Tag Archives: ebook

Internet Literary News, August 2014

Bugs in Medieval Manuscripts

In August, we climb into a time machine for a look at bugs in medieval manuscripts, a man punished for a novel set 900 years in the future, and how lessons from labor movements can help improve the lives of adjuncts and the future of universities. Please enjoy the journey.

Martin Ott

Former Teacher of the Year Incarcerated for Writing a Novel Set 900 Years in the Future

In Dorchester County, Maryland,  a teacher was taken in for an “emergency medical evaluation,” suspended from his job, and barred from setting foot on another public school. The crime? The teacher wrote two ebooks under a pen name set 900 years in the future, where a school is attacked in a terrorist act. Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic compared the incident to a Soviet-style punishment from the Dept. of Insane and Dangerous Overreactions to Fictional Threats. The accused, Patrick McLaw, was awarded teacher of the year in part for helping one of his students self-publish an ebook. Perhaps publishing books on Amazon truly is evil. 

They Were Even Bugged in Medieval Times

Sarah J. Biggs, in the British Library Medieval Manuscript Blog, provides us with examples of bugs in various medieval texts often put in the margins of books for decorative reasons. Apparently, not very many texts provided illustrations of insects, and the ones that did often used them for humorous reasons.

The Business of Creative Writing

The next time someone asks me whether they should attend a creative writing program, I’ll send them this article from Nick Ripatrazone at The Millions, where he breaks down the responsibilities of teachers – and students – when attending MFA programs. The business of creative writing needs to stop being a dirty subject when far too many students are struggling with huge debts, unrealistic hopes, and false expectations.

The Adjunct Professor Crisis

The subject of adjuncts living in poverty won’t go away, in real life or in this blog, because of how American universities have chosen hiring administrators and building amenities over investing in faculty. Elizabeth Segran writes a compelling article in the Atlantic  about whether a budding labor movement can improve the lives of non-tenured faculty in universities.

The Woman Who Went to the Library and Read Every Book on the Shelf

My parents always encouraged me to read anything and everything. If you feel the same way, please meet Phyllis Rose, an avid fiction reader who decided to tackle an entire shelf of fiction (from LEQ to LES) in the New York Society Library. And what was the outcome? A book, of course. Rachel Cooke, in the Guardian, provides us with the story behind Phyllis Rose’s book The Shelf: Adventures in Extreme Reading. Perhaps this will turn around the trend of people reading less books.

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Publishing Spotlight: Interview with John Pitts

Writing has a lot of facets, and one of them is the brand you build as you look to find an audience for your work. The publishing landscape is shifting, and can be confusing. I’m glad to be able to share an interview with one of the best and brightest names in publishing: John Pitts.

Martin Ott

How did you first begin your career in publishing?

They used to call publishing the “accidental profession” and there’s some truth to that in my case.  I joined the Peace Corps right out of college and taught high school level EFL in Niger.  When that ended after two years, I moved to Boston with half an eye to getting a job at one of the publishers there.  It took nearly two years but I got my foot in the door at Houghton Mifflin as a publicist and then moved to Doubleday two years later, eventually making the switch to marketing.  It’s a very rewarding career that I highly recommend to anyone who likes the company of books.

What is the biggest challenge facing the publishing industry today?

I would say eBooks are challenging in a number of ways.  The downward pressure on price threatens the profitability of publishing for both traditional houses and for authors.  Just as journalism as a career is being threatened by the expectation that news and similar content be basically free, so are author/publishers threatened by the expectation that eBooks be very inexpensive.  Also, for obvious reasons, self-publishing an eBook, or publishing directly with a retailer such as Amazon, is a much more viable option for writers these days.  I still firmly believe that publishing houses offer a tremendous amount to authors in the form of editorial, sales, marketing and publicity value.  A lot of resources and “man hours” go into the successful publication of a book in a very competitive market.  All that said, we are selling a lot of eBooks.

What attributes are most helpful and least helpful in an author when you are working with them to market a book?

These days, authors have to do more than just write the book and turn it in.  It helps tremendously if they understand and embrace social media, if they have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, GoodReads, etc.  Plenty of the older authors don’t have any interest in playing this game, and that’s fine, they’re established.  But up and coming writers can really benefit from being a player.  It really enhances the marketing process if we feel that the author is our partner in the effort, working with us to solve the problem of reaching the right audience.  Least helpful?  Some writers come with the pre-conceived notion that publishers don’t know what they’re doing and I can sense that right off.  Not at all helpful.

How do major publishing houses look to capitalize on eBooks?

We publish eBooks right alongside print books and we’re selling a growing number.  One of the great things from the author/publisher perspective is that readers of eBooks read more books, in part because they’re less expensive but also because they’re so easy to acquire.  So we welcome the challenge, and it appears that, at least for the moment, we have risen to it.

How has the decline of the brick and mortar bookstore affected publishing and marketing trends?

The #1 problem is “discoverability.”  The common assumption is that as much as 1/3 of book sales have traditionally come from people browsing through a bookstore and making unplanned-for purchases.  So as the number of physical stores declines (for example, Borders went bankrupt a few years ago and, poof, 500+ stores disappeared, and nearly 20,000 people lost their jobs) the opportunities for serendipitous purchases also declines.  We spend much less these days on point of sale material, for obvious reasons.  Additionally, much of marketing and publicity takes place in the digital space because that’s where the audience is. We still take out ads in newspapers and magazines, run TV spots and send authors on book tours, though less and less.

How has the popularity of young adult titles with mainstream audiences affected the book industry?

I don’t handle young adult titles, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge, but I have seen anecdotal evidence of this sort of cross over.  For example, I market John Grisham’s adult titles, but not his Theodore Boone books, which are aimed at the YA audience.  Many of his adult fans also enjoy the YA novels and they’re quite vocal about it on Facebook.  I’m so impressed by the quality of YA literature these days and my assumption is that it nurtures good readers who will continue the habit as adults.

Any advice to writers looking to publish their book?

Persevere. Believe in yourself. Write every day. Work on your craft.  Get an agent.

Bio

John Pitts photo

John Pitts is Vice President, Director of Marketing for Doubleday, a division of Random House. Inc.  He has being plying his trade for more than 25 years, marketing the works of John Grisham, Walter Mosley, Gore Vidal, Chuck Palahniuk, Thomas Cahill, and Margaret Atwood, among many others.  He lives in Manhattan with his wife and daughter.

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