Dog-Eared and Dispatched: June 7, 2015
It’s hot in Portland this weekend, but rather than wilting in the heat, we’re bringing you this week’s roundup of literary news – and it’s going to fire you up. We look at whether women are getting all the recognition they deserve from the literary establishment, what Ursula Le Guin has to say about publishing, and try to figure out what is happening with Vook. Grab a chilled beverage – ready? Set? Read.
Author Nicola Griffith has crunched the numbers and found that women generally don’t win literary prizes, not for adult books, and especially not if the book is written from the point of view of a woman or girl. The one exception to this rule seems to be for children’s and young adult titles, which skew in favor of women (and, hey look, Jacqueline Woodson has been named “Young People’s Poet Laureate”). Griffith is the first to note that her findings are just a first step: “Data is the way forward. Data will give us patterns. Patterns will give us connections. Connections will help sort correlation from cause. When we have causes, we can find solutions—or at least begin to experiment with a variety of solutions.” A good starting point might be ensuring gender parity among the judges, but a complete overhaul of society would work, too. [The Bookseller, The Telegraph, Nicola Griffith, The Oregonian]
Ursula K. Le Guin does is again – in case you thought she couldn’t top her speech at last year’s National Book Award ceremony – calling for readers to think critically about buying books at Amazon because of “how they use their success in marketing to control not only bookselling, but book publication: what we write and what we read. […] Every book purchase made from Amazon is a vote for a culture without content and without contentment.” The essay is full of zingers: “The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food. Agribusiness and the food packagers sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we come to think that’s what food is. Amazon uses the BS Machine to sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we begin to think that’s what literature is.” You should read the whole thing if you haven’t already done so. [National Book Award/Youtube, Moby Lives, Book View Café]
Digital publishing service Vook – which had focused on helping (self-)publishers add multimedia content to their digital books – is shifting gears and, renamed Pronoun, is targeting its services at authors. They will offer their services for free – and with a 100% royalty rate for authors – as they continue to monetize their services, including ebook analytics, to publishers. Pronoun/Vook explains the reason for the change in “manifesto” published on Medium: “Digital retailers like Amazon and Apple already know far more about book buyers than anyone in history. They know where your readers live, what other books they love, and how they found your book. They choose to keep this information for themselves, yet it could be harnessed in an author’s favor. Authors could use digital tools to learn about their audience, understand how people find and evaluate their books before buying, and adjust how they position their book to reach more readers.” We’re interested to see what happens next. [Publishers Weekly, Digital Book World, Pronoun (via Medium)]
- Trade book sales fell in February, with adult titles down 7.2% and children’s/young adult titles down 32.1% compared to February 2014.
- Approaches to writing about fashion.
- The USPS issued a stamp commemorating the writer Flannery O’Connor this week.
- Portland publisher Hawthorne Books is merging with nonprofit publisher Dzanc.
- The featherbed of book reviews.
- Indie booksellers were strategizing at BEA.