“Crummy Pap” or Classic Prose?

Technology can make a person feel like they just got pushed in the deep end of the pool.  Every new software release or “cutting-edge” gadget screams for attention – but is it the wave of the future, or just a shallow puddle?

E-books and Self-publishing get a lot of press today.  And when I see that much buzz about a game-changer in a field I love, I have one response – Scepticism.  (Should I fork over the dough for a Kindle, or a Nook, or wait or the next great thing?  I don’t know!)  But, I’m an open-minded gal, so I do a little research, a bit of querying friends, and then I remember my favorite barometer…history itself.  I came across this little nugget via Writer’s Almanac:

Sir Allen Lane, (born 1902), managing editor of London’s The Bodley Head, and later creator of Penguin Books, didn’t have anything to read on the train.  He had a long ride back from visiting one of his author’s – Agatha Christie – and refused the magazines and cheap literary fare available at the depot.  He thought, “Why isn’t there something good to read for sale, that people can afford?”  Penguin Pocket Books was born, making the hardbound publications accessible to everyone.

Writer’s Almanac reports,  “Lane was determined that paperbacks, then mostly low-quality products of low-quality writing, could be the vehicles of great, contemporary fiction… Like most innovations, Lane’s idea — and his success — was initially regarded as a cause for concern by many other publishers and writers. It lowered the aesthetic value of great works of literature — a book like The Grapes of Wrath, for example, needn’t be a beautifully bound hardcover to last a lifetime, but could instead exist as a nearly disposable pocket-sized tome in bright orange, adorned with a funny little bird in mid-waddle. But Lane claimed paperbacks would effectively democratize literature, converting frequent library users to book buyers and readers of crummy pap into readers of classic prose.”

Sounds a little like the furor over E-Readers, doesn’t it? 

How about the uproar about self-publishing?

As Steven Anderson (of GoldMinds Publishing) stated recently in a presentation (read more here), the publishing world has a history of trends – the era of hardbacks was replaced by the era of dime novels, then mass market paperbacks (thanks Sir Allen!).  Now we are faced with a new epoch in the life of literature – digital access, for both readers and writers.

Where do you stand on the issue of digital publishing?  Love e-readers, but hate self-publishers?  Devoted to paper books no matter who writes them?  Has history proven that changes in format and accessibility eventually find a balance

– and does quality rise to the top?

  Leave your comments below and give us YOUR perspective on publishing!

30 Books – 30 Days

Bibliophiles love to talk about books, and what could be better than considering a different book for each day of the month!  Here are my personal picks…

     Day 1: Favorite Book:  The Importance of Being EarnestOscar Wilde’s wit never fails to lift my spirits and sharpen my mind.


  Day 2: Least Favorite Book:   Moby DickHerman Melville needed an honest friend to tell him to get a life…away from whales.


   Day 3: Book that makes you laugh out loud: Hamish MacBeth – M.C. Beaton’s 3rd in the series is a macabre chuckle from beginning to end.  One thought to take with you…death by lobster tank.

   Day 4: Book that makes you cry: The Lovely Bones – this story was so real it scared me.


   Day 5: Book you wish you could live in: Betsy-Tacy Series – These were my dearest friends as a child, and I loved their early 1900’s world.


    Day 6: Favorite young adult book: I don’t care what your personal opinion of Mr. Potter is, these book single-handedly got millions of kids reading – and that is something to celebrate.


   Day 7: Book that you can quote/recite: The Bible – The only book you ever really need – history, life lessons, wisdom, proverbs, and prophecy.


    Day 8: Book that scares you: The Handmaid’s Tale – A horrifying possibility


    Day 9: Book that makes you sick: Diary of Anne Frank – History I wish wasn’t real.


   Day 10: Book that changed your life: The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver‘s incredible novel got inside my core and changed the way I thought about how we are shaped by our pasts.


    Day 11: Book from your favorite author: Agatha Christie – anything she wrote is a joy to rediscover

    Day 12: Book that is most like your life: The Little House Books – the Midwest was still like this era for decades longer than other places, and we moved around as much as the Ingalls family did.

    Day 13: Book whose main character is most like you: Anne of Green Gables – Anne Shirley kept thinking something wonderful was just around the corner, and made the best of the present.  If I only had her amazing red hair…


    Day 14: Book whose main character you want to marry: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – I don’t have a character I would marry, but I think I’m already married to this spunky little bird that tries to get away with everything!


   Day 15: First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child:  Jerry Goes Riding – I can’t remember if this was a chapter book, but it’s the earliest I can remember reading on my own – I think it was my older siblings’.


   Day 16: Longest book you’ve read: Gone With the Wind – may not be the longest I’ve read (remember the hateful Moby Dick?), but I’ve read it enough times to count as the longest.


    Day 17: Shortest book you’ve read: Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” – short, sweet, and timeless



    Day 18: Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like: Barbara Cartland’s Romances – I used to devour these as a teenager – my one and only foray into romance books.

    Day 19: Book that made you think:   The Alvin Maker Series– I wish more people were aware of this brilliant historical sci-fi series!  It’s amazing!

   Day 20: Book you’ve read the most number of times: The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien’s prequel to the Lord of the Rings series is probably my most-read book, aside from the trilogy itself.

    Day 21: Favorite picture book from childhood: Grimm’s Fairy Tales – I can’t remember having an actual picture book as a child, but we had a hardback copy of these stories that weren’t watered down for children, and were gorgeously illustrated.  I absorbed the art long before I could read along.


   Day 22: Book you plan to read next: Your Erroneous Zones – thanks Leann, you found another book to tell me what’s wrong with myself!


   Day 23: Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished): Les Miserables – I just didn’t feel the need to finish it, once I saw the Broadway production.


   Day 24: Book that contains your favorite scene: The Time Traveler’s Wife – full of favorite scenes – each chapter was a new surprise


   Day 25: Favorite book you read in school: Nancy Drew – I never got tired of these classic mysteries



   Day 26: Favorite nonfiction book: If You Want to Write – Brenda Ueland’s book is a never-ending source of inspiration and affirmation.



   Day 27: Favorite fiction book:   Alias Grace – Haunting, mystifying, and unforgettable



   Day 28: Last book you read: American Gods – I loved Neil Gaiman’s writing for TV, so I tried this modern classic.  I loved the story, but it’s a bit racy for recommendation.



   Day 29: Book you’re currently reading: Crystal Brave – B.K. Bradshaw’s young adult story of an earthquake at the Taum Sauk is a fast-moving read, and the basis for new writing projects for me!



Day 30: Book you want everyone to read, but can’t explain: Ender’s Game everyone should read this book, but it is impossible to tell people what it is about without giving it all away!


Well, that’s my 30 books in 30 days – what are yours?  Leave a comment and link to your own list so we can get more great ideas for books to read!

Navigating the Many Roads of Publishing

Steven Anderson (AKA Steven Law), who has worked in the writing and publishing industry for 15 years spoke at the Ozarks Romance Authors meeting September 3, 2011.

He shared his insights about traditional publishing, author co-op publishing, self-publishing, ebooks, and social media.


I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear from a professional who truly has his thumb on the pulse of publishing. Although his presentation contained too many aspects to reproduce here, I’ve noted a few thought-provoking points to get you thinking about what direction your next book might take…

  • Industry trends show that mass-market paperbacks are on their way out, to be replaced by electronic methods of distribution.  The printing of books has evolved quickly in the last 100 years.  What began as a limited availability of hardbound books in the early 1900’s, with a cloth or leather cover,  was surpassed by pulp fiction in subsequent decades, and then mass-market paperbacks.  The day has come for the next evolutionary phase.
  • Publishing is a consumer-driven market. (Not a supplier-driven one.)  It must change to adapt to the demands of the consumer, rather than attempt to dictate what the consumer should buy.
  • Printing is the most expensive part of publishing. (And you thought it was all those color posters.)
  • While adult mass-market sales are down 30% in the past year, audiobooks and e-books have seen their biggest increase in sales across the industry.  This seems to echo the projections that the big publishing houses will be gone within 10 years, likely to be replaced by print-on-demand and electronic books.
  • Social media now plays a key role in the sales of a book.  Just look at John Green‘s “The Fault In Our Stars” – it became a No. 1 hit before he even finished it.  And it was all due to what a little bird said (tweet, tweet).

There are other voices that harmonize with what Steven is saying.  I like Bob Mayer‘s perspective: “…It’s about the book, not the publisher’s perception about the book.  I think that’s a key change authors need to understand:  the gatekeeper in publishing now is no longer the publisher—it’s the author and the quality of the book…You can keep switching deckchairs on the Titanic or you can find a ship that’s actually going somewhere.”

There is much to think about in the current publishing climate, but it’s important to keep your balance – not jumping on every new app or forum that arises.  Don’t go sharpening your goose quills and pressing berries for ink, either. You don’t have to reject the new just because it may be unfamiliar territory.  With a little research and a lot of patience, you can find your own avenue on the road to publishing.  Or you could just ask a pro like Steven.


Steven is an executive officer at Goldminds Publishing, and has written and published four novels. His latest, “Yuma Gold,” is scheduled for release by Penguin Group in New York in November 2011.  Steven is also founder of the ReadWest Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the awareness and diversity of Western literature.

For more information about Steven, visit http://www.stevenlaw.com

Many thanks to Ozarks Romance Authors for providing an opportunity for writers to meet, learn from, and support one another, (and being so welcoming of visitors – 30% of attendees that day were non-members!) as well as the Springfield-Greene County Library for providing a comfortable meeting space.