Welcome to the blog of the Consulting Editors Alliance. This is our forum for sharing views on the wonderful, bizarre, enormously frustrating and satisfying (depends on the day) world of book publishing and our roles in it as freelance editors, writing collaborators, and ghostwriters. Please join the conversation!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Awards Time

Carla Jablonski is very proud to have been asked to be a judge for the 2012 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, sponsored by The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. This organization is dedicated to supporting young writers and artists through college scholarships.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You see? Sometimes it actually DOES pay off!

I just want to congratulate client Andrew Davis for the publication of his informative and entertaining book, Baggy Pants Comedy: Burlesque and the Oral Tradition, by Palgrave/Macmillan. It took him awhile to find the right home, but he did -- and the book looks fantastic!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Agents As Publishers--Is It Legit?

From Sandi Gelles-Cole: "I was fascinated by this piece in Publishing Perspectives about the conflict of interest of agents now acting as publishers.  Read it if you have a minute."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Your Unsolicited Manuscript Is A Sign That The End Is Near

Appalled by declining morality and expanding chaos, people have been predicting the apocalypse since time immemorial--incorrectly, of course. But this dire forecast from an Assyrian clay tablet dating back to 2800 BCE offers an unusual twist:

“Our Earth is degenerate in these later days; there are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end; bribery and corruption are common; children no longer obey their parents; every man wants to write a book and the end of the world is evidently approaching” [my italics].

I can only assume that the Assyrian soothsayer was a freelance editor wearied by the constant stream of mediocre manuscripts--clay tablets, I mean--dropped on his doorstep by would-be authors . . . 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Remembering Carol Southern

It has been a steamy summer of unsettled weather here in New York as well as a time of stubborn recalcitrance and lack of progress in the economy and in politics.  But for us in CEA it will always be remembered as the summer we lost our friend Carol Southern.  In her years at Clarkson Potter she was known for editing beautiful books, finely designed and filled with colorful images drawn from life, which actually is a reasonable accurate description of Carol's personality as well.  Not only was Carol a long-time sweet and generous presence in our conversations, she also graciously hosted many CEA meetings in her West Side apartment filled with memories of life with her husband, the dangerously witty Terry Southern.

We miss her already.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Not Quite A Publisher In A Box, But A Step In That Direction

This is really interesting: From Seth Godin's Domino Project, successfully self-published author Jenny Blake provides her Excel spreadsheet listing the dozens of steps she takes from launch through publication and marketing of a new book.  It looks as though it would need quite a bit of customization to fit your individual needs, but I suspect this could be a valuable tool for someone getting started in the complicated world of self-publishing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Maybe Everything Old Really Is New Again

Back in 1922, DeWitt Wallace was recovering from shrapnel wounds he'd received in World War I when he got the idea that the flood of information being published was just too great for the average person to manage.  He got a pair of scissors and a pot of glue and made up a sample of a new magazine by piecing together the best bits of all the articles and books being published elsewhere for quick, easy reading by a busy person.  By the time Wallace's concept celebrated its 40th anniversary, Reader's Digest had 23 international editions and was the most widely-read magazine in the world.

Today, apparently, the same concept looks like this:
Gis.to is an aggregator of abstracts for the long-form web. It is a venue for the crowds to share the valuable nuggets of information held within long-form non-fiction content which often gets overlooked or ignored due to the massive amount of information produced by our society each day. . . .  
A directory of well-written abstracts (or Gists) that summarize the key points of information within long-form articles that offer readers a glimpse into what a further investment of their reading time will yield without skewing the original source article with a great deal of editorial opinion. 
Sort through the jargon and you quickly see that Gis.to is basically a Reader's Digest for the twenty-first century . . . with readers writing the "condensed" contents themselves.  If you find this idea compelling, visit the website and you'll have an opportunity to donate money to the people who are launching this thing--and who I bet are hoping to become millionaires in the process.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fame Makes Best-Sellers . . . Usually Not Vice Versa

An entertaining and fact-filled review of the history of American best-sellers (or as she corrects the term, "fast-sellers") by Ruth Franklin.  Most sobering observation: "A novel by a new writer has a smaller chance of becoming a best seller today than at any other time in history."  Of course, it helps if you are someone like Tina Fey or George W. Bush, famous from non-literary activities (in the case of President Bush, extremely non-literary).  The book business, much as we may love it (and with occasional huge exceptions as with the Harry Potter phenomenon), is increasingly an appendage to broader American culture rather than its core.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"And Thanks To The Editor Who Tortured Me Mercilessly"

I was amused by this article by Emily Gould offering do's and don'ts for author acknowledgment pages, although I must note that some of her tips (e.g., "Rule #2: Don't thank a deity") seem more broadly applicable than others ("Rule #7: Don't swing madly from throwaway jokes to forced gravitas").

Personally I judge the acknowledgment pages in books I've worked on based solely on how effusively the author praises me.  More effusive = better, in case you are wondering--although in my experience the level of authorial thanks I receive tends to be negatively correlated with my actual role in enhancing the book.  When I do little but spruce up the grammar and correct a misspelling or two, I generally get warm accolades; when I transform an unpublishable mess into a clear, interesting read, I often get tepid thanks or none at all.

In retrospect, of course, that's not surprising.  The dentist who discovers I have half a dozen cavities and spends three hours fixing them all does me more good than the one who gives me a quick, painless cleaning--but I certainly don't savor the process.  So I guess that when I tear apart and rebuild someone's painstakingly crafted manuscript, it's unreasonable of me to expect gratitude.  Yet of course I do, such is human perversity.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Genius Of M.O. Braschi: Authorship As Mashup

I used to think I was a reasonably productive writer--but that was before I heard of Manuel Ortiz Braschi, author of no fewer than 3,255 e-books. That is, "author" in the same sense that I "wrote" the music for West Side Story, since I downloaded the album from iTunes. Click here to read about a weird byproduct of the rise of electronic publishing . . .

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Note To Self For When I Write My Publishing Memoir

Remember to include plenty of "vaginal ectoplasm" (if I want a positive review from the Jewish Daily Forward, that is!).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Philip Roth: "I Wised Up"

I enjoyed this interview with Philip Roth (from the Financial Times, via Slate).  My favorite moment: When Roth says that he doesn't read fiction anymore, and when the interview asks why, Roth replied, "I don't know.  I wised up."  A cryptic answer that Roth declines to explain further.

Perhaps I like this exchange because it might seem to validate my own strong preference for reading non-fiction rather than fiction.  Although I am willing to make an exception when the fiction is by Philip Roth.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Eek! Get Me Copy Editing!

As the writer (not the author) of a book, I recently sent the manuscript along to the editor, Judith Jones, at Knopf. The author’s agent commented that we could look forward to the book actually being edited. “So many editors today just send manuscripts straight to copyediting.”

I was not so surprised—we hear this sort of thing all the time—but then I read Ian Frazier’s review of John Darnton’s terrific memoir, Almost a Family. Frazier’s praise for the book was unqualified, but he closed with a paragraph expressing his disappointment with the editing of the book:

“Are books more carelessly edited than they used to be, or is it just my imagination? In general this book is not so bad in that regard. However, I was discouraged to see that Knopf’s copyeditors seem not to know the difference between “poured” and “pored” and “clamoring” and “clambering.” He goes on to note that the copy editors let “eek out subsistence livelihoods” slip by. “Eek!”

There is one obvious explanation: spell check. Whether the publishers are skipping real copyeditors and relying on that function or if lazy copyeditors are to blame, letting the computer do the job is an obvious factor. It isn’t enough. Spell check is great—for spelling—but writers, editors and copyeditors still need to be sure that the word itself is the right one.

Frazier closes with the hope that the next editions of Darnton’s book are corrected. And I suggest that more reviewers help by pointing out at least the most egregious flaws. Or is the age of shame also behind us?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Literature of the World in a Warehouse in Richmond, California

I love this story about Brewster Kahle, who has taken it upon himself to create an archive for hard copies of books scanned, digitized--and then mostly discarded--by Google.  Ultimately he hopes his collection will include some ten million books.

Is there a point to Kahle's mission?  There will be if, by some quirk of history or technological evolution, we arrive at a moment when the Internet is no longer available or useable, and we suddenly realize that one of those old tomes we uploaded decades ago contains information we actually need or want.

Digital technology is great, but I for one wouldn't want to bet our entire cultural patrimony on the continued viability of any single electronic data storage and recovery system.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Gap

And I am not talking about jeans.

Since I have launched an independently published novel into the blogosphere of book reviews and book bloggers I have come across an interesting phenomenon. I am sure it will straighten out eventually but for the moment, I am reminded of what our guest, Laura Von Wermer said about techgeeks scaring the book people away from our territory and how we have to take it back (I'm paraphrasing).

Reviews, a basic tool -- you send an ARC out to a list of time honored media representatives and they assign the book. Either the reviewer likes it or not, but there are givens: they know that the book is not proofed so they don't point out typos; there is the understanding that the font of a novel is probably not something to review.

More important-who gets the ARCs--if you are dealing with a virtual PR agency, as I am, this is wild. We are definitely not in the same world. I have been the host blogger on a mommy blog for a novel about Marilyn Monroe. I believe the thinking for where a book should go is fundamentally different. Rather than to a MM site, or dead celebrity, or Hollywood, the thinking goes in multiple directions. Blogs can take you deeper and sideways rather than staying on topic.

It's all a learning experience and once I've mastered it I am sure the entire landscape will change. C'est La Guerre.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A book of and for the ages

I am telling everyone these days about A TIME FOR EVERYTHING, by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by James Anderson. I have not been so moved and awed by a book in years. The time you give this book will be repaid a thousand fold in honest emotion (one of the rarest things in art), spellbinding imagery, and profound ideas.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Why Is Someone Else In My Book's Author Photo?"

Check out this story from Salon to read about one of the weirdest publishing snafus I've ever heard about (and believe me I've heard about quite a few).

Incidentally if any of the publishers I work with is looking for a new photo of me to use on a forthcoming book, I'd suggest the shot to the left.  It might generate a few extra sales . . . 

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Big Seven

re the back and forth between Karl and Toni about allowing consumers to vote on covers--Galley Cat reports that author Max Barry has convinced his publisher to allow the Reddit community to vote on cover for his latest book.

While this is not what we seem to be now referring to as the big six, it is a step towards democratic selection.

More important-How do we feel about Amazon hiring Larry Kirschbaum, the world's greatest publisher, to head their publishing group? I think this means that we will have a big seven. I wonder if the publishing arm will start to interfere with what Create Space and other printers put on their site? Hmmmm-Frankly, this worries me -- it feels like a blow to the Indie Publishing movement. But it probably is time to do some sort of weeding.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Only Advertisement Most Books Ever Get

I enjoyed the feature in the Times Book Review last week showing rejected book cover designs, but this version is so much better, since it presents the "winning" designs alongside for easy comparison.

The next logical step: Publishers should present two or three alternative designs online and let prospective readers choose their favorite.  Better still, the publisher could count the "votes" by inviting readers to click on book covers for more information or to pre-order the title.  The image that draws the most clicks would be the one to get printed.

This is such an obvious use of social media that I am baffled as to why it hasn't already been done.  Unless it has, in which case I would love to hear about it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why Go To A Bricks-and-Mortar Bookstore? Here's A Reason

Sign of the times: This afteroon I went to my nearest physical bookstore (a Barnes & Noble fifteen minutes away from my home by car) for the first time in months. And why did I make the trip? Because the author of a book I'm editing wanted to quote a passage from a book she'd read on her Kindle--which meant she didn't know the number of the page on which the passage appeared. So I volunteered to drive to B&N to look at a printed copy of George W. Bush's Decision Points and ascertain that the endnote should refer to page 427.

Which proves I guess that you can't do everything on Amazon.  Yet.