Monthly Archives: September 2010

Stephen Elliott on James Franco

Craig Morgan Teicher -- September 30th, 2010

PWxyz got in touch with Stephen Elliott as soon as we heard the big news that James Franco has optioned The Adderall Diaries and plans to adapt, direct, and star in the film version of Elliott’s book.  He told us “It’s very exciting–I’m flattered.  I think Franco’s a real artist and a writer so I’m really excited that he’s the person who optioned the book.”

Of course Elliott is also a practical guy and rather than fantasize about film and fame, he’s focused on the good old paper edition of his book: “Mostly I’m hopeful that this will convince more people to read the book, especially since it just came out as a paperback two days ago and is a lot more affordable now. Films take a long time to make.”

Seems like Elliott has lots of faith in Franco, though shortly after the news broke, Elliott wondered aloud about Franco on Twitter: “But is he handsome enough?”

James Franco Buys Film Rights to Stephen Elliott’s The Adderall Diaries

Craig Morgan Teicher -- September 30th, 2010

Actor and author James Franco is all over literature these days–not only is he portraying Allen Ginsberg in a new movie and publishing his own book of short stores, but, according to Deadline New York, he’s just bought the rights to Stephen Elliott’s memoir The Adderall Diaries, which he plans to adapt for the screen, direct, and star in.

The Adderall Diaries chronicles author and Rumpus editor Elliott’s obsession with a murder trial and his own coming-to-grips with a history of abuse and sexual eccentricity.  It will no doubt make an interesting movie if Franco can retain the intensity of Elliott’s writing in the adaptation.

This news is also notable because, while it’s not Graywolf’s first book to be optioned or made into a film, optioning by Franco makes this one of the press’s most high profile foray’s into the film world (though Graywolf publicist Erin Kottke just told PWxyz that it turns out “Il Postino” was based on a Graywolf book” and noted that Graywolf rarely retains film rights, which in this case went through Elliott’s agent)  She also told us the following:

We are thrilled with the news that James Franco has optioned the film right to Stephen Elliott’s THE ADDERALL DIARIES. We knew the book was special when we published the hardcover, and hope that Franco’s high profile status will help the book reach the wider audience it deserves, especially now that the paperback is out. We think he’ll do a great job with the material and can’t wait to see the final product.

We’ll have more on this hopefully from Elliott himself later today.

Making a Living as A Writer: Should Prose Writers Act Like Poets?

Craig Morgan Teicher -- September 30th, 2010

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Earlier this week the WSJ ran a much-talked about installment in its ‘Future of the Book’ series of articles exploring how technology is changing the book business.  The article mostly focused on shrinking advances and the smaller portion of revenue that goes to writers for the sale of e-b00ks rather than print books (as you can see from the WSJ chart above).

But, the article also raises what seems to me another interesting question: should writers, especially literary writers, feel bitter or surprised about not being able to make a living solely from writing at this point in time?  Fair enough, many writers were once able to depend on book advances to pay their bills, and now few can, but is that so unfair?  Here’s what the WSJ has to say about John Pipkin, the author around which the article centers:

Mr. Pipkin, who has Ph.D in English literature, says he cobbles together an income based in part on grants, fellowships and a partial advance he has received for his second book. “I’ve had to rethink my plans in terms of supporting my family full time as a writer,” he says.

His wife, a tenured professor, provides health benefits for his family. Mr. Pipkin, who teaches an undergraduate creative-writing class at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, receives no benefits. Although he has an IRA, he doesn’t receive employer contributions. Mr. Pipkin, 43, says his goal is to find a full-time teaching position with benefits.

Coming at this from a poet’s perspective–in my life outside of PW, I publish books of poetry–the idea of making a living from my books seems ludicrous.  The above situation is an ideal one for many poets and off-beat prose writers I know.  Poets go into the publishing game without any expectation of making money–a typical advance for a poetry book is $0; $1,000 is high; $2,000 is crazy high–on books.  Instead, we know we’ll need jobs, so we teach, work at magazines, build Web sites, write puff pieces about cupcakes, whatever .  One poet I know of is a farrier–he takes care of horses’ hoofs when he’s not writing poems.

Anyway, poetry mostly lives in the world of small presses, where, typically on nonprofit models, our publishers–houses like Coffee House, Graywolf, BOA Editions, Sarabande, Four Way, Copper Canyon, Wave Books, and a host of others, larger and much smaller–can afford to nurture writing careers that will yield far more beauty than money.

I’m not trying to be Mr. Sour Grapes here, or draw attention away from the very series fact that the economics are of publishing have changed in an alarming way.  And I, of course, know that one of the main reasons poetry makes no money is because it has a small readership is and limited popular appeal, though so does most literature.  I just want to put forward the notion that if prose writers would start thinking of themselves in the way that poets do–without the expectation of making a living from writing–they might be less bitter about those changing economics.

The PW Morning Report: Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010

Craig Morgan Teicher -- September 30th, 2010

Not rain nor sleet nor snow nor hail…

Betting On the Nobel: The Guardian reports that brits are betting on a poet winning the next Nobel.

Letham Really Leaves Brooklyn: Brooklyn Novelist Jonathan Letham isn’t just moving to the West coast, he’s setting his next novel in Queens! From the Daily News.

A New Old Model: USA Today explains how two writers are using an app to recreate the old model of publishing a novel by serializing it.

In A Fictional Mood: The Millions contemplates what puts one in the mood for fiction.

Google Goes Latin: Finally, there’s a way to correspond with your Latin-speaking friends.  Google’s launched an online Latin translator. From Pocket Lint.

Acting Like A Writer, Writing Like An Actor: James Franco and Michael Cunningham Talk Shop

Craig Morgan Teicher -- September 29th, 2010

While we’re talking about celebrity-writers, here’s something a bit more serious.  In the above video and a pair of others (head over to New York mag to see those) put together by Macmillan, novelist Michael Cunningham and actor and soon-to-be-published writer James Franco talk writing.  They’re actually quote affectionate with one another, speaking with clear admiration about each others’ books.  It’s nice.

Snooki of Jersey Shore to Publish Novel

Craig Morgan Teicher -- September 29th, 2010

The next great American novelist?

If you were either excited or dismayed at the news that Justin Bieber is publishing a memoir, just wait and see how you feel when you digest the news that Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of MTV’s Jersey Shore will publish a novel in January 2011 with Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Press imprint.

The novel, tentatively titled A Shore Thing–ugh?  double-ugh? double-ugh full on, all the way?–will trace  the plight of “a girl looking for love on the boardwalk (one full of big hair, dark tans, and fights galore),” according to a press release.

It’s worth noting, too, that Polizzi told Cathy Horyn in the New York Times that she had only read two books in her life, Twilight and Dear John.

As to the quality of Polizzi’s novel, one can’t be certain, but one thing’s for shore–it’ll sell a lot of copies.

Blio Finally Arrives and Complaints Follow; KNFB Responds

Calvin Reid -- September 29th, 2010

The first day of any new thing can be a little shakey and yesterday’s release of Blio, the much anticipated e-reading software developed by Ray Kurzweil and KNFB Reading Technology in conjunction with Baker & Taylor, seemed about as shakey as it gets. Blio is e-reading software that supports video, audio, original full-color layouts and an enhanced Text to Speech feature.  Originally announced in late 2009, the free software has been delayed but was finally released on September 28. And that’s where our problems with Blio begin.

On the first day of its free downloads, even savvy tech users complained of difficulty installing the software. Others complained of wildly varying prices and a lack of for-pay titles to buy as well as a poor functioning text to speech feature that was much hyped in Blio’s many demos. And to top it all off, Hadrian Gardeur, founder of free e-book site Feedbooks.com, complained on Twitter that Blio was offering downloads of the Feedbook catalog without their permission (“Hey Blio, next time that you add our OPDS catalog to a commercial product, send us an e-mail first.”)

Needless to say the twitterati were unhappy and variations on #blio #fail hashtags were prominent throughout the day on Twitter.  To be fair, there were users who had no problems installing Blio. And there were others who said that while they had some ” issues”  with Blio’s debut, they were still pleased with its performance and potential.  PW was able to reach Peter Chapman, an executive at KNFB Reading Technology, who blamed the problems on “first day jitters,” and said the company was working to correct the problems.

Chapman says the problems around installing Blio only affected people using Windows XP. The problems, he said, were caused by bad software hosted by a third party client Blio is using to host downloads. “It is now fixed but it took us most of the day to get it down,” Chapman said. He acknowledged that most people’s Text To Speech (TTS) would likely have problems because, “the TTS software on most Windows machines isn’t very good.” KNFB, Chapman said, is in the process of making new and affordable TTS software available through the Blio bookstore. Chapman said consumers dissatisfied with their TTS can purchase better  (but significantly more expensive) software immediately online that will improve its quality. However, he said they are working with TTS software vendors to offer a better and much cheaper TTS software that will allow users to choose different voice qualities and he said it will be available very soon.

The Blio e-book store launched with about 11,000 for-pay titles and Chapman said KNFB is uploading “700 to 800 new books every day. We’re loading them by their sales ranking, the most popular books are being uploaded first.” He blamed wildly varying prices (one user on Twitter complained of a Steig Larsson novel being offered for $27.95) on inputing errors that have now been corrected.  “We have books from all the big six publishers and prices are based on whether they use the Agency Model or the traditional wholesale model; these days e-book are all priced pretty much the same.” And no, Chapman says, Blio will not support ePub titles consumers may have purchased from other e-bookstores, “ePub books from other vendors have different DRM and are not compatible,” he said. But he also emphasized that Blio is focused on graphical books, “and we are offering digital books that no one else has, cookbooks, children’s books; books with visual content.”

According to Chapman, Blio/KNFB has been in discussions with Feedbooks and Gardeur about using their catalog of free books,  but acknowledged that  “we didn’t tell him exactly when we would start.” And he also acknowledged that users that signed up for the Blio mailing list to be notified when it was available were not notified until after the site was up and working,  “because we didn’t want to send people to a site that wan’t ready.”

And Chapman said Blio’s initial release was limited to Windows only because “of the numbers and the bigger screens of laptops and desktops are more appropriate to the viewing experience.” He said a Mac version is in the works and Blio for iOS4—for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad—is currently in beta.

“Birthing a new product is always difficult and stressful,” Chapman said, “but I’m sure we’re through the worst of it.”

The PW Morning Report: Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010

Craig Morgan Teicher -- September 29th, 2010

Once upon a Wednesday…

Creative Pairs: Slate looks at a couple that makes books together.

Man Found Dead in Barnes & Noble: A man was found dead yesterday in a Queens Barnes & Noble only two hours after the store opened. From The New York Post.

Anne Frank in School: The Bookseller reports on a book that will be for sale at Frankfurt containing testimonies from Anne Frank’s classmates.

Kids Like Paper and Digital: The NYT reports on a study of kids and e-reading–they’d love to read e-books, but want print, too.

Kobo and Borders Go Wireless [Press Release]: Kobo and Borders today announced the release of a new wireless Kobo e-reader.

BookScan Goes to India: Nielsen BookScan is launching in India as of 10/3, reports the Bookseller.

Blio (Negatively) Reviewed: A writer for the blog Singularity Hub mirrors the general talk about Blio’s initial launch, dubbing it “FAIL.”

PWxyz Afternoon Roundup: Some Cool Stuff on the Web

Craig Morgan Teicher -- September 28th, 2010

We’ve been doing a lot of surfing today and found some cool book stuff we wanted to share:

Amazon App Store and Tablet?: eWeek reports on rumors that an Amazon app store and Android-based tablet are coming.

Sharp E-Readers: Laptop looks at Sharp’s upcoming LCD e-readers, which are scheduled for launch in Japan, but maybe not in the US.

Steinbeck’s Summer Home: The NYT takes a tour.  Make sure to check out the slide show.

Ron Charles Speaks: Algonquin books interviews Ron Charles of the Washington Post and Totally Hip Video Book Review.

Banned Books + Twitter Vs. Censorship: The NYT describes how Twitter is helping fight against book banning.

Blio IS Up and Running, If You’re A Windows User

Craig Morgan Teicher -- September 28th, 2010

Blio, the much-hyped e-reading platform spawned by inventor Ray Kurtzweil, has at last launched. Though you can only use it on Windows machines, so far (the site promises iPhone, iPad, and Android apps soon).  Since PWxyz is running from a Mac-only HQ today, we haven’t been able to get inside, but the screen shot above certainly looks appealing. Check out the newly launched site for more info and pics.

The company is touting Blio as an e-reader for illustrated or design-heavy books, which makes sense, given that Blio is made to preserve a publisher’s design choices.  Here’s a bit of the promo copy from the site:

Finally, there’s an eReader that brings cookbooks, travel guides, how-to manuals, textbooks, and children’s books, vividly to life. Up until now, these types of content have been nothing more than pictureless, black and white pages on other eReaders.

Seems promising (though who wants to read a book on their PC?), though blogger Mike Cane has already condemned Blio with the Internet’s worst term: FAIL. We’ll have to see what others say as the impressions start to filter in across the Web.

UPDATE: Mike Cane was able to download the Blio app and posted some screen shots.  He’s still not convinced.  Note the high prices!