Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Harry Potter Update

Ah-ha! We have a "Pottermore" update--Harry Potter is finally going to e-book format, according to The Washington Post:
Author JK Rowling announced that Harry Potter fans will be able to read her famous series in e-book form for the first time, starting this fall.

In an announcement launching Pottermore, an interactive Harry Potter Web site and online store, Rowling said that the full series will be available in digital form. The books will be in several languages and will work on any electronic reading device.

The site will also sell digital audiobooks of the novels.

Through the site, Rowling will also share tidbits from the Harry Potter universe that she’s been “hoarding” through the years, she said in a video announcement. While the author has said she will not be writing any more novels about Harry Potter, she has hinted in the past that she would like to write an encyclopedia about the books’ universe. It seems Pottermore will be an outlet for Rowling to share backstory and other facts that did not fit into the seven-book series.

Pottermore will be open to a million users on July 31 — Harry Potter’s birthday — and open to the public in October. Fans can already submit their e-mail addresses on the site to be notified when registration opens.

Read the original post and see a video of Rowling's announcement HERE

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bella Andre Navigates the Evolving World of Self-Publishing

My friend and former colleague, Nyree Belleville (published under the name Bella Andre) sent me an article this morning from the Washington Post, featuring her experience with self-publishing. I am thrilled that she's have such great success with it so I was eager to read the piece.

And then after I read it, I couldn't sit still. The article goes in-depth into the constantly evolving nature of the self-publishing world and, quite frankly, I find it very exciting. Especially since I'm on the forefront of a new self-publishing endeavor with Book Country. There's so much that can happen in this new frontier and if it's done right, authors can not only make a larger profit for themselves but we can also get higher quality work out there.

Yes, self-publishing certainly opens itself up for some less-than-stellar work to be shared, but with the decreasing stigma and all of the great critiquing/writing communities that have cropped up (yes, shameless Book Country plug :-p), the talent that is out there and just hasn't been discovered yet has a better chance to surface. Not only that, but previously traditionally published authors like Bella Andre--who are extremely talented but just not working well enough in the market for a Big 6 publisher to continue taking on with their bottom lines--can still share their writing with the world and still make money doing it.

Sonoma, Calif. — In the winter of 2010, the cheerfully effervescent romance novelist Nyree Belleville suffered the same fate as many a scribe — she was dropped by her publisher. The most any of her 12 spicy romances, penned under the name Bella Andre, had earned was $21,000.

She was, in her Cali-girl vocabulary, “bummed.” She was 36. She had two young children, a husband and a little house in the hills above this picturesque wine-making region.

A thin, pretty brunette who majored in economics at Stanford, Belleville had been a singer in her 20s, but that career died, and now her writing career was so flat line that one of her old publishers had even given her the rights to her first two novels.

So, out of sorts and feeling blue, she sat down one morning and figured out how to self-publish one of those novels, “Authors in Ecstasy,” on Amazon’s e-reader, the Kindle, just to see what would happen. It was a pain. She had zero graphic-arts skills. She had to create a cover, write her jacket copy, figure out formatting and set a price. She did it and forgot about it.

A few weeks later, she checked her account. She had sold 161 copies. She’d made $281. She was astonished.

She rushed to a lunch with three writer friends, with the numbers scrawled on a sheet of yellow paper, and slapped it down on the table. “That moment is burned in everybody’s mind now,” she says. “It was not a tipping point. It was a turning point.”

She put her other old book online and figured out how to place both on other e-readers — the Nook, the Sony Reader, the iPad, Kobo. The next month, her royalties bumped to $474. Giddy, she self-published a new e-book in July. She made a jaw-dropping $3,539. It was like the best thing ever!

“Every day, as the numbers ticked by, my husband and I were floored,” she says.

She got the rights to two more old novels. She feverishly wrote another e-novel, “Game for Love,” about a bad-boy pro football player and his unexpected marriage. She popped it online Dec. 15.

Earnings for that month? $19,315.

In January and February, she e-published a trilogy of young-adult novels she’d written years earlier. She called the first one “Seattle Girl” and chose a new author name, Lucy Kevin, to distinguish it from the sexually explicit Andre books.

Here’s what her first quarter looked like: 56,008 books sold; income, $116,264.

Perched on the edge of a couch in her tiny writing office, which doubles as a playroom for her kids, Belleville says: “Isn’t this just awesome?!”

Self-publishing frontier

There is no good comparison for what’s happening in the frontier world of self-published e-books, because there has never been anything like it in publishing history.

Since Johannes Gutenberg developed the printing press in the 15th century, publishers have pretty much owned the presses, the means of mass production and, therefore, of distribution. Save for tiny “vanity” printings, for the intervening 500 years or so publishing houses have controlled who was able to publish, how many copies were printed, the price and the percentage of profits paid to writers (in modern America, usually about 10 to 15 percent of the list price.)

But riding the crest of the digital revolution, powered by blogs and tweets and social media, and delivered by the explosive sales of e-readers in the past two years, some authors are sidestepping that business model.

They can write, publish, advertise, create covers, set and change prices — and haul in up to 70 percent of the sale price. It is possible for writers marketing a $4.99 self-published e-book to make more per copy than authors with a $24.95 hardcover.

It’s gold-rush crazy, and it has exploded in the past 12 months, the past six months. It’s happening right now. You hear wild stories about novelists — who are supposed to be enduring lives of artistic gratification but monetary penury — blowing past your tax bracket.

Read the rest of the article HERE

(P.S. it's worth it!)

Bella also just released her newest title, THE LOOK OF LOVE, (it's the first book in a new series) so be sure to check it out!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Celeb Steps Up with New Book to Help Prevent Bullying

Though there are a number of headlines that swept the publishing blogs today--eBook release controversies, self-publishing successes, etc.--I want to talk about 50 Cent.

Yes, that's right. The rapper.

I've never been much a hip-hop/rap fan, truth be told, and I can't really even think of a single song by 50 Cent that I would recognize. But when I saw on Galley Cat today that he just signed a contract for a book about bullying, I wanted to applaud:
Hip-hop artist Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson will write a semi-autobiographical novel called Playground. The young-adult book stars “a thirteen-year-old schoolyard bully who finds redemption as he faces what he’s done.”

Penguin Group (USA)’s Razorbill imprint will release the title in January 2012. Laura Arnold will edit the book. Agency Group agent Marc Gerald brokered the deal.

The rapper (pictured, via) had this statement: “I wanted to explore how a kid becomes a bully. I drew on events from my own childhood and adolescence, but was excited to see the story take on its own life. This book would have been very helpful for me growing up and now that I have a teenage son, it is my goal that this will have a positive influence on all teenagers.”

See the original post HERE

I love the fact that one of today's celebs is taking such an active approach to helping reduce such a prominent problem. It's so refreshing.

Friday, June 17, 2011

James Rollins Launches New Book with Innovative Twitter Party

As the publishing industry evolves, marketing tactics are getting more and more creative.

Last fall, Jay-Z's PR team ran a Scavenger Hunt campaign for his book De-Coded. Scholastic also took an innovative approach with the middle-grade series 39 Clues. The folks over at Bitten By Books do blog release parties for a variety of authors, complete with Q&As, contests, or even live chats. People are always coming up with fun, new ideas to get the buzz going.

And there's another one circulating the industry right now--New York Times bestselling author James Rollins is promoting his new book, The Devil Colony with a themed worldwide Twitter party this coming Tuesday, June 21. What fun!

What: Dance with the Devil
When: Around the World--All Day & All Night
Where: Twitter hashtag #DevilColony
How: Join the Worldwide Celebration of James Rollins' Hottest Release The Devil Colony by using #DevilColony

The theme of the event is the Devil (naturally) and "attendees" just need to use the hashtag #DevilColony in their tweets. There will be a photo contest with a mystery prize even for the most creative photos, in addition to random prizes given away throughout. Anyone can upload pictures of themselves "having a party" or something "devil-themed" (I am going to try to dig up a Halloween pic of me from college when i went as a half-angel half-devil! Whee!)--anything to take part and share in the fun. Such a clever and entertaining way to bring readers together all around the globe!

There might even be some pretty big names taking part, in addition to Rollins himself, that is. Lee Child, Bob Mayer, Terry Brooks--who knows who might show up to chat and celebrate! Maybe even have a glass of e-bubbly--one of my planned contributions to the party!

Personally, I adore this concept--Twitter is taking on such new life, expanding and growing in a way that many people didn't expect, especially in publishing. People are coming together on a variety of levels, making friends, debating controversial topics, sharing recommendations, and so much more. Twitter chats are also becoming a bigger trend by the week (my project, Book Country, has started a bi-weekly chat too! Check out our schedule of events HERE), so why not a Twitter release party? It's fun and a great way to network yourself, to gain and add intriguing new followers to your contacts.

Social media expert, author, and friend Kristen Lamb filled me in via email on the inspiration behind this awesome event:
Think of parties. Do you go to a birthday party just to say hello to the birthday girl? Yes, and no. You also go to socialize, have fun and hang out and meet cool people. Same here. [The] goal is to get away for gimmick and just bring people together. [...] This is organic and dynamic...not canned traditional marketing. The objective is to come together as a community.
So, stop on by on Tuesday, 6/21 at any time! It's a great event to support a talented author, and you'll have fun and make new friends in the process. Sounds to me like only good things can happen as a result. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Eternal Life for Harry Potter on Rowling's "Pottermore"

As we approach the release of the final Harry Potter film (July 15 for those of you who are not obsessed), J.K. Rowling and her band of beloved magic-folk are in the news once more.

According to Digital Spy, Rowling has just announced a new Harry Potter website called "Pottermore." Speculation is that the creation of the site might poise the author to write and release another HP.
JK Rowling has unveiled a mysterious new website titled Pottermore, sparking speculation that more Harry Potter is on the way.

The Potter author launched - currently featuring just a logo, the message "Coming soon" and Rowling's signature - on Wednesday, following a frenzied "Secret Street View" challenge.

Ten Potter websites were given co-ordinates which each pertained to a different letter in the Pottermore name, all of which were pieced together to reveal the website's address.

While no further details have been revealed about the project, a source at, who has apparently seen the site, described it as "breathtaking in scope, detail and sheer beauty".

A Pottermore Twitter account has also been set up at

The name is said to have been the last patent recorded by Rowling, who registered the word internationally in July 2009.

Rowling is currently working on several new projects and has previously confessed that she is unsure whether she would ever write another Harry Potter book.

Read the original post HERE

While I love the books, I've gotta say, I think it's time for Rowling to let go of the HP trend and try her hand at something new. The story line is complete now, and any additions would just be forced and ring untrue. At least to me. Even book 7 was pushing it, in my opinion!

I am, however, still excited for the last film. Check out the trailer below if you haven't seen it yet! *squee*

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Blast from the Past: Encyclopedias

I'd been thinking recently about encyclopedias.

Strange topic to randomly consider, I know. But when I saw my nearly 7-year-old sister this past weekend and how big she's getting, how much she's learning in school, how well she's reading, etc. it also hit me that she's going to start doing research projects soon. Oof.

Not sure why that "hit" me like that--I guess because I always enjoyed doing them and learning about something new. I loved flipping through our set of Encyclopedia Britannicas searching for something specific but finding a thousand other random facts in the process. And it made me realize how different the process will be for her than it was for me.

Where I had to dig through thick, hardcover books and scour library shelves for the right tome, she'll be using search engines and finding things at the click of a button. Personally, it struck me as somewhat sad. Yes, there is an abundance of knowledge to be gained out there in this new digital world but you really only find what you're looking for. You don't randomly come across new topics or weird exotic animals to learn semi-useless facts about.

But then I saw a link to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle titled "Britannica Published E-Books for Schools, Libraries."

You can imagine my delight.

Students in elementary school through college can easily access hundreds of high-quality books on the subjects they're studying through a new Web-based e-books service available to schools and libraries from Britannica Digital Learning.

The new service, at, makes it easier than ever to use Britannica's expert-written single-volume titles for research, papers, homework and projects. More than 300 non-fiction digital books are now available. They cover the full range of curriculum, including math, science, language arts, social studies and health.

Each e-book contains the entire text of the print edition and illustrations - many of which are striking, high-definition and full-color. Tables of contents, indexes and glossaries are hyperlinked and fully searchable.

"These books are extremely valuable in digital form. They can be searched by several students at once, making them more accessible and useful than a single bound book," said Michael Ross, senior vice president and general manager of Britannica Digital Learning.

E-books are whiteboard ready, making them ideal for use both in small classrooms and large lecture halls. Schools do not have to spend additional funds on reading devices; these e-books can be accessed 24/7 by students, teachers, and library patrons through any Web connection. All titles in a school's or library's holdings can be searched with a single keyword. Password-protected notes can be saved and the material can be printed.

Britannica plans to add hundreds of additional e-book titles in the next few years. The first 15 pages of each title are available free at Pricing, titles and more are available at 1-800-621-3900.

Read the original article HERE

I just hope that at least SOME kids use them the "old-fashioned" way.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mystery Author Lilian Jackson Braun Dies at 97

Yesterday the book biz lost an innovative gem of a mystery writer--Lilian Jackson Braun, 97.

With her cozy mystery series featuring "The Cat Who" and his mortal sleuth companion Jim Qwillera, Braun won the hearts of millions.

The New York Times tells us more:
Lilian Jackson Braun, a mystery novelist whose best-selling “Cat Who” series repeatedly plumbed the hearts, minds and digestive tracts of her crime-solving feline heroes, died on Saturday in Landrum, S. C. She was 97.

Her death was announced by her publisher, G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

The series began in 1966 with “The Cat Who Could Read Backwards” and concluded in 2007 with “The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers,” its 29th volume. In between were, among other titles, “The Cat Who Played Brahms”; “... Knew Shakespeare”; “... Sniffed Glue”; “... Said Cheese”; and “... Smelled a Rat.”

The novels, which have sold millions of copies and been translated into 16 languages, appeared regularly on The New York Times’s best-seller list.

Their human protagonist is Jim Qwilleran, a newspaperman, amateur sleuth and all-round sensitive guy who lives in an unspecified northerly state that seems to have a disproportionate share of homicide.

Qwilleran’s sidekick — in the opinion of many, the book’s real star — is his intrepid, preternaturally intelligent Siamese shamus, Koko. Koko’s sidekick is Yum Yum, also a Siamese. (Like her namesake of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, Yum Yum is dainty and not precisely a cognitive giant, but she proves useful throughout the series for her dexterous, conveniently larcenous paws.)

Critical response to the books was generally favorable, with many reviewers praising their essential warmth and cozy charm. Others, however, faulted what they saw as scanty plotting and an overreliance on formulaic set pieces.

But for cat lovers, those set pieces offered dependable pleasures. In book after book, readers could luxuriate in tenderly described scenes of cats purring, cats grooming, cats eating — Qwilleran fed them high-end fare like lobster and crabmeat — cats frolicking and, of course, cats sleeping.

At opportune moments, Qwilleran’s cats throw up clues, as when they pull highly significant books down from shelves. They also throw up hairballs, as cats are wont to do.

Lilian Jackson was born on June 20, 1913, in Willimansett, a village within the city of Chicopee, Mass. The Depression put a college education out of reach; as a young woman, she worked as an advertising copywriter and public-relations executive before spending many years as a lifestyle writer and editor at The Detroit Free Press.

Ms. Braun’s first husband, Louis Paul Braun, died before her. A longtime resident of Tryon, N.C., she is survived by her husband, Earl Bettinger.

After writing “The Cat Who Could Read Backwards,” Ms. Braun quickly followed the book with two more, “The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern” (1967) and “The Cat Who Turned On and Off” (Dutton, 1968).

Then, discouraged by the market’s seemingly insatiable demand for sex and violence in mystery novels — her books have little of either — she set the series aside for 18 years. After retiring from The Free Press, she resumed with “The Cat Who Saw Red,” which appeared in 1986 .

An indication of just how fully Ms. Braun’s series had insinuated itself into popular culture came in 2003 in the form of a satirical mystery novel by Robert Kaplow. Its title: “The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun.”

Read the original post HERE

Monday, June 6, 2011

Seasons of Books

Holy long time since I've blogged, Batman...I've been off having a Texas adventure!

Sorry, y'all. :)

But now I'm back and planning my Spring reading round-up of mini-reviews for you. In the meantime, though, here's a great list of books from NPR for your summer reading list, if you want to get away from the stress of today and be transported to another time:

Summer, when I was a kid, meant weekend road-trips in our family Rambler to sites of historical interest. We'd pack up deviled-ham sandwiches and Cokes and make pilgrimages from our apartment in Queens to Teddy Roosevelt's house on Long Island or Washington Irving's house in Westchester. Sometimes there were longer expeditions to Valley Forge and, once, Williamsburg. I'm not sure how much history I absorbed; I mostly remember a lot of candle-making demonstrations. But, forever after, summer, to me, has been the season for traveling back in time, either by hitting the road or, happily, hitting the books.

The Greater Journey: Americans In Paris By David McCullough, hardcover, 576 pages, Simon & Schuster, list price: $37.50

David McCullough is about as dependable as they come if you're in the mood for a narrative history that sweeps you, through luscious detail and anecdote, into a bygone age. His beguiling new book is called The Greater Journey and it departs from works like 1776 and John Adams in that it digs deep, not into a historical event or personage, but, rather, into a cultural trend. Between 1830 and 1900, scores of young Americans with ambitions to be painters, architects, doctors and scientists sailed to the Old World to soak up the education the New World couldn't offer.

Or, as McCullough puts it: "Not all pioneers went west." Specifically they traveled to Paris. Some, like Mary Cassatt and Oliver Wendell Holmes, are familiar names; others, like the educator Emma Willard and Mary Putnam — the first American woman to graduate from a French medical school — are revelations. McCullough evokes a vision of early 19th-century Paris crowded with restaurants and gambling houses, but his greatest achievement is the realization he gives readers of how new America still was back then, sans medical schools and serious art academies. He writes of American travelers in the 1830s seeing their first glimpse of the medieval cathedral at Rouen. The Americans were agog, McCullough notes, because:

The largest building in the United States at the time was the Capitol in Washington. ... Even the most venerable houses and churches at home ... dated back only to the mid-17th century. So historic a landmark as Philadelphia's Independence Hall was not yet a hundred years old.

The Final Storm: A Novel Of The War In The Pacific By Jeff Shaara, paperback, 480 pages, Ballantine Books, list price: $28

McCullough's book is essentially about building civilization; Jeff Shaara's novel, The Final Storm, is about destruction on an almost unfathomable scale. The Final Storm chronicles the Pacific campaign during World War II; it's the fourth in Shaara's series about the war and works both as a standalone novel and as the conclusion to that series. There are no post-modern literary tricks here; instead, Shaara is a master — in the Herman Wouk, Kenneth Roberts mode — of the kind of character-driven, plot-heavy page-turner that most of us think of when we think "historical novel."

In his introduction, Shaara reminds us of some of the staggering numbers of the Pacific Campaign: the two-week assault on Saipan resulted in 14,000 American deaths; Iwo Jima, 26,000 American casualties and only 300 Japanese prisoners taken alive out of the 20,000 defending the island. The Final Storm is a vivid literary addition to films like Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers — all of which underscore the peculiar brutalities and sometimes under-recognized sacrifices of the War in the Pacific.

Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education Of Two Society Girls In The West By Dorothy Wickenden, hardcover, 304 pages, Simon & Schuster Adult, list price: $26, pub. date: June 21

My last recommendation is a potentially annoying one because readers will have to sit tight for a couple of weeks before they get their hands on Dorothy Wickenden's "alternative Western" called Nothing Daunted. But, I promise you, it's worth the wait. Wickenden, who is the executive editor of The New Yorker magazine, has written a superb biography that charts the adventures of her grandmother and her grandmother's best friend — society girls and Smith College graduates — who, in the summer of 1916, set out to become schoolteachers in the isolated settlement of Elkhead, Colo. Relying on photographs and letters that the women sent back to their anxious parents in Auburn, N.Y., Wickenden summons up the last moments of frontier life, where books were a luxury and, when blizzards hit, homesteader's children would ski miles to school on curved barrel staves. David McCullough may tell us that "Not all pioneers went west," but some unlikely ones sure did, and Nothing Daunted also reminds us that different strains of courage can be found, not just on the battlefield, but on the home front, too.

See the original post or listen to the story HERE