Go Faux

By John Yunker,

The Magellanic penguin colony that I wrote about in The Tourist Trail was very nearly decimated twenty years ago by a Japanese firm that planned to “harvest” the penguins for their skins. The penguin skins were to be used for women’s gloves.

Fortunately, this never came to pass, thanks to the efforts of a handful of local activists who drew attention to the plan.

When I think about the use of fur and leather, I think of the penguins. And how quickly a few hundred thousand birds could have been extinguished for the sake of vanity — and profit.

And I think about the animals that are not in danger of going extinct, that are raised in horrific conditions specifically for their fur and hides, which is just as bad, if not worse. We can make an enormous impact on the lives of animals by simply choosing faux over leather. The fact is, there are excellent alternatives to any leather good, from belts to shoes to wallets.

It’s with this in mind that I am participating in a button contest to encourage people to opt for faux alternatives to leather and fur.

Here’s the button I designed:

I’ve ordered a quantity of these buttons and will include a free button with every purchase of The Tourist Trail from my web site.

 

  Category: On animals
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16 million reasons to get your book on the Kindle this year

By John Yunker,

If you’re an author and your book is not on the Kindle, this is a good year to get it there.

Kindle guru Steve Windwalker cites a market analyst who predicts that 16 million Kindles will be sold this year. If you also count the Kindles that have been sold prior to this year, you’re looking at more than 20 million Kindle owners by December.

Kindle owners tend to be voracious readers. According to the same analyst, there will be 314 million Kindle eBooks sold by the end of this year. This translate to an average of 15 eBook sales per Kindle.

I’m not predicting the death of print books. Not at all. But I do believe that Kindle owners are predisposed to buy books in digital format — and not just because the books are less expensive. Kindle owners enjoy the fact that they can share digital notes from the eBooks they purchase and that they can lend digital copies to friends around the world. These are experiences unique to the Kindle, a reason why there is a group of  Kindle owners who will not purchase a book if it’s not available in Kindle format. They’ll simply wait, or move on to another book.

If you’ve been waiting for a good time to work on getting your book on the Kindle, now is the time.

 

  Category: On Amazon, On publishing
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An eReader cheat sheet

By John Yunker,

It’s not easy keeping up with technology, as this Best Buy commercial humorously illustrates:

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZAAZ7iXN-o’]

 

Consider the eReader.

If you’re in the market for one, you have to navigate a wide range of devices — from the Kindle to the Nook to the iPad.

As publishers, we want our books to be available everywhere, which means across all major eReaders.

With this in mind, we created a “cheat sheet” of the readers we watch most closely. This PDF (which you can download), compares the three leading eReaders (Kindle, Nook, and iPad), as well as the Kobo.

If you’re in the market for an eReader, I would first recommend the Kindle. It’s hard to argue with the pricing, the wealth of books available, and the fact that you can read your Kindle books across a wide range of devices — computer, iPad, BlackBerry.

If you’re a writer and you can only get your book onto the Kindle, you’re in great shape.

Right now, the Kindle accounts for well over half of all eBook sales — possibly as high as 70%.

The iPad, despite its gorgeous full-color screen, does not offer the most extensive or user-friendly bookstore. As this article notes, the Apple iBookstore accounts for only about 10% of all eBook sales. However, if you’ve produced a full-color book, the iPad is an important device to target.

The Barnes & Noble Nook appears to be making positive inroads, particularly the full-color version. A recent NYT article reports that more than a million magazine subscriptions have been sold on the Nook over the past seven months.

And then there is the Kobo, which you might not have heard of. In the US, the Kobo was heavily promoted through the ill-fated Borders chain. But Kobo has recently received a healthy bit of investment and is now focused on expanding into Australia and New Zealand. So we’re keeping a close eye on it.

Given the pace of eReader evolution, this blog post will probably be outdated six months from now. But I still expect the Kindle to be the leader, with the iPad making inroads.

PS: Here’s a NYT review of the latest Nook and Kobo devices.

 

Is YA fiction too dark?

By Midge Raymond,

We read with interest this Wall St. Journal article on young adult (YA) fiction about how (distressingly, for many parents) today’s YA fiction seems to be getting darker and darker. According to the selection in many bookstores, today’s avidly reading teens can find themselves “immersed in ugliness.”

The part of the article that stands out most to me is this: “Reading about homicide doesn’t turn a man into a murderer; reading about cheating on exams won’t make a kid break the honor code. But the calculus that many parents make is less crude than that: It has to do with a child’s happiness, moral development and tenderness of heart.”

We think about this a lot for every Ashland Creek Press title we publish: How will this book both entertain and enlighten? Will this book  offer something positive in an all-too-often troubling world? Will this book inspire readers to engage with the world in which they live in an optimistic way? This is more important than ever with young adult books.

Our first YA title, Out of Breath, belongs to a genre that teens have been devouring lately. There’s a little romance, a lot of paranormal, and yes, you’ll meet a couple of vampires. It’s certainly not as dark as some teen fiction out there — there’s no serious violence, no profanity, no sex, and no child abuse, self-inflicted or otherwise. And what we hope will surprise readers about this novel is that even amid the darker elements of the story, the book celebrates the earth and nature and shows how we can all connect to it a little more closely.

It’s good to see this article and to know that the tide may be turning — not that we need to create unrealistic, utopian worlds for teen readers but because, as the article notes, “books focusing on pathologies help normalize them.” And it’s not that we should ignore the realities of what teenagers experience — but literature can be one of many ways in which to show them that there is as much light in the world as there is dark.

How writers write

By Midge Raymond,

I recently revisited this Wall St. Journal article about writers sharing their processes — and I found it just as inspiring as when I first encountered it. It’s a great article only for the insider’s view into some of our favorite writers’ practices but for the comfort of knowing that there’s no “right way” to do things, and that the work can sometimes be a struggle for even the most successful writers.

Take Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz, who “shuts himself in the bathroom and perches on the edge of the tub with his notebook when he’s tackling a knotty passage” — or Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, who “often rewrites the first line of his novels 50 or 100 times.”

And then there’s British novelist Hilary Mantel, who writes in the morning, before before having even a sip of coffee (can you imagine?!). Russell Banks writes his novels in longhand, while Anne Rice writes on a computer in 14-point Courier.

Dan Chaon writes on color-coded note cards. Laura Lippman creates her mysteries using plot charts, index cards, sketchbook pages, colored ribbon, magic markers — and Edwidge Danticat begins her novels with collages of photos and images clipped from magazines.

And, like the rest of us, these writers don’t work without false starts. Kate Christensen was two years and 150 pages into her first novel before she started over; Junot Diaz tossed out about 600 pages before The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao finally began to come together.

What about when they’re not writing? Mantel always carries a notebook to jot down ideas, while Margaret Atwood scribbles “on napkins, restaurant menus, in the margins of newspapers.”

Sometimes when I read about writers and their rituals, I can’t help but feel as though I’m doing something wrong. For example, my schedule is such that I have no daily set writing time; I take it when I can get it. I wouldn’t dream of committing words to paper in a pre-coffee state (I need some tea, at the very least). And sometimes I write on the computer, sometimes longhand, sometimes in my head. It just depends: on time and timing, on where I am and when, and the story and how it wants to arrive in the world.

This is why I love articles like this one, showing us all the myriad ways in which writers work — they’re good reminders that what matters is not how the writing gets done but the fact that it does.