POD: Print on Demand Publishing

In digital age, nearly anyone can get a book published

Associated Press (AP) writer Candice Choi discusses POD publishing. This form of publishing allows writers to get their book into print without having to lay out a lot of money. Under the POD model, each book is printed when someone orders and pays for it. POD publishing differs from vanity press publishing. With a vanity press, the author pays up front to have copies printed all at once, like any other publishing run.

Choi points out that many authors use POD publishing to attract the attention of a major publisher. While there are instances in which a POD book has sold well enough to be taken over by a traditional publishing house, those instances are rare relative to the number of POD books in existence. Choi also says:

Big companies such as Random House Inc. or HarperCollins Publishers can promote authors on a national scale and get titles in major bookstores. Professional editors also polish copy in the traditional publishing world, a step that can transform a manuscript into a best-seller or perhaps a masterpiece.

This is quite misleading. In recent years even the big publishers have quit providing money for publicity except for their major authors (think John Grisham, Danielle Steel, Stephen King, and the like). So, unless you’re one of those authors, you’ll have  to underwrite and perform your own publicity even if you do land a traditional publisher.

POD publishing can be a satisfying alternative if you’ve written a book that has a limited audience and if you’re willing to promote the book aggressively. One thing that Choi doesn’t mention, though, is that almost all major book review outlets refuse to review self-published books. So if you’re thinking of POD, understand that you won’t be able to count on reviews in major newspapers or magazines to promote your book. However, if you book fits into a well-defined niche, you may be able to get reviews in magazines, newsletters, or Web sites that serve your subject area.

Rowling’s right to sue for Potter

Rowling’s right to sue for Potter – Los Angeles Times

This opinon piece in the Los Angeles Times takes author J. K. Rowling to task for suing to prevent publication of the Harry Potter Lexicon, “a print version of the fan website hp-lexicon.org.” The piece admits that, while Rowling may be within her legal rights in enforcing her copyright, she’s guilty of bad behavior. Instead of suing, the argument goes, she should be thankful that fans are willing to devote all the time and energy to preserving and further promoting her lucrative literary franchise.

But the lawsuit is not frivolous:

its charge is serious: that an encyclopedia created entirely out of her inventions goes beyond fair use of copyrighted material, does not transform that material to a degree that constitutes new work (as would, for example, parodies or critical studies) and would compete with Rowling’s own long-proposed but never undertaken potterpedia.

This is indeed a serious legal issue, and one we’re likely to hear more about in the future. The recently founded Organization for Transformative Works  describes itself as “a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms. We believe that fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate.” The organization proclaims its values as follows:

  1. We value transformative fanworks and the innovative communities from which they have arisen, including media, real person fiction, anime, comics, music and vidding.
  2. We value our identity as a predominantly female community with a rich history of creativity and commentary.
  3. We value our volunteer-based infrastructure and the fannish gift economy that recognizes and celebrates worth in myriad and diverse activities.
  4. We value making fannish activities as accessible as possible to all those who wish to participate.
  5. We value infinite diversity in infinite combinations. We value all fans engaged in transformative work: fans of any race, gender, culture, sexual identity, or ability. We value the unhindered cross-pollination and exchange of fannish ideas and cultures while seeking to avoid the homogenization or centralization of fandom.

This Potter brouhaha sounds like something OTW could sink its teeth into.

Best Books I Read in 2007

My favorite end-of-the-year activity is compiling my annual list of the best books I read during the year. Making this list is both pleasurable and painful: pleasurable because it allows me to revisit and remember each book; painful because I have to cut some books I really enjoyed to get the list down to the 10 I liked best.

Before 2005—the year when I returned to school full time—compiling the list was often a formidable task. Some years I even cheated and added five more titles categorized as “honorable mention” because I just couldn’t whittle the list of all the books I had read down to a mere 10 titles. But in the years since 2005, coming up with the list has been a lot easier because I no longer have the time for pleasure reading that I used to have.

Note that the year’s date refers to the year I read the books, not the year they were published.

Of the 43 books I read during 2007 (exclusive of textbooks), here’s the 10 best, listed alphabetically by author:

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights
Butler, Octavia E. Kindred
Didion, Joan. The Year of Magical Thinking
Follett, Ken. The Pillars of the Earth
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love
Hood, Ann. The Knitting Circle
Kallos, Stephanie. Broken for You
Lippman, Laura. What the Dead Know
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

(The links are to reviews on my other Web site.)

What’s on your list? If you haven’t made a list, give it a try. It’s not as easy as you think. Sometimes deleting a title feels like giving away one of your children. But this task makes you think more consciously about exactly what makes a book a “good book” to you.

Happy New Year to all, and thanks for reading.

Deaths of Mailer, Vonnegut close book on influential Vietnam era :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Books

Deaths of Mailer, Vonnegut close book on influential Vietnam era :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Books
“Here, a roll call of some of the notables in the arts and popular culture who died in 2007.”

Sadly, it’s quite a long list.

Mailer, Paley, Vonnegut: same era, different voices – Los Angeles Times

Mailer, Paley, Vonnegut: same era, different voices – Los Angeles Times

In a piece in the Los Angeles Times Morris Dickstein discusses three literary icons who died in 2007:

American fiction lost three of its most warmly admired figures this year, all dead at the age of 84 after long careers. Critics love the idea of literary generations, but it would be a challenge to find themes or ideas to link the disparate work of Norman Mailer, Grace Paley and Kurt Vonnegut. At a Paris Review gala last spring, Mailer spoke about Hemingway’s enormous influence despite his inability to portray a convincing woman character (a charge sometimes leveled at Mailer himself). Hemingway made up for it, he said, by creating a style. In more modest ways, this could be said about Mailer, Paley and Vonnegut as well. No one would mistake a paragraph of theirs for the prose of another writer.

Dickstein focus on “something these contemporaries . . . had in common: a sense of the breakdown of the novel, blurring the lines between literary fiction and autobiography, but also poetry in Paley’s case, science fiction for Vonnegut, journalism and social criticism for Mailer.”

Of Mailer, Dickstein says, “For all his public antics, Mailer’s most memorable exploits took place in the arena of the sentence: arresting metaphors, paradoxical speculations, physical details that made a personality tangible.”

He says “Paley created a distinctive female voice” and also “was dead serious about leftist politics, to which she devoted as much energy as to writing and teaching.”

And Vonnegut “saw himself as an ordinary Joe with a small, peculiar gift.”

“With their accumulated wisdom, these three writers’ living presence mattered, but we might miss them more if they had not left so much behind.”

Good News for Libraries

Pew Internet: Information Searches That Solve Problems

There’s good news for libraries in a report issued yesterday of a joint project by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign. The topic of the study was how Americans approach problems that might be linked to government:

The problems covered in the survey: 1) dealing with a serious illness or health concern; 2) making a decision about school enrollment, financing school, or upgrading work skills; 3) dealing with a tax matter; 4) changing a job or starting a business; 5) getting information about Medicare, Medicaid, or food stamps; 6) getting information about Social Security or military benefits; 7) getting information about voter registration or a government policy; 8 ) seeking helping on a local government matter such as a traffic problem or schools; 9) becoming involved in a legal matter; and 10) becoming a citizen or helping another person with an immigration matter.

The Internet topped respondents’ list of resources they used to find answers to problems such as these, with 58% of people polled saying that they had consulted the Internet either at home, at work, or at a library.

The study also yielded some surprising facts about library use:

The survey results challenge the assumption that libraries are losing relevance in the internet age. Libraries drew visits by more than half of Americans (53%) in the past year for all kinds of purposes, not just the problems mentioned in this survey. And it was the young adults in tech-loving Generation Y (age 18-30) who led the pack. Compared to their elders, Gen Y members were the most likely to use libraries for problem-solving information and in general patronage for any purpose.

Most surprising was the heavy library use by Gen Ys, who have grown up with technology. The survey also found out that Internet users are more likely than non-users to patronize libraries (68% to 21%).

“These findings turn our thinking about libraries upside down. Librarians have been asked whether the internet makes libraries less relevant. It has not. Internet use seems to create an information hunger and it is information-savvy young people who are the most likely to visit libraries,” noted Leigh Estabrook, Dean and Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois, co-author of a report on the results.

Critics’ Picks: Favorite Books of 2007 – New York Times

Critics’ Picks: Favorite Books of 2007 – New York Times

New York Times’s reviewers Janet Maslin, Michiko Kakutani, and William Grimes each offer their list of the 10 favorite books they reviewed during 2007. These are not 10-best lists, the article points out. Rather, each reviewer “picked the 10 books we covered most avidly.”

The lists contain both fiction and nonfiction, from mystery to history.

One Critic’s List of Best Books Read in 2007

An instant classic about a little-known NW place tops book list

John Marshall, book critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, lists the 10 best books he read in 2007.

Some folks love these lists, some folks loathe them. This critic believes that compiling such lists requires valuable side-by-side assessment and brings added attention to fine books deserving a second look.

His list has a definite Pacific Northwest bent.

What’s a nice girl like Ann Rule doing in a genre like true crime?

What’s a nice girl like Ann Rule doing in a genre like true crime?

In this piece in one of her hometown newspapers, true-crime queen Ann Rule, a former Seattle police officer, tells how she found her true calling. Her first book contract was for the story of a serial killer then stalking the Pacific Northwest. When a suspect was finally arrested, she was stunned to discover he was someone she had volunteered with at a local crisis hotline–Ted Bundy. Bundy was convicted and eventually executed, and The Stranger Beside Me was Ann Rule’s first published book.

According to the article, Rule has had 28 books on the New York Times bestseller list.  I can attest that her writing is detailed, thorough, and very readable.

The Most Literate Cities in the U.S.

Minneapolis Ousts Seattle as Most Literate City

The folks at The Seattle Times are lamenting their city’s fall from the top spot of the annual list of most literate cities in the U.S.

The rankings, originated and authored by CCSU’s [Central Connecticut State University] president John W. Miller, compare the country’s 69 biggest cities in terms of libraries, bookstores, educational levels, newspaper readership, locally published magazines and Internet resources.

The article lists the top 10 most literate cities. Notables that didn’t make the top 10 include Baltimore, New York, and Los Angeles.