concept to publication

Category: mailbag

Left face / Right face: Abe Lincoln.

Mailbag: Left Abe, Right Abe Makes Textbook Appearance

Left face / Right face: Abe Lincoln.

Left face / Right face: Abe Lincoln.

A representative of Oxford University Press writes requesting permission to use this image of Abe Lincoln (one of the 44 U.S. presidents better than the current one) in a textbook entitled MYP Biology 4&5. Of course I am delighted.

The image is part of a project I did about a decade ago comparing the left and right sides of people’s faces. I divided a series of face in half and showed what they would look like if both halves were like the right size versus both halves being like the left side.

I noted when I posted this image that “Lincoln had a condition called cranial facial microsomia — the left side of his face was much smaller than the right.” Above are, left to right, two-right-face Lincoln, actual Lincoln, and two-left-face Lincoln.


Mailbag: 10 Design Trends

Design trends graphic (detail).

Design trends graphic (detail).

I received an e-mail from Katie Smith of Creative Market calling my attention to their infographic on design trends of the past year. “f you feel this article is a good fit for your audience then please feel free to pass it along with your blog post,” she wrote. As it happens, I do think it is worth sharing. The ten trends are “Flat 2.0; bold, playful typography; whimsical illustrations; the new retro; motion; minimalist logotypes; geometric shapes; print-inspired (analogue printing influenced); abstract Swiss; movies and cartoons.” Has abstract Swiss been trendy for eighty years now?

I’m not a trendy designer myself, but still, it’s worth keeping up with what’s going on. The graphic itself is a good example of  a type of current information design (which I generally like). Note that the graphic is followed by discussion further down the page. Click through the portion of the graphic displayed above or click here for the original post.

Mailbag: NCBR (1616)

This is nice. While I was traveling I received this e-mail:

Dear Tom Christensen,

On behalf of the Northern California Book Reviewers (NCBR), I am delighted to tell you that 1616: The World in Motion has been nominated for the Northern California Book Award in General Nonfiction as one of the best works by a northern California author published in 2012. Congratulations!

We hope that you can join us for the ceremony. Please let us know. It is free and open to the public; feel free to invite your friends and family. If you can’t attend yourself, please send a friend or representative to represent you and to accept should you receive the award. All nominated books at the awards will be celebrated, acknowledged, and made available for purchase and signing. We are looking forward to celebrating all of the nominated books and authors.

The 32nd Annual Northern California Book Awards will be held Sunday, May 19, 2013, at Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin, at Grove, at 1:00 p.m.

Immediately following the awards, a public reception with book signing for all of the nominated books will begin in the Latino/Hispanic Room at the Library. (The Library closes at 5:00 on Sunday.)

The event draws an enthusiastic literary audience to celebrate books and writers in northern California. All of the nominees will be brought on stage for recognition during the ceremony, and the winner in each category will be asked to speak briefly and read for three minutes. (Please come prepared to read for three minutes if you are announced as winner.)

Your book will be ordered for purchase at the reception by Friends of the San Francisco Library’s Readers Bookstore at the Main. During the reception, please stand or sit near your books for a time, so those who wish their books signed may find you. Please introduce yourself to the booksellers. There will be a reserved table for book signing at the reception.

The Northern California Book Awards were established by the NCBR (formerly BABRA) in 1981 to honor the work of writers and recognize exceptional service in the field of literature in northern California. The awards recognize excellence in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translation, and Children’s Literature. In addition to the book awards, the Fred Cody Award is presented annually for lifetime achievement. This year, poet and educator Kay Ryan will be honored. A complete list of nominees is posted on

The Northern California Book Awards are sponsored by Northern California Book Reviewers, Poetry Flash, Center for the Art of Translation, Red Room (, Mechanics’ Institute Library, PEN West, the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, and San Francisco Public Library.

Someone representing NCBR may contact you directly regarding an interview opportunity if we receive a media request.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Warmest regards,

~Joyce Joyce Jenkins, NCBR chair

N C B R * Northern California Book Reviewers

Mailbag: A form query

I received the following e-mail:

Within the last few months, I sent you a query regarding my book, [title redacted], which you kindly declined to represent. In the interim, I have built my own website , and I’ve since had grown my audience to hundreds of enthusiastic readers. I’d like to invite you to check it out at [url redacted],

If you are interested in representing this book, then I would be interested in speaking with you.

Thanks for your time,

If anyone is interested in how to write a query letter, well, this is not the way.

Mailbag: A book of idioms

Right Reading  received the following e-mail (slightly edited) from Jag Bhalla.

Mailbag: Bellemeade Books and Jonathan Williams

Mark Bromberg of Bellemeade Books writes on the subject of Jonathan Williams, author and publisher of the Jargon Society (we published his The Magpie’s Bagpipe at North Point Press) and generously includes the above scan of a Jargon Society publication, which I take the liberty of sharing.

… I have been a long-time reader and admirer of the late Jonathan Williams and his Jargon Society Press, the website here now run by his friend and collaborator, Thomas Meyer (A selection of 1960s correspondence between Davenport and Williams about publishing, art, and life can be found here).

I thought you might enjoy this cover image of “Elite/Elate Poems” (Jargon, 1975) — with authentic-era coffee stains! — and a BellemeadeBooks post about Mr. Williams from the archives. You will be able to access the entire blog with more timely posts once you are there.

Thanks, Mark!

Mailbag: Electric Literature 2 (and party)

Andy Hunter, Editor in Chief of Electric Literature, writes:

I wanted to let you know we just released our 2nd issue, featuring work by Colson Whitehead, Lydia Davis, Stephen O’Connor, Pasha Malla, and Marisa Silver….

We made a trailer for Colson’s story: – we are always extremely grateful when you feature our videos on your site.

Sure, why not?

Mailbag: Press release promoting a resource for writers

Right Reading passes along the following e-mail unedited (except for removing the publicist’s e-mail address). This is a typical form for a book press release. The brief personalized cover note shows the publicist is doing her job diligently. The writing advice is pretty standard for conventional mainstream fiction, and writers should be aware of these conventions before choosing to break them.

Mailbag: What should my royalty rate be?

Rightreading hereby initiates a new feature (no doubt destined to be as fitful as all our others) in which we answer e-mails from readers.

A reader writes

I know very little about book contracts.

Can you please elaborate on this subject?

Specifically, what percentage of each book sold should I receive as the author?


Dear reader

The most general answer is “whatever the market will bear.” If you are writing great poetry that will someday be taught in university classes, the answer is no one is likely to pay you any royalty at all. On the other hand, if you are a famous and controversial public figure — Sarah Palin say — you can pretty near name your price.

But the general answer isn’t much help to the vast majority of writers who fall somewhere between those extremes.

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