Happy, happy holidays! Who's ready to consume an unhealthy amount of eggnog over the course of the next four weeks?
As wonderful as this time of year is, there's a special kind of stress that comes along with trying to pick out the perfect gift for someone you care about. We don't need to be ashamed to admit that covering all the bases of a good gift (i.e. genuinely thoughtful, practically useful, and contextually appropriate) isn't easy.
Buying the right gift for a writer poses an extra challenge, especially if you know that writer's craft is important to them; the temptation to cop out and just get them yet another Moleskine can be overwhelming. So, as a festive favor to you all, I've put together a list of six gifts you can give to the writer in your life that'll show some love and recognition for their creative side. In store we've got DIY writer's retreats, gorgeous pens, and a very special opportunity with yours truly...the gift of clarity that every writer craves.
Boy, this decorative gourd season sure has flown by, hasn't it?
I know many of us are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow -- loosening your belt just the right amount takes time, of course -- so we'll keep this one short. Here's the rundown:
Happy Thanksgiving and happy reading!
Book lovers, brace yourselves; fiction sales are on a steep, steady decline, and it’s not looking good for the future.
Between 2013 and 2017, we’ve seen a 16% drop in adult fiction revenue, with numbers still on the downward slope at this point in 2018. 16% over four years is a troubling figure, and I can’t help but wonder what’s going on to drive such a severe deterioration in sales.
There are the usual suspects, of course — a greater variety of entertainment options have become available in recent years, publishers are taking fewer risks with new books and authors, people are reading more nonfiction…it all adds up. But the more I think about these plausible causes, the more I believe there’s something about fiction — specifically, the role that fiction plays and the purpose it serves — that we have begun to perceive differently.
Hello again! We're slowly but surely creeping toward Halloween...what are you scared of?
Nine times out of ten, when I ask new clients what emotional and/or creative setbacks they anticipate as we work through their project, I hear some variation of: "I'm afraid my first draft won't be good enough. I want to get it right the first time." I like to call this attitude Generalized First Draft Anxiety (GFDA, for short), and can say with confidence that it's a very common, completely ridiculous fear to have.
Here's why: first drafts are always, without exception, imperfect. There is no such thing as getting it right when the only real goal at that point in the process is getting it out of your head and onto the page. Perfection comes later (in most cases, way later), and worrying too much about perfection too soon sucks the life and love out of the experience of writing faster than you realize. By expecting to nail it on the first go-around, you're putting an insane amount of pressure on yourself to do something that just isn't going to happen. It's senseless.
For all the writers of the world that suffer from GFDA, I'm here to say that you canafford to ease up a little; while it's absolutely natural to be anxious about your project, you don't have to let that anxiety drive you and poison your creative process. If you're having trouble taking that step back, I recommend adopting this mantra:
"By definition, a first draft cannot be a failure. This is my secret project, and no one needs to see it until I feel it's ready to be seen."
Print it out, write it down, paste it somewhere you'll see it all the time. Know that a first draft isn't for anyone other than the people you actively want to share it with, and you've got no obligations at this point other than to commit your story to the page. It's not so scary when you think of it like that, is it?
Hello! I've just made it back to the city after a brief but much needed visit home in North Carolina. It turned out that space was what I needed most...
As you might know, I've been in a weird headspace about reading lately. It's been really challenging for me to appreciate stories, even though doing just that is the bedrock of my whole life. I mean, this is what I do, this is what I'm here for, and yet picking up a new book has been borderline impossible the past few months.
I've had my suspicions about where this "reader's block" is coming from for quite a while, but I came across a Facebook post recently that solidified my hunch: at the present moment, the political climate of this country is, frankly, insane and exhausting, and being party to the madness is taking a toll on my ability to invest myself in meaningful work. Hearing about all the ways in which things are falling apart has been so mentally taxing, I feel like I've maxed out my emotional credit card for the foreseeable future. It's all taking a toll on my passion for books.
However, seeing that Facebook post and the number of people who felt the same was so validating; I was getting to a point where I felt bad -- guilty, even -- about my disengagement from the literary world, but knowing that others are experiencing the same thing has been comforting and has motivated me to confront the issue a bit more directly than I have been. If you're feeling this way as well, here are some potential ways to bust out of the slump we're in together:
We're starting to see the consequences of risk-averse publishing, and it's exactly what the literary world fears the most
If you're interested in embarking on a relatively brief publishing-related thought experiment, consider the following dilemma:
T-minus nine days until the first day of fall! I hope you're all doing well on this slow crawl toward sweater weather, and a big hug to all my readers down south facing Hurricane Florence this weekend. North Carolina is my home state after all, so if the damage is as bad as they say it's going to be, I'll be helping with disaster relief in any way I can.
Now, you might be sick of me talking about fall like it's something that doesn't happen every year, but I just have to say that I'm really pumped for these next few months. I think the reason I get so excited for fall is because it's so...literary. September through December is high season for book debuts and it gives me plenty to look forward to. This season seems especially laden with big name authors; There's a new Murakami, Michelle Obama's memoir, and new novels by both Tana French and Stephen King headed our way, all within weeks of each other. How incredible is that?
September into October is also when we finally settle back into our comfortable routines after months of heat and heightened activity, so not only are there loads of great books coming out, but I will actually have time to read them! I'm a firm believer that reflecting on and really appreciating stories is something best accomplished in autumn. We can take the time to slow down and engage. If you feel the same, I encourage you to browse through this fall's releases and find something that makes you want to cozy up with a blanket and a cup of tea for a few hours at a time. Let me know what catches your eye.
Hello! I hope this newsletter finds you coping well from the inevitable end-of-summer doldrums. I'm not quite there yet myself; as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'm in a bit of a reading slump at the moment. The other day I was considering revisiting a few of my old favorites to snap me out of this funk I'm in, and as I was browsing my bookshelves, I got to thinking: we all have books we love and will champion to the death, but what if we could get a definitive answer to which book is the best of them all? Enter: PBS's The Great American Read.
This eight-part series is the centerpiece of PBS's campaign to "get the country reading and passionately talking about books." The premiere back in May introduced the 100 books eligible for the title (restricted to fiction novels) and to date, over two million votes have been cast. America's best loved book will be announced during the finale on October 23, and episodes in between will explore themes and concepts common to books in the top 100.
There are two things I love about what The Great American Read is doing here.
First, I think it's brilliant that the opportunity to cast a vote is available to anyone who cares to participate. I think there's a tendency when it comes to entertainment to value the opinion of "experts" more highly than the opinion of the public (for example, the Oscars), but The Great American Read is making an effort to make engaging with literature accessible to everyone. The list of 100 books the series is working from was compiled based on a public survey that asked people to nominate whichever book they love the most, and the results of that survey were narrowed down by a very basic set of criteria (which you can read here) to identify eligible candidates. But that's it! There was no elitism or pretension involved in the process, no literary credentials or qualifications voters had to have -- just, if you love a book, let us know.
The other thing I think is great about this series is the variety of candidates in the top 100. Some of these books come from other countries and languages; were written by people of color and the differently abled; and, collectively, span a crazy range of time periods (1600s to 2016) and genres. Overall, the top 100 gives a genuinely well-rounded representation of the diverse literary spirit of America. I mean, would you expect to see Twilight and Moby Dick on the same ballot? I certainly didn't, but it was a refreshing surprise. I guess that's what happens when you cast off preconceptions about what is "great" (and what is "American") and just let people enjoy the stories they do.
If you're interested in voting for America's best loved book, you can do so here. Let me know if you plan on tuning in, and read on for your updates from the world of publishing.
The end of summer is finally in sight! Between a trip to Aspen for a wedding and a mini-vacation to Ireland, my July was exceptionally hectic. Thankfully, the first hints of cooler weather are on the breeze and that means it's time to settle back down. I'm looking forward to returning to my roots – hard work and good stories. If you have any book recommendations to ease me back in, send them my way.
And speaking of roots, If you've been with me since the beginning, you probably know that LTS Editorial has changed shape a few times over the years and the place we're in today looks a lot different from where we started. I was recently featured in a wonderful article written by a good friend of mine that gives a behind-the-scenes look at how my company and I have grown from a boutique editorial service to a multifaceted publishing outfit. I'll say that a great deal of that growth was inspired by seeing how what I had to offer stacked up to what clients actually needed, and being able to adapt my company to meet those needs has been such a worthwhile journey. Check it out if you're interested, let me know what you think, and read on for the latest news in the world of publishing.
Hello, and welcome to the midsummer slump! I hope you're not withering in the heat. I, for one, will be escaping to the cooler weather of Ireland pretty soon here so if you notice I'm a little quieter over the next couple of weeks, don't worry—I'll be back in full force when it's not as sweltering. Fall can't come fast enough!
One thing I AM loving this summer is HBO's latest gem, Sharp Objects. It's a show adapted from Gillian Flynn's eponymous novel, and it's everything I hoped it would be and more after reading the book—creepy, moody, and intensely unnerving. If you were wondering what Amy Adams is like at her prime, look no further.
Watching the first couple of (extremely well done) episodes of Sharp Objects got me thinking about some of the buzzier movies and television shows from recent memory: Game of Thrones, Gone Girl, Big Little Lies, Orange is the New Black, Room, The Handmaid's Tale, Call Me By Your Name, The Fault In Our Stars...The list goes on and on. And what's the common thread here? Well, all of these were books before they hit the screen. Lately we've been seeing adaptions made left and right. It seems like every day has an old story to tell in a new format, and I have to wonder: why are we so enamored with adaptations?
Book-to-screen adaptations have historically done well with critics—as of 2014,more than 60 Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards were films derived from literature, and we've seen the recent success of adapted television shows at the Golden Globes and the Emmys, where 57% of wins go to adaptations.
Adaptations also have a knack for raking in revenue at the box office, taking in 44% more on average than original screenplays. And what's more, books that are adapted for the screen tend to receive a boost in sales after the release of the adaptation, with some books seeing the largest share of revenue come in decades after the book's initial publication; in some cases, a film adaptation can breathe life back into a book that was forgotten or never remembered in the first place (take, for example, the resurgence of the travel memoir Tracks after the movie came out...33 years after its initial publication).
Clearly, there's some kind of symbiosis happening where adaptations are concerned. I'm curious as to what the exact nature of that relationship is; my hunch is that adaptations often have a built-in fanbase thanks to whatever popularity the literature it's based on had initially, and on top of that, the production will garner whatever attention it was going to regardless from people who hadn't read the book. If the book was popular on its own merit, being adapted can only contribute to its following (at least where sales are concerned—you can't unsell a book). If the book being adapted wasn't well-known to begin with, having it adapted into a TV show or movie is basically a lengthy commercial for the story, and we all know how powerful advertising can be.
The reputation a story has often transcends its medium, so any acclaim a book has will likely stick around as it transitions to the screen and vice versa. Fame feeds off of itself. And then, think about just how much vetting and crafting and blood, sweat, and tears a great book endures on its way to publication. Maybe it's the case—not all the time, but sometimes—that the stories told in adaptations are more thoroughly fleshed out and developed than those told in original screenplays. Maybe the stories told in adaptations are just better, having been through the grinder of two different industries where entertainment value is king. A story told once can be stellar, but what kind of magic is possible when we get the chance to tell it a second time in a completely new medium? I'd love to hear your thoughts.