Welcome April B+P Magazine, we’re very pleased you could make it

Welcome, April Bookseller+Publisher magazine. We hope you enjoyed your trip from the printers. You really are a most delightful-looking publication. And what’s that you say? You contain 45 reviews of yet-to-be-published forthcoming Australian books? Well aren’t you just the best thing since sliced bread. (PS, you smell pretty good too.)

Our dark and private spaces

Citing the rise of text-based social interactions such as Facebook and Twitter, Margaret Simons made the point at last night’s first official ‘Meanland’ event, that ‘text is everywhere, there is more text being used than ever before’. Like fellow panelist Sherman Young (The Book is Dead, Long Live the Book), she predicted that ereading would soon be widespread. ‘In 10 years most of our reading will be on ereaders’, with coffee table and children’s picture books remaining in print, along with ‘precious’ books: ‘I have no intention of throwing out my Jane Austen collection.’

None on the panel, which also included Marieke Hardy and Peter Craven, doubted that ereading would soon be upon us (Simons herself thinks ‘you’ll see ereaders everywhere by the end of the year’); the question that remained was whether reading on a screen would change what we read or the way we create.

Sherman doesn’t believe ‘screens will make us do things … that paper doesn’t’. So long as we still write and publish it, we will still be reading long-form fiction. But Simons didn’t seem so sure we would remain unchanged by the digital age. Social networking and developments like the forthcoming Google Wave are enabling a public collaborative process that may dilute our sense of the author, she suggested. Reading and writing ‘becomes less private’.

Authors on Twitter update followers on their works in progress, responses altering the work. Blogging authors invite readers to help decide the fate of their characters. The idea of collaboration in fiction writing is at least as old as, well, the word editor, I suppose, but Simons was suggesting something more dispersed than that–and that new technology was hastening it. We are in danger, she says, of ‘losing our dark and private spaces’. Fellow-panellist Hardy exhorted writers to ensure they were not being ‘watered down’ by their social networking, urging creators to be ‘light online’ but complex in their works Continue reading

Bestsellers: The undead are alive and well

The vampires fight back! Proving vamps have a way to go before we’re all thoroughly sick of them, Hourglass by Claudia Gray has overtaken the three Stieg Larsson titles this week in the Nielsen BookScan Bestsellers chart–appearing at number one, the book is also this week’s ‘fastest mover’. Peter Lerangis’ The Viper’s Nest is top of the Highest New Entry chart followed by Original Sin by Allison Brennan—Weekly Book Newsletter.

Hey there good-lookin’: our best covers of the year?

Are these the best Australian book covers you’ve seen in the past year? The Australian Publishers Association seems to think so—each of these books have been shortlisted in the ‘best designed cover of the year’ category for this year’s Book Design Awards.

The titles in the running in this and several other ‘best designed’ categories have been shortlisted from more than 420 entries (you can read the shortlists here), with the winners to be announced during the Sydney Writers’ Festival on 20 May. What do you think? Are there any particular titles you think have missed out?

Among those shortlisted for the best designed YA book is Liar (designed by Bruno Herfst for A&U in Australia). The US cover for the book drew a lot of criticism last year for depicting a white girl when the book’s character Micah describes herself as black. After much criticism the book was released with a new cover design.

And on the subject of covers, what do you think of the new one for Michael Meehan’s Below the Styx (A&U)? When we reviewed the book in the March issue of Bookseller+Publisher, the artwork submitted to run with the review was the cover you can see below left. But, as sometimes happens given our long lead-times and pre-publication reviews, the design has since been changed and Meehan’s book will be launched at Adelaide Writers Week with the cover on the right.  Which do you like better?

Interview: Foz Meadows on Solace and Grief (Hybrid Publishers)

Self-proclaimed geek and first-time novelist Foz Meadows speaks to Kate O’Donnell about Solace and Grief, her young adult urban fantasy.

Solace and Grief, in spite of its gothic appearance and dramatic plot, is also a very funny story with witty characters. Was it hard to find a balance of light and dark?

Yes, at times. Whenever I’m writing a tense or emotional scene, it feels like there are three different writers in me vying for control—a dramatist longing for tragedy, a closet romantic, and a comedian who looks for the humour in everything. And I do mean that literally. When I was 13 or so, I took it into my head to give names, faces and distinct character attributes to three different parts of my personality, and 10 years later, it’s still hard to resist thinking of myself in those terms, especially when writing. In that sense, then, the balance of the story is a bit like the balance of my personality—skewed. I have to fight with myself on multiple fronts. At the same time, humour often creeps in unannounced, but in ways which, once I notice, feel completely natural. I’ve always had a healthy appreciation for irony and the absurd—the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series is one of my favourite things in the entire universe—because life is so rarely a straight-up choice between laughter and seriousness. More often, the two are blended together; poignancy is a mix of different emotions, not an absolute state. Reality seldom misses an opportunity to tromp all over the drama of human existence with the Gumboots of Inopportune Timing, so why should fantasy be any different?

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The top five most-mentioned

The top five books in Media Extra‘s Most Mentioned chart all received the same amount of mentions this weekend. This included two bushfire-related titles. Jane O’Connor’s Without Warning: One Woman’s Story of Surviving Black Saturday recounts her experience of the devastating fires in Victoria recently and Danielle Clode’s A Future in Flames also features stories from bushfire survivors. Also on the chart was Joanne Horniman’s new young adult novel About a Girl, a love story between two young women, while Andrea Levy’s The Long Song explores the life of July, a slave girl living on a sugar plantation in Jamaica. Diana Patterson also received a few mentions for her book The Ice Beneath My Feet: My Year in Antarctica—Media Extra.

Be prepared

So the March issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine reached subscribers a couple of weeks ago (looking delightful, if we do say so) and among the goodies inside were 59 reviews of as-yet-unpublished Australian and New Zealand titles. Of course, to read them all you’d have to get  your hands on a copy of the mag, but because we’re generous folk, we thought we’d give Fancy Goods readers a heads up on a few of the titles among those that got four stars and above from our reviewers this issue. And they would be: Below the Styx (Michael Meehan, A&U, March); The River: A Journey through the Murray-Darling Basin (Chris Hammer, MUP, March); Gravel (Peter Goldsworthy, Hamish Hamilton, March); Malcolm Fraser: Enduring Liberal (Malcolm Fraser & Margaret Simons, Miegunyah, March); Stormlord Rising (Glenda Larke, Voyager, March) and Reading by Moonlight: How Books Saved a Life (Brenda Walker, Hamish Hamilton, April). Any of these take your fancy?

[Edit: Oh, and you can read one of the stories from Gravel here.]

Literary iPhone apps: bite-sized, pocket-sized and with Shakespeare to go

As someone who takes every opportunity to read, I’m usually distraught when I’ve forgotten to put a book in my bag in the morning. Not anymore. I got my iPhone a few months ago and have discovered plenty of cheap, quality reading material to peruse on lunch breaks, on public transport, and at home in bed.

My favourite literary app so far is the American journal Electric Literature. I bought Issue 1 ($5.99) because I love the work of Michael Cunningham—and there is an extract from his upcoming novel in the issue. The other authors I hadn’t yet heard of, but enjoyed their stories. They are T Cooper, Lydia Millet, Jim Shepard and Diana Wagman. Looking at my phone now, I discovered that along with an update for the app, Issue 2 has found its way onto my phone. Colson Whitehead—woo! And Stephen O’Connor to round it out. Issue 3 is also available.

American journal McSweeney’s also has an app, which updates itself with bonus material from the website and print journal. McSweeney’s content is highly entertaining. I recently read a conversation between author/artist/film director Miranda July and actor/aspiring writer James Franco. Available also is a short story by Wells Tower, an interview with Francis Ford Coppola, comics, and plenty of digestible nonfiction and humour titbits.

What’s it like reading on the iPhone? After a few pages I don’t notice the weeny screen. That said, I don’t think I’d read a whole novel… Short stories, which I love anyway, are perfect for reading on a device. The apps remember where you’re up to in the text, and you can make adjustments to the screen with text and colours Continue reading

Digital dilemmas: think like a reader

This has been quite a week for the Australian publishing industry, with the Revolution in Digital Publishing seminars held in Melbourne on Monday and Sydney on Wednesday, and additional ‘digital chat’ sessions with special guests on the Tuesday and Thursday morning in each city. (You can read our Weekly Book Newsletter reports here and here and see what the Twitterverse was saying here.)

All the events have attracted hundreds of delegates—the Melbourne session that I attended filled the State Library’s auditorium to standing room (well, for the morning keynotes—Faber’s Stephen Page and Bloomsbury’s Richard Charkin, pictured—at least …)

These days were organized under the aegis of the Australian Publishers Association’s excellent professional training program, so it’s not surprising—and is right and proper—that the focus was on informing *publishers* about how digitisation is rapidly changing their world.

But considered from a wider book industry point of view, it was disappointing how little consideration was given to retailers, readers and authors, and how much of the talk was about reassuring publishers that digital was ‘same but different’—it’s just another format, it will operate within existing territorial copyright conditions, it won’t change rights sales, etc.

There was a real need for a contrary voice on the program, someone with radically different opinions on digital rights management (DRM); the future of copyright; and the rapidly changing relationships between creators, publishers, retailers and readers Continue reading

Bestsellers: Now with extra caffeine

So Bookseller+Publisher Online editor Matthia Dempsey spent this Christmas to New Year break surrounded by family members who were all reading Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. Actually, competitive reading it—the holiday house containing only one copy of the final book they had collectively decided that whoever finished The Girl Who Played With Fire first would be allowed to start on the single copy of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. (A tough strategic dilemma really—read fast and you could win the prize, but you also risked finishing second with no Larsson left to read at all…)

Larsson’s series has taken out the trifecta in this week’s Nielsen BookScan bestseller charts, so Matthia’s relatives aren’t alone in their obsession. All well and good. But tell us this: has anyone else noticed how much coffee is consumed in the series? It was all Matthia’s mother could comment on (and she did, regularly). So our query is this—could someone take a look at coffee sales since the Larsson craze began? We wouldn’t be surprised to find some kind of correlation…

Also on this week’s Nielsen BookScan charts, as reported by the Weekly Book Newsletter, were Erica Spindler’s Blood Vines is number one in the Highest New Entries chart, followed by Sapphire’s Precious (the film of the same name having something to do with this no doubt)—Weekly Book Newsletter.