Saturday, October 24, 2009

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. All of this, I believe, is what Moses was so cranked about when he destroyed the golden calf. Be aware that when the object becomes detached from its meaning, it becomes a false idol. The ne plus ultra for an author is having his or her words in the mind of a reader and the more readers, the better. Paperback and ebook editions are ways to achieve that end. So, with all due deference to the hardcover books we adore, welcome and embrace the evolution that will extend and expand your readership.

Of Google: This week's announcement that Google will start selling books from the "cloud" early next year is cause for celebration, not because Google is the be all and end all of anything, but because it means that a major competitor has entered the marketplace to temper the dominance of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When Apple releases it's much-anticipated tablet (possibly in early 2010), another major player will enter the fray. This competition is good for the consumer and what is good for the consumer is good for those of us who want to put our words in their minds.

Of Amazon: I've been talking with a neat group of people at Amazon this week. We hit a roadblock when we uploaded our first few titles. Amazon, burned by the Orwell incident, sought confirmation that we, in fact, had the right to sell those books. We received a form email asking that we send our contracts to the desktop people. Well, contracts contain proprietary information and publishers are loathe to share such information with disinterested third parties, especially anonymous ones (i.e. With the help of a well-placed friend I was able to speak with the head of a new team established by Amazon to address author/publisher relations. These folks, at least the ones I spoke with, come from traditional book publishing and were very sympathetic to my concerns and came up with a way to resolve the situation. Amazon is enormous and, as was pointed out to me, is not a publisher. It sells stuff and sells it as well as or better than most other retailers in the world. They deal with an astronomical number of authors, publishers, and books. Their systems need to be scalable at a level that is incomprehensible to me (remember we publish only "a few good books"). Bridging the gap between their needs and ours presented a hurdle for them and for us. They could easily have ignored us: it's not like we're the tipping point. But they didn't and thanks to their new support team we've cleared the hurdle. I applaud their effort and thank them.

Of reviews: As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we have been discussing our business model and our forthcoming books with reviewers, major and minor. I am very happy to say that, without exception or abstention, they have agreed to allow us to submit our books for review. And that is all anybody can ever do. So now we just need to publish a few good books.

Of cabbages: … and other fall vegetables. I volunteer every Friday at my son-in-law's farm stand, hawking vegetables and swapping recipes. The cabbages aren't in full shriek yet, but the rutabagas, beets, potatoes, and kale are to die for. And the turnip soup I'm making will bring you back to life.

Of kings: … and queens. Norma Fox Mazer died this week. A sad loss. An enduring legacy. Requiescat in pace.

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