Saturday, March 20, 2010

Welcome to the Monster Mash!

In my post of this past Thursday I commented briefly on the healthy state of paranormal publishing, vis-a-vis the report that Hachette owed its second great year to Stephanie Meyers and the ongoing "Twilight" phenom. When the last Harry Potter novel was released lo those coupla years ago, everyone in publishing held their collective breath. Could the book survive the boy wizard's finale? What was the next great book/writer just over the horizon?

Well, along came Stephanie, and the rest is very recent history.

But that's not all, folks.

Every time the discussion rolls around to genres and trends, there are a few comments that vampires are (pardon the pun) dead, and that paranormal is waning as a genre. There's the discussion of a "new" monster that's all the rage. Whether the talk is of YA, or romance, or paranormal fiction, everyone has an opinion on this genre.

Mine? Well, my opinion is that it is here to stay. Evolving, for sure. But the wealth of writers out there each putting their own spin on the genre are creating a monstrously great selection.

Just this week's edition of Publishers Weekly (print, I'm talking, not online, where there's even more), there were the following stories, blurbs and announcement:

The "Pick of the Week" is the new M. J. Rose paranormal, "The Hypnotist" (Mira).

The aforementioned story of the Hachette success, led by the ka-ching engendered by Ms. Meyer.

The Hardcover Bestsellers/Fiction list includes J. D. Robb' latest, "Fantasy In Death" at 3 and "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" at #4 - with the notation that Abe may be headed for the movies - via Tim Burton. And another paranormal title on the list? "Black Magic Sanction" by Kim Harrison. And the Paperback Bestseller lists the Dresden creator, Jim Butcher, with the latest wizard installment, "Turn Coat". And PW goes on to note that the late and much lamented Dresden TV series, canceled over vociferous complaints from his fans, is out on DVD.

Then there's the major story on a "The Passage" (and an 800 page one at that). The first paragraph says "Every few years a book comes along that seems destined for bestsellerdom." The book is the first in a trilogy by 47 year old Justin Cronin, from Texas. And he's not just your everyday author - he's a PEN/Hemingway award winner for a literary fiction novel. But when was the last time you heard about a literary novel garnering a $5.5 million three-book deal AND film deal ($3.7 mill for the boook and $1.75 million option deal by Ridley Scott)?

Moving on to the story, "London Briefcase: What the Big Six Are Bringing to the Fair" (referring to the 2010 London Bookfair). Penguin touts their title, "Blood Oath: The President's Vampire". Macmillan's Thomas Dunne imprint has "The Demon Trapper's Daughter", first in a new YA series. And HarperCollins has the indominatable and prolific Meg Cabot with her "Insatiable", a sequel to the paranormal grandaddy, "Dracula", which has already gathered a slew of foreign rights sales.

In the reviews section we get 6 varying reviews including one on a fantasy world (Bertrice Small's "Crown of Destiny"), a dark horror novel, ("Katja From the Punk Band" by Simon Logan), "Climate of Change" from Piers Anthony, his latest Geodyssey novel, "The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories", a short-story collection encompassing alternative history, hi-tech sci-fi, psychological fantasy and more including several Nebula winners. A "sword and sorcery yarn" by Michael Ehart ("The Tears of Ishtar"), and, but of course, Sookie's next adventure, "Dead in the Family" by Charlaine Harris.

The "Soapbox" column end-page by Andrea Jones discusses a painful incident involving her title, "Hook & Jill" - which is a retelling of Peter Pan for adults.

But Publishers Weekly does not corner the market on paranormal news. I'd mentioned the positioning of the new release, "Angelology" on the Boston Globe bestseller list. Daily Variety reported on the new TV series, the animated "Ugly Americans" from Comedy Central where monsters, mythical creatures and more will abound. And "True Blood"'s third season package was announced, including the mention of their still exemplary Nielsen numbers.

What else is in the paranormal news? Theatre doesn't escape the lure of the supernatural either, and the sequel to Phantom of the Opera, "Love Never Dies", is poised for a launch.

USA Today (and everyone else) ran a story on the new "Twilight" graphic novel, the first of only many to come, I'm sure.

Publishers Marketplace's Daily Deals reports on foreign rights sales for the "Twilight" graphic. The Publishers Lunch Delux weekly reports sales for a new L. A. Bank's fallen angels series ("good deal" = $100,000 - $250,000), Sylvia Day's new trilogy (book one "Angel Enchained") which has fallen angels, vampires, and lycans - at auction to NAL (and we all know what "at auction" means!). Carol Nelson Douglas's "Silver Zombie" plus a second title, sold to Juno, and it has a paranoraml investigator in Kansas (?) and deals with "zombies, weather witches and demon drug lords". Under the "romance" sales is also announced 2 titles from Vivi Anna, featuring demon hunters, to Silhouette Nocturne.

Children's Middle Grade sales including "The Story of Liesl & Po", with its elements of magic and magicians.

YA sales: "Forever" by Maggie Stiefvater (3rd title in the trilogy), AND 3 new stand-alone fantasy titles to Scholastic, OR Melling's mythological adventure "The Celtic Princess", and William Hill's "Department 19", which is from a series about a government agency of vampire hunters, again at auction for a three book deal.

Okay, though I could go on and on, I won't. But these stories are all ones that I did not hunt up, but simply came across on one, that's right, ONE, day of reading my trades.

So, paranormal dying out? Vampires passe? Weres old hat? I think not.

Authors continue to discover new twists to old favorites, from vampires to shifters and weres. Witches, fae, demons, gargoyles, zombies are being joined by the latest craze - the fallen angel. Dark and appealing, just check out your local bookstore for the covers with the tell-tale wings. With ingenuity, creativity and in some cases sheer genuis they tweak and twist and reform ideas and creatures and keep the genre expanding, growing and moving forward.

Television, film and even theatre are all on the paranormal bandwagon in a big way.

But so much of that comes from the books themselves. From the whimsical to the wacky (Dakota Cassidy's "Accidental" series, anything by Nina Bangs, for example, who populates some of her worlds with everything from the vamp and the were to the cosmic troublemaker and Gods), to the dark and horrific (both Laurell K. Hamilton series, Anita Blake and Merry Gentry), to the darkly comedic (Jim Butcher and Simon Green), to the sexy romances filled with gods from Atlantis, darkhunters and dreamhunters (Sherilyn Kenyon), the hot and steamy (J. R. Ward) and the historical gothic ("The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker" by Leanna Renee Heiber, first in a Victorian gothic series to be followed by "The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker").

There are romances, mysteries, YA, kids books and picture boooks all romping merrily in the paranormal world. Futuristics, time-travel, historicals, erotic romances: there's no end to the genres and sub-genres that are embracing paranormals.

So I think we can safely assume that, for now, all those things that go bump in the night, all the something wickeds that this way come, well, they're here to stay!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Is Springing and the Ides Are Gone: Today's Publishing News

Like the daffodils and crocuses in my front yard, publishing news is bursting forth all over the place, in just as many hues and varieties as my garden boasts.

First things first, of course: Amazon News! What's a day without another digital donnybrook in the headlines? Fast on the heels of their loss by decision bout against publisher Macmillan (or what I like to call "Where's my 'buy' button-gate"), Amazon is coming out of their corner swinging. Today’s New York Times story by Motoko Rich and Brad Stone says “ has threatened to stop directly selling the books of some publishers online unless they agree to a detailed list of concessions regarding the sale of electronic books, according to two industry executives with direct knowledge of the discussions.”

I think we’ve all pretty much got Amazon’s number by now – they’re trying to be the BMOC of the ebook world. With tough competition growing daily (Sony’s Reader was joined by the Nook and more recently the Apple iPad, not to mention the dozens [or hundreds?] of non-Kindle apps proliferating throughout the e-book universe), they’re trying to hang onto their behemoth status and force the publishing world to it’s knees via e-book pricing on their terms (and I can practically hear those millions of writers’ knees knocking together because when the pricing wars heat up, they can expect to get their fingers – or more – burned). Maybe the Amazon folk thought the staid and somewhat antiquated print publishing world would be an easy mark, but as they’ve already proven, the hallowed old halls of NY publishing are filled with visionary types who are embracing digital, and the internet, and publishing business models are evolving even as brand new partnerships are formed (including the “big 5” of the 6 NY publishing houses – Random House abstaining - who huddled up with Apple to carve out the deal for iPad digital book delivery). This is a story that is going to heat up and stay in the headlines for some time to come.

Beyond Amazon there’s lots to cover, so let’s get to it:

New gadgets abound – the Kindle app for the Mac computer is now available (whoops, there’s Amazon again!). And the whimsically named ALEX from Spring Design is now on sale today, though approximately $100 more than the Kindle or Nook or Sony Reader. Its got a 6 inch, E-Ink panel and color touch screen panel, along with Wi-Fi (color was a Nook benefit only, til now – unless you count the $1,000 Japanese gadget).

Another player wades into the “is it history, or fiction”, pool (not to be confused with the plagiarism/copyright infringement pool, or the always amusing “first it was a memoir and then it was a novel” pool): The Charlotte Observer reports that multi-book author Gerald Posner (formerly of The Daily Beast”) told the AP that because of research procedural SNAFUs, his non-fic title, Miami Babylon, might have used text from the book “Clubland” by Frank Owen without proper credit. With bookstores (and James Cameron who’d wanted to film the property) clearing “The Last Train From Hiroshima” off their shelves following the revelations (reported just about everywhere) that not only was author Pellegrino’s source apparently a fabricator, but questions on Pellegrino’s own background making everyone oh-so-nervous (Huffington Post, March 1, 2010) this has gotta hurt all the way around. If these situations keep cropping up, I can envision a vetting process for authors that will feel more like an interrogation in a dark basement room complete with phone books and rubber hoses.

But there’s some upbeat stuff going on, too.

Columbia University announced the winners of their 2010 Bancroft Prize: Linda Gordon for “Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits”; Woody Holton for “Abigail Adams” and Margaret D. Jacobs for “White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940” (which title may also be in the running for longest title and subtitle combo – a real prize, by the by). Congrats to all on their serious, thought provoking work.

Also on the prize front comes the longlist for the Orange Prize, which list includes the recent Booker prize and National Book Award-winning “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel, and perennial critical darling, Barbara Kingsolver with “The Lacuna”, as well as that runaway bestseller, “The Help”. This book is not only Kathryn Stockett’s debut and a reading group fave, but is also a soon-to-be-major-motion-picture from Dreamworks. Good luck to everyone!

And speaking of prizes, word is that the National Enquirer (yes, the one by the check-out register at your local supermarket) is being mentioned in the same breath as “Pulitzer Prize”. They are the ones who broke the John Edwards’ scandal (you might have heard about it?). The times, they sure are a changin’ folks.

No surprise to anyone, Stephanie Meyers and her undead crew are still going strong. Sales of her “Twilight” series (and the accompanying profits from box office of the first two films and merchandising) helped Hachette post a second record year in 2009. And to make sure all markets are tapped? The first “Twilight” graphic novel is here!

(See my post tomorrow for a wrap-up of the amazing paranormal phenom, in which Ms. Meyers is a major player).

For writers looking for publishers, there’s a new “matchmaker” in town. Seems like bunches of publishers have staff reviewing literary magazine, The View From Here, in search of new writing talent. Check out the site for yourself for another market for your fiction that might just be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

E-publisher (and winner for the 2nd year in a row of the Editors and Preditors “Best Publisher” award) The Wild Rose Press has a wide range of romance genres and story-lengths for which an author can submit. They are currently looking for the shorter works, 65,000 words and under, for all of them. They’ve got some Eppie winners in their midst, and some of these shorter titles are available for the new Nook, and all can be purchased direct from TWRP themselves.

Best seller lists abound, in print and on-line. Today here are some of the top place-holders from The Boston Globe, 3/21-27: #1 on the Fiction list is the aforementioned “The Help”. “Angelology”, the recent release by Danielle Trussoni (can you say paranormal’s not dead?) is on the list at #2. Ibid paranormal comment: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” – and already optioned for film by Ridley Scott – by Seth Grahame-Smith (his follow-up to the wildly successful “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” – which spawned a whole new monster-mash genre of fiction) is number 7. No surprise on the non-fiction list, “Game Change” rules in the top spot. But the serious entries (including “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and “The Pacific”) are tempered by the #2 title, “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang” by comedian Chelsea Handler (she of the “Are You There, Vodka, It’s Me, Chelsea?” and “My Horizontal Life”).

On the “people on the move” front, with import beyond the bare facts, Barnes & Noble Inc. has a new chief executive (as reported by Publisher’s Lunch today). William Lynch succeeds Steve Riggio, but of greater interest (to me, anyway) is that Lynch was the president of the B&N website. With their re-launch of the Barnes & Noble e-book store, the new Nook and their collaboration with Google* to provide as much digital content as any e-reader could possibly hold, it seems pretty apparent that they are at the head of the pack as far as the Amazon competition goes, and planning on giving them a run for their money – literally. Who better to lead the race than a tech exec?

And last but not least, for those of you who hope one day for publication, or who are laboring on a project of love that seems to be a long journey, look for the March 23 release of the debut Vietnam era-novel, “Matterhorn”. It was written, over 35 years, by Karl Marlantes, a Marine vet, and he tried to find someone to read it and buy it for decades. And now, thanks to the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program, he’s made it. You can too. Hooah!

Getting on my soapbox (it’s had a nice rest, after all) if you don’t already, I’d like to encourage you to read at least one newspaper, every day. I read the New York Times daily and 2 free NYC AM papers daily, and The Long Island Press weekly. But I also juggle The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Daily News, and sometimes splurge for The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Boston Globe (cost is higher for these out of town papers). The NYT has wonderful coverage not only of books, with its daily book reviews, as well as its Sunday Times Book Review section (a fast disappearing animal in today’s newsprint world) – but it has tremendous coverage of the business of publishing and the digital revolution. As authors or publishing industry personnel, knowing how the biz is going gives you a leg up on the competition. Take the time to read some different papers. As a professional resource and research tool they are invaluable, and they can even provide story ideas.

Whew. This was a long one. SO, until tomorrow when I explore the explosive paranormal genre in business and print, may your day be filled with great words – be they yours or others’.

* On the Google settlement front? No word from Judge Denny Chin. Are they taking bets on this deal in Vegas yet?

P.S. I almost forgot! I’m sure all your Janet Evanovich/Stephanie Plum fanatics out there already know, but just in case: It’s finally going to happen! Stephanie Plum’s coming to the big screen. The casting of Katherine Heigl moves the project “One For the Money” forward (options happened, but no production got underway for years and years). Now for the good stuff: Who they gonna cast as Ranger and Morelli? Inquiring minds want to know!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Google Settlement Watch - Feb. 18, 2010

For all you "Google settlement watchers", today was "the day". High Noon at the OK Corral. But no joy for either side today, as Judge Denny Chin announced (from the AP):

"To end the supense, I'm not going to rule today. There is just too much to digest."

Everyone and their mother, and that includes the Department of Justice, Amazon, and Microsoft have chimed in on this settlement agreement, both pro and con. And famed fantasy author Ursula K. LeGuin resigned her membership in the Authors Guild over their participation in the deal. But at 300+ pages even I threw up my hands at trying to digest ANYTHING about it.

Rumors are rife as to whether Google and the Authors Guild will go back to the drawing board (or should we say the drawing iPad?) to attempt to restructure the deal yet again if it is not accepted by Judge Chin. Though from what I've gleaned, a fairly obvious solution might be to simply put the onus on Google, rather than on the rights holders. Instead of forcing the rights holders to be the ones to OPT OUT of the gargantuan undertaking (thus allowing Google to scan at will if you, the rights holder, don't notify them you aren't interested in allowing them to do this)if, instead, the rights holders must OPT IN before Google could scan any title, it seems many of the objections would go away.

But of course, there's the rub. That would put a serious crimp in the ease of uploading and, yes, SELLING, books.

As was further reported in the AP story by Larry Neumeister today, Sarah Canzoneri, who is one of the plaintiffs against the settlement and a member of the Children's Book Guild, summed up the opposition view fairly succinctly:

"It's not going to be a great library, it's going to be a good store."

Not for nothing, but Google spokespersons' comments rarely mention the ka-ching involved for them (and please, if you understand how the trickle down monetary theory would work in this convoluted quagmire for publishers and authors, let me know!).

Sorry to dash your hopes.

That's all for now folks.

I'm off to play with my new e-book reader (Yes, sad but true, I've been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century) and prep for my pitch at the upcoming March 13 first annual Liberty States Fiction Writers' conference in New Jersey.

There's plenty more to come on digital news, personnel shifts, and the glorious world of book publishing. Soon!

Until then, have you made your presence known in the book-buying community today? A day without a post, tweet, comment or blog is a day wasted when promoting your "brand"!