Tag Archives: Book Publishing

A Love Letter to Literature from Guernsey

They say a good book changes you, and I am not the same after reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This wonderfully lyrical book captures the essence of life and love in the most delightfully refreshing format–old-fashioned, hand-written letters. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows crafted a stunningly beautiful love letter to literature and the power of books to feed the human spirit.

As a lover of historical fiction, this book was immediately dear to me. I have a distinct nostalgia for historical fiction, particularly that which is set in England. I suppose this has a lot to do with the fact that I am a hopeless Anglophile. I was prepared to enjoy the book, but what I was not prepared for was to be so captivated and enchanted with the characters to the point that I truly felt they were dear friends of mine. I found myself laughing out loud at their witty exchanges (followed by smirks from my boyfriend), crying along with them at their heartaches, and sighing with satisfaction at their triumphs.

This was my first experience reading a book in letters (which I have recently learned is called an epistolary novel) and now I am desperate to find another one. The honesty and informality of that type of exchange brought to life the exquisiteness of human relationships. I was charmed by the budding relationships between the heroine, Juliet, and each of the members of the literary society. I too felt as though I was forming new bonds with strangers who would become friends. As I discovered the stories of each of these Guernsey residents, I felt them becoming more endeared to me with each letter.

I felt myself discovering the beautiful isle of Guernsey with my witty and instantly lovable tour guide–Juliet, the vibrantly charismatic heroine of the story. The sand squidged between my toes, the cool salty water lapped around my ankles, and the gusty wind billowed through my hair as I explored Guernsey with Juliet. I was delighted as each of  Juliet’s (and my) budding friendships bloomed like the verdant, supple shoots of spring. I was hopelessly won over by the precocious Kit, desperately intrigued by the mysterious Elizabeth, wonderfully charmed by the eccentric Isola, and stubbornly resistant, yet deliciously tempted by the rising inkling of romance with the stoic Dawsey.

My eyes were also opened to a rich history that I had previously not known about–the German occupation of Guernsey. But the presentation of the humanity of that time is something not to be found in a textbook. This exquisite little book shares the impact of war on the human spirit, and the resilience of a community that banded together and clung on to their fragile happiness, faith, and hope by the threads of great literature. Words. Words had the power to sustain them. In the midst of the darkest of times–when their bodies were malnourished, their eyes bearing witness to horrors, their minds filled with worry and dread–their souls were well fed. All due to the inexplicable power of beautiful words.

Books were the only things that gave the society members something to live for, something to find happiness and joy in, something to block out the dark inhumanity that surrounded them. During those unthinkable times when enemy forces pervaded, food was rapidly dwindling, children were sent away from their parents, and the imminent sense of despair hung over the island like a dark cloud–books were the things that they cleaved to to lift their sprits, to remind them of  better times, of light and airiness, of hope. This intricate little society, haphazardly formed, blossomed into the most beautiful family. The bonds of literature that they shared developed into the bonds of friendship and powerful, true, and abiding love for one another.

Literature that can transport you to another time and place accomplishes a stunning feat. For words written on a page to have the power to blur the lines of reality surrounding you and make the fictional world more real to you is what every writer hopes for and what every reader craves. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society unquestionably replaced my living room with the salty smell of sea air, the wartime uncertainty of an occupied island, and the faces of the literary society members valiantly clinging to one another and to the beauty of life within the pages of books. To breathe life into characters and settings so that they leap off the pages at readers is not a simple task, but one that Schaffer and Barrows masterfully achieved. A magnificent book for lovers of literature and of life.

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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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The veil has been lifted: The secret behind The Cuckoo’s Calling

Of course while I’ve been immersed in study, the dynamic world of publishing has gone through many twists and turns. Suffice it to say, I’m well aware that there is much industry news to catch up on, including the most intriguing story of the pseudonymously authored The Cuckoo’s Calling. I know that I’ve certainly missed the boat on the “breaking news” aspect of this delightful story, but as an ardent fan of Ms. Rowling, it would be impossible for me to not write a gushing post about her exciting new venture into the world of mystery. An apt weaver of interlocking stories, with an uncanny skill for tying the most seemingly unremarkable tidbits of information into an intricate overarching tale, I am certain that Rowling’s mystery will thrill and delight with the same intensity as her fantasy.

When I first read the news in Publishers Weekly that the author of the series of books that had the most formative impact on my childhood, youth, and let’s face it adulthood was authoring a new series my book lover’s heart gave a distinct flutter of joy. I had to smile at her statement to BBC News that “being Robert Galbraith [was] such a liberating experience.” She also spoke of the joy of “publish[ing] without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure of getting feedback from publishers and readers under a different name.” A celebrated novelist with worldwide acclaim, she did not want her latest work to be picked up based on the notoriety associated with her name and her previous literary successes. Instead, she wanted to inspire that exquisite curiosity and hunger in readers, to ignite their bookish passions based solely on the innumerable merits of her artful mastery of the written word and to discover the world created by a seemingly unknown author. I find this to be yet another feather in her cap as a true writer.

Under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo’s Calling made it into the hands of approximately 500 people, according to Publishers Weekly. Once her secret was out however, Rowling’s mystery skyrocketed in sales by “5,000 places to top Amazon’s sales list.”  Of course there was something quite suspect about a novel crafted with all the telltale signs of a veteran, purportedly authored by a novice and she was certain to be found out sooner or later. The hype surrounding The Cuckoo’s Calling emptied bookshelves across the nation. The original 10,000 print run was clearly going to need some serious augmentation, and publisher, Little, Brown did just that when they went back to the presses for an impressive and merited 300,000 print run.

I am overdue for a trip to the bookstore to purchase my copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling and sink into Rowling’s intriguing new tale. A master of language, characters, and plot development Rowling is certain to have woven that indefinable literary brilliance that is so distinctly her own into the tale of war veteran turned private detective, Cormoran Strike and his quest to unearth the truth behind the death of a famed model. With book in hand I will retreat into a hibernation-like state, ignoring all those around me, completely engrossed in the world of Rowling’s creation. The immersive and absorbing quality of her writing is what makes her such an incredible writer, and my personal favorite. I’m predicting another series that will take the reading world by storm, that will add fuel to the passions of ardent readers, kindle the flames of lapsed readers, and ignite the curiosity and excitement of new readers. How can I predict such a phenomenon? The Cuckoo told me so.

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The Journey Begins

The time has swiftly arrived—I’m off to New York in pursuit of my dream of a career in publishing. It’s a surreal feeling to think that I’ll be volunteering at Book Expo America this week and amidst publishers and authors from across the country. It is such a thrilling opportunity to get to volunteer at the publishing event of the year that I can’t quite believe it’s happening. I’ll be volunteering in the autographing area and am giddy at the thought being so close to the authors and perhaps able to have a conversation with them and get a few autographs of my own.

I am most excited for the opportunity to see Bill Bryson and Helen Fielding speak at the author events.  Bryson’s dry and witty reflections on the cultural differences between the UK and the US have me in stitches. As someone who’s grown up living in both places I am very familiar with the cultural debacles he describes in his musings. I have known and loved the comical character of Bridget Jones and her blundering antics for years now and I am confident in my ability to quote lines from the book (though when I meet Ms. Fielding I will do my best to refrain).

This will be my first time spending an extended period of time in New York. I went on two day trips to the city with my family as a teenager, but other than that I know very little about what this glittering city of dreams holds for me, which is quite an adventure itself. I always love exploring a new city and finding those hidden gems—quiet parks, quirky bookstores, quaint cafes—all tucked away and waiting to be stumbled upon.

The excitement and energy within me is pulsing expectantly as I am on the cusp of beginning this new journey. To get hands-on training from skilled executives in the publishing industry is something that makes my book lover’s heart flutter, and I am anxiously awaiting the start of my classes. I’m looking forward to delving into the world publishing, to gaining experience in the diverse facets of the industry, and to moving one step closer to this ardent dream of mine. It has been a long courtship between the publishing industry and I, with me being in hot pursuit and the industry coyly playing hard to get. It is my fervent wish that this experience will flip the scales and the industry will begin pursuing me as eagerly as I have pursued her. And so another adventure begins…

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Chasing the Dream

It has long been my dream to be a part of an industry that shares the captivating words of talented writers with an audience of eager and impassioned readers. In this blog I will chronicle my quest to prove myself worthy of a spot in the book publishing industry. In one short month I will be leaving my Texas roots for New York City to attend NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute.

This I’m sure sounds like a million other stories of wide-eyed, naive young professionals striving to make it big in NYC. It is my sincere hope that I can amount to more than that stereotype and that I can come up with content witty and engaging enough to actually get people interested in my story.

Who will save our books? Copyright James Patterson-Publishers WeeklyThough the face of the industry is changing, something I read today sparked a great sense of hope in me. James Patterson’s bold ad in Publishers Weekly highlights the serious lack of action surrounding the decline of books with the question “Who will save our books?”. His message is both an ardent support of books and a catalyst prompting much needed attention and focus on this troubling issue.

This is what I want to fight for. I want the children today to grow up with the same fervent love for the written word that I had as a child. I want that love to be nurtured and fueled by the profound words of the authors they read. I want our society to be aware of the paramount importance that should be placed on revitalizing the love of books.

This is not an issue that we should sit back quietly on, shaking our heads and saying ‘What a shame.’ We need to fight. Fight for the beautiful and powerful words that dance through the minds of authors. Fight for the transformative influence those words will have on their readers. Fight for a resurgence of the book in a world that is dangerously teetering on the edge of losing its understanding of their great importance.

It is with this sense of drive, determination, and purpose that I will pursue my dream of a position in book publishing. I know that I have much to learn and I am excited for all the lessons that will come out of my experience at NYU. I will begin this journey with the steadfast conviction that I will join this industry as another voice that will speak loudly for books and will refuse to be quelled.

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