Tag s | Book Review

Book of the Month – September 2011

by Steve Laube

Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century by John B. Thompson (published by Polity) is this month’s “Book of the Month.”

I took this 432 page book with me on vacation and was mesmerized by its detailed analysis of the history of publishing and bookselling. Thompson’s chapter on “The Rise of Literary Agents” was, of course, particularly interesting.

I have been a student of this industry for 30 years and thoroughly enjoy understanding its nuances. (It just dawned on me that this means I’ve read nearly 1,500 issues of “Publisher’s Weekly!”) In my opinion, this is the one book you should read if you want an overview of everything that goes into the publishing business. Did you know that the practice of allowing booksellers to return stock for full credit did not start in the U.S. until the early 30s? It was used during the Great Depression as a way to stimulate sales and to encourage booksellers to carry more inventory without risk. Eighty years later that practice still plagues the industry (see my post “Many Happy Returns“).

Another chapter discusses the rise of corporate ownership and how that has affected acquisition strategies. Throughout I appreciated Thompson’s global perspective. The author is a professor of sociology at the University of Cambridge and so he bring a British view to the discussion, not one based solely on U.S. situations.

There is a sixty page chapter on “The Digital Revolution” which is great foundational reading but is handicapped by the speed at which that aspect of the industry is changing. If I had to say one critical thing about the book it would be that this chapter felt a bit like reading yesterday’s news. (Even though the book was published less than a year ago!) It is terribly ironic that the book is not available in e-book form. Something I hope the publisher will fix eventually.

Every author, editor, publisher, sales, and marketing person should all spend time with this book. When you understand history you are less likely to repeat mistakes. I cannot recommend it more highly. As far as our industry is concerned it could well be my book-of-the-year.

There is one problem with reading a book like this on vacation…I didn’t feel like I was on vacation. It immersed me back into my world of work. So, as a promise to my family, I put it down during the second week of vacation (and read Unbroken – Hillenbrand, The Left Hand of God – Hoffman, and Capitol Games – Haig, instead). But I picked it up again later with great pleasure.

 

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Book of the Month – August 2011

by Steve Laube

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs (published by Oxford in June 2011) is this month’s “Book of the Month.” I recommend you pick up a copy and enjoy the experience for yourself.

It seems a little odd to read a book about reading. But for those of us who are in the “business” of creating books it is always interesting to read a wise person’s take on the very lifeblood of our profession.

Many people say they no longer read and yet ironically they are always “reading” their texts, emails, blogs or favorite social network hub. They are not necessarily reading books which means they are truly missing out on the experiences of a lifetime. Alan Jacobs, a professor of English at Wheaton College offers some simple, powerful, and much needed advice:

read at whim,

read what gives you delight,

and do so without shame.

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Book of the Month – July 2011

by Steve Laube

Small Message, Big Impact by Terri L. Sjodin is this month’s “Book of the Month.” I recommend that every veteran and aspiring writer read this book and glean from it.

The key to this book is in the subtitle: How to Put the Power of the Elevator Speech Effect to Work for You. Sjodin defines the elevator speech as:  “A brief presentation that introduces a product, service, philosophy, or an idea.  The name suggests the notion that the message should be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride, up to about three minutes.  Its general purpose is to intrigue and inspire a listener to want to hear more of the presenter’s complete proposition in the near future.”

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Criticism

I would like to tell you about a most enjoyable day. Our agency’s guidelines request that unsolicited manuscripts come via the post (I know it’s old-school but it works for us), but we still receive e-mail submissions. I spent an entire morning going through that particular in-box, having an assistant send standard e-mail rejection letters, since none were anything our agency could/would handle.

Very soon I received three separate responses:

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Book Review – Inbound Marketing

In February I was in the Denver airport waiting for a flight. As usual I couldn’t resist browsing the bookstore shelves. Something about the book Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah caught my eye. So, on impulse, I bought the book and began reading it on the plane. I learned a lot about this phenomenon called social marketing and thought that it would be a great book for all authors to read. But I never got around to writing a review!

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A Year in Review

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The Christmas glow is still present and since the publishing world is, in essence, on vacation, it is a perfect time to to reflect on the past twelve months.

This was a hard year for many as the economy touched everyone in some way. And yet, despite the ominous cloud of doom and gloom, there were many exciting things to celebrate.

On a personal level our middle daughter was married at the end of June. What a joy to see God at the center of the ceremony. And our oldest daughter had a blast playing keyboards for Alice Cooper (singing “School’s Out”) in front of 50,000 people at the ASU graduation ceremony in May.

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Art of War for Writers

Periodically I plan to recommend a title or two for you to read. I’ve always enjoyed this form of “word-of-mouth” marketing, thus I will “pay it forward.”

Yesterday afternoon I received James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers: fiction writing strategies, tactics, and exercises (published by Writer’s Digest Books). With interest I took the book home and devoured it. Not literally of course, as I’m not sure what the pages would have tasted like with extra cheese. But I could not keep from turning the pages with delight.

James Scott Bell has done an immeasurable service to writers everywhere. This little book is chock full of sage advice. Loosely based on the ancient classic The Art of War he consistently nudges the reader with nuggets of wisdom that are hard to assail.

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