Category Archives: self-publishing

From Art Show to Art Book

Calvin Reid -- February 11th, 2014
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Social Photography III

Whether you happen to be a single minded author determined to publish your own book or a small gallery space in lower Manhattan, Print-On-Demand publishing is transforming the ability to create and sell books of all kinds. Carriage Trade is small nonprofit gallery catering to contemporary art located in downtown Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. For the last three years Carriage Trade director Peter Scott has organized a big group show of cell phone photographs called Social Photography, featuring several hundred photos by famous artists, curators, not-so-famous artists, friends-of-Peter, and many others including “a few children and a number of DJs from WFMU.”

While the show is a “random sampling” of photos from contributors mostly from New York, it also includes images from Europe, Australia, Thailand and Canada. Scott says the show is intended to “challenge the professionalism mandated by the [fine art] gallery system. Almost everyone has an image capable cell phone these days, regardless of background, and many people come up with pretty interesting images.” (Full disclosure: this reporter has an image in the show.)

This year Social Photography III: An Exhibition of Cell Phone Photographs (December 12, 2013 – January 18, 2014) featured 204 cell phone photos, and for the first time, a handsomely designed trade paperback book presenting each one of the photos. The book sells for $50 ($45 to those in the show) and includes all 204 images, as well as an introduction written by Scott. While the gallery mounts the show each year and sells prints of the photos, this year marks its first Social Photography book collection available for sale. Every year each contributor emails their photo to the gallery and Scott and his assistants format the images, print them and mount the photos in a precise grid on the gallery walls. The gallery sells the prints in editions of five that also come with a signed certificate by the contributor. All of this helps raise funds for the small nonprofit space which has been around since 2008, when Scott began putting together independently curated shows in a space above Fanelli’s, the venerable SoHo Bar. He moved Carriage Trade to Walker Street in Trebeca in 2010.

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The introduction to Social Photography III and an image of the exhibition installation.

This year, Scott says he and the book’s co-designer Nadine Schmied, “realized having done so much work soliciting, formatting and printing the images, that we were halfway there in terms of producing a book.” An artist friend recommended he use MagCloud, a HP owned company that specializes in print-on-demand printing and self-publishing. Scott said he and the designer, “did two proofs and two small print runs of 25 copies each. They were really fast and the quality is very good.” The book was produced, he says, mid-show during the Christmas holidays. “We had two weeks to sell the book while the show was up and the sales mostly took place during the book launch and show closing party in mid-January,” he says.

“In the end it was a lot of work,” Scott said, “but we now have the show ‘out there’ [in the form of a book] archive.” Scott says, and just as important: “We sold what we printed and need to order more.” Scott praised, the “upgrades” in publishing technology. “Advances in desktop publishing and on-demand printing make a show and book like this possible. We produced everything in-house over the course of a few months.” He also emphasized that , “given our limited budget, we were able to order small print runs of books on an as needed basis in terms of orders. The level of quality combined with efficiency and fast turnaround makes it possible for a small nonprofit like ourselves to do ambitious projects that would not have been possible even four or five years ago.”

Next, Scott plans to try to get wider distribution for the gallery’s first in-house book publication.” I’m planning on bringing the book around to book stores/distributors in the near future,” he said. He also hopes to do more books. “I’d love to do books for all the shows, though the tough part is getting distribution,” he said. “An exhibition is limited to the gallery, but a book makes the show portable.”

Chris Gore Delivers the Poop On Celebrities

Calvin Reid -- August 14th, 2013

 

celebritypoopEverybody poops, right? Or so we understand from Taro Gomi’s 1977 classic kid’s picture book of the same name. Now, thanks to Chris Gore, comedian, writer, “Podcrasher”, geeky film expert, and former G4TV personality, we also understand that it includes celebrities. Gore, along with the reluctant assistance of his artist/daughter Haley Gore, has self-published Celebrities Poop, a tongue-in-cheek send-up of Gomi’s classic kids’ book that provides more visual information on the topic than anyone probably wants.

Yes, Gore, who actually launched the book with a party and a show of original artwork from the book at Comic-Con International in San Diego, has reprised Gomi’s Everybody Poops with a goofy twist. While Gomi offered charming and childlike drawings of animals doing their business, Gore offers similiar childlike drawings of Larry King, Olivia Munn, Lady Gaga, Howard Stern, Michael Moore and many others, well, squatting for our edification. If you can’t figure out just who is being depicted taking a dump, there’s a helpful chart at the end of the book with all the names. No, the book is not for kids, and yes, it’s all for laughs and literally so.

Among his many talents, Gore does stand-up comedy around L.A. and he’s got a comedy album, also called Celebrities Poop, available as a download through iTunes. Gore says that back in the day, after a performance a comedian could sell CDs, but the download era leaves much to be desired—it’s not very sexy handing out download codes. “Rather than just offer a download code,” he told PW, “I can offer fans a book and a download code to the album. It’s an experiment.”

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Chris Gore

Gore calls Celebrities Poop a fake kids book, “a page by page parody” of the original and says he even did research. “I went to a list of the most famous people in the world and looked through the top pop culture names and tried to pick the ones I thought would have a sense of humor about this.” The, uh, poopers depicted include Olivia Munn, a former colleague on G4TV, now starring in the HBO show News Hour. He indeed wrote the book himself—“it’s not that many words,” he added laughing—and dragooned his daughter Haley into doing the art. “She’s a very sophisticated art student who imitated the art style of the Gomi book,” Gore said emphasizing that Haley’s real artwork is very different. Haley apparently declined to be a part of this project at first but finally relented after appeals from dad. In a note in the book, she calls the artwork, “the illegitimate child I will hide under the stairs.”

The book sells for $19.95, includes the download code for the album and Gore has printed a couple thousand copies of the book and does all the fulfillment himself—he’s selling it through Etsy.com. He says “the reaction has been great,” and added, “hopefully a real publisher will come along and take it over.”

Making the Grade

Rose Fox -- March 25th, 2013

hostThis year’s shortlist for the Aurealis Awards, Australia’s top awards for science fiction and fantasy, has a surprise in the science fiction novel category: a self-published book, And All the Stars by Andrea K Höst. I believe this is a first for major SF/F awards (unless you count the Andre Norton Award as part of the Nebulas, in which case precedent was set by Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making). It’s certainly a sharp retort to people who sneer at self-published books as being universally terrible. I expect to see more self-published books showing up on various award shortlists in the next few years as self-publishing authors get more sophisticated and increase their reach.

Who speaks for publishing policy?

Peter Brantley -- July 26th, 2012

The Chronicle of Higher Education has released its first ebook, appropriately enough an expanded version of its Rebooting the Academy series, which examines changes in the practice of research, teaching, and institutional management in the midst of technological change. Nearly simultaneously, on the occasion of John Siracusa’s exhaustive review of the new Apple operating system Mountain Lion, Condé Nast’s Ars Technica will soon make available a Kindle ebook for those wishing to absorb all 26,000 words in a digestible format. And, in September, the New York Review of Books will release their first title in their new ebook only imprint, NYRB-Lit.

That digitally facile publishers such as the Chronicle and Condé Nast are able to quickly produce and sell ebooks is simultaneously exceptional, and increasingly mundane. Ten years ago, publishing an ebook from a lengthy periodical series would have taken months of preparation; today, as the tools for publishing on the internet enter the mainstream book trade, anyone who can run a blog can produce an ebook. That’s not necessarily terrific news if you are an established publisher; with each news release about self- and independently-published ebooks, the value proposition of large, integrated publishing firms seems less obvious. When Los Angeles media entrepreneurs like Barry Diller and Scott Rudin see the virtue of starting up their own high-brow literary publishing endeavors, midtown real estate in Manhattan starts looking particularly expensive.

The presence of active tumult in a prominent economic sector makes it especially troubling when government agencies listen uncritically to entrenched publishing multinationals for advisement and consultation in areas of high-impact policy formulation. For example, there has been significant worldwide interest in negotiating a WIPO treaty that would make require countries to allow published, in-copyright print works to be converted into an accessible format for the blind and others with reading disabilities, and permit accessible works to be shared around the world without permission from the copyright holder. However, the United States has wavered in its support for a binding treaty, and is instead seeking softer, non-binding recommendations or guidelines.

This U.S. reluctance to finalize treaty language echos the concerns of the American Association of Publishers, as evidenced in a videotaped interview with the AAP’s vice president of policy, Alan Adler. Adler voices concerns that a binding international treaty will introduce a precedent that will make negotiations over copyright exceptions and limitations more likely for educational, library, and archival uses. Adler, and by extension the AAP, seem to forget that copyright is itself a set of specially codified grants that are carved out from public access for a limited duration, and that exceptions and limitations simply return to the public the access to creative works that is society’s baseline.

However, the rapid influx of Internet-based publishing tools, and the blossoming of a rich diversity of new self- and independent publisher services, along with new mixed media entrants taking advantage of mobile content platforms from companies like Google and Apple force us to raise a more fundamental issue: who can speak for publishing-related policy issues? Surely today we must listen not only to the large publishing combines, but also to new companies like Smashwords, Aerbook, Vook, Byliner, and The Atavist in order to understand the perspective of publishers. And equally, as publishing becomes an integral part of the firmament of the internet, the government must consult and evaluate the competing aims of Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft.

The time in which the AAP can speak authoritatively for publishing is over. Formulating policy over intellectual property issues that heretofore was considered the domain of a few specific industry and interest groups is instead the domain of all internet users, including readers and authors, as well as a wide range of new publisher entrants. Ours is a economy undergoing network industrialization, and if the federal government wants industry consultation, it will need to listen to the wider array of people and firms who are engineering and empowering the future of expression, instead of a handful of companies fighting the U.S. Justice Department after colluding to maximise their interests at the expense of consumers.

Disintermediating preservation

Peter Brantley -- June 8th, 2012

I was at the Library of Congress yesterday to give a talk on the transformations in publishing; the presentation took 45 minutes, but the lively conversation afterwards with the library staff lasted for over an hour and a half. One of the topics that I had covered was the flattening of the publishing horizon: the ability for authors to self-publish, or independently publish through retail outlets. Among other issues this underscored is one that the Library has already started grappling with: what does this mean for LoC, as the national library of deposit?

The surge of alternative publications is far more than an academic problem. Even a short time ago, almost all mainstream monographs were published through traditional means, and the Library of Congress could acquire titles effectively by working with jobbers and distributors. Relatively few works were self-published, and a significant portion of those were channeled through vanity presses, often single-author focused, which the Library acquired only when the author proactively provided copies for recording.

Today, a growing number of authors publish books directly on their own website, via distributor/retailers such as Smashwords, or through direct retailer-sponsored programs such as the Amazon KDP program. Barnes & Noble has a strong self-publishing program called PubIt!, Kobo Books has just launched Kobo Writing Life, and new entrants like Zola Books are announcing their own direct selling platforms.

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At close of day: the library alternative

Peter Brantley -- December 5th, 2011

Whatever the consequences of Amazon’s entry into e-book lending, the acceleration of erosion of support for existing library lending programs has mobilized leading public library organizations. While many of us are willing to consider very seriously the proposition that libraries might not provide access to contemporary digital books in the future as a necessity, we nonetheless have no desire to go gentle into that good night.

Whether at the level of DPLA or at more modest community focused libraries, there’s broad recognition that scale empowers rich services, and that greater content aggregation compels use. Widely distributed plots of wild flowers do not have the same appeal as a glorious jungle of possibilities. The consequences for a viable future library e-book lending service are becoming more clear, and the outlines more apparent. Continue reading

Han Solo Said It Best: A Guest Post by Eileen Gardner, PW’s 200,000th Twitter Follower

Eileen Gardner -- October 25th, 2011

Eileen Gardner has just become Publishers Weekly’s 200,000th follower on Twitter. Turns out she’s an aspiring novelist and blogger; to mark our Twitter milestone, we asked her to contribute a guest post to PWxyz.

I think sometimes in life it is better not to know how difficult something is going to be before you attempt it. I can now file “publish my novel” under this heading. The odds of seeing my work in print are frighteningly small, but I didn’t know that when I started my quest for publication. If I’d known the odds going in, I probably wouldn’t have gone in.

Ok, that’s not true. Writing for me is not a choice. It’s a passion, it’s a calling. I couldn’t stop writing if I tried, and believe me, I’ve tried. But like a siren’s song, writing keeps calling me back. I am a writer.

About two years ago, I had that thrilling spark of a great idea. I sat down in my chair and put my hands on the keyboard. Every day. I fell in love with my characters. I thought I developed an interesting plot. And I did something I’d never done before: I finished.

I think we should give out awards to anyone who actually finishes a novel. It is a major accomplishment.

Continue reading

PublishAmerica’s Shady History

Gabe Habash -- August 19th, 2011

Yesterday’s news that “publisher” PublishAmerica responded to J.K. Rowling’s cease-and-desist letter with a cease-and-desist letter of their own is just the latest in the company’s not-so-illustrious history. You can view the letter here, which is most notable because their legal representation utilizes triple exclamation points.

A brief summary: PublishAmerica promised authors that for $49, it would show their books to J.K. Rowling. If the Rowling price tag is too high for you, for $29, PublishAmerica will give your book to President Obama.

We thought we’d shed some light on PublishAmerica, if only because some of what’s happened with them is so unbelievable that it’s a wonder they still exist.

According to its website (which has an aesthetic that’s very appropriate for the company), PublishAmerica’s founders had a dream back in 1999: in a difficult publishing marketplace, they could serve as many authors as possible that otherwise would have little chance at getting their books published the traditional way. And if you’re wondering how many “as many authors as possible” entails, those numbers are 11,000 authors under contract and about 4,800 titles released per year.

The best story of PublishAmerica’s history involves the hoax title Atlanta Nights that was submitted by a team of writers under the pen name Travis Tea. They were upset with the company’s comments, found on the company’s Web site, about the sci-fi genre including, among other things:

As a rule of thumb, the quality bar for sci-fi and fantasy is a lot lower than for all other fiction. Therefore, beware of published authors who are self-crowned writing experts. When they tell you what to do and not to do in getting your book published, always first ask them what genre they write. If it’s sci-fi or fantasy, run. They have no clue about what it is to write real-life stories, and how to find them a home. Unless you are a sci-fi or fantasy author yourself.

The writers, who were suspicious of PublishAmerica’s claims that they reject 80% of the manuscripts they receive, decided to submit a masterpiece of literary garbage–a book that had a missing chapter, two chapters that were identical, copy rife with spelling and grammar mistakes, and a nonsensical story that reads like this:

“Bruce walked around any more. Some people might ought to her practiced eye, at her. I am so silky and braid shoulders. At sixty-six, men with a few feet away from their languid gazes.”

The book was accepted for publication. This is the acceptance letter (from Meg Phillips, Acquisitions Editor):

As this is an important piece of email regarding your book, please read it completely from start to finish. I am happy to inform you that PublishAmerica has decided to give “Atlanta Nights” the chance it deserves….Welcome to PublishAmerica, and congratulations on what promises to be an exciting time ahead.

A month later, the authors revealed the hoax and PublishAmerica pulled their offer. The new letter:

We must withdraw our offer to publish “Atlanta Nights”. Upon further review it appears that your work is not ready to be published. There are portions of nonsensical text in the manuscript that were caught by our editing staff as they previewed the text for editing time assessment pending your acceptance of our offer.

On the positive side, maybe you want to consider contracting the book with a vanity publisher such as iUniverse or Author House. They will certainly publish your book at a fee.

PublishAmerica has been involved with quite a few lawsuits in its history; a few of them can be found here, here and here.

It should be noted that some authors have apparently spoken up in defense of PublishAmerica. Unfortunately, those endorsements are buried under articles that put words like “scam” and “beware” alongside the company’s name.

So, the message bears repeating: if you’re looking to publish your book, exercise caution when considering which press or publisher to use.

The PW Morning Report: Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Calvin Reid -- May 25th, 2011

Today’s links!  And please check out our new Facebook Page!

Don’t Mess with Texas tax revenue. Texas Bookstore owner calls for governor to sign online sales tax bill.

Let’s make a deal. Barnes and Noble caught in a whirlwind of acquisition speculation.

Curtain Call. DC’s Arena Stage Theater adapts John Grisham’s novel A Time to Kill for the stage.

The Big Seven. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos ventures into the wild and risky world of book publishing.

Listen Up! The 2011 Audie Award Winners.

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

Calvin Reid -- December 30th, 2010

Today’s Links!

The tablets are coming: Electronics manufacturers are planning to show off at least 70 tablet devices (likely to be potential reading devices) during the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

DIY book publishing: The WSJ looks at self-employed professionals who use POD to self-publish books and generate prestige, new clients and “invisible” income.

Amazon on the NookColor?: Intomobile.com shows how to hack the NookColor, install the Android Market app and read Amazon’s Kindle e-books on B&N’s color digital reader.  Tricky but cool!

The giving spirit: The estate of the late and renowned cartoonist Will Eisner, author of the acclaimed graphic novel, A Contract With God, and creator of The Spirit, has donated $250,000 to the Cartoon Library and Museum at the Ohio State University.

Developing books to best exploit each medium: Let e-books be e-books and print books be print.

Pop culture meets class struggle: A Canadian academic publishing collective has released the first of a four-part comics adaptation of Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto.