Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

fishCandy and Karl.  Karl and Candy. The names are familiar. Are they that couple down the street? Or are those their dogs?

No, wait. I remember. Candy and Karl are the professional hit men who insist on getting to know their targets before taking them out. First met them in Martha Grimes’ goofy send-up of the book industry, 1983’s Foul Matter, where they gave new meaning to the term “publishing contract.”

Now, Candy and Karl return in a  satirical sequel, The Way of All Fish (Scribner, purchased e-book), this time going after unscrupulous literary agent L. Bass Hess. They find much to dislike about oily L. Bass, who sues former clients for commissions on books he did not sell. Fortunately for L. Bass, Manhattan publishing pooh-bah Bobby Mackenzie and best-selling author Paul Giverney (also from Foul Matter) don’t want the agent dead. No, they decide to drive him crazy, which is where Candy and Karl come in, as well as literary novelist Cindy Sella, a sleek Malaysian grifter, several kind-hearted Brooklyn slackers, a pig farmer/button man, L. Bass’s wealthy aunt (formerly uncle) who lives in South Florida, and numerous tropical fish. Choice set pieces involve an alligator, a junkyard ghost, a seance in a Pittsburgh museum, and, at book’s beginning, a shoot-out at the Clownfish Cafe that shatters an aquarium.

“Now the brightly colored fish, clown fish, tangs, angelfish of neon blue and sun-bright yellow, were drawing last breaths until the blonde who had been eating spaghetti tossed the remnants of red wine from her glass and scooped up some water and added one of the fish to the wineglass.” Other diners follow her example until the cafe’s tables are filled with pitchers and glasses, “and in every glass swam a fish, its color brightened from underneath by a stubby candle that seemed at last to have found a purpose in life.”

Anyone who has read Grimes’ other novels, including the long-running Richard Jury detective series, knows that she has a way with words and quirky details. Such a lovely wit. And no one does mist and melancholy better.

The Way of All Fish is as funny as Foul Matter, although not quite as fresh because readers already have been introduced to aptly named publishing houses like Mackenzie-Haack and Swinedale and the depths to which writers, editors, publishers, agents, etc. will descend. As Candy and Karl discovered, “Books were to die for. Literally. . .How would they have ever guessed the publishing world was so shot through with acrimony that they’d just as soon kill you as publish you?” Now, the two are wise to the industry, hanging out in Barnes & Noble and flipping the pages of PW.  However, they have yet to write their own book. Then again, Grimes is doing a whale of a job for them.

confessionsIf you like this kind of inside-pages tale, check out Jane O’Connor’s Almost True Confessions (HarperCollins, digital galley), which I galloped through last fall. Free-lance copyeditor Rannie Bookman’s thrilled to get a chance to edit the latest top-secret tell-all by an infamous celebrity biographer. But then Rannie finds the author’s dead body and puts on her sleuthing cap against the advice of her cop boyfriend. She suspects the murder may be tied to the manuscript’s enigmatic dedication. What or who is “Audeo”? I’ll never tell…

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As noted in a previous post, BookExpo America — the annual publishing/bookselling convention-marathon-extravaganza — is in NYC this week. I’m not there, but thanks to social networking (this blog, FB, Twitter), I have a pretty good idea what’s happening, and I’m not totally exhausted with sore feet and sensory overload.

Armchair BEA was set up especially for bloggers who can’t make it to the Big Apple, and we’re checking in from all over the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia.

When I started blogging about books in January 2010, I found myself part of a huge global community of readers and writers. I had gone out on disability from the Orlando Sentinel in 2005 after 20 years as book critic, and while I was out of the loop, publishing, bookselling and reviewing underwent dramatic changes. As print outlets dried up and/or died, many journalists turned to the Internet to communicate about books and other arts and entertainment topics that had become marginalized in print.

In the blogosphere, we found ourselves in the company of librarians, teachers, authors, publishers, booksellers and enthusiastic readers. My to-do list includes compiling a more comprehensive blog roll of the varied blogs I read on a fairly regular basis, including Ti’s Book Chatter, Sandy’s You’ve Gotta Read This (both of whom have been faithful, encouraging readers of this blog since the beginning), and so many others I’ve discovered.

When I’m not reading books, I’m reading about books at Shelf Awareness and Galley Cat and media web sites, such as the Guardian UK, Washington Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune, New Yorker, NPR. Everywhere there are links to more sites and e-newsletters, many of them aimed at special interests. I just discovered Alice Marvels for teen fiction. Many authors blog on their own at their site’s — my pal Mary Kay Andrews — or in small groups, such as Jungle Red, Lipstick Chronicles, the Naked Dead.

Most publishers now have digital marketing specialists and offer amazing blogs and newsletters. Check out Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Macmillan, John F. Blair, Random House, Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins,  Melville House, you name it. Sometimes, there are contests and giveaways on publishers Facebook pages. (Thank you, Avon Books for the classic romance paperbacks!)

Oh, and there are great sites for book clubs, and great bookstore sites, such as Powell’s and SIBA (southeastern Independent Booksellers Alliance). Do you know about the social network group, Goodreads? I need to update my list of books read and add new friends.

Reading and writing used to be my job. Now it’s a hobby. I loved BEA, and its predecessor, ABA, because it was the one time of year when I actually saw people with whom I talked to on the phone or had e-mail conversations. I had the chance to interview some of my favorite writers. We talked about their books and other authors’ books. How cool to discover that the late, great David Halberstam shared my enthusiasm for Alan Furst’s historical novels? To have my picture taken with Neil Gaiman. To chat with Alice Munro at a party and sit next to Russell Banks at lunch. To catch up with Laura Lippman and listen to Richard Ford read. To hear Pat Conroy and Kate DiCamillo wow audiences with heartfelt speeches. To rock out to the Rock Bottom Remainders, whose members included Stephen King, Dave Barry and Amy Tan. At the 2003 BEA in LA, I assumed my Caroline Cousins identity to sign copies of Fiddle Dee Death at the Blair booth.

Whoa. That was then. I was younger and healthier. This is now, and well, I need a nap. Thank you, Armchair BEA for offering a comfortable way to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.

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Cousin Gail called just before noon. She wondered if I could do her a “teeny’’ favor. Remember how Caroline Cousins had a speaking engagement tonight? And since only two-thirds of us – herself and Cousin Meg – were actually going to be there in S.C. , would I, as the missing cousin, just shoot her a quick e-mail about how publishing has changed in the decade since our first book came out.

“And maybe put in something about the future and how it’s changing, too,’’ Gail said. “If you have the time, that is. Please.’’

Caroline Cousins, being a Southerner, is always polite, especially when asking for the moon.

Shoot, Gail, if I had the time and knowledge to write about everything changing in publishing, we might could publish it as a book – an e-book, that is. Furthermore, you and Meg wouldn’t be able to do our usual
dog-and-pony show that we all three know by heart so any one, two or three of us, in any combination, can rattle on about our books and writing experience at a moment’s notice. You’d be talking from now until Sunday, and the audience’s eyes would have glazed over yesterday.

So let me be brief. Or briefish. The Internet has changed every aspect of publishing, and continues to do so. Even if some authors continue to write longhand  (Meg, for example), eventually their words gets put in a computer and technology takes over from there, for better or worse.

Generally, I think better. Or maybe I just hope that because I love books – the real ones — just holding them, smelling them, listening to the sound of pages turning. Crisp new books high on ink. Musty old ones with paper like crumbling graham crackers.  Books printed in DTF – dead tree format.

But now I have not only stacks upon stacks of books like this, I also have a virtual library of books. They’re digital electronic editions – e-books – and you read them on computers – laptops, tablets, smartphones and dedicated e-readers, such as  a nook (mine) or  a Kindle (Meg). (There are differences, so do your research).

At last count, I had 140 books on my nook, which weighs approximately 11 oz. There’s room for at least a thousand, more if I add back-up storage.

And then there’s “the cloud,’’ where my e-books are archived in something like an Internet storage unit, and another cloud, where I check out e-books from my public library.

I’m not enough of a techno-nerd to understand cloud computing. But the future of publishing is up there in the clouds somewhere as writers,  publishers, booksellers, and readers all struggle to adapt to this new “platform,’’   where the wind blows every whichaway.

I don’t think books – the real ones – are going away soon, or for good. But e-books, in some form, are here to stay. They present challenges and opportunities in marketing, distribution and pricing. Piracy, too.  Caroline Cousins may be translated into Chinese for all we know.

What we do know is that we are happy that our books are available as e-books from Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and as Google-e-books, which allows independent bookstores to get a piece of the digital pie.

Caroline Cousins loves books. And pie.

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