I realized recently that I’ve designed at least 50 books (those are the ones I can remember). No wonder I feel as tired as Madelaine Kahn in Blazing Saddles. I made a page documenting this dubious achievement. Click the image below to visit it.
Since Jane Austen is so much in the news again these days, it might be worth revisiting this post, which I originally published in 2007:
Is the attractiveness of authors directly related to their promotability in the minds of publishers today? Certainly to judge by the photos on their dust jackets, authors have gotten collectively younger and cuter every year for the past several years. Some publishers deny, however, that they place any importance on author photos. I guess Wordworth Editions is not among them. For a reissue of Austen they have tarted Jane up a bit. The image on the left is the portrait of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra (said to be the only fully authenticated portrait of the author). The image on the right shows the effects of Wordworth’s Photoshop magic: Jane’s bonnet has been removed and replaced with flowing locks, her cheeks have been rouged, and if I’m not mistaken she has had some subtle nips and tucks about the eyes and mouth. Wordworth’s managing editor Helen Traylor explains:
She was not much of a looker. Very, very plain. Jane Austen wasn’t very good looking. She’s the most inspiring, readable author, but to put her on the cover wouldn’t be very inspiring at all. It’s just a bit off-putting.
I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover. Sadly people do. If you look more attractive, you just stand out more. Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world and people do judge by appearance.
I guess that about sums it up: “Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world.”
I have a month to polish up the book I’m currently working on, and I’m experimenting with a randomized editing process.
Most writers spend a lot of time on the beginnings of their books, and rightly so since they set the tone and either welcome or drive away potential readers. Endings get some attention as well, but authors and readers alike bog down in the problematic middle, especially around three-fifths of the way through.
In revising, you can start from the beginning and just go as far as you can, or all the way to the end, repeatedly, but this will likely result in a mid-book slump. You can also just identify the most important parts, or the parts that need the most work, and concentrate on them, sanding down the rough patches one after another.
If you’re working in short bursts — in breaks in your day job, for example — you might want to test the water by just dipping in here and there. But, if you’re like me, your dipping is not likely to be very random, so you’re not really doing a good test.
There’s a site called random.org, where you can generate a random sequence of numbers within a certain interval. According to the site, “The randomness comes from atmospheric noise, which for many purposes is better than the pseudo-random number algorithms typically used in computer programs.”
A random sequence, as opposed to a random set where numbers can be repeated, is like pulling numbers from a hat, where once a number is used it can’t be used again. So I’ve generated a random sequence of numbers between 1 and 384, and I’m reviewing pages in the that order. I’ll do this a few times with a few different random sequences.
Is this a good idea? I’m not sure, but I think it might be a helpful corrective, or at least complement, to the kind of directed attention that you’re going to give your manuscript anyway.
This old post about overnighting at Heathrow airport is pertinent again today, as many travelers are currently stranded by snow.
Want to send an e-mail to your future self? Futureme.org is there for both of you.
(Why doesn’t gmail have delayed-send capability?)
Why does Pandora keep feeding me “Layla,” even though I’ve told it three or four times that I don’t want to hear that song? Apparently it has many different versions to offer and figures “You didn’t like those three? Then you’re sure to like this one.”
Along the same lines, it is convinced I’m a Jack Johnson fan no matter how many of his tunes I reject.
I think those genomes could use a little more tinkering.
… William Shakespeare. Anyway, that’s what it says here. I was scrolling through my feeds and noticed a guy calling himself “Mighty Red Pen” ran a few of his posts through an algorithm that purports to analyze your writing — sometimes he wrote, it said, like Dan Brown, other times like Cory Doctorow, and once like Vladimir Nabokov.
I have no idea how the thing works, but I entered the second chapter of the book I’m working on and got the Will result (which seems appropriate since I’m writing on the early seventeenth century).
I think it’s best to stop now. How disheartening would it be to learn that my second chapter was written like William Shakespeare and my third in the style of Dan Brown?
Slow to blog, slow to answer e-mails, what is wrong with this guy??
Yep, there has been a slow-down here at Right Reading in the past few months — which I think is temporary, so please bear with me. I am been working pretty obsessively on a book project, about which more in due time. Today I left this comment on my blog post where people comment about my primer on getting a book published. It was the 102nd comment in that thread, which is quite a lot for this blog.
Thanks to everyone who has commented so far. I am glad that many people are finding the guide to getting a book published helpful. To those who have sent e-mails, I’m sorry I am currently being slow in responding, as I have been working on a big long-term book project, and this has been taking almost all my attention lately. I will get to the e-mails sooner or later though — please be patient, and thanks. — Tom
Image detail from pamramsey’s photostream
Image via Book Patrol
This house on the beach in Venice, California, has no doors (on its upper story), and the walls are made up of bookshelves and storage units.
Read about it at BLDG BLOG.
My nomadism is concluded for the moment, and I will resume more regular blogging tomorrow morning.
According to Graham at Linguism, some people think Belgium is an adjective. Well, whatever. What struck me about his post was his claim that “most people find it difficult to name ten famous Belgians without falling back on Tintin and Hercule Poirot.” Which I expect is true.
Right Reading is taking some time off. If circumstances allow I may make the occasional post, but posting will be, at best, light for the next couple of weeks. After that: recharged!
Right Reading is on a short summer vacation. (I might do some posting just the same, depending on how things go.)
This is via Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s twitter account. He writes “These ladies are amazing athletes -even back in the day!” Be patient — the fun starts about one minute in.
“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil
- From Kindle to brick : For less than $400
- Virtual bibliogeekery : Contribute to Project Gutenberg
- Putting on (Scottish) airs: Rare book belonging to Robert Burns discovered
- Some thoughts on book marketing : Truth is, you’ll probably have to do most of it yourself
- Writers’ desks : Not sure who most of these are, but still . . .
Some #amazonfail links
- Amazonfail: Post-Mortem | Booksquare
- ‘Gay writing’ falls foul of Amazon sales ranking system | Technology | guardian.co.uk
- Amazon.com under criticism for de-ranking gay-themed books | TV, movie and music news | Books | EW.com
- Why #amazonfail matters : I Should Be Writing
- Amazon Says Glitch to Blame for “New” Adult Policy – 4/12/2009 5:49:00 PM – Publishers Weekly
- Amazon policy on LGBT books spurs twitter uprising – The Afterword
- Amazon under fire for perceived anti-gay policy
- #Amazonfail and the politics of anti-corporate cyberactivism | Net Effect
- Amazon calls mistake ’embarrassing and ham-fisted’
Latest inbound links
Having dunked my trusty Canon A620 in the waters of Pomonkey Creek, I was reduced to shooting this ghost type in Alexandria, Verginia, with my cell phone.
“Honour commercio’s energy yet aid the linkless proud, the plurable with everybody.” — Finnegans Wake
- Does Kindle violate authors’ audio rights? : New text-to-speech function
- More on Kindle’s text-to-speech feature : Wilkert leaning to IPhone instead
- Walker design blog : Getting interesting
- 2009 Best Translated Book winners : According to Three Percent
- How to sell books in a recession : Be big or be small?
- Decline and fall : Foreseen for Amazon
- Harper Perennial tests content giveaway : About time
- Matsuo Basho’s frog haiku : 30 translations
- Borders Reduces Corporate Staffing : Times are hard all over
Latest inbound links
So many people admire John Updike — one local editors says he should win the Nobel for literature — that I am almost afraid to voice my dissenting opinion that he will one day be viewed as one of the twentieth century’s most overrated authors. “I like middles,” Updike once asserted, whereas I prefer borders.
But let’s not speak ill of this dedicated man of letters now that he’s gone. Following are some of the best Updike links (and a few brief ones) I have found from the first wave of appreciations. Soon, I am sure, we will have more in-depth retrospectives.
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