Tag Archives: 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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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 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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Countdown to NYU

It’s getting steadily closer and closer–my flight to New York and the start of my new adventure towards a career in my dream industry, publishing. I can hardly believe that I am this close to beginning what I hope will be the most exciting and challenging chapter of my life thus far.

As I experience the difference stages of anticipation–excitement, joy, fear, doubt–I am reminded of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I recently read this novel, long overdue, as it is one that I had been meaning to read for several years. However, time has a funny way aligning things in your life and making them all the more meaningful. I could not have picked a better time to read Coelho’s inspirational story of a shepherd boy on the pursuit of his dreams than as I was beginning to embark on my own journey.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how each of my experiences have brought me one step closer to this time in my life. Achieving my B.A. in English, interning with Texas Monthly, traveling to San Francisco to intern with Tango Diva and continuing to write travel articles after my internship ended, having the incredible opportunity to travel to London to intern with Pickering & Chatto Publishers, and now on the verge of beginning my six-week crash course into the world of publishing at NYU, my emotions are a blend of overwhelming excitement and just a tinge of nerves.

I have wanted this so desperately, cried for this countless times, and been filled to my core with the conviction that this is the industry in which I truly belong. It seems surreal to think that I am this close to gateway to my dreams. As I journey through this program and wherever it may lead me afterward I will carry the words of Paulo Coelho with me that “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I will keep this as my mantra through the good times and the bad and always remember that “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

Here’s to the adventure of the unknown, to relentlessly chasing the dream, and to reaping the spoils of dedicated hard work.

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Difficult Lessons Couched in Creative Storylines

In a world filled with so many complex issues and dangers, writers seeking to inform children in a way that is non-threatening, engaging, and relatable have an extremely delicate task. At a recent PEN Panel called “Children’s Literature: Braving Our Endangered World,” held on May 4th, panelists discussed their tactics for presenting science and ecology-themed books to children in a way that would resonate with them.

The panelists’ books covered topics such as ethnic conflicts, endangered species, and trash dumping in our oceans. Each of the panelists have found a way to expand their expertise in science through the lens of literature. By creating human stories to surround scientific issues, they have been able to reach a new audience and convey significant messages about serious scientific issues.

Though these are weighty subjects to address in children’s books, they are vital to instill them with a sense of what is going on in the world around them. Children are naturally eager to learn and explore and tapping into their innate sense of discovery is an excellent way to impart important messages that will shape their worldview.

The key according to Padma Venkatraman, author of Island’s End, is “well-rounded passionate characters that leave readers with questions.” Too often the moral or social message of a children’s story can be too thinly veiled, which quickly loses a child’s attention as it then becomes more of a boring lesson and less of a captivating story. Fostering that wondrous sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness and getting children engaged with key topics surrounding environmental issues and cultural differences is the best way to enable them to become conscientious and well-rounded adults.

Check out the full article on Publishers Weekly.

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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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