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Publishing Into the Flood

Presenting Episode 11 of Quillcast, featuring Mike Shatzkin
Mike ShatzkinMike Shatzkin

In this episode, US publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin takes stock of the industry’s current environment. Shatzkin is founder and CEO of the Idea Logical Company and author of the ebook The Shatzkin Files. He delivered this talk, “Publishing into the Flood,” at Book Summit, presented in partnership by Humber College and the Book and Periodical Council, and held at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre on June 21.

(more…)

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Module 6: “The Perfect Title”

How to Write the Next CanLit Bestseller™

Welcome to the final e-learning module of the How to Write the Next CanLit Bestseller™ program. In this module, you will learn how to choose a title for your CanLit Bestseller™.

If you have successfully completed Modules 1 through 5, you should now have a 224-page novel with the following basic elements: a family secret; a harsh and unforgiving landscape (yes, Toronto qualifies) that you describe as “harsh” and “unforgiving” in your back cover copy; and a scene in which your characters, immigrant or otherwise, eat pakoras in Cornerbrook, NL.

Cross-posted from:The Walrus Laughs

For those of you writing women’s fiction, double-check that your female protagonist spends a significant amount of time washing dishes and looking out her kitchen window, wondering how it all might have been different. Bonus points if she is looking at a wheat field!

(If, after reviewing your manuscript, you find that you have inadvertently written a collection of short stories, please note that you are no longer writing a CanLit Bestseller™, and our satisfaction-or-money-back guarantee does not apply.)

We understand that you may already have a unique, intriguing, and plot-appropriate title in mind. If so, forget it. Stick to a variation on an existing bestseller. Recall Module 4: “Piggyback Your Way to Success”; there is pleasure in repetition and familiarity. This is why Robert Ludlum is still writing thrillers, even though he died in 2001.

Continue reading at The Walrus Laughs…

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Publishing By Instinct, Rob Lowe, and the Art of Creating Bestsellers

Steve Rubin in episode six of a podcast series presented by our partners at Quill & Quire
Steve RubinDonna HolsteinSteve Rubin

Quillcast is a podcast series from Quill & Quire featuring behind-the-scenes conversations with authors and publishing insiders. In this episode, U.S. publishing executive Steve Rubin discusses the art of creating bestsellers in an industry in flux.

Rubin started his book-publishing career in 1984 as an executive editor at Bantam Books. In 1990, he was appointed president and publisher of Doubleday, and by 1995 was based in London as chairman and CEO of Bantam Doubleday Dell International. In 2009, he joined Henry Holt & Company as president and publisher. The authors he has published include John Grisham (The Firm), Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), and Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall).

Rubin was in Toronto last year as a guest of the International Visitors Programme, which runs in conjunction with Toronto’s International Festival of Authors. He delivered this keynote to a packed house of industry professionals from Canada and around the world.

Listen to the episode here, or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.


Quillcast is produced with media partners The Walrus, Open Book: Ontario, and Open Book: Toronto, with support from Toronto Life. This project has been generously supported by the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Entertainment and Creative Cluster Partnerships Fund. Thank you to Juan Opitz, who generously recorded this podcast in his studio.

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The Unbalancing Act

How literary periodicals flail to correct gender inequity
Literary periodical coversCanadian Notes & Queries 80: The Gender Issue, Taddle Creek No. 26: Summer Issue, Granta 115: The F Word

If I were a man, and cared to know the world I lived in, I almost think it would make me a shade uneasy — the weight of that long silence of one half of the world.” — Elizabeth Robins, 1907

Recently Good Magazine published an article with a simple solution to inequity on conference panels. What if white men refused invitations to panels that don’t properly represent the diversity of their industries? The idea was so basic, yet I had never even considered it. Usually when I see five men on a magazine, marketing, tech or publishing panel, I criticize the organizers: “You couldn’t find a single woman?” I ask. It never occurred to me to question the participants.

Good broke it down:

“Why don’t the white men who are asked to engage in this nonsense simply stop doing it? The boycott is a protest with a long history of success. If white, male elites started saying, ‘I will not participate in your panel, event, or article if it is all about white men,’ chances are these panels and articles would quickly dry up — or become more diverse.”

But why not take this ingenious idea even further? Since literary publications so often struggle with gender disparity, in their contributor lists and mastheads, in the books they review and the viewpoints they include, why don’t men who consider themselves allies to equality simply refuse publication? Why doesn’t the “How do we fix this?” question include the responsibility of male writers, not just male editors, in its solution? Why shouldn’t writers cultivate a list of publications they will and won’t submit or pitch to on the basis of equity? (more…)

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Prize Fight

The small press that published this year's Giller-winning novel struggles to meet big-time demand

The small press behind this year’s Giller winner struggles to meet big-time demand

The SentimentalistsThis year’s Giller Prize winner: The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud

Everyone loves a good fairy tale and this year’s Giller Prize offers the chance to enjoy an unfolding saga that’s been described by the Toronto Star as a real life “Cinderella story.” The heroine is Montreal-based Johanna Skibsrud, as bright-eyed a ragamuffin-turned-princess as one could want. The role of fairy godparents is being played by the Giller jury, which has bestowed the Giller’s magical blessing on Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists, an underdog of a book because it is a first novel published by a very small press, Gaspereau of Kentville, Nova Scotia.

Of course, Cinderella always has a nemesis, a wicked stepmother who wants to hold the struggling waif down and prevent her from enjoying her well-earned success. If media accounts since this Tuesday’s Giller ceremony are to be believed, the villain’s role in this tale has been filled by Gaspereau Press, which has been accused of selfishly not printing enough books to meet the demands of a public that’s suddenly yearning to read The Sentimentalists.

Here’s the situation in brief: a Giller winner can expect to sell between 60,000 to 75,000 copies. But the boon of a Giller win is time sensitive: most of those copies will be sold between the announcement of the prize and Christmas Day. Gaspereau is committed to craft values. All its books are lovingly handmade artifacts. By itself Gaspereau can produce a maximum 1,000 copies of The Sentimentalists per week. They are currently about 2,000 copies of the novel in existence. If Gaspereau works at full speed, by the end of the year it could have at most 9,000 copies in print — far short of the number that most publishing experts think is needed. (more…)

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Drinking With Men Who Are Not Russell Smith

One woman’s perspective of the price of loving the culture we call “books”

On sexual harassment and publishing: one woman’s perspective of the price of loving the culture we call “books”

Publicity Girl
Via Creative Commons

Last Wednesday, the Globe and Mail published a column by Russell Smith in which he offered his unique and slightly controversial take on what the paper calls “Penguin Canada’s sex scandal.” I say “slightly” because the reactions I witnessed were divided into enthusiastic nodding, Hey, that’s not the whole story…, and sarcastic remarks about the columnist congratulating himself for not being a creepy douchebag. Smith gave a synopsis of the industry those of us inside already know well — young, nubile ladyfolk get hit on by older, entitled, lecherous dudes, blah blah blah, mostly because we all drink a lot, go to bed real late, and write about sexy things. Oh, and we’re hot. Smith explains that yes, he’s oft been tempted by “shockingly beautiful” girl-flesh, but he abstains because he’s smarter than everyone else. His conclusion can be summarized as “Canadian publishing is full of hotties, but be like me and keep it in your pants!”

Someone more rational than I (and incidentally a fan of Smith’s writing) pointed out that my cynical reaction to the piece probably stemmed from the fact that I had lived the very things it describes. While Smith’s argument is a simplistic overview of a complex and dangerously flawed industry, a band-aid proposal that doesn’t examine the expectation that women are required to be up-for-anything, flirtatious bombshells with graduate degrees (uglies need not apply), I actually appreciate his sentiment. This idea that we can actually try not to be jerks. And it’s inspired me to write my own personal overview of Men Who Are Not Russell Smith.

I don’t consider myself a “total unbelievable hottie” by his description, but after a decade in an industry where I’ve played the roles of novelist, publicist, editor, and marketer, I feel like I’ve been trained to successfully navigate and tolerate the tricky drunken terrain of strategic innuendo and ass grabbage. Admittedly, I am also a relentless flirt. I’m not sure if I was like that to begin with or if publishing has made me that way — I’m guessing the latter. (A therapist once asked me, with genuine concern, why I was “out until four a.m. with strange men,” and the only response I had to offer was, “’Cause that’s my job.”) Sadly, the late-night cocktail of flirtation and suggestion seems to be the lubricant that gets book deals done. (more…)

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E-Publish or Perish

Lessons for aspiring e-authors

Beasts of New York by Jon EvansThree years ago, when the Amazon Kindle was little more than a gleam in Jeff Bezos’s eye, I wrote an article for The Walrus called “Apocalypse Soon: The future of reading.” In it, I lamented how my book publishers had prevented me from releasing my debut novel online, and predicted an e-book revolution, the rise of e-readers, widespread e-piracy, the demise of many publishers and booksellers, and, ultimately, a world in which readers would decide whether to pay for books after reading them.

Now seems like a good time to follow up. Not least because my predictions appear to be coming true. E-readers like the Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad (with its associated iBooks app) are spreading everywhere; the market share of e-books has already eclipsed audiobooks, and continues to grow like bamboo; local bookstores are vanishing by the hundred, Amazon has gone to war against publishers over e-book prices, and Borders is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the publishing industry has been sufficiently shaken that hardly a day goes by without one of its dinosaurs penning another tedious navel-gazing essay about this terrifying brave new world. (Most such claim that piracy won’t be a significant factor, from which I conclude that the essayists in question are either smoking crack or in deep denial.)

But the important question isn’t What does this all mean for the book business? What matters is What does it mean for books? (Though authors, and aspiring authors — a group which, so far as I can tell, includes approximately half the human population — tend to also tack on What does it mean for us?) Answers are hard to come by. My friend Jo Walton recently wrote a blog post about her personal experience with online publication entitled “Some actual information about ebooks”; it ends with, “I’m posting this because it’s not handwaving or airy speculation, it’s actual data, of which there seems to be something of a shortage.”

She’s quite right. And so, in a similar vein, I’d like to tell you about my squirrel. (more…)

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Ghost Stories

The Original of LauraThree Days Before the Shooting...

An actor achieves immortality through his face, a singer through his voice. An author is able to live eternally through his writing, but for some, the finished words are not enough.

The critical notions surrounding authorship have been contentious since the 1960s, when developments in literary theory upset accepted notions about art. Critics such as Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault (two names sure to make any humanities graduate student cringe) dismantled the axiom that the author was the architect of a literary work’s interpretive possibilities. Barthes went so far as to declare “the death of the author,” urging scholars to seek out a text’s meaning in its language, rather than in the intentions of its author.

Despite Barthes’ obituary for the author, the cult of authorship persists. Publishers around the world are breathing fresh life into deceased famous authors by posthumously releasing their “lost” works. In 2009, new books by Vladimir Nabokov, Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and in a delicious twist of irony, Roland Barthes, hit the shelves. On the slate for the next couple of years are posthumous works by Ralph Ellison, Jack Kerouac, David Foster Wallace, and Roberto Bolaño. (Bolaño’s corpse is proving to be staggeringly prolific, with as many as four releases on the horizon.)

Meanwhile, J.D. Salinger’s recent death has sparked an enormous level of speculation over the wealth of writings he might have been hoarding. At the time of his death, the notoriously cagey author hadn’t published in over forty-five years. It’s long been reported that he wrote upwards of fifteen manuscripts during his self-imposed exile. Despite Salinger’s militant protection of his privacy and apparent desire not to see these writings in the public sphere, it seems all but inevitable that at least some of them will be snatched up and published in the years to come. (more…)

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The Unread Book

redbook

He whose desire turns away from outer things, reaches the place of the soul. If he does not find the soul, the horror of emptiness will overcome him, and fear will drive him with a whip lashing time and again in a desperate endeavor and a blind desire for the hollow things in the world.
— From the first chapter of Carl Jung’s The Red Book

I am sitting in an office sparsely adorned with Aboriginal artwork, facing a middle-aged, white-haired gentleman: well-dressed, cross-legged, with a slight, soothing English accent. Here, I feel likely to spill about my neuroses, fears, and dreams. Instead, I discuss Carl Jung’s The Red Book with Robert Gardner, Jungian analyst and president of the C.G. Jung Foundation of Ontario.

The Red Book is the germination of Jung’s avant-garde theories about the unconscious, the basis for the famed Jungian method. The manuscript, a product of sixteen years of work, is replete with the Swiss psychiatrist’s own images from dreams and mythologies, alongside his interpretations of and reflections on such matters. Jung wrote and illustrated it between 1914 and 1930, but it is only now accessible to the public. The Red Book is on display at The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City until January 25. It’s also available in print, though mostly back ordered due to unforeseen popularity: only 5,000 copies were printed for its first edition (which retails for $153 on amazon.ca), a publishing miscalculation that anticipated slim readership in a recessionary market.

Carl Jung spent many years collaborating with Sigmund Freud before their paths diverged. Both are known for significant contributions to the field of analytical psychology and for their influence on the arts, humanities, films, and popular culture. They popularized the notion that one’s inner life merits examination, but it was Jung who turned psychotherapy away from the treatment of the sick to a focus on individuality. He is best known for his theories on the psyche and descriptions of universal, primordial images, known as archetypes of the collective unconscious. Jung was fascinated by how civilizations sealed off from one another share symbols and mythologies, and concluded that in order to change collective perspective we need to understand the soul of the individual. His insights on personality types are integrated today in the Myers-Briggs personality test, which classifies people within four dichotomies, notably extroversion versus introversion.

After separating from Freud and in the lead up to World War I, Jung faced a period of great depression and introspection. What emerged is considered the most influential unpublished work in the history of modern psychology — a beautiful, illustrated personal diary that documented his dreams and fantasies. The Red Book is colourful and intricate, with paintings of mandalas, reptiles, serpents, and Greek deities. It is undeniably important from a historical perspective, showing the preliminary ideas and concepts of one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. Yet for many years it remained locked in the Jung family home, and in a bank vault in Zurich. Carl Jung left no specific instructions regarding what to do about the manuscript when he passed in 1961. His family, respecting his uncertainty and fear of disrepute among his science-oriented colleagues, kept it mum for decades.

The tug of war for control of The Red Book pitted Jung’s descendents against Stephen Martin and Sonu Shamdasani, co-founders of the Philemon Foundation, which dedicates itself to preparing Jung’s unpublished works for wide release. The family finally conceded in 1997, after the passing of Jung’s son Franz, who had vehemently opposed the intrusion into his father’s personal life, and the publication of two critical books about Jung (Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung and The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement) by prominent U.S. psychologist Richard Noll. From that point, it took another dozen years for The Red Book to reach retail shelves.

Searching for The Red Book at a Toronto Indigo store this weekend, however, elicited blank stares and the following response from a sales associate: “No, we don’t have it. Has he written anything else?” I was tempted to reply with a quote from the text — “The spirit of the depths forced me to speak to my soul, to call upon her as a living and self-existing being. I had to become aware that I had lost my soul” — but decided to move on.

When I turned to the Jungian community to decipher the significance of this work, I found a divided group and a publication engulfed in controversy. “The disquiet of it, and my own reluctance of getting into it, is that it’s a man’s story of his life when he was struggling and disoriented. It’s very personal. I feel [the publication is] a bit voyeuristic,” says Gardner. But I suspect there is something more to it than that: Jungians fret about the misunderstanding of their teacher’s theories — and, by extension, their profession as well. They maintain that The Red Book alone cannot produce an understanding of Jung’s work, which instead requires devoted academic study of his ideas about religion, mythology, folklore, and psychopathology. It all seems rather esoteric, but Gardner assures me that Jungian therapy and analysis is very practical and relevant today — the goal being to rediscover oneself, who one was meant to be from the beginning. “By connecting with deeper imagery, one is also connected to the deeper level of our being, but also the deeper levels of our culture of humanity,” he says. “In doing so, one becomes much less alienated, which to me, is really the biggest problem of the day.”

Another concern put forward by the Jungian community is that Jung’s critics may use The Red Book as proof that he was psychotic — and his work, therefore, the ravings of a lunatic. On its own, the book certainly lends itself to misinterpretation for being overwhelming and seemingly new age. The Rubin Museum, however, has provided a strong context, distilling the breadth of its contents into a few prevalent themes. In Canada, in the hands of Penguin Group (published by W.W. Norton & Company), nothing has been done to bolster the launch: there is neither context nor publicity for The Red Book’s release. (At this time, Penguin Group has not responded to questions about its sales and promotion strategy for The Red Book.)

Today, the field of psychology is moving toward a science orientation with brain imagery and controlled experimentation. Personality psychology and social psychology are still taught at top institutions like McGill University, but are falling in favour. In that way The Red Book appears to have missed its moment of peak relevance by several decades. Yet, whether we choose to admit it or not, the quest for one’s soul is everlasting and ubiquitous. Here is a book about humanity’s personal journey, brimming with lessons and insight about our collective unconscious. But few people, it seems, have clued into this. Perhaps this is because the book has been under-promoted, or its price is too expensive, or its ideas are too challenging to decipher. Fortunately, the answer to that question won’t take decades to reveal itself: in several weeks, 10,000 copies of The Red Book’s second edition will become available to the public. After this much time, the extra wait seems well worth enduring.

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Twisty Ties

Eastbound, Bloor and Spadina — Toronto, ON

Black woman, early 40s, wearing white sleeveless shirt, grey dress capris, thick-soled black sneakers, and carrying a turquoise leather purse.

The woman beside her wants to talk. Would the man standing with the small child like her seat? Do the cars have air conditioning? What stop to they get off at? Should she have brought a jacket?

She hugs a small rolling suitcase to her knees, a white leather purse with accidental ball point scribbles along one seam stuffed in her lap. Her son sits across from her, a much larger suitcase closing him. He rests his head on top of it, one earphone in, the other dangling, emitting the steady beats of hip hop.

“You forgot to put the twisty ties on the zippers.”

He lifts his head, nods once, and rests his cheek against the luggage’s handle.

“Nodding ain’t gonna keep nobody out of that luggage. I didn’t buy you no new shorts and T-shirts to have somebody steal them.” (more…)

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Shades of You

Southbound, Yonge and College — Toronto

Caucasian male, late 20s, with long dark hair, wearing plain white T-shirt, brown cargo shorts, and black pool slide sandals.

The woman beside him wears crisp white pants and a crisp white jacket. Her shoes are carnation pink, as is her belt, bracelet, and scarf tied neatly around her neck. She slouches in her seat, fatigued, loosely gripping the handles of her carnation pink purse, her nails painted in the same shade. She is defeated in springtime, the sizable mole over her left eyebrow off-shade, tea rose, puce, but not carnation pink, her mother’s favourite flower. At today’s weekly tea she may as well have been wearing amaranth. 52-years-old and she still can’t do anything right.

What was he reading? Click here.

Julie Wilson is a literary voyeur, the Gossip Girl of the Book World. She tracks readers in the wild at SeenReading.com. Follow Julie on Twitter @seenreading, and @bookmadam where she runs a monthly contest with McNally Robinson.

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Breaking ties

Eastbound, Bloor and Chester

Caucasian male, mid 30s, with short red hair and beard, wearing blue collared T-shirt, khaki pants, and brown leather shoes. He carries a black, nylon crush-proof laptop case.

The lace on his left shoe has snapped. Manufacture laces are hard to come by. He resents the caution he needs to observe each morning, a crudely tied knot the monkey in the middle of two rug-burned eyelets. What was once an act of physical memory — Really, he thinks, when was the last time I remember putting on my shoes? — has now become as bothersome as a young child’s realization that school won’t end any time soon. He prolongs taking his shoes off at night, stubbornly carting a dried leaf from the curb through his living room and into the bedroom where its dusty skeleton rests beside a shoe rack of scuffed heels.

What was he reading? Click here.

Julie Wilson is a literary voyeur, the Gossip Girl of the Book World. She tracks readers in the wild at SeenReading.com. Follow Julie on Twitter @seenreading, and @bookmadam where she runs a monthly contest with McNally Robinson.

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