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, August 26, 2010

A Must-Read For Every Lover of Literature

Here's a fine appreciative blog post by Lorin Stein, until recently an editor at Farrar Straus Giroux, about the wonderful Paris Review interviews with great writers. If you don't know these, and you are even vaguely interested in the process by which life experience gets transmuted into literature, then you should discover them.

One good way to start is by visiting the online archive that contains excerpts from the reviews. Then once you've discovered which of your favorite authors have been included--in my case, the list includes Thurber, Borges, Huxley, William Carlos Williams, Auden, E.B. White, S.J. Perelman, and many more--you'll probably want to read the full interviews, which are downloadable or available in book form in a four-volume set.

BTW Lorin Stein has just taken over as editor of the Paris Review--which means he is now responsible for carrying on this wonderful tradition. Good luck, Lorin! We'll be reading.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Instant Books, Circa 1937

From one of the curious byways of publishing history . . .

E-books may be new, but the impulse behind them certainly is not, as this story about a 1937 invention called the Penguincubator illustrates. As the story explains, Sir Allen Lane, founder of Penguin Books, was motivated to create a vending machine for paperback books by his frustration with the limited availability of reading material while traveling:

"After a weekend visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, he found himself on a platform at Exeter station searching its bookstall for something to read on his journey back to London, but discovered only popular magazines and reprints of Victorian novels.

"Appalled by the selection on offer, Lane decided that good quality contemporary fiction should be made available at an attractive price and sold not just in traditional bookshops, but also in railway stations, tobacconists and chain stores."

Today, of course, we have the Kindle, with its instant download capability, for just such moments. And not just the Kindle: My wife Mary-Jo will happily tell you about downloading books to her iPhone when she finds herself in an airport without a good novel to read. It's true that the tiny screen only has room for 75 words or so at a time, but she has had no trouble reading entire books that way. And the selection of books available is a little more varied than that offered by the Penguincubator!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Future of Publishing is in Their Hands

The hands of those who best understand e-publishing? The hands of the buyers for the chains, whose choices dictate what is carried by Borders and Barnes & Noble? The hands of all those authors who will now be self-publishing? Possibly, but it's also in the hands of the 92 students who are about to graduate from the University of Denver's Publishing Institute, the 35th group of publishing aspirants to complete the month-long summer course since the institute opened its doors in 1976.

Karl Weber and I (following in the footsteps of Arnold Dolin and the late Gladys Topkis) recently had the pleasure of working with these very smart mostly twenty-somethings, trying to cram as much as we could about book acquisition, the role of the editor, and nuts-and-bolts editing into two short weeks. In the weeks that followed our Editing Workshop, the students got a thorough introduction to trade book marketing with Carl Lennertz, VP of Marketing for HarperCollins, and overviews of many, many different facets of the book business. On Friday, August 6, the students graduate, and most have already begun the process of looking for work in publishing, whether in New York or elsewhere.

After spending two weeks with these dynamic young men and women, I'm here to say: Authors take heart. There are still plenty of people out there who care about finding, developing, and publishing great books and who bring with them the passion, curiosity, and intelligence necessary to do so. I've just met 92 of them. I don't know what form those great books will take, and I don't know what forms of social networking or electronic marketing will be used to promote them. But I do know that there are an abundance of talented young individuals out there who care deeply about books, and that their energy and commitment bodes well for our industry.