Predicting the future

 ebooks, Joe Moore, Publishers, Publishing, publishing business  Comments Off on Predicting the future
Apr 022014

By Joe Moore

In a recent article in THE TELEGRAPH, the founder of the famous Waterstone’s London book store, Tim Waterstone, stated that the “printed word is far from dead” and gypsey-with-crystal-ball (Small)the “so-called e-book revolution will soon go into decline.” He joked that insiders were generally “apocalyptic” about the book industry’s prospects but said he refused to believe the traditional physical book was under threat.

I tend to agree with Mr. Waterstone in as much as most bookstores I visit are packed with books and people buying them. I know it’s a simplistic measure of current trends, but when I start seeing large sections of empty shelves in book stores, I may change my viewpoint.

I disagree with him about e-books. So does Gaby Wood, who also wrote an article on the subject in THE TELEGRAPH. She states that “Booksellers are the group most threatened by the possible death of the printed book, and they have a reason to think wishfully of the digital book’s demise.” She also said that publishers have got to stop thinking of their digital products as “books”, and start imagining more expansive ways of communicating information. Until then, the digital revolution hasn’t even begun.

I think Gaby Wood has it right—this whole electronic publishing wave has just gotten started. The possibilities for industries like publishing, education and entertainment are endless. To say that e-books will soon go into decline is a prediction that may become laughable in the future.

To put this prediction business into perspective, let me share with you some famous visionaries of the past whose predictions carried a great deal of weight when first put forth, but didn’t stand up to the test of time. Enjoy.

"This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a
means of communication.  The device is inherently of no value to us."
— Western Union internal memo, 1876

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
— Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
— Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
— Bill Gates, 1981

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the
best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t
last out the year."
— The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

"But what… is it good for?"
— Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
— Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay
for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
— David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible."
— A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
— H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927

"I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."
— Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind"

"We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
— Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
— Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895

"So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us?  Or we’ll give it to you.  We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come
work for you.’  And they said, ‘No.’  So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.’"
— Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer

"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."
— 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is named after Professor Gaddard.

"Drill for oil?  You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil?  You’re crazy."
— Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859. Drake was the first man credited to drill for oil in the United States

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
— Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre

"Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
— Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
— Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

How about you? Any predictions on the fate of the printed book and the electronic book revolution?

Feb 142014

jpattersonPublishing circles were reeling today after this morning’s surprise announcement of the merger of pop fiction titans James Patterson and Clive Cussler, who between them are likely to account for twenty bestsellers in calendar year 2014 alone. While neither author could be reached for comment, a source close to both men confirmed that the deal will include all rights—film, electronic, and audio—to the two authors’ innumerable backlist titles as well as all current and future work.

“This is very unsettling,” declared Georgette Rasmussen, proprietor of Books Are Our Friends. “Independent booksellers are facing desperate challenges these days, and I don’t see how this can possibly help us.”

ccusslerInterviews with two officers of Authors Guild, both of whom insisted on anonymity, brought curiously contradictory responses. “I think it’s very exciting,” said one. “This  shows the great resourcefulness of our membership, and the inherent ability of writers to adjust to changing conditions in today’s publishing environment.”

Her colleague was less sanguine, characterizing the merger as “appalling, and very much of a piece with the consolidation in publishing. You could see the handwriting on the wall back in 1962, when Harper & Brothers gobbled up Row, Peterson & Co. If Patterson and Cussler combine, how can other authors possibly remain competitive? They’ll almost have to follow suit, and you can look forward to the day when half a dozen mega-writers dominate the market.”

The two Guild representatives did find one point of agreement. “If you want to know who gets the blame,” said one, “you don’t have to look any further than Amazon.”

Literary agent Morgan Wheelwright cautioned against a rush to judgment. “First of all,” she pointed out, “there’s no certainty that the Department of Justice is going to sign off on something this unprecedented.” Her chief concern, she added, was for those clients of hers who were “co-writers” for one or the other of the principals. “We’ve been assured that our writers’ jobs are safe, and that if anything there’ll be a need for additional writers to keep the increasing stream of books flowing. If that’s so, I think this is a great opportunity for our writers, and writers in general.”

Marketing maven Jason Bordelaise echoed this sentiment. “I can see a time,” he said, “when every writer will start out by ghosting for or co-writing with a mega-writer, and that’s a win-win for everybody. The huge challenge in publishing has always been selling an author’s first book, an unknown quantity with no market awaiting it. And after that there’s the hurdle of the second novel, scorned by all those readers who were understandably disappointed with the first. But now there won’t be any first or second novels. Every book published will be a known quantity. Who could possibly object to that?”

One executive of a Big Five firm, insisting on anonymity, questioned the term merger. “Patterson has 15 books slated for 2014 publication,” he said. “Cussler has what, five? You call it a merger. I call it a lark pie.”

A little Googling helped us with that one. When Syria and Egypt linked up in 1958 to form the United Arab Republic, cynics likened the disproportionate amalgam to a pie consisting of equal parts of lark and camel—one lark to one camel. (In 1961, the Syrian lark took its leave and the experiment was over.)

The blogosphere, as you can imagine, has been buzzing, as internet observers and ardent self-publishers have been airing and sharing their thoughts on the new development. While every possible view has been given voice, all seem to agree that the times are indeed changing.

As further evidence of this, please note the rumor—still unsubstantiated!—that talks have been initiated between representatives of Stephen King and Mary Higgins Clark.





 Posted by at 1:23 am
Jan 082014

You might know Bryon Quertermous (AKA my arch-nemesis) from his shameless self-promotion and whining on social media. But he recently took over the editing reigns at Exhibit A Books, the crime fiction imprint of Angry Robot Books. So now, we have to be nice to him.

The two of us recently got together for a little pow-wow via Google docs (hence all of the typing references) and discussed Exhibit A, publishing, and, of course, Bryon’s favorite subject: himself.

What follows is part one of the (mostly) unedited transcript of this monumental event.

HW: Ok, first question: Quertermous is a weird last name. Where’s it from?
BQ: My father.
HW: Elaborate, please.
BQ: I’ve heard a variety of different stories, but the most realistic of them seems to be that it’s French from my Louisiana relatives. Though I’m not entirely sure someone didn’t just make it up.
HW: I can already see I’m a better typist than you are.
BQ: Brilliance comes at a cost, and in my case the cost is proper typing skills. Do you use the proper setting for your hands and everything?
HW: Why, yes I do. Thanks for noticing.
BQ: My paralyzing wrist pain and elbow cramps are reminders of how awesome I am. You don’t get to experience that.
HW: True. Ok, let’s get on with the “interview.”
BQ: No. My turn for a question. Tell me about your name. Holly West sounds fake. Elaborate.
HW: My birth name is Holly O’Neill. My husband’s name is Mick West. I married him so that I could have a cooler name (and he married me for the greencard). Win-win!
BQ: Sounds like true love. Holly O’Neill sounds like a 90s sitcom name.
HW: Actually, O’Neill is still my legal name. I’ve been married 15 years and I still haven’t gotten around to changing it. Which should give you an idea of how lazy I am.
BQ: Oh, I already had a pretty good idea of how lazy you were. So in the interest of conflict of interest and such we should probably mention that at one point I was employed as an editor by your publisher [Carina Press], though we never worked together. Thank god.
HW: Yes, I don’t even believe in God and I’m still thanking him for that.
BQ: You certainly weren’t the reason I left, but it certainly hastened my interest in outside opportunities.
HW: Speaking of outside opportunities, you’re the new editor at Exhibit A Books. I have to say, after weeks of your shameless teasing on social media, the announcement wasn’t a total let down. Are you enjoying your new job?
BQ: The readers of this interview won’t see it, but as the interview has gone on, my typing has gotten better and yours has gotten much worse. Is it drinking time already?
HW: I noticed that too, but no, just coffee (so far).
BQ: So yes, Exhibit A. I was hoping that all the build-up I got carried away with on social media wouldn’t dampen the announcement, but everyone seemed to be duly surprised that a real publisher found it in their best interest to hire me. What was your first thought when you heard the news?
HW: I’m at a loss for a snarky response for once. I was surprised but also very happy for you. It seemed like a great opportunity and probably a good fit. Time will tell about that, eh?
BQ: Eh, indeed. To be honest I was a little worried I wasn’t the right fit based on their initial wave of releases that seemed to be geared toward thrillers, which is not my strong suit, and less toward what I saw as the Angry Robot brand I was a big fan of. But after being assured I could mold the list in my image, just as the previous editor had done, I was sold. I also felt more comfortable when I went to the UK to meet everyone in person and realized they’re just as twisted as I am.
I also have to say, that once I went back and read the early books from Exhibit A, they were less glossy and vapid than I thought thrillers generally are so my prejudice was cracked.
HW: You see BQ, your prejudice will be your undoing. And I like the line “I could mold the list in my image.” I always knew you had a God complex.
But about that list. We’ve talked about it and you don’t seem to be into historicals (which I find tremendously insulting, of course). Exhibit A has a few historicals out there. Has that come to an end with your editorship?
BQ: It’s funny you mention that because when I was sitting with Marc Gascoine, the publisher of Angry Robot and Exhibit A, we were talking about this and I mentioned I wasn’t a fan of historical fiction. Our larger publishing overlord, Osprey, has a long history of publishing just the sort of thing I wasn’t interested in so Marc pushed me to find out if I really didn’t like historical or if I was just mouthing off stupidly. It turns out, I kind of do like historicals if they’re gritty and weird and not of the standard historical templates. I’m a huge fan of steam punk and diesel punk and stuff like that so there will certainly be more historicals in the pipeline as we go along.
What I would really like to see is some Civil War era crime fiction.
HW: That brings me to my next question. Your dream manuscript just flew into your inbox (by carrier pigeon). Tell me about it.
BQ: Wait, no, it’s my turn for a question dammit. With your tattoos and cursing and drinking and whatnot, you seem like the least likely candidate to write historicals I’d imagine. Where did that come from and will you ever write a contemporary crime novel?
HW: 1) Yes. I will write a contemporary crime novel. 2) I’d been interested in 17th century London since I was a teenager. I’d always wanted to write about it, so I did. But I think one of the reasons I had so much trouble selling MISTRESS OF FORTUNE is that it just didn’t fit into what you call the standard historical template. My heroine is gritty and sometimes not very likeable. There’s a twist at the end that shows just how gritty she is. But the message I kept getting was that I needed to make her more likeable. I needed to make her more sympathetic. She’s not a bitch but she’s also not very nice in some respects. Girl does what she needs to to get by, you know? But agents were looking for a more charming protagonist. More Jane Austen-like, I guess.
BQ: That sounds like just the sort of book I’d like to read if you hadn’t written it. Do you believe in all of the fortuneteller hocum that’s in the book?
HW: Not at all, and neither does Isabel Wilde, my protagonist. She’s a charleton. I believe in science, BQ. I thought we covered that at Bouchercon.
BQ: So back to my dream acquisition. That’s a hard one and people have been asking me about it A LOT lately and I’m always at a loss for an answer. I’m intrigued more by voice than anything else, but I like dark voices and quirky voices and goofy voices. I think I’m less a fan of gimmicky post-modern stuff than I was initially, but just a good story told well. Also, one of the nice things about being a smaller publisher is I don’t have to wait for my dream submission. I have the luxury of taking manuscripts with potential and working with them and helping the author in a way they might not get with a bigger house and I think that’s more rewarding than publishing a perfect manuscript that lands on my lap. (Though I wouldn’t mind one or two of those a year to keep the budget in tact.)
HW: Ha, suddenly I’m at a loss for words.
BQ: I do that to people quite a bit. I come off all snarky and mean and it’s easy to respond to that and then I hit in with some genuine emotion and it always throws people off.
I think I’ll leave it on this touchy-feely note. Join us next week for part two of the chat, when we discuss digital publishing, Bryon’s plans for Exhibit A, and decide once and for all who has better typing skills. – H
Sep 112013

Nancy J. Cohen

What happens after you sell a book to a publishing house? Despite what you may think if you’re a new author, your work is far from finished. In case you haven’t had experience yet with this stage in the writing process or if you are an interested reader, let me describe it for you.

First you’ll hear back from the editor with line edits. Usually we get these as Track Changes in Microsoft Word. The editor will write comments in the margins relevant to the story and will delete/add sentences in the body of the work. You may or may not have a deadline for returning revisions, with your corrections also done in Track Changes.


Assuming your editor accepts this version, next you’ll receive the copy edits. If you’re unsure about the difference between line or story edits and copyediting, see my article here: You make corrections again and send them back. Often I’ll find problems like sentences that should be bumped ahead to the next paragraph, missing punctuation or dialogue attributed to the wrong character. These are formatting errors.

copy edit

Next come the page proofs or galleys. This is your last chance to make changes and to proofread your work. Again, you’ll have a deadline, often a week or two, in which to respond.

Sometime along the way, you may be lucky enough to receive an advance peek at the front cover design. Recently I got the one for my next mystery, and I immediately sent back two corrections and some color preferences. I’m lucky my publisher is so accommodating.

You may also get a glimpse at the inside cover flap (for a hardcover) and back cover copy. Once I felt the wording was too revealing about the suspects and requested changes. It’s nice when you have a chance to give your approval.

Naturally, if you are self-publishing, you have to hire people to do all these tasks. But you’ll still have the proofreading and corrections regardless of which route you take.

At the moment, I am working on four books. Three are already written. On Book 1, I’m waiting for page proofs and final cover design. This one already has a scheduled publication date. On Book 2, I am hoping for an offer followed by line edits. These will take me a while since the story is a long one. On Book 3, I’m working with an editor toward self-publishing my first original title.

As for book 4, I’m only at the synopsis and research stage, but I need to start writing it soon to finish by my  editor’s requested date. Add in various trips and holidays within the next few months, and I’ll be lucky to have time to breathe. This requires prioritizing. The books that come in with edits or page proofs from my publishing houses will be first on the list.

So you see, until a book is actually on the virtual (or real) bookshelves, your work isn’t finished. When the book finally is  for sale, then you’ll be jumping on the marketing bandwagon. And that starts a whole new ride.

How many of you have several works in production at the same time?

Joseph Rosenberger

 Joseph Rosenberger, letters, men's adventure, Publishing  Comments Off on Joseph Rosenberger
Jul 102013

When I wrote my first book, Pulpografia (2000), I decided to include some of the better-known men’s adventure writers from the seventies and eighties. The genre doesn’t do much for me, and Joseph Rosenberger’s Richard Camellion books proved out to be the worst of the worst. I can see where the later cult fame rises from, but sometimes I have hard to see beyond those qualities.

Here’s a personal letter from Rosenberger, who seems like he wasn’t a very nice guy. Some quite interesting takes on politics and race and also some stuff on publishing. If you’re into men’s adventure genre in general, take a round in the Glorious Trash blog, you might find lots of interest. Here’s also an interview with Rosenberger in the same blog.

Redaft (that’s not a typo)

 Publishing, push button, rant, redraft, Russel D McLean  Comments Off on Redaft (that’s not a typo)
May 252012

By Russel D McLean

Bit of a short one this week, folks. That’s because I’m smack bang in the middle of redrafting… something (I don’t like to talk about works in progress, often because they change so completely by the time I’m actually done that I feel like a liar when the finished book comes out).
But I’ve been thinking about the art of redrafts in the age of push button technology. What really got me going was a post from an indie (or self-published, depending on your favourite term) writer on facebook that was, in essence (because I’m not online just now):
“Just away to post my new book to Amazon. Don’t worry folks, I always read through once before publishing!”
That is not a redraft. And yet to many would be authors, it really is. I have done work as a freelancing critiquer of manuscripts for certain organisations. They send me (anonymously) work by new/would be authors and my job is to help them make the work better.
But what I find is that in ninety percent of cases no matter what the covering letter says, the author has gone through the book once, maybe twice, and decided that that is enough. Even with THE LOST SISTER, which had to be written fast, I went through five complete and thorough re-writes before I was anywhere close to happy. With FATHER CONFESSOR I have used the extra time I gained in writing (there were a few contractual hold ups that delayed publication) to really root around and make that sucker as good as it can be. In fact, better.
Redrafting is not about reading through once you’ve finished and correcting typos. It is about seriously examining the guts of a novel and rigorously checking whether its as good as it can be. It is not a quick, easy or mechanical process. It is tough. It is painful. It sometimes means that you have to rethink ideas you previously believed to be sacrosanct.
This project I’m working on now has been gestating in one form or another for five years. It has changed direction so many times that it is not the same novel I believed it would be. It is better. It has been rigorously, fully redrafted. And the truth is even when its published I’ll still probably think of things that could have been better, but by then I’ll be wise enough to leave it alone and let it stand. But I’ll know that I put the work into it.
The temptation, however, when I finish that first draft to just push a button and send the book out in the ether will be overwhelming. Because we live in the age of instant gratification and even I am not entirely immune to that (I’ll push the button on this sucker maybe three hours after I’m done). But I am glad that the publishing process gives me the time to carefully consider the book what I wrote. I understand that writing a good novel takes time. And patience. Because if you don’t make it the best you possibly can, what’s the point? And because the novel you’re so excited about in the heat of writing “the end” may need a cooling off process before you can realise exactly what you can do to make it the novel it should be.
 Posted by at 9:04 am

Sports Radio on the Damage… WDSDDDDDD New Jersey

 e-books, Publishing, Sports talk  Comments Off on Sports Radio on the Damage… WDSDDDDDD New Jersey
Feb 142012

I need to start looking at the publishing news and Twitter the way I look at Sports Talk Radio.

If you didn’t know, I’m somewhat of a sports junkie. I am a Giants fan, a Yankees fan and a Rutgers athletics fan. When I was younger, I got caught up in Sports Talk Radio. Used to listen to it all the time, hoping to catch some glimpse of news. Some nugget that got me to look forward to the upcoming game even more.

But, usually what you get is a bunch of nonsense. A bunch of people calling up the stations, with little knowledge spouting off about whatever they can. Usually the calls would boil down to “NOooooooOOOooo, JETER.” People would call to argue with the host… just to argue.

And that’s what Twitter, Facebook, and blogs have done to publishing. Every day there’s a new publishing controversy (well, more like every two weeks), and even if it’s something small… people try to blow it up. People argue just to argue. And mostly what it boils down to is “NOooooooOOOooo, E-books!”

And for a while, I got really irritated. This wasn’t what I wanted to see. I wanted real news. I wanted something to discuss intelligently.

But it wasn’t coming.

It was just people shouting into the wind.

So I’ve decided to do what I do with sports talk radio. Unless someone I really trust… someone in the business has something to say (think… an interview with Phil Simms), I look at it with an eye to comedy. It’s funny.

So, people, the thing is… it’s just publishing. Long term? It’s going to work itself out. There’s no need to panic.

They’re going to figure it out.

And if not?

You’ll be putting out some shoddily edited e-book.

No worries.

Calm down.

And keep making me laugh.