s favor, starting in June. It’s worth noting that the current Amazon deal with the Big Six is reported to be a 50/50 split. A day later, the news broke that Amazon was releasing an SDK (Software Development Kit) for the Kindle, thereby inviting developers to generate apps (applications) for the Kindle, akin to the enormously successful Apple App program for the iPhone and iTouch. What does it all mean? It means that Apple and Amazon are wrestling, and when Titans struggle, the world shakes. Meanwhile, the Gaea (mother of the Titans) of the techno-cosmos is Google, which will launch a Google Partners program in the first or second quarter of 2010 offering a 70/30 (in the client’s favor) split to deliver books from their cloud to any device. IMO, this is the game changer. In any event, when corporations the size of these move this quickly, something big is happening. We live in interesting times.

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namelos annual report: a toe-hold on the lunatic fringe

We launched namelos a year ago on Inauguration Day, and we’re still here. I consider this a resounding success. I promised to be forthcoming about how things are going—in the spirit of transparency and in service to the publishing community, which has been enormously supportive and encouraging. So here goes.

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Publishing the old, old way. Part I

December 27, 2009

A recent experience on the bleeding edge of digital publishing made me realize that my business model is more akin to Gutenberg’s and Newbery’s than to that of the international conglomerates that dominate the industry in these early days of the 21st century. This will be the first of several posts on various aspects of new/old publishing.

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Our first title is live!

December 21, 2009

I am very pleased to publish Pod by Stephen Wallenfels as the first title on the namelos list. Pod is Steve’s first novel, and there is nothing an editor finds more exciting than discovering new authors and publishing their first books. I met Steve when he participated in a Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop, taught by my wife, Carolyn Coman, and Tim Wynne-Jones. I didn’t know anything about what he was writing but over dinner I learned that he and his son have an annual holiday tradition of rewatching Die Hard and I knew then and there that he was someone to keep an eye on. (You can take that any number of ways, but I mean it positively.) Subsequently Steve let me read a draft of the novel and I knew immediately that I wanted to publish it.

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NBA Afterthoughts

The National Book Awards evening was as elegant and exciting as always. Authors and publishers can be dressed up and taken places. I’m pleased to say that the children’s award provided the most moving moment of the evening: Phillip Hoose escorted Claudette Colvin onto the stage. They were spectacular. Sadly, Melanie Kroupa, the editor and publisher of the book was not at the ceremony, having parted ways with the Macmillan USA group some months ago. Melanie was gratefully and eloquently acknowledged by the author and roundly applauded by her many friends in the audience.

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On the road

October 25, 2009
 

My wife and I are on the way to Ireland for a week. It’s the first trip to the country for both of us. We’ll be based in Galway, but immediately head to the Aran Islands for a couple of days. I was infatuated with John Millington Synge’s plays in my youth and I very much look forward to going to the remote islands that he wrote so much about. Continue Reading →

Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—Of cabbages—and kings …

October 18, 2009

Of books: For many authors, a hardcover copy of their own book has a totemic significance that has nothing to do with the thing itself, das Ding an sich. It connotes an achievement on the order of being allowed to put Dr. before or Esq. after your name. On a shelf in a bookstore or a library, it is a public testimonial of achievement. Continue Reading →

Extraordinary Publishing Delusions and the Saneness of Crowds

October 24, 2009

I’ll take a break from namelos to rant about the trade book publishing industry. From my perspective on the lunatic fringe, it seems ripe for a Gibbon’s-like treatment (you remember The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire). In other areas of publishing, e.g. medical/technical and scholarly, publishers are adjusting their business model to accommodate the array of challenges we all face. Trade book publishing seems to be clutching its braces, puffing out its chest, and shouting we’re going to keep on doing what we’ve always done the way we’ve always done it … and even more so. Continue Reading →