Last month, publishing guru Dan Poynter followed up his popular self-publishing manual (now in its 16th edition) with Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual: Volume 2, which focuses on using the latest technologies to produce, print, and promote a self-published book. To help you in your efforts to stand out in the giant self-publishing playing field, Greenleaf Book Group and the Big Bad Book Blog are giving away five new copies of the book tomorrow on (where else) Twitter.
To play, just follow @GreenleafBookGr, and before 1:00 p.m. CST tomorrow (April 21), tweet the following message:
@GreenleafBookGr Enter me in the Dan Poynter giveaway!
We'll randomly select five winners and announce them shortly thereafter. Good luck!
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In a previous post on Fonts That Make You Look Lame, we included Comic Sans in a list of five typefaces that are either played-out or just downright atrocious. And who doesn't hate the goofy, amateurish font? The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about the man behind Comic Sans, Vincent Connare, and the couple who founded Ban Comic Sans, an organization with "global ambitions" to eliminate this ominpresent affront to aesthetic sensibility. Fortunately, Connare seems to have a sense of humor about his creation—according to the article, he and the founders of Ban Comic Sans are considering doing a picture book together. Good idea! I'd buy it.
However, Comic Sans is merely the most visible in a huge group of stale typefaces. Papyrus is a personal pet peeve and also has its own mockery cult. For an interesting debate on Comic Sans, other lame fonts (Souvenir is a "crime against humanity"), and whether anyone even cares about fonts, be sure to read some of the WSJ article's comments.
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- The big news this past week revolved around Amazon.com and the confusion surrounding the de-ranking of several thousand books, with several authors and readers pointing out a trend of gay, lesbian and transgender-themed books.
- The 2009 Philip K. Dick Award, which is awarded to science-fiction books released in paper back in the US, has been announced.
- The New York Times takes an intriguing look at how the advent of communications technology is taking away some of literature’s greatest plots, twists, and turns.
- With all the excitement and media coverage surrounding the Obama family’s new Portuguese water dog, Bo, is it any surprise that a book is being released about him? (Entitled Bo, American’s Commander in Leash, no less).
- Judith F. Krug, who was a leader in the decades-long fight against banned books in libraries, including becoming the co-founder of Banned Books Week, passed away at age 69.
- Apparently Joe Shuster, comic book co-creator of Superman, was involved in some of comic’s more racy elements, including the writing and illustration and multiple sadomasochistic stories. Some comic book historians seemed surprised—were they not aware of William Moulton Marston’s Wonder Woman being a bondage queen?
- The American Library Association has released its list of the most frequently challenged books of 2008. Topping the list? And Tango Makes Three, the story of two male penguins who raise a hatchling together.
- Delacorte Press will be releasing a set of 14 never-before-published Kurt Vonnegut stories in November, entitled Look at the Birdie.
- Seth Grahame-Smith, author of the surprise indie hit Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, has reportedly received a book deal worth over half-a-million dollars to continue exploring the newly-created genre of classic horror remixes. His next victim, err, subject? Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter.
- USAToday presents a list of new and to-be-released celebrity memoirs. Is anyone noticing a trend in the publishing industry?
- Literary theorist and one of the creators of queer studies, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, a feminist writer who examined the hidden layers of sexuality in literature, passed away at age 58.
Have a wonderful weekend!
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In the wake of the controversy surrounding Amazon.com’s debacle, in which they first claimed books with “adult” content were being de-ranked, then called it a computer glitch, then retracted that and called it a cataloguing error, and so forth, I thought we might take a moment to consider the nature of the controversy itself. For those who considered it controversy, the name of the game is censorship. Or should that be Censorship? It is a Very Important Topic, after all.
I don’t mean to make light of the topic, or people’s responses to it—outrage and furor and apathy and acceptance and the entire spectrum of it—so much as I make light of how we display our responses. Censorship tends to evoke negative reactions. But to see how we communicate this in a world enamored with social media does cause in me a mild feeling of alarm and a very strong instinct to brood in a corner with a mug of hot chocolate, a notebook and a pen (a pursuit with which I am quite intimate).
As an active social networker, I witnessed firsthand the Twitter-based #amazonfail. (In Plainspeak, people on Twitter using a tag to identify the subject of their conversations, in this case Amazon.com.) I found it almost surreal to see peoples’ reactions reduced to highly punctuated 140-character bursts of emotion. We need only type a sentence and a protest is sparked.
Perhaps that is a bit hyperbolic.
It is true emotions ran high. That the books targeted—whether accidental or intentional I cannot officially say—were largely gay-themed was responsible for this. Gay rights is a tumultuous topic, but to add censorship to it is extremely problematic. Even a perceived act of censorship against books will have readers alike up in arms against the perceived call to burn the books. I had as strong a reaction as any.
(I tell myself that responses being Tweeted does not trivialize them, and maybe nowadays I am right).
As a society we are on the whole not comfortable with the idea of censorship of books. Whether we condemn it as naïve, controlling or sadistic, or if we endorse it for whatever reason, we cannot be completely objective or fair. I’m not and never will be—one doesn’t grow up with generally unrestricted access to books without developing an almost motherly protectiveness of that access. But I recognize that the questions censorship sparks are boundless: How does freedom of speech fare against protecting our children? When can the government overrule the people and vice-versa? What are the rights of teachers versus students versus parents? et cetera. These questions are akin to asking what is right and what is wrong or what is good and what is bad. They are largely philosophical, and the only answers are opinions born of individual experience.
I would suggest that no matter where your opinion falls along the spectrum, the controversy stemming from Amazon.com—whether news of it lingers indefinitely or is forgotten next week—is significant at the very least because there was controversy. Thanks to the Internet, we have reached a new level of interconnectedness in our casual conversations. They are swifter, more brutal, more efficient, and open for the world to see. Anything we find noteworthy spreads like wildfire. The case with Amazon.com and their inconsistent PR only made it easier (and, in all honesty, more tempting) for the public to become involved.
People are fiercely protective of certain rights, and however the literary and publishing world may be changing, the challenge toward freedom of speech and of access is something no one takes lightly. Contrary to this post's title, book-burning is never a light topic of conversation. But hopefully you see my intent here—to draw attention to the implicit gut reaction you most probably to had to it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every burned book enlightens the world.” I would propose that in consideration of recent events to expand his wisdom: that every threat to burn a book enlightens the world.
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When I was in elementary school, I experienced the advent of a life-changing new media as it became widely used by the public for the first time. That phenomenon was the Internet, and at twelve years old I was at an ideal age to become absorbed in this novel method of connecting with the world around me. I was impressed, but believed that this was merely a doorway to the virtual reality full-body immersive video game technology that they swore was just around the corner.
Needless to say, on this front I remain disappointed.
As a fervent book-reader, much of my time spent browsing was on the website of publishers and booksellers, authors and fansites as they sprang up all around me. For the first time there were easily accessible forums to learn about books and authors and connect with other fans. And I loved it.
(A few short anecdotes in no particular order: (a) I was an enthusiastic member of an extremely active website/e-mail fan club for YA author Christopher Pike based on his book The Midnight Club; (b) I played the Animorphs video game on my old-school PC; (c) I browsed the PBS website in search of trivia on my childhood television/book series, like Arthur and The Magic School Bus.)
Digital interconnectedness for today’s twelve-year-olds is as commonplace as any other marvel of the modern world, and today publishers and authors are scrambling to entice the ever-more technologically savvy youth to read an ordinary, paper book. Especially with the advent of electronic book-reading devices, including the Kindle and Sony E-reader, and the increasing popularity of video and computer games, kids and teens today are coming to expect their entertainment on a digital platform.
Rachel Deahl of Publisher’s Weekly discusses the publishing industry’s response to this trend in her article “The New Storytelling: Multimedia Children's Publishing,” which examines the multimedia platforms being developed to add multidimensional layers to the book reading experience. In short, books are developed that have several interlinking elements outside of the paper copy, including websites, forums, media content, cards, and even handheld games. Fourth Story Media’s The Amanda Project is one such example. The company, which focuses on new media content, describes The Amanda Project as an “interactive, collaborative mystery series” targeting teen girls. The intrigue of title alone would certainly have grabbed my attention when I was twelve.
But the challenge of any book that seeks to extend itself beyond its traditional form is in maintaining the integrity of the storytelling. Scholastic’s The 39 Clues, a collaborative book project utilizing a card set and website tie-in, marketed itself as a “built-in bestseller” meant to follow the success of Scholastic’s flagship title, the Harry Potter series, but has so far seen little of the media and public attention that its traditional predecessor received. Reviews of the series have been generally positive, though not enthusiastic, and make frequent reference to the “gimmick” behind the books. Such is my personal fear and trepidation about many of these projects—that story will play a secondary role to technological entertainment.
Rick Joyce of Perseus Book Group, which in 2006 published the highly unique Cathy’s Book, a predecessor of young adult interactive fiction, acknowledges the difficulty of keeping a story focused and characters interesting by asking the essential question: “Do I want to spend time with these characters?”
But publishers and authors alike seem to realize that whether or not they choose to embrace it, the future is already here. While multimedia and multiplatform young adult (and perhaps even adult) fiction are still at an experimental level and do not seem poised to replace the book-reading experience as we know it now, it certainly offers this newest generation a chance to shape for themselves how they choose to consume a story.
Tell us your thoughts on digital content and multimedia in young adult fiction. Intriguing new element to books or publicity stunt that detracts from them?