The Justice Department suit of Apple and five large publishing houses for price-fixing of e-books has sent tremors throughout the publishing world, and might place the growing strength of the e-book market in Amazon.com’s hands. We take a close look at the suit and the e-book market in this update.
Commentators outside the book business often compare books to LPs and CDs in the music business. Since information in a book can be downloaded into an e-book in the same way that music can be loaded onto an iPod, they argue, books and records will share the same fate. What if a book isn’t like a record?
Recently, two writers reflected on the the publicity their books got in the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the LA Times, and prime-time CNN. None of that increased book sales. Nor did an editorial one wrote for the New York Times. So, if publicity doesn’t sell books, what does?
When someone asks me how to launch a career as a writer, I always feel flummoxed. I think of what Mark Twain said about his training (“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”) and about what Picasso said about understanding art (“Why not try to understand the songs of a bird?”). And I think of a stone found many years ago on a beach in Tuscany, when I was walking with the Italian painter who acted as my mentor, imploring him to tell me how to “make it” as an artist. Myriad tiny blue lines scored its cool, jade surface. Any one of those lines, he hinted, might work.
Now, 25 years later, is there any advice I can offer besides a couple of quotes and a metaphor?
George Orwell, always prescient, once wrote, “If booksellers wanted to be millionaires, they’d be in another line of business.”
Few writers count on becoming millionaires, and just the promise of a book advance is enough to keep many motivated. But is the book advance in retreat? Author and editor Meghan Ward took a survey to find out, and we asked insiders to share their insights.
Go to any panel on book publishing these days, and you’ll hear a lot of hoopla about self-publishing. Easy to do! More control! A bigger cut of the profits! At a time when advances aren’t exactly advancing, editors are often too over-worked, and publicists are spending the house’s dimes on blockbusters, self-publishing sure sounds tempting. Add to this the allure of royalty rates of 70 percent or higher instead of the 15 percent (at most) from traditional publishers, and it’s no wonder all writers aren’t going Indie.
But, wait. Self-publishing might be the word on everyone’s lips, but is it right for you?
The iPad may sometimes seem like a boondoggle for authors (Yet another must-have device? Now I need an app for my memoir?), but it has been a bona-fide boon for e-book vendors. Caught in the middle are agents and traditional publishers, trying to carve out new territory for themselves and their clients. In April 2010, Sarah Baker explained the finer points of the chaotic electronic book market, informing authors of the state of e-rights, royalties, piracy, and pricing in this competitive (and lucrative) landscape. Let’s trace the zigs and zags of the e-book industry in the year since.
Ask any writer to define literary style, and you’ll find that the answer is as distinct as, well, that writer’s style. I noodled around on the Net and found that Gore Vidal defined style as “knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” Curious, I asked some of my favorite writers–including Po Bronson and Susan Orlean—to share their thoughts on style.
Style may not seem like such a sticky word, but ask writers and editors to define it, and you’ll find yourself in the mire. Some will tell you that style dictates whether you should use O.K. or okay, D.J. or deejay, an apostrophe before or after the “s.” Others will insist that style refers to sentences that swing, or paragraphs that unfurl with panache. Let’s disentangle these disparate ideas.
In a class on the postwar novel, Harvard professor James Wood commented on Cormac McCarthy’s use of parataxis in The Road. Para-what? I wondered. More recently, I’ve been ruminating about rhythm. In my writing classes with journalists in Harvard’s Nieman and Loeb fellowship programs, I wanted to explore techniques leading to rhythmically masterful prose. It was time to find out more about parataxis.