HEROES FOR MY SON Hits the List!

Congratulations to Brad Meltzer, whose new book Heroes for My Son will hit the New York Times Best Seller list next Sunday at #2!

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Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin Talks About His Forthcoming Book and Tour

You know a book is good when you dream about it. The other night I dreamt about Greg Graffin, whose book on science and religion called Anarchy Evolution (October 5, 2010) we’re publishing this fall to coincide with Bad Religion’s 30 year anniversary tour. In my dream I imagined Greg as a boy sitting in science class. I imagined the graduated cylinders on everyone’s desk and the teacher wearing a mustard colored dress. I’ll let you conjure your own image from Greg’s words:

“I’ve always had a problem with authority. When I was in the third grade at Lake Bluff Elementary School just outside Milwaukee, my teacher, Wanda Rood, knew that I hated to be called by my full name, Gregory. I have always been Greg to my family and friends, and whenever Miss Rood called me Gregory to humiliate or intimidate me, I shook with fury.

Finally, one day when I was talking too much to my friends, Miss Rood said, ‘Gregory, do you have something to say to us all?’ I replied, ‘Don’t call me Gregory, Wanda.’”

Here Greg and I talk about his book and tour. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this project. MUCH more to come:

1. When you started Bad Religion at the age of 15, did you ever imagine the band would be around for 30 years?

As a 15 year old, I didn’t even imagine where I would be in three years, so thirty years was inconceivable. The band started out as a channel for rebelliousness. We were creative non-conformists who relished provocation. We didn’t think there would be much of a future in that.

2. Why do you think your band has had such staying power?

Scientific knowledge has staying power and punk shares certain qualities with science, in particular, challenging dogma. Without the overturning of prior theories, science can’t progress. This was immediately appealing to me as a teenager, as it still is.

3. You write in the book that as a teenager, science kind of saved you. What do you mean by that?

Through my early reading in evolutionary biology and geology, the world began to make sense. I could answer the “big picture” questions that were lacking from my a-religious upbringing. I was never taught about the stories in The Bible. Science offered a fantastical narrative from which I forged my songwriting career, which also began in my teens.

4. What’s the best part about touring?

Visiting antiquarian bookshops all over the world. I spend more money on foreign postage sending books home from tour than I do on meals.

5. Will you promote the book during your tour? (Fans: pre-order here!)

I would like to meet as many people as possible who are interested in evolution and the worldview they take from it. For that reason, I hope to appear in many bookstores, coffee shops, and speaking venues on the same days that we play concerts in cities all over the world. What a privilege, talk about the issues during the day, sing about them at night. It’s a dream come true!

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Sometimes It’s Worth Going the Extra Mile (Lessons from Tom Peters)

It was about a year ago that Susan Danziger, the brilliant founder of DailyLit.com, turned me on to the “success tips” that Tom Peters had been posting on his blog. Reading them was like eating popcorn; once I started I couldn’t stop. But unlike popcorn, Tom’s tips made me want to make something happen.

It was in that spirit that I wrote to Tom on his site, saying that I thought his success tips should be published as a book. To my amazement, Tom actually wrote back, inviting me to visit him at his farm in Vermont. A few days later, after driving through the snow and spending the day with Tom (and his colleague, Erik Hansen, and his wife, Susan Sargent, who provided us with the world’s most delicious sandwiches), my head was spinning with provocative thoughts about business, and books…and we had agreed to give it a try.

I suppose I should have realized that a guy who writes about excellence (“If not excellence, what?”) would push me and the staff of HarperStudio to question all of our book-making assumptions. Why not make the book bright orange instead? Why not do two-color endpapers so “The 19 E’s of Excellence” would have 19 red “E”s? Why not re-write the existing success tips and add new ones, and then re-arrange the whole thing thematically? Why not, indeed?

Tom pushed us to go the extra mile, and now we’re grateful. Because now we’re holding his new, bright orange, chock-full-of-inspiration book, THE LITTLE BIG THINGS, in our hands, and damn if he wasn’t right: a book that tells businesspeople that they should over-deliver should be a book that overdelivers. And this one certainly does so.

Thanks, Tom!!!

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Editorial Alchemy: When an Article Becomes a Book and then another Article

Every editor who acquires a certain kind of topical nonfiction has come up against the people-will-read-the-article-and-not-buy-the-book conundrum. But what about an article that says in plain language “really, you don’t need to read this book!!”? I don’t know quite how to feel about Newsweek’s “We Read It (So You Don’t Have to)” column. On the one hand, it’s yet another indication that the world at large equates reading a book to, I don’t know, flossing your teeth. On the other, I actually READ the Lori Gottlieb book (in part because I had pursued her after reading the original article in the Atlantic on which her new book “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” is based and I wanted to see how it turned out in book form) and I’d like to have those two hours of my life back (OK, a good skim takes 20 minutes;))

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The Real World

I made 2 New Year’s resolutions for 2010.

1) Try to expand my food repertoire by cooking a recipe from a cookbook once a week. I’ve already broken this resolution after my first few recipes were flops.

2) Get out in the real world more. Everyone’s talking about online marketing and social networking these days…but I want to give a plug for getting together in real life too.

Yesterday I saw two authors in the “real world” and it was worth more than a million emails.

Turns out Ellen Galinsky isn’t just the President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute as well as the author of the forthcoming book Mind in the Making — she also happens to be an amazing photographer. I had the pleasure of seeing her latest exhibit yesterday in Dobbs Ferry.

After being inspired by Ellen, it was off to meet upcoming HarperStudio author Sascha Zuger for dinner with her son and parents. We’ve been Twitter buddies for a while, and I’ve been psyched to read her memoir about her journey from a 9 to 5 office job to working on a commercial shrimp boat on the Great Barrier Reef and sailing across the South Pacific — but nothing compares to hearing her awesome adventure stories over a bowl of pasta. Having a kid hasn’t seemed to slow her down an iota (if I heard her correctly, I believe she said she’s traveled to 20 countries with her 7 year old son?). Crazy. Inspiring. Can’t wait to read her book even more now.

And speaking of the real world, everyone’s always asking me if the book tour is dead — and honestly, I’m not sure. I do believe there’s a bigger opportunity to make it successful using the tools available today on the internet as well as by being extra creative. Here are two book tours that I want to point out as food for thought:

Stephen Elliott wrote about The D.I.Y Book Tour in the New York Times about a month ago. It doesn’t seem perfect, but certainly interesting and seemed worthwhile if you ask me.

Gretchen Rubin has done (and continues to do) a big tour. I’ve been following along on her blog and it seems that there are a lot of “Happiness is a Great Book Event in…” posts — so she did something right. I know she asked the readers of her blog early on where they’d be interested in having her visit, and I believe part of the tour may have been sponsored by a magazine (I don’t know more details than that), but I’m dying for the full wrap up from Gretchen on what worked and why, and what to skip in the future.

And then of course there was Gary’s tour which was a huge success. Check out the Facebook pages he created which really helped spread the word and gauge numbers in advance.

Would love to hear from anyone out there about what you find working in the real world…

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I’ll Trade You Boardwalk for Hilary Mantel

Of all the many remarkable things to notice about the exchange between Amazon and Macmillan this past weekend, perhaps the most remarkable, at least from a linguistic point of view, is Amazon’s use of the word “monopoly” in their message to their customers yesterday. Yes, the company that has frightened the book business so badly with its attempt to create a closed system for e-book delivery on its Kindles said that Macmillan had a “monopoly on its titles.”  This nasty monopoly of Macmillan’s was forcing Amazon–now the David to Macmillan’s Goliath–to “capitulate.”

Whatever your point of view on this, the use of “monopoly” to describe a publisher’s control of its content is a bit overheated, no?  Maybe we can go back to calling it what we used to in the old days: “copyright.”

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An Embarrassment of Riches

In the month of December, the publishing Gods rained four amazing authors on me. I took it as a sign from the universe that I was in the right place.

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After months of questions and angst about the future of the publishing industry and whether it was part of my future, my answer came in the form of Baratunde Thurston. I’d heard him speak at the Web 2.0 conference and I wanted desperately to work with him. After tracking him down, he came to my office for a brainstorm, and it was during that meeting that I had an epiphany: There is nothing in the world I’d rather be doing.How cool is it that I get to go to conferences, hear really interesting speakers, then have them over to my office to figure out their book with them? And then I get to work on that book.

My fate became clear during that meeting with Baratunde Thurston. He’s writing a book for HarperStudio called How to be Black.

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The next author to sign with HarperStudio was Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg.com. I’m a huge fan — have been following his blog, twitter, videos, etc. for some time, and think he’s one of the smartest tech entrepreneurs out there with lots of wisdom and experience to share .  He’ll be writing a book about the secrets behind his success called One to One Million.

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Jill Kargman is a novelist. I saw her on Samantha Ettus’s show Obsessed TV six months ago and knew I wanted to work with her. We met a few times and completely clicked. The question was , what’s the “HarperStudio” book. In early December she came to my office to have another brainstorm and told me some terrible personal news. The thing was, she told the story with such humor and grace that instead tears and sadness, we were hysterically laughing…and it was in that moment that we realized that’s her gift: she sprinkles the funny everywhere, even on the tough times. Jill’s going to write two books for HarperStudio. The first is called Sometimes I Feel Like A Nut and will be essays about using humor as a tool to get through life –making the fun times funnier and the tough times bearable, in reference to Woody Allen’s magical math equation: COMEDY = TRAGEDY + TIME. The second will be a novel.

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The fourth author to sign with HarperStudio during that lucky month of December 2009, was Ryan Tate from Gawker.  I’d been thinking a lot about merits and challenges of being a small company within a large corporation, and Bob suggested that there’s a book in that. Nick Bilton from the New York Times lead me to Ryan Tate at Gawker, and he is now writing a book for us called Skunkworks, which I can’t wait to read.

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One more author who I want to mention who signed with HarperStudio, though it was slightly before that December epiphany, but still very much part of my process of realizing how much I love my job, is Melanie Notkin, the Savvy Auntie. She’s writing her Savvy Auntie’s Guide to Life.

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So there you have it: now a total of five authors who make me so excited about my work and this industry that I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

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HBO’s Thing for Autism

It was only a matter of time before someone made a biopic about Temple Grandin. When you stop and think about it, HBO makes perfect sense- so does Claire Danes. (Oh and add Sheila Nevins to my list of creative heroes.)

Ms. Grandin is currently reading a copy of Elaine Hall’s book Now I See The Moon (Elaine starred in the incredible HBO doc Autism: The Musical). I can’t wait to hear what she thinks!

(update! this just in from Temple Grandin: “Now I See the Moon provides insightful ways to teach and work with individuals with autism and severe disabilities.  It will give parents great hope.” Whoop! Whoop! JC)

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Crush It, the Remix

Traditionally, if an audio is done for a book, it’s recorded a few months before the hardcover publication so that they can be published simultaneously. The theory is that the audio will benefit from the hardcover marketing. Fair enough.

But what if it’s non-fiction and the world is changing at breakneck speed and there’s potentially updated information that happens in the six months between when the print book was finished being written and is finally published?

When Gary proposed the idea to us last Fall that he wait to record the audio until December, six months after the book was finished so that he could incorporate the latest info, we thought it was genius.

I love the idea that the hardcover is the mother ship, and then the other formats can be derivatives. Vook would fall in this category too.

So here it is for your listening pleasure: Crush It! the remix.

It was published the first week of January and has been selling incredibly well despite the fact that I can’t seem to find anywhere except for a few tweets from Gary that there’s new information here. About every few pages, Gary stops reading and adds off the cuff stories. Even if you’d read the book, it’s enough new info that you might want to listen too.

Check it out…It’s on sale for now $7.49 (from $13.22). Totally worth the $7.49.

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When Fiction Becomes Reality

Over the holidays I caught up on some of my recreational reading and read Ender’s Game, the scifi classic written by Orson Scott Card and published by TOR in 1985. It only took me ten years to get to it–I first heard about the book in high school when my friend Dash gave a book report on it in Freshman English. Light years ago, right?

What surprised me most about the book, though, was how accurately Card predicted future technologies: all the recruits have desks (touchscreen laptops), when they’re not studying or practicing they have time for free play (video games), the school has a system the students can send messages through (email), and back on Earth people communicate across the globe on the nets (the internet).

If anyone still doubts the power of Twitter and the blogosphere, this passage from the book, where Ender’s siblings back on Earth, Patrick and Valentine, take up the personas of Demosthenes and Locke on the nets in order to amass political influence, reads almost as prophecy:

With false names, on the right nets, [Patrick and Valentine] could be anybody. Old men, middle-aged women, anybody, as long as they were careful about the way they wrote. All that anyone would see were their words, their ideas. Every citizen started equal, on the nets.

Of course they were not invited to take part in the great national and international political forums–they could only be audiences there until they were invited or elected to take part. But they signed on and watched, reading some of the essays published by the great names, witnessing the debates that played across their desks.

And in the lesser conferences, where common people commented about the great debates, they began to insert their comments. At first Peter insisted that they be deliberately inflammatory.

The responses that got posted were vinegar; the responses that were sent as mail, for Peter and Valentine to read privately, were poisonous. But they did learn what attributes of their writing were seized upon as childish and immature. And they got better.

Peter took careful note of their most memorable phrases and then did searches from time to time to find those phrases cropping up in other places. Not all of them did, but most of them were repeated here and there, and some of them even showed up in the major debates on the prestige nets. “We’re being read,” Peter said. “The ideas are seeping out.”

In an age when Ashton Kutcher has more followers on Twitter than CNN, this scenario couldn’t ring more true.

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