Courageous, Beautiful Books from Keanu Reeves?

X Artists’ Books is a new independent press, co-founded by Keanu Reeves, which aims to publish “courageous, beautiful, artist-centered books which fit between genres”. Their ideals encompass all things “x”:

X is a connection, a multiplier, a kiss, a proxy. X is a signature, a mark; it stands for treasure, uncharted territory, the core of infinity. X is mysterious and surprising. X attracts and repels; X learns from correction. X marks the spot.

No word yet on how they will find these books, or if Reeves will be hands-on in helping to select books and authors, this sounds like an interesting group. While the bigger publishers are becoming inundated with possibilities, it’s up to the smaller, independent groups to really weed out some of the mix and continue to publish books that might not make the cut now in other places.

Give me a new book…NOW!

We hear it all the time at the library.

“I wish this author would write faster. I can’t wait until the next book is released!”

While it’s true that it takes time for a book to be published, there is a new demand for books to come out sooner. It’s a combination of the society we live in, with it’s on-demand everything, and competition from the self-publishing world. Is this a good thing?  Let’s explore the options.

Authors probably write faster than you imagine. While it takes anywhere from 8 months to a year or more for some books to be released, the author has long since written the story. Much of the time in between takes place in editing and production. There are book covers to be designed, editing to be done, publicity decisions to be made, and so much more. In the past the wait has been exciting–a lead up to a new book in a series, or a stand-alone by a popular author. Both could send people scrambling to the stores the moment the book hit the shelves. But much has changed.

Even if you still buy the traditional hardcover book, the instant world we live in allows for someone to download an eBook version in a matter of seconds (or minutes), the moment the clock hits midnight. It’s exciting to have so much available to us at our fingertips. We’ve come to expect it. So, waiting a year or more for a book to be released is an eternity!

And now there are more authors following the non-traditional self-publishing route, allowing them to take charge of their careers and listen to their audience. If people are begging for a new book, even if an author has just released one only a few months before, authors are able to fill in the spaces with downloadable novellas, short stories or even full-length novels to keep their readers interested and buying. It’s making the traditional publishing houses a little nervous.

While people are starting to make their choices known, the publishing world is responding. Several houses are starting to experiment with shorter release dates.  Yes, this probably puts a lot of pressure on their authors, and most likely does a real number on their catalog organization, but it’s making some authors–and LOTS of readers—very happy.

The New York Times just released an article about series publishing, citing FIFTY SHADES OF GREY by E.L. James as starting the trend for fast-turnover publishing. While these were self-published, James didn’t waste any time between books, allowing her followers to scoop up the books without much downtime. It followed the binging trend that we see most often in Netflix viewers who are used to the concept. And now publishing houses like Dutton are giving it a whirl.  They just released the first of a trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer called  ANNIHILATION, and will release the second book in the series in May, and the third in September.  It’s a trial run, sure to please fans who want to know what happens. But some are worried it will saturate the market too quickly, and won’t build the same kind of fan base.


One also wonders what it is doing to the authors. Are they having to work double time to not only write, but promote an entire series? Will the finished product be as good as it might be if it is rushed? Will it actually make some authors more popular because readers know they won’t have to wait long for books, or will they tire of an author who is constantly chugging out collections?

Only time will tell, of course, but it’s an interesting idea that needs to be explored.  If you like to read a series from beginning to end without waiting, this idea could be for you.  Maybe this is a trend all publishing houses will soon follow and we won’t have much choice. We’d like to know what you think, however.  Would you prefer an entire series to be released in short order, or do you worry about quality over speed? Leave us a comment to tell us how you feel.

J.K. Rowling Up To It Again!

By now, I’m sure many of you have heard of J. K. Rowling’s surprise “secret” book!  After the Harry Potter series, expectations were so high for another book, that it was almost impossible for her to publish anything that would live up to the series. 

Casual Vacancy

THE CASUAL VACANCY got mediocre reviews at best, even though it probably would have done quite well if an “unknown” author had published it.  So, what did she decide to try? Writing a book under a pseudonym so there was no pressure.

THE CUCKOO’S CALLING is a crime novel published under the name of  Robert Galbraith. Rowling has said she enjoyed being able to sit back and read the reviews and listen to the praise without all of the stigma that went with VACANCY. And while she was happy to keep the secret under wraps, it was a stealthy reviewer who put the information together (Rowling’s editor and publisher were the same for Galbraith0’s book), and decided it was too much of a coincidence.

You can read more about the book and Rowling’s reaction right here.  And if you’d like to read the book, we have a copy in the library already. Drop by to put your name on the waiting list!


Fifty Shades of Writing

If you’ve been one of the masses who read through E. L. James’ FIFTY SHADES OF GREY trilogy, you might be interested to know she’s releasing a new book through Vintage Books. It might not be what you’re expecting, however. It’s a journal about her journey to getting published, as well as writing tips for people who might want to try their own hand at breaking into the world of books.


The Fifty Shades of Grey: Inner Goddess (A Journal) came about because of her fans. Whenever she met with the public during interviews or to sign books, etc., there were always so many questions about how she got started and how the publishing industry works, that she decided she’d publish a journal that revealed the inner workings of writing a book and her thoughts along the way.  Maybe this book won’t be as wildly successful as her series, just due to the topic, but I’m sure many people will be interested.

While she isn’t the first author to pen a book about writing, many readers complained about the poor writing in her series. Will this be something she addresses in the new book? Does it matter?  Some would argue that it doesn’t matter. She did what she set out to do–write something she was interested in and make readers care. That’s all that really matters.

Harper’s Hockey



Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the ...

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Commander’s Palace restaurant Monday evening, April 21, 2008, after attending the North American Leaders’ Summit dinner in New Orleans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


It’s not a secret that our Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a hockey fan.  But a lot of people might be surprised to know that he’s been writing a hockey book for years…and it’s just been picked up by a publishing house! The story of the hockey book goes a little deeper, however, and has caused some controversy along the way.


With no official title yet, the book is being marketed as a history of the early days of the NHL. It’s not really anything new, maybe, but this type of book generally does well on the market.  With Mr. Harper’s name attached to it, the interest is sure to explode once it is released. And good for him!  From all accounts, he really worked hard on this–a labour of love–rather than allowing someone to pen it with him in a matter of weeks.  So, what’s the problem you might ask?


Apparently, the book has been picked up by a major publishing house—Simon & Schuster. For most authors, that would be a great accomplishment. The bigger the publishing house, the better the deal.  While Mr. Harper is going to donate his royalties to the Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services, one would assume he’d still want to get the biggest deal he could, if only to give his charity the most money possible.  Great! The controversy starts here. 


While Simon & Schuster is a well known and respected publishing house, it is barred by the Investment Canada Act from “acquiring and publishing domestic books”.  What does that mean?  It means that while they have offices in Toronto, legally, they only sell and market the books already acquired by their New York offices. So, Mr. Harper’s book will be published in the US, sold across the border here in Canada, and the money he makes will go back across to the US before he sees any of it.


This may sound typical of a lot of Canadian authors. While many writers on this side of the border sign with American agents and have US publishing deals, the fact that Mr. Harper, our Prime Minister, did not choose to go with a Canadian publishing house when so many of them are suffering in this economy, is not sitting well with some. Apparently, none of the Canadian publishing houses even made an offer on the book.  This probably isn’t because they weren’t interested or didn’t think it would sell, but rather, they knew they wouldn’t be able to compete with the larger American houses. And for his side, Mr. Harper’s agent, Michael Levine, insists this isn’t something we should view as a political faux pas.  This deal was a book written by a Canadian with a love of hockey.  If it had been any one other than our nation’s leader, no one would have questioned it.


I guess it won’t matter once the book comes out.  Not many people will remember this controversy in November when they’re scrambling to get their hands on it. At that point, people will only be concerned with whether the book is good or not. (I’m sure it will be fascinating!)  And really, why all the fuss?  Do we care if Mr. Harper buys jeans at Walmart–an American company, or if he gets his furniture from Ikea–a Swedish company? If he supports other ventures that make money for companies that might also have competitors in Canada, we don’t protest. While it would have been nice for him to “choose” a Canadian publisher, the offer just wasn’t there. You can’t complain about something that never was.


Science Fiction Writers of America Outraged Over Hydra Contract

When we purchase books, many of us probably never think about all the legal things that go on behind the scenes when a book gets published. Last week, however, the Science Fiction Writers of America were up in arms about a new contract idea from Random House that affects their science fiction e- imprint, Hydra. They are not happy, and Random House doesn’t seem to see the problem.

Traditionally, in simple terms, writers are paid an advance from the publishing company as payment for their work. The publisher assumes all costs for printing, binding, distribution etc., and the book is put on the shelves. As the book begins to sell, the publisher is paid until all their costs are recouped and the advance they gave the author has been recovered, and then the author begins to share the profits with the publisher. If costs are not recovered because a book doesn’t do well, an author might never see any more money other than their advance.


With this new model, there are differences because of the fact they are an e-imprint (which means no binding etc., but includes different costs such as digital marketing), but they’ve also switched up all the rules. An author picked up by Hydra will have to cover all the costs and will be paid no advance. That means, Random House might decide to pay their editors $5000 if they feel it is necessary, and their marketing team $8000 if that’s what they believe they need in order to make the book successful.  The author has no choice in the matter and must shoulder the costs.  Then, when the book starts selling, both author and publisher share the royalties.  The argument is that the publisher is taking a chance on the author by giving them the opportunity and providing them with the best people in the business, and yet they both get to reap the rewards right from the start.

It seems like it might be an interesting way to do business, and one which some authors would jump at the chance for. But wait…….

The catch is that the author now also loses all rights to their work, too...indefinitely. The publisher asks for all rights, in all forms, for the life of the copyright (which could work out to be 70 years or more after the death of the author). You can see why people are upset.

Last week, there was much uproar over the whole idea, and Random House replied with their own letter to the Science Fiction Authors of America to try to make them see the light. I’m not sure it worked.  It might be more work and cost more money and maybe not net the author the same residuals, but it’s looking like self-publishing might be the way to go to avoid the massive copyright problems. You can read the Random House letter here to see for yourself.

The real problem with this new model, if accepted, is that it might be game changing for the business. What if paper books went the same way? Many authors wouldn’t be able to afford the costs of producing the books and would be forced to release in ebook format only.  If other imprints follow this new direction, the world of publishing is changing, for good or not. Will this be the direction ebook publishers have been longing for since their inception? We’ll have to wait and see.