“I believe Christian fiction in general is now at least as good as all the other genres. I think this is slowly becoming an accepted fact, even among publishers and critics outside the Christian world. In fact, it seems to me most of the opinions one still reads to the contrary are from Christian writers who have not managed to get published, and one suspects their motives, to say the least. I say this as an extremely demanding reader. I do not finish about half of the novels I start, because I cannot bear poor craftsmanship or boring stories, regardless of the message. I will not support a Christian artist simply because he is a Christian. That would demean Christianity itself. But these days I find myself abandoning non-Christian novels with about the same frequency as Christian ones, so yes indeed, we have come a long, long way.” Thus spake Athol Dickson earlier this year.
So it’s Banned Books Week for the American Library Association, and people are taking to the streets to ban or burn their favorite books. What? That’s not happening in your neighborhood? Well, don’t just sit there. Go to the library and complain about something. Freedom of choice in reading starts with you.
So have you read a “banned book” lately? Funny how you got hold of one. Black market book fair, I guess?
Speaking of choice, O.J. Simpson’s book, So What If I Did It?, has been published, and Barnes and Noble apparently announced that they would not distribute it. The public arose to say they wanted it, and the bookseller recanted. As Charles Kaine writes, “Barnes and Noble, on a daily basis, declines to carry dozens, if not hundreds, of titles, and yet we do not get a daily press release from them announcing what they won’t be carrying. Why did they choose to make this one book so special?” Why? They were trying to win some publicity points, of course. Maybe they did.
Still, Kaine argues against their initial decision. “When large corporations start making choices for us,” he says, “deciding for us what we can and can’t read based on what they perceive to be the popular opinion, we, the American public, are in serious danger of losing our right to choose.” But isn’t that the nature of the publishing process, people at large and small corporations deciding whether a manuscript should be published? If we had all the choice we could stomach, every writer would be published, and that would not be a victory for the American or world reader. (Enter The Blog to glut the reader’s stomach.)
Books are published from a community, are they not? The publishing community, composed of editors, writers, managers, designers, publicists, printers, and booksellers, take a manuscript from idea to print. Some of them hold the reigns on every potential book, holding it at standstill or spurring it forward to publication. There are good stories that are not being published and bad ones that are. Do we want more bad stories to choose from or responsible editors to hold them back?
The real battle over choice is in the news business. In that arena, editors filter stories through a condescending elitists grid. Where’s the choice there? And public education–where’s the choice there?! Okay, I’ll stop.
Discovery House Publishers has revised their website and is offering free shipping on all orders through Sunday, October 7.
And if you’re longing for another of those books about books, something along the lines of a “hilarious epic fantasy” involving a city which is akin to “a gigantic second-hand bookshop,” you could do worse than cracking open The City of Dreaming Books.
The NY Times is talking about the Internet’s effect on book promotion. Publishers try to control the release of an attention-grabbing book and are undermined by newspapers or networks who work the system to their own advantage. How can we blame them unless bribery is involved?
Publicizing a book is a tricky game.
Jonathan Burnham, publisher of HarperCollins, said that sometimes “there’s an argument that early leaks fan the flames, and in a sense everybody benefits from it at the end of the day.” But that depends on whether readers want more or feel as if they gleaned everything there is to know without buying the book.
The article does not mention a great source on this topic, that is Plug Your Book: Online Book Marketing for Authors by Steve Weber. I have intended to review this book for weeks. What I have read of it is hard-hitting, honest, and informative. Weber writes about many publicity ideas, both good and bad, helping us understand what we’re getting into, not selling us on a promotion designed more for making him a bit of cash than promoting our book. Read the book online here.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America seems to have overstepped its bounds. Earlier this month, it sent a notice of violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to Scribd, a text file sharing site. The noticed intended to name pirated works by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, but included several non-pirated works including Cory Doctorow’s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.” Doctorow explains the mess they made.
More importantly, many of the works that were listed in the takedown were written by the people who’d posted them to Scribd — these people have been maligned and harmed by SFWA, who have accused them of being copyright violators and have caused their material to be taken offline. These people made the mistake of talking about and promoting science fiction — by compiling a bibliography of good works to turn kids onto science fiction, by writing critical or personal essays that quoted science fiction novels, or by discussing science fiction. SFWA — whose business is to promote science fiction reading — has turned readers into collateral damage in a campaign to make Scribd change its upload procedures.
The SFWA President has apologized. “Unfortunately, this list was flawed,” he said, “and the results were not checked.” I can understand making a mistake, but not checked a complaint like this seems irresponsible very much like forwarding urban legends to all your friends. [via Paul Jessup]
Random House states that their man David Fickling, whom they praise for discovering and editing Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, has found a new literary talent–Jenny Downham. Fickling will be releasing her first young adult novel, Before I Die, next month.
How does that strike you? Does the news that the first editor of popular books encourage you to believe a new book passed through his hands with his blessing will be just as good as the others?
In 1563, John Foxe gave us a record of the blood shed for the love of Christ. According to the author sketch in this online edition:
Although the recent recollection of the persecutions under Bloody Mary gave bitterness to his pen, it is singular to note that [Foxe] was personally the most conciliatory of men, and that while he heartily disowned the Roman Church in which he was born, he was one of the first to attempt the concord of the Protestant brethren. In fact, he was a veritable apostle of toleration.
When the plague or pestilence broke out in England, in 1563, and many forsook their duties, Fox remained at his post, assisting the friendless and acting as the almsgiver of the rich. It was said of him that he could never refuse help to any one who asked it in the name of Christ. Tolerant and large-hearted he exerted his influence with Queen Elizabeth to confirm her intention to no longer keep up the cruel practice of putting to death those of opposing religious convictions. The queen held him in respect and referred to him as “Our Father Foxe.”
Now Foxe’s stories of suffering and persecution are available to you in an elegantly gold-stamped collector’s edition. This keepsake volume has a “copper-plated Cross of Fellowship” embedded in its padded cover and comes with a mail-in card for obtaining your own Cross of Fellowship pendant.
Forgive me if I have been sacrilegious here, but my wife noted this edition of Foxe’s book this evening, and I wanted to capture her response. We definitely support the Voice of the Martyrs, endorsers of this edition, and while in favor of a quality, updated edition of Foxe’s valuable history, we think making it into a nice collector’s item (that would look so good on a rich American shelf) clashes with the ideals of sacrifice recorded on its pages. This isn’t just a classic faith story. It’s a record of brutality and ultimate peace, taking up a cross which Americans often cannot imagine.
I see that Jane Austen is now writing for Bethany House. Nice acquisition, Dave.
David Lassman, the director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England, decided to slightly alter the first paragraphs of a few of Jane Austen’s classic works for submission to today’s publishers. In the Guardian:
After making only minor changes, he sent off opening chapters and plot synopses to 18 of the UK’s biggest publishers and agents. He was amazed when they all sent the manuscripts back with polite but firm “no-thank-you’s” and almost all failed to spot that he was ripping off one of the world’s most famous literary figures.
Mr Lassman said: “I was staggered. Here is one of the greatest writers that has lived, with her oeuvre securely fixed in the English canon and yet only one recipient recognised them as Austen’s work.”
The one who recognised it said, “I suggest you reach for your copy of Pride and Prejudice, which I’d guess lives in close proximity to your typewriter, and make sure that your opening pages don’t too closely mimic that book’s opening.”
I love this kind of experiment, but hasn’t this been done before with another classic author? I don’t remember the specifics, but I think I’ve heard about someone doing this very thing a few years ago.
I corresponded with Ken McCardell of BibleRhymes this week about his company which producing illustrated Bible stories in verse. Here’s what he says about his experience in publishing.
Hardcover versions of BibleRhymes’ Creation are in stock and ready for shipment with releases scheduled in October for BibleRhymes’ Noah and the Ark and BibleRhymes’ Christmas Story. 15-20 books are anticipated for the BibleRhymes series.
Though much research was done in regards to publishers, both Christian and secular, to maintain our vision and quality standards it was appropriate to establish BibleRhymes Publishing. Continue reading BibleRhymes for Kids
Another of my columns is available today at The American Spectator Online.
A publishing CEO decides to play the game, “Let’s See How You Like It,” with Google. He takes a couple laptops from the Google Booth at BookExpo and when discovered says he was doing to Google what Google Books is doing to publishing companies.
A CEO did this. Who says you have to grow up to be a success? (via Digg.com)
Here’s a bit of what’s going on at BookExpo. Promotional snacks for a book on Proust?
There appears to be a slump in conservative political books. “The conservative market is not unified, there are many fractures,” says the president of Regnery Publishing. “The ongoing war in Iraq and his positions on immigration and education has made it harder to get anyone to write books that rally behind [Mr. Bush].”
Also from the BookExpo, Hillel Italie reports, “New releases topped 290,000 in 2006, according to statisticians R.R. Bowker, which, thanks to revised methodology, added a bountiful 100,000 titles to its previous estimates. . . .
BookExpo reminds you of how the new becomes old, like watching Pete Hamill promote his new book, The Gift, while a few aisles away, at the “Remainders” section of the convention, a previous Hamill book, Downtown, was being sold for $3.”