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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: industry, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 70
1. Underground in the city

Most people living in large towns and cities probably give little thought to soil. Why should they? At a first glance, much of the ground in towns and cities is sealed with concrete, asphalt and bricks, and most city-dwellers have little reason to have contact with soil. To most, soil in cities is simply dirt. But soil is actually in abundance in cities: it lays beneath the many small gardens, flower beds, road and railway verges, parks, sports grounds, school playing fields, and allotments of the city, where it plays many under appreciated roles.

The post Underground in the city appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Podcorn Podcast: Best of the Comics Industry 2015

PodcornTVLogoBrandon and Alex talk about the best comics and comics creators of 2015!

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3. Climate change and the Paris Conference: is the UNFCCC process flawed?

As representatives from 146 countries gather in Paris for the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, we’ve turned to our Very Short Introduction series for insight into the process, politics and topics of discussion of the conference. Is the UNFCCC process flawed?

The post Climate change and the Paris Conference: is the UNFCCC process flawed? appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. Can leadership be taught?

Leadership training has become a multi-billion dollar global industry. The reason for this growth is that organizations, faced with new technology, changing markets, fierce competition, and diverse employees, must adapt and innovate or go under. Because of this, organizations need leaders with vision and the ability to engage willing collaborators. However, according to interviews with business executives reported in the McKinsey Quarterly, leadership programs are not developing global leaders.

The post Can leadership be taught? appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. Innovation and safety in high-risk organizations

The construction or recertification of a nuclear power plant often draws considerable attention from activists concerned about safety. However, nuclear powered US Navy (USN) ships routinely dock in the most heavily populated areas without creating any controversy at all. How has the USN managed to maintain such an impressive safety record?

The USN is not alone, many organizations, such as nuclear public utilities, confront the need to maintain perfect reliability or face catastrophe. However, this compelling need to be reliable does not insulate them from the need to innovate and change.  Given the high stakes and the risks that changes in one part of an organization’s system will have consequences for others, how can such organizations make better decisions regarding innovation? The experience of the USN is apt here as well.

Given that they have at their core a nuclear reactor, navy submarines are clearly high-risk organizations that need to innovate yet must maintain 100% reliability.  Shaped by the disastrous loss of the USS Thresher in 1963 the U.S. Navy (USN) adopted a very cautious approach dominated by safety considerations. In contrast, the Soviet Navy, mindful of its inferior naval position relative to the United States and her allies, adopted a much more aggressive approach focused on pushing the limits of what its submarines could do.

Decision-making in both organizations was complex and very different. It was a complex interaction among individuals confronting a central problem (their opponents’ capabilities) with a wide range of solutions. In addition, the solution was arrived at through a negotiated political process in response to another party that was, ironically, never directly addressed, i.e. the submarines never fought the opponent.

Perhaps ironically, given its government’s reputation for rigidity, it was the Soviet Navy that was far more entrepreneurial and innovative. The Soviets often decided to develop multiple types of different attack submarines – submarines armed with scores of guided missiles to attack U.S. carrier battle groups, referred to as SSGNs, and smaller submarines designed to attack other submarines. In contrast the USN adopted a much more conservative approach, choosing to modify its designs slightly such as by adding vertical launch tubes to its Los Angeles class submarines. It helped the USN that it needed its submarines to mostly do one thing – attack enemy submarines – while the Soviets needed their submarines to both attack submarines and USN carrier groups.

The Hunt for Red October, Soviet Submarine, by Kevin Labianco. CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 via Flickr.
The Hunt for Red October, Soviet Submarine – 1970s, by Kevin Labianco. CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 via Flickr.

As a result of their innovation, aided by utilizing design bureaus, something that does not exist in the U.S. military-industry complex, the Soviets made great strides in closing the performance gaps with the USN. Their Alfa class submarines were very fast and deep diving. Their final class of submarine before the disintegration of the Soviet Union – the Akula class – was largely a match for the Los Angeles class boats of the USN. However, they did so at a high price.

Soviet submarines suffered from many accidents, including ones involving their nuclear reactor. Both their SSGNs, designed to attack USN carrier groups, as well as their attack submarines, had many problems. After 1963 the Soviets had at least 15 major accidents that resulted in a total loss of the boat or major damage to its nuclear reactor. One submarine, the K429 actually sunk twice. The innovative Alfas, immortalized in The Hunt for Red October, were so trouble-prone that they were all decommissioned in 1990 save for one that had its innovative reactor replaced with a conventional one. In contrast, the USN had no accidents, though one submarine, the USS Scorpion, was lost in 1968 to unknown causes.

Why were the USN submarines so much more reliable? There were four basic reasons. First, the U.S. system allowed for much more open communication among the relevant actors. This allowed for easier mutual adjustment between the complex yet tightly integrated systems. Second, the U.S. system diffused power much more than in the Soviet political system. As a result, the U.S. pursued less radical innovations. Third, in the U.S. system decision makers often worked with more than one group – for example a U.S. admiral not only worked within the Navy, but also interacted with the shipyards and with Congress. Finally, Admiral Rickover was a strong safety advocate who instilled a strong safety culture that has endured to this day.

In short, share information, share power, make sure you know what you are doing and have someone powerful who is an advocate for safety. Like so much in management it sounds like common sense if you explain it well, but in reality it is very hard to do, as the Soviets discovered.

Feature image credit: Submarine, by subadei. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

The post Innovation and safety in high-risk organizations appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. Justin Chanda: The State of the State of the Industry

Justin Chanda is vice president, publisher of three flagship children's imprints at Simon & Schuster: S&S Books for Young Readers, McElderry Books and Atheneum. He oversees the publication of two hundred and fifty titles per year ranging from the youngest picture book to the edgiest YA.

Justin feels he needs to begin by telling us: the e-book has not engulfed our universe; printed things on paper have not been eradicated; self publishing has not taken over; drones are not delivering our books--yet.

The good news is: children still need books.

Get ready! Justin tells us there's a new trend! It's going to change the face of publishing forever. It's contemporary YA. This has been the reaction lately, as if contemporary YA hasn't been done. Tell that to Judy Blume and Laurie Halse Anderson.

This business in cyclical.

Trends are undeniable and influenced by many factors. They are not predictable. You can't write to a trend. If you do, that trend will already be over by the time you're done writing  your book. You have to write the book that you are meant to write. "Your voice is the biggest capital you have in this business."

While there are still what is considered girl books and boy books, there's a great rise in gender-neutral books in middle grade. This is great.

Picture books continue their rise back to life. Yes! Successful picture books now tend to have an identifiable character, humor, adult and child appeal, and they are leaning younger (targeting about 5 too 6 year old).

Justin is a huge fan of e-books. They have done a lot help and sustain the reading growth.

There was a belief that ebooks would kill the picture book, but that is not true. The wonderful printed books that you read with a child in your lap are selling more and more.

The adoption of the Common Core standards across the country is now a key focus. People have said it will kill fiction in the classroom. Common Core is far from perfect and we don't even know if it will be around in a few years. Consider that Locomotion by Brian Floca has found great success and is being used in classrooms as part of the Common Core, but it was written well before Common Core was in place.

Our job as writers is to create good books, not to write toward a trend or the Common Core. Just like trends there will be different educational waves that will come and go.

On diversity: It's the responsibly of publishers and publishing houses to publish books that are as diverse as the world we live in. However, the responsibility is not solely in the hands of the publishers, it's also in the hands of those of us writing the books, the agents representing them, the store selling books. We are all in it together.

Our main focus as writers and illustrators should be story. Write books. Illustrate books.

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7. SCBWI Is Here for You

If you're involved in children's writing and/or illustrating in any way (which I assume you are since you're reading this blog), and if you don't already know about SCBWI, let me enlighten you. Because this organization will help you in perfecting your craft, learning about the industry, connecting with colleagues, and avoiding many mistakes that will save you time. 

The world's most unpronounceable acronym stands for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Our international headquarters is based in Los Angeles, and we have regional chapters throughout the world. The region we're in is Utah/southern Idaho. You can learn lots more at the web site scbwi.org and at our region's page on that site. 

Tonight--yes, July 18, 2014--you have a chance to connect in person with others in the organization, including me. We're gathering for the annual summer potluck, which is just a time to socialize, talk shop, and generally have a blast.  Here are all the details:

Hello writers and illustrators in Utah and Southern Idaho!

Writing or illustrating can be a lonely endeavor, so join us this summer for some much-needed social time.  We'll be coming together at the Rice Terrace Pavilion at Liberty Park (600 E. 900 S. in Salt Lake City, Utah) on Friday, July 18th from 6pm-9pm to eat and mingle.

You don't have to be a member of SCBWI to join us for this free event, so bring all your writing or illustrating friends with you. The more the merrier! 

Potluck assignments are as follows:
YA writers: pasta salads, potato salads, deviled eggs
MG writers: fruit, fruit salads, desserts
Picture Book writers: fried chicken, finger sandwiches, other finger foods
Illustrators: green salads, chips and dips
You may want to bring your own lawn chair as well.

Are you still struggling to figure out where to start with your online presence? Bring your smartphones and other wifi-enabled devices and we'll help you get connected. We'll have teachers on hand to walk you through the steps to signing up and using your social networks of choice, as well as offer suggestions on ways to contibute to the online conversation.
Can't make it to the social? This year you can join us virtually! We will be using the hashtags #GoSocial and #SCBWIUtahSouthIdaho for this event, so you can follow the event on twitter, instagram, and other social networks.

We hope to see you at the social (in person or online)!

For a map and directions to the pavilion, please visit our website at http://utahsouthidaho.scbwi.org/events/2014utah-summer-potluck-social/

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8. Virtual Animators with James Lopez

Last fall I took a class with Virtual Animators (http://www.virtualanimators.com/)  taught by James Lopez. I’ve had quite a few questions from the internets about what I thought, so I thought I’d write a note about my experience.

About the class: Character Design with Disney Artist & Animator James Lopez is a 12 week course taught online. See his IMDB here or amazing work here. The class is viewed through Adobe connect once per week for 12 (12!) weeks. You log in and the VA team, James and your classmates are online. You can ask questions via a chat box, and the VA team does a great job keeping track of the chat and bringing questions to James. The class is not structured, giving James the freedom to teach the class to the group’s skill level. You are also invited to send it work weekly to have it reviewed by James online.

What I thought: 

1. The cost: usually where I’d start when considering a class. I didn’t have to consider the class cost here, since I won this class in a contest, but even if I hadn’t it would be a great deal. (As a note: this is not an endorsed post, haha). All of these courses are so affordable- This one was $250, which is really a couple of trips to the grocery store. For 12 weeks, that breaks down to $20/ class- for an experienced teacher at James, who teaches at Cal Arts… it’s beyond a bargain.

2. The class size: SMALL. There were under ten people in our class, which allows for everyone to ask questions and see James visually explain the answer. You can send emails with questions and receive individual attention.

3. The talent & experience of the instructors: I’ve only taken one class with VA (I am planning on another class this spring/ summer) and the instructors are so experienced and knowledgeable it’s unreal to have this sort of individualized attention. James is a friendly and giving individual who really cares about paying it forward and working with artists of all skill levels. He’s got so much knowledge and information it’s a thrill to see him visually work out problems and review your work. 

4. The Virtual Animators team: Usually I wouldn’t touch on the “customer service” aspect in this sort of thing, but it was so amazing it needs to be mentioned. The small group who runs this online class system are probably the most genuine and friendly team ever. They’re focused around making a good experience for everyone involved, and keep up with their students. If I had a question or concern I would have an email back super quick. Also, as I mentioned above, they are in the classes with you running the sessions and keep on top of questions for the instructor. 

5. Work Review: You send in your work, it gets a review online that week or the next. James was thorough and incredibly professional when reviewing work- it sort of felt like I was working with him at a studio! I learned a lot in such a small amount of time. 

6. Recorded Classes: Classes are recored and posted on vimeo so you can watch later, or if you miss a class you can catch up. This was really helpful to me, watching in the midwest where the class time was late. Also, if you miss something, you can re-watch the class too!

7. A Personal Connection to the industry: As I mentioned above, I’m located in the midwest. It’s sort of like being on my own island, far away from the sunshine and talent network of California. Being involved in this class allowed me to connect at CTNX to the VA team, including founder Bill Recinos (who has an impressive IMDB himself), meet James Lopez and be involved in the community.

Ok, so, that’s a lot of writing. I guess you can see that I really loved the class. Negatives include the regular things of online classes- difficult to connect to classmates, really late live class times because of the time difference- but the benefits far outweigh these small points. I’m going to be completely honest, if you’ve ever thought of taking an online class, don’t think twice about this one, or any with these guys. This class is definitely the best online class I’ve taken based on the personal attention, small class size and the amount of information I learned in a short period of time.

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9. Self-help isn’t what it used to be

By Peter W. Sinnema

Self-help isn’t what it used to be. At least, its early renditions were cast in a style alien to the contemporary ear.

The concept was first named (and voluminously expounded) by Samuel Smiles in his 1859 best-seller, Self-Help: With Illustrations of Character, Conduct, and Perseverance. Erstwhile apothecary, railway secretary, newspaper editor, and biographer, Smiles’ birth in Haddington, Scotland marks its bicentennial on December 23. If this populist Victorian sage is worth remembering for anything, it must be for his original self-help book, translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian, Danish, Japanese, Croatian, Czech, Arabic, Turkish, and various native languages of India within his own lifespan, and purchased by more than a quarter-million readers by the time of the author’s death in 1904.

Smiles Samuel black white

Smiles’ own moral and professional diligence embodied the cardinal virtue of his homespun philosophy: perseverance. He outlined his gospel of “energetic individualism” in refreshingly simple terms, encouraging humble mechanics and beleaguered artisans to own and cultivate the “power of self-help, of patient purpose, resolute working, and steadfast integrity” as they struggled to improve their lot in the new age of mass industry. Smiles promoted self-help as practiced or habitual independence, a disciplined husbandry of the inner man “effected by means of … action, economy, and self-denial.”

Given that Smiles published his aphoristic opus at a time when the nascent welfare state was represented by the grim apparatus of the workhouse—that infamously unpleasant asylum for the destitute reorganized under the oppressive Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834—present-day readers may be taken aback by the animosity with which Smiles condemned all “help from without”: states and statutes could do nothing to “make the idle industrious, the thriftless provident, or the drunken sober.” Smiles denied the power of institutions to ameliorate individual vice and ignorance, and in anticipation of Margaret Thatcher’s notorious declaration that “there is no such thing as society,” he regarded nations as nothing more than aggregates of individual conditions. The remedy for social evil and decay thus resided “not so much in altering laws and modifying institutions, as in helping and stimulating men to elevate and improve themselves by their own free and independent individual action.”

Smiles ran with his self-help idea for some forty years, enjoying social and commercial success with books on related themes such as Character (1871), Thrift (1875), and Duty (1880). Dying only three years after the state funeral of Queen Victoria, Smiles was quickly typecast as a spokesman for the worst hypocrisies of his era. In his socialist masterpiece The Ragged-Torusered Philanthropists (1906), Robert Tressell lambasted Self-Help as bourgeois propaganda “suitable for perusal by persons suffering from almost complete obliteration of the mental faculties,” while more recently E. J. Hobsbawm added Smiles to his list of “self-made journalist-publishers who hymned the virtues of capitalism” (The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848: 1961). Surely these are justifiable indictments of a man whose best-known work opens with the parsimonious bromide, “Heaven helps those who help themselves”!

Before we relegate Smiles’ invocation of self-mastery and laborious endurance to the dustbin of history, however, we’d do well to recall the singular contribution made by his account of “indefatigable industry” to our contemporary culture of self-help. True, Smiles’ highly repetitive and at-times cumbrous tribute to the “spirit of self-help” can read like a naïve, even perverse plumping of mere doggedness in the face of a hostile world. But then, repetition is of decisive rhetorical importance for Smiles, just as it is for any effective self-help author of the twenty-first century.

Smiles’ secular hagiography of “labourers in all ranks and conditions of life, cultivators of the soil and explorers of the mine, inventors and discoverers, manufacturers, mechanics and artisans, poets, philosophers, and politicians” derives its affective grit, its capacity to inspire and reform, from iterative structure. Self-Help’s biographical exemplars (there are literally hundreds of them, from Charles Abbott and Peter Abelard to John Ziska and Francesco Zuccarelli) are invariably martyred—to unsympathetic wives, malicious priests, ruthless state functionaries, failed technologies—but ultimately to the requisites of gripping narrative and readerly pleasure. In the end we want to emulate these suffering stalwarts because, as Smiles himself pointed out in his revised 1866 preface to Self-Help, the redundant plotline of affliction-perseverance-success “proved attractive … by reason of the variety and anecdotal illustrations of life and character which it contains, and the interest which all more or less feel in the labours, the trials, the struggles, and the achievements of others.”

Even the most erudite self-help guru must embrace the compositional obligations of repetition and (auto)biographical exemplarity that originated with Smiles. Kathleen Norris’s moving exploration, at once recondite and unsentimental, of the acedia that grips our Western culture, the spiritual torpor that is self-help’s universal, symptomological object, is a case in point. Her study of the “restless boredom, frantic escapism, commitment phobia, and enervating despair that plagues us today,” driving millions to the bottle or the therapist’s office, acquires its poignancy from her insistence that the pressing question, “Why care?” can only be answered “by relating [her] personal history with acedia, telling stories from … infancy, childhood, and adolescence” (Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life: 2008). Norris’ self, exposed, diagnosed, and at least partly healed through the telling of personal history, is the modern-day version of Smiles’ paradigmatic, self-motivated individual in expectant pursuit of “elevation of character, without which capacity is worthless and worldly success is naught.”

Peter W. Sinnema is Professor of English at the University of Alberta. His teaching and research focuses on Victorian literature and culture. He is the editor of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Self-Help by Samuel Smiles. A bestseller immediately after its publication in 1859, Self-Help propelled its author to fame and rapidly became one of Victorian Britain’s most important statements on the allied virtues of hard work, thrift, and perseverance.

For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Image credit: By Samuel Smiles (d. 1904) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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10. Precieved value of ebooks decreasing?

Reading a Moby Lives article this morning (fantastic blog BTW) and they posted two surveys taken by author Nathan Bransford where he asked people what they thought an ebook should cost if the hardcover retailed at $25.

He ran the first survey on June 14 2010:

And then ran the exact same survey again on February 2, 2011:

The polls are entirely unscientific but it appears that all the $9.99 pricing pushes that have been going on for the past year or two are really leaving their mark. 

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11. Happy 10th Birthday ChrisLands

One of our bookselling partners, ChrisLands, is having a birthday this month. It has been ten years since they opened up shop as tool for independent booksellers to set up their own e-commerce websites (ie: sites which can take credit card details and sell online).  James, the site's creator, just sent us a note mentioning that as part of their celebration they are having a special offer for booksellers

In their 10 years, ChrisLands established themselves as a well-respected member of the online bookselling community.  Well known for understanding the needs of independent booksellers, they continue developing their base product, updating old features, and adding new features based entirely on booksellers’ needs.

As their birthday gift to you and to celebrate 10 years in business, ChrisLands has a special birthday sign-up offer of 50% off the signup fee for new stores from now until June 30th, 2011. Don’t miss this opportunity to get your own online bookstore.  Visit ChrisLands.com to learn more about the features and benefits of this company and to see examples of great ChrisLands sites.

At BookFinder.com we think it's great because every time a bookseller opens a ChrisLands account it means that there are more interesting books available online for all of us to find when we need or want them, and remember this is another good way to make your books searchable by BookFinder.com if they are not already.

[Now Reading: Indignation by Philip Roth]

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12. What is the value of book?

How much do you think a good story is worth?  I don't mean a book necessarily since books can be collectible and that's not what I am getting at here, but how much do you think a novel length story is worth?

When deciding this you might compare the value of the read vs. other entertainments such as the cost of a movie rental? The price of a video game? The cost of a newspaper or magazine? The drop in fee for a local gym or that knitting class at the community center?  For me the value varies wildly depending on how much I enjoy (or expect to enjoy) the book. 

With that in mind I have been thinking about the current "race to the bottom" debate in e-publishing that has been raging on the blogosphere. For those of you who are unaware it essentially boils down (in an inelegant way) to publishers claiming that self published authors are going to ruin publishing by offering eBooks at rock bottom prices; while the self-published authors are claiming that large publishing houses are bloated profiteers.

From the publishers side: two years ago I posted a rough breakdown of what the costs of printing a book might be for a traditional publisher.  Based on these figures you get closer to understanding the $9.99 price point that publishers seem to be trying to stick with for an ebook.  Shave a little here and there and then knock off the additional costs associated with a physical book and you are close to that figure.  Everyone takes a bit of a hit in total values but I can see where they are coming from.

On the other hand it's now very common to see self published ebooks for sale for as little as $0.99-$2.99. You may also see these self published authors explaining that they are in fact making money at this price.  So why do the publishers need to charge more?

Now that authors can self publish without having to front the serious amounts of cash to physically print their books they are less likely to need a publisher to bankroll the project.  Couple this with the fact that an author can now act as or hire a publicist and designer on a piece meal basis to cover most of the basic marketing needed for a book launch and you can see why some mid and backlist authors choose to self publish.

I am making the suggestion that now a publishers greatest value is not to the average author but to the reader.  Publishers do help separate the wheat from the chaff. By helping readers find quality writers they can save them from that feeling of wanting those last few hours back.

I am willing to pay a bit more to know that the novel I am about to read is at least going to be well written and hopefully interesting but exactly how much more I am willing to pay for that is what publishers need to figure out.  I kind of wish I could tell them.

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13. City of Boston to sell entire contents of print shop

I just found out via Boing Boing that the city of Boston has shut down it's 78 year old print shop in a cost cutting effort and is now auctioning off its equipment in 200 lots.  The auction is being held on Feb 24 at 11AM estern and will be simultaneously conducted in the factory at 174 North St. as well as digitally.

There is all sorts of great old printing gear so I suggest any pamphleteers, zinesters, and print shops take a gander at the wares on offer.  In the Boston Globe they described an old-fashioned platen press with a hand lever and foot pedal and a Linotype machines that stand 6 1/2 feet tall as two of the pieces.

[Now Reading: Old Mans War by John Scalzi]


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14. Let's Take It Nice and Easy

Two things have popped up this morning so far on Twitter that make me sit on edge. And both have to do with the potential for carelessness that comes with the writing and querying process out there.

First, is the lovely National Novel Writing Month. The infamous NaNoWriMo. Where you start AND finish an entire novel in one month. Second, queries sent from mobile devices.

Now, neither thing is particularly offensive, but both can lead to some undesirable outcomes. I'm not anti-NaNoWriMo. I actually think it can be pretty great for getting your butt in the chair and making you finish something. Deadlines are incredibly helpful for that. But the product of NaNoWriMo should not be treated as a final product. It's hard not to see the bump in my queries in December and January from these submissions.

You need to then put the book away, come back later, edit it, read it again, show it to your critique group, edit it again, and then maybe go out on submission with it. Like anything else, good books are not rushed. Take your time, get it right. 

As for the queries sent from mobile devices, I already had 2 writers argue with me on Twitter that this is okay. The content of the message is matters--not the medium. Point taken. And I'm not saying DON'T do it. But I want you to think about it. Mobile devices are not meant for intensive, detailed work. They are meant for on-the-go keeping-an-eye on things. I have both an iPhone and iPad, and I use both frequently for productivity. I'm cool with that. But I know for myself that I am more prone to typos and errors when using those devices than on my computer. 

Also, my files aren't on my mobile devices. There are here on my laptop, neatly organized, alongside my tracking spreadsheets so I can keep good records. I would never pitch editors and send out manuscripts from my iPad. Would you want me to?

It's possible more of the problem is that I can see the "Sent from my mobile device" signature. So a simple solution is just to delete it before sending. But, I'd encourage you to think about your process and whether the mobile device best suits it. 

My point? SLOW DOWN. Everything is rushed these days. We seem to think if it's not moving fast it's not good enough. I say we begin a counterrevolution to bring back care, diligence, and contemplation. Who's with me?

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15. Guest Post: Author Lesley McDowell on

A recent article in The Guardian, "Jodi Picoult Attacks Favouritism to 'White Male Literary Darlings'," has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention in the book world. Lesley McDowell, author of Between the Sheets: The Literary Liasons of Nine 20th Century Women Writers, knows the feeling all to well. She shared her thoughts on the article--and how she thinks demographics can affect the gatekeepers of publicity, book reviewers--below. Thanks, Lesley!

When I stepped out of the world of academia in 1997 and into literary journalism, I had a mortgage and bills to pay. I needed to make money. So I took a look at the literary pages and thought, hmmm. No-one’s going to let me review the latest Martin Amis. Or the latest Salman Rushdie. Or the latest Ian McEwan...I could see I just didn’t have the right equipment for the job, despite a PhD on James Joyce.

Fortunately, though, I did have the right equipment to review the latest Jane Smiley. Or Carol Shields. Or Alice Hoffman. The women writers that the boys won’t touch with their barge poles. But that was fine by me – what they didn’t want, I took gratefully and all those reviews of all those superb women writers paid my mortgage and my bills. They still do. And I still don’t get the big boys to review – the latest Amis or Rushdie or McEwan goes, by and large, to lead male reviewers. I didn’t care, back in 1997. I built my own little ghetto and I was just fine with that. I needed the cash, plus I got to read some of the best literature that the late twentieth century had to offer.

And now? I do occasionally review a book by a man. Just as some male critics do very occasionally review a book by a woman (of the 26 reviews I’ve received for my own book, Between the Sheets, four – yes, 4 - have been by men). But I like pushing for the women writers – I see it as my job to give them attention they might otherwise be denied if a literary editor can’t find another female critic to review them in time. The financial pressure is still there, but I don’t see my reviewing, or the books I review, as part of a ghetto any more.

And yet that sense of a ghetto is still there. I’m guessing that Michiko Kakutani didn’t face quite the same financial pressures I did, when she began building her career as a major literary critic. I’m guessing she could afford to badger for the boys’ books, maybe wait till that important male reviewer was off sick and she could steal the latest Amis for herself. I’m not saying I never reviewed a lead title, but the lead titles are invariably by male authors, so if you want to be a major reviewer, you tend to have to concentrate on the boys. And so, I’m guessing, that’s what Kakutani did. It got her the status she has today.

So why would she take a step down and review the latest Jodi Picoult? Jodi Picoult, for heaven’s sake! What does she know about family drama? Nothing that Jonathan Franzen doesn’t know much, much better, it would appear. Women have been writing about the family for decades, and been castigated for it, marginalised as frivolous, domestic, local. Occasionally a woman writer is accorded proper status – oh, how it pains

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16. Year over year decline in Swords and Magic on fantasy book covers

Orbit Books reports a 25% decrease in Swords and a 20% decrease in "Glowy Magic" on fantasy book covers.  I think this spells danger for the genre! 

FantasyCoverArt Trends

This is the best book news story of the week, I don't care that it's only Monday, nothing will top this.

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17. Why Buy the Cow...?

This blog post has been brought to you by the power of Twitter. It can alternately be titled "If You Liked It, Then You Should Have Put a Ring on It."

Something that's been known to happen both between authors and agents, and then agents and editors is the revision request without a commitment of a representation offer or a contract. Mostly, the request for a revision is a good thing. It means the agent or editor sees potential and wants to develop it.

I myself have asked an author for an exclusive revision on a few occasions. What usually happens is that I'll see something promising, read it, know something's there, but not feel confident enough to take it on without fixing those nagging areas. Part of this has to do with wanting to make sure you're also taking on an author who is CAPABLE of revision. Part of it is just making sure you can make it fit the market.

Whenever I ask for a revision, I do it with the best of intentions. I WANT that project to work. More often than not, this has had good results for me. I have several clients who I did an exclusive revision with first, and then offered representation after seeing the finished product. Those have also gone on to sell to publishers. 

My process is usually to offer the writer this trade: I will give you my notes, and in exchange you will give me first look at the revision. And if I don't choose to take on the project at that point, you are then free to take that revision anywhere you like.

I like to think that's fair. Because I don't want to spend a lot of time giving you notes for you to take my effort and give it to someone else first. And I want you to be free to take a hopefully stronger project elsewhere too. I don't usually set a time limit on it, since I can't dictate how long your revision process should take. 

Sometimes it just doesn't work though. And these cases are always really tough. Sometimes the project can't evolve past "potential." Sometimes the author just isn't skilled enough to fix it. Invariably I feel a little guilty if I pass on a revision. The idea isn't to make the author jump through unnecessary hoops. It's to make sure we're getting the right projects signed. Our hope is always that even if the revision doesn't work, the project is still stronger and someone else might have luck with it. 

This happens on the other side of the table too. And I've admittedly been just as frustrated when an editor has asked for an exclusive revision on a client's book, loved it, and then declined to offer. That happens too. So I understand why writers might hesitate without us offering to make anything official.

But I think at the end of the day, someone taking interest enough to want to see where it can go is a good thing. And this industry requires such collaboration, that any input is inevitable and will help you. So just keep your expectations in check, and you should be in good shape.

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18. Are you following #whatitmeanstobeanagent?

Just a quick note from the trenches today, to send you over to Twitter to follow a great thread: #whatitmeanstobeanagent

Started by superstar Jason Ashlock, many luminaries and minor luminaries (i.e. me) have been contributing our thoughts on our job, from the sublime to the mundane. 

Go enjoy! And learn something. Back to reading for me...


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19. Beauty Imagined: Boom Time for Natural Cosmetics


By Kirsty McHugh, OUP UK

Geoffrey Jones is the Isidor Straus Professor of Business History at Harvard Business School. He researches the history of global business and has written extensively on the evolution of international entrepreneurship and multinational corporations, specializing in consumer products including beauty and fashion, as well as services such as banking and trading. His most recent book is Beauty Imagined: A History of the Global Beauty Industry. In the original post below, Professor Jones writes about the boom in natural cosmetics.

Next month, on March 24-26, the leaders of the natural cosmetics industry will assemble at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in New York City to discuss the boom time for natural beauty. Or, at least, what many are betting will be a boom. The event is organized by Organic Monitor, which recently issued a report outlining how large companies have been paying huge sums to buy iconic brands in this market segment. It has been quite a gold rush so far. In 2006 global industry leader L’Oréal paid over $1 billion for Britain’s Body Shop. Soon afterwards the bleach manufacturer Clorox – implausibly – paid $925 for Burt’s Bees, a Maine-based company which had begun making candles from the beeswax created as a by-product of their honey business twenty years previously, and grown to make $170 million of sales of organic beauty products. In 2008 Estée Lauder, an early mover in this domain which had bought Aveda in 1997 and grown the brand globally, took a stake in the trendy Indian business Forest Essentials, an ayurvedic cosmetics company which makes its products by hand in a village in the Himalayas. And this year kicked off with Shiseido, Japan’s leading beauty company, paying the enormous sum of $1.7 billion for Bare Escentuals, the San Francisco–based company which has built the minerals-based cosmetic market.

The natural cosmetics boom has been a long time coming. Entrepreneurs began to experiment making cosmetics from plants rather than chemicals as far back as the 1950s. In 1954 Jacques Courtin-Clarins, a young medical student who had observed that when patients were treated for circulatory problems with massage their skin looked better, started a small business making botanical body oils. At the end of the decade Yves Rocher launched a company which made plant-based cosmetics distributed through mail order in the rural village of La Gacilly in Brittany. The big problem for all these ventures was to find customers, who stubbornly preferred products which employed modern science to Beauty Imaginedmake them look younger and sexier. Natural cosmetics remained for decades an activity for the unusual entr

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20. Free Book Repair Training Manual

I just found this and thought that some beginner booksellers or collectors might find this of use.  The Alaska State Library published a manual on book repair.  It is an e-book and can be downloaded for free from the Alaska State Library site.  It also appears that you may print it out for your own use as well as long as you are not selling it.

Hopefully this can be useful to some of our readers.

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21. Publishing-Related Backlist

All right, so some observation of my blog (in all its diverse interests, alas) has forced me to notice that some of my "focus" is being lost. Woopsies. This is, after all, supposed to be a blog about publishing.

I don't like reposting information because it's boring to people who've seen it before, but as we all know, bloggers come and go. So for those of my many friends who may have missed some of my early "articles" that are actually about, umm, publishing, I thought I'd post a little link-back cheat sheet.

Moonrat's Guide to Getting Published--this is pretty basic, and still the link I give to people who feel brand-new to it all.

Why You Should Never Submit Unagented to a Publishing Company--I know I'm basically preaching to the converted here. But please forward this to all your friends who think this is a good idea.

How Royalties Work--Just the basics, here. Lots of great comments clarifying things I missed, too.

Things You Should Be Able to Expect from Your Editor--Because there are some things it's ok to ask for! Here are some tricks for getting as much as you can out of the relationship.

Publishing by Omission
--the [mostly] unintentional racism that happens in book publication, and what you can do to fight it.

Marketing Your Book--More tricks for getting the most possible from your publishing company in terms of marketing.

Why 40% of books printed are pulped
--and all the background info you need to know about laydowns, sell-in, and cash-flow concerns that are the silly backbone of our industry.

Why it's super important to make your delivery date as an author

Book people are nice
--a story about why it's more important to be nice than cool in publishing

What Makes a Dream Author--Because editors are neurotic, crazy people, and you never know what will make them happy or drive them into their holes in the ground--a little cheat sheet.

Why it's important to know your agent is following up with editors
(from my editorial perspective)

My first print run is tiny! How do I save my book?
Some solace (most first print runs are tiny) and some tips.

To cloth or not to cloth? My thoughts on paperback originals versus hardcover.

My open letter to Overwriters everywhere.

Hedging your bets--how every stage of publication is a gamble, and where you should pause to ask yourself about risks.

What's safe to syndicate online
--my thoughts on this change and evolve, but here's where I'm at currently re: what to put up online if you're an author seeking publication, and what to protect and NOT put up.

Pre-editing--my thoughts on hiring a developmental editor before submitting to an agent or before your agent submits to houses.

Subrights--my thoughts on the advantages to either selling or retaining subrights (like foreign language translation, audio, book club, etc).

The Editing Cycle--a confession (from the editor's perspective).

What constitutes good sales for a literary novel?
With all the lying we publishing folks do about print runs and sales figures, it's hard to even know which way is up. Well, here's my opinion.

An editor's thoughts upon the death of a difficult author.

An agent told me I'm not a great writer! How do I survive?
My three tips on separating the publishing process from your creative process.

Less Is More--my manifesto on why publishing is failing as an industry, and some key ways I think we need to change.

For those of you interested in publishing, in whatever aspect, please remember I love and welcome questions.

For those of you who are shocked and dismayed to find out this is a publishing blog, fear not. I'll find an Asian pop video or a picture of a baby animal for you anon.

22 Comments on Publishing-Related Backlist, last added: 10/7/2009
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22. Google Book Settlement on hold

It's been hard to keep up with what's happening with the Google Book's settlement, but US Department of Justice recommending against the deal might have been the straw that breaks the camel's back. There is now a new deal in the works.

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23. news smatterings and entertaining things

What do you guys think of this? A new Twilight-esque cover gets Emily Bronte onto the UK bestseller list. (via Sarah Weinman)

Click here to see a truly perfect photo Maud Newton took on her walk home. For any of those spoilsports who keep shouting that reading is dead.

Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden talks about ebooks and the future of publishing (focusing on sff). Much of what he says is stuff you guys have already read 1,500 times, since we're internet babies here. But I'd like to highlight a particular statement of his:

io9: Does it make a difference to you if an author has an online reputation? Does that go into your decisions to acquire books?

PNH: Obviously it makes a difference if an author has a public online profile of some sort, even just down to the level of having a moderately popular blog. Most books sell 5, 10, or 15 thousand copies. Most are midlist books. With those people, even a modest online presence can make a difference in sales.

So cheers to everybody here, since you're here because you're working on developing an online platform.

Here, MJ Rose presents her idea for revolutionizing how authors get paid, vis a vis how much (time and money) authors are expected to spend on their own promotion. Her major points are that authors not have to "earn out" the upfront money publishers pay as an advance but then which authors are expected to spend on their own promotion--wouldn't it be more honest if promotional money fell into a different category, something that didn't need to be earned out? (Back to my idea for marketing agreements instead of/alongside advances.) Also, she suggests that royalty percentages be higher if authors are expected to be their own advocates.

Yeah, I work in a house, and yeah, I don't imagine in the mainstream publishing industry much like this is going to change soon, but--yeah, I agree with you, MJ.

That's it for now. Thoughts?

31 Comments on news smatterings and entertaining things, last added: 9/2/2009
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24. The ol' Switcheroo? Works for me.

Welcome back to the ol’ blog. Whats new? Well, the cycle continues.

New cards went out in July with a pretty good spike in web traffic; hopefully, this will mean some commissions to come. I have also gotten some good web traffic from my emails with several direct responses about the artwork. I even had a commission come from the last set of images, however we were not able to work out a suitable budget for the rights requested. It always sucks to turn down a job, and you get scared that it was a mistake. But if we do not ever say “no,” then we will never re-establish a value to the use of illustration.

You gotta value what you offer; I don’t mean you should be conceited or pompous. Don’t talk down to the client or insult them. Simply offer what you can at their budget and then state what you would need to charge for what they are requesting; this way, the choice is theirs. You aren’t “backing out;” you are providing options, and if neither option works, then the job dies with no one being at fault. I think some artists take offense at a low-budget offer, and then lash out at an art director; what purpose does that serve? Not only does it make you look like a big-headed jerk, but it also make illustrators in general look the same way.

I digressed; I wont rant about etiquette and manners today.

I’ve been a little behind on the blog posts again. Sorry. So this post features the creation of an illo for Matthew Bates, art director of SNEWS. This magazine is a trade-based magazine for folks in the outdoor/recreation field. Matthew is also art director for Backpacker; I had sent him promos aimed at work in Backpacker, and he brought me onto SNEWS, which he was re-tooling with better visuals. Confusing? Sorry!

The article was a profiling of several up-and-coming outdoor industry designers. Matthew wanted something bold and iconic, and he referenced several pieces on my site as well as some poster art that he thought would guide me in the right direction. Matthew was a pleasure to work with; he was really flexible as I was simultaneously working on other projects. We verbally communicated concepts, and we reached a point where only one sketch was needed:
I was working off of the phrase “giants of industry” which came into my mind while reading the article. I brought in specs that one would see on a blueprint or model sheet to re-enforce the industry aspect. I was really motivated by the phrase “outdoor industry,” and I wanted to somehow juxtapose the two words visually.

Matthew approved the sketch and I created two versions as he was not sure if his editors would want the “specs” or not. So I did one without (more of a portrait) and one with (more of a concept). Also, I hated the guy to the left so I re-drew his head:
In the end, Matthew used the version with specs, and that was a great relief as I felt the other version felt a little generic.

In the end, I’m not thrilled with what I did with this piece; some of the drawing isn’t my strongest. However, the artwork does what its supposed to do so it is a success. I sometimes think I lose sight of the forest for the trees. However, this piece has also inspired me to try my hand at more “group portraits” in the future. Planning is in progress so hopefully I’ll get to them soon.

Enjoy the Day,

1 Comments on The ol' Switcheroo? Works for me., last added: 7/30/2009
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25. YA? MA? What the hay?

Question of the day: I wrote a novel that I thought would be deemed "young adult." My agent read it and said it was "middle grade." What's the difference and does it matter?

Truth told, I am not an expert in anything YA. At all. But I asked my trusty agent, and here's what she said: "I'm not totally sure, but my understanding is that there is not a hard and fast rule. But my experience if the protagonist/audience is 12 or younger, it is middle grade. Of course, the content can determine it too. If it's dark, it's YA."

She suggested asking a YA editor, but since I don't write YA, I didn't really have any contacts from which to pool. To answer your question, does it matter? I do feel like off the top of my head, most of the break-out youth set books have been firmly YA, but then again, I'm not an expert. The good news is that I run a blog with a lot of readers who know things when I don't. :) So if anyone can weigh in below, please do!

6 Comments on YA? MA? What the hay?, last added: 5/29/2009
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