Saturday, February 12, 2011

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.

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