Saturday, December 30, 2006
"[t]he contributor to the eighteenth-century Encyclopédie entry on 'Cuisine' cites a passage from the comedy Adelphi, by Terence, where a household steward tells one of the kitchen servants, after complaining about dishes that he considered ill-prepared, 'Illud recte; iterum fic memento.' (This is done right; remember how to make it again.) So one of the chief impulses behind the recording of recipes is memory. Because in the flow of production and consumption when something is 'done right,' one needs to remember how to do it again."
To learn more about the book or to buy it, click here.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
Here is the original post, from early December 2006:
Why? Why? This is a baffling habit, and it seems to be industry-wide. Whereas elite trade publishers almost always write the contract so that copyright is in the name of the author, university press publishers ask for -- or occasionally try to demand -- the copyright. Never let them. For one thing, it is your book. You wrote it, and you should be the ultimate owner of it. That's the moral aspect. But the practical considerations are also important. If the publisher has your copyright, and you want to contribute an article to a journal largely based on a chapter from your book -- especially if you want to use some of your same prose -- you'll have to ask the publisher pretty please to grant permission. Absurd! These are your words, and you should be able to re-use them as you wish.
The good news is that university press publishers are usually fine with you asking for the copyright in your name. So far in this job they've granted copyright to my authors 100% of the time, and not once has there been a discussion, let alone an argument. Of course, I've only been back at Georgetown in this capacity for a year (although I was in the English Department from 1997-2003). There is still time for a university press publisher to surprise me on something. But for now, just remember the watchphrase of this office: "Always keep your copyright."
Monday, November 20, 2006
This tidbit comes to us from The Financial Times.
Blackwell Publishing submits to John Wiley takeover
By Pan Kwan Yukand Mark Odell
Blackwell Publishing, which has been embroiled in a long-running feud between members of the controlling family, has agreed to be acquired by US publisher John Wiley & Sons for £572m in cash. The proposed deal is expected to net £100m for Nigel Blackwell, Blackwell Publishing's chairman and largest shareholder with a 45 per cent voting stake.
Friday, November 03, 2006
1. The publisher said it "doesn't negotiate," so you signed a boilerplate contract seven years ago. Now your editor says you have to produce an updated version of your book, even though you've long since moved on to other projects, you don't have the time, and you don't need it for tenure. The editor threatens to produce the volume with or without your cooperation, and to put your name on it anyway because she claims the publisher has that right. Can she do this? Do you have options?
2. You signed a contract allowing your journal publisher to distribute your article in all forms throughout the world forever. The publisher also kept the right to revise your article "as necessary." Consequently, the article was edited by someone whose political opinions are the opposite of yours. Not only were your boldest assertions watered down to the point where you sound weak and ineffective, but the publisher plans to distribute this piece worldwide, including electronic archives. Do you have any recourse?
3. Although it now wants to be seen as a literary force in the world of the big-box bookstores, a prestigious university press publisher also claims it never pays advances, so you accept a contract with no money upfront. Then you find out one of your junior colleagues did get an advance. What next?
4. You have a choice between two important university presses whose reputations are functionally equivalent. They each came to you and offered you a pre-contract for your high profile project. What does this mean? Is either publisher obligated to publish your book? Can you go ahead and continue talking to both of them in good faith while you finish your book, or do you have to make a decision about which one to publish with now, before your book is finished?
5. Speaking of pre-contracts, what if you're up for tenure in the future and a university press offers you a pre-contract? Should you take it? What does that nagging term "pre" actually mean? Can you count on them to publish your book?
6. Prestigious university press A offers you a contract and asks you for a $1,200 subvention. Less prestigious but still excellent university press B offers you a contract and does not ask for a subvention. You have no funding through your department at the moment because you used it all for another worthy academic project. Which publisher do you choose and why?
These are just some of the many real-world situations that professors find themselves in with university presses. The good news is that you can always negotiate a university press contract. There is no such thing as a business entity anywhere that "does not negotiate," no matter what its representatives say. The better news is that most university press editors and publishers are in it for the love of the game anyway (they could be making more money doing something else, even in publishing!), so you'd be surprised how many times they are tacitly on your side even when they seem to be pushing the old party line. Learn more about your rights, your responsibilities, smart strategies and more on November 8.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Why not? Well, partly because typical authors believe that book marketing is a publisher's job. Unless you got a half a million upfront for your book, it usually isn't. The most effective, committed, creative, devoted marketer a book will ever have is its own author. Even shy writers can do a lot to help make certain their books succeed. In the next few posts I will excerpt this helpful pamphlet, and comment on it.
1. THE AUTHOR INFORMATION FORM (AIF). Nebraska writes, "The AIF is a critical planning tool used to develop marketing strategy." No kidding. It's crucial. Yet so many authors I know simply fill it out as quickly as they can, sometimes in longhand while sitting in the publisher's office. But taking your time with this important document can mean the sale of many more copies of your book.
The AIF asks you questions about how you came to write the book, what influences you credit, where you sent to high school, college, and graduate school, what regions of the country and world you have lived in, what famous or influential people you know, and much more. The more thorough you are in filling it out, the better your publicist (who has a wildly difficult job that we'll discuss in detail later) will be able to brainstorm potential connections for you. Example. What happens if you only list the schools you graduated from, but not all the schools you attended? Well, if you were (say) a military brat and attended several high schools, or if you moved around and attended more than one college, they may all be eager to claim you as an alumnus when you publish. This means your book will be mentioned in alumni newsletters and magazines, you may get noticed on the web site, and more. If you leave out the schools you attended but didn't graduate from, you'll unnecessarily cut your opportunities.
The same goes for states where you lived. What if you can claim Virginia, South Carolina and Florida? Why not do so? They'll all treat you like a native daughter or son when your career takes off. Even if your spouse or partner lived in several states, or you only vacation someplace every year, list it. You never know what Chamber of Commerce or Arts Council will make it their business to help promote you. People want to be proud of you, especially organizations whose very existence depends upon the success of their members.
In the next post we'll examine publishers' seasonal catalogues, and how they affect you as a university press author.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
One key challenge with writing groups is what some people refer to as "writing program syndrome," where participants write to please an appointed leader of dubious taste who doles out emotionally valuable rewards (grades, advancement), plus a group of fellow amateurs who can so often be parsimonious with the desired gift (approval), and generous with many of its antitheses (jealousy, subterfuge, backstabbing, frenemy behavior). These factors often combine to produce safe, bland, barely functional works of fiction and poetry that meet group expectations but wither as art, victims of their own caution and need.
The other challenge is a more overt one: sometimes writers receive so much criticism from the group or the leader that they doubt themselves and stop writing altogether. The poet Marianne Moore told an anecdote to fellow poet Donald Hall in a 1960 edition of The Paris Review about her translation of La Fontaine's fables. "I'm so naieve, so docile, I do tend to take anybody's word for anything the person says, even in matters of art." She goes on to tell a story about an editor in charge of translations at Macmillan who advised her to stop translating La Fontaine... to "put it away for a while" because it would take ten years and detract from her other writing.
"What is wrong?" she asked herself afterward, thoroughly shaken from her own judgment that this was a good project for her now, "Have I not a good ear? Are the meanings not sound?" Of course she had a splendid ear, it was the editor who -- French literature degree from Cornell and superior attitude notwithstanding -- intuitively knew nothing. Moore later trusted her own gut and produced the edition with Viking. Today the Macmillan editor is long forgotten, but Moore's fine translation (encouraged by both W. H. Auden and Ezra Pound) lives on.
* * *
With these challenges in mind, however, I do argue that it is possible to create a writing group that produces edgy, important, elegant, ambitious, or otherwise worthy work, and that does so in a way working in isolation can't match. All it requires is talent. I don't just mean talented writers in the group. I also mean a facilitator who is as much artist as administrator, as much participant as organizer, and who furthermore knows how to coax work from colleagues without guiding it in the name of "helping" or otherwise stepping on it. (Yes, you read that correctly, when it comes to art I do not believe it is ever the facilitator's place to guide, or even to mildly critique, but only to help bring forth. Midwives do not make babies or try to alter them, they merely assist God and nature in delivering them.)
More about this, perhaps, in a future post as we plan writing groups. My stance is radical, but functional. Authors who work in such environs often do publish. Whether the leader has anything to do with that is open for vigorous debate, but what matters is that the authors themselves tend to think so (much as Dumbo the elephant thought the feather helped him fly, although it did no such thing, he flew on his own). At this townhouse, I'm happy to be the feather for others. Just about any working artist with an eye for a gift in others and the good sense to get out of the way can play the feather's part.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Two weeks ago U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall read to a packed house. Last night Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and poet David Tucker, and the famous, venerable grizzled lion Galway Kinnell took the stage to a smaller but in many ways more devoted group (the Hall contingent had a number of college classes in attendance, many of whom surely showed up to get extra credit). Now it seems time to start taking small groups from this townhouse. The next event is Thursday, October 26.
Jack Gilbert and Miranda Field
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Human science is six-year-old Flâneur's business. Founded by Tsun-shing Cheng, an associate professor at the National Tsing Hua University, it kicked off its program with the translation of Vocabulaire de la Psychoanalyse in December 2000. "We have published about a dozen titles, mostly French translations. Lately we have been looking at publications from various university presses around the world, and one which will be published soon is Leviathan and the Air-Pump from Princeton," says Cheng. With a catalogue that lists Burning Your Boats, Magic Toyshop, Nadja: Les yeux de Clerambault, Freud and the Non-European, Black Hamlet, Savage Freud and La pensee du dehors, it would seem that Flâneur caters mostly to field practitioners, postgraduate students and rather high-brow readers. But three forthcoming titles—Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus, E.M. Cioran's A Short History of Decay and Tsurumi Shunsuke's An Intellectual History of Wartime Japan, 1931–1945—reveal a different story. "We're branching out into works that are related to Taiwan and the Taiwanese people. Shunsuke, for instance, talks about the impact of war on the people involved. It's a very timely publication, given the present sentiment in this region about Japan's role in World War II and its past military aggression in Asia."
Explains editor Yi-zheng Zhou (Cheng's former student), "Our familiarity with the field has definitely been beneficial to our publishing program. We have a clear blueprint of what needs to be published or translated—i.e., essential readings and latest findings—and what to add to those already in the market in order to provide a more complete reading list in the field of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis."
At Flâneur, rights negotiation is quite a personal affair. "There's an advantage to being in the field and knowing the authors and the publishers. We get more flexible rights arrangements and, in most cases, lower charges. On the whole, European authors and publishing houses are more eager to get their titles published—wider dissemination of information being their main concern—and would accept a nominal fee to cover their expenses." The average fee paid by Cheng is around $1,200. "But, of course, some of the titles we bought aren't from the frontlist and, no doubt, cost less," Zhou adds.
Timothy Bent has been named executive editor, trade history at Oxford University Press. He was previously a senior editor at Harcourt and has worked at St. Martin's and Penguin. (From 9/18/06)
Monday, September 25, 2006
The get-together will include a short introduction by Edd, followed by questions from the group. We’ll have Cava (Spanish sparkling wine), nonalcoholic beverages, and light fare. The weather should be beautiful, and if people are interested Edd will lead a short walk around campus afterward.
Please send e-mail as soon as possible if you do plan to come. The event will be considered “sold out” when the count reaches 40. Thank you so much!
Friday, September 15, 2006
Professors, staff and students wanted to learn about literary submissions in a cozy, quirky setting.
Anyone who wishes to learn more about this is welcomed to spend some time -- from as little as one or two hours per month to as often as you wish -- working with Carole to submit literary work. This will involve writing query letters, creating selective agent and editor lists, indexing them intelligently according to past work published and stated interests, making contact with them by e-mail and occasional snail mail, and crafting strategies for the next step.
Please contact Carole with your personal interests in these processes, and your expected availability. All are welcome: professors, students, staff... this has the potential to be a community effort of monumental importance.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Now the two threads come together as circles begin to form at Georgetown to read and discuss the book in 12-week cycles. You can start anytime in the cycle, as circle members will each be in their own place with the book. We'll come together every other week to talk about the book, share ideas and encouragement, and plan for the future.
The first circle is for faculty and AAP staff. It will meet every other Monday at the townhouse (address to the right) from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. beginning September 18. A second circle is a strong possibility if the first one proves popular, as we will limit members to 10. Please contact me directly if you would like to participate.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Author's Guild Executive Director Paul Aiken and General Counsel Jan Constantine will be coming to campus in October (exact date and time TBA) to discuss university press contracts. Now is your chance to set the agenda by submitting your questions and concerns.
If you haven't yet heard of the Author's Guild, here's your chance to get acquainted. As they note on their web site, "The Authors Guild is the nation's largest and oldest society of published authors and the leading writers' advocate for fair compensation, effective copyright protection, and free expression." Its board includes authors like Oscar Hijuelos, Susan Cheever, Roger Angell, Sarah Vowell, and many others. Your $90 per year membership gets you up-to-the-minute contract advice, reasonably-priced template-based author web hosting, plus the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting important litigation surrounding key issues such as copyright in an electronic age, e-books, Google's book copying ambitions and more.
Send e-mail to Carole with your questions and ideas for a session format tailored to your needs.
Here is what he told journalist Steven Ward about the accidental journey: "I wrote a short story, [and then] "Barry" (whose lit legend I was still ignorant of at the time) heaped some undue praise upon it, and I got it published in a little Oxford alt-weekly. Which led to the giant linchpin moment of my life: The author Larry Brown, who'd just quit the Oxford Fire Department to write full-time, read the story and took me under his wing. He taught me everything I know, to understate. It was an apprenticeship that lasted 12 years, until Larry's death in 2004. And it was much more than an apprenticeship: Larry was my father in almost every regard save biological. His wife and three children provoked a degree of local confusion by adding my name to his tombstone, but that's how it was. I have no idea what my life would look like now had Larry not entered it. I'd probably be singing 'Mustang Sally' for 50 bucks and free beer in some hotel bar off the interstate."
This is the second item in an occasional series about successful writers who were inspired in the university classroom.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Chicago issued a special 25th-anniversary edition in 2001, and you can read about it here. Best of all for this charming story of a bestseller arising from the academy, author McLean published it -- his first book -- when he was 70 years old.