PG 8 authors are beginning to challenge the system of handing over their rights to publishers wholesale. see how they’re breaking the mould.
pg 10 Want to self publish but don’t know how to get started? we talk to justine schofield from pubslush about how to crowdfund for books.
pg 24 even while a number of libraries are shutting their doors, some neighborhoods are getting new ones. How are they future-proofing themselves?
NEW EDITION CONTEMPORARY
Author as Entrepreneur?
MAGAZINE ISSUE 13, APRIL 2014
Why Your Book is Your Startup
NEW EDITION, APRIL 2014
This Month Happenings:
KNOW Your WRITES! 8
Author13 preneur 17
CONTENT KING is
10 The New Library
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[ ] Welcome to the April issue of New Edition! This month, we talk to business strategist Tony Bendell, book crowdfunding platform Pubslush, and historical fiction author Deborah Hill. Check out all the April events in our Happenings, and see whatâ€™s trending in newly opened libraries. Author James Wharton shares step-by-step instructions on planning your own book tour, and our panel at the London Author Fair explores the entrepreneurial author. We highlight new frontiers in rights management and content distribution. Plus, if you secretly love beach reads, youâ€™re not alone.
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Happenings: April 8–10
The London Book Fair Earl’s Court, London www.londonbookfair.co.uk One of the industry’s largest trade fairs, LBF is a global marketplace for publishing professionals to buy and sell rights. But it also has plenty of programming for authors interested in both traditional and self publishing. LBF boasts authorspecific seminars, self publishing exhibitors, and the Author HQ, curated by Midas PR and sponsored by Kindle Direct Publishing. Don’t miss the Book Discovery for Authors seminar with Andrew Rhomberg of Jellybooks, indie author Joanna Penn, and Mark Coker of Smashwords. And check out the What to Expect from an Editor workshop with Kimberley Young of HarperCollins. You must register to attend the fair on the LBF website, as well as register for individual events. Los Angeles Times Festival of Books University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks The Festival of Books was founded to “bring together the people who create books with the people who love to read them”. The event has evolved to include live music, poetry readings, artists creating work live, culinary demonstrations, photography, film, and panel discussions. Admission to the festival is free, though some events require tickets to attend. Don’t miss Rachel Zoe interviewed by Amanda De Cadenet and Alicia Silverstone interviewed by Mary MacVean on the Los Angeles Times Stage. And if you have little ones, be sure to catch the Dinosaur Encounters presentation by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles on the Children’s Stage. The New Salon: Writers in Conversation Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, New York, NY www.cwp.fas.nyu.edu/page/readingseries NYU’s reading series aims to connect the NYU Creative Writing Program to the local community. For this New Salon, author Gary Shteyngart will be interviewed by writer and NYU Creative Writing Program faculty member Darin Strauss. Shteyngart’s latest work is Little Failure: A Memoir (Random House, 2014). He will be selling and signing copies of the book at the event, which is free and open to the public. Visiting Writers: Louise Glück Pollak Theatre, West Long Branch, NJ www.monmouth.edu/templates/EventDetail.aspx?id=32212264548 Pulitzer Prize-winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States, Louise Glück will be holding a poetry workshop at Monmouth University as part of its Visiting Writers series. Stephen Dobyns of the New York Times Book Review has said of Glück, “No American poet writes better than Louise Glück, perhaps none can lead us so deeply into our own nature.” The workshop is free and open to the public.
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Going on Tour
Author James Wharton arranged his own book tour to connect with readers across the UK, selling his books for a great profit. Here’s his step-by-step guide to planning your own book tour. In this age of author entrepreneurship, a writer has to navigate his way through the market by thinking outside the box to engage with as many potential book buyers as possible. An effective way to do this is to arrange your own book tour. Now, don’t get carried away…We’re not talking about a multi-nation world tour. You don’t even necessarily have to cover the breadth of a single country, but you can create a book tour unique to you and mould it to suit your needs precisely. I did this last year, and the return was significant. This is exactly what I did. Step 1: Schedule your stops My book was released in June so I started to think about the marketing strategy in January. I realised there might be some press interest in my book and that I should capitalise on the raised profile it would cause. I figured a tour was the best option – the notoriety from press coverage would entice event schedulers and bring readers in – and I started to list cities I would be willing to visit as part of the tour. These were places I could travel to easily and cheaply from my home, and places where I could find affordable lodging should I require an overnight stay. Once I’d listed a number of large towns and cities, I searched online for contact information for the major libraries in each area, and often I was able to speak directly to the events organiser. Once I had the events person on the phone, I told them briefly who I was and about my book that was soon to be released, and offered a book talk and signing for free. Most libraries don’t have the
budget to fund author appearances, so don’t expect to be compensated for your time. But, hopefully, you will earn some money in book sales. On almost every occasion, I was asked if I had a press pack or press release for the book – which I did – and I’d then forward this on to the library. Having a press release to introduce the book is necessary, as it gives the event scheduler all of the pertinent information about both the book and you as the author. Any press you’ve garnered is also helpful, as it establishes your platform. Once they had had a chance to read over the press release, the organiser would either say no or ask when the event could likely be, at which point I knew I’d be adding them to my list. By the time I’d phoned and emailed around the country, I had a list of libraries in ten cities who wanted to confirm a book event with me. All I had to do then was prepare for my first talk. Step 2: Finance your tour I calculated the total overhead cost of travelling around the country and staying in hotels when needed. This was my base cost. Calculating your base cost will help you plan how you will finance your book tour if you don’t plan on paying for it yourself. Now, this is when things get clever…I found a sponsor to pay all these overheads in return for advertising on all my book talk posters and leaflets which I intended to distribute via the libraries. I factored the cost of this promotional material into the overheads base cost. Having a sponsor meant that from the moment I sold my first book,
NEW EDITION, APRIL 2014
Clockwise from top: James Wharton signing books for readers at the Out in the Army launch. Giving a talk at the launch event, which also marked the beginning of Pride in London 2013. Doing media outreach on LBC radio station ahead of his book tour.
I was in profit. By engaging with a business and offering them advertising on my posters and flyers, I’d underwritten the cost of all my outgoings. Which conveniently brings me on to stock. Step 3: Order your book stock Don’t under any circumstances allow a local bookshop to stock your talks. They will
probably approach you once word gets out in the towns and cities you’re appearing in, and they will see you as a sales opportunity. I had three branches of Waterstones call me up offering to come along and sell books for me. You will lose money if you do this, as the bookseller will be paid the full retail price, and you will receive a royalty through your publisher. Instead, invest in your own stock. If traditionally published, take books
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off your publisher on sale and return; if self published, buy your books at the special rate you are likely to have as the author, then sell them at full price; obviously, the profit is yours. It’s very easy to get carried away at this point and overstock your talks. I did this. I naively allowed myself to think that I would sell twenty books per night, the profit to me totalling away in my mind. I found that I’d wildly overanticipated what would actually happen. On average, I sold ten books per night. At the end of my tour, I had surplus books remaining, which became a bit of a hindrance. Think very carefully about your stock number. Pick a number and then halve it. If you are caught out and think you need more copies, call your publisher or printer and ask for more to be delivered at the earliest opportunity. Better to play it safe where stock is concerned. You don’t want to lose money before you’ve made any by ordering more books than you’ll sell. Step 4: Contact the press In advance of events on your tour, it’s highly recommended to have local press arranged. This is normally local radio, newspapers, magazines and blogs. A good book marketing firm can arrange this for you quite easily. By going on the airwaves in the town or city you are soon to be appearing in, you are more likely to entice a crowd to come and see you, and you know what that means! Worth noting again, the library you are appearing at probably has a press person who will be trying to get coverage for the event too. Make sure you have a professionally written press release! Once all is planned, you just have to sit back and wait for the big day: your first event. Step 5: Plan your talk Before making your first appearance promoting your new book, make sure you know exactly what it is you are going to say. Rehearse and rehearse again – but don’t worry. Nobody knows your book like you do! Step 6: Go on tour Here are a few things to remember once you go out on the road.
extra-polite behaviour. I have to admit, half way through my tour, I became tired and started to think about when I might be able to put my feet up and relax on holiday. This was regrettable and I quickly realised that I was letting people down. Lots of people, people I’d never met before, had come out to meet me and possibly buy my book; the least I could do was be courteous and grateful. Bear this in mind throughout your time on the road. These people are collectively making your book a success; thank them by being amazing. Offer questions: I found that most people got what they wanted from me when they had the chance to ask a question. Mostly, I was asked about getting published and how I found writing a book from start to finish. This is hugely interesting to a lot of people and by giving them the chance to tap into your recent experience, you really will be doing them a favour. It goes back to my point on manner. Give people what they want. Here are my top tips: 1. Plan well ahead if possible – six months ideally! 2. Get a professionally written press release drafted. 3. Stock the tour yourself – you’ll make more money in the long run. 4. Rehearse your event. Make sure you know what you are going to say! 5. Be motivated and expect fatigue to set in mid tour. If you know this will be a problem, purposely factor in a break to compensate. 6. Be as courteous as possible to the public. They have invested their time and money in you and your book. They will always remember it if you come across rude and disrespectful. 7. Always offer the opportunity for the audience to ask questions. 8. And most importantly…enjoy every minute; you’ve worked hard for this. James Wharton is the author of Out in the Army and an Authoright author consultant. Follow him on Twitter at @jameswharton. As of April, Authoright will be providing a Book Tour service for all authors who wish to go on the road and further their book enterprise.
Manner: At every moment on your tour, make sure you are smart, well mannered and on your
NEW EDITION, APRIL 2014
KNOW Your WRITES! Writing is an art, but publishing comes with the legal complication of understanding rights. Most traditional publishing deals grant rights wholesale to the publishing house, but with increasing frequency, authors are negotiating just which rights they’d like to retain. Louis Dresner breaks down the complex rights system and explains the benefits to authors of thinking of contract negotiation as more business than art.
Authors have long been at the mercy of their publisher when it comes to getting their books to market, but they are beginning to take the power back. The control of rights is at the heart of it. When, in February, crime writer Lynda La Plante established her own rights company, it was illustrative of the fact that authors are increasingly beginning to think like business people. With the company, La Plante Global, controlling all the author’s book, TV and film, digital content, and production rights, it is clear that La Plante is looking at the bigger picture – a book is no longer a single, isolated product. Instead, she is treating herself as a brand, realising that her name rather than any individual story sells books. One of the reasons La Plante gave for establishing her company was that she wanted to gain control over all aspects of her intellectual property. La Plante, a screenwriter, author and former actress, is thinking in terms of franchise – how can she use her works in a multitude of ways? She has recently announced that she is working on a novel based on her hit TV series ‘Prime Suspect’, which will itself be later adapted for the small screen. Having one company to manage all of these various rights – all of which are La Plante’s by law – is easier than having one agent handling her book rights while another handles the screen rights and yet another manages digital content. It also emphasises La Plante’s value as a brand, regardless of the media into which her success translates. Hugh Howey is another fantastic example of an
author who has been careful in his dealings with rights. He was one of the early self publishing mega-successes of the new digital publishing frontier, having sold more than 300,000 digital copies of his science fiction novel Wool before signing a publishing contract. When he did sign that contract he was fairly discerning about what it should look like, understanding that the rights to his work were his to dole out. Having sold hundreds of thousands of copies with no outside help and only self-promotional marketing, he knew that he would not have much trouble keeping up the momentum. What he really needed from a publisher was print and high street distribution. So, in a bold move, he turned down a number of seven-figure deals from various publishers and opted for a six-figure print only deal with Simon & Schuster. Crucially, he retained the digital rights to his book. This is one of only a few print-only deals negotiated with a major publisher since the advent of eBooks. This meant that while he will have benefited greatly from the publishing house’s promotional efforts, he will get to keep the eBook royalties to himself, earning a much higher return per book than he would if his publisher controlled the digital rights. The deal, signed at the end of 2012, offered a glimpse at what is becoming a shift of power back in favour of the author. We must not get carried away, though. Howey would not have had the power to negotiate such a deal had he not already enjoyed such massive success with the book; not many authors have that luxury. He also
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What is copyright? Copyright is a form of protection given to the creators of original works of authorship. Copyright only covers work that is ‘fixed’ in a tangible form of expression; this means that it must be written down. For example, a poem that has been performed is not covered by copyright laws until it has been written down. This notion is referred to as ‘fixation’ and makes it easier for you to prove that you are the original author of the work. If your work is covered by copyright, only you have the right to do the following: • Make copies of your work • Distribute copies of your work • Perform your work publicly • Display your work publicly • Produce derivative works How does one obtain copyright protection? In the UK and the USA, you automatically own the copyright to any original content you create. You do not have to register copyright on an original work of authorship; this is a common misconception. However, it is still possible to register ownership of copyright over your work; if a legal dispute were to arise this may make it easier to prove that you own the rights to that creation. In the UK the registration process is done through the Intellectual Property Office, and in the USA through the Copyright Office. How long does copyright protection last? Copyright protection does not last forever. In both the UK and the USA, current law protects copyright of works until 70 years after the creator’s death. After this period the work falls into the public domain and anyone is free to use it as they wish. Why are rights important for authors? When an author signs a publishing contract they are handing over control of the rights to their work. It is important for authors to understand which rights they are selling the licence to. These may include electronic rights, translation rights or dramatic rights. had a fantastically good literary agent in the form of Kristin Nelson – that probably helped a bit too when it came to the nitty gritty of contract negotiation. The fact that Hugh Howey sought a publishing deal at all says a lot too. We must remember that publishing houses still have a great deal to offer authors, even when they have successfully self published. At the same time, publishers are quickly realising that while they do hold plenty of value to authors, they are not as vital as they once were. In the future we may well begin to see more deals like Howey’s, whereby the author does not sign over rights wholesale to their publisher, but, rather, picks and chooses which they’d like to retain. Like Howey, La Plante has opted to continue working with a publisher and is currently negotiating a contract for the book rights to her Prime Suspect novel, despite the fact that book sales for her previous novels total
over 2.2m copies. Clearly even the shrewdest and most successful authors still enjoy having some assistance. Now that it is relatively easy to publish and distribute one’s own work, authors are beginning to think more carefully about what else they might be able to do by themselves. The digital revolution has borne a new breed of entrepreneurial authors who are keen to take more control over their content and how it is used. Authors wanting to establish a brand and present their content across a variety of media won’t be able to do everything alone, and will face tough decisions about which rights they are willing to give up to publishers and which they wish to retain. The most successful authors will soon be those with the strongest business acumen.
NEW EDITION, APRIL 2014
Standing Out From the
Funding is one of the biggest obstacles for authors undertaking self publishing projects. Crowdfunding website Pubslush wants to help authors finance the publication of their books, and market them in the process. Jordan Koluch talks to Pubslush’s development director, Justine Schofield. 10
How did the idea for Pubslush come about? How does it work? The original idea for Pubslush was inspired by the struggles of authors such as JK Rowling, whose original Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by the first twelve publishers to whom it was sent. Pubslush was founded in an effort to create a more democratic publishing process. We relaunched in July 2012 with our current crowdfunding model and we continue to grow to meet the needs of the evolving publishing industry. On Pubslush, authors (and soon anyone with a literary-based project!) can conduct a campaign to raise funds and market their book pre-publication. We are a reward-based crowdfunding platform which allows authors to collect preorders and give their supporters items of value – like their book and other incentives – in exchange for their support. What are the benefits to authors of
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Justine Schofield, Pubslush’s development director, educates authors and publishers about crowdfunding for books.
crowdfunding through Pubslush? There are so, so many benefits to authors crowdfunding! Of course, there’s the most obvious, which is that through crowdfunding authors are able to raise funds pre-publication to help pay for publishing costs, but there’s also a slew of other benefits. Conducting a crowdfunding campaign allows authors to tangibly market and drive traffic to their book pre-publication. Marketing and building a buzz around a book before it hits the shelves is so important to being successful in the book market. A crowdfunding campaign allows authors to do just that, while also collecting preorders and gauging the initial audience for the book. You offer authors a lot of support throughout their crowdfunding process. What are a few topics that you find yourself talking about most frequently?
This might be too obvious of an answer, but my whole team finds themselves explaining crowdfunding most often. Despite the tremendous growth in the crowdfunding industry, it’s still a very new concept, particularly in the realm of publishing. We often have to explain that it’s the author’s responsibility to drive traffic to their campaign. Can strangers support a campaign? Yes, of course. However, people not personally connected to an author will only jump on board if the campaign has a solid foundation of support and strong momentum. If the author works hard to bring their own network to the campaign, others will follow. Along the same lines, I’m always stressing the importance of the pre-campaign period. The planning prior to the launch of a campaign is so important to the overall success. Since campaigns are time-sensitive (ours last fifteen to forty-five days), it’s important authors have a marketing plan devised and an outreach list ready to go before day one. Never underestimate the power of planning!
NEW EDITION, APRIL 2014
Lastly, creating reward levels tends to be a struggle for many authors, but I think the reward levels should be a fun aspect of the campaign. This is the author’s chance to not only entice their supporters, but to thank them as well. I’m always saying that reward levels should be fun and are an opportunity for authors to let their personality shine through. What can an author do to have the best chance for a successful campaign? Accept the advice and guidance that the Pubslush Team provides you! We’re here to help and our amazing Author Relations Team provides our authors with tips throughout the entire crowdfunding process, beginning pre-campaign. Aside from working with our team, authors should: • Have a detailed marketing plan. As I mentioned before, being prepared is key to success. The crowdfunding process can be overwhelming, but a plan will help an author to stay focused and on track throughout the duration of the campaign. • Secure five to ten people from their ‘inner circle’ (yes, I’m talking parents, siblings, best friends, you know, the people who can’t say no) to support their campaign the day it goes live. Having a solid foundation of supporters will boost a campaign above the just-startingout threshold and give the author a strong momentum to begin their outreach efforts. • Be diligent and personal when asking for support. Authors should take the time to create personalised emails, messages, etc. when reaching out and asking for support from their network. There’s also a charitable side to Pubslush. How did you decide to make literacy part of the company’s mission? Making literacy a part of the company’s mission wasn’t really a decision, but actually more so one of the reasons why Pubslush was created. Since day one, our company has revolved around promoting and fostering worldwide literacy initiatives. Pubslush has grown along with the evolving publishing industry and we have made a lot of changes to our initial platform, but our focus on literacy has been one thing that has never changed. What’s next for Pubslush? Any specific projects that you’re really excited about? We have so much happening right now, I don’t even know where to start! We’re so excited to be in the midst of launching Pubslush UK, our first global division of Pubslush. We will be able to accept pound sterling currency within the first week of April 2014, which will greatly expand our ability to work with UK-
based authors and publishers. Also – great big shout out to our incredible web development team! We are in the midst of redesigning a lot of our site, including our project pages, which will allow us to broaden the scope of projects we accept. Beginning in May 2014, Pubslush will be open to all literary-based projects, not just books. This means we will be able to accept literary apps, philanthropic and education projects, literary events and more. As you can see we have a lot of growth and expansion coming up…and this is just in the next two months. Our team has so many great ideas and plans for the upcoming year, but I don’t want to give away too much quite yet. You’ll have to stay tuned! How do you see the industry evolving in the next ten years? What role does crowdfunding play in that change? Where the industry will be in ten years is a guessing game, really, but I do think we will continue to see a rise in self-publishing and along with it, an increase in the quality of self-published books. Not to say the traditional publishers are going anywhere, because they aren’t, but I would predict a more balanced and democratic publishing system to emerge. As far as crowdfunding goes, I very firmly believe that crowdfunding will eventually become a natural part of the publishing process. Really, crowdfunding presents the solution to so many issues in publishing and as the industry continues to evolve, I predict crowdfunding will become one of the go-to tools for authors and publishers alike. Justine Schofield is the development director of Pubslush, a global crowdfunding platform only for books. She tweets for @pubslush. Find Pubslush online at pubslush.com
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THE STRESS TEST TEST The publishing industry could do well to take a cue from other businesses that have dealt with similar changes in technology, distribution and economic climate. Katy Garland talks to Professor Tony Bendell about his method of Anti-Fragility, which seeks to help organisations not only withstand stress, but grow from it. Anti-Fragility is a new way of thinking about mitigating risk. Professor Tony Bendell is committed to making organisations less fragile and more Anti-Fragile through this concept, which builds on earlier work by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Anti-Fragility focuses on the characteristics of systems that, being more than just capable of withstanding stress, actually improve their resilience through being stressed. This was the rationale behind Professor Bendellâ€™s establishment of the Anti-Fragility Academy in 2012, for whom he acts as Lead Trainer. He is also an international expert speaker, consultant and trainer with extensive experience in the fields of Quality Management and Organisational Excellence to name a few. The concept of Anti-Fragility was developed primarily in the context of the financial crises, but has now been applied much more broadly to help all kinds of businesses weather rapid changes to their ecosystems. So how can the publishing industry and authors become more Anti-Fragile? Tony Bendell explains.
Professor Tony Bendell is the Chairman of the AntiFragility Academy, helping businesses react more proactively to changing economic climates.
Talk us through the concept of Anti-Fragility and what it means to be Anti-Fragile.
NEW EDITION, APRIL 2014
In the world today, being robust is not enough, we and our organisations need to be AntiFragile. The fragile cannot withstand stress. The robust can, but only up to its inbuilt limit of strength that may decline over time. Thus, like the Thames Barrier, the robust is always waiting for a wave that is bigger than it, that will destroy it. In contrast, the Anti-Fragile gets stronger with each tide, each challenge and each threat, just as we get stronger by exercising. Its strength grows, and with it, its ability to survive and flourish. Post the Financial Crisis, and countless organisational scandals and failures, we need to change how we think about management and organisations. No longer should we think primarily about efficiency and effectiveness, instead we should focus on the fragility of organisations, and how we can design and manage them to build in the ability for them to get stronger over time, as they are subject to stress. Anti-Fragile organisations are by nature innovative. They learn fast, and apply their learning. They are corporately aware. Anti-Fragility is a major paradigm shift, and as such hard to accomplish, but necessary as the pursuit of efficiency itself often causes fragility.
in a Turbulent World (Gower, June 2014)]. There are a number of key dimensions of the organisation that we need to work on with the organisation, and a number of key principles in implementation. There is also a typical process that we will take an organisation through, and some key considerations in doing this. Let us start with the dimensions of the organisation. Organisations are composites of hard and soft characteristics; in many senses encompassing both the formal features of human-made systems and the human relationship based ones more typical of natural systems. To help a company, public sector or voluntary sector organisation to become much more Anti-Fragile, all key dimensions need to be addressed. As you would expect, these include their approaches to governance and strategy, decision making, Corporate Social Responsibility, risk management and control, people management and culture, operations and process management, the use of innovation and technology, innovation management, the supply chain, and design and management of Markets, Products and Services. Whilst we need to work on all of these aspects, some are more important than others, and some should be addressed earlier, in How do you help companies the transformation towards Antibecome more Anti-Fragile? Fragility. This links to the key principles Organisations are never fully of implementation of Anti-Fragility Anti-Fragile, but they can make and the implementation process. real progress in that direction. To understand these, you need Despite being a major paradigm to think about what within an shift, Anti-Fragility is an intuitively organisation makes it fragile. easy concept in many ways. The There are, of course, many factors difficulty is putting it into practice, including the â€˜Ten Common especially within a complex Pitfalls of Fragile Organisationsâ€™: organisation. Nassim Taleb told 1. Not knowing that they are us why it was important, but not fragile. enough about how to implement 2. Not being joined up. it. That is why I wrote my book 3. Knowing, not doing. [Building Anti-Fragile Organisations: 4. Doing risk management Risk, Opportunity and Governance incorrectly, focusing on
compliance rather than awareness and management. 5. Too much emphasis on money and short-termism. 6. Bureaucracy and emphasis on control. 7. Badly managing change. 8. Weak processes or an emphasis on initiatives. 9. Non-transparent decision making. 10. NaĂŻve offshoring and ignoring customers. A key consideration at the start is to undertake a Fragility Audit, and to do an assessment of the potential for Anti-Fragility. Of course, every organisation is different, and to the list above you might also add the effects of size and complexity, reliance on debt/leverage and an unwillingness to challenge senior management. So, whilst all organisations are different, implementing AntiFragility governance is crucial, and in general this should be addressed early. In a sense only the Board/ Governing Body can do this; to become Anti-Fragile they need to be strengthened, more in control, with better information, and be held to account. The Board/ Governing Body should be engaged first. Ensuring reliable, timely, accurate full scope information, and using it appropriately in decision making is another early need. Work on strategy and risk management are also early priorities. Following this, the structure, process, technology and people aspects, culture, products and supply chain aspects all need to be addressed. A lot will depend on the particular starting point. Many organisations have in place initiatives that, whilst meant to contribute to efficiency and effectiveness, are actually contributing to fragility. Unfortunately many implementations of Lean, Six Sigma or ISO9001 may be in this category. Do you think there is room
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The Anti-Fragile gets stronger with each tide, each challenge and each threat.
for the publishing industry to become more Anti-Fragile and if so how? There is plenty of room for improvement. Publishing is, in many senses, a historic industry. The world is changing fast and whilst tradition, established processes and values are important, in periods of fast change they are also causes of fragility both to the whole industry, and individual publishers. We have already seen much consolidation not just in publishing, but also in printing, book distribution and government funding. A common view is that mergers alone will not save the industry. Publishing and publishers need to take stock of their current world, and the likely future one. The industry, and individual publishing houses need a rethink. From the top down, and up again. Much needs to change. As I said above, Anti-Fragile organisations are by nature innovative. They learn fast, and apply their learning. They are corporately aware. They make timely decisions using appropriate information and criteria, and take the appropriate take action. What can authors do to
become more Anti-Fragile? Don’t write to a formula. Think out of the box. Know your audience. Know what other audiences want. Do what you are good at. Keep real. Get a good publisher…and a good publicist. What do you see for the future of publishing and books? They will die. They have to, everything does. A technology that starts AntiFragile eventually becomes fragile. So it will be with publishing, and with books. But it will take time, and we don’t know how much. But, it is moving fast now, and accelerating. Publishing needs to change fundamentally. The writing is on the wall. But, books will die too, and in two ways, two epochs. Paper books are on the way out. Many of us love them, a magical vehicle for combining a written narrative with our imagination and interpretation. But also a historical relic, created out of an environment and technology that is no longer current or relevant. Substitution will come in many forms, but most immediately via the eBook. They will be sadly mourned by those that
know them. But soon that will be only by the old. But the whole concept of the book arose alongside its physical form. A virtual version of a book is still a book, virtual pages full of virtual words. But will we always need them? Do we need written words at all? We can already easily portray stories or ideas without them, via film or documentary. Written words represent a historic communication technology, one that with the passage of time becomes redundant and fragile. Sad, isn’t it? Tony Bendell is the Chairman of the Anti-Fragility Academy and a visiting professor at Coventry University and BPP University. His book Building Anti-Fragile Organisations: Risk, Opportunity and Governance in a Turbulent World (Gower Publishing, RRP £60) is available from 28th June, 2014. Find him online at www.theanti-fragilityacademy.com
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If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team… At the London Author Fair 2014, the opening panel (Eileen Gittins, CEO of Blurb; Porter Anderson, Journalist; and I) discussed the concept of the Author as Entrepreneur: Your Book as your Startup. The point was made that as the founder of their startup, the author is charged with the responsibility of putting together a crack team to assist them in the production, publication and launch of their book. In Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less (Crown Business, 2014), Professor Robert Sutton of Stanford University has looked at what constitutes the perfect number for A-Team. It seems that the answer is four or five; a group of this size is better able to mesh their efforts, remain focused and deliver a result. Anything larger and concentration is lost. According to Sutton, as the group gets bigger performance problems increase exponentially; it gets bogged down with what he calls ‘co-ordination chores’ and spends less time on the task in hand. Not to mention distractions and competing social or personal agendas. The example is given of the United
States Marines (WIRED, March 2014) who started the Second World War fighting in combat units of twelve men but soon adapted to smaller teams of four because squad leaders were unable to command them effectively and to communicate to all team members in the pressure of battle. Similarly, to this day British special forces the SAS and SBS operate multiple fourman teams in their Sabretooth attack squads. But enough about soldiers. This is really just about how people communicate and work together effectively, towards a shared goal, staying on point and avoiding wastage of both time and effort. Sutton’s principal reminded me of what I see with authors time and time again. All too often, authors feel like they must face the world alone (a legacy perhaps of the pre-self publishing revolution) but this is undoubtedly changing, in no small part down to social media, in particular Twitter. #WritersUnite! However, the other danger here is that authors are propelled to the other extreme, namely that they amass in larger writing or author groups. Whether this is for support, feedback,
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The result of the Author as Entrepreneur seminar was that every author needs an A-Team of professionals to launch their book. knowhow or resources, it can threaten the success of the book. It’s good to get feedback from your peers, but it’s equally important to know when to disengage. Again, this was touched on at #LAF14 by both Porter Anderson and Patrick Brown, Goodreads’ Director of Author Marketing, who warned authors against only engaging with other authors. I see this a lot with writers groups. I will give a talk to a group one year, and hear several members of the group are on the cusp of publishing their first book. I go back a year or two later and the same authors are still just about to get their book out there. There doesn’t seem to be that much that’s happened in the interim – lots of talking, rewriting, suggesting, cogitating etc. But no real momentum and very little by way of platform building. And certainly none of the tasks required to actually publish and promote a book. Perhaps this is what Sutton means by ‘co-ordination chores’. Or, as Elliot Grove of the Raindance Film Festival puts it, ‘procrastination is the route of all evil for the creative’. The danger here is that the author inevitably reaches a pressure point; unable to cope with the book stagnating they suddenly decide to push the publish button, sometimes literally overnight, and they catapult themselves back into the team of one. The result of the Author as Entrepreneur seminar (you can watch the whole thing for free at www. londonauthorfair.com) was that every author needs an A-Team of professionals to launch their book. This gave me great comfort because it’s what we have been doing at Authoright for years. When we work with an author client to launch their book, typically through our Concierge service. A professional team of four (or five depending on the scope of marketing) is assembled: Concierge Project Manager, Designer, Editor and Marketer. This is the author’s
team. The Concierge Manager runs the group and remains a consistent point of contact throughout the whole process, which typically takes several months. The Designer works on the cover and branding; the Editor on the internals of the book; and, as the book nears publication, the Marketer is brought on board to execute the national or international marketing campaign. All team members answer to the Concierge Manager who coordinates their work between them and, in turn, answers to the CEO: the author. Having a well-organised team of professionals on hand lends to a smooth publication and, in our experience, one that is more likely to be a successful. So now you are Hannibal Smith and you have your self publishing A-Team. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together? Gareth Howard is Founder and CEO of Authoright.
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Get Up, Start U p One of the London Author Fair’s keenest talking points was the way in which professional self publishing is encouraging writers to view their books like a startup business. We bring you the edited highlights of the seminar led by Founder and CEO of Authoright, Gareth Howard; Founder and CEO of Blurb, Eileen Gittins; and Porter Anderson, publishing journalist, all three united in their passionate support for the new breed of author: the authorpreneur.
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Porter Anderson: There’s such an interesting conflict that we’re seeing right now. The traditional, the self-published and the hybrid author can all be the entrepreneurial author. To begin with, Eileen and Gareth are going to to discuss what they believe ‘entrepreneur’ to mean when it’s applied to authors. Eileen, you founded Blurb in 2006, right? Eileen Gittins: Yes, and I’ve actually founded three companies, all of them in Silicon Valley, all of them venture capital-financed. When I started Blurb in 2006 as you say, I didn’t fully realise the extent to which being an author was almost the same as being the founder of a company. I thought that authors went off and wrote their stuff independently, echoed a humble tradition, situated in a garrett being poor… and then of course I realised that wasn’t true. What happens with the writers that we see all the time at Blurb is as Porter said, self publishing is terrifying in the same way that starting a company by yourself is terrifying – and I’ve never done that actually. When I founded Blurb the first thing I did was pull together a team of people with whom I had worked in previous lives. We called ourselves ‘The Kitchen Cabinet’ and we met in every coffee house in San Francisco. And we met for a year. There were technologists, product people, marketing people, some developers, customer service people…. you name it. And they donated their time for free. There is a very collegial feeling in Silicon Valley where we all help each other out, we all try to help each other get off the ground because, well, you never know! This is something that’s really starting to happen in the author network – it’s certainly very true in the United States – authors are grouping together in order to help fill in skills gaps. I’m a photographer by background, having worked for Kodak for many years, I’m a marketer, a business developer, but God help me if I have to write a line of code. And yet I run software companies. So how is that possible? It’s possible because I know my limitations and I know that the most intelligent thing to do is to surround myself with people who are smarter than me in certain areas, where it’s really not my skill set. When I set up Blurb I went to my husband and said, well I’ve got this great idea and I’m going to get it financed. I told him I thought it would take me a year. He had to deal with me not earning – and I was the main breadwinner – and spending the money we had on Blurb! He told me that I had one year. And I got it financed in that year. This is really not all that dissimilar to what authors are doing. You’re out there thinking, well, I need a
copyeditor, I need somebody to actually shape my book, I may need a designer if it’s an illustrated book or indeed for the cover… The thing about the London Author Fair is that it’s about saying to writers ‘you’re not alone’. There are thousands of people out there just like you who are looking for help, looking for support, so that when you finally publish your book it’s the best that it can be. Someone like Authoright are in this business to offer support services to people like you. Blurb are a platform, a backbone, to enable you to create, distribute, publish, share your work. We’re all here together because we all love books. We’re all already acting as a community when it comes to what we’re reading, so it makes sense that we can also act as a community in order to produce and publish great new books. PA: So the idea of a team is a really important one. Gareth, Authoright was founded a year later in 2007 right? Gareth Howard: Yes, and to some extent in coffee shops, although more often than not it was just me making coffee for myself in my own kitchen! And in Blackheath, not in San Francisco! My experiences are similar to Eileen’s and yet very different. I didn’t have the entrepreneurial background. I started with the writing bit. I was working in the city as a lawyer to begin with and writing a novel at the same time. When the book was finished and it came to thinking about ‘what’s next?’ I started to explore the business of publishing and how one gets a book out there. This is going back to 2004/2005 when things were very different. Authoright started – very similarly to Blurb – because I felt that there was something missing for writers, something that really needed to be done. There was nowhere for writers to go to ask for advice, to find out what to do next. As I eventually went on to self publish my book, I just knew that there must be other authors who had questions that needed answers and that there was absolutely no one set up to talk to them; Authoright was founded to help them. And what I learnt as I set up the business, was that it had a lot in common with the process of putting a book together as an individual author. A book is an author’s startup; they must think very entrepreneurially, especially at a time when publishing is changing across the entire spectrum. There has been a pervading idea in the past that if you have a traditional publishing deal absolutely everything will be done for you and that once you’ve handed over the manuscript to the publishing house,
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your role somewhat ceases and your focus moves on to creating your next literary work. This suggests that the author’s role is a purely creative function and that they are completely removed from the business end of books. That really is no longer the case, whether you’re traditionally published, self published or otherwise.
but one of the things we keep being told from our two sides of authors is really interesting… If you ask the self published what they expect from a traditional publishing deal they all say marketing help. That’s what they expect it to deliver. If you ask a traditionally published author why they might choose to self
From left: Eileen Gittins, Porter Anderson and Gareth Howard discussing the Author as Entrepreneur at the inaugural London Author Fair at the Hospital Club in Covent Garden. We’re really just talking about ‘publishing’ now. There’s going to be a lot that will fall to you as the author so gathering a good team around you is imperative, whether that’s to assist with the branding, the marketing, the design and so on. I have one client at present who is being published by a major house and they weren’t even going to do his cover for him. They basically told him to go take a look at Shutterstock!
publish, they often say that they’d like to be able to do the marketing for themselves since their traditional publisher isn’t providing any. The more that authors talk to one another and share their experiences, putting things into context will help us all to find answers to these problems. Eileen, talk to me about the funding side of this. If you don’t have friends who can help you out for free as part of your team, what do you do?
PA: That’s fascinating. We do a lot of survey work of our authors back in the United States as a means to secure data, and we don’t have good data at present, particularly under the digital disruption movement,
EG: Honestly, just get started. Get it done. A lot of people wait around for some sort of ‘ta da!’ moment, which might never arrive. Book one is often just a stepping stone to book two and beyond. This is the age
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Define what success means to you, know your audience and go for it. The time is now. of iteration; it doesn’t have to perfect, you just need to get started and finesse as you go along. In terms of finance, as the author, there’s no output for you in terms of cost, it’s just your time you’re spending – plus your effort and talent. With Blurb, our production tools are all free, so you can design and upload your book as a pbook – a print book – and an ebook. Our business model is designed so that we can make publishing available to the many, not just to the few, and that the pressure of sales is actually removed. In traditional publishing, their businesses won’t work unless they are selling thousands of copies, but the reality for a first-time author is that your first book might not sell in the thousands. You might not get picked up by a traditional publisher. But please, don’t despair. You need to invest what’s right for you. You can spend $10 on cover, and do it yourself, if you want to. PA: Eileen, I’ve seen those covers! EG: Right and you know what, Gareth and I were talking about this yesterday. The cover is so important to get right because it’s essentially the brand of you. It sets the tone for your author brand, for everything moving forward. So if you can, do get some help on cover design. There are crowdfunding options through platforms like Kickstarter where you can raise the funds to support your publishing business. You can barter trade, offering a skill that you have to another author who lacks it, in return for a favour for your own book. And there are things that platforms like Blurb can help with, including enabling you to pre-sell your book which will help to bring your unit costs down. GH: Typically when a new author comes through to
us at Authoright, we spend an hour in consultation with them, starting by asking them where their book is at and where do they want it to go. It’s a very open question because actually every author’s answer is quite different. And what they need is different too. We charge a fee for the work that we undertake for the author, whether it’s an edit or to design a cover. But it’s first of all about ascertaining what the author can do themselves, what they feel comfortably falls within their own skill set and then supplementing it with professional services which they cannot legitimately undertake on their own, or perhaps just don’t want to. The author needs to be honest and objective about it – as does an entrepreneur. PA: Editing is a critical part of that. Having an editor as part of your team is crucial, especially a developmental edit, and it can cost something. A lot of folks think that they can edit themselves and this is usually a mistake. GH: I did that. PA: Oh you did? GH: Yes, and it was a mistake! PA: Ha! Yes it’s so important to get an edit, but it can mean a real expense. But crowdfunding is interesting, and along with Kickstarter there’s Pubslush, who help with funding just for books. In crowdfunding you’re also building up an audience, bonding them to the process, which can be great, especially when it comes to the time to start shifting some copies. It’s a leap of faith, all of this. Eileen, wouldn’t you say that one of the first things an author must do, much like in
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business, is to start thinking about who their audience is? That will surely have an impact on who you’re choosing as your team too. EG: The first is what is your intention for the book. What does success look like for your book. Because, you know what, it isn’t always about the money. That’s inevitably up there for most authors, but in nearly all cases, their first priority is that they have a story to tell and a desire to share it with others. The second is usually something quite aspirational, wanting to leave a legacy, a mark on the world. Somewhere on the list is a desire to get a small return on their investment. People are pretty realistic now and we all know that earning a living as a full-time writer is increasingly difficult. Once you’re clear on what success looks like to you, as an individual, that will really guide you in all that you do, as to where you spend your time and your money. For instance, if it’s just about realising a dream, then the major factor to you is going to be creative control. A few days ago I had drinks in New York with a wellknow Hollywood director. This is a guy who could pick up the phone and get any publisher to take on his work. But he’s choosing to self publish a book. He tweeted his entire novella, and then tweeted a link to show the book in it’s entirety, finished. I clicked on the link and I couldn’t believe it when it took me through to Blurb’s website! I thought I had died and gone to heaven. His is a new form of graphic novel, snippets of Samuel Beckett-esque dialogue and photographs, brought together in such an interesting way. He told me that the reason he self published is because it would take too long to get a traditional publisher to understand his new concept. Once he had the content, he made his book in a week. And he told me, over the third drink, that he had found ‘the perfect expression’ of his work, through self publishing. PA: This is so interesting Eileen. Because we’ve also discovered through the company Wattpad – which, by the way, has the same number of users as the population of Australia – and one phrase that Wattpad’s Ashleigh Gardner has coined is ‘the self-expression tier’. So it’s not always about being commercial, Gareth? GH: No it’s not, although I would say that if you do want to publish and you do want to sell your book it needs to be professionally done, to be able to stand alongside the competition, and that competition may well have come out of a big powerhouse publisher.
Returning to the business side of books – and I know that Eileen has some great insight into funding through venture capitalists and so on – with big traditional publishing houses, there is the advance, the initial investment that the publisher is making in the author and their book. What I often say to authors, those who are choosing to do it themselves, is that you are effectively having to pay yourself the advance. Whether it’s for production, for editing, for publicity… you, as the business, as the book startup, are investing your own money in the project. You the publisher are paying you the creative the advance. PA: Part of that entrepreneurialism is understanding what your market is already so that you know what you and your book need to look like when you get on that store shelf. Everything that goes on to a sales page is crucial, your metadata and so on. It must be up to snuff. How much do you guys work with authors on investigating their market? GH: A lot of the time we’re working on it. We do have authors who tell us, I don’t need to look at that because I know my market and we’ll be surprised because actually, it doesn’t look like a good fit at all. The worst one is the author who responds to say that their book is for everyone! Actually, it means that it’s for no one. Even if your book does break out, it will have a natural market home, which should be your focus at least initially, as a starting point from which you can build. EG: When you raise money from VCs, and for me, publishers are a bit like VCs for authors, they take all the risk by investing in you, up front. After the production and publication they are looking for a return on their investment at the other end. At Blurb, before we could go out and raise $20 million, we had to really know who our market, our audience, was. We bought a lot of books, explored a lot of bookstores. From a design point of view, from a software point of view, we investigated, we researched. We knew the market, inside out. At the end of the day, this is about knowing who your market is, finding them, targeting them. Define what success means to you, know your audience and go for it. The time is now. To watch the full Author As Entrepreneur seminar go www.londonauthorfair.com
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Trending: The New Library
With libraries closing all over the UK and USA, it’s surprising to see the few that do crop up anew. Jordan Koluch examines what makes these new libraries different from their predecessors, and how we can make them last.
Last year’s news of wide-sweeping library closures across the UK had book lovers up in arms. Across the USA, as well, libraries are closing all over the country, a casualty of local government budget cuts in the face of a slow-to-recover economy. There’s something particularly sad about closing libraries, and their defence has unified readers, librarians, educators and parents alike. The Platonic ideal of the local library occupies so many spaces in the public consciousness: bastion of knowledge, great educational equaliser, quaint respite from a busy world. So it’s no surprise that the immediate reaction has been to try to save the libraries. The desire to maintain these institutions is palpable. Countless groups protested against the library closures across the UK, offering to fund and run the libraries themselves, a testament to the value residents place on living near a library. UK children’s laureate Malorie Blackman said, “Libraries switch children on to a love of reading, with all the ensuing benefits, and can make them lifelong readers. Without them, literacy may increasingly become the province of the lucky few, rather than the birthright of everyone.” American author Neil Gaiman also spoke in favour of libraries, arguing that they’re an integral public service on the level of health care: “The consequence of shutting down health services is messy – people die and there is blood. The closure of libraries is insidious. We are inflicting it on our children…It’s like stopping
vaccinations.” And yet, according to the latest Taking Part survey by the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), 63.8% of people said that they hadn’t used a public library in the year ending in June 2013. A DCMS spokesman said this was evidence that “[p] eople change, and the way that they want services changes. Libraries need to evolve, and to offer relevant services.” This resonated with me because last month a library opened down the street from my apartment. When I moved to the Washington Heights neighbourhood of Manhattan, the empty building on the way to the grocery store was a sad construction site with a flag on the front that indicated that one day it would be our local branch of the New York Public Library. I’m not an avid library user, but something about this potential struck me. If I stuck around long enough, someday I would live by a library. Instead of a place to throw trash on the ground without retribution, this would be the cultural hub of my street, a destination on lazy weekends in nice weather. A romantic notion indeed. The actual Washington Heights library is a three-storey space with a bright, clean interior and (strikingly) almost more Macs than books. This got me thinking. Is our idea of the Library (capital L) cemented in an antiquated idea of what access to information looks like? While adults bemoan the loss of print books from their libraries (most of
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Left: LEGO replicas by Nigel Chiwaya of Patience and Fortitude, the marble lions who flank the entrance of the main branch of the New York Public Library, inside the entrance of the Washington Heights branch. Photo courtesy of DNAinfo/ Nigel Chiwaya. Right: One of the illuminated stacks in the Manchester Central Library Archive+ area. Photo courtesy of Christopher Thomond for the Guardian.
which were purchased in the 1980s and smell vaguely of mould), the thirty-or-so children and teenagers in the Washington Heights library on this particular Saturday seemed more than satisfied to have free WiFi and brand new keyboards. That’s not to say that libraries should be internet cafes. But according to Larra Clark, the director of the American Library Association’s project to develop US libraries for the 21st century, “We must fundamentally change how we view libraries and move from a historical idea of libraries as merely physical repositories to seeing them as an opportunity for proactive community engagement.” The Washington Heights library’s second floor is dedicated to their children’s collection – hundreds of books and magazines for everyone from young readers to YA, situated around plush seating areas with vibrantly coloured cushions. This is not a complete departure from the library as we know it, print books arranged by the Dewey Decimal System. But the library is an acknowledgement that needs are changing; people’s desire for access to information is no longer limited to the printed codex. Helen Pidd in her article for The Guardian about another recent library opening – the Manchester Central Library renovation – also hit on the need to support the needs of a new type of library user: “Targeting young readers is key: there’s even a ‘gaming area’ [in the new Manchester Central Library] with Xboxes and Playstations, as well as a
children’s library modelled on The Secret Garden (written by local lass Frances Hodgson Burnett) in the 20,000 sq ft of new space carved out underneath the town hall extension.” Like the eBook enhanced our definition of the book, why can’t we redefine the library to include technology we wouldn’t normally associate with learning? Maybe a Playstation isn’t the educational ideal, but if it gets kids into the library, who knows what else they’ll discover there? As for computers, they’ve become an invaluable research tool, and teaching kids computer literacy at a young age can only improve their chances as lifelong learners. Offering these services may even make libraries places that kids go with their friends to hang out. Wouldn’t that be something? Library staff is crucial to these efforts. Librarians not only understand the dreaded card catalogue, they’re trained in research skills, and even more basically, computer usage, which makes the library an invaluable place to learn for residents young and old. Clark references a number of ways librarians have been diversifying American libraries, from holding networking events for young professionals to helping patrons register for the newly established national healthcare website. Librarians also make their libraries a facet of the communities they serve, facilitating various programming. The Washington Heights library alone hosts story times, résumé workshops, art hours,
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Like the eBook enhanced our definition of the book, why can’t we redefine the library to include technology we wouldn’t normally associate with learning? and – catering to the needs of the neighbourhood – comprehensive programming in Spanish. That’s another way in which librarians can create the New Library. The benefit of a library being ‘local’ is its ability to specialise. Washington Heights has a prevalent Spanish-speaking population; as such, its library has a collection of Spanish-language titles and a non-fiction section that focuses heavily on Latin American history and urban culture. It also has a dedicated urban fiction section, not only catering to tastes in the neighbourhood, but also supporting a relatively new literary trend. In this way, libraries may even become a source of pride for communities, showcasing local culture. But that doesn’t solve the issue of how we fund it all. According to the Sheffield City Council, which has shut down over half its libraries, “We have a duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient Library service and also to have a balanced budget. We cannot afford to provide the same level of financial support for libraries as we have in the past.” One frequent solution has been to tell residents to take over the libraries to prevent closures. And if more individual groups of citizens want to do this, more power to them. But this certainly isn’t a scalable answer. Not all communities will be able to find enough volunteers or donations to keep a library running. Most people laughed when Sheffield suggested bringing in private partners to turn libraries into
restaurants and wine bars that also housed books. And perhaps at first glance that seems strange. But if the New Library is going to serve as a community gathering place and a purveyor of its culture, why not privatise a little? I, for one, would be at the library every day if it were also a cute cafe (which Washington Heights is currently lacking). Or if it were a trendy wine bar (at night, on a floor far removed from the children’s section). My childhood library had a smoothie bar and fudge shop in it, and I certainly never found a reason to complain about that. They also sold knickknacks made by local artists, another way of supporting community culture. Far from diluting the library’s purpose, these ventures could bring more residents into the library, allowing them to discover its other offerings. Libraries as ‘book museums’ will probably always survive as national treasures – the New York Public Library’s main branch, the Library of Congress, the London Library. But local library branches need to work on a new model, one that seeks to provide its community with the services its residents want, how they want them. Making the library about more than books doesn’t dilute its power. The New Library will be a place to go for all sorts of needs – information, to be sure, but also games, gadgets, local flavour, and maybe even a cup of coffee.
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Rewriting History Please tell us a bit about how you came to write [the first novel in the series] This is the House. What inspired you to start researching and keep going? I had always wanted to write a book that would absorb the reader like the ones I loved absorbed me. I even majored in Creative Writing in college, so I’d have a better chance to do it well. So when the opportunity came along, in 1973, I decided I’d try. The Bi-centennial [of the American Revolution] would be celebrated in two years, cities were cleaning up their historic districts and the schools were getting the kids excited about American history. I got excited too when I realised my husband’s ancestor had written a memoir for his grandchildren, describing his career as a deep-water mariner after the Revolution. Here was a place to start – if I could figure out what life was like back then, and develop a plot around the ‘real thing’. By the end of the third chapter, I’d sold the book to a publisher, and that (I assure you) provided plenty of inspiration. The book originally sold over 700,000 copies! Did you ever expect that it would be so popular? Certainly I hoped it would be. Any author does! But I found it hard to believe when it happened!
After discovering her husband’s family’s historical connections to Cape Cod, author Deborah Hill penned a series of novels beginning in post-Revolution New England and spanning more than two centuries. Diana Rissetto talks to her in the wake of the third novel’s recent rerelease.
You waited thirty-five years before publishing the third instalment of ‘Kingsland’. Why did you wait so long? Did you feel you weren’t ready to tell the story just yet or did life just get in the way? Actually, I wrote the third instalment thirty-five years ago, along with the others. It was published in paperback by New American Library; they offered a lot more than my regular publisher did, but I had to give up the idea of its being in hard cover. Not an easy decision, but we had two sons in high school who would need help going to college – so I accepted. Big mistake! No marketing happened, no publicity, and the book quietly died. I think you’ll believe me when I tell you I was heartbroken. I found that The Heir [the third book in the series] is definitely a lot more romantic than This is the House. Do you feel you can ‘get away with’ more in writing today than you could back in the 1970s? Let’s be as clear as possible about this. When you ask if The Heir is ‘a lot more romantic’ because I can ‘get away with more’ now than I could thirty-five years ago, I have to assume you are referring to sexual content, and I also assume that you, the reader, think there’s more sex in it than in This is the House. Hmmmm. A
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friend of mine says The Heir is ‘naughtier’ – so you both must be right, but I never thought of it that way. Social mores changed dramatically in the twentieth century [when The Heir is set], and sexual behaviour did, too, so I believed I was just mirroring the climate of the times. One reviewer of the first edition thought I had ruined This is the House with my ‘purple passages’, and I think this was the general consensus at the time and may yet be among the older generation, who say they would rather imagine what went on than have it described to them. But I think people on the page become a lot more real if the reader can identify with them – and my goal was to make my characters as real as I could…I think the 1975 edition may have more sex in it than the second edition, actually. I had a point to prove! Do you ever think about what the ‘real’ Elijah and Molly would have to say about your series? Love your question! Of course, Molly is entirely fictional, and Elijah, though based in the reality of his career, is equally fictional. Considering he was a pillar of the new Universalist Church that he helped to start on Cape Cod, I’m afraid he’d be appalled. And ‘Molly’ would definitely not like me giving her secrets away! Have you done any research on your own
side of the family’s history? If so, were there any findings that could have inspired another saga? My family tree contains all the names of Brahmin Boston, and because I am a Midwesterner by upbringing, I have never delved into it for fear I’d be accused of snobbery. I loved the part of a recent review which mentioned how the Cape Cod resident reader recognised so many last names in the book as families that are still living on Cape Cod today. Was this done on purpose? Are these people that you actually know? I used old Cape names because there are only a certain number of them, carried through the generations right up to 1960 when the primary action of The Heir takes place, and I could be sure to keep them straight if I used the real ones. I made some up, too, like the Pollards and the Dennings and the Bradleys (though for all I know, they were actually in the record, somewhere or another). Sure, I know plenty of people with these names – they’re still there – well, some of them are. Others had to leave. Did you ever have any desire to write other novels, or do you think the ‘Kingsland’ series
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are the only books you were ever meant to write? Are your husband and his family as interested in their family history as you were? I’ll treat these two questions together, since their answers are short. I do think the novels of the ‘Kingsland’ series are books I was meant to write; the story was given to me by history, if you will, and can’t be duplicated – at least not by me. I think my husband pretty much took his family history for granted. Like me, he grew up in the Midwest, where no one emphasised this sort of thing. His mother, on the other hand, didn’t take it for granted at all and was the ‘keeper of the record’ – which made my job a lot more interesting. She never spoke of it, though, unless she was asked. Because of the history of the family’s position in town, she didn’t want anyone to feel she thought herself better than anyone else, or the family either.
Deborah Hill released second editions of her ‘Kingsland’ series under her own imprint, North Road Publishing.
Let’s cast Daniel Bruhl as Kingsley. As for Steven…I’ll have to think about that! Deborah Hill is the author of three novels: This is the House, House of Kingsley Merrick and The Heir. You can find her online at deborahhillbooks.com
I think this saga would make a fantastic movie or TV miniseries! Any fantasy casting ideas? My friends and I have a good time with this. We think that ‘Sibyl’ in the ‘Downton Abbey’ miniseries would be able to play a perfect Molly. A plain-looking man like Liam Neeson would make a good Elijah, but I don’t know any young Neesons around. I think Jennifer Lawrence would do a good job with Julia.
NEW EDITION, APRIL 2014
CONTENT KING is
Rapidly advancing technology has changed the way we consume all kinds of content. Chris Sansom examines some of the major paradigm shifts that could be the next frontier of book publishing. The way we consume content has been changing rapidly in the last few years, reshaping the way that books, film, television and video games are experienced. A news app on your phone will now deliver bite-sized vignettes on Russia’s bid for world domination while you sit bleary eyed on a train, and you can cook along with Jamie Oliver on his smug interactive iPad offering as you wipe organic rye flour from your sweat beaded forehead. Ebooks undoubtedly spring most readily to mind as a demonstration of this distinctly technology-driven shift as applied to the publishing industry. But despite their ubiquity, eBooks and the technology behind them have stagnated since the early explosion, making way for a growing number of technologies vying for the attention of consumers, in a battle which will likely intensify in years to come. Even those among us averse to the archaic written word can rejoice knowing that the ponderous process of reading can
be transformed by the wonders of technology with recent apps like the dubiously named Spritz and Squirt. Both employ a system called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (or RSVP), arming a reader with the ability to read at a blistering pace. Essentially these nifty little apps turn any page of digital text into a rapidly scrolling succession of single words, streamlining the totally passé process of moving your eyes across words in situ on a page. Of course, everyone’s first thought will likely be, “Hey, I can finally read the complete works of Oscar Wilde in fifteen minutes!”, but there’s evidence to suggest that
reading at a rate of 650–950 words per minute could seriously inhibit the comprehension of what is being read. Yes, people would no doubt be delighted to read more quickly, but does that even matter if you’re not processing that information? Perhaps, then, the revolution is not so much in how we read as in how the content gets delivered. Netflix and other media streaming services like BBC iPlayer and 4OD have been pushing the frontiers of content delivery for some time now, and are fast catching up with traditional viewing habits, buoyed by increasingly popular apps on mobile devices. Ebook subscription
Spritz and Squirt employ RSVP technology to allow users to speed-read content one word at a time.
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Oyster and Scribd are both Netflix-like subscription services that provide readers with ebooks for a monthly fee.
services like Oyster and Scribd are billing themselves as Netflixfor-eBooks but are limited in the licences they’ve purchased from publishers, meaning that not all current bestsellers are available for reading. The key to success for Netflix and similar platforms comes from user empowerment, and giving them the power to choose when and where they view media, with increasingly considered and peer reviewed ways of gauging the quality. Put simply, people are weeding out the rubbish and consuming content they know they’ll enjoy, at their convenience – a valuable asset in an age overrun with dubious media. The problem of content onslaught is not to be underestimated. When was the last time you browsed social media or the wider internet without being accosted by click-bait bombast? I’m sure we’ve all fallen foul of ‘This Man/Dog Story Will Blow Your Mind’, or ’10 Of The Most Amazingly Awesome Cats in Leotards’, and the now commonplace lacklustre journalism driven by the Buzzfeed age. Surely technology can help us sift through the clutter. Enter Downworthy, touted in a wholly non-excitable way as “A browser plugin to turn hyperbolic viral headlines into what they really mean”. Consider me a lifelong convert. Where once a story would before have purported to ‘Blow Your Mind’, my now mandatory Google Chrome extension will force it to read ‘Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment’, and turns ‘You Won’t Believe’ into ‘In All Likelihood, You’ll Believe’ so seamlessly that it makes you
wish there was an app to filter real world conversation in the same way. Certainly a glimmer of hope in an internet age entrenched in the website click through revenue, rather than credible content. It’s also another, albeit humorous, way to empower consumers with choice. Once we have found the content we want, however, we want our experience to blend seamlessly into our lives. Despite being overshadowed by the collective groans of an unhappy internet thanks to a recent Facebook acquisition, the otherwise intriguing Oculus Rift is gathering momentum. Currently the most exciting and well realised take on Virtual Reality (VR, if we’re to conform to nerdy shorthand), it will offer the viewer a completely immersive experience across television, film and computer games. If you found the 3D fell flat on recent Oscar winner ‘Gravity’, then here’s your chance to float in outer space alongside Sandra Bullock as a terrifying storm of satellite debris whooshes past, simply by donning the proprietary oversized goggles. Though it remains to be seen whether Zuckerberg will provide the Midas touch, or the atrophic withering expected among industry naysayers, the future for AR is hotting up, after a great many years in the cold. What is painfully clear at the moment, however, is that anyone wearing the Rift technology looks inescapably ridiculous. Marvel Comics have taken a more affordable approach to immersive revolution, allowing the reader to ‘look beyond the page’ of a hard-copy issue with their Aurasma augmented reality system.
Simply point your tablet at the page of a corresponding comic, and the app will throw up a wealth of information and commentary, exclusive art content and 3D models of planets pertaining to that part of the narrative. Chief editor at Marvel, Axel Alonso explains the impact of this on storytelling from the ground up, suggesting that the technology allows them to “develop new, full length stories for a different medium that are very much truly comics –– but experienced by readers in a way no other major company has ever executed”. Perhaps this is the future of the eBook – experiencing the text, but also something beyond the text as a way of comprehensive storytelling. The problem here is convincing creatives that a narrative is there to be played with, and that it’s really worth taking a multi-dimensional approach to storytelling. For this to happen, things will need to progress beyond the testing ground of comic book purists. The floodgates are now firmly open, both for the storytellers to approach their craft from a complete 360 degree perspective, and for developers to work with them to deliver exciting and accessible ways for them to showcase it.
Marvel Comics uses the Aurasma augmented reality system to extend the reading experience “beyond the page.”
Just because we work in books doesn’t mean that we read War and Peace for fun. More often than not, you’ll catch us with the same beach reads everyone else is raving about. Here are some of the books we refuse to be embarrassed about.
CELEBRITIES My guilty pleasure, no matter what format it comes in – be it print, online or TV – usually falls within celebrity focused content. Whether it’s catching up with the Kardashians when no one else is home, or keeping my eye on the Daily Mail’s Twitter feed, I am also known to opt for a celebritywritten (or not, as the case may be) title, usually on holiday when no one I know can judge me for it. Some are genuinely enjoyable – think Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry – and others not so; the Chilis’ front man Anthony Kiedis and Ozzy Osbourne to mention a few!
NEW EDITION, APRIL 2014
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I know I should be reading Hilary Mantel. I know I should, really I do. But as a mum with two small children, who is used to reading Dear Zoo and the like, I find my attention span has reduced to the length of a ‘Mr Men’ book. Which is why Philippa Gregory does it for me. Not so much her later books, as they became formulaic, but the earlier ones. The Other Queen, The Queen’s Fool, The Other Boleyn Girl and The Red and The White Queens are all absolutely great reads. Favourite has got to be The Constant Princess. So yes, I have read a lot of her work. Because there is a lot of sitting around to be done with small children! Well, at least there was when I needed to feed them myself and could sit and read whilst doing so. To my mind, I could read a book that was really page-turning chick lit, whilst justifying it on the basis that I was re-learning some of my English history. Which I did. Great books. Thanks, Philippa.
DANIELLE STEEL I started reading Danielle Steel novels in the sixth grade and never stopped, even after I realised they all followed the same plotline. The girl’s first love always dies young (usually in a war), the second love turns out to be shady (he’s stealing money from her or has a secret wife or something) and the third love has his own inner demons and they come to terms with them together, embrace and kiss and say, “…Let’s go home” on the last page. Every single book! I do think most of her historical novels are impeccably researched and beautifully written, though, and do have substance. I actually remember learning about the Vietnam War in high school and realising how much Danielle’s Message from ’Nam – the story of a young reporter who goes to Vietnam for answers after her boyfriend is killed – had already taught me on the subject. But there is a certain comfortably cheesy, melodramatic and schmaltzy factor that all Danielle Steel novels have that just cannot be denied. I wrote her a fan letter when I was fourteen. She wrote back and said it meant a lot to her to hear from an aspiring writer. I still have that letter. In my Creative Writing class in high school, my teacher always joked that I was going to be the “next Danielle”.
When I was twelve, my social studies teacher gave me a copy of The Firm – one of the initial Bantam Dell mass market printings that had that terrible marbled forest green cover – knowing that I wanted to be a lawyer. Funnily, that’s not what dissuaded me from going into law. It did, however, substantially increase John Grisham sales in my little corner of the world as I asked for the rest of his canon for Christmases and birthdays for years to come. I was taken by the adventure, the excitement, the ultimate sense of justice. Now I’ve read all of his novels. (Well, the legal thrillers anyway. There’s nothing that thrilling to me about baseball.) They probably ceased being ‘good’ long ago, but I still proudly display my copies of The Firm, A Time to Kill and The Pelican Brief on my bookshelf – their matching marbled covers peeling in the corners from countless relivings of my vicarious legal career.
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The Tale of Genji is considered the world’s first novel. It was written in 11th century Japan, and is essentially 1200 pages of beautifully written royal court gossip from a minor gentlewoman in the emperor’s service. Being the world’s oldest novel, the work has gotten lots of scholarly attention over the centuries, and the new edition from Penguin includes ample introductory material, maps, diagrams, footnotes and glossaries to help the reader make sense of the many obscure contexts and poetic references that permeate the text. It’s not an easy read, but when I take the time to get into it – with the help of some hot sake – it can be like a little window into a lost world and culture, and I feel like a scholar-adventurer (i.e. Indiana Jones minus the whip and the perilous lifestyle) sneaking a glance at some hidden jewel.
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My guilty pleasure reads are Fleming’s original ‘007’ series. As a book lover, I’m well aware that they are not written to the highest literary standard, but because of this there’s a raw quality of grittiness which actually characterises Bond himself. The simplistic manner in which Fleming details complex scenery and end-of-the-world scenarios complement the film series, which has been the cornerstone of the British film industry for half a century. The books, certainly aimed at the action man within every one of us cum romantic-spy-lover are readable whether you’re a teenager discovering the new world of espionage or a middle aged man reminiscing with the books or films from a time that has passed. Now over fifty years old, they remain timeless.
The entire ‘Horrible Histories’ series are a guilty pleasure of mine. They might represent the only section of my childhood reading collection that graduated to the bookshelf of my adulthood. In and of themselves, they are not really what you might call guilty pleasure reads (a phrase you’d more likely apply to the sort of genre fiction you find in airports that you know to be trashy but love nonetheless), but they’re my guilty pleasure because, let’s face it, I should not still be reading books intended to simplify world history for under13s. And they are full of toilet humour. But they are still just as informative and fun to read as they were over a decade ago. I even have one edition – The Rotten Romans, I think – that includes several ‘scratch-andsniff’ pages! If smelling a book isn’t a pleasure to be ashamed of then I don’t know what is.
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