Most scientists agree that there have been five mass extinctions in Earth's history. Kolbert, a respected environmental journalist, believes we're on the verge of number six, the first since the dinosaurs were wiped out more than 50 million years ago. What does this mean for the planet? We'll find out when The Sixth Extinction appears sometime next year.
From our archives: a review of the audio version of Kolbert's previous book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe.
Our November print edition featured a roundup of Hollywood biographies, from American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood to How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood.
The books we covered were mostly in the “classic” Hollywood camp (Doris Day, Grace Kelly), but you’re in luck if you’d rather read about contemporary movie stars. December 1, Transit Publishing (the force that brought us Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson) will release Brangelina: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie by celebrity journalist Ian Halperin (also the author of Unmasked). The small Montreal-based publishing house is hoping for a hit—Brangelina will have a 100,000 copy first printing.
According to Transit, the book will include “exclusive revelations and personal anecdotes.” Get ready for “shocking new information about superstar Jolie” and “startling discoveries about [her] past.”
Also look out for Kiefer Sutherland: Living Dangerously in January 2010 and Little Girl Lost: Money, Fame and Britney Spears in April, both from Transit.
Do you like to read biographies of celebrities? Are there any superstars out there who still need a tell-all. . . or has it all been done?
Whether or not it's warranted, news about mainstream publishing tends to trend toward the bleak. So it's always encouraging to hear about a company who is generating excitement about reading in a new way. Madras Press, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit publisher, is one of those companies. Their goal: to publish individually bound short stories/novellas and distribute the proceeds to charitable organizations chosen by the authors.
"Concord Free Press, One Story, the old Penguin 60s series, the Penguin Great Ideas series," explains founding editor (and author) Sumanth Prabhaker. But Madras decided to focus on publishing works that were "too long for magazines, too short for trade publishers."
"It struck me as kind of funny that so many writers immediately limit themselves with a certain page restriction when they set out to write a story, especially when print technology and the major distribution systems are perfectly capable of handling stories of basically any length," Prabhaker tells us. "There's really no reason for it, and yet, as I complained to more and more of my friends, it seemed like there were a lot of people in a similar position—stuck with good stories that nobody was interested in. . . . Often it's not even a matter of page count; it's just that the impact of certain stories can be lessened by the presence of other writing on either end, in a literary journal or magazine or collection."
Of course, authors are often pleased to have the opportunity to have a work that would not otherwise be published see the light of day, and sold to benefit their charity of choice. "We're very flexible about this, so our inaugural titles are helping to support a wide variety of places: health and human services, environmental protection, community organizations, a non-profit education institution, etc.," says Prabhaker.
Each book costs just $6. "Our books are tiny, and tiny things tend to cost less in our marketplace than regular-size things," says Prabhaker, adding that volunteer labor, free content from the writers and lack of national distribution all allow them to keep their prices lower. The books are for sale on the Madras Press website and in select independent bookstores only.
The first four titles will ship December 1. Here's a list of titles, authors and charities:
The Third Elevator by Aimee Bender, to benefit InsideOUT Writers (CA)
Bobcat by Rebecca Lee, to benefit Riverkeeper (NY)
Sweet Tomb by Trinie Dalton, to benefit the Theodore Payne Foundation (CA)
A Mere Pittance by Sumanth Prabhaker, to benefit Helping Hands (MA)
Madras hopes to publish another set in 2010, and eventually producing a set of four books every six months.
Would you buy a $6 short story?
With his Booker Prize-winning debut, The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga joined a fresh crop of Indian writers who portray their complex, changing country as they see it. With a successful follow up, Between the Assassinations, under his belt, Adiga is poised to publish a third novel. Last Man in the Tower (Grove Atlantic) is set in Mumbai, and explores the conflict between a high-powered real estate developer and one man who won't sell out.
Adiga's Indian publisher, HarperCollins India, calls the book "a sweeping novel about contemporary India, more particularly Mumbai. Adiga's characters are unforgettable, his prose riveting." Fans can look for the novel sometime in 2011.
John Updike once said in an interview that he wrote every day because “the pleasures of not writing are so great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again.”
In the spirit of diving into creative output (and not indulging the pleasures of procrastination), over 100,00 people will spend November pounding out nearly 2,000 words a day in order to complete their own 50,000-word (175-page) novels.
Chris Baty, a freelance writer from San Francisco, named November National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 1999. There were 21 participants. Since then, NaNoWriMo has exploded. Last year, over 119,000 people signed up, and 21,720 writers completed 50,000 words by 11:59:59 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2008.
In 2004, Baty published a book called No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. The first chapter explains the reasoning behind marathon writing:
What you need to write a novel, of course, is a deadline. . . Deadlines bring focus, forcing us to make time for the achievement we would otherwise postpone, encouraging us to reach beyond our conservative estimates of what we think possible, helping us to wrench victory from the jaws of sleep.
Since Nov. 1, I have enjoyed reading Twitter updates from hundreds of frenzied writers (search #NaNo for by-the-second tweets). As you might expect, some of them are flying (one woman posted that she’s finished 6,672 out of 50,000 words). Others are suffering from pesky distractions (one participant tweeted: “I have to stop getting distracted by facebook and twitter! If you see me, tell me to get back to writing!”). In the Stanford Department of English, students are writing for a grade; this school year, National Novel Writing Month is an official seminar.
Are any of you in the midst of writing a novel for NaNoWriMo? If so, will you share plot details? To play devil's advocate: Anyone wary of the month’s mission, which emphasizes quantity of prose over quality?
Since I know our blog followers love free stuff and info about upcoming books (who doesn’t?), I thought I’d make sure our new readers know all about our popular e-newsletter, BookPageXTRA, which goes out twice a month.
In each issue of BookPageXTRA, readers will find something new, like advance access to author interviews and features on BookPage.com, exclusive reviews, or sneak previews of our print edition. We also give away books—and lots of ’em. (In our last issue, one XTRA reader won Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna, David Baldacci’s True Blue, John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River and Mary Karr’s Lit . . . even with the crazy price wars, that’s still a deal.)
The next issue comes out Nov. 2. . . sign up for free right now!
Though she made her name with the historical Slammerkin, Irish-Canadian novelist Emma Donoghue is also known for her contemporary fiction. After last year's historical, The Sealed Letter, Donoghue has plans to publish a ripped-from-the-headlines story with Little, Brown. As she describes it on her site, Room is a "dark contemporary novel in the voice of a five-year-old boy," who happens to have been held captive in a garden shed (with his mother) most of his life. Shades of Jaycee Dugard, but, eerily, Donoghue had been working on the novel for months when Dugard was discovered in the Garridos' backyard.
Don't miss our interview with Donoghue for her 2004 historical, Life Mask.
This morning brought a story of yet another big deal from the Frankfurt Book Fair. Australian mother and small business owner Rebecca James has sold world rights to her first two young adult novels for major bucks, going from mom to millionaire overnight after her manuscript was pulled out of the slush pile by a U.K. agent. The rights to Beautiful Malice and its sequel got $600,000 in the U.S. alone, according to the Wall Street Journal, who calls James the next J.K. Rowling (because of her success story, not the subject matter of her books, which are described as "sexy, psychological thrillers" for teens). Since the days of big advances for the heck of it (or for the publicity) seem to have disappeared with the recession, this signals that Bantam Dell expects a Rowling-sized payout once the books are published. On her blog, the 39-year-old mother of four says she's "mega chuffed" to be published (gotta love the Australian vernacular!) and shares pictures of her sons and two adorable puppies.
But what's the book about? It's the story of the friendship of two girls. One has lost her sister in a horrible murder. The other is a chilling and charming party girl. The series has been described as Twilight without the vampires and with the sex.
According to the WSJ, Kate Miciak, editorial director of Bantam Books, who won U.S. rights, said, "You had only to read the opening sentence -- 'I did not go to Alice's funeral' -- to know that you had instantly fallen under the thrall of a strong narrative voice, which was going to hold you in its grip and keep you there." No firm pub date has been set (we hear the book could appear as early as May 2010), but we'll keep an eye out for more news on this YA thriller.
12.02, ETA: Looks like Bantam now has Beautiful Creatures scheduled for a September 2010 publication. (via)
We’ve posted about bloggers getting book deals in the past, and that trend certainly seems here to stay. The latest: On April 27, 2010, Alan Beard and Alec McNayr's site Historical Tweets will be published as a book by Villard.
A couple weeks ago Trisha posted a handy list of tweeters in the book world. Well, this site’s premise is that Twitter has always existed, and historical figures have been communicating to each other in 140 characters or less since the beginning of time. (The most popular post on the site: “anyone got a more creative way of saying ‘87 years?’” HonestAbe on Nov. 18, 1863.)
Is there anyone out there whom you’d like to see with a Twitter account? Do you keep up with any of your favorite authors on Twitter?
From the what's-the-world-coming-to-department comes news that Simon & Schuster has signed a deal for a series of three books based on an iPhone app. Is this a first? I think so (but I could be wrong -- leave a comment if you know of other iPhone apps that have spawned book deals).
The iPhone app store describes Soul Trapper as "a supernatural tale that unfolds over 23 chapters, each ranging from 5 to 15 minutes in length." Buyers are promised that this "richly-produced audio drama" is "seamlessly interwoven with interactivity, navigation, and audio puzzles." Players follow 27-year-old drifter Kane Pryce, who owns a mysterious device (the Soul Trap) that lets him capture ghosts and exile them from Earth.
To see what all the fuss was about, I attempted to download Soul Trapper on my iPhone, but I got an annoying message indicating that the app was too large for obtaining by phone and should be downloaded through a computer instead. So I'll probably never know whether the app lives up to its billing as "triple-A entertainment" in the "audio spectrum" (hmmm).
Soul Trapper was created by F.J. Lennon, whom, we were heartened to learn, has previously written at least one book, a 2001 title from HarperBusiness called Every Mistake in the Book: A Business How-NOT-To -- apparently a lively account of his computer game business that flopped. Maybe Lennon's next business title will advise readers on how to turn iPhone games into publishing gold.