Monday, January 25, 2010

Beginning of the end (or the new beginning, whatever)

This NYTimes article about the James Patterson juggernaut is interesting, but what I wanted to share from it is this succinct summary of how publishing began to freefall:

"The story of the blockbuster’s explosion is, paradoxically, bound up with that of publishing’s recent troubles. They each began with the wave of consolidation that swept through the industry in the 1980s. Unsatisfied with publishing’s small margins, the new conglomerates that now owned the various publishing houses pressed for bigger best sellers and larger profits. Mass-market fiction had historically been a paperback business, but publishers now put more energy and resources into selling these same books as hardcovers, with their vastly more favorable profit margins. At the same time, large stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders were elbowing out independent booksellers. Their growing dominance of the market gave them the leverage to demand wholesale discounts and charge hefty sums for favorable store placement, forcing publishers to sell still more books. Big-box stores like Costco accelerated the trend by stocking large quantities of books by a small group of authors and offering steep discounts on them. Under pressure from both their parent companies and booksellers, publishers became less and less willing to gamble on undiscovered talent and more inclined to hoard their resources for their most bankable authors. The effect was self-fulfilling. The few books that publishers invested heavily in sold; most of the rest didn’t. And the blockbuster became even bigger."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Walk like an Egyptian

In the colds of January, as manuscript pages pile up around my ears (I am almost being literal; you should see the floor by my bed), where do I turn when I need a comfort read? I'll tell you. Elizabeth Peters.

I don't know why I love her books so much--wait, yes I do. They combine mystery, adventure, romance, and often an historical aspect or setting with very feisty feminist protagonists and lots of intelligent humor. I am equally devoted to her Amelia Peabody series and her Vicky Bliss series, though I also adore her standalones, her Jacqueline Kirby mini series, and her pseudonymous Barbara Michaels paranormals.

This past week I have been redevouring the Vicky books, in which our art historian heroine takes off from her Munich museum job at a moment's notice (her boss doesn't mind because he usually joins her as a Watsonian sidekick) for sundry international locations and the antiquities capers they contain. I think my favorite is the penultimate, Night Train to Memphis (that's Egypt, not Tennessee). I've read it so many times that the ink is smudged. Chris said, "I need to get you some new books." No way! You can have your Jonathan Lethems and Jonathan Safran Foers. Give me Elizabeth Peters any day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My king hung on quite valiantly

Super busy at work. And all I want to do is read chess tips, now that Chris has taught me how to play!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Upon re-reading this post, I sound quite sci-fi.

It's a new week.

And I had the nicest weekend. We slept in both days, and on Saturday went to see Avatar in 3D; Shelby came over and Chris made jambalaya and we watched the special features on our Star Trek Bluray (!) disc. On Sunday I painted my nails and tidied the place and did laundry and knitted and we took down the tree.

Consequently, I avow to be a more cheerful bird this week.

What about you? What are you up to this week? I need to go shopping for a baby shower this weekend (one that is ending at the same time that a certain football game starts. My poor Saints-cheering husband is deciding whether he's going to drive me to the shower as he had previously blithely agreed to or let me brave my uninsured self behind the wheel...)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It's funny b/c it's true

Okay, okay, okay. Lucky to have a job/lucky to have a cool job/truly, I know, and am grateful. Just let me have my mopey midwinter week, all right?

"'Editors are just like us.' No, we’re not. You don’t have a neverending stream of bad writing coming at you day in, day out. You get to read for pleasure, selecting material that has been through at least one filter. Whereas you turn on the tap and get a stream of nice drinkable water, we put our mouths to a sewer pipe and hope to get at least one swallow that won’t give us raging diarrhea."


C'mon! I'm laughing! I'm not being negative! Laughing is positive!

From here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cold snap until February

Becoming obsessed with stay-at-home mom blogs is probably not the wisest thing to do when you're unhappy at work. And when you got to talk to a 20-month-old on the phone last night who mostly jibber-jabbered but also said "I wuv you!"

Monday, January 4, 2010


More on the e-book topic (I really recommend clicking through to read the column--it's quite short and will also support the NYTimes):

"The author’s heirs hold the copyright to his work. But should another company be able to issue e-book versions of Random House’s editions without its involvement? An e-book version of Mr. Styron’s “The Confessions of Nat Turner” will contain more than the author’s original words. It will also comprise Mr. Loomis’s editing, as well as all the labor of copy editing, designing and producing, not to mention marketing and sales, that went into making it a desirable candidate for e-book distribution. Mr. Styron’s books took the form they have, are what they are today, not only because of his remarkable genius but also, as he himself acknowledged, because of the dedicated work of those at Random House. ...
"An e-book distributor is not a publisher, but rather a purveyor of work that has already been created. In this way, e-books are no different from large-print or paperback or audio versions."