Monday, June 24, 2013

First-to-Read Program from Penguin; Amazon Pays Advances

Some interesting things are happening in the publishing world these days. Following are two items that were publicized in the past week that give me hope that some of the kinks are being worked out in what has been a huge disruption in the publishing industry. Are traditional publishers and non-traditional publishing taking steps toward each other?

Item One: from Penguin
Penguin is an intriguing publishing company. They seem more 'out there' than the other big publishers,  testing the edges, pushing the envelope, checking out market possibilities that are outside the square old publishing box. Of course, they've done plenty of not-so-enlightened things lately, too (remember the library e-book lending kerfuffle?) But the company does seem to have a history of proactive marketing in some key areas, from the creation of the soft-cover paperback a long time ago, to the following., a great daily literary trade and reader report, published the following article last week about Penguin's new First to Read program, which not only focuses on utilizing social networks to get readers to spread the word about books Penguin publishes, but offers the tantalizing chance for participants not only to get excerpts of upcoming books (Penguin has been doing this a while through email subscriptions), but access to digital galleys. Wow. Zingy.

6/19/13 issue of 
Penguin Launches 'First to Read' Program for Consumers
Penguin Group (USA) is launching First to Read, a program offering readers free excerpts from books months before they are available for sale, as well as potential access to digital galleys. Describing the initiative as part of its "ongoing efforts to increase book discoverability and engage with readers," Penguin said it hopes to harness the power of word-of-mouth by offering members an opportunity to share news and information about books through their connected social networks. First to Read also includes a loyalty program that awards members points for their participation that can be redeemed for guaranteed galley access and other perks.

"First to Read is a program created for all readers, providing exclusive, early access to our upcoming books," explained Suzie Sisoler, senior director of consumer engagement. "We know people love to talk about and recommend the books they've read and are reading, and to encourage that, we've integrated social sharing throughout the site."

I don't know about you, but I find this impressive—whether it turns out to be a success or not. Penguin is accessing social media in creative ways, recognizing and utilizing the power the internet has given grass-roots efforts through social media connections.

Item Two: from Amazon
Amazon has started to pay decent advances and provide substantial editing, cover design, and marketing support for some top selections in their Amazon-published titles. And this includes titles that were initially self-published, then picked up by Amazon Publishing.

Between this and Penguin's news, I'm starting to wonder if the shakeout in the publishing industry is finally beginning to find a shape that might work. Wishful thinking probably, but these two developments do seem to have popped out as both pragmatic for readers and writers and clever from a marketing viewpoint.

What do you think?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ann Patchett Wins Women's National Book Association Award

I was lucky enough to be in Nashville last week, attending the the annual national chapter meeting of the Women's National Book Association, when the marvelous Ann Patchett accepted the WNBA Award. (WNBA-- the group is about books, not basketball!)

From PW Daily (Publishers Weekly), June 12:

Author and bookstore owner Ann Patchett accepted her WNBA Award at a reception at Parnassus Books on June 9 from Award chairperson Nancy Stewart of Ingram Book Group and Women’s National Book Association president Valerie Tomaselli of MTM Publishing. (left to right).
Photo Credit: Annette Haley 

From my iPhotos:

Yup, that's me chatting with Ann Patchett about her books. We are in her bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville, Tennessee. (She opened this independent bookstore in 2009 when the brick-and-mortar independent bookstore options in Nashville had become slim-to-nonexistent.) I told her how much I loved her sentences . . . how they draw me back to the books over and over again. She thought that was interesting because she doesn't consider sentences to be her strength in writing. "What do you consider your strength to be?" I asked. "Plot!" she said, and very decisively, too. "I'm good at plot." Well, she is, of course. It's just that that's not what I would zero in on as the main reason I read her work. Fascinating, and great to think about.

What is the Women's National Book Association Award? It's an award given every other year to "a living American woman who derives part or all of her income from books and allied arts, and who has done meritorious work in the world of books beyond the duties and responsibilities of her profession or occupation." 

The Award has been given continuously since 1940. A few of the many other recipients have been: Pearl Buck (author), Eleanor Roosevelt (former First Lady and author), Barbara Knopf (publisher), Barbara Bush (First Lady, literacy advocate), Doris Kearns Goodwin (historian, author), Nancy Pearl (librarian, author NPR personality). 

The WNBA also gives out other awards and grants, and runs an annual writing contest. You can be part of this organization, which is open to all women (and men) who are involved in the world of books, from publishers to librarians to writers to readers, and everyone in between. There are networking and publicity opportunities involved. To read more about the WNBA and a Chapter near you that you can join, go to the national website at From the site's home page you can access the list of Chapters, and go to their websites to find out more about them and apply for membership. (You don't have to live in a city where there's a chapter. You can join as a network member and affiliate with a chapter of your choice.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Problem to Wish For?

I'm still not back home yet, but hoping you'll be entertained by the posts and articles I've come across that I'm sharing with you while I'm gone. The one highlighted here, about the travails of being a wildly popular author who decides to cancel a series, was too good not to bring to you . . .

Do you have your copy of the recently released DEAD EVER AFTER, the last book in the Sookie Stackhouse series? Charlaine Harris, author of the wildly popular vampire series, has called it quits after all these years, and it appears that her fans are not only upset, but many are beyond furious.

It seems like this problem of Ms. Harris's is one we could all wish for: to have sold many millions of copies of our books and had HBO make a hugely successful television series (True Blood) based on them, but then have our fan base be horribly distraught when we finally end the series. But it goes beyond that.

Shortly after DEAD EVER AFTER came out, the Wall Street Journal published this fascinating article on the series and what Ms. Harris is facing from her angry fans.

Personally, I believe deep down that an author should be able to end a series when she or he needs to without being threatened or called awful names by fans, but I do know there's a greedy little part of my heart that is very glad that Arthur Conan Doyle caved to fan pressure and brought Sherlock Holmes back to life after Doyle had tired of the series and killed Holmes off in a battle to the death with his arch enemy Professor Moriarty. (I'm a bigtime mystery fan, but not so much one of vampires—mainly because they scare the bejeezus out of me—so I haven't gotten hooked on Sookie Stackhouse. But I can relate.)

So I'm torn, but I do come down on the side of the author, here. Where do you stand?

Monday, June 3, 2013

How Do Agents Read Your First Pages?

"The most successful openings are the ones that suck me in and make me quickly forget that I'm reading something. These are stories that get me involved in the character and welcome me with a voice I'll want to spend lots of time with."

That is part of how Agent Marie Lamba (Jennifer de Chiara Literary Agency) answered a great question from Jan at the Adventures n YA & Children's Publishing blog some weeks ago. Her answer and the answers of eleven other agents are featured in the post. The question:

"What is different about the way you read the first pages of a manuscript as an agent versus how you would read them as a reader or critique partner?"

If YA or children's writing is a major interest for you, you may have seen this blog post already. But even though the agents all do focus in those categories, their responses are appropriate for pretty much all writing, I think.

So, in a continuation of bringing you great blog posts from others while I'm away wandering and exploring other lands, here is the link to Agent Roundup: Reading As An Agent.