Rare Books: Collecting in the Digital Age

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I find old and rare books fascinating. There’s something about the duality of them — the story of the object that goes with the story between the covers — that piques my interest. I cannot claim to know much about collecting rare books as a serious hobby, however. The practical side of my personality insists I’m better off spending my money on many new books rather than just a few precious old ones, so I try not to delve too deeply into the subject for fear of temptation getting the better of me. But this weekend I ducked into the California International Antiquarian Book Fair, which takes place each year in Pasadena, a stone’s throw from where I live, because an entire exhibit hall filled with books is just too much for me to resist. It was like someone delivered a book museum to my doorstep.

Wandering the aisles, I came across too many treasures to describe them all, but a few stuck out in particular: A first edition of Charlotte’s Web going for $25,000, inscribed by author E.B. White to actress Elizabeth Taylor; a beautiful four-volume, leather bound edition of Middlemarch; several lovely early editions of works by Jane Austen; a complete set of first edition Winnie-the-Pooh books.

Most of the truly valuable books were in glass cases, but plenty of fairly impressive volumes were out in the open where anyone could thumb through them. Booksellers had come from all over the country, as well as England, France, Germany, etc. In addition to the books, there were comics, beautiful maps, framed illustrations and cover art, letters, autographs, and the odd novelty item on display. This year’s theme was Alice in Wonderland, so many of the displays included editions of Alice’s Adventures and Through the Looking Glass, and the lobby boasted a wonderful Alice collection, including several of the printing plates for the original Tenniel illustrations.

With so much emphasis on the shift in publishing from paper to digital, it’s impossible not to wonder what these sorts of events might be like in the future. New book sales seem to be settling, with paper editions still holding onto a fair share of the market, but there’s no denying that print runs have shrunk in recent years. Smaller print runs, in part, lead to more valuable books in the future, as fewer copies survive to be collected. Could be that rare book collectors will one day applaud this upheaval in the publishing industry for its boost to the quality of their ongoing treasure hunts.

Readers seem to be divided between those who love the content of the book, and those who love both the content and the book as an object of art. Which side of the fence do you land on? Do you own any rare or special books? I’m curious to hear everyone’s take.

Reading Wrap Up for 2015

I started this year with a number of reading-related goals, among them to read more published books (as opposed to manuscripts) than I have been managing recently, to read more diversely, and to try my hand at a number of reading challenges I’d found around the internet, one of which in particular focused on reading books you’ve had sitting on your bookshelves for a year or more instead of endlessly buying new ones. As it’s the last day of the year, it’s time to see how I’ve done.

In terms of reading more, I certainly managed that one. I’m one book shy of hitting my goal for the Goodreads Challenge, and I’m nearly finished with my current read, so I can safely say that’s one goal met. In terms of diversity, 63% of the books I read were by women, with the remaining 37% by men, and that’s about on par for me in terms of gender split, falling a little more heavily on the women-writers side than last year, but then I tend to read more women than men by default. As for writers of color, they accounted for 30% of this year’s reading, up slightly from last year’s 25%. It’s not a bad number, but I’d still like to raise it, so that’s a goal that will carry on into 2016.

As for the other challenges I took on, I failed pretty abysmally, indicating that perhaps given the small amount of time I have for personal reading, I should focus on fewer goals rather than spreading myself thin trying to find ways to read things that count for more than one challenge. So I’m sticking to my basic reading goals for the coming year: Read more books, read more diversely, and try not to buy quite so many new books when I have so many waiting for me at home already. I’d also like to read more books in translation, but I feel that dovetails nicely with my goal to diversify.

I’m happy to say I read some really wonderful books this year. I could probably go on for ages extolling the virtues of a few of the titles in particular, but instead I’m just going to list a few favorites, in no particular order. Please note that these books are all personal reads; none of the authors are clients.

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I’d love to hear what books have made an impression on you this year. New favorites? Recommendations? Or were there any books that were a true disappointment? Feel free to share your bookish thoughts in comments. I look forward to hearing what had you excited in 2015, and wish you all the best for a wonderful new year of reading and writing!

 

 

On Holiday Reading

Anyone who has spent much time visiting this blog knows I’m a sucker for seasonal reading. I love matching some of my reading choices to the time of year, and of course Christmas begs for this sort of treatment. As an adult, my favorite reread in December is Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, but I’m also happy to cherry pick from a volume of Christmas stories or delve into something new. Romance readers know that this time of year brings a wealth of holiday-themed romances, both novels and anthologies, because romance goes so well with winter activities such as sleigh rides and ice skating and shopping for the perfect gift for that special someone. Young adult fiction has a handful of holiday choices, too, and of course, children’s books provide the most plentiful selection, with books about Santa Claus or Hanukkah traditions, holidays from different countries and cultures, or holiday mishaps.

Do you pick up something special to read this time of year? What are your holiday favorites?

On Reading in Translation

One of the wonderful things about both writing and reading is they allow you to open yourself to new thoughts and experiences, to delve into the minds of other people, to immerse yourself in other cultures and fantastical worlds, and to truly discover how truth can be stranger than fiction. To write well, you must crawl into your character’s head space, and when reading a well-written book, you have the chance to do the same courtesy of another author’s efforts.

Ann Morgan recently set herself the task of taking her reading efforts to the next level by attempting to read a work in translation from every country in the world in a single year. At a time when there is so much discussion about representation and diversity in the publishing industry — and in the world at large — her self-set challenge feels appropriate and yet still impressive. Morgan shares both the joys and the difficulties of her year of reading the world in the following TED Talk.

Happy Book Release Day!

Bring the Heat

A very happy book release day to Jo Davis, whose latest Sugarland Blue romantic suspense novel, BRING THE HEAT, is available today.

Being on the Sugarland P.D. means never backing down, no matter how intense the case—or how dangerous the attraction…

Captain Austin Rainey knows all too well that being a good cop sometimes means gaining some bad enemies. After his ex-wife is killed, he finds himself on the wrong side of the law, trying to prove he’s innocent of her murder. The last thing he needs is a distraction—especially of the irresistible female kind…

Medical examiner Laura Eden has always found Austin more than a little intriguing, but she’s kept her feelings under wraps. Now she’s determined to do her job and clear his name—but as her investigation brings them into close proximity, she can’t deny the attraction between them—or resist the temptation he presents.

But Laura and Austin soon realize their budding feelings might be more than emotionally perilous. Someone is coming after everyone Austin holds dear—and Laura might be the next one in the line of fire…

Check out this tense romance at your favorite book/e-book retailer today.

Guest Post: 25 Debut Authors Share Advice for Getting Published

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I’m delighted to welcome Chuck Sambuchino (@chucksambuchino) of Writer’s Digest Books to the blog today. September 2015 saw the release of three of Chuck’s new books, the 2016 Guide to Literary Agents, the 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, and his anti-clown humor book When Clowns Attack: A Survival Guide. Chuck has generously offered to do a giveaway. In two weeks, he’ll pick a commenter from this thread at random, and the winner will receive their choice of any of his books. Must live within the US/Canada to receive a print book; those residing elsewhere will receive a PDF e-book. Beware clowns. 

GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED! The winner, as chosen through Random.org, is Jayne, who posted October 7th. Jayne, please watch your email for a note from Chuck Sambuchino with information on receiving your book. Congratulations! Thanks so much to everyone who commented, and to Chuck for his great guest post and generous giveaway.

Without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Chuck.

I love interviewing debut authors. I interview them for my Guide to Literary Agents Blog, and make sure to include at least a dozen such interviews in each edition of the Guide to Literary Agents, such as the new 2016 edition. These interviews are very helpful to aspiring writers, because the authors come clean about what they believe they did right, what the wish they would have done different, and other advice for writers.

So I went back to 25 debut author interviews of the past few years and focused on one single important question I asked them:

“Now that you’re done explaining your own journey to publication, what is one piece of advice you’d like to share with writers?”

The results are inspiring and fascinating. See below, and learn from 25 writers who have come before you and succeeded.

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“Never give up. Keep writing through the rejections, the revisions, the never-ending explanations to your friends about why you aren’t published yet. Keep writing when you hear that other people have gotten agents and book deals. Keep writing, even if it takes you years to finally accomplish your goal.”

          ~Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes

“To paraphrase Jay Asher [author of 13 Reasons Why]: ‘Don’t give up because that NY Times bestseller could be right around the corner!’”

~Constance Lombardo, author of Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars

“Don’t send out your novel before it’s ready. Take your time. If it’s as good as you think it is, everything will work out.”

~Lisa Freeman, author of Honey Girl

“I would say to do more thinking than writing. It’s really easy to get mired in language and sentence structure and sort of lose the forest for the trees. It’s important to really think about your idea inside and out and up and down and all around before penning a word so that you really know what you’re getting at and how you want to get at it.”

~Dev Petty, author of I Don’t Want to Be a Frog

“ ’Ass in Chair.’ Fingers above keyboard. Don’t talk about what you’re going to write—write it.”

~Jeff Anderson, author of Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth

“Find a trusted critique partner to give you honest feedback, and be sure to return the favor in critiquing their work. There is a lot to be learned about the art of writing from editing other people’s work.”

~Aisha Saeed, author of Written in the Stars

“Tenacity is everything. Don’t listen to the people who tell you can’t make money as a writer. They’re well meaning, but they lack imagination.”

~Max Wirestone, author of The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss

“Write the book you want to read.”

~Amanda Linsmeier, author of Ditch Flowers

“Be stubborn. I tried 90 different agents before I landed one.”

~Adam Plantinga, author of 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman

“You can turn rejection and disappointment into a serious motivator if you’re determined enough to be published. But you must also understand why the work is not accepted. Have the discipline and subjectivity to look at your work and say, ‘Yeah, that’s not good enough,’ and then sit down and make it better. ”

~Jamie Kornegay, author of Soil

“Work hard, be patient, and become part of a writing community. Get involved in the industry in some capacity—even as a volunteer—to gain a better understanding as to how it all works.”

~Brooke Davis, author of Lost and Found

“‘Never give up; never surrender.’ Or, the longer version: Write. Edit. Polish. Find a competent critique group or writing partner and learn to take honest criticism. If your novel still doesn’t sell, write another one. And another. Write as many as it takes. And don’t be discouraged by other authors’ success—instead, let it encourage you to work harder, write better, and hang in there. Your turn will come.”

~Susan Spann, author of Claws of the Cat: A Shinobi Mystery

“Don’t be afraid to ask for advice: if you know someone who has successfully written a proposal, ask him or her if you could take a look at it; if you know someone who knows an agent, ditto.”

~Asher Price, author of Year of the Dunk: A Modest Defiance of Gravity

“Always use active verbs. Avoid passive voice if you can.”

~Thomas Lee, author of Rebuilding Empires: How Best Buy and Other Retailers are Transforming and Competing in the Digital Age of Retailing

“Choose enthusiasm. If you are lucky enough to have more than one agent or editor interested in your work, don’t automatically choose the bigger name or even the most money. Go with the person who loves your book and is dying to work with you.”

~Eliza Kennedy, author of I Take You: A Novel

“Write a great book. The publishing world may be hard to break in to, but if you have a great book, they’ll have no choice but to notice you. And on that note, edit. Edit like your life depends on it.”

~Lindsey Cummings, author of The Murder Complex

“Don’t send your work out until it’s as good as your favorite book. Also, there is no one way to write. Many authors are long-winded and later have to chop a lot of words. I write sparingly from beginning to end and then go back and plump up all the chapters. Do what works for you.”

~Marcia Strykowski, author of Call Me Amy

“Read widely in the genre you’re writing in. And go easy on yourself. Everyone has their own pace. Persistence is as important as productivity.”

~Nancy Grossman, author of A World Away

“Do not give up. If you believe in your work, find ways to work around those impenetrable doors. There isn’t only one way to break in, so explore all avenues. And be kind to everyone.”

~Karolina Waclawiak, author of How to Get Into the Twin Palms

“Wait until there’s something you really want to say.”

~Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, authors of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending

“It’s cliché, but read. A lot. Anything, but especially current stuff in the genre you write. Find out what’s selling—and why kids like it. Figure out what you like and why you like it. Then write something new.”

~W.H. Beck, author of Malcolm at Midnight

“Do your research. Knowing what kinds of books specific agents and editors like is incredibly helpful. Stay informed. Know what books everyone is talking about. Know what books you yourself love. And, just like any industry, being kind and pleasant to work with, and respectful takes you far. And in publishing, it’s not hard to be kind.”

~Cirey Ann Haydu, author of OCD Love Story

“Read, write, and stay informed. The only thing you can control is how hard you’re willing to work at becoming a better writer.”

~Claire Kells, author of Girl Underwater

“Don’t be afraid to put yourself and your writing out there. Take colossal risks. The publishing world rewards bravery.”

~Brandy Vallence, author of The Covered Deep

“Finish. Don’t keep tinkering with the same book for years. Put it aside and start another one. You won’t improve as a writer by writing the same book over and over.”

~Melissa Lenhardt, author of Stillwater: A Jack McBride Mystery

Thanks again to Chuck for sharing so much great advice. Don’t forget to leave a comment in order to enter the giveaway. A winner will be chosen in two weeks, and will get their choice of any of Chuck’s books. Must live in the US/Canada for a print edition; those residing elsewhere are eligible for a PDF e-book edition. Good luck to all!

Happy Book Release! ROCK REDEMPTION by Nalini Singh

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A very happy book release day to Nalini Singh, whose latest novel in her Rock Kiss contemporary romance series, ROCK REDEMPTION, is now available. A bad boy guitarist and an up-and-coming actress. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? Or at least in the media. But Noah St. John already crushed Kit Devigny’s heart once, stomping all over their friendship in the process. Can she survive another go? Buy ROCK REDEMPTION today and find out.

Rise to the Challenge: Read a Banned Book

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Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

This year, Banned Books Week runs from September 27 through October 3. As it does each year during this week, the American Library Association will be promoting its lists of books that are commonly banned or challenged in order to encourage readers to stand up for freedom of information and their right to read what they choose.

While some some writers may be aware during the creation process that they’re delving into potentially incendiary subjects, most likely have no idea that their work will one day be challenged by a library or teacher or parent or community. And though it might be flattering to be hotly debated, most writers would probably prefer to be read rather than banned. Banned books get increased attention, but also lose readers.

How would you feel if a book you’d poured your heart and soul into writing suddenly was challenged by a local school board or librarian? If it disappeared mysteriously from your corner bookstore’s shelves because someone complained about its content? What books have you read and enjoyed (or perhaps hated) that have graced a banned-books list at some point? You might be surprised at the titles that have garnered criticism.

Check out the top banned books from 2014, and the books that have been most challenged through the decades. See what already graces your bookshelves, and maybe pick up one or two new ones to read next week. Everyone should have a choice of what books they read; it’s not for someone else to remove that freedom.

Cover Art: ROCK REDEMPTION by Nalini Singh

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ROCK REDEMPTION, Nalini Singh‘s next romance in the Rock Kiss series, won’t be out until October 6, 2015, but as you can see from the above, its shiny new cover is now available for all to see and enjoy.

Kit Devigny could have loved rock guitarist Noah St. John. Their friendship burned with the promise of intense passion and searing tenderness…until the night Noah deliberately shattered her heart. 

Noah knows he destroyed something precious the night he chose to betray Kit, but he’d rather she hate him than learn his darkest secret. All he has left is his music. It’s his saving grace, but it doesn’t silence the voices that keep him up at night. Chasing oblivion through endless one-night-stands, he earns a few hours’ sleep and his bad boy reputation. 

When a media error sees Noah and Kit dubbed the new “it” couple, Kit discovers her chance at the role of a lifetime hinges on riding the media wave. Wanting—needing—to give Kit this, even if he can’t give her everything, Noah agrees to play the adoring boyfriend. Only the illusion is suddenly too real, too painful, too beautiful…and it may be too late for the redemption of Noah St. John.

Preorder now from your favorite e-retailer: Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo

 

Happy Book Day!

Archangel's Enigma_Cover

Wishing a very happy book release day to Nalini Singh, whose latest exciting adventure in the Guild Hunter series, ARCHANGEL’S ENIGMA, hits shelves today.

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh returns to her world of dark passion and immortal power – and to one of the most seductive and impenetrable heroes ever to stalk the Guild Hunter landscape…

Naasir is the most feral of the powerful group of vampires and angels known as the Seven, his loyalty pledged to the Archangel Raphael. When rumors surface of a plot to murder the former Archangel of Persia, now lost in the Sleep of the Ancients, Naasir is dispatched to find him. For only he possesses the tracking skills required – those more common to predatory animals than to man.

Enlisted to accompany Naasir, Andromeda, a young angelic scholar with dangerous secrets is fascinated by his nature – at once playful and brilliant, sensual and brutal. As they race to find the Sleeping archangel before it’s too late, Naasir will force her to question all she knows…and tempt her to walk into the magnificent, feral darkness of his world. But first they must survive an enemy vicious enough to shatter the greatest taboo of the angelic race and plunge the world into a screaming nightmare…

Pick up ARCHANGEL’S ENIGMA from your favorite bookstore or e-tailer, and finally see inside Naasir’s mysterious world.