Some Kindle authors fearing the worst as Amazon starts paying by the page, not download

As Amazon tries to roll out a more fair way of compensating authors for their work, many are fearing that it will result in a pay cut. And, some might be right.

On July 1, Amazon changed the way it pays royalties, and is now paying authors for each page viewed by a reader instead of the previous model, which compensated authors for every book downloaded. The new formula only applies to books that are self-published and distributed through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which essentially lend books to Amazon Prime subscribers for free, or to those willing to pay $10 a month.

Amazon compensates authors by setting aside a pool of cash each month to be divided among all participants. In the past, Amazon distributed the money based on the number of downloads. Now, it’s doing it based on pages read.

For the month of July, Amazon is estimating that the pool of money going toward authors will be at least $11 million, and last month the pages read was almost 1.9 billion. Based on those two figures, you can roughly assume that authors will get half a cent ($0.0058) per page viewed.

Most authors, who are doing the math, suspect they’ll lose about 50 percent of their monthly income. For instance, if an author has a 100-page book that was read to completion 100 times, an author would make roughly $60 for the month, or 60 cents per 100-page book. Before, an author would make $1.35 a download, regardless of the book’s length. That pencils out to $135 a month for 100 downloads, which represents 55 percent more revenue. These calculations are based on what authors are reporting in Amazon’s forums, which have lit up over the past few days with complaints about the pay structure.

“To stop authors from leaving the program in droves, Amazon’s going to have to do something even more drastic than their recent change…and something a little more thought through,” one comment said. Another echoed the opinion: “I was really hoping that Amazon was going to really make this program benefit the authors, but I think this is just another way to screw us over.”

Besides a revenue cut, the authors are also claiming that the new system will favor longer, more suspenseful novels, like mysteries. As a result, other genres will suffer. They also assume authors will now pad their books with additional pages and chapters to increase their revenue.

But the worst-hit are authors in the crafting or children’s book genres, say these authors.

“It would seem pointless for me to stay in [Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owner’s Lending Library] now,” said one author, who voiced her concerns on an online forum. “I do illustrated children’s books. The illustrations will count as one page the sum total for the book [and] will be about 5 cents….I don’t understand Amazon, length isn’t quality.”

An Amazon spokeswoman did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

Author Hugh Howey, who wrote the book series “WOOL” is not one of the authors to immediately jump to the conclusion this move hurts all authors. In a blog post, he writes: “[Kindle Unlimited] does not reward longer works: It rewards good works. It rewards gripping works.” But he totally understands why an author would be upset, saying it will result in a revenue cut. But he also doesn’t think it was right for an author of an 100-page book to get compensated the same as an author that wrote a much longer book.

“If you think the prior system was fair, then we just disagree. If you think what you made under an unfair system should equal what you make under a fairer system, then we again disagree,” he said.

Amazon tried to take into account how some authors could game the system, or be unfairly penalized for books with charts, or abnormally small print. To do so, it came up with what it calls the “Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC).” It calculates KENPC based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.), and will use that to measure the number of pages customers read.

Another author pointed out how KENPC doesn’t work for all genres. He wrote a book about getting library audio books onto your Kindle, which has a lot of illustrations. He said the real page count is 54 pages, but based on Amazon’s adjusted calculation, it is now only 45 pages. Now, he’ll make only 25 cents, even though he normally charges $2.99 in the Amazon book store.

What’s particularly got people upset, however, is the example that Amazon used during its announcement, which may have set people’s standards artificially high. Based on a set of fictitious scenario, using round numbers, Amazon implied that people would get 10 cents per page read. Now, with the real numbers readily available, people are finding out that it’s closer to half a cent.

Howey sums up is feelings by saying that the new system rewards one thing only: Reader enjoyment. “This is how it should be…It’s hearts that we should concentrate on pounding, not keyboards. Write well and write efficiently. Write what you want. There’s a good chance there are more readers out there just like you, looking for the same thing,” he said.

There’s likely many more chapters to be written about this new pay-per-page pricing scheme. Are you an author? Are you a reader? What do you think is more fair?


Barnes & Noble suspends sales of its Nook tablet, faulty charger is to blame

Barnes and Noble’s Nook tablet was meant to directly compete with Amazon’s equally sized Fire tablet for your Ulysses S. Grant. Unfortunately for the brick-and-mortar bookstore, things have not turned out that way, with the Nook’s removal from its physical and online storefronts the latest blow to the tablet’s potential success.

Its suspension was initially foretold by Reddit user nookthedestroyer, who alleged that Barnes and Noble issued a companywide order to remove Nook tablets from its stores and return them to the supplier. The user, who allegedly works at a Barnes and Noble store, assumed the order was a result of the tablet’s spyware controversy that also affected Blu and many other smartphone manufacturers.
Developed by Chinese firm Shanghai Adups Technology, the software has the ability to discreetly collect everything from call logs and contact names to IP addresses, with the information then sent to third-party servers in China. Security firm Kryptowire discovered the pre-installed spyware on more than a few Android phones, with a subsequent investigation having discovered similar spyware on as many as 43 manufacturers’ devices.

Even though researchers also found the preinstalled software on the Nook tablet, Barnes & Noble confirmed to Android Police that the decision to halt the tablet’s sales were due to a faulty charger, not because of the software.

“Barnes and Noble is investigating three reported cases involving the adapter sold with the Nook Tablet 7. The specific issue involves the adapter casing breaking apart while still in the socket,” reads the statement. “This does not affect the Nook device itself. With no injuries reported and out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that customers stop using the adapter until we provide a replacement adapter.”

Barnes and Noble also confirmed that talks with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are underway regarding a recall. In the meantime, the company advises Nook tablet owners to charge the device through a computer.

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Microsoft Making Late Entry In E-Books To Take On Amazon

Nearly 10 years after Amazon introduced its Kindle e-book business, Microsoft has decided finally the time is right for a Windows competitor.

The next update to Windows 10, known as the Creators Update and expected in April, includes a new e-book section in Microsoft’s digital media store, which already sells movies, TV shows, games and music. The e-books store was included in a test version of the upcoming Windows and discovered this week by the web site MSPoweUser, which posted a variety of pictures highlighting new features.

The e-books, published in the EPUB format, can be read on a PC in Microsoft’s Edge browser or on mobile devices running Windows, the web site said.

With publishers now firmly in control of e-book pricing, Microsoft’s prices appeared in line with what existing e-book sellers charge, at least in the test version. Broadcaster Megyn Kelly’s memoir, Settle for More, for example, was listed at $15, the same price as in Apple’s iBooks Store, Google’s Play store, and Amazon’s Kindle store.

Microsoft declined to comment about the new e-book effort. The company said only that it often tests new features in early versions of Windows, which it makes publicly available via its Windows Insider program. “We regularly test new features and changes to existing features to see what resonates well with our fans,” the company said in a statement to Fortune. “Stay tuned for more information soon.”

Microsoft’s decision to take on Amazon’s (AMZN, +0.14%) popular Kindle store comes as other players have faded and the entire e-book market among traditional publishers has shrunk. E-book sales tracked by the Association of American Publishers, which doesn’t count self-published works, dropped 19% in the first seven months of 2016 compared to the prior year.


Amazon, Apple to end audiobook exclusivity: EU

BRUSSELS–European Union antitrust regulators on Thursday said they welcomed a move by Inc. to end exclusivity obligations for the supply and distribution of audiobooks between the e-commerce giant and Apple Inc.

The European Commission, the EU’s antitrust watchdog, said the exclusivity obligations required Apple to source only from Amazon’s unit Audible and also required Audible not to supply other music digital platforms besides Apple’s iTunes store.

The agreement between the two companies, which was struck Jan. 5 2017, will improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe, the EU said.



Amazon and Netflix want to control the market for deep, edgy indie films, too

Amazon is upping the ante at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

The e-commerce company, which scored its first Golden Globe film award for Manchester by the Sea, a title it picked up at Sundance last year, plans bonuses of up to $100,000 for two-year streaming rights to this year’s official Sundance selections. That’s in addition to royalties, according to Deadline.

The incentives are an extension of Amazon Video Direct, a program that feeds entertainment content into Amazon’s streaming-video platform, Prime Video, by allowing creators to upload videos directly.

Streaming technology has made it easier than ever for independent filmmakers to reach audiences. But it’s also introduced new competition, making it harder for small films to get noticed. Getting a film on Amazon or Netflix, however, gives filmmakers a built-in audience, one that is both big and small.

“These new players came in and disrupted the market and it’s great,” said Joana Vicente, executive director of the Independent Film Project in New York, a non-profit that helps independent filmmakers to navigate production and distribution. “There’s hope for independent film.”

Vicente cautioned, however, that landing a major deal with Amazon or any other distributor at Sundance is still like winning lottery. Smaller filmmakers, she said, should be strategic about their options.

Prestigious, independent titles, meanwhile, have helped solidify Amazon and Netflix’s standings as serious players in the film industry. Movies like Manchester by the Sea and Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation have captured the type of awards buzz and critical recognition that put those same companies on the map in the TV genre. And all of that begets more talent and viewers.


Amazon and Netflix want to control the market for deep, edgy indie films, too

Amazon heads deeper into brick and mortar with books

For a company that long eschewed the brick-and-mortar world, Amazon is opening a lot of bookstores these days. It’s got three up and running, in Seattle, San Diego and Portland, and says five more are coming.

The profits from eight or even 80 bookstores are hardly a rounding error for the Seattle behemoth. So why is it busily building physical locations when for the last 22 years, it’s had a laser focus on online commerce?

The answer, say experts, is that these retail spaces are far more — and far less  — than just bookstores.

“I don’t think Amazon even realizes what they have at this point. This is just a test,” says R.J. Hottovy, an Amazon analyst with the investment company Morningstar.

Amazon declined to elaborate on its plans.

Many see them as experimental platforms by a company that has never been afraid to try out new ideas and just as importantly to ruthlessly prune away the ones that don’t work. It’s a strategy made possible because Amazon shareholders seem fine with allowing it to forgo profits at times in order to learn for the future.

On the one hand the stores are the proverbial clean, well-lighted space for books, but they also constitute “cheap learning” for the company, said Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of Idea Logical Company, a publishing industry consulting company.

“The PR value and the educational value are huge, and there is the possibility that they will arrive at retailing formulations that can scale and provide a big payoff,” he said.

A couple of themes seem to be emerging.

The stores are using books to bring in an educated, relatively affluent stream of customers who then are exposed to Amazon’s electronic offerings such as the Echo, Kindle, Fire tablet and Fire TV. They’re prominent in a display and play around with space in each that’s instantly recognizable to anyone who’s spent time in an Apple store.

“These stores effectively are a showroom,” Morningstar’s Hottovy said.

To a certain extent the books are once again Amazon’s “entry drug,” just as they were in 1995 when the company first opened and sold only books, said John Mutter, who writes the bookstore industry newsletter Shelf Awareness.

They’re also a physical advertisement for Amazon’s profitable $99-a-year free delivery and extras Prime program. The bookstores feature a two-tier pricing system. Amazon Prime members pay Amazon’s online price for books while non-Prime customers pay the list price, typically 10% to 30% more.

In the future, the bookstores might also become an extension of Amazon’s existing logistics footprint, a convenient place for consumers to pick up items they’d previously ordered, or drop off items they are returning, suggests Hottovy.

It’s a model Amazon’s been successful with on college campuses, building popular pick-up and return outlets at at least 11 schools in the United States.

“That’s giving them the blueprint and maybe the chance to replicate that model,” he said.

Getting a read on the market

The first Amazon bookstore was opened in the company’s own backyard, in Seattle’shigh-end University Village. The outdoor mall is close to the University of Washingtonand features both an Apple and a Microsoft store. That store opened in November 2015 and was followed in September 2016 by a second in San Diego. This, too, is in an upscale mall next door to a Tesla dealership and featuring a nearby Apple store, and close to the University of San Diego.

The most recent addition came in October in Portland, Oregon, at the Washington Square Mall. It’s one of the largest in Oregon and contains Apple, Microsoft and Tesla stores.

The pace of openings is increasing. Amazon has so far announced five more stores coming, in Chicago, New York City, Dedham and Lynnfield, Mass. and Parmus, N.J.

While there have been suggestions that Amazon may be considering opening as many as 2,000 bookstores around the country, it’s a number Hottovy finds unlikely. But dozens and even hundreds are entirely possible once the model proves itself, he said.

No threat

To actual booksellers, the Amazon stores don’t pose much of a threat — yet.

The stores don’t offer the degree of personal bookselling and quirky stock aspects that make bookstores attractive to those who love getting lost in the aisles, said Idea Logical’s Shatzkin.

On the other hand, “they’re massive, well-resourced, and innovative. And because of their large self-publishing efforts, they actually have access to more unique book titles than anybody else on the planet,” he said.

But despite the potential numbers of titles available to them, they’re not actually that well-stocked, which to Mutter is the saving grace for independents.

“The Amazon Books stores continue to carry a relatively small number of books compared to traditional bookstores. For a serious reader who wants to browse, they’re not very satisfying,” he said.


Why Amazon Has Launched A New Credit Card For Prime Users

Recently, Amazon launched a new Prime Rewards Visa Cardwhich will give its Prime customers a 5% discount on all their purchases on Amazon. Additionally, customers will also get rewards at other places where they shop using this card including restaurants, gas stations and drugstores. With no annual fee and other benefits such as no foreign transaction fees and travel protection, this card is likely to delight Amazon’s existing Prime customers and attract more Prime members.


While Amazon Prime members can already earn a 5% discount through its store card issued by Synchrony, the new card is a Visa card which can be used anywhere. According to a note published by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, customers owning Amazon credit cards spend the highest on its platform. Their average annual expenditure exceeds that of Amazon Prime members by 16%. We believe this new card is Amazon’s attempt to entice its Prime members to spend more on its platform and, with the lucrative rewards it offers, it could prove effective in meeting this goal.

Given that Amazon credit card holders spend the highest on its platform, the company is looking at ways to expand its credit card consumer base. CIRP estimates that approximately 15% of Amazon’s U.S. customers have any one of Amazon’s credit cards, representing approximately 21 million customers. However, growth of its card base has not kept pace with its growing Prime membership. In June 2016, it was estimated that Amazon has around 63 million Prime members.


Assuming that only Prime members have an Amazon credit card, it would mean that only a third of its Prime customers have one of its credit cards. According to a survey by Morgan Stanley, Amazon Prime members spend about 4.6 times more money on its platform than non-prime members. Its credit card holders spend even greater amounts than what Prime members spend. By enticing its prime customers to own its credit cards, Amazon will be encouraging them to spend more on its platform. Its latest card is aimed at attracting Prime customers by offering deals not only on but on other shopping destinations as well. This can lead to higher spending by existing Prime customers and help convert the fence sitters into Prime memberships.


Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is suing Hawaiians because btw he owns land there

Mark Zuckerberg is suing hundreds of people in Hawaii in his effort to create a secluded island.

The billionaire spent $100 million purchasing 700 acres of land in the island of Kauai back in 2014 and is still dealing with the fact that he doesn’t actually have the exclusive rights to all of it.  

Sounds nasty, right?

The lawsuits, filed in Hawaii’s state Circuit Court on Dec. 30, are looking to identify local people’s claims to land within the area he owns — the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday — to force a sale of those properties. 

Zuckerberg is leveraging Hawaii’s “quiet title” law, which allows rightful ownership of land to be decided before a judge. If co-owners do not agree to terms, the land can be auctioned. 

News of the lawsuit came out shortly after reports indicated the CEO added about $5 billion to his fortune in the first two weeks of this year, so you can take a quick guess at who would win in an auction. 

Hawaiian law = not so breezy 

As Hawaii was once a kingdom, laws over land ownership are quite complicated. In 1850, the Hawaiian monarchy allowed private ownership of land, called kuleana land, where parcels could be bought and then would be passed along to future generations. 

Therefore, one acre of land can be part-owned by hundreds of Hawaiians. 

“It is common in Hawaii to have small parcels of land within the boundaries of a larger tract, and for the title to these smaller parcels to have become broken or clouded over time,” Keoni Shultz, partner at Cades Schutte LLP and a lawyer on behalf of Zuckerberg, wrote in a statement emailed to Mashable

“Quiet title actions are the standard and prescribed process to identify all potential co-owners, determine ownership, and ensure that, if there are other co-owners, each receives appropriate value for their ownership share,” the statement continued. 

The process is fair, by Hawaiian law, but it isn’t easy for native owners. If a judge decides on an auction, it’s clear who will win out. 


The Indie Authors Guide to Amazon Book Reviews

Many indie authors are obsessed with Amazon reviews, and rightly so. Love it or hate it, Amazon is a massive book buying hub and a place where self-published books can get reviewed alongside traditional titles. Reviews on the site can give your book legitimacy, make you look popular (or not), and tip the scales for buyers browsing your page. If you’re on the fence about prioritizing Amazon reviews, my advice is to do so.

That said, there is some lingering confusion about how reviews on Amazon are handled. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Amazon started cracking down on nepotistic reviewsin 2012, which may seem unfair to some authors. Additionally, it can be hard to understand what triggers the removal of a perceived nepotistic review. My advice is to tell would-be reviewers to be transparent. If they know you or have a relationship with you, they can say so in the review. This transparency seems to work, and Amazon largely lets those reviews stand.



  • If you do get a negative review, refrain from responding to the reviewer in the comments section. Do not defend yourself or your book. Engaging only shows that you can be baited. The best thing to do in these cases is to click the “no” button next to the question following the review that reads, “Was this review helpful to you?”


  • Amazon legitimizes “verified buyers” when they write a review. And while some authors think that readers must have a verified purchased to review a book on Amazon, this isn’t true. Your readers can buy your book anywhere, and need only be transparent in the review about where they purchased the book — even if they admit to having received the book for free, which is often the case with NetGalley reviewers, who regularly post their reviews on Amazon.*


  • Don’t be afraid to ask people for reviews. If someone sends you a nice note about your book, write back and ask them to place their compliment on Amazon. One blog post I read suggested straight-up emailing top reviewers with a review request. This requires guts beyond what I personally have, but I admire those authors courageous enough to approach perfect strangers and ask them to review their work.


  • Use Amazon reviews in your marketing materials. Once you hit a number worthy of sharing, you can write things like, “My book has 75 Amazon reviews,” and quote people’s praise for your website and marketing materials.


For the time being, Amazon is king. It’s where authors go to monitor their book’s success, and it’s where readers to go browse and buy. Authors should use Amazon to their advantage, but also keep in mind that Amazon is not the only game in town. So yes, rack up those reviews, but make the most of other aspects of promotion, too. And remember to include multiple buying options for your readers when you promote your book.

*Reviews from Publishers Weekly are licensed by Amazon and automatically appear on a book’s page under professional reviews.


Despite What You Heard, the E-Book Market Never Stopped Growing

Over the last year, we’ve been talking to writers like A.G. Riddle who have been making a more than comfortable living selling e-books directly to readers on Amazon. That’s why it’s always seemed a bit strange to see media accounts reporting on the shrinking market for e-books.

News outlets like The New York Times report that e-book sales continue to slip, which is true if the data only covers part of the market. Reports from the Association of American Publishers has data from 1,200 publishers. They are the largest publishers, but they are also losing market share.

E-book sales never declined, according to a presentation yesterday at Digital Book World in New York City. In fact, if anything, we don’t yet have an adequate way to estimate how much the market segment has grown.

In back-to-back presentations from from the data site Author Earnings and publishing tech firm Overdrive, it became clear that “unit sales” may not be the best way to measure the size of the book market. In more and more ways it’s becoming clear that there are additional ways for writers to earn money than by readers buying whole books or even buying books at all.

Author Earnings estimates that 485,538,000 e-book units were sold in 2016. 

Author Earnings makes estimates of all the sales on Amazon. “There are 20,000 unique publishers who show up in that dataset,” Author Earnings’ anonymous Data Guy said during his presentation at the conference. Amazon guards its information carefully, but Author Earnings has been able to crawl the online retail giant’s author rankings and estimate both relative and total sales of books, both print and digital. It corroborates its estimates using real sales data privately shared with the site by large authors.


Despite What You Heard, The E-Book Market Never Stopped Growing

How to make a lucrative living as a self-published author: Everything you need to know

RACHEL ABBOTT gives us her top tips on how to self-publish your novel. Retiring early to start writing, she was rejected by publishers, so did it herself. She is now a best-selling author making a lucrative living on her own terms.

As a successful businesswoman running her own interactive media company for twenty years, Rachel Abbott was always on the go. When she took early retirement, she adored the idea of waking up in the morning with the words ‘relax in the sun’ the only item on her To Do list. But she soon decided to put her spare time to good use and finally turn the idea at the back of her mind into the novel she always hoped to write.

When she had finished the book, Only the Innocent, Rachel sent it out to a number of literary agents. Most replied politely saying they liked it but couldn’t see a market for it, and some didn’t respond at all.

“At that point, I put the book on the back shelf. Then one rainy day in September 2011, I discovered that it was possible to publish independently through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP),” Rachel tells Express Online.

Only the Innocent hit No. 1 in the UK Kindle Best Seller charts in February 2012, outselling titles from many established authors. It was one of the best-selling products across the whole of during the first three months of that year.

“Every day was a thrill seeing the sales grow and it changed my life by giving me the most unexpected sense of community. It has opened up a whole new world for me really; I get lots of emails and tweets from people who have read the book and from other KDP authors who are all really supportive, giving me a new group of friends,” Rachel adds with a smile.

“I’m loving every minute of it.”

Only the Innocent is now available in print through Amazon’s print on demand service, CreateSpace, which Rachel describes as ‘a doddle to use.’  Rachel also published her second book, The Back Road, on KDP and CreateSpace in the UK in March. It has been firmly entrenched in the top 100 ever since then.

Now Rachel tells us how she did it and give her top tips for what and what NOT to do.

From how to actually get published to what to do when people post vicious reviews (tip: NEVER respond) she tells us all we need to know to become a self-published author.

How long have you been self-publishing and how many books have you published?

I published my first book in November 2011 and my fourth book just two months ago in February 2015.

Did you intend it to be a substantial income when you started?

Not at all. I had an ambition to sell a thousand copies when I started, and then – when I could see the potential – I decided that I had to focus more on the marketing. But I never really expected to make money from it. That’s a real bonus.

Did you show your writing to friends and family first? Was that nerve-wracking?

It’s always an incredibly difficult the first time you ask somebody to read your work because you do want people to be honest with you, but at the same time you are really exposing yourself, your thoughts and possibly your inadequacies to those closest to you. I loved the fact that so many of my family really enjoyed my first book – which gave me hope that it might be a reasonable read – while at the same time getting some more critical feedback about the writing from the more discerning readers (such as my mother!) which proved really helpful.

What was the hardest part in writing and doing it all yourself? 

The first book is hard to write whether you end up being traditionally or independently published, but after that I think the biggest issue for independents is the fear that they can’t write another book that people will like as much as the first one.

I now have editors, a publicist, a jacket designer, much the same as a traditionally published writer, and I’m fortunate to get the support and encouragement I need from my agent. But for people who are just starting and perhaps can’t yet afford all the help, it can be a lonely job.

What tips would you give for things people should and should not do when self-publishing?

I don’t think I would ever tell somebody not to do anything. Different strategies work for different people, and although some people are keen to suggest that there are ‘rules’ we should all follow, I think we each have to find our own way. What they should do, however, is decide at the outset what success looks like to them, because it isn’t the same for everybody. Some people just want their book to be out there – they don’t care about sales. Others want great reviews, or perhaps a high chart position is more important to them then a high level of profitability. Until each individual has decided what he or she would consider to be a success, it’s impossible to define a strategy to achieve it. So, first define what success looks like, and create a strategy that you believe will help you to get there.

Have you ever had to deal with unkind or unpleasant criticism in readers’ comments? And do you have any advice on what to do if that happens?

I think every writer gets the odd bad review – even the best books in the world have some one stars. My advice would be to read all bad reviews. Decide whether it’s a ‘real’ review (some people just like to attack anybody who is successful, and it’s usually fairly obvious because they actually don’t appear to know anything about the book) and if it is real, decide whether the things they don’t like are justified or not. If they are, take it as a hint for your next book. But never, ever respond to criticism.


McKinsey: Automation could save $16 trillion in wages

  • Realizing automation’s full potential will require people and technology to work together, according to a new McKinsey Global Institute report.
  • The report, which was based on scenario modeling, predicts physical tasks “in highly structured and predictable environments, as well as data collection and processing” will be the first to be automated. But those jobs make up a little over half of activities in the economy, accounting for almost $2.7 trillion in wages, so the effects could be dramatic.
  • The firm also acknowledges almost all occupations — both blue collar and white collar — have potential for some automation, which could result in a savings of about $16 trillion in wages.

Dive Insight:

Its clear automation will affect the enterprise in coming years, but putting numbers to those changes is challenging. Meanwhile, McKinsey estimates automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4% annually. But when it comes to replacing workers altogether, McKinsey estimates that could only work in less than 5% of occupations.

Ultimately, however, all types of jobs will see some automation. Earlier this month, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance said it is replacing some human insurance claim workers with an artificial intelligence-based system from IBM.

Ultimately, McKinsey predicts, workers will have to adapt for automation and perhaps learn new, more complex skills that they then perform alongside machines. It will therefore be more a matter of better assisting machines rather than being replaced by them.

In an interview with Bloomberg during the DLD conference in Munich, Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella agreed that AI and automation should help people use their time better.

“The fundamental need of every person is to be able to use their time more effectively, not to say, ”let us replace you’,” Nadella said.

Virtual Reality Smell Porn: Get A Big Whiff Of The Future

Think porn already stinks? It’s just got a lot bit smellier thanks to the miracle of virtual reality.


Adult entertainment company CamSoda is introducing a gas mask designed to enhance its online sex shows by allowing users to smell scents chosen by the performers.


People who purchase its “OhRoma” technology will get the mask as well two canisters that fit into it. With the help of an app, the mask pairs with Bluetooth on a user’s smartphone.


Users can then watch a cam performer in virtual reality and experience the odors they’ve chosen from their own personal “scent profile.”

That can include everything from perfume odors to ocean smells to body odor and even the scent of sex organs.


CamSoda president Daron Lundeen believes odor-oriented porn is the next step to making virtual reality more real than ever.


“We’re trying to touch on every possible way to make VR more than just visual,” Lundeen told HuffPost.


Currently, a successful cam model can make between $75 to $100 for a 30-minute show, according to the company. Lundeen predicts using the “OhRoma” technology could add an additional 25 percent to those earnings.


Florida-based cam performer Victoria Ryan thinks “nose porn” is an idea whose time has come.


“There are a lot of guys who watch my shows who tell me, ‘God, I wish I could smell you,’” she told HuffPost. “And some will drop $50 just to buy my panties.”  


Ryan, 22, took great time and care preparing her smell profile based on a wide array of scent options.


“I wanted to incorporate something that smelled as close to me as possible,” she said. “I do a lot of beach and pool shows so I wanted to have the smell of salt water, sunscreen, maybe a chlorine smell or coconut tanning oil.”


She also looked for smells that matched her own body odor.


“I sort of wanted a fruity musky scent that would blend with a flowery perfume,” she said. “I imagine I will want to change that smell when I hit MILF status.”


Lundeen says different performers will use different scents for different shows. For instance, a woman dressing up like a horny housewife might want to incorporate the smell of baking bread into a show.


“The models will figure out what works and what doesn’t,” he said, quickly emphasizing that odors of urine and feces won’t be available.


Chicago-based smell researcher Dr. Alan Hirsch hasn’t examined the mask or the smells, but recommends performers familiarize themselves with odors known to increase sexual arousal before they create their smell profile.


“A lavender/pumpkin scent is the one that gets men most aroused, followed by a combination of donuts and black licorice,” Hirsch told HuffPost. “Some odors enhance empathy such as eucalyptus, menthol or camphor. A performer might want to use these to arouse sympathy.” 


Lundeen started taking pre-orders for the OhRoma mask on Wednesday at the Adult Entertainment Expo, a four-day porn convention held annually in Las Vegas.


He expects the sensory masks will be available in three months at an estimated price of $59.99. The smell canisters are designed to last between three to six months. Replacement canisters should sell for around $29.99.


Horror Authors Take a Stab at Self-Publishing

Every literary genre has its subgenres, but there is perhaps no genre so packed with niches as horror fiction. You’ve got your supernatural horror, postapocalyptic horror, fantasy horror, sci-fi horror, comedy horror, and then all the vampire, werewolf, and zombie horror. It’s a long list of genres for the long list of authors who self-publish in this increasingly fractured and versatile category.

Some horror writers are making a killing at self-publishing, but that’s far from the norm. More likely, self-published horror writers are seizing independence to get out work that isn’t finding a home with traditional presses—and many of them are passionate enough to keep going despite making little profit.

“[Horror] is a genre with rabid, but small, fan bases and obsessive authors; it’s a hard genre to sell,” says Martin Kee, who has self-published several horror works that also tie in elements of sci-fi and fantasy, including A Latent Dark, The Umbral Wake, and Bloom: Or, The Unwritten Memoir of Tennyson Middlebrook, all exclusively on Amazon. “Horror isn’t for everyone, and I think a lot of people who might enjoy horror steer clear because they think it’s just gore. Other people just don’t want to feel scared or anxious. They just don’t want that stuff in their head. I respect that, but there’s such a broad spectrum of horror out there, I think people would be surprised what they end up liking. I’ve even been told by readers of Bloom that they didn’t even know it was the book they wanted to read until they read it.”

J.E. Mayer, author of a number of horror novels, including An Anger at Birth, based on the true story of a teen serial killer, links many readers’ reflexive disinterest in horror fiction to their dislike of slasher stories and movies, and insists that slasher fiction isn’t representative of the horror genre—at least not anymore. “Horror is just coming back as a strong genre in general,” Mayer says. “Slasher stories dominated the public attention for some time, and traditional horror tales became associated with [them], and thus horror received a bad name in publishing. [Unless] you were Stephen King, if you wrote horror, you were seen as writing gore.”

To be clear, no one is claiming that gore is dead, but rather that the playing field has opened tremendously, and that’s thanks in part to self-publishing. Many indie horror writers find that, had it not been for self-publishing, they’d never have been able to get their “hard to sell” ideas out into the world.

Saved by Self-Publishing

“I chose to self-publish simply to be read,” says Joe Schwartz, whose eighth book, the horror novel Stabco: You Need Nothing Else, is now available on Amazon. “The odds of getting someone substantial to publish your work when you’re basically just getting started are less than awful.”

That traditional publishers simply don’t have the time or resources for your work is a sentiment that all too many horror authors can relate to. Trent St. Germain, who published the horror novel The Incubus and the Others with Kindle Direct in the summer of 2015, estimates that he received between 30 and 40 rejections from agents before venturing out on his own.

“I lost track of how many agents I queried,” says St. Germain, who recently signed a book deal with the small publisher Black Rose Writing. “I thought I’d have more credibility and grow my audience if I found a publisher. But now that I look at things, and the more reading I do online, it feels like the lines are more blurred between self- and traditional publishing, though with self-publishing you keep most of the money.”

Tam Francis published the short story collection Ghostoria: Vintage Romantic Tales of Fright using CreateSpace, Nook Press, and Smashwords because she didn’t think a short story collection would be of interest to a traditional publisher. “I feel that publishers don’t publish short story collections unless [the author] is famous or has won a big contest, so I thought I would publish Ghostoria to try out self-publishing and see if I liked it,” says Francis, who has since launched a hybrid small press, Plum Creek Publishing, with several other writers. “Right now I’m happy with self-publishing.”

Francis notes that she put about $300 into her book and has made $400, a number she’s content with, given that her initial goal was simply to break even. “Unless someone wants to turn my book into a movie, I’m not sure I see a point in having a traditional publisher.”

John D. Conroe, author of 11 self-published books, 10 of which are in the series the Demon Accords, also doesn’t see the point of having a traditional publisher, and notes that if he could give one piece of advice to his younger self, it would be to not even bother with traditional houses. “My advice would be to skip the traditional query process and go straight to Kindle Direct Publishing,” says Conroe, who still works a day job but thinks he could get by on his books alone. “Focus on writing good books, invest in editing and cover art, and don’t look back.”

Susan Goggins, who writes as Raven Hart, is in the process of making the leap to self-publishing, in part because she doesn’t like how slowly traditional publishing houses operate. “By the time [Ballantine] released the first of our vampire series—two years after we submitted the [manuscripts]—my writing partner and I missed out on the booming subgenre of vampire books and paranormal romance,” she says. “Even more tragically, my writing partner Virginia Ellis died before the first book came out. That control over timing is so important.” Now that Goggins has fulfilled her five-book contract with Ballantine, she’s decided to continue her vampire series on her own, though she hasn’t decided which route to go, finding the amount of choices “dizzying to the point of being stressful.”

Then there are authors such as Jason S. Ridler, who self-published the dystopian vampire thriller A Triumph for Sakura because he was advised by agents that a book featuring a Japanese female lead and an African-American man wasn’t marketable. “None of the major houses at that time, in 2011, were regularly publishing books with multicultural casts,” Ridler says. “I thought I could dodge all those bullets by not dealing with publishers at all. My understanding is that it’s starting to change, but back then the culture was reacting negatively against that stuff.”

Ridler notes that A Triumph for Sakura has been his most successful work, and has done well particularly among women. But success doesn’t mean bundles of money. “At best I make $20 a month,” he says. Ridler blames himself for the paltry profits:“I’m not aggressively promoting, and I don’t care about being a rock star bestselling author. The time I have left on this planet has to be spent doing things I care about. Relentless promotion and book tours aren’t bad things, but I’d rather spend time being better as a writer.”

Such are the sentiments of Ania Ahlborn, who self-published the horror novel Seed in 2012, after being courted for months by a big-name agent who ultimately decided not to take her on. “I was so crushed and angry because I’d been so close,” she says. “So I threw everything aside and wrote Seed and did it with no expectation and nothing to lose. That’s when I discovered Kindle Direct and, because I was bitter, I said, ‘Forget it, I’m not going to write another query ever again.’ ”

Ahlborn didn’t have to. Seed took off, and within six months of its publication, Amazon Studios asked to buy the movie rights. “At that point I was overwhelmed, so I hired an agent,” Ahlborn says. “We negotiated two book deals with Amazon, and then a second contract with Simon & Schuster’s Gallery imprint.”

Though she’s happy with her publisher, Ahlborn feels strongly about the merits of self-publishing—after all, if she hadn’t done it, she wouldn’t have gotten the book deal in the first place.

The Challenge of Discoverability—and Endless Promotion

Like self-published authors in every genre, indie horror writers are tasked with managing all aspects of their books, from cover design to publicity. Writers’ success is often determined by the amount of work they put in, and many horror authors insist on spending the extra money to get a quality cover and professional editing. After that, it really comes down to reaching readers, and that can be tricky because there’s just so much work with which to compete.

“The key issue nowadays is discoverability,” says Jana Oliver, the author of a number of self-published horror novels, including the Demon Trappers series (which she continued on her own when St. Martin’s Griffin stopped publishing it after book four), and the nonfiction book Socially Engaged: The Author’s Guide to Social Media, coauthored with Tyra Burton. “There are thousands of books out there, and you have to find a way to stand out so readers can find you in that vast sea of stories. It is not an easy task. A top quality website is vital, some sort of social media presence certainly helps (Facebook, Twitter, perhaps Pinterest or Instagram), along with having the patience of Job. I find consistent social media interaction helps, as well as lots of networking. Treating your readers with respect should be a given. I allocate about 30 minutes per day, sometimes longer, for marketing and promotion. Truth is, it probably should be more.”

Oliver says that until this year she was self-supporting, and after changing some directions in her writing, hopes to be so next year, too. “Frequent publications are the key, and I only put out one book last year, so that affected my income level,” she notes. “Some writers publish four or more books a year. It all depends on their personal commitments, how fast they write, and the length of their books. From what I can see, a regular and robust publication schedule certainly helps ‘feed’ your readers’ desire for scary stories.”

Willow Rose, who has self-published 39 books since 2011, is constantly feeding her readers—and marketing her books is literally her husband’s full-time job. “My husband used to take care of everything else, too, like covers, the interior design of the e-book and paperbacks, but now we have hired someone to deal with all that so he can focus on the promotion part,” said Rose. “We use the Web pages [that have] loads of subscribers, like BookBub and Robin Reads. Through them we get out to thousands, sometimes millions, of readers all at once. We also have our own newsletter that we send out whenever we have a bargain or a new release. This means a new release quickly generates sales and ends on a bestselling list the day after it is released. And soon after it has plenty of reviews, which gives the book life. Some of my readers read a new book in 10–12 hours and then post a review afterwards. Furthermore, we use Facebook ads that target horror readers. I use my Facebook profile as my way of keeping in close contact with my readers to tell them of new releases, bargains, etc.”

Rose notes that she makes six figures a year. Certainly it’s not just the heavy marketing that helps push her work—it’s the style and accessibility of her books. She focuses on making likable characters and building suspense, and steers away from gore. She also aims to make even the most “far-fetched nightmares” seem completely realistic, and like they could happen to you.

“Horror is a tickling sensation in your stomach; it’s not supposed to make you want to throw up,” Rose says. “I build up suspense, make people like the characters, and then let horrible things happen to them, but no more than what I think the reader can take. I think often horror writers are too focused on the bloody and scary stuff that they forget you have to really care about the characters for it to be suspenseful.”

Nicole Audrey Spector is a Los Angeles writer whose work has appeared in the Atlantic, the New Yorker, and Vice.


Self-publishing a book: Things you need to know

I know, I know. This is a column about cutting-edge electronics. So, apologies to gadget-heads as I take a brief sojourn into the land of self-publishing, which has become a lot more high-tech than a lot of people realize.

A few years ago I wrote a book. A novel. “Knife Music.” Contrary to what you might think based on my day job, it’s not a cyber-thriller, though it is a mystery/thriller with a medical/legal slant.

Its short history is this: I worked on it for several years, acquired a high-powered agent, had some brushes with major publishers, then, crickets.

I could have tried to go for a small publisher, but I was told mine was “a bigger book” with more commercial aspirations and prestigious small publishers were interested in more literary tomes. I also learned that many small publishers were being wiped out by the “self-publishing revolution,” a movement that’s not so unlike the “citizen journalism” or bloggers’ revolt of recent years that’s had a major impact on mainstream media, including this publication. The basic premise is anyone can become a small publisher. You call the shots. You retain the rights to your book. And you take home a bigger royalty than you’d normally get from a traditional publisher–if you sell any books.

Against the advice of my agent, I began perusing the big self-publishing companies’ Web sites and evaluating what they had to offer. Then I started poking around blogs and message boards to get customer testimonials. What I found was a veritable minefield with roads that forked in every direction and very few clear answers.


After much deliberation, I chose BookSurge, a print-on-demand (POD) outfit that Amazon owned along with the more no-frills POD operation CreateSpace. In 2009, after I published, Amazon merged BookSurge and CreateSpace under the CreateSpace brand name, so when I say Booksurge going forward, you should think CreateSpace. For those new to self-publishing, it’s worth noting that CreateSpace is considered a subsidy press or author-services company. The key to these companies is that books are printed only when someone orders a copy; neither author nor publisher is forced into buying a bunch of books and having to hawk them.

Royalties are better than what “real” publishers offer, but there are caveats, and true self-publishing pros prefer to cut out the subsidy press (which takes a cut) and go straight to a POD printer like Lightning Source to maximize profits. But I was less concerned about making money from this venture and more interested in putting together a well-packaged product that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to sell and some strangers might be willing to buy. If I did it right, I thought, and managed to get it some attention, some “real” publisher might come along and discover what a gem those 20 some odd publishers had passed on.

Well, thanks to a little publicity courtesy of Apple and a rejected— then accepted— free iPhone app, four and half months after I self-published “Knife Music,” my agent sold it to The Overlook Press, an independent publisher that put the book out in hardcover in July 2010. A few months later it came out as an e-book and did very well, rising to as high as No. 4 on the Kindle bestseller list. Later this year Overlook will publish my second novel, “The Big Exit.”

As I said, that’s the short story, and many things have changed — particularly for the e-book industry — since I first wrote this column back in December 2008. But most of what I learned along the way and what I picked up from other people who’ve also self-published, applies more than ever. As always, feel free to add your own experiences to the comments section, and thanks to all the readers who’ve e-mailed in the past.

Self-publishing is easy.

Self-publishing a print book is easy. Self-publishing an e-book is even easier.

Since this article is mainly about self-publishing an old-fashioned print book, here’s the skinny on what it takes to put together such a book:

You choose a size for your book, format your Word manuscript to fit that size, turn your Word doc into a PDF, create some cover art in Photoshop, turn that into a PDF, and upload it all to the self-publisher of your choice and get a book proof back within a couple of weeks (or sooner) if you succeeded in formatting everything correctly. You can then make changes and swap in new PDFs.

After you officially publish your book, you can make changes to your cover and interior text by submitting new PDFs, though your book will go offline (“out of stock”) for a week or two. Companies may charge a fee (around $25-$50) for uploading a new cover or new interior.

Both CreateSpace and Lulu offer good instructions for the DIY crowd and it’s not that difficult to come up with an OK-looking book (people’s definition of OK will vary).

2. Digital, not print, is your best bet.

The first thing I tell authors who tell me they want to publish a print book is that print should be their secondary focus. I’m advising people who have text-based books (no graphics, illustrations, or photos) to test the self-publishing waters with an e-book before moving on to hard copies. It’s much easier to produce an e-book, particularly when it comes to formatting and cover design. And you can also price a digital book for much less than a paperback, which makes it easier to sell (the majority of self-published print books cost $13.99 and up while the majority of indie e-books sell in the $.99-$5.99 range.

All that said, you can, of course, do both print and digital easily enough.

Once you have your book finalized in a Word or PDF file, it’s relatively easy to convert it into one of the many e-book formats — or just offer it as a download as a PDF. There are several e-publishers geared to “indie” authors, including Smashwords, BookBaby and Lulu, to name just a few. And needless to say, Amazon’s CreateSpace steers you toward uploading your book to the Kindle Store via Kindle Direct Publishing.

Note: Please see my article “How to self-publish an e-book” for more information on e-book creation.

3. Quality is good.

I can’t speak for all self-publishing companies, but the quality of POD books is generally quite decent. You can’t do a fancy matte cover (yet), but the books look and feel like “real” books. The only giveaway that you’re dealing with a self-published book would be if the cover were poorly designed — which, unfortunately, is too often the case.

4. Since self-publishing’s so easy, everybody’s doing it.

One of the unfortunate drawbacks of having a low barrier of entry into a suddenly hot market is that now everybody and their brother and sister is an author. That means you’re dealing with a ton of competition, some of which is made up of hustlers, charlatans, and a bunch of people in between.

The growth of indie publishing in the U.S. has been huge over the last couple of years. While that growth has started to level off as fewer writers have unpublished novels in their closets to publish, you can still expect to go up against thousands of other motivated indie authors.

5. Good self-published books are few and far between.

Again, because the barrier to entry is so low, the majority of self-published books are pretty bad. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say less than 5 percent are decent and less than 1 percent are really good. A tiny fraction become monster success stories, but every every few months, you’ll hear about someone hitting it big (for those who don’t know already the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy was initially self-published).

6. The odds are against you.

The average print self-published book sells about 100-150 copies — or two-thirds to three-quarters of your friends and family combined (and don’t count on all your Facebook acquaintances buying). I don’t have a source for this statistic, but I’ve seen this stated on several blogs and as a Publishers Weekly article titled “Turning Bad Books into Big Bucks” noted, while traditional publishers aim to publish hundreds of thousands of copies of a few books, self-publishing companies make money by publishing 100 copies of hundreds of thousands of books.

7. Creating a “professional” book is really hard.

Barrier to entry may be low, but creating a book that looks professional and is indistinguishable from a book published by a “real” publishing house is very difficult and requires a minimum investment of a few thousand dollars (when all was said and done, I’d put in around $7,500, which included about $2,500 in marketing costs). You wonder why “real” books take nine months to produce — and usually significantly longer. Well, I now know why. It’s hard to get everything just right (if you’re a novice at book formatting, Microsoft Word will become your worst enemy). And once you’ve finally received that final proof, you feel it could be slightly better.

8. Have a clear goal for your book.

This will help dictate what service you go with. For instance, if your objective is to create a book for posterity’s sake (so your friends and family can read it for all eternity), you won’t have to invest a lot of time or money to produce something that’s quite acceptable. Lulu is probably your best bet. However, if yours is a commercial venture with big aspirations, things get pretty tricky.

9. Even if it’s great, there’s a good chance your book won’t sell.

If your book is really mediocre, don’t expect it to take off. But even if it’s a masterpiece, there’s a good chance it won’t fly off the shelves (and by shelves, I mean virtual shelves, because most self-published books don’t make it into brick-and-mortar stores). In other words, quality isn’t a guarantee of success. You’ll be lucky to make your investment back, let alone have a “hit” that brings in some real income. Don’t quit your day job yet.

10. Niche books tend to do best.

This seems to be the mantra of self-publishing. Nonfiction books with a well-defined topic and a nice hook to them can do well, especially if they have a target audience that you can focus on. Religious books are a perfect case in point. And fiction? Well, it’s tough, but some genres do better than others. Indie romance/erotica novels, for instance, have thrived in the e-book arena.

Note: If it’s any consolation, the majority of fiction books — even ones from “real” publishers — struggle in the marketplace. That’s why traditional publishers stick with tried-and-true authors with loyal followings.

11. Buy your own ISBN — and create your own publishing house.

If you have market aspirations for your book, buy your own ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and create your own publishing company.

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to self-publishing is that they expect to just put out a book and have it magically sell. They might even hire a publicist and expect something to happen. It’s just not so. You have to be a relentless self-promoter. Unfortunately, a lot people just don’t have the stomach or time for it.

What’s the secret to marketing your book successfully? Well, the first thing I advise — and I’m not alone here — is to come up with a marketing plan well before you publish your book. The plan should have at least five avenues for you to pursue because chances are you’re going to strike out on a couple of lines of attack. It’s easy to get discouraged, so you have to be ready to move on to plan c, d, and e (and the rest of the alphabet) pretty quickly.

These days there’s a lot of talk about a “blog strategy,” and many well-known authors do virtual book tours where they offer up interviews to various blogs. You probably won’t have that luxury, but you can certainly research what blogs might be interested in your book and prepare pitches for them. There are social media campaigns to wage, local media angles to pursue, organizations to approach, and all kinds of out-of-the-box gambits you can dream up. None of this will cost you a whole lot — except time and perhaps a little pride.

Then there’s the stuff you pay for. And it’s tricky to judge what’s a good investment and what’s not because the results vary so much from book to book. A friend of mine who has a “real” book from a traditional publisher experimented with placing $1,000 in Facebook ads targeted to people in “cold” states (his book is called the History of the Snowman and it does very well around Christmas). He’s still trying to figure out what impact the ads had, but Facebook does have some interesting marketing opportunities. Google AdWords/Keywords is another popular option. And a number of self-serve ad networks are popping up, including Blogards Book Hive, which allows you to target a number of smaller book blogs for relatively affordable rates.

The author MJ Rose has a marketing service called AuthorBuzz that caters to both self-publishers and traditional publishers. She says the best thing for self-publishers is a blog ad campaign–it starts at about $1,500 for a week of ads (the design work is included) and heads up in increments of $500. She says: “We place the ads in subject-related blogs, not book blogs. For instance, if it’s a mystery about an antiques dealer, we don’t just buy blogs for self-identified readers — who are not the bulk of book buyers — but rather I’ll find a half dozen blogs about antiques, culture, art and investments and buy the ads there and track them.” Rose claims she can get your book in front of at least a half a million people with that initial investment. She also says that you can’t really spend too much, you can just spend poorly.

I agree. However, I can’t tell you what impact a week or month of ads on blogs will have on your specific book’s sales. There are simply too many variables.

Bonus tip: When it comes to self-promotion, there’s a fine line between being assertive and being overly aggressive in an obnoxious way. It also doesn’t impress people when all you tweet about is your book (the same goes for your Facebook and Google+ posts). As one friend told me, the state you want to achieve is what she likes to call “comfortably tenacious.”

20. Getting your book in bookstores sounds good, but that shouldn’t be a real concern.

You may have always wanted to see your book in a bookstore but bookstores aren’t keen on carrying self-published books and it’s extremely difficult to get good placement in the store for your book so chances are no one will see the three copies the store has on hand anyway. Furthermore, your royalty drops on in-store sales. Some of the self-publishing outfits offer distribution through Ingram. CreateSpace offers its Expanded Distribution program for a $25 a year fee. It uses Baker & Taylor, as well as Ingram, as well as CreateSpace Direct to make your book available “to certified resellers through our wholesale website.” You also get distribution to Amazon Europe (,,,,


Famous Writers Who Self-Published: Busting a Self-Publishing Myth

Book promotion guru John Kremer introduces his Self-Publishing Hall of Fame by writing, “You could stock a superb college library or an incredible bookstore just from the books written by the some of the authors who have chosen to self-publish [sic],” then proceeds to reel off the names of 52 famous writers who published their own works, including L. Frank Baum, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, William Strunk Jr. and Mark Twain. (Kremer misspells Poe’s middle name and omits “Jr.” from Strunk’s name.)


“This website features many other amazing authors who have chosen to self-publish at some time in their careers,” Kremer continues. “You would do well to be among this honored group.”


In his recent blog entry, “Are Self-published Authors Really Authors or Even Published?“, Dr. Jim Taylor echoes Kremer, writing, “Many famous authors started out self-publishing their works including John Grisham, Jack Canfield, Beatrix Potter and Tom Clancy.”


A self-published writer commenting on a recent article by a librarian who disparaged self-published books repeated Dr. Taylor’s claim, which he took from the website of a consultant charging $120 an hour to help writers publish themselves.


The names of famous authors who published themselves are often defiantly asserted by self-published writers attempting to erase the stigma attached to self-published books, the lepers of the literary world.


Associating self-publishing with the most respected and commercially successful authors is a favorite ploy used by vanity presses and other self-publishing hucksters to suck in credulous customers for their services. Implicit in Kremer’s list is the contention that you can join his pantheon of literary immortals and share their success just by publishing yourself.


The problem with Kremer and Taylor’s lists is two-fold. Several authors who are frequently cited as self-publishing Cinderellas never actually published themselves, and the efforts of those who did self-publish were usually peripheral to their careers and eventual success.


Memo to Dr. Taylor: John Grisham, Tom Clancy and Jack Canfield never self-published. It’s an urban legend cherished by poorly informed self-published writers.

In 2009, for an article on the 20th anniversary of Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, USA Today reported, “That April 15, after Grisham returned from his accountant frustrated, broke and about to borrow money to pay his taxes, agent Jay Garon called wanting to represent him.


“Wynwood Press, a small company in New York, bought the manuscript a year later and printed 5,000 copies of A Time to Kill — at a length about a third shorter than the original manuscript — in June 1989. Grisham ordered 1,000 himself.”

Tom Clancy’s first novel, The Hunt for Red October was acquired by the Naval Institute Press in Annapolis, Md., when an editor there, Deborah Grosvenor, became enthralled by Clancy’s novel, convinced she had a potential bestseller in her hands.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen did not self-publish Chicken Soup for the Soul, either. In this interview, Canfield recalled how they found a publisher:

So we went to the American Bookseller’s Association Convention in Anaheim and walked the floor from booth to booth asking publishers if they would be interested in our book. There were 4,000 booths there! I don’t think we hit every one of them, but close to it. Finally, we went to the booth of Health Communications, which became our publisher. They were a small company out of Deerfield Beach, Florida. Their primary focus was on the recovery world, such as people getting over alcoholism or drug addiction or being co-dependant [sic].

They were slowly going out of business at the time because that whole market had become saturated. They said they would take a look at it and they read it on the way home on the airplane. They loved it and said that they would publish it. There was no advance.


But what about the writers in Kremer’s Self-Publishing Hall of Fame? He can’t be making up the whole list, can he? No, but when you dig into the biographies of famous authors who published themselves and examine their self-publishing experiences, you’ll see why it is unlikely that you’ll join their ranks by publishing your own books.


Consider the cases of Baum, King, Poe, Strunk and Twain, who actually published their own books.


Let’s look at Stephen King first, because his inclusion on Kremer’s list demonstrates how deceptive such lists are. In 1962, King and his friend, Chris Chesley, published a joint collection of their stories, People, Places, and Things-Volume I. The following year, King’s Triad and Gaslight Books, published the two-part book, The Star Invaders. Here’s the kicker — Stephen King was a fifteen-year-old high school student in 1962, Chesley was his best friend, and Triad and Gaslight Books was King’s amateur press. King’s first published novel was Carrie, published by Doubleday in 1974.


L. Frank Baum published three of his own books: Baum’s Complete Stamp Dealers Directory, published when he was seventeen, The Book of the Hamburgs, a guide to the care and feeding of a breed of chicken known as the Hamburg and The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors. Yes, Baum self-published three books that no one but hardcore Baum buffs know exist. None of the Oz novels for which he is known or his other, lesser known works of fiction were self-published.

In 1827, Edgar Allan Poe paid a printer, Calvin F. S. Thomas, to publish 50 copies of Tamerlane and Other Poems, a 40-page pamphlet-sized collection of Poe’s poetry. The book did not carry Poe’s name as author, but was credited “By A Bostonian.” Tamerlane was included in a couple of lists of newly published books, but received no other attention. Tamerlane is now considered the rarest book in American literature. In 2009, a copy was auctioned for $662,500.


English professor William Strunk Jr. privately published The Elements of Style in 1918 for use by his students at Cornell University. If it wasn’t for E. B. White, a former pupil of Strunk’s, his little manual would probably have been forgotten. In 1957, White wrote a feature story for The New Yorker extolling the virtues of Strunk’s book. Macmillan and Company then commissioned White to revise the book for its edition, published in 1959. (Strunk had died in 1946.)


By 1885, when Mark Twain started his own publishing company, Charles L. Webster & Co. (Twain put Charles Webster, his nephew by marriage, in charge of the company), he was already a popular author whose books had been published by Chatto and Windus in England and the American Publishing Company in the U.S. Though Twain created his company to publish his own works, he also hoped to prosper by publishing other writers’ books. Though the first two books Webster & Co. published, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant and Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, were great successes, the company failed in 1894 after publishing a little more than 80 titles.


Commenting on Kremer’s list, legal blogger C. E. Petit writes:

It implicitly extends the cachet of an author’s complete oeuvre to one or two works. For example, the cachet of the Oz books (L. Frank Baum) seems to be extended to his chicken-farming manuals, which he did indeed self-publish. I’ve seen used-car salesmen who didn’t display this slickness in false comparisons.

Famous writers who self-published usually fall into one of the following categories: the writer whose self-published book failed, only to achieve belated recognition (Poe), the already successful writer whose earlier books were published by commercial houses who decided to go it alone (Twain), the writer publishing their book as an ancillary part of their day job (Strunk), the destined-to-be famous writer publishing his juvenilia (King) or the writer who published oddball books unlikely to have wide commercial appeal before hitting it big (Baum). When famous writers’ forays into self-publishing succeeded, it was due to factors most self-published writers can’t access or to serendipity.

According to author Mike Cooper’s back-of-the-envelope calculations, the average e-book (the preferred format for self-publishers) earns less than $500. (Cooper’s analysis apparently lumps together self-published and traditionally published e-books, but his conclusion is still disheartening.)


Shorter version: you are not Baum, King, Poe (not that you’d want to be him, anyway), Strunk, Twain or just about any one of the famous writers who once dabbled in self-publishing. And, barring a miracle, you’re not going to be.


Self-publishing: Take a page from these authors

Why stop at writing when you can be your own publisher?

That’s what more people here are doing.

Ms Pearlin Siow, 40, founder of Boss Of Me, a company that helps authors publish their work, has seen a rise of up to 80 per cent in the number of people who self-publish compared to when the company started five years ago.

Owners of self-publishing companies attribute the rise to a more educated population, the ease of self-publishing, lower cost, more control over the book and better profits for authors.

Mr Patrick Chan, executive director secretariat of the Singapore Book Publishers Association (SBPA), says: “As Singaporeans are now better educated and more confident, they would like to… share their knowledge and creativity.”

Digital print technology saves cost too.

Mr Goh Kheng Chuan, 47, owner of Rank Books, says: “Our minimum print run now is 50 copies. In the past, you needed to print at least 500 or 1,000 (copies).

“Most people don’t need so many books anyway. So this means you do not have to fork out a huge investment to (get) published.”

Previously, a minimum run of 500 books would cost at least $3,000 to print, says Mr Goh. Now, a minimum run of 50 costs just $1,288 , making it easier on the wallet for self-publishing authors.

As a result, he says more people are jumping on the bandwagon – teenagers, tutors, fresh grads, retirees and trainers.

Rank Books started as a publishing company in 1972 but has transitioned into a company that provides self-publishing services.

Mr Goh says: “A lot of authors come to us… But their books may not have commercial value and they just want to put a book together to sell to their friends and family.”


Famous self-published authors include English writer E. L. James, who wrote the best-selling Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy, and US neuroscientist Lisa Genova, the author behind Still Alice.

Self-publishing allows authors to have more say in how their books turn out – such as the design, printing, marketing and distribution.

Ms Siow says: “Many of my clients sell their books through their (own) networks. Many also give their books away for free or use them as an incentive for their seminars and talks.”

Unlike in the past, authors are no longer at the mercy of publishers, she says, thanks to “the advent of social media and various publishing tools, and websites like Kickstarter.”

Mr Chan adds: “Publishing companies typically offer a 10 to 12 per cent royalty while self-published authors keep all the proceeds.”

Ms Siow works with top book distributors here and links clients to them.

She says: “Book distributors typically take 60 to 70 per cent of book sales whereas a publisher takes 90 per cent.

“You can also schlep your books to indie bookstores like Books Actually and Cat Socrates and negotiate a commission with them, or sell your books online.”

Ms Susan Long, general manager of Straits Times Press, says self-publishing is a positive trend and is good for self-expression, the publishing industry and for Singapore.

She says the company is always on the lookout for good works – self-published or unpublished. It has just published a previously self-published work, The Malaysia That Could Be, by Kalimullah Hassan, which is now out in the bookstores.

She says: “The author had done a very small, sold-out print run in Malaysia.”

“Some authors are known, but the books they self-publish could be very niche in audience and topic, such that traditional/mainstream publishers would not pick them up.”


Author Stephen Vizinczey on why his current novel, If Only, has been stuck in limbo

In 1965, Stephen Vizinczey, in his own words, “became famous from people writing about how stupid” he was to self-publish his debut novel, In Praise of Older Women. A controversial Bildungsroman mixing aphoristic insight and candid sexuality, it went on to sell half a million copies in Canada that year alone.

Today, self-publishing is an established industry – and one quite separate from the literary world.

“I never knew before In Praise what it was to be hated,” Vizinczey says. “Hate is more memorable than praise.”

But hate requires engagement.

Until recently, Vizinczey’s latest, and self-published, novel If Only – a book 30 years in the making – sat in a critical and commercial limbo: Major bookstores would not stock it until it was reviewed and major newspapers would not review it until it was in bookstores. A man who has sold more than seven million books worldwide, a living author with a Penguin Modern Classic to his name, could not reach his own audience. So as we look back on 2016, it’s worth discussing one of the most overlooked books of 2016.

That book concerns Jim, a Toronto-born cellist of Hungarian descent who is “determined to be Canadian,” and ends up settling in London. It opens with him contemplating suicide, while holidaying with his wife on a Florida island resort. Jim’s life, as we learn, has been a succession of ever-increasing compromises, accompanied by ever more complex justifications. “We all believe what makes life easier to bear,” Vizinczey says, quoting his own novel. Though he adds: “The only thing that keeps us alone, apart, is beliefs.”

The book begins as a regretful parable. Then an alien, called Neb, arrives.

“We are all foreigners,” he tells me, discussing the migratory history of early Hungarian settlers (Neb’s planet is, wonderfully, called “Otthon,” Hungarian for “home”). “Deep down,” he continues, “everybody’s an alien. We don’t get into another person.”

Vizinczey’s father was murdered by the Nazis when Vizinczey – born in 1933 – was two years old. Vizinczey went on to study under Kodaly, the renowned composer, and Gyorgy Lukacs, the noted Marxist critic.

Vizinczey, who wrote plays that were banned by his country’s regime, fought in the failed Hungarian revolution of 1956 before fleeing westward, eventually arriving in Canada.

“I worked out, incidentally, how events happen,” he tells me, casually. An absurd proposition, surely? Yet, it was with this theory, which he outlines in his book The Rules of Chaos, that he predicted that very revolution in Hungary, and America losing the Vietnam War. And Brexit. It is certainly no more absurd than a Hungarian refugee in Canada, then knowing only 50 words of English, going on to become a writer who, as Anthony Burgess said, “could teach the English how to write English.” But it was not easy.

“When I went to Canada,” he says, “I thought I would go insane. I was so lonely there, because it was such a different world.” What kept him sane were books. “Literature transcends nation,” Vizinczey continues, “when we read a book that reflects our own life, our own interests, then we don’t feel alone.” This is, as he says, “particularly important if you have been a refugee.” Whereas other novelists may focus on what makes them different from other people, what is important in Vizinczey’s work, and life, is what he shares with others. It was this focus that helped him learn English in Canada. “They are like me,” he says of Canadians, “they have a mouth, a nose and two ears, and they talk! So I should be able to understand them.” After a year, he even felt like a Canadian, “because we have to belong.”

“I couldn’t have become a great writer If I hadn’t changed languages,” Vizinczey continues. It forced him to be more critical of himself. “Whatever good is in my writing comes also from the fact that I learned to look at life from different points of view.” In If Only, Jim’s grandfather publishes a pamphlet titled The Nation of Foreigners. It’s central premise: that migrants, by virtue of leaving wherever they are from, share a common consciousness, and are “at the centre of historic changes.” Jim never buys into the dream of commerce, but follows it regardless. About to enact his own death, Neb, the alien, gives Jim a chance to be young again. To learn from what he has lost. It is a book about understanding, of both ourselves and others. Or perhaps not.

We talk for hours. About crosswords being a creative act. About how those interested in power, or furniture, might not enjoy his work. When he realizes I haven’t read one of his major critical essays, he reads the entire piece to me. But, when it comes to If Only, Vizinczey is eloquently evasive. Even an attempt to summarize the book only gets as far as “Jim is a cellist” before diverting into a discussion about the relationship between the structures of literature and music. He is as much a writer as a rewriter, and 30 years of thought have been condensed into If Only. “I can now express in a paragraph what previously took me three chapters,” he says. Extrapolating a single argument from the book seems futile.


How to Price a Self-Published E-Book

Once the e-book is written, the marketing plan in place, and the work ready to release to the public, self-published authors find themselves with an unexpected challenge: assigning a value to their work. Setting an e-book’s price requires some creativity on the part of the author, a careful consideration of the book’s potential audience, and an assessment of what the author hopes to accomplish with the book.

Set Goals

By the time indie authors get to the point where they are naming a book’s price, they should have a clear idea of what they would like their book to do. There are two main goals that will determine how much an author should charge, according to Miral Sattar, CEO and founder of Bibliocrunch, a company that helps self-published authors market and promote their books.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Am I looking to get more readers or more sales?’” says Sattar.

While most authors would probably say they want both, when it comes to pricing strategy, it’s best to focus on one and let the other follow. Either approach can be successful, so indie authors must ask themselves some tough questions, among them, can I sell 10 times more books at 99 cents than at $9.99?

For less established authors, a lower price will help draw in readers who might be willing to take a chance on 99 cent book, as opposed to a higher priced title. While authors with an established fan base can likely charge more for their work.

More Exposure
For those authors whose main concern is getting their book in front of as many readers as possible, the priority should be getting the pricepoint as low as possible. While most online retailers require authors to charge at least 99 cents for each book, platforms like Wattpad and Widbook can provide other options for getting readers attention and building a fan base.

Authors looking to be a little more strategic in how they price their work can enroll in Amazon’s KDP Select program. This program allows them to charge a low price for the book (99 cents being the most popular) and offer it for free for specific periods.

Authors can participate in a Kindle Free Book Promotion for a maximum of five days. In order to get the greatest sales impact from the giveaway, authors should get the word out to book blogs and sites that aggregate freebies from around the web. A few examples are:

Free Book Dude
Free Kindle Books and Tips
Indie Book Promo
Indie Book of the Day
Kindle Freebies

BiblioCrunch offers a comprehensive, updated list of these sites, newsletters, and Facebook pages.

“We’ve seen authors who use this list of sites get 20,000 or 60,000 books read right away.” says Sattar.

More Revenue

Authors seeking a bit more money for their work should start by looking at the price of other books in the same genre. While romance e-books tend to do best in the 99 cents to $2.99 range, authors writing nonfiction or literary fiction can charge more.

Authors will want to begin at a price under $10 if possible, and test out different pricepoints with short-term promotions. An added motivator for pricing at this level is that retailers will often pay higher royalties for e-books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.

Amazon pays 70% of the retail download price for books in this range, but just 35% for those above or below it (more details here).

Authors can expect to earn a return of 60 to 70% through Barnes & Noble, and Kobo within the $2.99 to $9.99 range as well.

Smashwords pays 85% of list price on sales directly through its site, and 60% of list price on sales through other retailers, while BookBaby charges an annual fee, but gives authors 100% of net, keeping no commission.

Once the price is set, authors should make use of promotions to boost revenue. For a Kindle e-book priced at $7.99, run a Kindle Countdown Deal for $4.99. If you are trying to sell it at $4.99, run a promotion at $2.99. As with a book giveaway, these sales should be advertised as widely as possible. In addition to free plugs on websites such as BookBub and Kindle Nation Daily, the author can also consider paid advertising to help get the word out.

Sattar suggests running these promotions no fewer than two days to help them gather steam, and never running them on the weekend.

“If you can get a burst of sales at the lower price, it ups your sales rank for the category,” she explains. “That helps your book become a bestseller, and then it can go back to the normal price.”

Alex Palmer is a freelance journalist and the author of The Santa Claus Man.


7 Signs Your Book is “Professionally Published”

Think of all the book professionals you may encounter when you try to market your book: book reviewers, bookstore buyers, chain store buyers, book awards judges, book bloggers, bookers for radio and television shows, librarians, book wholesalers or distributors, the list goes on and on.

These are all people who handle books all day, and know exactly what they are looking at. If your book is not professionally published, what impression will it give?

Answer: that it’s an amateur production, and that won’t speak well about the care you’ve taken with your book.

Despite the amazing creativity at work in book publishing, professionally published books do have some characteristics in common.

Keep in mind that although this might seem like a list of rules that must be obeyed, they are really more conventions that readers may unconsciously expect when they pick up your book.

  1. Proper editing—Without a doubt, this is the first and best sign that a book has been published well. I picked up a book by a client this week, and knew within 30 seconds that the book had never been properly edited. I noticed a typo, then I noticed that the subheads were not consistent, then I noticed that there were stray characters in a chapter opening that didn’t belong there, then I stopped looking. These may sound like small errors, but they indicate that the author didn’t want to take the time or spend the money to have the book properly edited, and believe me, every book professional who looks at this book will come to the same conclusion.
  2. A cover that works—If your book is your product then your cover is its packaging. In retail sales, packaging is critical. A book cover that doesn’t let a browser know what kind of book it is doesn’t help you. Or a cover that’s confusing, illegible, boring, or inappropriate is likely to have a major impact on your sales. A professionally published book has a cover that suits its content, “brands” the book, entices readers, and is aimed squarely at the intended target market. Your spine should contain a publisher logo of some kind, a barcode with the price encoded in it, and a “human readable” price and category on the back cover.
  3. Text that’s readable—The interior of your book ought to follow standard industry conventions and be designed and laid out with consistency, adequate margins, in a size appropriate for the use to which your book will be put. A readable book also has user-friendly navigation, the pages are numbered in a standard scheme, and customary elements like a copyright page, title page, contents page, are included. The use of a standard font and black ink are also highly recommended.
  4. Market positioning—Your book shows some thought into the other books on the same subject and where it will fit within that specific market. Does it offer more, newer, or different information? Is it a story that readers of book “X” will love? Is it produced and priced to compete with other titles in its market? These are all questions a professional publisher—no matter their size—will answer before designing and producing their books.
  5. Distribution that’s appropriate—How we get our books to the readers who will buy them—distribution—is key for your book to reach its potential. Self-publishers rarely have very good choices at achieving wide distributionfor their books, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to match the buying habits of our intended readers with the kind of distribution that will put your book in front of them. You might focus on a specific retailer, or look for a variety of wholesalers and distributors to give you greater coverage. Self-publishers looking for national exposure will need to find a distributor to represent them, and create a book that will allow them a profit even when deeply discounted for this type of distribution.
  6. A marketing plan—Book publishing is a business, and for that reason the books professionals publish need to make a profit, or to have a pretty good chance at success. Although all publishing projects involve some risk, asking the questions that need to be answered to create a marketing planfor your book helps to focus attention on how your book will match the needs of its intended audience, and how you are going to present it to that audience. A marketing plan also assures a profit-oriented publisher that the project can be a success.
  7. Metadata—Your book will need a proper ISBN to be sold in a retail environment, and not one you borrowed from a friend or got for free from a POD vendor. You’ll also need a category, rich descriptions of various lengths, and accurate descriptions of the books physical properties for print books. Metadata is the data “wrapper” your book travels within, and reliable and up to date metadata assures that your partners in the book distribution and retailing world will get all the information they need about your title as well as an indication of the markets for which it’s intended.

Does your book have to meet all these goals to be “professionally published”? I’m not here to make rules, but I think taking your responsibilities as a publisher seriously would mean we’d have more authors having successful book launches.


Marvel’s Rogue One Comic Will Include New Scenes

It is unbelievably exciting that we’re now living in a world where new Star Wars movies are being made. But for hardcore fans, movies are just part of the experience. That being the case, Marvel Comics is currently working on an adaptation of Star Wars: Rogue One, which is set to come out this April. Now, the writer of the upcoming comic book adaptation has revealed that there will be some new scenes not seen in the movie in this Rogue One comic.

Speaking with, writer Jody Houser talked about bringing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to the world of comic books, and what her approach is. During the conversation, she revealed that some scenes director Gareth Edwards conceived that didn’t make it into the movie will wind up making their way into the comic book version. Here is what she had to say about it.

“[Director] Gareth Edwards and Lucasfilm had a number of ideas for moments that didn’t fit in the film that I’m working with. There are also some amazing moments in the novelization I want to incorporate. So it’s really a mix of material from existing versions of the story, as well as new scenes.”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had to undergo very significant reshoots several months before it was released in theaters, and it has been made clear that a lot changed during that process. Quite a few shots from the trailers didn’t make it into the final cut and moments like Darth Vader’s final scene were revealed to be added during the reshoots. That being the case, there is certainly quite a bit for Jody Houser to work with in terms of bringing some new elements into her comic book adaptation of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As she mentions, there are also some things to mine from the Rogue One novelization. That will also help encourage fans to pick up the comic who have already seen the movie and may feel like reading a comic about a movie they already watched is a bit redundant.

Disney is very good at being able to capitalize on their most popular franchises, such as Star Wars, in every way possible. Since they own Marvel, it also helps that they have a massive publishing arm that they can use to do some Star Wars expanded universe stories. In terms of box office, Rouge One: A Star Wars Story has already made $983 million worldwide and should crack $1 billion very soon. That being the case, there is clearly quite a bit of demand for more content from the movie. Disney did a similar comic book adaptation for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so it seems like this is going to be a trend moving forward.


The Rogue One: A Star Wars Story comic adaptation is being written by Jody Houser with art from Emilio Laiso. It is expected to hit shelves sometime in April, so be on the lookout. In the meantime, you can check out the covers for the first issue of the Rogue One comic book by artists John Tyler Christopher and Phil Noto for yourself below.


DC and Marvel Both Shake Up Their Digital Comics Plans

For the past few years, DC has had an ongoing project to “draw the line” at keeping many of its comics at the $2.99 price point—but for a bulk of its DC Rebirth titles, that line is about to be crossed. The reason for crossing it, however, is at least a somewhat positive one.


Starting from April, 16 of DC’s ongoing monthly series (not the series that currently serve up two issues a month like Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman,and so on) will be increasing their prices by a dollar, from $2.99 to $3.99, although one, All-Star Batman, will reduce its current $4.99 asking price to $3.99. Here’s the full list:

  • All-Star Batman
  • Batgirl 
  • Batgirl and the Birds of Prey
  • Batman Beyond
  • Batwoman
  • Blue Beetle
  • Cyborg
  • The Hellblazer
  • New Super-Man
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws
  • Super Sons 
  • Supergirl
  • Superwoman
  • Teen Titans
  • Titans
  • Trinity

The reason for the dollar increase? Physical copies of these books will finally come with a “free” digital copy of the same issue, allowing readers to maintain a physical collection alongside building a digital library of books, an avenue of comics reading that’s become steadily more popular than physical books in recent years.

The timing of DC’s announcement is particularly is interesting because Marvel actually recently announced a controversial reversal of its digital code plans. Currently all Marvel comics offer a free digital copy with physical issues, but the company is changing that in February. While there’s no price change coming in with it, codes will now offer digital copies of one of three select comics from Marvel’s back cataloe.


Publishing needs 1 big book in 2017

Not that 2016 was bad; it was fine. Books sales basically held steady — down a little here, up some there — for the most recent period for which we have numbers, from January to July. Although the Assn. of American Publishers wants to crow that books for children and teens were up quite a bit, overall, trade books sales were down 0.4 percent in 2016 from the same period in 2015.

Which isn’t terrible. But it isn’t good, or at least, not good enough.

What publishing needs is one book, one big book, that comes out of nowhere and takes America by storm. You know what I mean: You hear people talking about it in line at the grocery store. Your grandmother asks if you’ve read it the same day your college roommate does. It’s the book you see people reading on subways and on planes, that you hear about on the radio and on TV talk shows, that seems to be everywhere at once.

In 2015, that book was The Girl on the Train. In 2012, it was Gone Girl. Before that came The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2008, 2009, and 2010, respectively).

Girls, girls, girls!

Indeed, it’s a trend. Once one of these books becomes a mega-hit, publishers look for ways to hitch their wagons to the lead horse. Gillian Flynn certainly wasn’t copying Stieg Larsson’s trilogy with her book Gone Girl — the title was the name of a Johnny Cash album way back in 1978 — but publishers surely noticed. And The Girl on the Train, which, like Gone Girl, features an unreliable female narrator, got a huge marketing push. “I know it should be The Woman on the Train, but it didn’t scan,” author Paula Hawkins (annoyed at the comparison) told the Hollywood Reporter.

The piling-on once a book gets mega-successful may be dismaying from a creative standpoint, but from a business perspective it makes sense: The big hits are impossible to predict.

If I had told you in 1996 that a boy wizard, a girl torn between a vampire and a werewolf, kids fighting to the death in a dystopia, teens with cancer, and a Harvard symbologist would take our best-seller lists by storm, would you have believed me — or called a psychiatrist?

Dan Brown had published three quiet thrillers — including one featuring Robert Langdon — before his second Langdon book, The Da Vinci Code, became the best-selling book of 2004 — and, in 2003 and 2005, the No. 2 best-seller. It spawned not only its own sequels and movies but also shelves and shelves of imitators filled with art and religious conspiracies.

The book that denied Brown the top spot in 2003 was J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Her massively successful Harry Potter series showed publishing that books for kids could lead the industry, re-energizing it with huge sales. But Rowling stopped writing the series in 2007 with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that year’s best-selling book.

By then, her fans were growing into teens with book-buying power. Some turned to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight vampire romance series; some snapped up The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins; many went for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

These books aren’t much like one another. And although Fifty Shades of Grey was, at its very first imaginings, Twilight fan fiction, E.L. James’ erotic novel — 2012’s best-selling book overall — became something entirely new that launched its own fleet of hot-and-heavy followers.

What these breakthrough books share is that they came out of nowhere to top best-seller lists. They each established a meaningful presence in our culture. They told us something, reflected something, or encouraged us to imagine something that was fresh and new.

All the while there were perennial best-selling authors making appearances: Stephen King, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, and James Patterson are regularly among the year’s best-sellers. Jeff Kinney has made a place for himself with his Wimpy Kid children’s series. Occasionally, literary authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Anthony Doerr find a place among the year’s biggest books.

But in 2016, there wasn’t a breakthrough hit of any kind.

It’s not for want of trying — there are thousands of books published each year, with the authors and business people behind them hoping each will resonate with readers, marketers strategizing the best they can. But one of the charms of the publishing industry is that it’s hard to tell what will catch on — in fact, the biggest books are those that come as a surprise.


10 Authors who turned books into successful empires

An entrepreneur creates value from ideas. Surely that makes authors the ultimate entrepreneurs. Being an author is a very creative field to be in, but some of them have definitely taken this up by a notch by building empires out of their books. For these novelists it wasn’t enough to just write bestsellers — their books and names became huge brands.

1. J K Rowling

Well who would be unaware about this one. J K Rowling conceived the idea of the wizardly world of Harry Potter which eventually made her one of the world’s richest author. Rowling sold the film rights to the Potter series to Warner Bros, and the theme park rights to Universal Studios. She’s the founder of Pottermore, a website, digital publishing, e-commerce and entertainment company. Her net worth is around $1 billion.


2. Jim Davis

James Robert “Jim” Davis is an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of the comic strips Garfield and U.S. Acres, the former of which has been published since 1978 and has since become the world’s most widely syndicated comic strip. He is well known across the world for drawing and writing Garfield comics, TV shows and movies. He is the president of Paws, Inc., a comic book studio and production company that manages all licensing rights for the lasagna-loving feline. His current net worth is around $800 million.

3. James Patterson

James Brendan Patterson is an American author. He is largely known for his novels about fictional psychologist Alex Cross, the protagonist of the Alex Cross series. He has been churning out thrillers at a rapid clip. Patterson broke the Guinness World Record for most New York Times #1 bestsellers. His businesses include JIMMY Patterson, a children’s book imprint at Little, Brown & Company. Patterson publishes over a dozen books a year with various co-authors. His net worth is around $490 million.

4. Stephen King

Stephen Edwin King is an American author of contemporary horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy.He is very well known for scaring the bejesus out of his readers with his terrifying novels. His bestsellers have been adapted into 39 movies, 21 TV series and numerous comics, plays and songs. His net worth is around $400 million.

5. Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts is an American bestselling author of more than 209 romance novels. She writes as J. D. Robb for the in Death series, and has also written under the pseudonyms Jill March and for publications in the U.K. as Sarah Hardesty. Being America’s most prolific and popular romance writer she has written 219 books and adapted nine of them to Lifetime movies. She and her family own an inn, bookstore, pizza parlor and restaurant in her tiny hometown of BoonsBoro, Md. Her current net worth is around $340 million.

6. Danielle Steel

Danielle Fernandes Dominique Schuelein-Steel, better known by the name Danielle Steel, is an American novelist, currently the best selling author alive and the fourth bestselling author of all time, with over 800 million copies sold. She is well known for romance novels about the fabulously rich and hopelessly doomed. She’s published 99 novels and 18 children’s books— 22 have been adapted to TV—and has a long-term deal with New Line Home Entertainment to develop, produce and distribute straight-to-DVD movies based on her stories. Her net worth is around $310 million.


7. John Grisham

Joh Grisham is an American bestselling writer, attorney, politician, and activist best known for his popular legal thrillers. His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide.  His legal thrillers have sold over 275 million copies worldwide and seven have been adapted into films. His net worth is around $200 million.

8. Stephanie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer is an American young-adult fiction writer and film producer, best known for her vampire romance series Twilight. She is well known for penning modern-day vampire love stories for teens. The Twilight books and movies were best sellers and blockbusters respectively. Founder of Fickle Fish Films, which produced the Twilight films and The Host. Her current net worth is around $123 million.

9. E. L. James

Erika Mitchell known by her pen name E. L. James, is an English author. She wrote the bestselling erotic romance novels trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed, along with the companion novel Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian. She is well known for making BDSM acceptable for housewives and business women. The Fifty Shades book trilogy and movie has earned over $50 million. Her Fifty Shades of Grey merchandise ranges from a “Vibrating Love Ring” sold at Target to a Vermont Teddy Bear with handcuffs. Her current net worth is around $80 million.

10. George R. R. Martin

George Raymond Richard Martin, often referred to as GRRM, is an American novelist and short-story writer in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres, a screenwriter, and television producer.He is well known for the Game of Thrones series. He earns $10 million a year in royalties from his book series and $15 million from the HBO series and his current net worth is $65 million.


Why Anne Rice Is Still in Love with Lestat 40 Years Later

Today, we think of vampires as sexy Byronic figures accompanied by a heady aura of sex, tragedy, and mystery. But without Anne Rice, their fascinating human qualities would still lurk in the shadows. When Rice first published Interview with the Vampire in 1976, she singlehandedly transformed the age-old myth. Without Lestat, there would be no Angel or Spike, no Eric Northman or Edward Cullen, no Only Lovers Left Alive or Penny Dreadful. Bram Stoker might have given widespread life to the vampire myth, but their modern legacy belongs to Anne Rice.

Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series has continued in the ensuring years, with over ten novels and several film adaptations, the most famous being Interview with the Vampire starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Her latest work is Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. Rice spoke to Inverse about how she’s seen the genre change, what keeps her coming back, what she likes to read and watch in her spare time, and more.

The vampire genre has changed a great deal since you first wrote Interview with the Vampire. How have you seen it evolve during your career?

The concept of the vampire is rich and powerful, and I have been delighted to see so many authors unpacking that concept in so many different ways. I suspect we’ll continue to see new and distinctive “vampire” novelists. I love seeing it go in the romantic direction, as I have always found vampires to be intensely romantic. Twilight made me think of Bronte’s Jane Eyre in a way — the innocent young girl attracted to the powerful “dark” figure with whom she feels safe even though he is potentially menacing.


It’s been 40 years since I published Interview with the Vampire, and I never dreamed that there would be a series of novels growing out of that experience or that Lestat would become the hero of that series. I’m marveling at how things have worked out. I love writing from Lestat’s point of view, and I’ve been profoundly grateful for the reception to this latest novel, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. I am at work on a new “Prince Lestat” novel which might make something of a “Prince Lestat” trilogy out of the reboot of the series that began with Prince Lestat in 2014. I never plan these things. I see them in retrospect.

What’s been the most challenging part of following Lestat, on and off, for 40 years of your career? The most rewarding part?

It’s been absolutely wonderful. Lestat is my soul, my hero, my inner self, my ideal self. I feel an intensity when writing about him that I get with no other character … almost. Lestat reflects my ups and downs, so I would have to say writing about him as defeated, despairing, miserable — that’s the hardest challenge.


Oprah cooks up a USA TODAY best seller with ‘Food’

Oprah Winfrey is counting numbers these days: pounds (she’s lost more than 40) and SmartPoints (she’s on Weight Watchers).

That’s where the famous dieter’s first-ever cookbook, Food, Health and Happiness, lands this week on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list. (The Mistressby Danielle Steel is No. 1. The full list will be published on Thursday.)

In her new book, Winfrey, a Weight Watchers investor and spokesperson who has been appearing in the program’s commercials, offers “115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life.” Each recipe gives SmartPoints and calories, but it’s not an official Weight Watchers cookbook.

It is, however, the first book under Winfrey’s new imprint for Flatiron Books and it gets the tag “An Oprah Book.”

Though she’s not doing a book tour, Winfrey’s TV appearances last week to launch Food, Health and Happiness included chatting with bestie Gayle King on CBS This Morning and heating up the kitchen during a late-night cooking demo with Stephen Colbert. They whipped up her book’s “Sexy Breakfast,” basically scrambled eggs with salsa (and Winfrey’s obsession, truffle zest). She’s advocating what she calls a “balanced” approach to eating.

Winfrey, of course, has a long history on USA TODAY’s list. At the height of her talk show when she had her original book club, 20 of her selections hit No. 1. In 2016, she helped make Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad and Glennon Doyle Melton’s memoir Love Warrior into top 10 USA TODAY best sellers by choosing them for the 2.0 version of her club.


Noir Reads Delivers Books by Black Authors to Your Doorstep

Derick Brewer and Zellie Imani are hoping to diversify the bookshelves of literature connoisseurs by providing them with the oft overlooked narratives from the African Diaspora.


On Monday, the pair launched Noir Reads, a subscription service which delivers two to three fiction and nonfiction book selections from writers throughout the diaspora on a monthly basis. 


“Our aim was to create a resource comprised of narratives on the black experience and the multiplicity of Blackness,” Imani told The Huffington Post. 


With nearly 100 subscribers already, the company has sold nearly half of the 200 boxes they’ve prepared for its launch. Subscriptions are offered at $35 per month or $100 for three months. 


On February 6, these first-time subscribers will find Angela DavisFreedom Is A Constant Struggle and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation in Reads’ inaugural box. 


Imani said these selections were chosen, in part, for their relevance given the current political climate. 


“With a looming Trump presidency, we wanted books to help readers navigate this racist political landscape and offer ways to move forward,” Imani said. “The books can help us process these issues in an efficient way.”


Imani, an educator and Black Lives Matter activist said Reads is an extension of the work he’s been doing to draw attention to the ranges of the black experience. 

“Blackness is complex and diverse, but this basic fact becomes overshadowed, or erased by continually centering African American narratives,” Imani said.

“Instead, we want Noir Reads to explore, and not ignore, the vast and rich histories of the African Diaspora.”


To ensure their subscribers will enjoy the selections, Imani and Brewer choose books focusing on specific themes and survey readers to see what they’d prefer. The books that aren’t chosen are then placed under the “recommended reading” section of their reading guide. 


“The goal is to identify and connect people with great work, whether we can place it in the box or not,” Imani said. “That’s important.”


Haruki Murakami’s new book to be released February 24 in Japan

Haruki Murakami’s new book has a title, though its content remains a mystery.

“Kishidancho Goroshi,” or “Killing Commendatore,” will hit Japanese bookstores on Feb. 24, the book’s publisher, Shinchosha Publishing Co. said. Overseas availability isn’t yet known, The Associated Press reports.

Shinchosha said the book will have two parts, with the Japanese subtitles meaning “Emerging Ideas” and “Moving Metaphor.”

The esoteric titles suggest a contrast from the past works by the acclaimed best-selling writer.

“The titles perhaps give you an impression that is different from Murakami’s past works, don’t they? What is its content like?” Shinchosha said in an email.

The publisher would only say more hints would come later. Murakami has described it as a very strange story.

Murakami, 67, usually shies away from the limelight, although he has spoken out on issues such as world peace and nuclear energy. He began writing while running a jazz bar in Tokyo after finishing college. His 1987 romantic novel “Norwegian Wood” was his first best-seller, establishing him as a young literary star.

His most recent novel “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” was released in Japan in 2013, and a collection of short stories, “Men Without Women,” was published in 2014. His million-seller “1Q84” in 2009 was one of his longest novels, with the Japanese edition coming out in three volumes.


You Can Write a Best-Seller and Still Go Broke

In 2012, a month after the publication of her memoir, Wild, Cheryl Strayed was on a book tour, soaking up the wonder of her first big success as an author, when her husband texted her to say that their rent check had bounced. “We couldn’t complain to anyone,” Strayed told Manjula Martin, editor of the new anthology Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living: “My book is on the New York Times best-seller list right now and we do not have any money in our checking account.”

Few connections are more mysterious than the one between writing books and making money. Strayed most definitely did make money on Wild,which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film with Reese Witherspoon, but she didn’t get her first royalty check for it until 2013, “so it was almost a year before my life actually changed.” Yes, there was that $400,000 advance—an amount to make any aspiring memoirist’s eyes go dreamily unfocused—but Strayed and her husband had run up so much credit card debt that almost all of the money went to paying it off and supporting her family while she finished writing the book. 


Book advances, which are advances against the royalties that will be earned after the book is published, aren’t forked out in one lump sum, either. The payments come parceled out in (typically) three or four checks paid on signing the contract, on delivery of the manuscript, and on publication. The writer’s literary agent then takes a percentage of that. When Strayed sold her first novel a few years earlier for the seemingly handsome sum of $100,000, the advance amounted to, as she puts it, “about $21,000 a year over the course of four years, and I paid a third of that to the IRS … it was like getting a grant every year for four years. But it wasn’t enough to live off.”


It’s worth leading with all these numbers because, as Scratch repeatedly demonstrates, the nitty-gritty on this stuff is in short supply in the wider writerly imagination, while fantasy, evasion, and envious brooding runneth over. Strayed is among the few prospering contributors to this collection of essays and interviews who speaks so explicitly. (“We’re only hurting ourselves as writers by being so secretive about money,” she told Martin.) Another is Roxane Gay—author, columnist, editor, publisher, professor, public speaker—who reports that she made approximately $150,000 in 2014.


That’s a good income by almost any standard, but does it match your sense of Gay’s prominence and productivity? (Surely there are plenty of professors who make that much, or more, from their academic work alone.) Depending on your media diet, Gay may or may not constitute a “famous writer” in your eyes, and depending on how much you think famous writers must earn, her income may strike you as surprisingly modest. Or perhaps this entire topic offends you. There are still a few idealists out there cherishing the belief that writing, as art, mustn’t be contaminated by filthy lucre.

Like most anthologies, Scratch is uneven; not every contributor is equally talented and none is able to drill very deeply into the relationship between work and money in writers’ lives. The book originated with a (now defunct) online magazine of the same title, developed—as Martin, who edited both, explains—“out of a need for greater transparency in the discussion about work and money within the community of writers.” But if the mission statement of this anthology is to demystify “how, exactly, literature and the people who make it are valued,” many of the pieces here seem to deflect away from transparency as if repelled by a magnetic field.


If their authors set out to write about money, they end up spinning their wheels on the more formulaic and far less interesting subjects of self-discovery, dream-following, and “career”—a label given, often by wooly-headed Brooklynites, to an amorphous blend of personal reputation and public persona. Writers know so little about how other writers make ends meet that it’s difficult for them to have much perspective on their own ability to do so. But even when you find out that Strayed nearly sunk under her debts while Yiyun Li enjoyed a relatively stress-free transition from pre-med to fiction writing—three years after making the jump, she’d published in both the Paris Review and the New Yorker—the sum of both their stories still doesn’t offer a stable picture of how most writers make a living.


Android will now store Google searches offline and deliver them when you get signal

Google is rolling out an update for its Android app that makes it easier to search the internet with an inconsistent internet connection. Users can make searches when offline and the Google app will store them, delivering the results later (with an optional notification) when the devices gets signal again.

As Google product manager Shekhar Sharad writes in a blog post: “So the next time you lose service, feel free to queue up your searches, put your phone away and carry on with your day. The Google app will work behind-the-scenes to detect when a connection is available again and deliver your search results once completed.”

Sharad also notes that the feature “won’t drain your battery” and will only have a “minimal” impact on data usage. Any pending searches will be stored in the Google app itself under the Manage Searches option. Let’s hope the iOS Google app gets a similar update some time soon.


Google is killing the classic Google+ on January 24

Google today announced that it will be getting rid of the “classic” user interface for its Google+ social network.

Google redesigned the service in 2015 with the launch of Communities and Collections, but since then there has always been a way to go back to the “classic” mode: a link in the bottom left corner that says “Back to classic Google+.” Starting on January 24, though, people won’t be able to go back anymore.

Now when you click the link to go back, Google shows a pop-up saying, “Heads up! Classic Google+ is going away soon, but you’ll still find all of your stuff on the shiny new Google+.” And when you log on to the old Google+, a pop-up says, “The version you’re using will be replaced soon. Click here to switch to the new Google+.” After you say OK to that, you see a similar message in a banner at the top of the feed.

In announcing the news in a blog post today, Google+ product manager Danielle Buckley put it in the context of new features appearing on the social network, like hiding less important comments and letting users zoom in on images on the web version of Google+.

“With this latest round of updates, we believe the new Google+ is really your Google+ — designed around your suggestions, requests and needs,” Buckley wrote. Also, the Events feature from the old Google+ will appear in the new version starting on January 24.

As a whole, though, Google has been de-emphasizing Google+.

Facebook, meanwhile, said in November that it had 1.79 billion monthly active users in the third quarter of 2016.


Book Review: The Disney Story: Chronicling The Man, The Mouse & The Park

There are many books written about Walt and Roy Disney, as well as The Walt Disney Company. Some of them give top-line information and some of them are extremely detailed. Some of them are perfect for those who are new to Disney history and some of them are for those already steeped in its history. However, Aaron Goldberg has written a book not only for those that are well-versed in Disney history, but also those who are not.


Goldberg’s book, The Disney Story: Chronicling The Man, The Mouse & The Parkspresents Walt Disney, The Walt Disney Company and the Parks decade-by-decade. It’s a well-written book that starts in the 1930’s with Steamboat Willie and concludes in 2016 with the opening of Shanghai Disney.


What makes this book unique is that Goldberg supports the topics he covers with actual stories from newspaper and magazine articles told word-for-word exactly as these outlets reported. “Instead of my words telling the story,” says Goldberg. “You’ll get a chance to read the hundreds of other voices that told the Disney story over the decades, along with the most important voice of all, Walt’s.” The other thing that makes this book unique is that every quote and story that Goldberg features in the book can be found, in its entirety, online at


Although he doesn’t, nor could he cover everything that happened every year, Goldberg does an excellent job of including the major events in each decade.

In the 1930’s, Goldberg talks about the birth of Diane Disney and how on December 18, 1933, Walt had to leave in the middle of an award ceremony for him to rush to the hospital for Diane’s birth. He also discusses the Silly Symphonies, the creation of Donald Duck, the introduction of Technicolor to Disney animation and the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Two of the many interesting tidbits about the Snow White were that during the premiere, the biggest names in Hollywood – Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Mary Pickford and 1,500 other attendees paid $5.50 each to attend and see the film. In addition to being the first major feature length animation film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first sound motion picture to be transferred to long playing disks for the visually impaired. Read the story here.


In the 1940’s, he discusses when the Walt Disney Company went public, as well as the salaries of Walt and Roy Disney. The 40’s also saw Walt’s trip to South America, the release of Song of the South and Bambi, among other milestones.


Disney/ABC to Donate One Million Books; Hold 2nd Disney Reads Day

Today, Disney and ABC announced that it will once again donate up to one million books to First Book, a nonprofit that provides new books to educators and organizations serving children from low-income families, during its fifth annual Magic of Storytelling campaign from now through March 31.

The Magic of Storytelling campaign aims to inspire families’ imaginations, cultivate a lifelong love of reading in kids, and bring books to underserved communities across the country. Over the past 16 years, Disney has donated 57 million books to First Book. Together with First Book, Disney Publishing Worldwide and Disney|ABC Television Group are committed to placing up to one million more books in the hands of children in need across the country.


“We are so proud to have donated more than 57 million books through our long-standing collaboration with Disney,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “Each year, the excitement around the Magic of Storytelling campaign grows, inspiring millions of individuals to help us bring much-needed new books to children in need.”

As part of the Magic of Storytelling campaign, families are encouraged to put everything else down, pick up a book, and read independently or together during the second annual nationwide Disney Reads Day on February 4. Families can do this at home by taking time to read their favorite books together, or visit a participating Disney Store, Barnes & Noble, or other retail location for story-time, themed activities, and giveaways.

From now through March 31, Disney book donations (up to a total of one million donations) can be activated through various ways:

  • One for One Book Donation: Disney will donate one book to First Book for every eligible Disney book purchased at a Disney Store or participating retailer during that store’s participation window. (A list of eligible Disney books and participating retailers are available at
  • Share a Shelfie: Disney will also give one book for every “shelfie” — a selfie photo with a favorite book or in front of a bookshelf — shared on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #MagicOfStorytelling.
  • Disney Story Central: Users of Disney’s digital reading platform can download digital books designed for parents and children to read together. Disney will donate one book to First Book for every book read in the app.
  • Magic of Storytelling Sweepstakes: Consumers can enter to win a library of 400 Disney books for their school and a personal library for their home in the Magic of Storytelling Sweepstakes. For every sweepstakes entry, Disney will donate one book to First Book. To enter the sweepstakes and for more rules and information, visit
  • In-Store Events: Celebrate Disney Reads Day on February 4 at Disney Store, Barnes & Noble, and participating retailer locations nationwide. Families and fans can enjoy free family-friendly events like story time, coloring and activity sheets, and themed “shelfie” stations. A full list of participating Disney Store and retailer locations is available at

“For more than 80 years, Disney books have brought children and parents together, sparking imaginations and inspiring dreams,” said Andrew Sugerman, executive vice president, content and media, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media. “We are thrilled to be part of a program that encourages a love of reading and makes these stories available to as many people as possible. We’re honored to continue our work with First Book to bring the Magic of Storytelling to kids in need around the country.”

Kevin Brockman, Executive Vice President, Global Communications, Disney|ABC Television Group added, “Storytelling and imagination are central to the entertainment we deliver to our viewers every day. We’re thrilled to celebrate our 16 year association with First Book through this campaign and excited to mobilize our multiple platforms to inspire kids and families to expand their imaginations and celebrate the importance of reading and storytelling.”

The Magic of Storytelling campaign comes to life across Disney|ABC’s extensive network of broadcast and digital platforms including, a website with activities and resources to encourage reading and shared reading experiences. Fans can also engage with Magic of Storytelling content on Disney’s network of social medial channels and digital publishing brands like Oh My Disney, Disney Style, Disney Family and Babble.

The campaign launches with a PSA voiced by Emma Watson, star of The Walt Disney Studios upcoming film “Beauty and the Beast,” coming to theaters on March 17. In the PSA, Watson highlights the impact of books on children.


Is publishing about to get Spotified? The platform publishing future

Publishing could be Spotified within five years. iTunes only needed a year to take ascendancy over record labels, and now Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Facebook Instant Articles (IA) promise the same fate for publishers.

The implied end goal for both is a platform publishing future that mirrors the platform-dominated present of the music industry, where publishers are pure content creators with exclusive output channels. At this stage however, that future remains hypothetical, rather than a reality, and here’s why:

The new formats aren’t being used by everyone

The key groundwork for iTunes was having all the major record labels signed up. Having some, but not all content, is a headache for platforms, with Spotify’s ongoing spat with Taylor Swift only the most high profile instance of this. Publishers are looking to emulate key features of AMP and IA in their own offerings, without committing to the new formats.

The Daily Telegraph unveiled a new mobile app in October, designed to focus on speed, the key driving force behind AMP and IA, by stripping away unnecessary features and providing a higher quality experience for their users. Bloomberg has the same view that there’s nothing to stop publishers creating “a really fast mobile template,” independent of the platforms, which brings them all the benefits and none of the shortcomings.

And even those who are using them, aren’t totally convinced

Some of Facebook IA’s earliest adopters are becoming more sceptical of the promise of the platform. In its current form, they’ve seen that for a swifter experience, they’ve sacrificed analytics and the mobile traffic they could command before IA was introduced.

National Geographic and NBC News, which were both in the first wave of publishers on the format, have dropped their output. After initially posting in high volume, they are now adjusting their strategy based on initial learnings: it works as a format in their arsenal, but cannot be their only tool if they want to maintain control over distribution. Publishers more generally are unwilling to become totally dependent on the format without greater control and incentives for them.

So they’re looking at alternative revenue streams

Apple’s iTunes was a way for “music to reach consumers,” that record labels desperately needed. Publishing, on the other hand, has alternative revenue streams open to it, foremost of which is ‘comtent‘ (commerce-related content), which was a key factor in The New York Times purchase of The Wirecutter for $30m in September. Where advertising only drives value for brands themselves, comtent is valuable to readers and publishers alike. Entire publications like Wirecutter and Refinery29 are based around it, and even more traditional publishers such as Hearst and Business Insider have gone as far as building entire editorial commerce teams from it.

So while publishing could be Spotified, that fate isn’t a foregone conclusion

It’s tempting to imagine a platform publishing future where publishers are content creators instead of destinations, but the publishing industry isn’t yet facing the same distribution and revenue challenges that led the record labels to Apple 15 years ago. It lacks a clear incentive to fully commit to AMP or IA, beyond improved load time offered by the formats, and there isn’t yet the same urgency that pushed labels into signing up to iTunes.

Instead, AMP and IA offer faster load time and streamlined experience in exchange for a decrease in already dwindling ad revenue and less actionable insights for publishers to better inform their content creation and curation with. Publishers also have multiple lucrative revenue streams open to them, including comtent, which through they can use to maintain themselves and keep control of their distribution out of the hands of platforms.


His signature book, “I Am Not a Serial Killer,” the first one he got someone to publish, has been made into a movie.

Dan Wells writes books that sell around the world. He’s particularly popular in Germany, Argentina and Mexico, in addition to the USA. England thinks he’s pretty cool too.

His signature book, “I Am Not a Serial Killer,” the first one he got someone to publish, has been made into a movie.


But sit down with the successful author at the home he shares in North Salt Lake with his wife, Dawn, and their six children — and the place where he spins his fictional tales in a converted bedroom on the main level — and the first story he wants to tell you is one that is absolutely true:

Eight years ago, he was at a gas station in Orem when the man at the next pump started pitching him about the multilevel-marketing business he was a part of. (Not a hard scenario to imagine — this was Utah County).

“You can work from home, call your own shots, set your own hours and have other people make money for you while you sleep,” went the standard MLM pitch. “You’ll have your dream job.”

To which Dan replied, “Already got it.”

Some kids want to grow up and play shortstop for the Yankees, or be an astronaut who lands on the moon, or live in the White House. All Dan Wells ever dreamed of, from as far back as he can remember, was being a writer.

It helped that his parents, Robert and Patty, treated the library like it was a shrine. The Sprague Library in Sugar House was just around the corner from where Dan, his brother, Robison, (also a published author) and his sister, Allison, grew up.

Their parents continually stocked the kids’ bookshelves at home, Dan recalls, “with stuff they thought would interest us. Some of it super didn’t, but others I read until the cover fell off.”

When he was 11, the floodgates opened when Dan was given the green light, as it were, to cross 21st South, the main street that stood between his house and the library, on his own.

After that, “I was there almost every day.”

He tore through everything, starting with science fiction and fantasy, and once those shelves were exhausted, on to poetry and the classics.

Out of this emerged a young man who turned in so many compositions his English teacher finally said, “Stop! I can’t read them all.”

Dan further honed his craft at BYU, where he wrote for the student sci-fi magazine, The Leading Edge, and met any number of mentors, including Dave Wolverton and Linda Adams, and aspiring writers and editors who would go on to become professionals just like himself — Brandon Sanderson, Ethan Sproat, Stacy Whitman and Anne Sowards among them.

After college, he worked at a variety of pay-the-bills jobs while on his own time he wrote “five novels of garbage before novel No. 6 was good enough to sell.”

The American rights to that book, “I Am Not a Serial Killer,” were picked up by Moshe Feder at Tor Books for an advance on royalties of $7,000. Dan persuaded Sara Crowe, the top young adult agent in the business, to represent him with Tor. That partnership soon resulted in selling German rights to “Serial Killer” for a sum that far exceeded the American deal — a $60,000 advance for the first book with $60,000 each for two sequel books to follow.

“That’s quittin’ money,” is what Brandon Sanderson advised his friend. Dan was quick to agree. In late 2008, just before meeting the man at the gas station, he turned in his two-weeks notice and hasn’t worked for anyone but himself ever since.


Pronoun announces a better royalty rate, significantly increasing self-published author earnings

Pronoun, today announced new royalties that significantly increase author earnings for ebooks sold in the US and Canada, and new product features that add more customization and promotional opportunities for new and experienced self-published authors.


Authors publishing their books on Pronoun will now be able to earn 70% for all books sold in the US and Canada for books priced $9.99 or less, and 65% for all books priced above $9.99. Pronoun now also allows authors to distribute to only specific retailers of their choosing, giving those who already publish on other platforms flexibility to take advantage of Pronoun’s new rates.

Pronoun’s 70% author royalty on books priced $2.99 or less significantly exceeds the 35% previously offered by Pronoun—making Pronoun the No. 1 choice for authors selling their self-published works. Additionally, Pronoun includes support for free books and pre-orders across all retailers it serves (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo and Google Play).

“Pronoun began in 2014 with the mission to offer a publishing experience that is more fair, transparent, and above all else, human,” says president and founder Josh Brody. “We’ve spent the past year listening closely to authors and are proud to announce better royalties as part of our continued pursuit of publishing success for authors.”

As part of the new royalties announcement, Pronoun has also launched Pronoun Author Pages, enabling authors to create beautiful and professional websites for their books for free. Pronoun Author Pages are designed for any author, regardless of whether they are published with Pronoun. Authors can include a personal photo, bio and customizable headers, and when authors add books to their author page, book details are automatically populated from Pronoun’s intelligent book database.

“Pronoun Author Pages make building an author or book series brand easier for authors,” says Justin Renard, Head of Marketing. “It was our goal to create a promotional tool that is purpose-built for showcasing books, and something authors can be proud to share as their home base for online marketing.”

Pronoun’s new royalty rates are effective immediately for all account holders. Authors can sign up to build an author page by creating a free account on Pronoun also makes it possible for authors to track published books and get insights on how to use metadata smartly to discover and connect with more readers.  

“I count myself as very fortunate that I launched my book just as Pronoun opened their doors,” says I. A. Ashcroft, author of the self-published book Raven Song. “New authors know that there are years worth of education on the book sales world that you need to cram into mere weeks once the book is done. Pronoun’s easy-to-use UI and explanations made my transition into book selling as painless as humanly possible.”

To learn more about Pronoun’s new royalties and Pronoun Author Pages, visit


To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:

How Book Royalties Work

This is one of those basic topics about which you may be confused if you’re just entering the world of publishing. You’ve heard the terms advance and royalties but you’re not quite sure how it all works. I’ll try to explain as simply as possible.

The concept of a royalty is that the author receives a percentage of the revenue for each book sold. The exact percentage can’t be generalized because it depends on a variety of factors: the size of the publisher, whether it’s a CBA or ABA house, the author’s platform and marketability, and each publisher’s own criteria (of which you may never be aware).

Keep in mind that as technology continues to develop and publishing models change, this age-old royalty model is going to be changing, too. Very soon it may be out of date, but this is the way it has been for decades.

Most publishers pay the royalty based on the cover price (or retail price) of the book. CBA publishers usually pay royalties based on the NET price of the book, that is, the price at which the publisher sold the book to the bookstore.

Royalty rates vary widely, so keep in mind I’m generalizing wildly here, but just to give you an idea:

General market publishers, first time author:
Hardcover royalty: 10% to 15% of retail

Trade paperback royalty: 6.5% to 7.5% of retail
Mass market paperback royalty: 7.5% to 10% of retail

CBA publishers, first time author:
Hardcover or trade paperback royalty: 14% to 18% of net

Mass market paperback royalty: 8% to 12% of net

Here’s a hypothetical example for a general market (not CBA) hardcover, first-time author:

Cover price: $25.00

Royalty rate: 10% of retail = $2.50. You make $2.50 on every book sold.

Let’s say your advance was $15,000. That means you’ve already been paid the first $15k of your royalties. After you earn $15,000 in royalties, you’ll start seeing royalty checks.

How many copies do you have to sell to earn back your $15,000 advance?

Answer: 6,000 books. ($2.50 per book x 6,000 books = $15,000 advance)

After you sell 6,000 copies, you will begin to see royalty checks. $2.50 for every additional book sold.

Here’s a hypothetical example for a CBA trade paperback:

Cover price: $13.99

Net price: $6.30 (sold to bookstore at standard 55% discount)

Royalty rate: Let’s say your starting royalty rate is 16%. 16% of net = 16% of $6.30 = $1.01

You make $1.01 on every book sold.

Let’s say your advance was $5,000. You need to earn $5,000 in royalties before you start seeing royalty checks. How many copies do you have to sell to earn back your advance?

Answer: 4,951 copies. ($1.01 x 4,951 = $5,000)

After you sell 4,951 copies, you will begin to see royalty checks. $1.01 for every book sold.

**This is vastly simplified to help you understand!**

Your contract will specify royalty rates for hardcover, trade paper, and mass market paper as well as large print, book club, audio editions, electronic editions, etc. It will also specify the terms under which they’ll pay your royalties: how often, how much they hold in reserve against returns, etc. I’m not going to explain all of this right now; suffice to say, the royalties are not as simple as I’ve made them appear above.


Amazon wins patent for Treasure Truck as it makes plans to expand beyond Seattle

When the Treasure Truck is opened up, customers see a flashy array of signs. (GeekWire Photo)

If you’re thinking about building a knockoff of Amazon’s Treasure Truck, the funky delivery vehicle for flash deals ranging from cameras to candy, consider yourself warned: The design is now patented.

The patent was issued today, covering the ornamental design for the heavily modified Isuzu cab-over truck. The truck is typically stocked several times a month with one or two types of discounted goodies and makes deliveries to a few locations in the Seattle area.

The Treasure Truck been compared to an ice cream truck for grownups: Amazon app users can get alerts about the deals on their smartphones, but once all the goods are spoken for, that’s it. (Today’s deal, offering two pounds of wild Dungeness crab for $35, is already sold out.)

Earlier this month, the truck made a rare pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show.

The patent lays out a series of sketches for the truck’s boxy back end, festooned with electronic display strips. The filing also covers the marquee sign on the top of the cab, and cites GeekWire’s “First Look” story as part of the documentation.


The patent focuses on the truck’s display-festooned delivery box. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

For what it’s worth, we now know the official inventors of the truck design: Sherman Griffin, Samuel Pike Hall VI and Douglas James Herrington, all based in Seattle. Their patent application was filed on April 17, 2015, two months before the truck was first spotted on city streets.

Will more Treasure Trucks roam the streets of cities beyond Seattle?

Amazon hasn’t said anything officially yet, but it’s looking for a product manager to identify which cities are ripe for the picking and oversee the expansion plan. There’s also an opening for a senior business development manager to deal with Treasure Truck real estate issues.


Top 10 Romance Movies of All Time

We’ll start this list off with something a bit different. Edward Scissorhands is by no means your average romance movie. This movie is all about a man who has scissors for hands and his love for all things cutting. His appearance is startling, but he is a very gentle and kind man who finds himself falling in love with a local girl. The movie is all about his acceptance into this new community after living by himself for so long. Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder star in this film that won 1 Oscar and several other awards during its time in theaters.

The epitome of a romance movie, The Notebook is about a man who falls in love with woman, but the only thing that is keeping them from being together forever is their differing social statuses. Starring Gena Rowlands and James Garner, The Notebook was one of the most watched movies when it was released, grossing well over 81 million dollars during its weekend launch. This movie did not win any Oscars, but it did win a bunch of other awards and is definitely one of the more iconic modern romance movies.


Fiddler on the Roof stars Topol and Norma Crane. Fiddler on the Roof follows a Jewish peasant who is trying to marry off three of his daughters, all the while his town is pressuring him. This is an instant classic and might even deserve to be higher on this list. This is definitely one of my favorite movies on the list and is great for a movie night. Fiddler on the Roof is another one that is different on this list because it is a romance, drama, and a musical all rolled up into one great movie. If you haven’t seen this classic before, I think this is one of the first ones you should check out.


What kind of list would this be if we didn’t include a Disney movie? As many of you know, Beauty and the Beast tells the tale of a beast who was transformed from a prince into a beast. Belle offers herself to the beast in order to save her father. Eventually, the two come close together and she is the only thing that can set him free from this curse that was bestowed upon him. This is a classic romance movie that is probably at the top of everyone’s list, but to keep things a bit different, I put it at number seven on our list. No matter what, this movie will go down as one of my personal favorite Disney movies, and being that it is somewhat of a romance movie, it deserves its spot on our list.


Her might be the strangest romance movie on this list. This movie stars Joaquin Phoenix and takes a different take on a romance movie. Instead of the typical relationship seen in these types of movies, the story follows a writer who falls in love with an artificial intelligence that is installed in his home and on his phone. He grows a connection to it and falls in love with it. This is definitely a movie that is different than all of the rest on this list, and I think this is one that everyone should check out. I praise this movie for being different and going against the grain, and that is why it takes a spot on our top ten list!


Gone with the Wind stars Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in this romantic drama movie. Named one of the best during its time period, Gone with the Wind is all about a southern belle who is having an affair and all of the controversy that comes along with that. This movie won 8 Oscars since its release and has been named as one of the top movies of all time and on countless must watch lists. If you have not seen this movie before, I definitely recommend this one as it is a timeless classic that everyone should watch if they consider themselves a movie buff.


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind stars Jim Carrey as a man who is in a relationship that eventually falls through. The couple decides the only logical thing to do is to remove each other from their memories. Through this, they find out about what they had and what they were missing out on by not having each other in their lives. This movie is a great example of a modern romance movie as it shows a great relationship between two people who fall apart, and come back together only after experiencing life without each other. This movie won 1 Oscar and many other awards during its time. Rated number 85 on IMDB’s top movies list, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind takes the number four spot on our list.


Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo is another classic, but this time, it’s not just a romance movie, but a romantic thriller. In the typical Hitchcock fashion, Vertigo will take you on an adventure with a police officer who is suffering from a harsh case of acrophobia. For Hitchcock fans, you will surely love this movie like all of his others, and for those who haven’t seen this movie, it is most definitely a must watch film. Though it didn’t win any awards during its time, Vertigo is still a well referenced movie in pop culture today.


American Beauty stars Kevin Spacey in this romance and drama movie. American Beauty isn’t your conventional romance as it follows a frustrated father who is having a midlife crisis and is becoming slowly obsessed with his teenaged daughter’s best friend. This movie won 5 Oscars and a ton of other awards. If this is one you haven’t seen before, I definitely recommend checking it out as it takes a spin on the classic romance genre and makes it very unique. You won’t find another romance movie like this on the list, and for that reason, it takes the number two spot on our top ten list.


Casablanca is without a doubt the most timeless romantic movie on this list. Since its release in 1942, Casablanca has continued to be shown as a timeless piece of American history in the film industry. Many consider this to be one of the best movies of all time, with leading actors Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Casablanca has won 3 Oscars and many other awards since its debut. It has also been voted as the number 33 movie of all time on the internet movie database for films. Without a doubt, Casablanca will always be one of the best romance movies of all time, and movies will continue to copy its style and the way the movie was made. For that and more, Casablanca has earned its rightful spot at our number one spot on our top ten best romance movies.

No matter what, romance movies will always be made because everyone likes the movie that makes them feel something that does not line up with everyday feelings. Dive deep into a movie about two people falling in love and lose your sense of reality in these movies. If you are not all that familiar with the genre, this list is a great place get you started on some of the better ones that have been made in the past hundred years!



My Recipe Book is Coming Soon!

This recipe book will be published on my birthday. As I write this I can feel the tears move down my face in amazement and pure excitement. Named after my daughter, this cook book will feature more than twenty recipes from around the world. Honored and grateful. Available on Amazon January 26, 2017. Kasani’s Cafe’ – Simple Recipes for Healthy Living 

‘Hidden Figures,’ the book, soars up USA TODAY’s list

Awards-season buzz has sent Hidden Figures, the book that inspired the new movie about black women mathematicians at NASA who helped launch the space race, rocketing up USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list.

Margot Lee Shetterly’s history is No. 5 this week, up from No. 24 last week. (The full list will be published on Thursday.)

The movie, which stars Octavia Spencer (nominated for a Golden Globe), Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe, went wide on Jan. 6 and was the weekend’s box office champ with $22.8 million, winning a squeaker over Rogue One.

Hidden Figures, set during the era of segregation, was published in hardcover in September and at the time got to No. 104 on USA TODAY’s list. The publication of the movie tie-in edition in early December (the book is also sold as an e-book) gave it new life.

Shetterly, an executive producer on the movie, sold the film rights and was working on the book as the movie was being made, a rather unusual confluence.

A young readers’ edition of the “untold true story” was published in November. Hidden Figures, which is also a tale about civil rights and women’s rights, focuses on “human computers” Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Dardenand their work doing calculations that helped propel the space program.

“It’s nice for us to see such an uplifting story get so much attention,” says Kate Schafer of publisher William Morrow. Shetterly “did incredible research for the book.”

At a recent press event for the movie, Shetterly said: “It took a long time for us to see these women and to value their contributions and to say, ‘You know what? It’s time that they get their moment in the sun.’ We’ve seen John Glenn’s great moment, but we didn’t really get to see Katherine Jackson and Mary Johnson, and now we do. So, as hard as it is that it has taken this long, the thing that I am so excited about is that they’re here, we’re all here celebrating them, and these women are never, ever going back into the historical shadows. Not ever.”


Women Who Count: 3 Smart STEM Romances

When Octavia Spencer first read the script for Hidden Figures — based on a book about the African American women who did the math for our early space launches — she thought it was fictionbecause it seemed too good to be true. Her disbelief reveals how conditioned we are to think that only white men make notable contributions to science, technology, engineering and math — and how important it is that we celebrate stories of the women who do.

Big Hollywood movies based on true stories are an excellent way to do this. Narrative has a role to play as well, especially when it comes to another form of popular media: Romance novels, the second largest category of fiction in the U.S. Long derided as mere smut, these days romance novels feature heroines in the STEM fields — and the prejudices and obstacles they face on the way to a personal and professional happy ever after.

The romance in Courtney Milan’s Hold Me is off to a rocky start when the hero, Jay na Thalang, assumes the heroine must be a lab supply salesperson when she shows up at his graduate studies lab. Not only is Maria Lopez a woman, she’s a pretty, “done up” woman with an interest in shoes and planning her brother’s wedding. She cannot possibly be smart enough to be worthy of his time and attention.

But unbeknownst to both Jay and Maria, they are already friends online — or at least their avatars are. When they meet as just minds (enabling Jay to imagine that she is a frumpy, nerdy girl) they are friends and trusted confidants who discuss problems both scientific and, eventually, personal. As long as she isn’t an undeniably sexy female body, Jay can respect her intelligence.

Much of the conflict between the hero and heroine in this book stems from the hero’s assumptions about a woman’s brains based merely on her appearance; what Jay comes to realize is that the problem lies with him.

Even Odds by Elia Winters continues with the theme of a woman’s body getting in the way of her brain — not for her, but for the men in the room. Isabel Suarez, a design manager at a gaming firm, just wants to focus on the work. Whereas Maria flaunts her femininity, Isabel learned she must hide hers in order to succeed professionally, so she wears baggy clothes, pulls her hair back and smiles tightly when one coworker’s comments make her uncomfortable:

His words were teasing, but Isabel bristled. This is what she’d wanted, though. It was better just to be sexless and professional, treated like another one of the guys, if she wanted to be taken seriously.”

Complications ensue when romance blossoms with her new coworker. Being open about their relationship means owning that she is more than just a sexless work automaton and opening herself up to judgment. Isabel only gets her happy ever after when she can allow both sides of herself to flourish — with the love and support of her enlightened hero (and an equally enlightened HR department).


The AI that can write a symphony just for you

It can create digital art, write poems and now, artificial intelligence is composing music.

Japanese researchers have developed an AI headset that creates tailor-made music in order to improve the wearer’s mood.

The AI analyzes the person’s brain waves and writes tunes that match their personal sensitivity- and it only takes one minute to create the music using synthesized notes.

The AI headset was developed as a collaboration between Osaka University and Tokyo City University, reports

For the first part of their work, the researchers teamed up with an institute in Belgium to record the brain waves of volunteers. 

These participants were each given 10 different pieces of music to listen to that ranged from J-Pop to nursery rhymes while their brain waves were recorded.

The data was then used to create a personalized ’emotional music model’ for each person.

The AI was fed information about the relationship between music and various emotions before it began writing music.

According to researchers, ‘conventional automatic composition machines require the input of specific data about the characteristics of the music that the listener wants’.

‘I would like to turn our study into a system to uplift human spirits and help people to fulfill their potential by listening to music in accordance with their preferences,’ Masayuki Numao, a professor of information and physical sciences at Osaka University’s Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, told

A separate team of researchers taught an AI how to compose music that sounds similar to The Beatles last year.

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Why This Super-Popular Romance Novel Site Shut Down

After a rushed final week that began with an unexpected email and ended with reportings to the FBI and the U.K.’s National Cyber Crime Unit, readers and writers alike are still left wondering why a super-popular romance novel site shut down. The Guardian reports that owner Lori James’ decision to close and its sister sites was due to growing concern over the state of the eBook market going into 2017, but both sellers and consumers now wonder if the website’s exit was entirely legal.

In a mass email sent out on Dec. 28, James — who writes romance novels under the pseudonym Samantha Sommersby — announced that All Romance would be closing on Dec. 31. Users would have the final four days of the year to spend all of their site credits and gift cards, and to download all the eBooks they had purchased. Writer Isobel Starling told The Guardian that “[t]he site crashed constantly under the strain and money spent on gift cards and store credit cards has been lost.”

Writers and publishers didn’t have any more notice of All Romance’s closing than their fans. The 5,000 romance eBook creators who used the website were also emailed on Dec. 28, and were informed that All Romance lacked the funds to pay them their full due in royalties. For the fourth quarter of 2016, authors whose books were sold on All Romance will receive just 10 percent in royalties — one-sixth of their normal rate.

According to Writer Beware, James’ website offered to give romance authors the rights to their work, following All Romance’s closing, on the condition that they not pursue legal action against the company for unpaid royalties. However, All Romance’s continued sales of eBooks after the royalty cut-off date was labelled “unconscionable” by Romance Writers of America.

Legal action may be on the horizon.  All Romance solicited advertising contracts for 2017 in the weeks leading up to its sudden closure, with James advertising All Romance’s “#1 Google ranking for ‘Romance eBooks'” to encourage potential advertisers to pay thousands of dollars for webspace and shoutouts. James has been involved in court cases related to All Romance before.

Updated Jan. 10: A previous version of this article stated that rumors of All Romance’s advertising solicitations were unfounded. The author has since seen two promotional emails sent by James on Dec. 23.


Authors and publishers await more shrinking royalty payments from educational institutions

Access Copyright is warning creators and publishers to brace for yet another significant decrease in their royalty payments. The non-profit agency, which licenses Canadian artistic works to educational institutions, businesses, and others, estimates the amount it pays to creators will drop to $5 million in 2017, from $11 million the previous year – a 55 per cent decrease that is being directly attributed to a reduction in revenue from the educational sector.

Like so many Canadians who work in cultural industries, Halifax author Carol Bruneau used to rely on her annual Access Copyright royalty cheques to help pay for major purchases. But in the past three years, Bruneau’s copyright payments have decreased by more than half. Where her cheques used to cover necessities like snow tires, this year’s payout was just enough to buy a small birthday present for her son. “Incrementally, it’s been going down for the past couple years, but I was really shocked when I got my payment [for 2016],” says Bruneau. “And then the warning letter that it would be 55 per cent less in the future – that’s whittling it down to really nothing. Peanuts.”

In 2012, the Conservative government amended the country’s copyright law, expanding the “fair-dealing” provision for the purposes of education, parody, and satire. As a result of the way many educational institutions have interpreted the new fair-dealing rules – and an increase in the amount of material that is being photocopied and distributed to students – schools are paying less money to copyright holders. Roanie Levy, Access Copyright’s executive director, says the organization’s 2017 payout will be 80 per cent less than what it distributed in 2013, when copyright holders received $23.5 million. “It took some years, but we’re now feeling the impact, 100 per cent, of the decisions of educational institutions to rely on their self-interpretation of fair dealing instead of paying creators,” says Levy.

Bruneau – who receives royalty payments for her four novels and six short-fiction collections, as well other pieces that have appeared in various anthologies and publications – has no idea what material of hers is being copied under the rubric of fair dealing, but suspects it’s her short stories, which often are used for teaching, especially at the high school level. “It’s frustrating because the more you practise your writing, and the more publications you have, you think this money should grow,” she says. “The fact that it’s shrinking at an alarming rate is especially frustrating. I’ve been writing for a long time and I’m not getting any younger. It’s not that I can see making it up any time soon.”

Levy expects educational publishers and other content creators, like Bruneau, will be affected most by the forthcoming reduction. “When you consider the scope and size of these industries, and these businesses, and the income of creators, you quickly see how damaging this kind of decline is,” she says. “It’s a death by a thousand cuts.” Although Levy refers to the current situation as an “impasse,” she says Access Copyright is working with the educational sector to better understand its needs, and is testing out a transactional model that potentially could replace the traditional blanket licence. “What is absolutely critical for us is that we
develop something that meets the needs of the educational institutions,” says Levy.


The 15th Anniversary: “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”

Under the Radar’s very first print issue came out in December 2001. In honor of our 15th Anniversary some of our writers are reflecting on some of their favorite albums (and movies and TV shows) from 2001, that are also celebrating their 15th anniversary.

Stringing a story out over several films usually leads to failure. The Lord of the Rings is different, to a large degree because it’s actually one story forced into three separate entities, just as the book was when it proved more advantageous to publish in segments. Thus choosing a favorite is more a matter of taste than quality given the remarkable evenness across the trilogy. Whatever anyone else says, for me it will always be The Fellowship of the Ring.

First released 15 years ago back in 2001; its impact has not yet receded. Over the years I’ve re-watched all three films regularly. I’ve attended back-to-back screenings through the night, re-read the books, and waited in patient excitement for the delayed arrival of The Hobbit, a flawed but impressive achievement. Fellowship stills sits at the top. It’s almost hard to remember back to the time when it seemed like a bad idea.

The depth of the books, the painstaking world creation undertaken by J.R.R. Tolkien, did not seem a comfortable fit for cinema screens. To achieve the right sense of scale, money would be needed. To recoup investment, Hollywood has a tendency to aim for a low denominator, cutting out the detail and nuance that makes Middle-earth such an engrossing proposition. I feared the worst and went in with expectations dutifully lowered. How wrong I was.

It helps that this series costing hundreds of millions of dollars was in many ways a passion project. Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and their team were given the kind of control rarely handed out, especially since the ’70s New Wave blew up in the faces of studio executives. Making the films together and decamping to New Zealand allowed them to get on with it. Their veneration for the source material also coupled delightfully with a purist’s love of film. Thus we have that rarest of beasts; a smash critical hit, multiple award winner, and runaway box office success.

Part of what makes Fellowship stand out is the freshness. It’s our first glimpse at a world soon to capture millions. We meet the characters for the first time and we understand just what it is they face. I’ve always been a sucker for origin stories and this is about as good as they get. The whole thing is one long beginning punctuated by flashes of brilliantly conceived action and carefully calibrated character development. The tone set here carries faithfully through two more films. The stakes rise higher but it all flows from the path first forged back in 2001.

The key reason Fellowship and the wider trilogy succeeds is the decision not to follow blindly after Tolkien. Like all good adaptations it knows better than to try for the magic of the book, translating the material into the visual language of cinema. The opening prologue is a good summation, mixing in enough history to create a sense of scale while allowing the camera to roam across forbidding landscapes, supported by Howard Shore’s superb score. As the forces of Sauron charge forward and the weapons of their foes swing up in a line it feels like we’re glimpsing something bigger.

This allows events and characters to be removed and condensed, trimming back details without diminishing the story. Periodically a new sight of breathtaking scale will flood the screen, building out the lore of Middle-earth in the way only film can. It happens when we see Rivendell for the first time, or the mines of Moria looming from the darkness. When the Hobbits stand on the ruins of Weathertop, the link to a once mighty past is woven in as we watch them cook and bicker. The same happens when they float past awesome stone statues. Shore’s score is always there to signpost the importance of these symbols.

Yet that is only half the tone set by Fellowship. What makes it so powerful is the way it marries scale with intimate character portrait. Jackson and co strike a complex emotional note, mixing fear and excitement with a growing sense of loss for a world none of the characters will ever be able to return to. If they fail in their mission Sauron wipes them from the map; if they succeed they’ll have changed too much to be able to slip back into past lives. Casting helps sustain this feeling. There’s not an actor out of place. Everyone forms up to create a formidable ensemble, no one stealing scenes (with the possible exception of Hugo Weaving who draws attention through his striking diction alone), and no one giving out slack. It’s impossible to imagine any other actor in the roles.

Fellowship sees the value of this broad collection of individuals. The title demands more than one focal point and the screenplay obliges. The film series might focus on Frodo and the ring but it doesn’t do so by robbing the likes of Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, Sam, Merry, Pippin, or anyone else of their importance. Having yet to plunge them into the increasingly breathless adventure picking up pace in The Two Towers and The Return of the King, Fellowship has the time and space to build up every participant. They all get to express opinions, voice concerns, and interact with each other. When everything does go south, we already care about them. This is a world-changing story happening to a collection of individuals we know and understand.

That’s the true magic of Fellowship. There will be better battles (try topping Helm’s Deep), tougher scrapes, and ever worsening peril. The rush of success and the bitter taste of estrangement felt by the main protagonists changed forever by their experiences are yet to come. None of it could have happened without The Fellowship of the Ring. 15 years later and it remains magnificent both in isolation and as the start of something very special indeed.


‘Harry Potter’ event draws more than 2,500 museum visitors

Displaying her scarlet and gold tie, Georgia Isherwood got ready to craft her own magic wand out of pipe cleaners and feathers Saturday.

The 27-year-old stay-at-home mom from Gainesville wore her Gryffindor uniform to attend a “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”-themed event at the Florida Museum of Natural History.Isherwood said she has been a “Harry Potter” fan for 19 years.

“Anytime anything ‘Harry Potter’ is going on, I always have to go to it,” Isherwood said. “This is what I like to do when I’m not with the kids.”


Isherwood was one of more than 2,500 people dressed as wizards, witches and muggles who attended the event. They participated in answering “Harry Potter” trivia, completing a scavenger hunt, crafting their own wands and tasting oddly flavored jelly beans, similar to the candy the movies’ characters eat.

“It was definitely one of the highest-attended events in the past few years,” said Eve Rowland, a museum volunteer program assistant and the event’s main organizer.

To tie the event into “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the recent sequel to the “Harry Potter” series, participants matched real-life animals with similar magical beasts.

Six Gainesville high-school students with the museum’s Youth Leadership Board helped come up with ideas for the event. Rowland, a 19-year-old UF zoology freshman, said she needed the assistance since she knew nothing about “Harry Potter.”

As visitors arrived, they were sorted into one of the four “Harry Potter” houses — Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin — scoring points for their houses with each activity. At the end, Gryffindor won.


Visitors bought specially designed snacks from the fantasy universe, including pretzels and walnuts shaped like cockroaches, or “cockroach clusters,” and non-alcoholic JellO shots representing “polyjuice potion.”

Ally Williams, a UF psychology and event management junior, said she loves “Harry Potter” because all types of people can relate to the story. The 20-year-old said it was the first time she attended a museum event.

“I like that there are a lot of people who seem excited, like-minded people,” she said.


Two of Rep. John Lewis’ books sell out on Amazon amid Trump feud

NEW YORK — Two of John Lewis’ books have sold out on Amazon after the Democratic congressman claimed the top spots on the retailer’s best-seller list.

Sales of the civil rights leader’s graphic novel “March” and his 2015 memoir “Walking With the Wind” skyrocketed following his feud with President-elect Donald Trump over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. After Lewis questioned the legitimacy of Mr. Trump’s victory, Mr. Trump tweeted that the 16-term Georgia representative “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district.”

Support for Lewis among Democrats sent sales of his most popular books soaring late Saturday and early Sunday. A collection of his “March” trilogy” ranked no. 1 on Amazon, and its individual volumes also charted high. “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement” ranked number two.

On Monday, Lewis spoke about the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., telling students at a scholarship breakfast event in Miami to “be brave” and “never, ever give up.”

“Maybe one of you will be a mayor, a city councilperson, a great teacher, a member of the House, a member of the Senate, governor of this state, maybe president of the United States of America,” he said. “Dream dreams and never, ever give up on your dreams.”

Lewis, who brought prepared remarks but said he was not going to use them, spoke for approximately 30 minutes about his experiences with King during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, saying King is responsible for the trajectory of his life.

“If it hadn’t been for Martin Luther King Jr. I don’t know where I’d be,” he said, adding he might be “still down in rural Alabama, preaching to chickens.”

What Lewis did not mention was his disagreement with Trump. In an NBC interview last week, Lewis said he did not view Mr. Trump as a “legitimate president,” given the Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. He also said he would not be attending Mr. Trump’s inauguration on Friday, the first time he’ll miss the ceremony in three decades.

Mr. Trump responded by lambasting Lewis on Twitter, calling him “all talk, talk talk – no action or results,” and saying Lewis’s Georgia district is “crime infested” and “falling apart.”

Lewis talked about walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama on what became known as Bloody Sunday, saying that day when he was being beaten, “I thought I saw death.”


Tintin takes on Russian bullies in new colour avatar

Tintin has discovered his inner Rambo and is ready to give Russian bully boys a taste of their own medicine in a book, which will go on sale in France on Wednesday.

But before Moscow condemns it as another piece of Western Russophobia, this has nothing to do with Vladimir Putin.

Tintin and the Soviets is finally being published in colour more than eight decades after the comic book first appeared, at a time when Europe was also fretting about a rising Russian menace.

Unlike the rest of his adventures, the book that launched the boy hero in 1930 only ever appeared in black and white.

But to cries of sacrilege from the purists and even its late creator’s secretary, Tintin’s publishers Casterman are issuing a colour version of the story in French where the young reporter gives a rogue’s gallery of Russian baddies what for.

For decades the viscerally anti-Communist story — which first appeared in the Belgian Catholic weekly Le Vingtieme Siecle (The 20th Century) — was not regarded as a full part of the Tintin canon.

It was only in 1999, 16 years after the death of Tintin’s creator Herge, that it was recognised as part of the official 24-story series.

A thuggish figure

Experts have long debated whether the rough and ready testosterone-fuelled character in the story was fully developed, and could be seen as Tintin proper.

“The character is not fully elaborated,” admitted Philippe Goddin, Herge’s biographer.

Tintin is far from the generous young man of later stories, he said, but instead a rather thuggish figure eager to “settle scores with people he doesn’t like.”

He spends most of the book getting into fights, various other scrapes or being chased. “When Herge began the story [he was only 21 at the time], he obviously could not imagine that the character he was creating would become so successful,” Mr. Goddin added.

Herge, whose real name was Georges Remi, always promised he would go back and redraw the story but he never got time to do so.

His personal secretary Alain Baran on Wednesday criticised the decision to colour in the pictures, saying “it should have been left in the state which he left it.”

The book’s rough edges, however, go beyond Tintin’s behaviour. While certain scenes in the 1942 adventure The Shooting Star were changed by Herge after the end of the war to alter the original stereotypically Jewish American villain Blumenstein, a rather grating scene that makes fun of a Jewish tailor has survived in Tintin and the Soviets.


‘Game of Thrones’ author finally addresses next book’s date

Getting George R.R. Martin to discuss his next book’s publication date is as tough as convincing Cersei Lannister to join the PTA. That’s why it was so surprising on Tuesday when the author actually answered a reader question about “Winds of Winter,” the scheduled sixth book in the “Song of Ice and Fire” saga that inspired HBO’s hit show “Game of Thrones.”

The fan certainly knew how to wheedle an answer out of the author, writing on Martin’s blog: “I respect you immensely and do not want you to rush or release anything until you are completely satisfied with it. That being said, it has been a whole year since we have received an update. You have placated our hunger with another superb sample and for that, we are grateful. But unless you want to be bombarded with (messages) like this, I would suggest another update.”

And Martin actually responded! Not exactly in the way fans might hope, but it was still a response!

“Not done yet, but I’ve made progress,” Martin wrote. “But not as much as I hoped a year ago, when I thought to be done by now. I think it will be out this year. (But hey, I thought the same thing last year).”

That might not be a lot in most fandoms, but since Martin’s fans are perennially stuck in a game of “Where in the World is the Next Chapter of Westeros?” even the inkling that the book might come out in 2017 was huge.


Readers have been waiting for “The Winds of Winter” since 2011. That was when “A Dance With Dragons,” book five in the saga came out, and some fans hoped Martin was on a five-year cycle.


But 2016 came and went with no new book. Back in September, an incorrect listing on Amazon France claimed “Winds” would be out in spring 2017, but that rumor was shot down like Tywin Lannister in his privy.

With two seasons left, the HBO show has already broken away from sticking to Martin’s written works, passing up the stories in the books. Two seasons of the show remain, with one likely to start mid-2017, whether or not “Winds of Winter” has blown onto bookstore shelves.


What 2017 holds for book lovers

Dan Brown is back. Tolkien is back. Tony Abbott is back. Harry Potter is back (well, recycled in four new editions). 

And 119 years after H G Wells, the Martians are back.

Next year is a big one for fiction debuts, including the story of Lizzie Borden the axe murderer – part of a trend towards using historical characters and retelling ancient myths.

Karl Ove Knausgaard has finished his My Struggle cycle of novels (one remains to be published in English), but he’s still writing about his life: Autumn (August) and Winter (November), two of four books named after the seasons, are out with Penguin Random House. 

The Mirror and the Light (Fourth Estate, August) is the final novel in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy.

Neil Gaiman tackles the Viking world in Norse Mythology (Bloomsbury, February); and in House of Names (Picador, March), Colm Toibin looks at the Atreus series of Greek stories from the female point of view.

Kamila Shamsie reworks the Antigone legend in a Muslim family in Home Fire (Bloomsbury, September). And Edward St Aubyn has a contemporary version of King Lear (PRH, October).

Paul Auster’s first novel in seven years is 4 3 2 1 (Faber & Faber, February).

Arundhati Roy’s first novel since she won the Booker Prize 20 years ago is The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (PRH, July). Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (Hachette, April) is described by Ann Patchett as part-Tarantino, part-Scheherezade. Haruki Murakami has a book of short stories, Men Without Women (PRH, May).

JRR Tolkien’s Beren and Luthien (HarperCollins, May) is the first published stand-alone version of his saga of a man and an elf.

F Scott Fitzgerald’s last collection of unpublished stories is titled I’d Die For You (Simon & Schuster, May).

And what’s a year without new J K Rowling releases? To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in June, Bloomsbury is publishing four “house editions” named after the Hogwarts school houses, with new fact files, character profiles and illustrations.

And Stephen Baxter has written an authorised sequel to HG Well’s The War of the Worlds, The Massacre of Mankind (Hachette, February).


Standouts for 2017 include Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done (Hachette, April) about the Lizzie Borden murder case, and Tracy Sorenson’s The Lucky Galah (Picador, September) described as “Madame Bovary with red dust and tropical cyclone Steve”.

Michael Fitzgerald’s The Pacific Room (Transit Lounge, July) is about Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa; Dennis Glover’s The Last Man in Europe (Black Inc., July) is about how Orwell came to write Nineteen Eighty-Four. Black Dog institute founder Gordon Parker has written a rollicking tale of mental illness, In Two Minds (Ventura, April). 


Candice Fox has two books on the way: Crimson Lake (PRH, February) and a second novel written with James Patterson, Last Chance (August). Award-winning Emma Viskic’s new novel is And Fire Came Down (Bonnier, September). Look out for new novels from Michael Robotham (Hachette, August) and The Dry author Jane Harper (Picador, later in the year).

Dan Brown has a new Robert Langdon novel, Origin (PRH, September). David Lagercrantz has written Millennium V, fifth in the series that began with Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Hachette, September). Jo Nesbo has a new Harry Hole novel, The Thirst (PRH, May). 


And the late Michael Crichton, creator of Jurassic Park, has a recently discovered novel about fossil hunting, Dragon Teeth (HarperCollins, June).


Look out for Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei’s book about himself and his father (PRH, September); Armistead Maupin’s autobiography (PRH, October); and Richard Ford’s memoir about his parents, Between Them (Bloomsbury, May).


The outstanding history title for 2017 could be The Vandemonian Wars by Nick Brodie (Hardie Grant, July) about the attempted genocide of the Indigenous people of Tasmania. Simon Schama’s latest is The Story of the Jews (PRH, December).


Is there any politician who hasn’t written a memoir yet? Tony Abbott is onto his second, Reflections (MUP, August), considering the case for conservatism.

Timely books include Please Explain: The Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Pauline Hanson by Anna Broinowski (PRH, June); David Marr’s Quarterly Essay on the Australian brand of the politics of resentment (Black Inc, March); and Rodney Syme’s Time to Die (MUP, February).

With The Case Against Fragrance (Text, February), Kate Grenville promises to make you smell the world differently.


Books for Kids: Celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday

This year, being Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, is bound to be one of celebrations, especially as July 1 approaches. Parents and teachers wishing to get children ready for the big day — and maybe refreshing their own knowledge of history — would be wise to pick up a copy of Canada Year By Year (Kids Can Press, 96 pages, $21.95).

Written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Sydney Smith (who received the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award for his art in Sidewalk Flowers), this book is aimed at ages eight to 12. It begins with a description of the birth of Canada at the stroke of midnight on July 1, 1887. In fewer than 100 pages, using a lively text that is easy to understand and deftly incorporates definitions of occasional words young readers might not have previously encountered, it provides an item of historic interest for each year of Canada’s existence and offers boxed profile pieces about noteworthy Canadians of the period.

The book delivers more than a few surprises — bits of trivia that are eye-opening and often memorable. I, for one, was surprised to learn the first aboriginal elected to Canada’s government was Angus McKay, a Métis, and this occurred in 1871, much earlier than I would have guessed. Some chapters later, I learned that in 1958, James Gladstone was the first Status Indian to be appointed to the Canadian Senate even though, as an aboriginal, “he did not have the right to vote in federal elections until 1960.” That was the year Parliament passed the Canadian Bill of Rights. Too late for Angus McKay, I suspect.

There are familiar names in this book and some not so familiar. Much of the material speaks to kids — Joseph Tyrrell discovers the skull of a dinosaur near Drumheller in 1884, for example; Anne of Green Gables finds a publisher in 1908; in 1984, Marc Garneau becomes the first Canadian to fly in space; in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau names him transport minister.

There are bits of humour: Joseph-Armand Bombardier, at 15, builds a primitive snowmobile with his brothers and 37 years later, in 1959, creates the Ski-Doo. He intends to name it Ski-Dog, “since it was meant to replace dogsleds,” but a print typo in publicity material results in the name Ski-Doo.

There is a fair bit of information about various wars, and the author is mindful of contemporary issues of inclusivity. Race issues are dealt with, as are gender issues. The author’s sensitivity is reflected in the artist’s cover illustration, which shows a line of male and female Canadians making their way through the years, the procession including aboriginals and Inuit, the occasional person of colour and, near the front, a woman wearing a hijab. Astronaut Chris Hadfield is at the head of the line, with Terry Fox close behind him.


Books for Kids: Celebrating Canada's 150th birthday

A New Digital Platform in India Wants to Provide Books to Every Child

In the Northern India state of Himachal Pradesh, about 45 miles from the Dalai Lama’s residence, lies a village called Suja, where Tibetan Children’s Villages is located. While the school’s library has enough books for teens in their native language, contemporary, entertaining material for younger readers is completely missing. “Books for primary grades have hardly been written in Tibetan,” says Tenzin Dhargyal, a senior English teacher at TCV School.

Six months ago, Dhargyal discovered StoryWeaver, a digital storehouse of multilingual books for kids where users can read, write, translate, modify, and even download books. He fell in love with it. “It has so many relatable stories for children,” he says. Dhargyal requested Tibetan script be added to the platform, and in no time he had translated the first story and was using it with his students.

Seeing his work, a few more Tibetan educators jumped onto the bandwagon. Today, StoryWeaver has 52 stories in Tibetan, of which Dhargyal will soon be printing three into books for his library. And this month, his secondary school students will be introduced to StoryWeaver so they can translate at least one book as part of their winter break homework.

Tibetan-language speakers are not the only ones benefiting from this first-of-its-kind open-source publishing platform.

Suchana, a community group that focuses on education and health, is translating stories on StoryWeaver in Santali and Kora, two tribal languages that lack written stories.

India has more than 800 spoken languages and dialects, many of which don’t have their own script. Typically, most children’s content is produced either in Hindi or English. Very few publishers cater to other languages, so access to stories in a child’s native tongue is limited, causing a decrease in learning opportunities.

StoryWeaver has 2,500 books in 53 languages on its platform. “The ease of our embedded story creator and translator tool is something our users love,” says Singh.

Reaching kids in cities has been easy, thanks to internet accessibility. “But it’s important that all children have equitable access to joyful reading material in their own languages to build a reading habit,” Singh says.

With its outreach partners, StoryWeaver has been able to influence children in underserved rural communities, where the digital infrastructure and connectivity can create a roadblock for reading and learning. Educators and storytellers are downloading stories and using them as wall projections, flash cards, reading comprehension modules, and activity books, as well as in local language apps and in Braille books.


Publishers from across South Asia participate in World Book Fair in India

The World Book Fair 2017 attracted greater a footfall this year as people from all walks of life attended it in New Delhi, India.  Writers and publishers from around the world are participating in the event. The fair has also witnessed new and emerging publishers and writers from South Asian countries. Nepal is a land of vibrant culture. The literary scene in the country is highly celebrated as Nepalese literature has flourished, soaking in all the diversity and vibrancy of the nation.

Yuyutsu Sharma writer and publisher from Nepal said “I am representing Nepal and we have brought over 100 books here. Various genres in culture, art, history and ethnography can be found in our collection. Nepal is a very vibrant place and there are over 80 book stores in Kathmandu itself. Book culture is huge in Nepal, so probably that’s why e-books and the internet are not affecting this culture as much as it has in the Western world”

 Due to the advent of new media technologies, the habit of book reading has declined over years. Youngsters prefer to read from Kindle devices, tablets and consume online content in comparison to book reading. But in some south Asian countries like Nepal, books are equivalent with traditional values as people read them to each other and so their value is never going to fade.

“I don’t think that book culture is going to fade because in Nepal we have a big oral tradition in which people recite poetry or read books to others and it’s a century-old practice. And because of all these social networking sites and internet services like Amazon etc., we can spread the word about our books, events etc. so I think it is actually complementing it in a way” Sharma described.  South Asia is known for its varied ethnicity, history, indigenous democracy and culture. In few places like Bangladesh, however, freedom of writers is restricted.

 Sri Lanka is known as the land of multiple languages, castes, ethnicities and culture has emerged as one of the countries where writers and publishers are very independent in terms of expressing their views.  A renowned writer and publisher from Sri Lanka, Vijitha Yapa, expressed his opinion regarding the freedom of writers in South Asia.  Vijitha Yapa the former president, Sri Lanka book publishers association said “I think everybody should have the freedom to write. I myself am the founder editor of three national newspapers in the country so I also feel that freedom of expression is a very important thing.

I think some countries where there are problems and especially when it comes to political problems, because politicians are a very sensitive crowd, they don’t like criticism and want everybody to show how great they are. So, if something is written about them which they don’t like, then problems arise. Other than that, I think that freedom of expression is advancing in south Asia”.  Along with the courtiers of Nepal and Sri Lanka, Pakistan too participated in the World Book Fair under the publishing banner of Manshurat, which operates from Lahore and have branches in India and other Asian countries. Books in English and Urdu languages were available in the stall in a wide variety of genres.


Jacob Polley

Jacob Polley (born 1975) is an English poet from Carlisle, Cumbria, United Kingdom.

His first four books of poems, all published by Picador, are The Brink (2003), Little Gods (2006), The Havocs (2012), and Jackself (2016). Jackself won the 2016 T. S. Eliot Prize.

He graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in 1997.

Polley won an Eric Gregory Award, and the BBC Radio 4/Arts Council ‘First Verse’ Award, in 2002. His first book, The Brink(Picador 2003), was a Poetry Book Society Choice, and went on to be shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Forward Prizeand the John Llewellyn Rhys prize.

Polley was selected as one of the Next Generation Poets in 2004.

His second book, Little Gods (Picador 2006), was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

Jacob Polley’s first novel, Talk of the Town, was published in June 2009 by Picador. The book went on to win the 2010 Somerset Maugham Award and was also shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.

The Havocs (2012), his third book of poetry, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and won the 2012 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection and for the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2012.

Jacob was the 2011 Arts Queensland Poet-in-Residence and is now a lecturer in Creative Writing at St. Andrews University.


  • Salvage (Northern Lights, 2000)
  • The Brink (London: Picador, 2003)
  • In the Return (Darlington Borough Council, 2005)
  • Little Gods (London: Picador, 2006)
  • Talk of the Town (London: Picador, 2009)
  • The Havocs (London: Picador, 2012)
  • Jackself (London: Picador, 2016)

Chinese Publishers Turn to TV as Book Profits Spiral

There isn’t a case that the genius mind of heartthrob forensic expert Qin Ming cannot crack. The character has won his web series — “Medical Examiner Dr. Qin” — 1.5 billion views since its premiere in October 2016, making it one of the highest-performing dramas on Netflix-like platform Sohu TV, its exclusive broadcaster.

More striking than Qin’s Holmesian knack for solving cases is that, unlike most of its competition, “Dr. Qin” is not the work of a seasoned web TV production company. Instead, it is the fruit of a new generation of TV producers in China: book publishers. The show, which just completed its opening season, is the first venture by Beijing Bojitianjuan Film and TV Co. Ltd., a production company set up by CS-Booky, one of the country’s largest literary publishers. 

This trend comes at a time when, according to a report by entertainment industry monitor Entertainment Capital, the cost of producing books in China — from the price of materials to editor salaries — is rising. Yet profits continue to narrow, as furious competition among online vendors drives down book prices. “There is a limit to the growth of book sales,” Bojitianjuan’s vice president, Guo Linyuan, told Sixth Tone. “Developing film and television has given us a new means of making a profit.” 

Of course, collaboration between the worlds of the page and the screen is nothing new to China. A number of the country’s most popular TV series are based on novels, an adaptation phenomenon that has gained particular traction in the genre of online literature.

In most cases, those who bear the rights to a literary work — be it the publishing house or the individual author — will sell off those rights to a production company. In developing its own production team, CS-Booky has eliminated the middleman, giving it more autonomy over the screen-adaptation process. 

Filling a gap in the market — those with a thirst for forensic drama could previously only choose among foreign imports like “CSI” and “Criminal Minds” — the success of “Dr. Qin” suggests that CS-Booky was right to choose it as the first adaptation of its new drama production venture. Its performance has already surpassed the Bojitianjuan team’s expectations, said Guo, laying the foundation for a second season set to begin filming in April. The production company also has two feature films — a romance and a travel memoir — scheduled to enter production this year. Guo said that the success of “Dr. Qin” has also piqued the interest of new investors, though she could not specify figures or companies, as negotiations are ongoing.

CS-Booky is not alone in making the jump from page to screen. Fellow private publishing goliath Beijing Motie Book Co. Ltd. set up a film and TV production company in 2013 and released its first film in 2016. Motie’s prospects for business success received a significant boost when, in early 2016, the Heyi Group — owner of two of China’s leading video-streaming sites, Youku and Tudou — became its second-largest shareholder. Among state-owned publishing houses, Yilin Press joined hands with best-selling novelist Rao Xueman in 2013 to establish its very own film and TV production company.


How the Book Publishing Industry Is Trolling Itself

Last week, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Threshold Editions, the conservative imprint of publishing giant Simon & Schuster, advanced Milo Yiannopoulos $250,000 for his forthcoming book, Dangerous, which will focus, broadly, on the topic of “free speech.” The news was met with sharp rebuke on social media, while headlines and articles alternatively described the Breitbart editor as a “right-wing” troll, a leader of the “racist, misogynist…alt-right,” an “anti-immigration, anti-Muslim” writer, and, most consistently, a “provocateur.”


All of these descriptions are true: Yiannopoulos has built his career off of harassment, most recently taking as his targets Adelaide Kramer, a trans student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and comedian Leslie Jones. His brand of brash bigotry has made him a darling of alt-right circles who eagerly take up his bidding, sending hateful, racially-charged messages to actresses like Jones and, of course, hacking her website. And yet, Yiannopoulos is consistently referred to as a provocateur, as though his commitment to harassment is simply impishly enjoyable performance. But as Laurie Penny argued in her thoughtful essay, “I’m With the Banned,” Yiannopoulos is hardly a provocateur but rather something less refined, a word perhaps that we haven’t yet coined that more accurately describes the “various sub-species of troll in this well-catered goblin market.”

Though Yiannopoulos’s hateful antics got him kicked off Twitter, the book publishing industry seems to view his polemical routine as a good bet. Or, at least a good enough bet: Threshold advanced him $250,000 on the book, a sum higher than the average advanced to a first time nonfiction writer, but lower than most of his counterparts. Former Minnesota Governor and failed presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, for example, received a $340,000 advance for his 2010 dud Courage to Stand.


“That he would parlay his notoriety into some sort of book deal is an unsavory, if inevitable, prospect,” Alexandra Schwartz wrote at the New Yorker. Some were surprised that Simon & Schuster, an ostensibly respectable publisher, would stoop low enough to offer Yiannopoulos, with his history of harassment, a platform to explore ideas now unwelcome on platforms like Twitter. But given the history of the conservative book publishing industry, it’s hardly surprising that they would welcome Yiannopoulos into the fold. Yiannopoulos is both the offspring and natural heir of the conservative publishing industry, a market that’s always valued angry bombast over substance.

Upset with Threshold’s decision, many called for a boycott of Simon & Schuster. Others disagreed with a boycott, arguing that it would only be punishing writers who had nothing to do with Threshold’s decision. And that’s true. As Constance Grady pointed out in Vox, imprints like Threshold act like “fiefdoms” within the Big Five publishing houses. As such, Threshold is editorially independent from Simon & Schuster. To be clear, despite what Yiannopolous intimated, Grady notes:

[…] He doesn’t have a book deal with Simon & Schuster, the prestigious imprint that publishes people like Bret Easton Ellis, Dave Eggers, and Hillary Clinton. He has a book deal with Simon & Schuster, the publishing house that includes such imprints as Enliven (New Age books) and Jeter Publishing, the official publishing imprint of New York Yankee Derek Jeter.

Specifically, Yiannopoulos has a book deal with Threshold Editions, the designated right-wing imprint for Simon & Schuster.

Simon & Schuster (the publishing house) reaffirmed its commitment to publishing Dangerous in a December 30 statement: “We have always published books by a wide range of authors with greatly varying, and frequently controversial opinions.” The publisher then asked readers to “withhold judgment until they have had a chance to read the actual contents of the book.”


Simon & Schuster’s statement was mired in a particular kind of unabashed irony: have an open mind and buy the book, the publisher encouraged, as though taking a page from Yiannopoulus’s own absurdly wrong interpretation of liberal tolerance (a favorite phrase of Yiannopoulus and his ilk who use the phrase as a bludgeon with little concern over its purpose or empathetic values). The almost ridiculous suggestion that readers “withhold judgment” on a book penned by someone with Yiannopolous’s reputation aside, “buy the book” is the most important takeaway. A controversial book is, after all, good for business. After the announcement, Yiannopolous’s book shot up to the top place on Amazon’s best-seller list. Even a week later, the rough life cycle of a social media controversy, his book sits at number 29, wedged between the Dalai Lama and Paul Kalanithi’s universally praised memoir, When Breathe Becomes Air. 


Author Amanda Hocking signs seven-figure book deal

In January she had sold more than 450,000 copies of nine self-published titles, tales of trolls, vampires and zombies. More than 99% were e-books.

“I can’t really say that I would have been more successful if I’d gone with a traditional publisher,” Hocking, who lives in Austin, Minn., told USA TODAY’s Carol Memmott. “But I know this is working really well for me.”

Today, St. Martin’s Press announced that it secured print and e-book rights to a new young adult paranormal series by Hocking in a major auction. The New York Times says bidding “rose beyond $2 million” for the four-book deal for Hocking’s new Watersong series. St. Martin’s would not discuss the money.

Said Hocking on her blog earlier this week: “I’m a writer. I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full time corporation.”

The first book will be published in fall 2012.


Reading La Borinquena #1 As Shazam With Puerto Rican Mythology

This is probably the first review I’ve done. Well, I technically did a very small review for another La Borinquena story when I interviewed Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez the writer/creator of the superhero comic book. It’s typically not something I like to do but I thought I would give it another shot and check out issue one of La Borinquena which drops December 22nd.

Now this issue of La Borinquena is almost a triple-sized issue. Most comics are about 20-22 pages each (of actual story) and this one comes in at a whopping 61 pages (based on the PDF page count) but minus the covers, some pinups, and an ad or two and the story you get is a bit over a double sized issue or in this case what amounts to a prestige format graphic novel. Which is not bad when you consider that you’re getting two stories.

So, let me first start off by saying I like the comic. Now it’s not perfect but I think the team Edgardo has put together here have done a great job and they’re all Puerto Rican. Heck, even the print shop used is Puerto Rican. Which to me is fascinating in and of itself. I’ve only ever read one other comic book with an all Puerto Rican team and that was Dave Alvarez’s comic Changuy. Overall, none of this will probably matter to those reading this review but for me, it filled me with a sense of pride (as cheesy as that sounds) and it made me feel happy to see my people come together to add to the long-running history of superhero comic books.


Now for those wondering what this book is about. Here is some info on the comic and the people behind it straight from the website.

La Borinqueña is an original character and patriotic symbol presented in a classic superhero story created and written by graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez. Her powers are drawn from history and mysticism found on the island of Puerto Rico. The fictional character, Marisol Rios De La Luz, is a Columbia University Earth and Environmental Sciences Undergraduate student living with her parents in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She takes a semester of study abroad in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico. There she explores the caves of Puerto Rico and finds five similar sized crystals. Atabex, the Taino mother goddess, appears before Marisol once the crystals are united and summons her sons Yúcahu, the spirit of the seas and mountains and Juracan, the spirit of the hurricanes. They give Marisol superhuman strength, the power of flight, and control of the storms.

Written, lettered and art directed by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, edited by Matthew Barbot, illustrated by Emilio Lopez, Will Rosado, Eric Jimenez and introducing Sabrina Cintron with digitally coloring by Juan Fernandez. Cover artwork by Ralph Anthony “Rags” Morales and Emilio Lopez and a variant cover art directed by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez featuring art by a who’s who of Puerto Rican comic book professionals featuring the talents of Chris Batista, Chris Sotomayor, Emilio Lopez, Eric Jimenez, Felix Serrano, Gustavo Vazquez, Juan Fernandez, Ralph Anthony ‘Rags’ Morales, and Will Rosado.


India: For the love of second-hand books

Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India – The complete 32-volume set of Encyclopedia Britannica lay strewn over the book counter at Dhananjay Pandey’s stall at the Vijayawada Book Festival. Pandey, owner of the Pratik Book Centre in Mumbai, notes that the printing of this enormous collection was suspended in 2010. One can get a digital version these days.

As customers browse through his collection, he proudly shows off a set of The Book of Knowledge: Children’s Encyclopedia, printed 100 years ago – the cover discoloured with age, but its pages in good state; a set of huge, hardbound foreign hobby books for children’s items to be made by classy moms – also a few decades old and not available any more; huge atlases, books on history, numerous yellow-paged worm-infected classics and novels.

Most are price-tagged at 50 percent below their retail value, and the aged novels are available for 100 rupees, or less than $2 each. 

In the absence of a decent library in the city, book lovers in Vijayawada, the present capital of the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, look forward to their favourite annual fixture: the Vijayawada Book Festival which begins on January 1 every year. The festival runs for 11 days and is dotted with discussions, seminars, book releases, cultural programmes, competitions for children, walks-for-books and more.

This year, there are 328 stalls and most of the big players in the south Indian publishing scene are participating in the event.

“I started selling second-hand books some 17 years back, and I have been coming to this festival for the last seven years. Every year I see good business. Enticed by my rare collections, many book lovers here have come to know me, and they seek me out and visit my stall during this festival,” says Pandey, who has travelled to the fair from Mumbai.

However, publishers and stall owners say that this year the stalls are much smaller, offering less variety – due to the effect of the recent demonetisation policy which has resulted in financial hardships for many in India, as well as the unavailability of skilled salespersons to cater to book lovers.


Netflix’s ‘Unfortunate Events’ Fixes the Books’ Plotholes

Adaptation in narrative art is a funny process. Sometimes an “adaptation” ends up meaning “forced change,” like the infamous studio-mandated voice-over in Blade Runner. Other times, an adaptation is natural compromise between text source material and filmed media, like the rational inclusion of more women in the Lord of the Rings movies. But the adaptation of the Lemony Snicket books, A Series of Unfortunate Events, into a Netflix series feels more like a flightless animal spontaneously getting wings: an unexpectedly weird and wild event which adds various elements to the books that are both delightful to look at and functional for storytelling mechanics.

While the the books are wonderful pieces of work — and it could sound blasphemous to say this — there are some notable improvements from a plot perspective which the Netflix show has implemented in adapting these books. And because Daniel Hander (Lemony Snicket IRL) wrote most of these teleplays, none of theses improvements feel intrusive or pandering one bit. Here are eight ways the Snicket story of the Baudelaires zips along better in the new show.


Trolls becoming the new vampires as Amanda Hocking’s Trylle books head to big screen?

Over the past few years we’ve been deluged with a never-ending supply of vampire movies and television shows. And whilst the Twilight saga and Buffy the Vampire Slayer may have been momentarily entertaining, they’re nothing compared to the ghoulish delights that could await if the emergent troll phenomenon really takes off.


Already there’s been an impressive range of fiction, movies and even casino games that suggests that the Nordic monsters may be finally about to kick Dracula off his mantle of being the most prolific horror of the 21st century!

Movies about trolls have been in existence for quite a while with 1986’s Troll being one of the most unintentionally amusing thanks to a fairly daft plot and some comically low-budget special effects. But one of the most widely-celebrated instances of troll-mania occurred recently when the Norwegian cult movie Troll Hunter came to Netflix in the UK and recruited a legion of fans who saw the monstrous potential of these mythical beings.

A big part of the success of the movie was the way that it used the concept of ‘found-footage’ to maintain the mystery surrounding the towering trolls, and with an American version of Troll Hunter already in the pipeline and an upcoming Dreamworks Trolls kids film, it looks like the excitement surrounding trolls will continue to grow.

Although the massive lumbering trolls might not be quite as physically attractive as many of pop culture’s vampiric offerings, there’s hope for troll culture yet thanks to Amanda Hocking’s Trylle series of books. These offer a suitably teenage take on the troll concept by locating a tribe of the monsters somewhere in remote Minnesota and placing a young girl in their midst with all manner of spooky and romantic escapades that follow.

Whilst it may be some time before this project reaches the dizzying heights of the Twilight franchise, it’s worth mentioning that the Trylle series was snapped up by District 9 screenwriter Terri Tatchell and there are plans afoot to make this piece of cult fiction into a major Hollywood blockbuster.

So with all manner of troll-based casino games, teen fiction and cult movie releases, it’s time for the vampires to make way for the rise of the troll!


2016 TS Eliot prize won by Jacob Polley’s ‘firecracker of a book’

Jacob Polley has won the 2016 TS Eliot prize with Jackself, a collection described by the judges as “a firework of a book”.

The loosely autobiographical poems use the “Jack” of nursery rhyme and local legend to tell the story of a childhood in rural Cumbria, from the “cartilage stew and spreadable carrots” of school dinners to the limpets the title character “rives from a crevice” on the rocky shore at low tide, “where the pools gaze / with new lenses at their grotto walls / flinching with jellies”.

Polley emerged as winner of the UK’s richest poetry prize at a ceremony on Monday evening at the Wallace Collection gallery in London. The book was chosen from a 10-strong shortlist including the winner of the 2015 Forward prize, Vahni Capildeo, and previous TS Eliot prizewinner Alice Oswald.

It is third time lucky for the Carlisle born-poet, who was first shortlisted for his debut collection The Brink in 2003, and then again with The Havocs in 2012.

Polley, who was born in 1975, was among 20 to be named the Next Generation of best British poets by the Poetry Book Society in 2004 on the strength of his first collection. He has also written a novel, Talk of the Town, which won the 2010 Somerset Maugham award, and collaborated with director Ian Fenton on a short film, Keeping House, about the history of a recently closed cockle-selling shop in Berwick-upon-Tweed. He teaches at Newcastle University.


Chair of judges, Ruth Padel, who was joined on the panel by fellow poets Julia Copus and Alan Gillis, said Jackself was “a firework of a book; inventive, exciting and outstanding in its imaginative range and depth of feeling”.

She added: “Rather like Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns, he is looking at a childhood though a very English mythology. He has taken a word out of Gerard Manley Hopkins – ‘Jackself’ – as the starting point for a collection that is incredibly inventive and very moving.

“It’s a sort of autobiography, set in a place called Lamanby, but it’s really like Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, where everything is strange. His mastery of phrase and rhythm and the control of line, combined with the hurts of childhood and his glee in inventive language, have taken his writing to a new level.”

Polley is the 23rd winner of the prize, which carries a purse of £20,000. It was founded by TS Eliot’s widow Valerie in 1993 and is now run by the TS Eliot Foundation.


Marlon James reveals first details of African fantasy trilogy

Marlon James has revealed the first details of his forthcoming fantasy trilogy, expected to begin appearing next year. Inspired by a row over The Hobbit and the desire to “geek the hell out of something”, the Man Booker prize winner is steeping himself in ancient African mythology with a view to creating a detailed, Tolkienesque fictional world.

James said the first of the three novels in the Dark Star sequence – titled Black Leopard, Red Wolf – should appear in autumn 2018. The following novels will be called Moon Witch, Night Devil and The Boy and the Dark Star.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the A Brief History of Seven Killings author said the books will draw on the rich heritage of African legend and language in the same way JRR Tolkien drew on Celtic and Norse mythology to create The Lord of the Rings.


“The very, very basic plot is [that] this slave trader hires a bunch of mercenaries to track down a kid who may have been kidnapped,” he told the US magazine in an interview. “But finding him takes nine years, and at the end of it, the kid is dead. And the whole novel is trying to figure out: ‘How did this happen?’”

Each book will take the form of an eyewitness testimony that counters the previous book until the truth is revealed in the final installment, he added.

The row over The Hobbit concerned the lack of diversity in the cast of the film adaptation. “It made me realize that there was this huge universe of African history and mythology and crazy stories, these fantastic beasts and so on, that was just waiting there,” he said.

A self-confessed “sci-fi geek”, the trilogy is a departure from the Jamaican-born writer’s three previous books, historical novels that deal with the colonial legacy. His last novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, which scooped the 2015 Man Booker prize, follows the attempt to assassinate singer Bob Marley in 1976 and its aftermath, through the crack wars of New York in the 1980s and back to Jamaica in the 1990s.

“I just became really fascinated with real, old, epic storytelling,” he said of the decision to move genres. “There are African epics that we still talk about – some of which are as old as Beowulf. Others, like The Epic of Son-Jara and The Epic of Askia Muhammad, I’ve been researching for years. When I started to really dig in to it, the book almost started writing itself.”

James said he had wanted to write a historical novel. “I wanted to go back to being a fantasy geek. I don’t know who I told this, but I said, ‘I just want to geek the hell out of something’.”

The books are set in a fantasy world in an indeterminate period after the fall of the Roman empire, and will be set in ancient African kingdoms including Kush and Songhai.

James admitted he is enjoying creating a comprehensively imagined world. Though the 46-year old had “not yet” followed Tolkien’s lead by inventing a language, he was studying African languages with a view to doing so.


Fighting cybercrime using IoT and AI-based automation

Last November, detectives investigating a murder case in Bentonville, Arkansas, accessed utility data from a smart meter to determine that 140 gallons of water had been used at the victim’s home between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. It was more water than had been used at the home before, and it was used at a suspicious time—evidence that the patio area had been sprayed down to conceal the murder scene.

As technology advances, we have more detailed data and analytics at our fingertips than ever before. It can potentially offer new insights for crime investigators.

One area crying out for more insight is cybersecurity.

By 2020, 60 percent of digital businesses will suffer a major service failure due to the inability of IT security teams to manage digital risk, according to Gartner. If we pair all this new Internet of Things (IoT) data with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, there’s scope to turn the tide in the fight against cybercriminals.

We’re not just talking about identifying vulnerabilities, risks and cybercrimes, but also automatically combatting them.

Automated threat detection and mitigation

Security professionals face a difficult task in keeping enterprise networks safe. They must uncover vulnerabilities in a continuously growing and increasingly complex landscape of devices and software. When data breaches do occur, they must identify them, limit the damage and track those responsible. Investigations take time, and false positives are all too common.

What if AI platforms or cognitive security solutions could be employed to cut through the noise? Researchers from MIT were able to create a virtual AI analyst that successfully predicted 85 percent of cyber attacks by incorporating input from human experts. Not only is that three times better than most current, rules-based systems, but it also reduced the number of false positives by a factor of five.

The secret sauce here is that the system is constantly learning. Every time a human analyst identifies a false positive or a genuine threat, the system adjusts to accommodate that feedback and creates new models to detect threats. The more feedback it gets, the more accurate it becomes. Not only does this improve threat detection, but it also frees up human analysts to investigate the complex cases that really require their attention. If they’re not bogged down in false positives, it’s possible to make better use of their expertise.

Optimism about the potential of AI and machine learning

With nearly 60 percent of security professionals in agreement that cognitive security solutions can significantly hamper cybercriminals, according to IBM research, there’s reason to be optimistic. Among the top benefits cited by 700 security professionals surveyed were improved intelligence (40 percent), speed (37 percent) and accuracy (36 percent).

Several Fortune 500 companies are enrolled in IBM’s Watson for Cyber Securitybeta program. It can help organizations identify suspicious behaviour, weed out false-positive anomalies and tackle the genuine threats. Many other major companies, from Google to Cisco, are working on analytical AI that might also offer cybersecurity insights.

As these systems evolve, they might go from highlighting threats to autonomously mitigating them by changing policies, automating updates and even rewriting software to close loopholes.

Race against cybercriminals

Vulnerabilities, exploits, malware and data breaches are all inevitable to some extent. The sheer rapidity of IoT adoption is creating enormous risk. In many ways, we are engaged in a race to find threats and mitigate them before the cybercriminals can take advantage. Security coverage is always balanced with convenience and usability, so if we can’t create an impregnable system, it’s vital that we detect and respond to threats as fast as possible.

Consider that 60 percent of enterprise information security budgets will be allocated for rapid detection and response approaches by 2020, up from just 30 percent in 2016, according to Gartner.


The 48 Laws of Power

The 48 Laws of Power (1998) is the first book by American author Robert Greene. The book is a bestseller, selling over 1.2 million copies in the United States,  and is popular with prison inmates and celebrities.

Greene initially formulated some of the ideas in The 48 Laws of Power while working as a writer in Hollywood and concluding that today’s power elite shared similar traits with powerful figures throughout history. In 1995, Greene worked as a writer at Fabrica, an art and media school, and met a book packager named Joost Elffers. Greene pitched a book about power to Elffers and six months later, Elffers requested that Greene write a treatment.

Although Greene was unhappy in his current job, he was comfortable and saw the time needed to write a proper book proposal as too risky.  However, at the time Greene was rereading his favorite biography about Julius Caesar and took inspiration from Caesar’s decision to cross the Rubicon River and fight Pompey, thus inciting the Great Roman Civil War.  Greene wrote the treatment, which later became The 48 Laws of Power.  He would note this as the turning point of his life.

The 48 Laws of Power has sold over 1.2 million copies in the United States and has been translated into 24 languages. Fast Company called the book a “mega cult classic,” and The Los Angeles Times noted that The 48 Laws of Power turned Greene into a “cult hero with the hip-hop set, Hollywood elite and prison inmates alike.”  The book has been mentioned in various lights in publications like CNN, Forbes, The Los Angeles Times, Entrepreneur magazine, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, USA Today, The Guardian, Business Insider, Fast Company, ESPN, and Men’s Health. 

The 48 Laws of Power has been reported to be much requested in American prison libraries,  and is studied as a first year text in two US colleges.  Former drug dealer Curtis Jackson (now better known as rapper 50 Cent) stated that he related to the book “immediately,” and approached Greene with the prospect of a potential collaboration, which would later become The 50th Law, another New York Times bestseller. Busta Rhymes used The 48 Laws of Power to deal with problematic movie producers.  DJ Premier has a tattoo inspired from Law #5, “Reputation is the cornerstone of power”, on his arm  and DJ Calvin Harris has an “Enter with boldness” arm tattoo based on Law #28.  The 48 Laws of Power has also been mentioned in songs by UGK, Jay Z, Kanye West, and Drake. Dov Charney, founder and former CEO of American Apparel, frequently quoted the laws during board meetings, has given friends and employees copies of the book, and appointed Greene to the board of American Apparel.  Former Cuban President Fidel Castro is also claimed by the book’s author to have read the book.


  1. Greene, Robert (2000). The 48 Laws of Power. New York, NY. p. 452. ISBN 0140280197.
  2. “Business Bestsellers”. New York Times. November 8, 1998.
  3.  Green, Hardy. “Best Selling List”. BusinessWeek.

Think and Grow Rich

Think and Grow Rich was written in 1937 by Napoleon Hill, promoted as a personal development and self-improvement book. Hill writes that he was inspired by a suggestion from business magnate and (later) philanthropist Andrew  Carnegie. While the book’s title and much of the text concerns increased income, the author insists that the philosophy taught in the book can help people succeed in any line of work, to do and be anything they can imagine.

The book was first published during the Great  Depression. At the time of Hill’s death in 1970, Think and Grow Rich had sold more than 20 million copies, and by 2015 over 100 million copies had been sold worldwide.  It remains the biggest seller of Napoleon Hill’s books. BusinessWeek magazine’s Best-Seller List ranked it the sixth best-selling paperback business book 70 years after it was published.  Think and Grow Rich is listed in John C. Maxwell’s A Lifetime “Must Read” Books List.

The text of Think and Grow Rich is based on Hill’s earlier work The Law of Success, said to be the result of more than twenty years of study of many individuals who had amassed personal fortunes.

Hill studied their habits and evolved 16 “laws” to be applied to achieve success. Think and Grow Rich condenses them, providing the reader with 13 principles in the form of a “Philosophy of Achievement”. Mark Hansen has said time has shown that two of the laws/principles are most important: 1) The MasterMind principle/process and 2) “Know very clearly where you want to go.”

The book asserts that desire, faith and persistence can propel one to great heights if one can suppress negative thoughts and focus on long-term goals.

The 13 “steps” listed in the book are: 1. Desire 2. Faith 3. Autosuggestion 4. Specialized Knowledge 5. Imagination 6. Organized Planning 7. Decision 8. Persistence 9. Power of the Master Mind 10. The Mystery of Sex Transmutation 11. The Subconscious Mind 12. The Brain 13. The Sixth Sense

There are several courses created from the Think and Grow Rich content and principles.

Earl Nightingale co-created with Napoleon Hill a 30-minute audio summary of the book titled “Think and Grow Rich: Instant Motivator”.

Think and Grow Rich was revised in 1960, and published by Crest Book, Fawcett Publications. The revised edition had a testimonial from W. Clement Stone on the inside front cover page: “More men and women have been motivated to achieve success because of reading Think and Grow Rich than by any other book written by a living author.”  In 1987, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton hosted a TV infomercial that sold the 1960 version with an audio cassette version of the book (the audio cassettes contained an introduction and conclusion by Tarkenton and supplemental study guides). In the introduction, Tarkenton stated that he believed Think and Grow Rich to be “the greatest most honored formula for success that has ever been developed.”


  • Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude, by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone. ISBN 1-4165-4159-4
  • Earl Nightingale Reads Think and Grow Rich [The essence of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich], by Earl Nightingale. ISBN 1-4558-1011-8

The Top Ten Best Books of all Time

The best books of all time have been highly rated by critics and readers. They have managed to display dynamics and events in society in exemplary ways. The books reveal the truth and describe scenes and chapters that readers can relate to. They can also be described as timeless as they accurately portray the society and project into the future. They include:

Hamlet by William Shakespeare- Best Books

Hamlet by William Shakespeare is believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601 (Shakespeare et. al., 1948). Set in Denmark, the play recounts how Hamlet, Prince of Denmark sets out to get revenge on Claudius, his uncle. Claudius took the throne by murdering the King, who is Prince Hamlet’s father. He then married Prince Hamlet’s mother, Queen Getrude. The story is filled with Prince Hamlet’s mission for revenge while the criminal King reigns secure (Feud 1900, 264-66).The play explore themes of revenge, moral corruption, treachery and incest. It outlines the course of real and feigned lunacy. The book has appeared in accredited lists of the best books of all times including Harvard’s Book Store and Bravo Magazine, amongst other famous lists.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- Best Books

Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby is an intricate tale of America following World War I. As such, it is among the twentieth-century’s great literature classics. The novel is one of the author’s highest achievements, and it chronicles the Jazz Age. The story features Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy Buchanan, who the story describes as very beautiful, and their extravagant merry-makings on Long Island. The story is set when the world was recovering from the effects of the war and the American society was regaining its economic stability and enjoying prosperity. The New York Times marked this Jazz age ‘as an era where Gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession.’

Anna Karenina by Graf Leo Tolstoy- Best Books

Anna Karenina is the story of a doomed love affair. The rebellious and luxurious Anna refuses to bear the brunt of a loveless passionless marriage by having an affair with officer Count Vronsky, (Mandelker, 1993). The novel; an outcome of the author’s shocking and robust style of writing, is set in the nineteenth century Russia and its chronicles its seven major characters in the dynamics of rural and urban life as well as dissimilarities on love and family happiness. Due to difficulties in publishing the novel at the time, the book was published in sections from 1873 to 1877 in the The Russian Messenger periodical (

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez- Best Books

Gabriel García Márquez is a Colombian born screen writer, novelist and short-story writer and an outstanding author of the 20th Century with the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature awarded in 1972. One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of his best rated Novels of all times written in 1967. It is a story of the Buendía, a multi-generational family, whose headman José Arcadio Buendía discovers the town of Macondo, which means Cavanillesia platanifolia, the native name given to a tree found in the symbolic area of Colombia. The story revolves around the life of this family in their newly discovered town (Márquez & Newman 2001).

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien- Best Books

The book portrays the enormous metaphorical, as well as literal loads, that American soldiers struggled with during the 23rd Infantry division. The “things” represented physical and emotional loads of grief, fear, guilt, longing and love. Tim O’ Brien, the narrator and protagonist of the novel reflects how soldiers deal with guilt and confusion of the inhumanity they witness at war. The Things They Carried was initially published by Houghton Mifflin in 1990 and is a distortion of fact and fiction with a collection of stories of soldiers involved in the Vietnam War. The book covers a landmark in American history by giving a glimpse of the situation as well as America’s involvement in the war at that time.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy- Best Books

This is a story written from the perception of five Russian aristocratic families. It chronicles the unfolding of events that lead to the Napoleonic invasion of Russia as well as the effect of his era the Tsarist society( Tolstoy & Tolstoi, 2015). War and Peace was published in 1869 and presents one of Leo Tolstoy’s most accredited literary work of all times according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The book has also been listed in over 32 famous books lists as the best book of all times’ and was rated 2nd on The Novel 100: A Ranking of the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust- Best Books

In Search of Lost Time was first published in French as À la recherche du temps perdu from 1913 to 1927. It narrates the story of the author’s life as he searches for the truth. In Search of Lost Time is an outstanding French novel of the 20th century published in seven parts. The story represents three major characters and their influence on the main characters quest for truth. Proust manipulated and changed everything to reveal the truth (Proust, 2016).

To the Light House by Virginia Wolf- Best Books

The story is set in the pre-World War I and features Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay and their eight children in Hebrides summer home on the Isle of Skye’ in Scotland between 1910 and 1920 (Wolf 1992).The novel was first published in 1927 and presents and exemplary example of multiple focalization techniques in literature, where the author displays thoughts and actions rather than speeches. The book has been listed as number 15 by 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century by the Modern Library in 1998, as well as the one hundred best English-language novels from 1923 by TIME magazine in 2005.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville- Best Books

Moby Dick is the story of a notorious white whale that bit off Ahab’s leg, a captain of the whaler known as Pequod. The story narrates the captain’s revenge to kill Moby-dick for taking his leg. Melville is the main protagonist in the book; Melville goes by Ishmael in the book. This book that chronicles his life and experiences at sea. The story ends by the sinking of the whaler by Moby Dick (Melville, 1959). The novel was published in 1851 and gained recognition by critics and readers alike after the author’s death in 1851. It was revised many times after that and has since been rated the best book of all times.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes- Best Books

This novel is written by Miguel de Cervantes and was published in 1605 and 1615 as two parts. The story features Don Quixote a middle man from La Mancha, Central Spain who becomes obsessed and then goes crazy over tales he read about chivalry and knights. The name, Don Quixote, he gives to himself because he believes he is one of the knights he read about. He goes about behaving like a knight by riding with his squire in search for adventure. It turns to tragedy when he gets badly hurt by windmills he believes are giants sent to attack and later dies (de Cervantes, 1908).


1. de Cervantes Saavedra, M. (1908). Don Quixote. J. Fitzmaurice-Kelly (Ed.). Insel-Verlag.

2. Fitzgerald, F. S. (1991). The Great Gatsby (1925). na.



5. Mandelker, A. (1993). Framing Anna Karenina: Tolstoy, the woman question, and the Victorian novel. Ohio State University Press.

6. Márquez, G. G., & Newman, D. (2001). One hundred years of solitude (p. 36). Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind Tertiary Resource Service..

7. Melville, H. (1959). Moby Dick: Or, The Whale. Dell.

8. O’brien, T. (2009). The things they carried. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

9. Proust, M. (2016). In Search of Lost Time [volumes 1 to 7](Centaur Classics)[The 100 greatest novels of all time-# 13]. Marcel Proust.

10. Shakespeare, W., Olivier, L., & Simmons, J. (1948). Hamlet. University Press.

11. Tolstoy, L., & Bayley, J. (1978). The Portable Tolstoy (Vol. 1978). Viking Pr.

12. Tolstoy, L., & Tolstoi, L. N. (2015). War and peace. Random House.

13. Woolf, V. (1992). To the lighthouse. In Collected Novels of Virginia Woolf (pp. 177-334). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Why Kingpin Probably Won’t Appear In Marvel Movies, According To Vincent D’Onofrio

Vincent D’Onofrio has done some truly amazing work as Wilson Fisk on the Marvel/Netflix series Daredevil, and appreciation of the performance has led to a constantly-repeated question: will we ever get to see him square off against The Avengers on the big screen? Sadly, it seems the answer to this particular question is no… as, according to D’Onofrio, there is simply too much stuff going on in the movie world for the television stuff to be properly incorporated.

The actor is currently promoting his role in the upcoming series Emerald City, and it was while talking with Digital Spy that the conversation turned to his work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Vincent D’Onofrio was asked about the possibility of us eventually seeing The Kingpin in a future Marvel movie, but, citing Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, he explained why there’s very little chance of that actually happening. Said D’Onofrio,

I would love to switch over to the movies, but I think it’s pretty much been said it’s not going to happen. Or at least not for a very, very long time. I think Kevin Feige explained that, and that’s what makes the most sense, he said the film universe is too jam-packed. It’s hard enough already, and if they keep bringing big characters in that they have to service in the writing, it’s not gonna work. They’re trying to figure out already how to individualise more and at the same time keep The Avengers going. It makes sense not to mix the TV stuff, there’s just too many characters.

It’s a fair point. While working on 2018’s The Avengers: Infinity War, directors Joe and Anthony Russo and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have talked about the inclusion of more than 70 different characters from all of the movies that have been released thus far (not to mention new ones they will introduce). Now imagine adding the casts of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Daredevil, Jessica Jones,Luke Cage, and Iron Fist to the mix, and you begin to understand why it all may be too much to deal with in singular blockbuster event films. Fans obviously want to see all of these characters interact – as they do in the comics – but there are certain limitations within the medium that are very hard to overcome.


Carrie Fisher’s second life as a writer

The actress did have best sellers, beginning in 1987 with her first novel, Postcards From the Edge, a semi-autobiographical tale that made a big splash and then became a movie starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. (Fisher wrote the screenplay.) Postcards is the story of a young Hollywood actress named Suzanne Vale who’s in drug rehab and her relationship with her overbearing mother (in real life, Debbie Reynolds).

The New York Times called the novel “at once harrowing and hilarious.” During an interview when the book was published, Fisher, then 30, said she had first been approached about writing a humorous memoir. Instead, her “material” from rehab evolved into fiction.

”It was an extreme situation I made funny to myself while going through it,” she told The Times. ”That’s when I need humor: when there’s nothing funny. I was in the worst place I could be and not be dead.”

Fisher wrote more novels (The Best Awful, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma) and eventually decided sardonic memoirs were OK after all. Her druggie past and electroshock therapy all became game in Wishful Drinking (2008) and Shockaholic(2011).


She acknowledged that shock treatments caused some memory loss. “For all I know, they could have dressed me in a ball gown, surrounded me with dancing dolphins, and married me off to Rush Limbaugh,” she wrote in Shockaholic.

For Fisher, writing openly about her real life, ironically, allowed her more artistic freedom, some critics found.

In a review of Wishful Drinking, Entertainment Weeklysaid: “Fisher’s voice is freer, now that she’s no longer hiding behind the coy scrim of calling her perky howls of pain ‘novels’ (as she did with Postcards From the Edge and The Best Awful).”

Three of Fisher’s books made USA TODAY’s best-seller list, which launched in fall 1993: Delusions of Grandma, which peaked at No. 122; The Best Awful (No. 135); and Wishful Drinking (No. 105).


Who Buys Cookbooks and Why?

If you’re a cookbook author or hoping to become one soon, do you know who would want to buy your cookbook and why?

Adam Solomone, associate publisher of Harvard Common Press, answered this question for attendees at the recent IACP conference, where he gave a slide presentation of data collected by Nielsen, in conjunction with several North American publishers. Answers came from a core group of 2500 cookbook purchasers, a subset of 80,000 book buyers, based on the the last book they bought.

Here are the top findings:

1. Sixty-five percent of all cookbook buyers are women. You’re probably not surprised. Most buyers are college-educated. About half read blogs and discuss cookbooks with others.

2. Thirty-three percent said they bought the cookbook on impulse, either by discovering it online or in a store. Another 24 percent said they bought it because they looked through it and liked it, which implies they saw a physical copy. Indeed, when asked how they discovered the book, the highest percentage said it was displayed in a bookstore (23%).

3. Buyers are most interested in general categories of cooking, baking, and food and health. Other categories of interest were

  • Kitchen gardening (31%)
  • Home entertaining (28%)
  • Canning and preserving (22%)
  • Urban farming (15 %) and
  • Table setting (14%).

Regarding which cuisines they like to cook, respondents want to make

  • American food (86%)
  • Italian food (70%)
  • Desserts (56%)
  • Seafood (48%)
  • Southwestern/Tex-Mex (42%) and
  • Mexican/Central American (39%) dishes.

Gluten free and vegan brought up the rear with 6 percent interest each.

4. These folks only buy a few cookbooks a year, and most are for themselves. Thirty-nine percent bought between one and three cookbooks in the last year. Only 12 percent bought four or more. While most buy cookbooks for themselves (70%), the remaining 30 percent are gift purchases, nearly twice the percentage of regular books bought as gifts.

5. Half said they cook at least once a week. They were not asked if they cook more often than that. The next largest group, 26 percent, said they cook once per month or less.

6. The top factor that influenced them to buy the cookbook was easy recipes (60%). Other reasons were:

  • Recipes match my and my family’s tastes (48%)
  • Variety of recipes (48%)
  • Step-by-step instructions (47%)
  • Ingredients are easy to find (47%)
  • Recipes are healthy (44%)
  • They wanted the cookbook for their collection (39%), and
  • The cookbook was a great value (37%).

Surprisingly, when asked if “lots of color photographs of food” were a buying factor, only 21 percent said photos influenced their purchase decision. So many authors panic when their book deals do not include photography — now they can relax. If you’re worried about good book reviews, only 5 percent said they mattered. And if you’re concerned about the jacket description or testimonials, only 3 percent said they mattered.

7. Print is not dead. When asked where they got ideas on what to cook, respondents said they still read cooking magazines (64%), other magazines (61%) and newspapers (58%). However, the majority (69%) discover and use recipes from free online sites (69%) and print cookbooks (65%).

8. They recognized top brands, but not necessarily the ones you think. Betty Crocker was the most recognized cookbook brand (44%), AARP magazine was the most recognized magazine (24%), and was the most recognized website (25%).

9. Most cookbook buyers use social media and read blogs. Some 49 percent said they read or used recipes from blogs. While 34 percent said they do not use a social media networking site, that means 66 percent do so. They like Facebook (62%). If they’re finding recipes on Facebook, that should make you nervous. See this post about Facebook pages that cut and paste rccipes.

10. Online cookbooks have a way to go. Only 16 percent of cookbooks bought are ebooks, and only 11 percent of respondents said they read cookbooks on mobile phones.

Caveat: This study was conducted in 2012, and the 2500 recipients could only select an answer that was already provided.

What do you think of these findings? Are you surprised by any of them? Intrigued?


Lion to Namesake: Hollywood Films Based on Books by Indian Authors

Books have always inspired a lot of filmmakers to make films globally, and not just Bollywood movies but many Hollywood movies too have been adapted from both fictional and non-fictional books. It is amazing to know there are many award-winning movies made in Hollywood which are based on books penned by India authors, some which are awaited and some which have gone on to become iconic hits for their content. Below are few of the such movies:

Lion: Lion starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and an ensemble of Indian cast member is based on a true story of Saroo Brierley who lost his parents and found them after years with the help of google maps. This movie is based on a non fiction book called A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley.

Slumdog millionaire: Slumdog millionaire is a story of a boy who is a participant of kaun banega crorepati and answers all questions correctly and is accused of cheating recounts his history, illustrating how he is able to answer each question and this movie is adapted by the novel Q & A (2005) by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup.

Victoria and Abdul: Victoria and Abdul starring Ali Fazal and Dame Judi Dench is based on a novel written by Shrabani Basu and is a true story of Queen Victoria and his servant Abdul and about their relationship between them and Abdu;’s journey to becoming one of the most influential court men in the Victorian Empire.

Namesake: Namesake is based on the novel of the same name by Jhumpa Lahiri, who appeared in the movie. It’s about a couple and their child and their life struggle.


Can Movies Replace Books in Reading Class?

Can students’ time in reading class be spent as profitably with a bowl of popcorn and a movie as with a novel and notebook?

In central New Jersey, a former school board member and parent are raising questions about the Hamilton Township School District’s policy of allowing teachers to use movies for instructional purposes and teaching students reading skills through short excerpts instead of whole books or stories. 

While the awards-season critique of the role of movies in the classroom is certainly intriguing, this dispute is, at its heart, part of a long-running debate about the increased emphasis on “close reading” that’s come along with the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and how teachers should approach it.  

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman reports from the Trentonian that officials in the Hamilton school district, near Trenton, say that these practices are nothing new: “Teachers have been working with close reading and analyzing portions of text for several years now,” Sylvia Zircher, the instruction director at the school district, told the newspaper.

She said that teachers might screen movies or portions of movies in order to stimulate discussion, but that the movies wouldn’t be part of the teacher’s approach to teaching reading skills.

The district’s superintendent, Thomas J. Ficarra, told the paper that “we still read whole novels, but we do this (close reading of excerpts) as a part of the new thrust behind the national standards as well as New Jersey standards to get children to read critically.”

New Jersey adopted a revised version of the Common Core State Standards last year, replacing the original standards, which the state had adopted in 2010. While the phrase “close reading” doesn’t appear in the common core, the introduction to the standards states that “students who meet the Standards readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complex works of literature.” The first anchor standard for literacy asks students to “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.” In many cases, teachers have taught “close reading” by having students deeply probe shorter texts for meaning without first turning to outside sources. The idea is that this approach leads to a greater understanding of the text. 

But George Fisher, a former district school board member, argued in an email to the Trentonian that teachers should not use films to supplant, rather than to supplement, novels, and that asking students to read excerpts instead of whole texts is depriving them of important context.  

Fisher said this approach could lead to ignorance among students. From his email to the paper: 

“Text is most certainly not simply a part of a text or a work. It is the book, the work, itself,” he added. “A student assignment may well be to analyze a part of the book and compare it to/contrast it to, fit it into the whole of the book. It is not to analyze that ‘part’ in isolation. How can one do the required analysis of a part without knowing the whole?!”

Fisher writes that, while middle school standards for literacy ask students to be able to analyze live or filmed dramatizations of literary works, they wouldn’t permit teachers to entirely replace reading a novel with watching its movie incarnation. 

The Trentonian piece doesn’t describe individual instances of teachers screening, say, the 1996 film Emma after students had read just a few pages of the original Jane Austen novel. It’s difficult to tell from this piece just how much of students’ time is spent on excerpts instead of whole works or whether teachers really are relying too heavily on movies. 

But the common core’s expectation that students be able to “close read” texts has drawn critics and concerns from early on. In 2012, district leaders were concerned teachers weren’t well-prepared to teach students how to close-read, while others questioned whether the approach took into account students’ varied levels of background knowledge. Of course, the approach also has strong proponents, who argue that close reading builds critical thinking skills.


Authors teach underprivileged kids creative writing

London, UK – On an east London high street, children flock to the Ministry of Stories, a place where they can hone their writing skills.

Nick Hornby, a best-selling novelist, is behind the mentoring programme.

“Every measurement of success and poverty indicators show that literacy is at the heart of it. We think we can improve the future lives of disadvantaged children,” Hornby said.

Novelists such as Zadie Smith and Sophie Kinsella serve as patrons for the programme.

The writing centre, hidden behind the quirky Hoxton Street Monster Supplies shop, provides after-school writing activities to children in the neighbourhood.

Many of the students do not speak English at home and come from low-income backgrounds.

“They may have a grandparent in Nigeria or … Colombia. They represent the rich tapestry of London life and they can draw on that,” said Emma Joliffe, the centre’s creative learning manager.

The idea has gained traction and, now, interest is pouring in from around the world, from groups hoping to set up their own ministries of stories.



Ken Liu says he could never miss the beginning of any story. So while growing up in China in the 1980s, he sprinted from school to his grandmother’s house each afternoon. She dialed the Chinese radio to the correct station, and the duo listened to tales of kingdoms and romance in the Pingshu tradition. When the shows finished, Liu raced through a couple of questions with grandma to clarify what went over his head. Then he’d run back to class.

Today, Liu knows what it’s like to be behind the scenes of a hit that titillates, just as those radio shows did. In his case, it’s sci-fi and fantasy novels. Liu is the translator responsible for bringing Chinese sci-fi authors to America — and is the writer of a few impressive books himself. He translated two of three books in Cixin Liu’s (no relation) science-fiction trilogy The Three Body Problem, which has garnered praise from both President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg. His translation was the first Chinese-to-English text to win the highest honor in sci-fi land, the Hugo Award.

That goes on the shelf next to prior Hugos for his own writing: best short story (“The Paper Menagerie” and “Mono No Aware”) in 2012 and 2013. “Ken exploded on the scene,” says Lightspeed magazine editor and top sci-fi anthologist John Joseph Adams. He thinks Liu may be the writer he’s accepted the most to his many publications, which form the constellation of the modern science-fiction canon. NPR’s book critic called Liu’s epic trilogy, The Dandelion Dynasty, “beautiful, nuanced, fierce, original and diverse.” Soon, Liu will be headed to the screen: TheGrace of Kings sold to the Chinese production company DMG in October 2016.

“I don’t particularly care about the kinds of things fantasy and sci-fi readers care about,” Liu says — though he says he finds his materials mainly in scientific papers. “I’m not interested in predicting the future.” He’s more interested in using metaphor to untangle our contemporary reality: In The Dandelion Dynasty, factions vie for power in a make-believe, rebellious, unstable empire. (Game of Thrones, anyone?)

In six years, Liu has published more than 100 short stories. In “Paper Menagerie,” a young Chinese-American boy’s mom makes origami that comes to life. “Single Bit-Error,” a tale of love lost after a car crash, uses programming language as metaphor. “Mono No Aware” tells the story of a Japanese boy who earns a coveted spot on an American evacuation ship from Earth (hit by an asteroid). “Everything passes, Hiroto,” the boy remembers his late father saying. “That feeling in your heart: It’s called mono no aware. It is a sense of the transience of all things in life.”

Liu references his heritage in The Grace of Kings not by writing characters of his ethnicity, but through the aesthetic of his futuristic world landscape — “silkpunk,” mixing Victoriana and East Asian classical antiquity. The world uses East Asian technological sources like bamboo, silk and wind power, while Liu drew from Chinese historical romances and foundational narratives well known in Chinese culture.

At first, most Chinese sci-fi was imported translations of authors like Jules Verne. In 1932, the same year as Aldous Huxley came out with Brave New World, Chinese author Lao She wrote a dystopian satirical novel set on Mars called Cat Country. But the communists pushed most sci-fi aside beginning in the 1950s.


Ten authors coming to Kansas City area you’ll want to see

Melissa Hartwig

Sports nutritionist and co-creator of the Whole30 program will appear for “The Whole30 Cookbook.” 7 p.m. Jan. 19. Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th., 913-384-3126

Sister Souljah

Author, activist, recording artist and film producer will speak as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture Series. 6 p.m. Jan. 24. Swinney Recreation Center, UMKC, 5030 Holmes.

Brit Bennett

One of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honorees for 2016 will appear for her first novel, “The Mothers.” 6:30 p.m. Feb. 15. Free. Kansas City Public Library-Plaza Branch, 4801 Main. or, 816-701-3400

Deepak Chopra

World-renowned speaker and author will address experiencing higher consciousness, transformation and healing in his discussion of his new book, “You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why It Matters.” 7 p.m. Feb. 22. $45. Carlsen Center Yardley Hall, 12345 College, Overland Park., 913-469-4445

Stephen Kinzer

Journalist who worked more than 20 years as a foreign correspondent with The New York Times will speak on “America’s Misadventures in the Middle East: Is There a Way Out?” as part of Visiting Scholar Lecture Series. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23. Arrupe Hall Auditorium, Rockhurst University, 54th and Troost., 816-501-4828

Alex George

Englishman who is a former corporate lawyer in London and Paris but now lives in Columbia will appear for “Setting Free The Kites.” 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23. Free. Mid-Continent Public Library-Woodneath Library Center, 8900 NE Flintlock. or, 816-883-4900

Jericho Brown

Winner of the Whiting Award and the American Book Award will appear as part of Midwest Poets Series. 7 p.m. March 2. $3. Arrupe Hall Auditorium, Rockhurst University, 54th and Troost., 816-501-4607

Julia Alvarez

Author of 19 books, including “In the Time of the Butterflies” and “Return to Sender,” will speak as part of NEA Big Read/Read Across Lawrence. 7 p.m. March 5. Free. Lied Center, 1600 Stewart, Lawrence., 785-864-2787

Henry W. Bloch and John Herron

Founder of H&R Block will discuss the new biography about him, “Navigating a Life: Henry Bloch in WWII,” with his co-author. 6:30 p.m. March 29. Kansas City Public Library-Plaza Branch, 4801 Main., 816-235-1168 or 816-701-3400

Andrew McCarthy

Author of the bestselling travel memoir “The Longest Way Home” will appear for “Just Fly Away.” 7 p.m. April 18. Free. Mid-Continent Public Library-Woodneath Library Center, 8900 NE Flintlock. or, 816-883-4900

Here’s what it’s like to earn a six-figure book advance, according to bestselling author Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed, the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of the 2012 memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” is ready to talk about money.

In the new anthology “Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living” by Manjula Martin, Strayed lifts the veil on her dire financial past.

“We almost lost our house before I sold ‘Wild’ [in 2009],” she told Martin in an interview for the book. “I think we had $85,000 in credit card debt by the time I sold that book. I can say that now because I don’t have any debt, but I was so ashamed of that.”

Strayed had already paid off a previous bout of credit card debt — around $50,000 — after signing the deal for her first book, “Torch,” in 2003, for which she got a $100,000 advance.

“It was November 2003 … and I distinctly remember yelling — shrieking — into the phone to my husband, ‘A hundred thousand dollars! A hundred thousand dollars!’ And we were both just flipping out. We were like, our life is changed,” Strayed recalls.

But after a 15% agent fee, Strayed said she was left with just $21,000 annually over the next four years, paid out after reaching milestones like sending the book to printing, hardcover publication, and paperback publication. And a third of those paychecks then went to the IRS.

“Don’t get me wrong, the book deal helped a lot — it was like getting a grant every year for four years. But it wasn’t enough to live off of,” Strayed said. She supplemented her income with teaching college writing courses and freelancing, but with two kids under the age of two, Strayed says it was near impossible to make ends meet.

By the time she sold “Wild” to her publisher in 2009 — for a much larger $400,000 advance — she was up to $85,000 in credit card debt and still had lingering student loans.

“So here I was trying to write my second book with two babies, and we were just busting our a–es. During those years we were spending more on childcare than I was making,” Strayed said. “And we would always be so broke and ashamed and putting things on the credit card. Really getting into trouble.”

She continued: “Here’s another thing that’s so interesting about money that people never talk about: There are all these invisible advantages and privileges people have. Parents who help out with a down payment, or a grandparent who takes the kids every Tuesday. Parents who pay for college. We didn’t have any of that.”

With her first “Wild” paycheck, she paid off her student loans and the $85,000 debt. “We went out and had sushi. But our life didn’t change. We only got out of credit card debt. But it changed in that way, trust me. As anyone who’s been in severe credit card debt knows, it was a nightmare.”

Even after “Wild” was published three years later, Strayed, a newly minted bestselling author, was still broke.

“[I]n April 2012 the book had been out a month. I was on my book tour, and I was traveling around, and everyone was treating me like this big glorious bestselling author, and my husband texted me saying, ‘Our April rent check bounced. Why did it bounce?’ And I replied, ‘Because we don’t have any money in our checking account!’ And we laughed until we cried,” she said.

By January 2013, Strayed began earning royalties for the book’s global success: “So it was almost a year before my life actually changed,” she said. The following year, “Wild” was adapted into a film starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, who both earned Academy-Award nominations for their performances.