Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Late, Late News: Zealot, Bezos, And Author PR

More developments on the Reza Alsan thingy include assertions that, contrary to what some believe, the author of Zealot knew what he was doing when speaking to Fox. As expected, the interview sent his book up, up, up the sales charts.

A few think that Fox blew the whole thing by sticking to a prepared script that did not involve a close read of the book; Lizzie Crocker at The Daily Beast offered some key points Fox could've brought up but didn't. Perhaps they should've waited a bit after reading the book to post their critiques.

D├ębut author Anakana Schofield asked why must authors join the PR merry-go-round. Someone answered. An excerpt: "Like it or not, books have a relatively small audience. Advertising is a classic way to reach a mass public (those who buy cornflakes), not a niche one (interested in literary fiction). And although cornflakes may indeed be fascinating, there's not much of a story to offer the media (though that may just be me being uncreative). With a book, there is. Which, again, is why we do PR."

Paul St John Mackintosh, however, is less kind to commercial authors who moan about self-promotion, and wonders if such people went into writing just for money and fame. To which he says, "If all you have to keep you going as a writer is your greed, yearning for celebrity, and self-regard, then the social media self-promotional grind is exactly the hell you deserve."

What else?

  • After a spell with a Kindle, a bookseller tries reading a paper book and finds it cumbersome: "The book was too fat. It was too heavy. It spread out too widely. It was as if I had taken an unruly small pet onto the plane and couldn't keep it under control." Shudder. Oh, and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post.
  • Silverfish releases a "dumbo's guide" to creating e-books - check it out, do what it tells you and start e-mailing it to editors.
  • Why a freelancer is working in an essay mill: "I can make up to £150 for a standard essay of 2,000-3,000 words – an evening’s work. Longer items can fetch up to £2,000." How this freelancer does it will shock some of you - a little.
  • Is Choire Sicha's new book Very Recent History a chronicle of "the panicked, fax-filled, poverty-waged life" of a freelancer? WANT.
  • "Like a short story, a good recipe can put us in a delightful trance. The Oxford English Dictionary defines fiction as literature 'concerned with the narration of imaginary events.' This is what recipes are: stories of pretend meals. Don’t be fooled by the fact that they are written in the imperative tense (pick the basil leaves, peel the onion). Yes, you might do that tomorrow, but right now, you are doing something else." Why reading recipes is such a pleasure for some.
  • Seems the London Review of Books isn't the only one with a woman problem. The most recent issue of the New York Review of Books only has one female contributor out of over twenty. A sad thing when it's said that female critics made it great.
  • "In the time since Little Women was published in 1868 ... a countless number of women have — as Alcott put it — 'resolved to take fate by the throat and shake a living out of her.'" Louisa May Alcott was no "little woman", says Harriet Reisen, author of The Woman Behind Little Women.
  • Taiwan eyeing our Chinese-language book market? Makes you wonder apa lagi depa mau.
  • In Uganda, trouble for author(s) and publishers of "defamatory" book(s) critical of the country's president.
  • An interview with James Dawes, author of Evil Men. Writing about evil is hard, as Dawes suggests. "We imagine evil is other than human, beyond understanding, almost mystical. This lets us off the hook, lets us deny our own capacity for evil, and stops us from analyzing the very human, very common causes of it."
  • "Yes, there will always be characters that some readers just don’t want to read about, but I think most readers can experience a character who is neither a Mary Sue nor a Humbert Humbert ... and still care about their story: how they got there, how they’ll get out. Readers see themselves and the world around them in these characters, just like we do ... and the very notion that “people” will reject a book because they don’t 'like' the characters is condescending and dismissive." Author Kelly Braffet wants people to stop griping about unlikeable characters in novels.
  • What makes a good librarian, from a bunch of librarians.
  • The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin, which collects literary and cultural artefacts from the US and Europe to advance the study of the arts and humanities, just acquired McSweeney's archive, which "contains manuscripts of the books, essays and short stories it has published, as well as correspondence from its work with writers like David Foster Wallace, Rick Moody, Zadie Smith, Michael Chabon and Heidi Julavits."
  • Are developing markets fuelling a Wattpad boom? Wattpad, in case you have no idea, is an online community for writers to share stuff.
  • What is literary fiction? Here's one definition. And here are some web sites for literature lovers, several of which I read almost daily - and scan for listicle items.
  • Chuck Wendig wants you to know these 25 things about word choice.
  • Mitch Moxley went to Beijing in 2007 to work in the China Daily. His story, which includes selective reporting and navigating political minefields, is becoming familiar everywhere.
  • Obama visited an Amazon fulfilment centre and sent cyberspace into a panic. No, the US president does not hate bookstores, as some have implied, but to say that Amazon is the future of retail... maybe I'd feel better if it's not the only option in some far-flung future.

Oh, did I mention that Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has bought the Washington Post? People are excited. Some are stunned. And some are snarking about it, like this fellow:

At least one is ecstatic, enough to say that "the iceberg just rescued the Titanic" (shudder). But Bezos thinks it's too early to say that: "I don't want to imply that I have a worked-out plan.".

What he did say, with regards to the future of news, is that there won't be printed newspapers in two decades and people won't pay to read news online.

"Iceberg"? Hell yes. It'll be quite a chilly future ahead for the media if Bezos's predictions come to pass. Might be a good idea to pick up the fur coats now.

...Okay, better stop here and save some stuff for next week's updates.


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