Jennifer Astle

March 8, 2009

Weekend Reading: First Edition

Oh yes, they did.

Oh yes, they did.

Put on the coffee maker and settle in for a little Sunday reading.  For the very first edition of Weekend Reading I have collected the top stories on all things book related.  Enjoy!

Jezebel asks; “Is Someone’s Bookshelf a Dating Dealbreaker?”  Have you ever found yourself second guessing the character of your date after catching a glance of a bookshelf that contained Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, back issues of Maxim, and Maddox’s Alphabet of Manliness?  Me too.

Of course, if none of your dates are working out, you can always read The Man Plan: Drive Men Wild, Not Away.  Once again, Jezebel asks; do we really need another MAN-ual on the market? (Hint: The answer starts with “N” and ends with “O”).

Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger can now join the ranks of media-made celebrities who have been offered book deals.  Sully’s been offered $2.5 Million (what recession?) to pen two books.  No word yet whether the books will discuss how to safely crash a plane, or how to be a humble hero.

Do you tweet?  Neither do I, but apparently I should have been.  HarperCollins’ new imprint called “It Books” is publishing Twitter Wit, a collection of funny tweets from twits on Twitter.

Barnes & Noble is jumping on the Internet bandwagon with it’s acquisition of E-book retailer, Fictionwise.  If you’re into that whole corporate merger kind of thing.

Update: Check out this book, Les Tribulations d’une Caissière (The Tribulations of a Checkout Girl), featured on Jez. Anna Sam is a college grad who was unable to land a job in publishing after graduation.  As a result, she went to work in the supermarket where she had worked part-time while studying.  In her book she recounts the numerous stresses a cashier (or anyone working in the service industry) has to face.  As someone who has extensive experience with the service industry (coat hangers thrown at my head, etc.), this book is hope that consumers might just pull their heads out of their…wallets.

March 6, 2009

The Celebrity Book Deal and the Struggling Writer

The book business as we know it will not be living happily ever after. With sales stagnating, CEO heads rolling, big-name authors playing musical chairs, and Amazon looming as the new boogeyman, publishing might have to look for its future outside the corporate world.

hilton_bookOminous words coming from respected magazine, New York.  With the publishing industry flailing, a writer has got to question her future.  Let’s just forget for a moment, the challenges of finding let alone the right agent, but any agent at all.  Then there is the query letter, and the waiting.  All of that, considering you have your book written first.  The challenges facing a struggling writer in the beginning of their career are steep, and that is under the best of conditions.

So, what does this mean for struggling writers and the publishing industry? It seems that there is a spike in celebrity book deals.  I have no statistical data to support this, only my observations from my daily morning online meandering.  James Franco has just signed with Simon & Schuster to release a collection of short stories.  That’s just the beginning.  In 2008, as the economic crisis that has challenged the publishing industry loomed, Miley Cyrus signed a seven figure book deal with Disney.  At least James Franco is an MFA candidate studying creative writing at NYU and Columbia.  Miley Cyrus is 15 and famous because her daddy had an achy-breaky-heart back in the 1980’s (although it must have got fixed sometime in the 1990’s).  Is it possible to still take the craft seriously when there are thousands of talented writers out there who are sending short after short to literary magazines, searching for an agent, and hoping for any advance at all, while Miss Cyrus gets a million dollars for her memoirs?

Let’s not forget Britney Spears’ $20 Million book deal to spill all of the sordid details of her recent crazy years.  Excuse me, but that is not literature, it’s voyeurism…and not very well cloaked.  What about Kanye West? Or Paris Hilton? Or Kathy Griffin? Or even Sarah Palin?  Musicians, actors, politicians…it seems anyone but a writer can get a book deal these days.

Is this really the way to save the publishing industry; by offering celebrities who already blog, Twitter, star in YouTube videos, films and television, appear on news and talk shows, and are the topic of paparazzi and media everywhere seven or eight figure book deals to write their memoirs?

Of course, I am biased considering that I am a “struggling writer” and not a celebrity.  I understand why the publishing industry is increasing its affinity with celebrities.  They come with a built in audience, just waiting to spend their allowances on the next unauthorized Lindsay Lohan tell-all.

But what of the struggling writer then?  Where will the future of publishing take us? To the Internet? Vanity publishing and self-promotion?  Is this just the right moment for writers to take reins away from powerhouse publishers by getting wise to the opportunities offered by services like Amazon (e.g. Kindle, CreateSpace), blogs, online lit mags, and a new generation of news media like the Huffington Post? No one knows for sure, not even the publishing industry.  One thing is for certain; enough with the celebrity book deals.

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