Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year to my friends and readers everywhere.

I hope the coming year will bring you much health, happiness, success and love.

Start tomorrow the way you intend to live the rest of your life.

Much love,


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Long, Slow Journey

I had a plan for a post today that I have scuttled in favor of a more personal commentary.

My mother celebrated her birthday a week ago today. She never liked to admit her age, and I won't reveal it here.

She's a tiny thing, only about a hundred pounds. For as long as I can remember, she has been filled with a kind of frenetic energy. For most of my life, that energy was directed toward fighting dirt. She was a formidable housekeeper, constantly cleaning floors, blinds, counters, driveway and sidewalks.

Daddy died ten years ago. She had never spent a night alone in her life to that point. She'd grown up in a boisterous Irish family and left home to marry my Italian father. They'd had five children, four of whom grew to adulthood.

Mom only had a high school education, but she was a prodigious reader. She read to all her children and hauled us weekly to the library in a little red wagon which she pulled up and down the hills of Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. We would fill it with books and she would then lug it home again. She took enormous pride in the fact that her four children all graduated from college.

She didn't learn to drive until I was nineteen years old.

When Daddy died, I dragged Mom to the pound to find a dog. She would not get out of the car, but finally entered the building because of her fear that I would simply adopt a dog for her if she didn't come in (she was right).

I looked for small dogs--thinking of a toy poodle or chihuahua--but while I was busy, she fell in love with a trembling, thin whippet. She announced, "His name is Dancer." That whippet grew into an enormous blessing.

For the first five years after Daddy's death, she lived a comfortable, although somewhat restricted, life--reading, talking with her three sisters on the phone, taking Dancer for rides in the car and playing with her four grandchildren. She had the remarkable ability (and willingness) to take whatever role a child required of her in play.

For the past five years, she has been failing--not in body, but in mind. I knew she had Alzheimer's long before the doctors gave her a formal diagnosis. My brothers argued she should stay in the Florida home she'd inhabited for forty-five years; I wanted her in a safer environment. I asked her to come live with me in Dallas; she refused. My youngest brother assured me that, when the time came, she could live with him and his family in Florida.

That time has come and passed. Mom's short-term memory is completely gone. I'm sure she's afraid, but she is expressing that fear in rage--anger at the people who are sneaking into the house to steal her scissors, her wireless phone or her earrings. Her paranoia is so enormous, we could never move a companion into the house with her.

Dancer has become her caretaker. He wakes her in the morning, they take a walk together, he leads her home. For dinner, she makes them each a frozen dinner in the microwave (he often cons her into giving him a second one by pretending she didn't feed him) and he lets her know when it is time to go to bed. He protects her fiercely.

My youngest brother assumed the bulk of the burden of caring for her--taking her shopping, paying her bills, calling her every night. I call her every morning, and we talk for twenty minutes as I drive to work.

Over the past weeks, I realized my brother was struggling. We talk frequently, and I could hear the strain in his voice. Mom accused him of stealing money from her checking account. He had to buy three new pairs of scissors in as many weeks because "people keep coming in to steal them." He is a sports columnist. She calls him while he is at work or on the road to rage and then hang up on him.

I suggested that, after my surgery in early February, once I was up and about, Mom might come to stay with me for two weeks so he could have a break. I suggested I might try to convince her to move into a nursing home nearby me. I no longer believe she can live with me. I would be afraid she would wander away while I was at work.

My brother and I have talked weekly (and sometimes daily) this month. No matter what I said, he would not budge from his plan of moving Mom into his home. I reminded him of the burden he would be putting upon his wife and children, and suggested he talk to his wife.

Today he called. He and his wife had had a long talk. My sister-in-law, who is a wonderful woman who has treated Mom with great love, had been honest with him. Like me, her greatest fear is that Mom will wander off and get lost and not be found. Or fall into their enclosed swimming pool.

He acknowledged it is time to think about a nursing home.

My middle brother will go along with the decision. The issue will be my oldest brother who refuses to see how bad things are . . . and, of course, Mom herself who will see this as an enormous betrayal. I insisted that all of us tell her as a group so my youngest brother does not bear the burden . . . or the guilt.

I am very sad tonight.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Applying the Boston Matrix, Part II

Business first. You all have probably noticed that I have stopped blogging on the weekends. Life is just too complicated right now so I have moved to a Monday through Friday schedule. Sorry I have not mentioned it previously, but it was hard for me to accept that I was not going to be able to get back on a seven-day-a-week schedule.

On Friday, I described the Boston Matrix, a tool investment analysts use to assess a company's product lines. Lynne Connolly (a writer with a MBA) mentioned the matrix on Christmas Day. I thought she was on target and want to use it in addressing the larger publishing industry.

Let's start with Harlequin, a company that is doing a spectacular job of reinventing itself after a couple of rough years.

For decades, Harlequin's book clubs were their cash cows. Women could select the feature that would best jumpstart their fantasies--alpha heroes, exotic locations, thriller plots--and Harlequin would send them half a dozen books in an imprint offering that feature every single month. While some critics denigrated the books for being too formulaic, Harlequin understood that--like men--women have specific fantasies. The individual imprints allowed them to step right into their own fantasy without a lot of buildup.

Those same women liked the shorter category-length novel. A category romance is usually about 55,000 words, which--if you don't have a lot of extra time in which to read--works well.

Harlequin initially fought several world-changing trends in romance reading. The advent of the Internet meant that women could now download specific books whenever they wanted to read rather than waiting to receive six books that were selected for them by the publisher (plus an expensive shipping fee). The on-line publishers offered varying book lengths from novella to full-length. And, finally, women could now buy erotic romance on-line.

After a couple of really ugly years financially, Harlequin began pouring money into the matrix's question marks. They set up a digital warehouse and became the first major publisher to have ALL their front list available on-line. They invested in manga. They began experimenting with different lengths and differing levels of sensuality. They also began testing different modes of delivery.

In other words, while maintaining their cash cow (the book clubs), they began investing in the next star AND divesting themselves of their dogs.

Later this week, we will apply the matrix elsewhere in publishing.

Applying the Boston Matrix to Publishing

Lynne Connolly is a UK writer I both like and admire a great deal. She writes terrific novels and is an academic with wide interests.

In a post on a writing group yesterday, Lynne made reference to the BCG Matrix (also called the Boston Matrix) to describe the publishing industry.

Years ago, I worked as a broker for Smith Barney. The Boston Matrix was often invoked to assess companies. I had not thought of it in years, but immediately decided to do a couple of posts, tying it more specifically to the publishing industry. I asked Lynne for permission to mention her name and to quote her here. Gracious, as always, she agreed.

So, today we'll talk about the matrix itself. In the next post, we'll apply it to publishing.

First, let me describe the concept. It was originally created by Bruce Henderson of the Boston Consulting Group back in the '70s to assist companies in analyzing their product lines.

To help explain the theory behind it, here is a graphic version of the matrix from Value Based Management.Net.

As you can see from the above graph, Henderson set his matrix on an X and Y axis. The vertical axis (X) is low-to-high business growth. The horizontal axis (Y) is high-to-low market share. When analyzing a company, Henderson used a scatter graph to show the relative size of each of the four boxes.

The matrix assesses all product lines and assigns them to one of four categories:

1) The Cash Cows: These products are the foundation on which most successful companies rest. If you are fortunate enough to have a product line that is a cash cow, you occupy a large share of your market. Your cash cows produce profits over and above their expense, and you can "milk" them for the money your company needs.

Note, however, that while the cash cows dominate their market, they have little expectation of growth. For this reason, you try to keep your spending on them as low as you can.

2) The Dogs: Like cash cows, dogs have a low expectation of growth. However, unlike the cash cows, dogs also own a very small piece of the market. With luck, they break even.

As a business owner, you want to do more than break even. Dogs hurt you because they are bringing down your ROA (return on assets) while not producing much--if any--benefit. These are the product lines you look to sell off or close entirely.

3) The Question Marks: The question marks are the polar opposite of the cash cows. They have low market share, but a large expectation of growth. These are the new product lines which a company spends huge R&D (research and development) dollars to build. The hope, of course, is that this gamble will pay off and that the market share will grow, justifying the investment and that the product line will convert from a question mark to a star.

This is the danger area over which a company must keep close watch. If the expected growth does not occur, the product line should be discontinued. Careful decision-making is essential. When do you pull the plug, and how long should you continue throwing money at a product line?

4) The Stars: This is the holy grail that every company seeks. The stars are both high growth, meaning a fast-growing industry, and high market share. Think of them as the up-and-comers. The business pins its hopes on these, investing money in them with the expectation that they will become the next cash cow.

In response to a comment from a member of our writing loop who said publishers need to begin focusing only on best-selling authors, Lynne responded, "If you're familiar with the BCG growth-share matrix, . . . Concentrate on one area only and the risk model becomes overbalanced, together with the company's long term prospects and the company tips over when that particular bubble bursts."

She is exactly right. Eventually cash cows grow old and die. The company must continuously breed new calves that can develop first into stars and then--hopefully--into the cash cows of tomorrow.

Think about this and we'll talk more in the next post.

Please go here to see Lynne's website.

Please go here to read more about the matrix at Value Based Management.Net

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

Hello, my dears.

I hope Santa was good to you.

More importantly, I hope you shared moments of grace and gratitude with those you love.

I was reminded this morning of how fortunate I am--even though at the moment I'm limping (another tumble on wet bricks last Thursday, the second fall I've taken in three months. This time, however, the doctor gave me an excuse--my center of gravity has shifted). So even that was a blessing. I don't need to feel quite as klutzy as two falls in twelve weeks would imply.

I am unbelievably blessed. I have people I love and who love me. I have work I find satisfying and for which I have some talent. I have an avocation--my writing--that engages both my mind and my heart.

I was thrilled by the outcome of last month's U.S. election. The first sentence of Obama's speech in Chicago inspired me as nothing has in the last eight years:
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."
Of course, there is lots of uncertainly--both for us as citizens of the world and for me personally. Our economic situation is dicey, the political situation remains uneasy and many face tonight hungry, cold and without shelter.

I face surgery in the new year, but I have no reason to believe it won't be successful. I'm grateful medical science is confident it can help me.

No matter what your circumstance, I hope you are warm and safe and fed tonight. And I hope you have a reason to be optimistic as you face another year.

I wish for each of you health, happiness and hope.

With love,


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

e-Books Getting Noticed

Today's New York Times had an article titled, "Turning Page, E-Books Start To Take Hold."

The tone of the article can be summed up in this quote by Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division:
The perception is that e-books have been around for ten years and haven't done anything . . . But it's happening now. This is really starting to take off.
The Times credits Amazon's Kindle e-reader, which is a wireless device, and Oprah Winfey's endorsement of the Kindle in October for the recent strong interest.

Amazon lowered the price of the Kindle to $359 and sells many of the books available for the device--even best-sellers--for $9.99.

In contrast, the latest model of Sony's device, the Reader 700, costs $400. While it has a touch screen and a reading light, it is not wireless.

The article says,
Many Kindle buyers appear to be outside the usual gadget-hound demographic. Almost as many women as men are buying it, . . . and the device is most popular among 55- to 64-year-olds . . .

Nobody know how much consumer habits will shift. Some of the most committed bibliophiles maintain an almost fetishistic devotion to the physical book. But the technology may have more appeal for particular kinds of people, like those who are the heaviest readers.
The Times suggests that Apple's iPhone may also provide a huge boost to e-books as iPhone users are buying almost as many digital books as the Sony Reader owners are.

Both Sony and Amazon are expected to debut new models of their devices next year.

More e-reading devices are expected to be introduced soon. Plastic Logic out of California is almost ready to test its 8.5 x 11" reader which it hopes to sell in 2010.

Polymer Vision out of the Netherlands has a BlackBerry-sized device with a 5" roll-up screen that can be unfurled to read.

Foxit Software is expected to introduce a cheaper reader at $230 in early 2009.

E Ink hopes to introduce color screens in 2010.

Read the article here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Okay, Now This Is Just Bizarre

On December 14th, the London Times did an exposé on working conditions at Amazon’s warehouse in Bedfordshire by sending a reporter undercover to work as a temp during the Holiday rush.

I thought they stretched to make some of their points so did not bother reporting on it. As an example:
Managers warned employees that surveillance cameras monitored their every move, and even though most came from eastern European countries, they were told to speak to each other only in English if anyone else was nearby.
These days, most companies have surveillance cameras and, to me, it is discourteous to speak in a foreign language if one of your group does not speak the language. [shrug]

Anyway, if you want to read the article, go here.

The truly bizarre part of the story was reported in yesterday’s Publishers Weekly.

The Sunday Times claims that Jeff Bezos (Amazon’s CEO) reportedly decided that it would be great if the employees working at that warehouse did a joint photo in which they dropped their pants and did a mass mooning.

According to the Times:
“They were sending the supervisors to try to persuade people on a one-to-one basis. It’s ludicrous and a lot of the staff are upset about it.” More than 200 staff were eventually photographed – but waving to the camera instead of mooning.”
The follow-up article is here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

e Data Pro is Rude and Unprofessional

In the last month, I have noticed an increasing number of comments posted on my blog by someone calling herself Anesha.

Each comment is identical:
Hi Nice Blog.We are specializes in the implementation and management of high-volume, complex projects for data conversion services india. Using XML as a document representation format is of great benefit, and applies across industries.
She--if in fact she exists--is flacking a company in India called
e Data Pro.

Like most bloggers, I get these annoying ads from time to time. I could move to moderating posts to prevent them, but prefer not to do so. Usually I just delete the messages. But e Data Pro is becoming even more aggressive so I am fighting back.

Here’s my message to them:

Hey, Guys. You are obviously trying to get cheap advertising. It is backfiring. Your English is poor, and you are coming off as extremely unprofessional and rude. This morning, I have removed another three posts from you.

I am hoping that this blog post will now surface whenever someone looks you up in Google and have the reverse effect you are hoping for. I do not know about the quality of your service, but your English is atrocious, and your ethics are questionable. I sent a private email to you once asking you to stop. Instead I got even more posts. Therefore, I am going public.

I encourage other bloggers to send them messages as well. Here’s their email address:

P.S. I am quite satisfied with my small world protest. My post is now the second entry on Google--right after e Data Pro's home page.

I really don't want to ruin their business. If they go ninety days without spamming me, I will take my post down.

Update--January 2nd--Okay, I got another comment from e Data Pro this morning. Attached to my blog post for 12/19/05. I am updating this comment in the hopes of moving my post about e Data Pro from second place in Google's searches to first place.

An Agent’s Stats for 2008

Every December I look forward to agent Kristin Nelson’s post in which she gives her agency’s statistics for the year.

Yesterday, she did the post for 2008 here.

Here are a few of those stats:

  • 35,000 estimated queries read and responded to

  • 88 full manuscripts requested

  • 2 new clients signed

  • 21 books sold

Compare these to her stats from 2007:

  • 30,000--estimated queries read and responded to

  • 74--full manuscripts requested

  • 8--new clients signed

  • 22--books sold

Just for fun, I averaged the stats to see how 2008 compared to 2007.

In 2007, Kristin read an average of 82 queries every single day of the year or 577 a week. This year, she averaged 96 every day or 673 a week.

In 2007, she read 405 queries for every full manuscript she requested. In 2008, she read 398 queries for every full manuscript she requested.

Is it any wonder that we keep telling unpublished writers to polish, polish and polish some more their manuscripts and queries? More than 99% of queries do not result in a request for a full. Your manuscript must be the absolute best it can be before you send it out into the world to fend for itself.

Friday, December 19, 2008

It Happened Again

It happened to me again. A newbie writer wrote me from out of the blue. After we exchanged a few emails, he said he was piling up rejections and did not know why. I offered him a possible resource for critique partners. After a couple of more emails, I offered to take a look at his first five pages. I asked him to tell me his genre and his target market.

I was blunt, saying that I would not pull my punches. I also told him that author Catherine Spangler had critiqued me when I was where he was and, while it was brutal, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. He asked me to please be brutal.

He ignored my request for his genre and target market--twice. I read his first five pages anyway. In my critique, I told him his writing was solid, but that there were still issues. I made eight points. Published writers, agents and editors will recognize the kind of things I said:

1) The manuscript started with a dream inside a prologue.

2) Too many strange, long weird words and names.

3) Sprinkling in unnecessary capitalizations.

4) Flat action. The action scenes included long sentences meant to describe fast action.

5) Attribution tags that included “cooed,” “quavered” and “twittered.”

And finally three logic issues I had with the story.

I just read his response. He either responded with his reasons for why he did everything, or he said things like “Hmmmm” to the flat action, or “Well, in English class I was taught to avoid 'said' as much as possible. Which is it?” to the attribution tags.

But the coup de grace was this: I had offered to answer any questions he had about my critique. He responded, “Sure, I'll come to you when I need seem like a good mentor anyway.”

Anyway? Even though I gave you a crummy critique?

This is a public service message: There is only one correct response to a free critique: “Thank you so much for taking the time.”

Even if you do not agree with the critique given, it is inappropriate and rude to argue or defend your manuscript. Throw away the critique if you do not agree with it, but do not come back with counter-arguments. Telling me what the language is does not change the fact that you are using strange, weird words too frequently and will turn readers off.

This is EXACTLY why agents refuse to give more pointed comments in their rejection letters. The newbie invariably assumes they can explain away the comments.

You have just been told why your manuscript is being rejected. Either decide to take the advice or do not. However, have the courtesy to say “thank you” and stop there. It is okay to ask for clarification. It is not okay to say “Well, I was told . . . Which is it?”

End of rant.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What Did Jesus Ever Do To James Frey?

Just when I was hopeful that James Frey would finally disappear from the literary scene forever, yesterday's Publishers Weekly had to report that James Frey plans to write about Jesus performing gay marriages. Here's an excerpt:
"Talking to online magazine The, Frey said he had just finished an outline for the book, and was about to start writing it. 'It's the third book of the Bible, called The Final Testament of the Holy Bible,' he told interviewer and fellow author Stephen Elliott. 'My idea of what the Messiah would be like if he were walking the streets of New York today. What would he believe? What
would he preach? How would he live? With who?'

"Frey said his version would see Jesus living with a prostitute. 'It doesn't matter how or who you love. I don't believe the messiah would condemn gay men and women,' he said. Judas, meanwhile, would be the same as he was two thousand years ago,' a 'selfish man who thinks of himself before the good of humanity, who values money more than love'."
Gag me with a spoon. This guy could set back the gay rights movement twenty years. It was bad enough when Anne Rice wrote Jesus' autobiography. Now this. Why pick on Jesus during the Christmas Season?

If you are fortunate enough to not remember James Frey, go here or here

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

UK Booksales Down

From yesterday's Publishers Lunch:
Weekly sales figures from Nielsen BookScan show book sales expenditures in the UK via tracked outlets declined 10.5 percent compared to the same week a year ago, ending December 13. Unit sales fell less, by 5.4 percent, with discounting pushing down the average selling price.

More On HarperStudio

Bob Miller, president and publisher of HarperStudio, had this to say in The Wall Street Journal about his imprint’s deal with Borders:
Returns have never made sense in our business, and with the recent economic downturn, publishers and booksellers are more open than before to experimently wth models that might decrease waste and increase profit.

HarperStudio and Borders Reach Agreement

Yesterday, the big publishing news was that Borders has agreed to take HarperStudio books on a nonreturnable basis.

You may recall that I blogged about HarperStudio, a new imprint of HarperCollins back in early April here.

At the time, The New York Times said:
The new unit is HarperCollins’s effort to address what its executives see as some of the more vexing issues of the book industry. “The idea is, ‘Let’s take all the things that we think are wrong with this business and try to change them,’ ” said Mr. Miller, 51 [HarperStudio’s president and publisher]. “It really seemed to require a start-up from scratch because it will be very experimental.”
The Wall Street Journal also wrote about the proposed imprint:
The new venture is aimed at improving the economics of book publishing, which has long been hobbled by the need to pay for space in stores and take back unsold books from retailers at full price.
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reported on the news from HarperStudio and Borders:
Under the terms of the deal, the nation's second-largest bookstore chain by revenue will get a deeper discount on initial orders of books published by the new imprint of News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers -- 58% to 63% off the cover price, instead of the usual 48%. In exchange Borders won’t return any unsold books to HarperStudio, instead probably discounting them in the store.
In April, I did a post on the practice of book returns. Read it here.

Now it remains to be seen whether Miller can do anything about the large advances.

Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Macmillan Announces Cuts

Publishers Weekly issued an alert yesterday afternoon. Here it is in part:
Macmillan Publishing has eliminated 64 positions across both its college and trade imprints as well as Scientific American magazine. The cuts, which range across all aspects of the company, involve just under 4% of Macmillan’s U.S. workforce. As part of the restructuring, the company is forming a new unified children’s publishing division that will bring all of its imprints under one umbrella, said Macmillan head John Sargent . . .

“We looked at the realities of the business and felt we could operate more efficiently by centralizing some processes,” Sargent said. He said reducing the size of the Macmillan list “is not part of the plan” . . .

The cuts come one week after Macmillan announced that it was freezing salaries for all employees earning over $50,000.

Monday, December 15, 2008


When I was younger, my passion was ancient history. It wasn't until I hit middle-age that I became interested in the modern political landscape.

I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new film Frost/Nixon at the theatre. The subject matter intrigued me. And Frank Langella's one of my favorite actors. His portrayal of Dracula was my favorite until Gary Oldman came along to win my vote as the best film Dracula. Here's Langella from 1979.

I got up at 5:00 AM yesterday to be certain I would finish writing my 2,500 word goal in time to get to the movies.

It turned out that Frost/Nixon is only playing in one theatre in Dallas. I had already taken a poll of my friends, and no one was interested in seeing that film yesterday so I went alone.

It is a terrific movie. As I understand the facts, they took some artistic license (there is a late night phone call that never happened), but I've seen the real Frost/Nixon tapes and that footage was pretty accurate.

I was most interested in watching the portrayal of Frost, whom real newsmen regarded as a dilettante intruding on their territory. He put himself at huge financial risk by essentially buying Nixon's participation in the series of four interviews. None of the networks would agree to carry the series because he had paid so much for them (sour grapes). No one expected him to wrest an apology to the American people out of the former president either.

Nixon was a cagey opponent and walked all over Frost for most of the interviews. It wasn't until Frost broadsided him with evidence from White House tapes that had previously gone unnoticed by the media that the former president cracked. It is really great theatre.

If you get a chance, go see the film. It has been nominated for five Golden Globes, including best actor and best film of the year. I am betting Langella will get an Oscar nomination, too.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's Regan's Turn To Be Sued

Remember Judith Regan?

I mentioned her in multiple posts from November, 2006 to November, 2007.

Regan was the publisher who put together the deal for If I Did It, O.J. Simpson's book, along with proposing a Fox television show to promote the book. The public outcry over that book and TV special was so great that News Corporation's HarperCollins cancelled both plans and subsequently fired Regan. Read my post on the firing here in January, 2007 and a second post three weeks later about HarperCollins dismantling Regan's imprint here.

Ten months later, Regan filed a $100 million lawsuit against her former employers at HarperCollins.

The introduction to the lawsuit said, "This action arises from a deliberate smear campaign orchestrated by one of the world's largest media conglomerates for the sole purpose of destroying one woman's credibility and reputation. This campaign was necessary to support News Corp.'s political agenda, which has long centered on protecting Rudy Giuliani's presidential ambitions."

That got MY attention.

Publishers Lunch reported yesterday that Regan had settled the lawsuit for $10.75 million.

The figure came to light when Regan’s lawyers, Dreier LLP, sued HER for not paying her legal fees after the settlement.

This from
In March, Regan was sued by her former lawyers who accused her of firing them to avoid paying fees from a settlement with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Regan’s lawyers declined to confirm or deny the settlement amount in Dreier’s court filing.

In its complaint filed in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, the Dreier law firm alleged Regan retained it to represent her in February 2007 and agreed to pay 25 percent of any money she recovered as a result of a judgment or settlement.
Reuters reports:
Now, Dreier LLP and Redniss and Associates LLC are accusing Regan of not paying $42,560 in [legal] fees [plus their share of the settlement]. . .

The law firms are also suing Bertram Fields, the lawyer Regan hired to settle the lawsuit.
Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Tracy, my editor, emailed me today to say that the foreign rights division of Penguin had sold the rights to Bad Boy in Spain for 25% more than they sold Bad Girl.


Is the World Unfair to Writers?

Timothy Egan is a writer. For eighteen years he wrote for the New York Times. In 2001, he and a team of NYT reporters won the Pulitzer Prize for their series, "How Race is Lived in America." In 2004, his first novel, The Winemaker's Daughter was released by Alfred A. Knopf. In 2006, he won the National Book Award for his non-fiction book, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.

I say all this to establish Mr. Egan's bona fides as a writer.

In 2004, when his first novel was published, Mr. Egan (who lives in Seattle with his family), gave an interview to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which quoted him talking about writing fiction:
"Writing a novel is a life dream that I have had since third grade, so having one published is such a relief for me," Egan says. "It's been an amazing creative experience. It's not like non-fiction, where you have to connect all the dots. This is magic. You create characters and they go off on their own and it's absolutely exhilarating. I've had some really depressing times in journalism over the last five or six years and this novel has been my escape, my fantasy world."
Yeah, he's a writer, all right.

On Saturday, Mr. Egan filled in for Maureen Dowd, doing an op-ed for the New York Times titled "Typing Without a Clue."

In that column, Mr. Egan addresses the issue of celebrities who write books and garner enormous advances in the process.

We know the names. Joe the Plumber. Sarah Palin. People who have never written before and who barely manage to be coherent. Mr. Egan describes writers who have actually earned that title:
Most of the writers I know work every day, in obscurity and close to poverty, trying to say one thing well and true. Day in, day out, they labor to find their voice, to learn their trade, to understand nuance and pace. And then, facing a sea of rejections, they hear about something like Barbara Bush’s dog getting a book deal.
Sour grapes or righteous anger?

This line made me wince:
The idea that someone who stumbled into a sound bite can be published, and charge $24.95 for said words, makes so many real writers think the world is unfair.
Until that line, I was right there with him. But then he lost me.

Of course, the world is unfair. Where has he been living?

Following the recent terrorist attack in India, I saw a photo of the lovely thirteen-year-old girl who was shot down during her first visit to India with her father. Killed by ignorant boys not much older than she was who had been filled with a catechism of hate masquerading as religion.

How can anyone even pretend the world is fair? Much less have an expectation that it will be?

The best we can do is to be kind to each other and keep our own little corner of the universe clean and orderly. And every once in a while, we get to celebrate when some poor soul who didn't deserve to be hurt gets his little piece of justice. Or when someone who was on the wrong path steps off that road and looks back in the right direction.

I am so grateful every time the good guys win.

When I was younger, I used to pray for all the things I wanted in life. These days, I recognize how blessed I am. Instead of asking for things, I try to give thanks for those times when an impersonal universe resets the scales and offers some measure of justice.

I said a small prayer of thanks last night when I saw this story here on my ABC affiliate.

Read Mr. Egan's op-ed here.

And thanks to jesever who brought the op-ed to my attention.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Grove Press Revisited

On Saturday, Newsweek published a story about Barney Rosset, whose tiny publishing house--Grove Press--brought some of the most famous--and infamous--books of the last century to the United States.

My favorite quote from the article is this:
When talking about the major obscenity trials of the mid-19th century, Norman Mailer once said, "There's a wonderful moment when you go from oppression to freedom, there in the middle, when one's still oppressed but one's achieved the first freedoms. By the time you get over to complete freedom you begin to look back almost nostalgically on the days of oppression, because in those days you were ready to become a martyr, you had a sense of importance, you could take yourself seriously, and you were fighting the good fight."
That quote says a lot about Barney Rosset.

Rosset spent as much of his time fighting legal battles over his releases as he did in publishing them. He led a legal battle to permit Grove Press to publish the uncensored edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover. Following that success, he fought all the way to the Supreme Court for the right to publish and distribute Henry Miller's novel, Tropic of Cancer.

The article is well worth reading. Go here to read it.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Lexicon Will Finally Be Released

In early September, I reported here that J.K. Rowling and her publisher had won the lawsuit against RDR Books who had wanted to publish The Harry Potter Lexicon.

In mid-November, I posted this from Publishers Weekly:
Lawyers for RDR Books have filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals regarding Judge Robert P. Patterson’s ruling in J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros.’s copyright infringement suit against the publisher.
Friday's Publishers Marketplace reported that RDR Books has withdrawn their appeal and:
The publisher and author have done the sensible thing--rewrite the book, using Judge Patterson's decision as "rule book." They will issue the revised Lexicon in January, with the new subtitle, An Unauthorized Guide to Harry Potter Fiction and Related Materials.
The Muskegon Chronicle reports:
"We think it's a better book in many ways because it has a lot more analysis," said Roger D. Rapaport of Muskegon, whose RDR Books is publishing The Lexicon. "He's [author Steven Vander Ark] done an amazing amount of new work."
The book will be released in the U.S. and England on January 12 and will retail for $24.95.