August 15, 2007
Well the news is in. Last night Beaufort Books revealed itself as the publisher who has agreed to print O.J. Simpson’s controversial If I Did It. In hopes of avoiding a fate similar to the ReganBooks catastrophe of last year, the small, NY-based company is trying to spin this book as hard (or rather, as nicely) as they can.
In Beaufort’s highly anticipated press release, the publisher maintains that what was previously perceived as a “brazen attempt for Simpson to capitalize on an unspeakable crime for financial gain” will now been seen for what it truly is: a confession. (Note that he never directly confesses to either Nicole Brown or Ron Goldman’s murders in the book.)
My favorite line is when Beaufort describes the Goldman family’s acquisition of the rights to the manuscript this year as “a great ironic turn in this tale of murder and injustice.” Great because we are dredging up the details of a horrific, 14-year-old murder? Or ironic because now the victim’s family will profit from it, and we aren’t sure who to blame anymore?
I at least expected something like this from Simpson. But don’t worry, Nicole Brown’s sister Denise is making sure to publicly condemn the Goldmans’ decision to go through with publication. She is asking everyone to boycott If I Did It once it is released. This is, of course, after she failed to secure some of the profits from the novel for herself.
I really don’t know who to believe anymore. All I know is that this book is getting published, and knowing that “the Goldmans, the publisher, and Sharlene Martin will all contribute portions of sales proceeds to the Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice” is somehow supposed to make us sleep easier at night.
August 14, 2007
After Monday’s announcement that O.J. Simpson’s tasteful memoir If I Did It has found yet another publisher, it’s hard not to smile. I mean, someone should be giving the publishing industry a dozen gold stars. What effort and determination!
Not only did they encourage Simpson to write a novel about how he would have killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman (much to the dismay of the American public), but now they refuse to let the idea die. Because even though Simpson is completely innocent, I think we all sometimes wonder how an average guy envisions his first homicide going. If that’s not art, I’m not sure what is. Gawker thought maybe this.
Either way, yesterday morning Publishers Weekly released a report that agent Sharlene Martin has secured a company to back a revised version of Simpson’s book. The project will now include commentary from the Goldman family, who won the rights to the manuscript in a Miami bankruptcy court last month. The book is meant to satisfy some of the millions that the former NFL star owes because of a wrongful death judgment made against him in civil court.
The name of the publisher was originally supposed to be released today (according to Monday’s statement), but the rep for the Goldman family, Michael Wright, has postponed the announcement yet again.
So it looks like we will have to wait until tomorrow to find out who the second-most insensitive publisher in the country is. The first-place prize goes to Judith Regan of ReganBooks, who initially supported the project back in 2006. Most of you are probably familiar with the public outrage that ensued, causing the cancellation of the book’s release. Regan was subsequently fired.
But I obviously wish the best of luck to the next in line. It’s good to know that this time around you have some of Goldman’s family members in your corner, ready to join in on the exploitation of his death.
August 7, 2007
With the internet and the publishing industry unapologetically intertwined these days, it’s no wonder that the Fake Steve Jobs is releasing his very own book come October.
For those of you unaware of the blog entitled “The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs,” it began to create a stir within Silicon Valley over a year ago. Written anonymously since earlier this week, the satirical blog features posts by someone pretending to be Apple CEO and Founder Steve Jobs. Lovingly referred to as Fake Steve Jobs or FSJ by his fanatical followers, the identity of the blogger was revealed (or rather uncovered) by New York Times reporter Brad Stone on Sunday.
The notoriously tight-lipped Jobs is the perfect corporate mogul to impersonate, especially with the booming success of Apple over the past few years. The mocking, self-righteous, and sarcastic tone of FSJ’s blog is riotously funny and borderline genius. He has even got the real Steve Jobs reading his posts. Loyal fans had been pondering who the real FSJ was for months, as well as well-known faces within the IT industry that the blog reams on a regular basis. My personal favorite is when FSJ calls Bill Gates “Beastmaster” and Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz “My Little Pony.” A reference of course to his choice of hairstyle. There are videos out there. You can find them. Ok fine, here it is.
Either way, FSJ has been busted, and it appears that a senior editor at Forbes, Dan Lyons, was behind the blog the whole time. A relative unknown, so good for him, because now his name will be remembered for a good 10 to 15 days. His new book, written of course in the FSJ persona, is called Options. Da Capo Press in Cambridge is backing the project. One site predicts that because the mystery is gone, everyone will forget about FSJ, move on, and the book will flop.
I have my doubts, but even knowing Lyons’ identity, I still laugh uncontrollably at FSJ’s posts. I recommend taking a look at some of FSJ’s Greatest Hits. Here are some classics…
Watch out, elderly iPod users
Regarding our iPhone
The big secret meeting, complete waste of time
July 17, 2007
Let’s be honest. As Americans, we allow nudity to scare us. It’s an inevitable truth; it’s hard to even debate. All you have to do to confirm it is visit a European country and turn on a television there. If you dare to risk it, you will most likely encounter more skin during prime time viewing than you’ll find on the late late late shows of premium cable channels.
And so it appears that this philosophy of selective censorship (which we invoke only to save our children from corruption!) has extended into the book industry.
U.S. publisher Boyds Mills Press recently refused to print a German children’s book because of questionable illustrations. The picture, which was part of one of Rotraut Susanne Berner’s best-selling Wimmel books, depicted…are you ready for this…art in a museum. I’m not sure you can get much more scandalous than that. The images that worried the publishers included a nude woman in a painting and a minuscule statue, or what one article terms “cartoon breasts and a half-millimeter-long willy.” But I urge you to make your own decision about whether or not these pictures would have scarred our children. Here’s a close-up of the woman in question, and then of course the tiny man.
Boyds Mills Press requested that Berner remove the illustrations from her book, along with pictures of people smoking. The author refused, forgoing the chance to distribute her book to American children (at least for now). Berner disliked the idea of “invisible censorship,” with no black bars over the disputed images. She believes that, “if you’re going to censor something, then the reader should be aware of it.”
Berner’s books portray children and adults in their normal, day-to-day activities. The Wimmel stories have been published without protest in 13 other countries, reaching best-selling status in nearly all of these locations. Hmmm…is it possible that we overreacted? Or is overprotective, overbearing, and over-the-top just how we do things nowadays? I think so, and a headline from today’s BookNinja blog introducing this story (”Mini-penis scares North America almost as much as liquids in suit cases and nail clipper”) echoes my point.
July 16, 2007
Harry Potter is known for a lot of things. His lightning-shaped scar, his quidditch skills, his mysterious connection to Lord Voldemort, but being environmentally friendly? That’s a new one. Maybe we should thank J.K. Rowling instead, or better yet, how about Scholastic publishing? Either way, Muggles everywhere are rejoicing over the trees that will be saved in the name of the famous wizard.
What I am talking about is the biggest first-print run of a book ever, with 12 million copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows set for release next Saturday, July 21. I am sure that many of you are aware of this release date, but what makes this event even more momentous than its size and its subject matter is the fact that the books will be printed on 30 percent post-consumer waste, with 65 percent of the paper used in printing certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Rowling is expected to encapsulate the legacy of Potter and his pals in this upcoming book (the seventh of her hugely-successful series), whose 12 million first-run copies equate to about 17,000 tons of paper. This small step of using recycled materials in printing will save over 120,000 trees.
But the Green Press Initiative urges editors and publishers to continue on with this movement, as the U.S. book industry consumes more than one million tons of paper a year. That represents about 60 book printings that rival the size of this current Harry Potter release, and over six million trees that could be saved.
Random House is another recognizable corporation that has recently pledged to amend its printing practices to help the environment. To be exact, the company promises to increase its use of recycled paper tenfold by 2010. In addition to the Harry Potter publicity, which will certainly add fuel to the campaign, the Green Press Initiative boasts 140 publishers, ten printers, and five paper companies in the U.S. as allies in this cause. Furthermore, 2006’s Book Industry Treatise on Responsible Paper will potentially conserve five million trees each year once it is fully instituted, which sounds like good news (and more oxygen) for all of us Muggles.
For those of you tricked into thinking that this was a post solely devoted to Harry Potter, I apologize. Stayed tuned for more commentary, as I plan to be reading the novel alongside all of you at midnight on the 21st.
June 4, 2007
A newly released report from Book Industry Study Group claims that book sales increased 3.2% in 2006, to $35.69 billion. The Association of American Publishers reported last month that book sales fell 0.3% in 2006.
2,000 exhibits. 1,200 publishers. 500 authors. An endless sea of books. For those involved in the publishing industry, or for those who simply love to read, BookExpo America resembles a modern-day Utopia. Or so one would think.
This year’s BEA took place over the weekend in New York at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, and various literary blogs and publications posted their thoughts on the event this morning. Otto Penzler dons the many hats of writer, editor, publisher, and book store owner. And in an article he penned for The New York Sun about his BEA trip this year, Penzler indulges in a little nostalgia, recounting his first journey to the biggest book event in the United States, and the disappointing realizations that accompanied his visit 30 years ago.
Even in the 1970s, the enormity of BEA was palpable. Penzler describes his initial entrance into the event, a hall littered with thousands of publications, and the thrilling feeling that he had “died and gone to heaven.” But even as a self-proclaimed book aficionado, the bliss of stumbling upon his personal utopia was short-lived.
In his harried fall from grace, Penzler explains, “Then it struck me. I was there as a publisher with maybe a dozen titles on my list. How in the world would anybody notice my books and authors? The Mysterious Press, the company I founded in 1975, was a drop of water in the Pacific. No, it was a grain of sand in the Sahara. It was less than nothing because it wanted to be something.”
Although the author/publisher/book seller’s first encounter with BEA was a humbling one, he continued to make his love of books a way of life, and now runs an imprint at Harcourt Publishing that produces crime fiction. When speaking of the authors he represents, Penzler admits, “I desperately want them to have success, but I recognize the folly of that sad little wish…James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, and Nora Roberts will sell 100 million books this year, leaving a few table scraps for everyone else to chase after like starving hyenas after the lions have had their fill.”
Wondering if Penzler’s gloomy outlook is an unfortunate side effect of being a small fish in an increasingly gigantic pond? I’m sorry to say that similar to the actual BEA event, the press following the annual conference has reserved a lot of their copy for big (or at least recognizable) names. See New York Magazine’s “Book Expo Sightings,” an article on First Daughter Jenna Bush’s upcoming release, and USA Today’s recap of the weekend’s events.
Despite his pessimistic (and somewhat accurate) depiction of this year’s event, and of BEA in past years, Penzler confesses that worst part of the 2007 convention was that “when it ended, I kind of missed it. And looked forward to next year’s event.”
Seems that even the small fish can’t resist an endless sea of books.
May 24, 2007
Last week I linked to a New York Times article on the difficulty of knowing which books become best sellers and which books become dust-covered duds, and compared the book industry’s challenge to that of the movie industry’s. Kim has a great post today on last week’s verdict in the case that pitted movie production company Crusader against Clive Cussler, author of best-selling book “Sahara.” Sahara the movie turned out to be a disastrous failure at the box office, where it made only $68 million domestically. While $68 million is a big pile of money, the movie reportedly cost about a quarter-billion dollars to produce and promote.
The legal proceedings between famed author Clive Cussler and Phillip Anschutz’s Crusader Entertainment over the 2005 box office flop Sahara ended last week with the jury divided.
The Los Angeles Superior Court ordered the adventure author to pay Crusader $5 million in damages because of a breach in contract. Cussler reportedly inflated his book sales from 40 million copies to over 100 million during the film’s contract negotiation, a lie that motivated the company to pay the author $10 million apiece for the rights to two of his Dirk Pitt novels. Lawyers for Crusader stressed that the organization never would have agreed to pay Cussler that much had they known the actual number of books sold.
The jury also found that Crusader owed $8.5 million to Cussler for the rights to the second book (which would have been adapted into a screenplay for the proposed Pitt adventure film series). In terms of box office sales for the first film, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz, the film opened at No. 1, but only grossed $68 million in the U.S., which resulted in an $80 million loss for Crusader. Because filming failed to begin on the second movie within the time constraints outlined in the original contract, the jury awarded Cussler the film rights to his books as well.
If Superior Court Judge John P. Shook upholds the jury’s verdict, Cussler will emerge from the dispute $3 million richer, which prompted the author’s lawyer, Bert Fields, to declare his client the winner.
Conversely, Crusader’s attorney Marvin Putnam interpreted the jury’s findings as a victory for the production company, and stated that: “It’s a massive vindication not only for Crusader and all the people who made the film, but also for the industry at large.”
Who the true victor is will depend on Judge Shook’s final decision, but neither side is at a loss to pay the potential damages. Cussler has penned over 30 novels, while Anschutz holds the title of one of the richest men in the country.
May 23, 2007
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Dickens, Tolstoy, Austen, Descartes. We aren’t accustomed to seeing these names in our inboxes. But one innovative website that officially launched this month wants to change all that.
Hoping to cash in on an area of publishing that hasn’t yet been explored, www.dailylit.com offers to send its users installments of over 400 classic titles ranging from adventure novels to the The Communist Manifesto. The site breaks the books down into convenient segments that are designed to be read in just a few minutes, and sends these segments directly to your email account or any handheld device of your choice (i.e. your Blackberry, Sidekick, Treo, etc.).
The theory behind www.dailylit.com is that users can read something more substantial than spam on their way into work and during breaks throughout the day. The site explains that: “if you are like us, you spend hours each day reading email but don’t find the time to read books. DailyLit brings books right into your inbox in convenient small messages that take less than 5 minutes to read.”
The site has enjoyed some early success, with 50,000 people already registering to receive over 75,000 titles. My guess is that people are intrigued with the idea of reading books again, especially in the midst of a busy schedule. But how will someone fare after realizing that the book they signed up for has over 500 parts, translating into over a year of reading one installment per day? (Watch out for Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo; it has 581.)
Although the idea sounds promising, it may be a stretch to assume that masses of people will voluntarily choose to read classic novels like Crime and Punishment and A Tale of Two Cities in their downtime. Currently the site offers its services for free because all of the titles it holds are out of copyright. However, in hopes of expanding its membership and ensuring long-term success, DailyLit plans to begin offering newer titles within the next month or so.
So the real question is, are you willing to pay $5.00 for installments of the books you really want to read? And although the site can send several segments simultaneously, will you feel like contacting DailyLit every time you can fit more than 5 minutes of reading into your day?
I applaud the site’s creative efforts, seeing as reading books seems to be a lost art nowadays. But I also can’t say that their top 10 list of popular authors (including Herman Melville and James Joyce) really tickles my fancy. I’ll be waiting to see what new titles they unveil in the upcoming months, and will choose some books with fewer installments before diving into the classics.