Saturday, February 26, 2011

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?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

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.

The other toy is a Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, a higher-end point-and-shoot than the Olympus X-845 I used to use. There is an old pear tree about 25 feet in back of my office and I can look at it while I'm sitting at my desk. I've festooned the tree with suet feeders to entice whatever birds are in the area and every day I spend a lot of time watching them flock to the tree. I felt a compelling need to take pictures, although I'm neither a photographer nor a bird watcher. I just happen to watch birds and have a camera. Anyway, here's a picture taken with my old Olympus.

That's a crow at the bottom of the tree.

Here are a few pictures taken with the Canon.

I'm likely to blog more often and I'll definitely be sharing more photos of the pear tree and its visitors.

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.

On the publishing front our books continue to garner attention. With the help of our good friends at Allen & Unwin (Australia) we've sold foreign rights in POD by Stephen Wallenfels in France, Germany, Spain, and Brazil in addition to existing licenses to Australia/New Zealand, and domestic paperback and ebook rights to Penguin, US. Our second title, DEPARTURE TIME by Truus Matti has received an array of positive reviews including stars from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Out third title, THE FORBIDDEN LAND by Betty Levin, is publishing on Dec. 1st, with two strong pre-publication reviews already in. We have seven novels tentatively scheduled for publication in 2011.

On the digital front, the publishing industry has finally turned its attention to harvesting the potential of ebooks rather than pretending they are going away. Everybody is announcing digital initiatives of one sort or another. Just in time, I say (or, perhaps, only a tad late). Print book sales are down across the board by modest but disconcerting percentages; ebook sales are growing at a startling rate and the revenues generated by those sales are starting to be substantial. Publishing is not driving this growth, the availability of hardware is. This season there will be machines galore, available everywhere, and at prices that are very attractive. Keep your eye on ebook sales starting on Dec. 25. I suspect there will be a breath-taking jump.

On the home front, I claim bragging rights. My wife, Carolyn Coman, has a new book THE MEMORY BANK, just published by my old friend and colleague, Arthur Levine, at Scholastic. The book is a remarkable collaboration between Carolyn and Rob Shepperson (who illustrated Carolyn's two earlier books, THE BIG HOUSE and SNEAKING SUSPICIONS). Carolyn and Rob worked together in a way that is closer to two pianists playing a four-hand piano piece than the traditional "she wrote the words, he drew the pictures" partnership. The book consists of roughly 160 illustrations and 114 pages of text. The narrative is carried by both words and pictures and involves two distinct story lines. It's about dreams and memories, and, mostly, the enduring love between two sisters, Hope and Honey. The book is absolutely delicious! Yes, I am biased: I worked on the project for several years as the editor along with the namelos art director, Helen Robinson, before turning it over to Arthur and his team for their tender ministrations. Be that as it may, two starred reviews, several foreign rights sales, and misc. "interest" by film agents all suggest what I know to be true: the book is briliant. Don't buy it on my account, but you really must go look at it.

Otherwise this summer I found that tending half an acre of raspberries in a drought year takes considerable effort. You'd think that irrigating the field wouldn't be that difficult, but it turns out that weeds thrive on water and struggling raspberries need to be kept clear of them. Furthermore, weeds tend to grow very close to the ground and my back is not as limber as it once was (not that I can remember that time). In spite of the challenges, Randy, the raspberry guru, approved of our efforts, explained how to trellis the new plants, and assured me that we'd be eating raspberries next summer ... in quantity. We've begun setting the 67 8-foot posts that will eventually support the berries and I've ordered another 130 plants to fill in where attrition took its toll. In the process I seem to have torn a meniscus in my knee (third time) and go into the hospital on December 7th for anthroscopic surgery. It's not a big deal but I'll be hobbling through the holidays. Actually, it's a compelling and convenient excuse to stay home.

Finally, I mentioned in my last post that our house in Pennsylvania was on the market. We closed on the sale yesterday. The end of a chapter.

Although we stumble forward, it has been a fortunate Fall.

I wish all of you and all of yours a healthy and happy holiday season.

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.