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1. Concentrate! The challenges of reading onscreen

Our lives are full of distractions: overheard conversations, the neighbor’s lawnmower, a baby crying in the row behind us, pop-up ads on our computers. Much of the time we can mentally dismiss their presence. But what about when we are reading? I have been studying how people read with printed text versus on digital devices.

The post Concentrate! The challenges of reading onscreen appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Make Money with E-Books: Writing & Publishing in the Digital Age

Cynthia Good is a leader in Canada's publishing industry, having worked her way from editorial director to president to publisher at Penguin Books Canada--then moving on to Humber College where she was named director emeritus and was awarded the Humber Award for Excellence in Teaching. This fall she gave a guest lecture at the University [...]
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3. How it really feels to close a bookshop

Field's Wattpad profile page.

Field’s Wattpad profile page.

Bookseller Greg Field is an inspiration. While he closed the Sydney bookstore he has run for 10 years, Sunset Books, last week in the face of tough economic realities, Field has also posted the first third of his new mystery novel on global story sharing community Wattpad and launched an app business. His is a story that demonstrates what can be achieved as the book industry faces dramatic change, as he explains …

When did you decide to close Sunset Books, how long had you been pondering it, and what were the key reasons behind your decision?

The moment? I’m not sure when exactly but I knew things at the shop had to change by Christmas 2012. By January 2013 I knew it was over. The key reasons for closing my beloved Sunset Books were like this:

  • Given the rapid change in the publishing world recently I was keenly aware that my shop had to stay both relevant and profitable. It stayed relevant but it didn’t stay as profitable as it needed to be. Bookselling is damn hard work; it takes energy, passion, drive, intelligence and business skills just to stay afloat as a ‘bricks and mortar’ bookseller right now (well anytime actually – but right now is harder). I never made a loss as a bookseller but things were getting too hard for me to justify continuing. Bookshops are not public amenities, they have to make money – and mine was making less and less every year.
  • I wanted a change. I’m a person who embraces change and I’ve been working as a bookseller for over ten years now. I’m ready for new ventures – so bring it on!

What would you say to a friend who said they were planning to open and bricks and mortar bookstore in the current climate?

Not all bookshops are in the same position as mine. There’s still a place for relevant and profitable bricks and mortar bookshops in Australia. I have the greatest respect for the lovely people that front up at their bookshop’s every day and try to make ends meet. But – to repeat – bookselling is hard work and to succeed you have to be passionate and inspired. If they had the desire and the business plan right, then I would advise my friend to approach with caution. I would recommend they seriously consider both the state of physical retail and the state of publishing in Australia before sinking their ‘hard earned’ into a bookshop.

Did you consider running an online only version of Sunset? Or going into ebook sales? If not, why not?

I did briefly consider an online only version of Sunset but knocked back the idea because I’m not in love with my own brand. I inherited the name ‘Sunset Books’ from the previous owner and if I did go into an online only business I would consider starting a brand from scratch.

I tried ebook sales but found it difficult. There are a number of obstacles for the average bookseller wanting to morph into an ebook seller. Firstly, you’re taking on a massive market and numerous powerful competitors. Most bricks and mortar retailers need to learn new skills to create a successful online business. Even if they already have those skills, the nature of selling ebooks puts you toe to toe with marketing giants and there are issues surrounding both price (product and platform) and DRM which can inhibit success.

You’ve said you might consider opening another bookstore one day. Under what circumstances?

I’ve always loved dealing with people face to face, and one of the greatest joys for a bookseller is being able to assess a person ‘in the flesh’ and recommend an appropriate book. While search engines and social media are good ways to discover a new book, there is something very human and magical being able to have this type ‘real time’ interaction.

My personal opinion is that ‘bricks and mortar’ retail has to progress to a place where either:

  • Customers are prepared to pay a premium for the physical interaction and experience of browsing. (Currently I don’t think they are.)
  • Or, internet retailers have to expand to include physical experiences for their customers.

If I felt the business plan was viable, I would consider re-opening a physical bookshop under one or both of those circumstances.

You had some fun with the closing down sale by updating us all via social media on which books were last to sell. Did this help boost sale sales? Were there some surprises?

Ummm, no, I don’t think it helped boost sales. But it did help me stay sane and not yell at people when they walked in wild eyed and started the inevitable set of ‘but why’ ‘you can’t’ what’ll I do now?’ ‘what’ll you do now?’ ‘the internet is killing us all’ conversations.

The Twitter hashtag #lastbookstanding was really just a distraction for me as things came to an end. Predictably, children’s books sold out early. I was interested to see that hardcore reference books (dictionaries, etc) sold out even before children’s. I thought Google had killed most of that – but no… not yet.

I was shattered when my two long term favourites (a dog eared Robert Pattinson bio and ‘Your Horoscope 2011’) were knocked out of the running on the last day. For the record, I was left with only three titles on my ‘everything one dollar’ final day: ‘Top Stocks 2010’, Cliff Notes for Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and Drama Classics Notes for Ibsen’s ‘The Dolls House.’ I assume the last two were not on this year’s syllabus.

What will happen to Sunset’s social media channels now?

I’ve switched my Twitter handle from @sunsetbooks to @GregPField and I’ll close down the shop’s Facebook page.

You’ve been an early adopter of new technologies (social media, apps etc) while bookselling. Has this played a role in your decision to move on?

I guess so, I’m excited by the possibilities opening up via the ‘digital revolution’.

How did Lazy Dad Studios come about? Any upcoming apps we should know about?

Lazy Dad’s was the result of my quest to create an app. I started investigating ebooks about the same time I got my first iPhone and I immediately realised ebooks could be apps and vice versa. From that point I’ve used many apps and started investigating how to build them.

Recently, I got together with an old uni friend of mine who is now a full time coder and we started Lazy Dad Studios. Our first app, Words4Cards is about to be released, it’s a collection of occasion appropriate quotes and sayings categorised into ‘Funny Birthday’ ‘Inspirational Birthday’ ‘Get Well Soon’ etc. Each quote has a direct link to Twitter, Facebook and email. Just for fun we also threw in a ‘shake for random’ feature which ended up working like ‘Magic 8 Ball’ except instead of – ‘concentrate and ask again’ you get Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde.

You’ve used Wattpad to publish your novel Death on Dangar Island. Why Wattpad? How have you found it as a platform for promoting your work?

I’ve posted the first third of Death on Dangar Island on Wattpad so far. Posting publicly has helped me focus on editing the manuscript to the best of my ability. I love writing and hate editing, so I can get lazy when it comes to going over my work and tightening it up. Posting on Wattpad in small sections helps me get through that.

The story is a murder mystery and I would love people to start reading it and trying to figure out who the killer is, but promoting my work and building a platform using Wattpad is actually secondary at this stage. The user interface on Wattpad is good, they make it easy to post and edit your story. I think of it as a working version of the manuscript available for public scrutiny and comment.

Are Lazy Dad Studios and writing your main gigs these days? Any other work/projects on the cards?

Yes, at the moment. I have some ideas about the future of book retailing that I would be interested to work on down the track.

I reckon booksellers are exactly the kinds of people who can succeed in the world of digital publishing. Would you agree, and if so, why?

Experienced booksellers could make ideal digital publishers; they have business skills, the marketing skills and an eye for a decent book. Many traditional booksellers would have to make an adjustment to the digital world if they wanted to participate, although there are some I can think of that would be ideally suited to the role.

Many of us feel torn between lamenting the demise of the book world we’ve known and loved, yet embrace emerging opportunities in the sector.  What will you miss the most about your ten years running Sunset, and what do you look forward to most about this brave new era in your life?

The smell of the place, the splendid, slowly moving panorama of covers and titles. Friendly customers sauntering through, stopping every now and then to inspect a title that’s taken their fancy. Little children laughing with glee as they run through the doors. The warm, intelligent people that have been my colleagues and peers. That’s the good stuff.

I look forward to working hard at something fresh and new and to the challenges and opportunities that arise from my current projects.

(Phew – that was a cathartic experience.)



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4. Making the Case for Magazines - Again

Most writers yearn to publish a book. No surprise! Writing conferences, blogs and professional journals are mostly aimed at book publication. Five years ago, I wrote about magazine publication as an option. Since then, the traditional book market (especially for picture books) is even tighter. And the digital/app market for picture books? Unless you are an author/illustrator, or your work is already illustrated, you're pretty much out of luck. Apps are expensive to make and developers usually look for established authors or a branded series.

So why not write for magazines? You'll get some rejection letters, but aren't they're always a part of the writing life? For non-fiction articles, you may have to write the dreaded query letter, but don't we all need practice with them? The only other disadvantages are smaller checks than a book advance and your moment of glory only lasts a month.

But consider the advantages:

1. You don't need an agent to submit.
2. Most magazine pieces are short - not as time consuming as producing a novel or picture book.
3. Using a different slant, you can often reuse your research for another piece.
4. You might see your name in print without waiting for years.
5. Often a wide audience sees your writing and you needn't spend hours on promotion.
6. You don't get wacky book reviews in professional journals.
7. Your magazine piece could earn additional money through reprint rights.
8. There are a bundle of contests and prizes to be won in the magazine world.

Magazines, anyone?

Next month I'll interview a senior editor at Highlights. Stay tuned.

6 Comments on Making the Case for Magazines - Again, last added: 3/16/2013
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5. Does one size fit all?

Stephenson t CA0 popup1 Does one size fit all?

illus. by André da Loba from the New York Times

Leonard Marcus gave a swell talk about Robert McCloskey last night, but what’s really sticking with me is a response he gave to a question at the end about ebooks. Size matters, he essentially said, when it comes to picture books and other books for young children. Of course, we all know this, but I hadn’t thought about the point in the context where Leonard was placing it, that the size and shape of whatever ebook you’re reading is subsumed by the size and shape of whatever screen you’re reading it on. The difference between the board book, picture book and big book editions of Goodnight, Gorilla disappears in your e-reader edition (which–I just tried it–is a disappointing experience indeed). I’m thinking I may need to gin up a jeremiad for our Cleveland presentation on Friday.

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The post Does one size fit all? appeared first on The Horn Book.

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6. Lucky Day: An I Hunt Killers Prequel e-book review

lyga lucky day Lucky Day: An I Hunt Killers Prequel e book reviewI’ve been reviewing Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers trilogy (I Hunt Killers, Game) for the Magazine and am about to start reading the just-released final volume, Blood of My Blood. So I was very excited to get my hands on Lucky Day: An I Hunt Killers Prequel by Barry Lyga (Little, Brown, April 2014), one of several digital-only novella prequels to the series.

Lucky Day follows Sheriff G. William Tanner (a mentor and father figure to the novels’ protagonist Jasper “Jazz” Dent, who makes a very brief appearance here) as he investigates two cases in the last weeks before a county election. One girl has been abducted and is presumed murdered, and another is found raped and killed not long after — brutal violence the likes of which small-town Lobo’s Nod and its surrounding county have not seen since pioneer days.

As the cases go colder and the community’s fears grow, G. William’s chances of re-election to sheriff’s office dwindle. But then he makes a connection between the cases, follows an uncomfortable hunch about an upstanding community member, and finds himself face to face with the killer.

Appropriately, given its adult protagonist, the tone of this prequel is very different from the novels’. Instead of Jazz’s teenage first-person narrative, here a partially omniscient third-person narrator relates G. William’s (very mature) concerns and experiences. His guilt about the cases potentially going unsolved, coupled with grief over his wife’s recent death, sends him into a near-suicidal depression. Perhaps this novella is better suited to adult readers of gritty hardboiled detective/jaded cop novels (I’m thinking fans of Jo Nesbø or Tana French) rather than the teen audience the trilogy is aimed at. That said, as a fan of those types of books myself, I enjoyed this suspenseful look at G. William’s — and the infamous Hand-in-Glove killer’s — earlier career.

Available for various e-readers; $1.99. Recommended for young adult and older users.

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The post Lucky Day: An I Hunt Killers Prequel e-book review appeared first on The Horn Book.

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7. Collaboration – an adventure to be savored!

I have found the opportunity to collaborate with illustrators something eminently rewarding, an experience that  enriches both participants and results in a more vibrant and much richer work. My first picture book, “Mending Lucille” was also a result of a collaborationWorking with the amazing Sarah Davis was inspirational! I have gone on to collaborate closely with illustrators all over the world to create numbers of other picture books, some digitally published, some in process with print publishers and some I am still researching the right publishing outlet. Finding the ‘right’ outlet is very important. Not every publisher is ‘right’ for every book.

Digital Publishing

I have had the pleasure of collaborating with first time picture book illustrators, Jade Potts [USA], Jonas Sahlstrom [Sweden], Alexandra Krasuska [Sweden] and fellow Aussie, Jodi Magi [now of Abu-Dhabi] on uTales, and am about to have my latest collaboration, “Little Dragons’ Babysitter” released with Caroline Lee. Utales is non-exclusive which means  creators can take advantage of other  opportunities for their work as they arise. I have just signed a contract with Flying Books, Islreal, for “Rich Man, Poor Man” the book I did with Jodi Magi. My first digital collaboration is on www.istorytime, “At the Beach with Bucket and Spade” with Sarah Bash Gleeson [USA], whom I met on JacketFlap.com, a wonderful children’s literature networking site along with many other amazing and inspiring folk. Sarah is editor of magazine, “Dream Chaser” which focusses on children’s books and their creators.

Joanna Marple’s mini review of my latest digital book, “Xengu and the Turn of Tide”:

“A Tolkienesque tale, I love it!”

See a review of her first picture book in my last blog post with links to her interview with Darshana Shah Khiani on “Flowering Minds“.

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8. Researching the environment of story

By happy accident, I discovered the  way to travel interstate, overseas, inter-culturally  and explore the  ambience of remote towns, cities, country lanes and outback outposts. Air tickets – well that’s the ideal, but no, I used Google Earth.

It started with my trying to locate a lovely country home in West Hougham, Kent, England. It was featured in Country Life for September 7th, 2000, and was the

Inspiration for “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”

inspiration for my story “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”. I was fascinated by the quaintness of the architecture compared to anything out here in Oz and the size of the immense, almost regal trees forming a perfect backdrop to the house. I tried to relocate the house by doing a ‘street view’ saunter down English lanes in the vicinity.  I located the area on the map and zeroed in from aerial to ‘here I am virtually walking down this street on the other side of the world the environs of which I just happen to need to explore.’

I didn’t find the house, but I had the most wonderfully inspiring time wandering down country lanes that were little more than wagon tracks, great boughs canopying overhead and wildflowers dotted in the fields…

Now, if I need to capture something of the ‘feel’ of an area. I seek out an address. Then in I go and wander around, exploring the architecture, streetscapes, lifestyles evidenced in things as random as  street art, verge gardens, bus stops, signage, graffiti, shop window decor, fences or lack of, litter, strays and the bystanders to my wanderings.

I have also found that  exploring the Realtor advertisements in the area I am exploring gives insight into the inhabitants of the town. Many homes  give a slideshow or even a video tour online.  This helps you pick up on details of life – home decor, layout, from wall hangings to  cushions, scatter rugs to artwork, the placement of chairs to take in a much loved outlook, the windows and their views out, the garden.

Perhaps this sounds a little bit the voyeur. It is not the intention, far from, it is seeking faithfulness in recreating a  ’feeling’ for place. It is gathering the elements of story , setting the stage, arranging a convincing backdrop to the action!

2 Comments on Researching the environment of story, last added: 5/23/2012
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9. Nicola’s Monsters! An interview with illustrator turned author, Nicola L. Robinson

Interview with Nicola L. Robinson, illustrator turned author and the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a change of hats!

Hi Nicola

First off, HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS on the release of “The Monster Machine” with Pavilion Books – a sort of mad inventor meets Granny’s knitted nightmares joy of a book!

Have you always had a strong visual sense of story?

Yes I have, I’ve always loved drawing (like all illustrators I should imagine!) but particularly loved drawing pictures with something happening in them, be it a big thing chasing a small thing or any kind of interaction between my creations. As a child I’d name the characters and make up stories around them..

I grew up and went to university and did a degree in Fine Art, which was fantastic, but I realised my work was more illustration and less ‘Fine Art’. I have always looked for the story in the picture, and love adding narrative details to things, be it a little mouse hiding behind a teapot or something more sinister watching through a crack in the curtain... I am a visual thinker, but at this point I didn’t consider writing the actual words down to go with the illustrations.

What were your favourite storybook images as a child and how did they influence you as an illustrator and the style you adopted as ‘you’?

I didn’t have many traditional picture books, I did however pour over photos of crocodiles and snakes from a really old book on ‘The Animal Kingdom’. One of my favourite storybooks was a book of Greek Myths which had a lot of colour plates inside of the various mythological beasts and some nice black and white ink illustrations, fairly traditional in style. My favourites were always the ones I could imagine myself being in, something with some perspective, or one where you can see inside an open door or window. I also loved the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, with Smaug the dragon. I have drawn many dragons since then and continue to do so today.

I have always loved the traditional fairytale illustrators like Arthur Rackham and others like Aubrey Beardsley and more recently Edward Gorey. Black and white ink illustrations in particular have always appealed to me, as has the sinister so I expect I have absorbed a little of their influence into my current working style. I certainly hope so!

Do you have a favourite among your previous illustrative projects? Would you tell us something of the creative process involved in bringing the images to light?

 My favourites change all the time, but I am still very attached to a detailed illustration from last year titled ‘Downtown’

It started off like so many drawings as a few scribbles on the page, I could see a cityscape of sorts in my head… I often write lists of words and ideas to include in a piece, little descriptions like ‘Dark alleys’ and ‘Iron Bridges’ just as little word pictures, alongside thumbnails which I find very helpful.

1 The Rough idea is drawn

From here it gets its structure and is drawn out. If I’m going to be working in colour I usually stretch some paper at this point before transferring the idea to it.

I work up the details in pencil…

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10. Journey of a Book – children’s literature creation under the microscope

Click to view slideshow.Books are created from the imagination and inspiration of authors and the insightful vision of illustrators. They are then crafted. The authorial crafting may be right brain with a touch of editing or slow and laborious left brain plotting. For an illustrator, it may be  inspiration flowing like rivers from brush or  stylus or it may be  storybook or dummy creation then rethinks, scrap some ideas, adapt others. Eventually, a book emerges that is then ‘ready for submission’. These days, that may mean  adding animation and audio to make the book a digital production for app developers like  Utales or Flying Books, or for YA, formatting it for Kindle or Nook e-publishers. It may mean self publishing on Createspace  or Lightningsource, Smashwords or Lulu.  Or it will mean the long road via submission to traditional publishers.

If the latter is chosen, the publisher will often require more editing, changes and perhaps more changes. My own book, started under contract to one publisher, was already well underway with the inimitable Sarah Davis as illustrator. We were having a ball creating our book. Then our publisher was taken over and the new publisher wanted  to  institute changes. At first, the major change – ‘get rid of the dead bird’ – seemed straight forward. Then we realised  the book needed the bird but, to keep it, we had to  make some big adjustments. An injured bird can’t just disappear in a children’s book, it has to get better and be released, which, in our picture book, meant its story  had to be woven into the fabric of the main story seamlessly. No problem, a few days and Sarah and I had nailed it! As book creators, you have to be flexible and, especially if going the traditional publisher route, you can’t be too precious about your creation.

SO! This exhibition is about the journey numbers of wonderful children’s and YA books took from creation to  bookshelf! Each book has a different creation story to reveal - something the public doesn’t see, it’s behind the scenes. Now the reader can take a peek backstage, behind the scenes to how it all came together!


Setting up was not straight forward. The spaces has to be utilised to best advantage and the  items displayed needed to be seen from as many angles as possible given I had a two shelf rectangular glass case.  I didn’t end up using everything I brought with me. It would have been too cluttered. Last minute inclusion, bulldog clips, proved life-savers! They held the  photographic prints in place.

I had never ‘hung’ a painting before at an exhibition and that proved ‘interesting. Sarah Davis sent up her wonderful original painting via kindly courier, Peter Taylor, but it was unframed. I had no time to find a frame. Fortunately, I had one around the house that was  a good match colour-wise though not quite the  perfect size.

Given my exhibit was about my close collaboration with Sarah, the items displayed needed to reflect the two minds working together to make a new creative whole – our book! Sources of inspiration, stages in text change, changes in images, cover and trivia relating to the characters, objects and places in the book all combined to make a successful ( I hope you agree) exhibit!

Click to view slideshow.


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11. Oxford Scholarly Editions Online launches today: but why?

Today sees the launch of a major new publishing initiative from Oxford University Press: Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO). OSEO will provide trustworthy and reliable critical online editions of original works by some of the most important writers in the humanities, such as William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, as well as works from lesser-known writers such as Shackerley Marmion. OSEO is launching with over 170 scholarly editions of material written between 1485 and 1660, and annual content additions will cover chronological periods until it contains content from Ancient Greek and Latin texts through to the modern era. This is exciting stuff, and here Project Director Sophie Goldsworthy explains why!

By Sophie Goldsworthy

Anyone working in the humanities is well aware of the plethora of texts online. Search for the full text of one of Shakespeare’s plays on Google and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of results. Browse popular classics on Amazon, and you’ll find hundreds available for free download to your device in 60 seconds or less. But while we’re spoilt for choice in terms of availability, finding an authoritative text, and one which you can feel confident in citing or using in your teaching, has paradoxically never been more difficult. Texts aren’t set in stone, but have a tendency to shift over time, whether as the result of author revisitings, the editing and publishing processes through which they pass, deliberate bowdlerization, or inadvertent mistranscription. And with more and more data available online, it has never been more important to help scholars and students navigate to trusted primary sources on which they can rely for their research, teaching, and learning.

Oxford has a long tradition of publishing scholarly editions — something which still sits at the very heart of the programme — and a range and reach unmatched by any other publisher. Every edition is produced by a scholarly editor, or team, who have sifted the evidence for each: deciding which reading or version is best, and why, and then tracking textual variance between editions, as well as adding rich layers of interpretative annotation. So we started to re-imagine how these classic print editions would work in a digital environment, getting down to the disparate elements of each — the primary text, the critical apparatus, and the explanatory notes — to work out how, by teasing the content of each edition apart, we could bring them back together in a more meaningful way for the reader.

We decided that we needed to organize the content on the site along two axes: editions and works. Our research underlined the need to preserve this link with print, not only for scholars and students who may want to use the online version of a particular edition, but also for librarians keen to curate digital content alongside their existing print holdings. And yet we also wanted to put the texts themselves front and centre. So we have constructed the site in both ways. You can use it to navigate to a familiar edition, travelling to a particular page, and even downloading a PDF of the print page, so you can cite from OSEO with authority. But you can also see each author’s works in aggregate and move straight to an individual play, poem, or letter, or to a particular line number or scene. Our use of XML has allowed us to treat the different elements of each edition separately: the notes keep pace with the text, and different features can be toggled on and off. This also drives a very focused advanced search — you can search within stage directions or the recipients of letters, first lines or critical apparatus — all of which speeds your journey to the content genuinely of most use to you.

As a side benefit — a reaffirmation, if you like, of the way print and online are perfectly in step on the site — many of our older editions haven’t been in print for some time, but embarking on the data capture process has made it possible for us to make them available again through on-demand printing. These texts often date back to the 1900s and yet are still considered either the definitive edition of a writer’s work or valued as milestones in the history of textual editing, itself an object of study and interest. Thus reissuing these classic texts adds, perhaps in an unanticipated way, to the broader story of dissemination and accessibility which lies at the heart of what we are doing.

For those minded to embark on such major projects, OSEO underlines Oxford’s support for the continuing tradition of scholarly editing. Our investment in digital editions will increase their reach, securing their permanence in the online space and making them available to multiple users at the same time. There are real benefits brought by the size of the collection, the aggregation of content, intelligent cross-linking with other OUP content — facilitating genuine user journeys from and into related secondary criticism and reference materials — and the possibility of future links to external sites and other resources. We hope, too, that OSEO will help bring recent finds to an audience as swiftly as possible: new discoveries can simply be edited and dropped straight into the site.

Over the past century and more, Oxford has invested in the development of an unrivalled programme of scholarly editions across the humanities. Oxford Scholarly Editions Online takes these core, authoritative texts down from the library shelf, unlocks their features to make them fully accessible to all kinds of users, and makes them discoverable online.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Sophie Goldsworthy is the Editorial Director for OUP’s Academic and Trade publishing in the UK, and Project Director for Oxford Scholarly Editions Online. To discover more about OSEOview this series of videos about the launch of the project.

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12. Luvverly LISTS for Writers and Illustrators!

Hi Everyone! :)

Lists can be extremely useful, especially when they are constantly being updated!

Here are two such.

The first, compiled by the enterprising and enthusiastic Brain Grove, is a list of US publishers who are currently accepting submissions for children’s books – http://j.mp/SVbnCk  – he also, very helpfully, adds links toeach entry to take you straight to the site.  I also recommend his ebook on  query /submission letter writing.

The second,  a veritable database, is continuously being updated by the very proactive authors, Delin Colon and Lisa Kalner Williams – http://bit.ly/writerinterviewopps …

If you haven’t joined www.jacketflap.com, I highly recommend it – an excellent networking site for all things related to children’s literature and books.

Get busy and good luck!

4 Comments on Luvverly LISTS for Writers and Illustrators!, last added: 9/30/2012
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13. Mo Willems - "Why Books?"

Mo Willems and his pigeon. Smile material. Masterful picture books!
In 2011, Mo was invited to give the prestigious Zena Sutherland Lecture. He titled his talk "Why Books?"
Here are some highlights:

"Always think of your audience; never think for your audience."

"If I re-read one of my manuscripts and I understand exactly what is happening, then the manuscript has too many words. And if I look at the images without the words and I can fully understand the story, there are too many drawings."

On enhanced digital books: ". . . after we turn them on, they don't need us. Turn it on and leave the room, and the book will read itself."

On real books:  "But a real book is helpless. It needs us desperately. We have to pull it off the shelf. We have to open it up. We have to turn the pages, one by one. We even have to use our imagination to make it work.  . . . So maybe books work because they make us work. Maybe we need them for needing us, just like we need real friends, not the digital imitations on Facebook."

Well said. Do you agree?

Photo credit: Marty Umans

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14. Trends – New bends in the path to publication. By J.R.Poulter

Some time last year, Erica Wagner, Publisher at Allen and Unwin, is reported as having said that there was a lot to be gained by having a text already illustrated [not that Allen & Unwin published picture books]. This is seemingly a change in direction.

Some writers/illustrators I know have recently signed contracts for ‘print ready’ books.  This is not self-publishing, but submission to a royalty paying publisher of a book that is ‘ready to go’ in publishing terms.

What constitutes a ‘print ready’ book?  It is a book that has been -

  • professionally edited,
  • proofread, has been
  • designed to industry standards,
  • professionally designed cover and,
  • if illustrated, has all images appropriately set.

This is a great way to go for authors who are able to pay illustrators and book designers up front. Most authors are not able to do this.  This then means all creators involved in a book project agreeing to royalty share and working between paid projects to collaborate on their book.

What have I gleaned about such ‘print ready’ deals? One company, smaller and reasonably new, offered a small advance and a good contract, by industry standards, with higher than regular royalty share for creators. An offer of help with promotion was also part of the deal. Another company, medium sized and established, offered no advance but better than average royalty shares for creators and help with promotion and marketing of the book.

How does this stack up against what is generally on offer now?

  • Small and middle range publishers, in general, do not offer advances.
  • Larger publishers offer advances depending on the book, depending on the author, and depending on the agent involved.
  • Smaller and middle range publishers often [there are exceptions] expect the author to do it all in relation to promotion, even requiring the submission of a marketing plan.
  • Larger publishers vary greatly as to how much promotion they will give a book.
  • Generally, publishers will submit copies of their publishing output for major awards, such as the CBCA, and to a selection of leading review outlets.

What’s the down side for author, illustrator, book designer, [often the illustrator], to go down the  ‘print ready’ publishing path?

  • It IS a lot of extra work for all creators involved to ensure the book is ‘professional’ standard even before it is submitted.
  • There is no money upfront.

Are the rewards worth the effort?

  • If you love collaborative work, it is a big plus.
  • Creators have much more project control to create the book they have collaboratively envisaged.
  • A quality product, ‘print ready’,  is a major bargaining point for creators/agents. ‘Print ready’ saves the publisher heaps!

The first company mentioned does small print runs, sells out their print runs, reprints and even sells out reprints and so it seems to be gradually snowballing.

It is too early to know in the second instance.  [I’ll keep you posted!]

My feeling is that, if Erica Wagner was sensing a ‘trend’ and if these companies make a success of it, we will see more such deals.  It’s something to think about!

To be launched end of June – “Toofs!” a collaboration between J.R. and Estelle A.Poulter an illustrators Monica Rondino and Andrea Pucci. More to come on what was a ‘print ready’ deal.

TOOFS by J.R.Poulter & Estelle A. Poulter, illustrated by Monica Rondino & Andrea Pucci

TOOFS by J.R.Poulter & Estelle A. Poulter, illustrated by Monica Rondino & Andrea Pucci

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15. The Extreme Power of Social Networking & Digital Publishing

Bringing Great Authors To the Literary Realm

Guest Author: Amy Lignor

In 2007, as we all know, Amazon came out and launched an ‘e-reader.’ Many thought this was a joke, but I can honestly say that there is no one laughing now.

Digital publishing and branding have become the ultimate ways to get ahead, or even recognized, in the cutthroat recession-wary publishing world as it stands today. Publishers are looking at the bottom line. Are they poor? Are publishing houses becoming dinosaurs? No. Make no mistake, people, not matter what the agencies and publishers tell you total book sales in the United States last year came in at 13.9 billion dollars. Random House, the top rung of the so-called “Big Six Publishers” reported profits of 2.5 billion. However, a large percentage of revenue is now being recorded as digital downloads. And this area is growing bigger every year.

There will always be those out in the world who want that paper copy – that copy that they can hold in their hands. In fact, this writer feels about books as deeply as a hockey player feels about the ‘smell of the ice.’ I love the smell of a new book, and e-readers take that particular enjoyment away. BUT, there are a great deal of authors out there right now who are truly magnificent, yet they are not getting the opportunities to be published. There are barely any agents or publishers out there right now that would’ve told you twenty years ago that YA would ever be a big market. What they didn’t see coming was J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, and the like who took the world by storm. One of the most ironic issues about new authors who do hit the market full force, is that most of them were taken on by interns or new hires in literary agency; people who just stepped in and felt as if they had to prove themselves to their bosses. Why is that? Because those new interns still knew what it felt like to read a good book. They were, and are, not yet caught up in the muck and mire of the bottom line. They take a chance and they score – simple as that.

In mid-2010, Amazon announced that they were selling MORE e-books than hardcover’s, which caused a division in the literary society. The division and arguments still abound about the digital world becoming ‘King’ one day, but whether or not anyone likes it, the internet IS the ‘King’ of the 21st Century. Many young adults (and some adults, I have to say) are learning their grammar and penmanship through text messaging – “How are you?” has now become “How r u?” Everyone is on the go, and their e-readers, Kindles, etc. make life a whole lot easier than having to trudge to the library, or spend a greater amount of money in the bookstore. Readers can simply call up Amazon, call up the book they want, and ‘boom,’ there it is on the device that they have grown to love as much as their cell phones.

One of the biggest moments for digital publishing, in my mind, was when the New York Times suddenly realized this growing phenomenon and – whether they liked it or not, and most did not – they began a digital bestseller list; an e-book ‘Top Ten.’ Not only that, although the New York Times Book Review is still a monolith in the publishing world, they are quickly being set aside for the ultimate re

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16. The New Amazon Market

Amazon is publishing 122 books (electronic and print) this fall, and 'aggressively wooing' some top authors, reports The New York Times. The New Republic says “writers should embrace Amazon’s takeover of the publishing industry.”

While playing down Amazon’s market power in its newly assumed role as publisher in addition to retailer, one Amazon executive noted that “the only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and the reader.” And Amazon?

Amazon Publishing is a new market opportunity for writers, and can be seen as a force for necessary change in the industry. Amazon’s willingness to share the Nielsen Bookscan sales data with authors has other publishers following suit.

On the other hand, concerns have arisen: will Amazon Publishing add editorial value or will it be a glorified vanity publisher, loosing an avalanche of slush pile dross? What about those ‘unnecessary’ people like agents and editors? What of books from traditional publishers sold through Amazon: could they be quietly buried on the site if they compete with Amazon's own titles?

To manage it’s group of six imprints Amazon has hired ‘well-regarded’ professionals including former agent and former CEO of Time Warner Book Group, Laurence Kirshbaum, and Ed Park, author of the ‘acclaimed novel’ Personal Days, and previously editor of The Believer and The Village Voice.

Several well-known authors are signing on, including self-help author Tim Ferriss and reportedly, actress and director Penny Marshall. Businessweek notes that thriller writer Barry Eisler, who turned down a $500,000 two-book deal with a traditional publisher earlier this year, later signed with Amazon. Eisler was swayed, at least in part, by Amazon’s ability to publish an e-book version and a paperback within a matter of days, both at cheaper prices than the traditional house’s practice of charging print prices for e-books. “What I care about is readers, because without readers I can’t make a living… If I can find a way to get readers books that cost less and are delivered better and faster, I want that.”

Sounds good, but what about less recognized authors? Will worthy authors, and in turn readers, get lost in a wave of low quality text? Will Amazon ensure the same credibility as traditional publishing houses?

What effect will Amazon's increasing dominance have on our industry?

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17. Traveling Through the Digital Landscape (Part 1)

Emma Dryden spoke at the 2011 LA SCBWI Conference and gave a very in depth talk about how the digital marketplace is changing the business of books. I took so many notes I’ve had to break this into two posts. Part one will cover how kids interact with technology and fiction, how this is influencing the business, and some of the key factors that have changed the landscape. Part two will look into how the book business is adapting and the challenges it’s facing to stay competitive, as well as some of the new models that are surfacing due to self publishing. This is a big hot topic and Dryden was very thorough! Enjoy.

Dryden pre-empted this talk with a reminder that we should never forget that story matters most!

Kids and Technology:

  • The landscape of technology is a place kids know intrinsically.
  • Paper is not something kids are used to interacting with.
  • Most children are media consumers by the time they are one year old.
  • Kids are not linear.
  • Kids brains have adapted to a digital dialect.

How Interaction with Digital Technology is Changing the Way We Read and Acquire Information:

  • In the absence of bursts of stimulation we now get bored faster.
  • The way we read is different and changing. How we interact with an object is changing.
  • The internet creates a whole new area of narrative. One people can explore and drive.
  • It’s become more important for one to know how to search for a fact, rather than to know the fact itself.
  • Does heavy technology use diminish empathy, whereas fiction creates empathy?

Our Connection to Fiction:

  • Our experience of fiction is based on: literacy, imagination, and human connection.
  • Fiction allows us to think for the sake of thinking.

How is the Book Business Changing?

  • The digital world is changing the book business and we had better adapt!
  • Print is not going away for the sake of digital, but we are moving to a model that uses both.
  • It pays to be flexible and on time when it comes to this new digital landscape.
  • Some smaller publishers are taking the e-only option and no longer printing books.
  • Libraries need to become more like Lady Ga Ga and less like Lady Bird Johnson.
  • Technology should not or need not drive a story.
  • Storytellers and illustrators are our best guides as to how the landscape is changing and how it should change.

Things that Changed the Game:

  • Apple created the iPhone in 2007
  • Amazon came out with the Kindle in 2007. Currently there are 15 million kindles in the hands of consumers.
  • The recession hit us hard and created more start-ups.
  • The e-book battles began.

Things that Continue to Change the Game and Influence the Market:

  • In 2010 the Sony Walkman was retired.
  • Apple baked the iPie and wants to eat it too.
  • The expanding book market changed to create less cost book production through digital sources. (Less cost not NO cost).
  • E-Books are everywhere! It is estimated that 50% of book sales will be E-Books by 2014.
  • What’s your app-titude? Apps are changing the market as well.
  • Pottermore is influencing and changing business models.
  • We are easily distracted by new devices.

What about Picture Books and the Digital Market?

  • Picture books do still matter! And they still are selling. Electronic media should not be a thread to picture books, it should be a supplement!

2 Comments on Traveling Through the Digital Landscape (Part 1), last added: 11/20/2011
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18. Traveling Through the Digital Landscape (Part 2)

Continuing my notes from Emma Dryden’s 2011 SCBWI LA talk on publishing and the digital landscape, this post will cover the challenges publishers and authors are faced with as the marketplace keeps changing. Be sure to read PART 1 on the development of digital technology and how it affects the way we read.

Who Gets What Percentage?

  • Currently publishers take in 50% of profits from e-books.
  • Self-published authors get 60%  to 80% of their royalties.
  • Barnes and Noble currently has 25% of the e-book market.  Apple has been interested in purchasing Barnes and Noble so they can compete head to head with Amazon.

Google is No Giggling Matter:

  • Pay attention to Google! They are trying to put out-of-print books into digital devices.

Do Agents become Publishers?

  • There is a new trend of agents and agencies doing editing, cover design, and even some publishing.
  • Andrea Brown Agency and Dystel & Goderich are becoming agency consultants.
  • This is a controversial concept. Is an agent really the perfect publishing partner? The jury is still out on this topic.

New Publishing Outlets:

  • Retailer Publishing
  • Author Publishing
  • Children’s Publishing by: tik-a-tok, inkpop, and figment.
  • UTales is a new platform for illustrators and picture book writers.
  • Indies on Demand
  • Great places to share content include: youtube, itunes, flicker, blogTV, Glogs, Skype.

How does a Publisher Stay Competitive and Fashionable?

  • What keeps a publisher making money?
  • They need to consider Google editions and Google affiliates. How do you control what is on Google? What is fair to the copyrights?
  • How do we deal with piracy? How do we determine what’s free and what is not?
  • “Don’t pirate this book because your friend needs the money vs. Buy this book so you can read it.”
  • Publisher’s Competition = Online Vendors. How does a publisher make themselves a better outlet for authors than these other outlets?
  • Publisher’s Competition = Self-Publishing
  • Publisher’s Competition = Print on Demand (POD) (Such as: Lulu, iUniverse, or Amazon.)
  • The relevancy of the publisher will be diminished if they are not involved in the digital market.
  • Publishers are asking: Who are our customers and why are they our customers? The answer used to be the bookstores, but that is changing.

Changes in Customer Choice:

  • Consumers are now starting to demand some choice in what they consume.
  • There is a growing trend in creating objects that a customer can purchase and customize.
  • We’ve moved from average mass media to the individual.

Author Interaction with His/Her Audience:

  • Lots of interaction is happening online now in “The Cloud”
  • Are authors ready to socialize? Do they want to create a dialog with their audience?
  • Do authors want to create a shared experience online with their audience?
  • What’s your web-utation (play on the word reputation).
  • As an author do you provide your audience with a website that includes: backstory (yours or your

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19. Blog a Penguin Short 1: A Guest at the Feast


There is something very satisfying about reading an entire book in one sitting. Part of the pleasure of Julian Barnes’ Booker Prizing winning novel, The Sense of an Ending, is that you can spend a deeply pleasurable and indulgent afternoon devouring the book whole. You don’t have to worry about forgetting who said what when, of losing track of the plot as you nibble your way through the pages, piecemeal, when you get a moment here or there. The book is completely with you and the reading experience all the richer for it.

Last week we launched a new series of eBooks written with this experience in mind. The Penguin Shorts can be read over a long commute or a short journey, in your lunch hour or between dinner and bedtime, these brief books provide a short escape into a fictional world or act as a primer in a particular field or provide a new angle on an old subject.

To introduce you to the series, we are going to blog our way through all nine of the launch books, as we read through the series on our way in and out of work. To kick off, I’m starting with Colm Tóibín’s A Guest at the Feast. Celebrated as one of the finest novelists and short story writers of his generation Colm Tóibín, in his Penguin Short, turns his hand to his first piece of memoir, moving from the small town of Enniscorthy to Dublin, from memories of a mother who always had a book on the go to the author's early adulthood, from a love of literature to the influences of place and family.

To Work: 388 from Victoria Park Road to Embankment (50 minutes)

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It was bitterly cold yesterday morning. It proved difficult to keep my reader still as I tried to steal away the first few pages while keeping my morning vigil for the 388 to take me into work. It’s a good journey, I always get a seat and it allows for just shy of an hour of solid reading time. A Guest at the Feast opens with

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20. Mostly Good News

Writing conferences stimulate my creativity, so I try get to at least one every year. But in recent years, market reviews were so discouraging -- fewer publishers acquiring fewer books for fewer bookstores -- I left wondering about my choice of profession.

The SCBWI Winter Conference in January was different. The air bubbled with fresh optimism and renewed enthusiasm (amid familiar cautions, of course).


  • The children’s market is ‘very robust’ (Ken Wright, Agent, Writers House). Kids are still reading real books (Chris Richman, Agent, Upstart Crow Literary).
  • Imprints for YA have increased in the last three years (Regina Brooks, Founder and President, Serendipity Litereary Agency, LLC)
  • MG is the new YA (Regina Brooks) with rising popularity and market potential. YA and MG will continue to grow.
  • Picture Books are ‘alive and well’ (Nancy Paulsen, Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin). Digital books, so far, seem to be an incremental purchase rather than a cannibalistic one. Parents like a book which is already on their bookshelf, and buy a digital copy for travel purposes.
  • Non-fiction is underestimated (Ken Wright). National Geographic and Discover are doing more, and make NF commercial enough for Barnes & Noble. A number of NF titles have appeared in the National Book Award lists.


  • The Best Seller Mentality: traditional publisher’s lists are narrower and more focused. They want the books they publish to do very well, theoretically translating to more support for those titles and authors. 
  • Differences between genres will blur as writers seek new and fresh material. (Ginger Knowlton, Agent, Curtis Brown LTD) 


  • Amazon: Is it a big bully? ‘Discoverability’ is a problem here. 
  • Transmedia: How will digital evolution continue to change and impact books? Again, ‘discoverability’ can be difficult in the digital world. New devices generate a need for new content, but beware smaller margins and fierce competition. As kids inherit digital devices from their parents, what effect will this have? 
  • Continued consolidation of the traditional bookstore. Where will it end? 

The landscape is becoming more defined, and more certainty enables the market to move forward. Publishers have mostly stopped merging and wringing their hands. E-books, digital devices and self-publishing are part of the future, but are now more tangible and predictable. 

Personally, I write MG fiction (as well as PBs), so I was pleased to hear MG is ‘the new YA’, and note that many editors list it as one of their needs. Now I have to use my conference-inspired enthusiasm to follow up with those agents and editors who said it. 

What’s your feel about the children’s market?  Do you agree or disagree?  Any good news to share?

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21. The Making of Freight Train…the App

freighttrainapp 500x257 The Making of <i />Freight Train</p>...the App
Early in the summer of 2009—many digital generations ago—HarperCollins set out to experiment with several iPhone/iPod Touch apps. We decided to create two apps based on easily searchable and popular topics (example: ABC), and one app based on a classic and best-selling picture book. The staff at Greenwillow Books was charged with figuring out how to make an app of Freight Train, by Donald Crews. Don was happy and willing to experiment, and we were off and running. At that time the field was wide open, and there weren’t many models for us to emulate. Now the technology has evolved so that picture books are adapted as interactive e-books as well as apps, and many of the challenges and frustrations we faced have been replaced by new ones. But here is a record of what it was like in the dinosaur days of electronic publishing.

Our goals for the project were as follows:

1. Create a child-centered app that would be played again and again.

2. Deliver enjoyable interactions with an educational component, excellent music, and surprises.

3. Promote the author and his books; remain true to the author’s vision.

4. Experiment and learn about the business models and about the creative process.

We chose Freight Train for several key reasons. It is an award-winning picture book with sales of more than a million copies. The art is simple and clean and would translate beautifully to the small screen. The subject matter is perfect for the intended audience. The book is linear (it literally moves along one track), so translating to the app experience was possible without creating additional art or files. We could see much potential for interactivity. There was well-known age-appropriate music in the public domain that we could use to enhance the experience for kids. We also had a Spanish version of Freight Train, so we would be able to make the app in two languages. We were further fortunate because Don had created Inside Freight Train (2001), a novelty board book featuring pages that slid open to reveal the contents of the freight cars, so we already had great additional art to use.

Step One: The Editors’ Storyboards

The first thing we did was to storyboard the app as sequential screens. We imagined interactions, sounds, and movement. We thought about the pacing and how we were going to keep kids engaged and surprised. Freight Train (the book) has two distinct parts—the introduction of the cars, before the train moves, and the pages showing the train moving through the landscape. This was a challenge, because we realized that the interactions would primarily happen in the first half of the app. The second half of the app would basically be a movie. We trusted that the magic of the book’s pacing would translate to the app format. We showed our storyboards to several developers and chose a developer who shared our vision.

Step Two: Don’s Storyboard

After we had a developer on board, Don brought his own ideas to the process and refined the rough editorial storyboards for the developer. He also weighed in on music, sound effects, and design.

Step Three: The Developer

Our developer then created detailed storyboards, told us what was possible technically (and what was not), suggested revisions, and encouraged us to move away from the book in order to deliver more interesting interactions, such as an addictive game featuring a mechanical scoop kids could manipulate to load and unload the cargo in the gondola car. But Don opted to remain true to his original work at all times, resisting a suggestion, for example, to introduce an animated opening sequence featuring music and

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22. The ADD Child’s Guide to North American Wildl–hey let’s go ride our bikes!

march2012cov FAKE 200x300 The ADD Childs Guide to North American Wildl  hey lets go ride our bikes!The New York Times  and I think alike about the temptations that beset iPad reading. And having acquired an iPhone this weekend, I don’t see my concentration getting any better.

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23. I am Alive?

I haven't gone a week without some sort of blathering blog post in nearly five years. Five years.

I missed blogging, slightly, but I've been busy--I wish I was busy writing the great American (horror) novel, but I haven't.

My grandfather passed away on my birthday. He was 97, so it wasn't exactly unexpected, but all the same... death is always sad. We had to adjust spring break travel plans and come home a day early from our little trip to Omaha (zoo, water park...) My mother-in-law stayed with us for three days (breathe...) I got a new job (guidance counselor at the same school) And my Amazon KDP account was blocked.


I'd had a few books for sale under pseudonyms which were compiled of material from my years as an English teacher. Evidently, these were considered "freely available on the internet". Amazon warned me once and blocked a book. Three days later, my account was shut down. I've received nothing but form replies to my queries.Form replies never answer very specific questions.

Me? Bewildered. Sad. Frustrated. Maybe I was a little too ambitious, but I really didn't think anything I was doing violated the TOS. Of course that TOS is slightly ambiguous in parts. I would have unpublished all of my books and started from scratch had I enough foresight, but alas... I didn't.

Amazon, here's a plea from me to future independent authors: Please complete a more thorough review of books before allowing them to be published (you suggest 24-48 hours, but most books are up within 12). Every book you took issue with had been for sale for weeks (if not months) before I had any indication I'd stepped over a line (a line I continued to step over with no warning).

What do I do now? Find a publisher for my books?

And keep writing. Keep writing.

Roadblocks are just roadblocks. There's more than one way to Omaha.

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24. Overview of Australian copyrights protection with few significant rules inside publishing industry for the Australian authors.

Answers from Publisher The real number of the authors in Australia can be only estimated approximately. So far, the figure is between 5,000 -10,000 authors that are considered to be fully employed or employed as a part-time. However, the authors now becoming the publishers by adding numbers of the authors quite significantly. Go figure it out! Internet puts everything in different perspective for the publishing industry as a whole. Regardless to many changes, every country is trying to ‘save’ their publishing industry against the unavoidable globalization and legal reformation of publishing industry, internationally. Australia takes these changes seriously, in order to protect its own publishing industry by shielding it from foreign competition, respectively through import restrictions. Basically we are talking about availability, price and quality matter of the books. . In order to protect copyright beyond the borders, Australia had signed two international agreements: 1886 Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and ... Read the rest of this post

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25. We Belong Together

Like you (I’m guessing), I felt my soul give a little lurch at the news that Encyclopaedia Britannica was getting out of the book business to go online, all the time. Part of my reaction was nostalgia—when I was a child we owned the first four or five volumes of some encyclopedia that my parents had picked up as a supermarket premium, and I would browse them endlessly. As any devotee of the Guinness World Records or the Farmers’ Almanac can tell you, it’s fun to pinball around within the structure a reference book gives you: it has rules so you don’t have to.

But as a librarian, I understand that digital reference sources, done right, have it all over print. The online Britannica is no less authoritative, arguably more so because it is more quickly updated than print. It’s still browsable and inspiring of serendipity: having secured a trial subscription for the purposes of writing this editorial, I’m having trouble keeping myself on task. Wikipedia without shame! Less expensive (given you have the means to access it, which is a big given) than print and more compact—what’s not to like?

Here is the question for children’s book people, though. Does the thought of a kid whizzing his or her way around an electronic reference source give us as much satisfaction as the picture of a kid doing the same thing with a printed book? I thought not. Whether librarian, teacher, publisher, or writer, when we say that at least part of our shared goal is to promote the “love of reading,” what we have always meant is the “love of books.” (Some books.) What will our goal be once books no longer provide our common core?

This is partially a question about e-books. Yes, e-books are books, and libraries want to buy them and enthusiastically promote their circulation to library patrons, who demonstrably want to read them. But publishers complain that they need “friction” to ensure that library borrowing doesn’t take too much of a bite from consumer purchases, and libraries are put into the position of licensing rather than acquiring e-books, just another borrower in the chain. However, this economic tussle is only an early warning sign of the real problem that librarians and (as Stephen Roxburgh argued in the March/April 2012 Horn Book) publishers face: thanks to the leveling power of the internet, electronic literature doesn’t need either one of us, at least as we currently understand our respective missions.

But this is also a question about the independence of readers. In libraries, even those kids who wouldn’t talk to a librarian if their lives depended on it rely far more than they know on the professional expertise provided by the library’s staff, systems, and policies. Readers’ advisory is found as much in the shelving as it is in a friendly chat. When we are reading online, however, we are far more on our own, for good (we can read what we want when we want it) or ill (finding what we want to read can be an adventure beset by false leads, commercial interests, and invasions of privacy).

What can children’s book people become? I reveal my fantasy of what we could make of the future on page 16 of this issue, but in reality what we need to do is to redefine our gatekeeping role. Along with giving up any notion that the only real reading is book reading, like the online Britannica we have to believe in our own expertise and convince others that our knowledge is worth attending to. We’ve spent more than a century dedicated to the idea that some reading is better than other reading, an elitist position we can defend by pointing to decades of excellence in books for youth. Publishers and librarians together, we made that happen. Let us continue to do so.

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