Archives: eBooks

richardcohen

Our Book Jacket of The Week is Richard Cohen’s How To Write Like Tolstoy out this week from PenguinRandomHouse. We love the final cover art, which showcases an orange sketch of Leo Tolstoy sporting blue spectacles. We love the colors, we love the font, but most of all, we love the content inside! Apparently, we’re not the only ones.

“This book is a wry, critical friend to both writer and reader. It is filled with cogent examples and provoking statements. You will agree or quarrel with each page, and be a sharper writer and reader by the end.” – Hillary Mantel

“An elegant, chatty how-to book on writing well, using the lessons of many of the world’s best writers…” – Publishers Weekly

“Lush and instructive . . . [Cohen] is a generous tour guide through his literary world.” – Kirkus Reviews

These 12 essays are like 12 perfect university lectures on the craft of writing fiction... interesting, charming, and engaging.” – Library Journal.

Get a sneak peek beyond this lovely, colorful cover on LitHub. You can purchase How To Write Like Tolstoy here.

Richard Cohen is the former publishing director of Hutchinson and Hodder & Stoughton. Works that he has edited have gone on to win the Pulitzer, Booker, and Whitbread/Costa prizes, and more than twenty have been #1 bestsellers. The author of By the Sword, an award-winning history of swordplay, and Chasing the Sun, a wide-ranging narrative account of the star that gives us life, he was for two years program director of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature and for seven years a visiting professor in creative writing at the University of Kingston-upon-Thames.

Visit Richard’s website here or follow him on Twitter @aboutrichard or Facebook @RichardCohenAuthor.

There’s a whole lot of noise about crowdfunding out there, and in recent years, it’s permeated the publishing industry–happily so, since there are more writers wanting to publish than ever before and fewer agents and publishers willing to take the financial risk. Publishing crowdfunding models from Kickstarter to Pubslush (which we wrote about here) to Publishizer (more in a minute) give writers the resources to bring their books to market in unconventional, effective, and creative ways.

Unfortunately, crowdfunding sites have a bad PR problem: first, there’s the desperation factor, the very public admission that you need financial assistance in order to publish because you weren’t given a traditional book deal. (Hopefully Seth Godin has done something to improve upon that image!) And then, if you’re lucky and talented enough to succeed in your publishing campaign, you may have to contend with some serious slack for it.

I was introduced to the very smart and affable young CEO of crowdfunding site, Publishizer, about a year ago. Publishizer’s modus operandi is to give authors the “freedom” they want to publish, freedom that is as much financially-driven as it is creative. Since my business is with authors who are published with commercial houses, it wasn’t the crowdfunding piece (though I was certainly impressed by it) that compelled me. It was the potential of agents and publishers to work with Publishizer purely from a pre-orders standpoint. Some of Publishizer’s authors have raised $20,000-$30,000 in pre-orders; enough not only to produce a print run of books, but to fly around the world  promoting them. As publishing sometimes seems to gallop at an elephant’s speed, you remember those revelatory, re-energizing conversations when you can see yourself at the brink of something new and even earth-shattering for your industry.

Yesterday, the hope I’d harbored for Publishizer came true when a romance author of Full Fathom Five Digital set a campaign live on its site–the very first time Publishizer has launched a preorders campaign for 1) a novelist and 2) an author who already has a publisher in place. In less than 48 hours, The Absolute Novels Campaign has raised over $500, and by the time you read this, it may have broken 6. I am in love with this campaign–because of Publishizer’s design and seamless user experience, because SJ’s story is a real one and a tearjerker, and because the gift options she’s created for those who pre-order the book are brilliantly branded and creative. No doubt there will be haters. But I’m personally wishing SJ and the other authors on Publishizer all success.

Melanie

Mélanie Berliet chats with us about taking the leap from journalist to memoirist in a candid, tragic, and entertaining book, Surviving in Spirit: A Memoir about Sisterhood and Addiction, and lends insight into digital-only options offered by today’s new publishers.

Q. How did you first get involved with Thought Catalog?

About two years ago, Ken Kurson, Editor in Chief of the New York Observer, emailed saying that he’d enjoyed an essay I wrote for Thought Catalog. This confused me because I’d never written for TC! I was about to explain to Ken that he was mistaken when something (unwillingness to sacrifice a perfectly good compliment, perhaps!) told me to do some Googling instead. I soon realized that TC had reprinted a piece I originally wrote for XOJane through some content swapping arrangement. I immediately wrote to TC’s founder, Chris Lavergne, and suggested lunch. Soon after, I signed on to become one of TC’s featured writers, among the likes of awesome people such as Ryan Holiday, whose work I’ve long admired.

Q. What made you choose Thought Catalog as a publishing partner over the traditional publishing path?

When Chris Lavergne and I first sat down together, we talked for two straight hours—about the current state of books, publishing, technology, etc. Chris is a really smart, unassuming guy and I was drawn to his appetite for the future. I had just completed a round of meetings with editors at traditional publishing houses set up by my agent at WME that left me totally disheartened and disillusioned. None of the traditionals seemed open to experimentation or to any approach that deviated from their go-to formula. I wanted to feel excited, not hopeless, about my book project and I sensed that Thought Catalog was the place for me.

Q. What have the advantages been? Disadvantages?

The advantages to publishing via Thought Catalog are that it’s flexible and fast and you get to supplement your project with posts on their website, which has an insanely large, loyal readership of millenials. The main disadvantage is that some people (like my mom, for one) don’t seem to understand that a digital book is a book. I’m guessing that there are always people resistant to change within an industry as it evolves. We can’t all be early adopters!

Q. You explore very specific themes in your writing, largely about women and sexuality. (And you aren’t afraid to go nude in proving your point!) What draws you to write about these more provocative topics? Have you ever faced fear in doing so?

I do fear going undercover sometimes, but I use my level of anxiety over a given project as a measure of how compelling the story is likely to turn out. It’s psychologically fulfilling to push my personal boundaries and to push the proverbial envelope. I developed a certain amount of immunity to caring about others’ opinions while watching my older sister Céline gradually succumb to alcoholism (she died of cirrhosis at age 30 in 2009). In dying, I believe my sis inadvertently gifted me with perspective. She taught me how to live without giving two shits about what people might think of me for doing weird shit.

Q. In your book, Surviving in Spirit, you write about your sister’s alcoholism. What compelled you to write the story?

I think I had to get it out of me! Most of my work is designed to entertain so this was an uncharacteristically dark subject for me to tackle. But as difficult as it was to go there, it was also therapeutic. To quote Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Q. What advice can you offer aspiring writers and producers?

First of all, persevere. You have to keep going. It helps if the creative process is rewarding in and of itself and you don’t fixate too much on the money. The value of what you do doesn’t have to be tied up in the money you earn doing it. Obviously, we all have to eat, but it’s important to focus on the work first. I would also say that it’s important to develop a thick skin. Some of my most well received stories were pitched and rejected at least ten times before I found them a home.

Mélanie Berliet has written for Vanity Fair, Elle, Cosmopolitan, The Atlantic, and New York Magazine, among other publications. She also creates and produces original content for television and the web. Follow Mélanie on Twitter and Facebook.

Echo Bridge

Today, we’re here to chat with Kristen O’Toole, author of the just-released YA novel Echo Bridge, from new publishing imprint Full Fathom Five Digital.  In Echo Bridge, high school theater star Courtney Valance’s picturesque life is envied by all her peers–until one night she turns up missing, her clothes washed up on the river bank. All of us at Lucinda Literary loved this book so much–it’s not everyday we read YA novels delivered in such a deeply thoughtful and mature tone–that we had to invite Kristen to tell us how it all came about.

We found the characters and themes explored in Echo Bridge to be, um, very mature–not for the soft of stomach. Is the sort of subject matter you deal with in your novel typical of the genre, or were you striving for something more darkly realistic? 

Oh, boy–I think the moment someone tries to define a genre, an exception to that definition is born! YA contains multitudes. I kept my own teenage taste in mind while I was writing Echo Bridge, and I had a pretty dark turn of mind back then (I have lightened up a lot with age). I was a little unsure about the tone at first, until I remembered one of the first YA books I ever read: Die Softly by Christopher Pike. I got it as a present for my 11th birthday. Even within Pike’s oeuvre, it’s a doozy.

Echo Bridge itself is so eloquently described, it really brings that setting to life.  Is there a real-life ‘Echo Bridge’ or other landmark where you hung out as a teen?

There is a real Echo Bridge! It’s in Newton, MA, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. My parents took me there a few times as a kid, and later I heard from friends who lived nearby that it was an after-dark meeting place. I grew up in a different town and my teen-dirtbag hangouts were closer to home. We had our own secret spot on the Charles River near my high school, though it wasn’t as picturesque as Echo Bridge.

What is high school popularity all about anyway? Why, at that period in our lives, is the need to be popular so all-encompassing? What ‘kid’ were you in high school?
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I remember meeting two years ago with an internationally published author who came to me with this perspective: “If I could find a major publisher in the U.S., I wouldn’t even require a book advance.”

When I asked writers if they would take a “free” book deal on Facebook, I got several immediate “Yes! Yes!” responses. The logic makes sense: if you have already written a book just lying on a shelf somewhere or in an agent’s slush pile and you’ve spent years writing this thing, would the offer to see your book to market, in print and in stores, not be somewhat compelling?

E-book publishers like Amazon, Diversion, Vook, Thought Catalog and many others are already offering writers the opportunity to publish using their resources – different from the go-at-it-alone approach of self-publishing – and given demand, these publishers are getting more selective. But when the author I spoke with prompted me to look into print publishers who might consider a free book deal, I found only a few paperback romance and/or smaller vanity publishers, none of which I’d heard of before.

In publishing, like other industries governed by people, not products, herd mentality still reigns. Just consider the premise of book auctions, perhaps spurred more by competitive interest than merit, often placing false value on books that more often than not lose money. And yet, even while low-cost equations like Amazon and smaller startups like Storyville or Wattpad push us toward Anderson’s prediction of “economic gravity,” print publishing remains the celebrated, curated system in which only those books deemed promising have a shot. And the fee paid for the material symbolizes that internal enthusiasm and support.

There are plenty of writers who couldn’t, or shouldn’t, in today’s publishing landscape, make the free book deal. If you need an advance to travel and research your book, how could you? If you have a competitive offer, why would you? But for the vast majority, the benefits are worth considering: the advance may be zilch, but the royalties and creative control are more advantageous than any standard book contract. (You can find a short overview of e-publishing options and pros and cons here.)

Forward-thinking authors like the person I spoke with also realize that nothing in this world is actually free. You, too, will be “charged” with promoting your book—that’s after the uncompensated work you’ve already done writing it. And your publisher will theoretically be investing in your book’s production, design, marketing and distribution — with or without the added book advance.

I am not arguing that publishers become the sort of “anyone and everyone” aggregator model established by Amazon. What I’m suggesting is that there are many proposals and manuscripts that come so close to making the cut…so what if there were more leeway in making “buying” decisions? With allowances for greater risk-taking, open-mindedness and creativity, the realization that successful marketing lies in both the estimable (promotional costs) and the inestimable (word of mouth), traditional print publishers like their e-counterparts, may soon find value in the model of the free book deal.

 

*A version of this essay was originally published May 30th, 2012. Since then, several of the bigger publishers are experimenting with new digital imprints that offer no or near-to-nothing advances.  Slowly, perception may be shifting…

Marketing your book is almost as vital to your success as writing it. Unfortunately, adequate marketing practices often come at an unfriendly price if not backed by a publishing house with a big budget.  Luckily, an industrious few have begun to investigate new ways to spread the word about their work and reduce personal expenses.

PubSlush, a startup modeled after Kickstarter (but for books only), aims to help self-published authors achieve the financial resources to get their projects off the ground. (Another up-and-comer to watch is Publishizer.) Today, Pubslush’s Development Director, Justine Schofield, shares a few star examples of crowdfunding campaigns, with some takeaways for how other writers can use the model successfully.

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Did you know The Washington Post has its own eBook series published by Diversion Books?

I didn’t, until this superbly succinct page-turner came my way. At just over 100 pages, Steven Levingston, the Post’s nonfiction editor, describes in equally devastating and uplifting detail, a moment in the life of JFK that forever changed him.

Of course, the book is for you to read, but in the meantime, let’s just relish this gorgeous cover. It really says it all, doesn’t it?

TWP epub cover-Kennedy-FINAL

About the Book

A sensitive portrait of how a profound tragedy changed one of America’s most prominent families.

On August 7, 1963, heavily pregnant Jackie Kennedy collapsed, marking the beginning of a harrowing day and a half. The doctors and family went into full emergency mode, including a helicopter ride to a hospital, a scramble by the President to join her from the White House, and a C-section to deliver a baby boy, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, five and a half weeks early with a severe respiratory ailment. The baby was so frail he was immediately baptized.
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For authors promoting their books, there are so many methods of marketing online that one can often overlook the most essential platform second to your website: your Amazon book page. Much like your website, this is your showcase—but unlike your website, you’re not allowed the same freedom to design beyond Amazon’s basic infrastructure. So, if your page will appear at least superficially like everyone else’s, how will you hook a potential reader in those very first seconds he or she is scanning your page? How will you stand out? Here are our top 6 hints.

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I recently wrote an article for Mary Cummings‘ blog on Digital Book World. Hopefully, it answers some of the questions I often hear from authors: Is NPR a possibility? What can I expect in terms of book reviews? Why again is Twitter important? Here is a teaser, and you can read the full article here.

Every book that you could at one point feel in your hands has today become something you can instantly access on your cell phone. For authors, publicists and publishers, this has meant that we’ve needed to re-think the traditional publicity tools—print reviews, radio, and television that once, in the gilded age of publishing, worked so well for hardcovers. More than ever, it may now be online marketing that makes the PR difference.

Permanency and Possibility in Online Outlets

The moment physical became virtual, publicity both expanded and became more limited. Expanded, because we’ve never known a time when so many online outlets have existed—not merely the digital counterparts of print magazines, but an infinite sea of online programs and blogs, each with their own set of followers. When a book is covered online, a title and link are given permanency. Readers have the opportunity to click directly to buy. When it is so easy to move from point of mention to point of sale, and when eBooks are priced affordably (under $5), the possibility of the impulse buy is all the more tenable. The chance any person of a younger generation will see an interesting author interview on television, remember the name of the author or book, remember to find it the next time he or she is by the internet or browsing in a book shop, and finally buy that new book in hardcover at a price point of $25.99…well, it’s a big leap of faith you’re taking on a consumer. The “un-immediacy” of how books are still presented today using these major outlets will be even more of a challenge for forthcoming, instantly gratify-able generations—if those outlets still exist.

When I learn about a book on Twitter, one 140-character tweet from someone who shares my interests can move me to action. Maybe I click on the link to that blog review. From there, a good review will seamlessly send me to an author’s website or Amazon page.

Online PR is Not Less Credible, and Possibly Even Profitable

For eBooks, and particularly those self-published, the reality is that NPR, Today, and People Magazine are not reasonable targets. Forgetting any argument of stigma, the lack of “physicality” becomes an issue for events; you simply don’t have something to hand sell. To further complicate matters, these longstanding book reviewers are often still of the hardcover “old school,” preferring to see physical review copies of books. This is the limiting side of publicity as it exists currently, not future. Fortunately, authors are understanding more and more that there are all kinds of ways to sell a book; a different kind of “hand selling” that may be less a blanket approach, and more about targeting individuals in reading communities like Goodreads, or promoting their own events via Togather, and gathering a fan base to help.

Happily, I’ve witnessed authors in successful campaigns, thrilled by the snowballing effect of online coverage—the kind that doesn’t start and end at publication, but which builds momentum and endures. In best case scenarios, great websites, blog reviews, and social media buzz are capturing the attention of NPR and newspaper reviewers, and a fortunate author can benefit from all means of exposure.

Read the full article

Mary

We were thrilled to sit down with Mary Cummings, the Editorial Director of Diversion Books, to pick her brain on what she sees really working in the world of eBooks, and to get her recommendations for authors on best marketing practices for their books.

First, I’m so curious about how you came to naming your company Diversion.

I can take no credit in the naming of Diversion, as it happened well before my time, but we think of “Diversion” in a couple of ways. There’s the book-as-entertainment aspect, as in “this book is a welcome diversion from my busy day,” but also the very real and important distinction of Diversion as a publisher that has “diverted” from the path of traditional publishing insofar as its digital focus and all that comes with it, but has not abandoned the path altogether. In general, we like to think of Diversion as: “traditional approach, digital focus.”

Why publish with Diversion over Amazon?

Do you mean why not self-publish? Well, if you have time, savviness, and energy to put into publishing and promoting your book in an aggressive, ongoing way, then go for it! But even the most successful self-published authors are turning to companies like Diversion because they see value to more hands on deck, a reputable house backing them and enhancing their efforts, and abandoning the more nitty-gritty, technological, metadata-oriented tasks that are in constant need of management for the entire life of the ebook, assuming it is to be successful. Very few authors will be successful just by putting their work out there–it has to be continually nurtured, updated, and attended to on the marketing end.

Do you predict a fadeout of traditional publishers in favor of eBooks? Read more »