Category Archives: Book Publishing

World Book Night–Igniting the Love of Reading

World Book Night

April 23, 2014 marked the 450th Anniversary of the birth of the immortal bard, William Shakespeare. In celebration and honor of this historic day, volunteers across the globe, myself included, handed out free books to light and non-readers. World Book Night, the organization behind the book giving, is founded on a mission to “spread the love of reading, person to person.” The goal is that each year, on the night of the birth of the most prolific and celebrated writer in the English language, the passion for reading is shared.

As an avid reader and lover of literature, I felt compelled to be a part of this incredible evening. It all began when Carl Lennertz, Executive Director of World Book Night, came to speak at one of my NYU lectures. As soon as he had spoken of the premise of World Book Night I was hooked. I knew instantly that I had to be a part of this movement to inspire others to discover the joy of literature.

I listened with rapt attention and glistening eyes as Carl spoke of an elderly recipient who had never owned a book prior to her World Book Night book. I couldn’t imagine never having owned a book. It was as if someone had knocked the wind out of me when I heard him say that. I was overwhelmed with emotion and with the conviction to be a giver. Hot tears streamed down my face, and I brushed them away as I walked up to meet the man behind the magical night. I gushed about how touched I was by his speech and about how ardently I hoped to be a giver in 2014.

I got my wish, and was selected as a giver for this year’s historic World Book Night. I anxiously awaited April 23rd, carefully planned where I would distribute my books, and reflected on what I would say to the recipients. Yesterday, I printed flyers, recipient letters, bookmarks, and my name tag to designate me as an official book giver. I chose Front Steps Homeless Shelter to give out copies of the legendary Agatha Christie’s After the Funeral.

I spoke passionately to the residents of the mission of World Book Night, of the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, and of the book I was sharing with them. I listened as they shared their thoughts on Agatha Christie and their excitement about reading her book. Willie is one of the residents that I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing After the Funeral with. He is part of Front Steps’ GED program and is their most enthusiastic student. Willie accepted his book with eyes alight, and an eagerness that was almost tangible. I knew that I was sharing one of my favorite authors with a budding reader who would soon come to love her and many more authors with the earnest passion of a book lover.

Books have the incredible ability to nurture the human spirit. It is my hope that Willie and everyone that I shared books with, who are currently enduring such hardships, will get lost in the pages of Christie’s fiction, be captivated by her charismatic characters, and get wrapped up in the weave of her mystery. As I handed out books, I beamed with joy at the knowledge that I was a part of facilitating Willie’s and the other recipients’ reading journey and hopefully sparking an inextinguishable and lifelong passion for reading.

Willie and I

To be able to share the gift of reading with others is an earnest desire of mine as both a reader and a publishing professional. World Book Night gives volunteers across the world an avenue to channel their passion for books to inspire a new generation of readers. To the authors who waive their royalties, the publishers who fund the printing of special World Book Night editions of the books, the bookstores and libraries that volunteer to host givers, and to the staff at World Book Night–thank you for this glorious opportunity to bring books into the lives of those who have yet to discover how important they will become to them.

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Patterson’s Promise to Champion Books Comes Full Circle

In my very first blog post, Chasing the Dream, I wrote about James Patterson’s earnest ad in Publishers Weekly calling attention to the decline of books. “Who will save our books? Our bookstores? Our libraries?” he charged readers to harken. I was warmed by the thought that a bestselling author of Patterson’s stature was raising his voice to champion books and the brick-and-mortar locations in which readers access them. Despite the convenience and success of online retailers and e-books, there is something unmistakably exquisite about the experience of walking into a bookstore or library and walking out with a printed book that cannot be replicated. This experience is something that should not fade into the past, and that is what Patterson is fighting against.

For the publishing industry to truly thrive, I think that the relationships between all parties involved must become reciprocal. Patterson is working towards that reciprocity and has made good on his promise to be a voice for books and bookstores. In 2014, he has pledged to give away $1 million in grants to independent bookstores in his $1 Million Indie Bookstore Campaign. Patterson has seen much success in the industry, and now he is giving back to the stores that were a part of making that success possible.

In speaking about his generous grants, Patterson says, “It’s as easy as putting on half a page of paper what you need to do. It’s not like applying to Harvard. It’s not difficult, and there’s no catch. We want to be inundated.” Patterson’s words speak of an advocate for books and reading that we are in desperate need of. In the first round of grants, Patterson gave out more than $267,000 to 55 indie bookstores across the U.S. These bookstores were chosen based on their reputation for making a difference in their local communities and for the merit of their ideas that will positively impact their readers. This effort is motivated by Patterson’s desire to pave the path for the next generation of readers. These grants will aid indie bookstores to make improvements and implement programs that will ultimately promote the revitalization of bookstore traffic and avid readership that begins in childhood.

BookPeople in Austin, Texas, my local independent bookstore, is one of the 55 indies that was selected and I couldn’t be more happy or proud. They will be using their grant to fund their book-based curriculum enhancement program in partnership with local authors and Austin Independent School District. As a loyal customer of Book People, and frequent attendant at their author talks, I am so pleased to know that Mr. Patterson selected them as a recipient. They truly are a beacon for literature in my local community and this grant will allow them to provide even more wonderful programs for children.

I too am holding fast to my promise to be a voice for books that refuses to be quelled. Later this month, on  April 23rd–in celebration of the birthday of the most eloquent, lasting, prolific, and valiant champion of the written word, the Great William Shakespeare–I will join thousands of other volunteers around the globe in World Book Night’s effort to spread the love of reading, person to person.

When World Book Night’s Executive Director, Carl Lennertz, came to speak at an NYU seminar I was spellbound. He spoke so passionately of the program’s efforts to get books into the hands of light and non-readers across the world. I was moved to tears when I heard the story of elderly people who had never owned a book prior to the book that a World Book Night volunteer gave them. The thought of never holding a book in my hands, lovingly caressing the spine, thumbing though the pages, breathing in that glorious inky scent, and knowing that the author’s world that lay within was mine to be enveloped in nearly broke my heart. It was in that moment that I knew that I had to be a book giver, and it is with delighted anticipation that I await the day that I too will be able to give the incomparable gift of books and inspire a love of reading in others.

Publishers, authors, bookstores–chains and indies alike–and even readers themselves must all work to support one another in order to achieve their shared goal of getting books into the hands of as many people as possible. The written word and its power to shape the minds and lives of readers is the thread of connectivity that binds each member of the publishing wheel. If each could keep that thought as the driving force behind all their actions, then they would be more likely to work in harmonious synchronicity towards a world where the status of books never wavers and readers’ love for them never falters.

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Discovering the Saints of the Shadow Bible

I recently had the pleasure of meeting an intriguing author at BookPeople, Austin’s favorite indie bookstore. Readers of my blog will know that meeting an author, for me, is a giddy experience that sends my emotions and writerly aspirations bubbling. Last summer I learned of Ian Rankin, bestselling Scottish mystery author, known for his Inspector Rebus series, and I recently finished reading his latest triumph, Saints of the Shadow Bible.

Detective Sergeant John Rebus was new to me, and as I was introduced to this maverick of the Scottish police force, I found myself eager to learn more. As a rule, I never start a series anywhere except the beginning. And yet, in this case I made an exception. I’d heard so much about Ian’s incredible talent for crime writing and the captivating character he’s created in John Rebus that I felt compelled to start at the end. Of course, the fact that Ian would be visiting BookPeople in January to discuss his latest book may have had more than a little to do with my decision.

I was well rewarded in my decision to stray from my reading norm. From the moment I picked up the book I was entranced. Rankin’s ability to create a world and characters with such striking realism is what makes him one of the greats in mystery fiction. Having been to Edinburgh myself, I could envision myself trudging down the cold and dreary streets of Scotland’s capital city with the veteran detective. As I journeyed through the novel with Rebus, I found myself working to decipher both him and the intricate threads of connectivity being woven through the mystery.

Following the plot is akin to meandering through the streets of Edinburgh, taking twists and turns into alleys and side streets, discovering unexpected establishments and beguiling characters along the way. All the while you’re keenly aware that there is a mystery to solve and subtle clues are all around. You are supposed to be stringing the pieces together. Connecting the yarn on your map of the city. Taking cue from Rebus’s Holmesian bloodhound instinct. And yet, you find yourself befuddled. Captivated by the charismatic (if rough around the edges) Rebus, frustrated by the methodical Fox, and intrigued by the murky history of the Saints of the Shadow Bible.  Rebus recalls Doyle’s Sherlock and Christie’s Poirot, those icons of mystery whose skills of observation and detection emit a superhuman quality that mystifies and baffles those of us not gifted with their keen eye. Yet, he still maintains those quirks and flaws that make him unquestionably human, and relatable.

Rankin is a master storyteller with a gift for drawing characters of such complexity and undeniable realism, that the reader cannot help but feel adamant that they in fact could be found sitting in the local CID in Edinburgh. He writes of his home in Edinburgh, as only can one intimately acquainted with her. The cobblestone streets, the historic churches and castle, striking architecture and landscape all pulse with life. The city and all its secret dealings, the mingling of the political parties with less than reputable characters, and the police’s bid to get a handle on it all strike a chord with the reader as interactions not far removed from reality. Add to that the thread of upheaval currently pervading the political climate in Scotland, and Rankin’s Edinburgh bursts will intrigue, mystery, life, and believability.

I am, without a doubt, now a part of the Rebus following and have a lot of catching up to do on the history of the saints, the seedy underbelly of police work in Edinburgh CID, and the evolution of one of the most captivating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction.

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Tapping the Writing Well

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For readers of my blog, my love of books and reading is undoubtedly apparent. I am also an aspiring writer. Though I write for my blog, and I’ve written plenty of essays I want to reach deeper into my well and bring forth creative and compelling fiction. I want to be a crafter of words that envelop, that entrance, and that transport readers.

I am eager to find within myself a story that begs to be told. One that may be unwieldy, and as of yet simply amorphous wisps of fog. I know if I can but harness those fleeting ideas, then with time and passion I can shape them into what will hopefully become fully formed, charismatic characters that pop from the page and descriptive prose that immerses readers in the world I have created.

It is my ardent hope to find and unlock these stories within myself. I know that they reside within me-I can feel it each time I pick up a pen to write as the words burst forth from my fingers, seemingly under someone else’s control. I must read and write with a fervor and a hunger that has no bounds. Only then will I find the writer within.

It has been too long since I have put pen to paper to write fiction. During my college years I wrote children’s stories and fantasy stories and was amazed at the words that poured out of me. My characters became as dear to me as my oldest friends. This, I believe, is an affection only writers can truly understand. I am ready to get back to that place again as I begin my next quest into fiction writing with a children’s series featuring a mischievous duck that I hope will capture the hearts of children.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting an exceptionally talented mystery author, Ian Rankin, at a reading from his latest book, The Saints of the Shadow Bible. I was not brave enough to raise my hand during the Q&A session following his reading, but I plucked up the courage to ask my question when I met him. I began, “I’m an aspiring writer, and I know that you have a PhD, but I was wondering if…” “If I ever took a creative writing class?” he finished my sentence before I could. And his answer, no. This prolific and best-selling author simply read voraciously, carefully studied the worlds created by other authors, and looked for a space he could call his own. He advised me to do the same.

It was a relief to hear him say that formal training is not necessary, but at the same time it also makes the task I’m setting myself to all the more daunting. I cannot simply take a class, perform well, get my “A’s” and then be equipped to delve into the world of fiction. Instead, I must find a way to bring a new and compelling voice to readers, one they can identify with and be swept away by.

I truly believe that if you are a writer, you write. It is an inherent characteristic, part of your genetic makeup. Of course, that is not to say that you can’t hone your craft. There are always ways you can learn and grow as a writer. But to me, I believe the greats, those paragons of literature that create a lasting imprint on readers–they are born with it .

Though I could not hope to be one of those names that transcend time, I do hope to find the stories within me, share them with readers, and make an impact in some way on their lives. Authors are keen observers, constantly watching the world and the people around them. It is out of these observations that characters begin to form, and worlds come to life. Imagination is of course something no good writer can be without–the ability to see the extraordinary amidst the ordinary. I know that I have it within me. I’ve just yet to find the tap. The only thing to do is to read and write with abandon. To soak up all the glorious greatness of other writers, to let the words pour from me like a dam set free, and to dismiss any fear that they might be inadequate. In doing so, I will find my voice, my space, and my story.

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The Hybrid Reader–and What That Means for Books

As a heartwarming follow up to my last post on the digital future of publishing, I’d like to discuss the future of our beloved books. As an impassioned reader and a self-admitted traditionalist, I will cleave to print books my whole life through. As a publishing professional, I believe digital advances are wonderful and creating an entirely new experience for readers. Yet, on a personal level as a reader, I believe that there is an innate magical quality about the experience of reading a print book that cannot be recreated. If you’ve read my blog before, I’m sure you’re thinking that this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this. However, recent research from a post-holiday Pew survey about the reading habits of American adults put a huge smile on my face and prompted me to address this topic again.

As we move into 2014, findings from a Pew survey indicate that “most people who read e-books also read print books, and that just 4% of readers are e-book only.” Plus, “overall, about half (52%) of readers only read a print book,” and “87% of e-book readers also read a print book in the past 12 months.” These statistics are exceptionally encouraging for the publishing industry, as it indicates that readers still value the experience of reading a printed book and that they are reading across mediums. The boundaries of the publishing world and the concept of the book are constantly being tested, reshaped, and molded. Yet, despite all the changes readers continue to reach for print books.

What is emerging from the constant developments in the publishing world is a new kind of reader–a hybrid reader. They are not setting books aside, but rather are embracing a new reading experience across mediums: print books, Kindles, iPads, Nooks, laptops, smart phones, etc. We are seeing the evolution of readers in tandem with the evolution of the publishing landscape. Though, I would venture to say that readers are definitely moving at a slower pace than the publishing industry in their adoption of digital reading devices. The constant looming threat that there will one day be no books, libraries, or bookstores is, to my mind, unthinkable. And, thankfully the results of this Pew survey confirm that.

The survey also indicated that the reading pulse of Americans is thriving. Overall, “76% of adults surveyed read a book in some format over the previous 12 months,” and the “average number of books read or listened to [in 2013] was 12.”   These statistics both shocked and pleased me. The introduction of e-reading devices has undoubtably impacted the number and diversity of readers. And, as an avid reader and an ardent lover of words, ultimately, I want as many people as possible to find a reading experience that excites and entrances them in the same way as reading a print book does for me.

The takeaway for book lovers is that the digital future of publishing does not mean the death of the the book. In fact, the harmonious relationship between books and digital reading devices may be just what the world of literature needed to keep generations of new readers engaged as we move into an ever-changing and technologically advanced world.

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The Future of Publishing

The publishing industry is one that is constantly changing and evolving, in many cases within the briefest span of time. Industry professionals just get acquainted with one new digital introduction only to be presented with another. This fast-paced industry is now dictated by the alacrity of technological developments and the demands that creates from readers.

As a marketing professional in book publishing it is crucial that I remain on top of all the changes occurring in the space in order to best equip my authors with new and innovative ways to engage with readers. The digital impact on book publishing is an exciting challenge that keeps us all on our toes, working to connect authors with readers in the new and shifting ways they want to be connected with.

At the Fifth Annual Digital Book World conference, the transformation of the industry and the shift of power to one dominant agent in the marketplace was a hot topic of conversation according to Publishers Weekly. Digital media, self-publishing, Print On Demand, and the outcome of the Apple DOJ case were all sited as major shifts within the industry. These factors have all drastically changed the publishing landscape and impacted the ongoing redefinition of the book. Publishers are carefully contemplating dipping their toes into the waters of new digital changes, such as bundling packages and subscription services. There is also a new trend towards publishers taking a page from Amazon’s direct to consumer e-commerce book.

Though many are still carefully weighing taking part in these emerging digital trends, early adopters are seeing great returns. Publishers must band together to keep our voice a present, fresh, and valuable asset to authors in a constantly shifting industry. We must make changes to evolve with our readers and let go of the mantle of the past. This is the only way to compete with a force that has a monopoly in the market.

Technological innovations can at times seem a thorn in the side of publishers, but I look at them as a catalyst that ups the ante on the services we can bring to authors. They do not have to be seen as factors that make publishers antiquarian or even obsolete. Instead, we simply must change our tactics to keep pace and illustrate that though the face of the industry is changing, publishers are still an essential component to both the publication of books and the fostering of connections between authors and readers. After all, we are part of an industry founded on creativity and imagination so it is only fitting that we as publishing professionals are being charged to put ours to the test.

In this dizzying whirlwind of technological change, there is one thing that has always and will always remain a constant–the readers. The future of publishing may have many twists and turns, up and downs, but what will never change is that it will always lie in the hands of the readers. As publishers it is our job to ensure that we continue to connect with them, to reach them on that very personal level, and to foster their love of the written word–whatever form it may come in.

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Bewitched by BEA

What a thrilling whirlwind of literary bliss. There was nothing that could have prepared me for the stunning experience of Book Expo America. The opportunity to be in the mix with all the publishers I have such respect for and such fervent desire to be a part of and the incredibly talented authors who have had such a formative impact on me as a reader and writer is one that I cannot quite find the words to do justice to. I was swept away in a delicious haze of exquisite literary induced rush. For three days I walked around in the most glorious heightened state of what can only be described as euphoria. Anyone who shares my burning passion for this industry can understand that my language is not hyperbolic but rather decidedly apropos.

The literary gods seemed to be always in my favor. While volunteering at BEA I had the most surreal experience of meeting some of my favorite authors. I am not the type of person who gets starstruck, but with authors that’s a completely different story. It takes everything in me to maintain composure and speak intelligently, rather than let show the flustered, tongue-tied, and giddy person beneath that veil. Of course with some authors there could be no such façade. Helen Fielding, Bill Bryson, and Elizabeth Gilbert were the three authors that left me stumbling over my words. It’s crazy to be able to say that I have met each of them.

I stood in line waiting to meet Helen Fielding with this bubbling feeling that was a mixture of bursting elation, anxiety, and disbelief. She was so kind and gracious and as funny as her charmingly endearing character Bridget. After gushing about how much I loved her books (which she’s certainly heard countless times) I was caught completely off guard by a camera crew from The Today Show.  They had overheard how excited I was to meet her and how much I loved her books and wanted to interview me for the launch of her third book. I am certain that I fumbled through every question still buzzing on the high from meeting Helen, but I can only hope that I made some sort of sense. My interview is going to be featured on The Today Show in October for the launch of Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy! I am going to be actively searching for the date it airs. I still can’t quite believe it happened.

After my amazing luck with meeting Helen Fielding and being selected for an interview I didn’t think it could get much better. There was more literary excitement to be had. I later had the good fortune to get a free ticket to the exclusive Author’s Tea sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association featuring a panel of author’s, including one of my favorites, Bill Bryson. I had been hoping to get the opportunity to stand in the back of the event, but actually was able to go into the tea as a guest, get an ARC of Bryson’s latest novel, One Summer, and meet him as well. I had a lovely conversation with him about my love for England and his uproariously humorous Notes from a Small Island. As a fellow Anglophile, it was the icing on an already decadently rich cake.

The final day of BEA held still more literary bliss. I attended the Author Breakfast and got the opportunity to hear Helen Fielding speak about her experience creating the character of Bridget Jones and about the themes of Mad About the Boy. I met her for the second time and to my sheer delight she remembered me! We had a really nice chat in which I was much more composed than the first day and was actually able to speak intelligently to her. It was such an amazing experience to get to speak to one of my favorite authors as if we were friends (in my mind we are now of course).

Later in the day I met the final author on my wish list, Elizabeth Gilbert, at a conference about the importance of book clubs to the reading experience. I was intrigued to hear about her latest novel, The Signature of All Things, and am anxious for its release in October. I was so pleased to hear that she actually holds a book club with her fans on Facebook and they are currently reading Jane Eyre. I am quite embarrassed to say that I have yet to read this classic, but I purchased the new Penguin Drop Caps edition at BEA and plan to begin reading it as soon as possible. With my SPI program starting on Monday it is unlikely that I will be able to make the June 8th book club discussion with Elizabeth and the book club members, but it is high time I add this classic to my list of “read books.” Elizabeth was so engaging and personable and was even kind enough to give me some advice about how to grow my own writing to cross the precarious bridge from short stories to novels. She gave me hope that one day I too might be able to say that I have completed the extraordinary feat of writing a novel of my very own.

My experience at BEA can only be described as exquisite perfection. I was overwhelmed by how incredibly lucky I was to be at an event that spoke to the two most fervent desires of my heart: to be a part of the publishing industry, and to one day be able to call myself an author. It fueled my hope that there is a spot in this industry for me and that I am on the right path. Since arriving in New York  everything has fallen beautifully into place. I have never in my life felt more certain that I am on the cusp of achieving what I have wanted for so very long. I can feel the heartbeat of publishing pulsing through the city and mine beating along in time.

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