Publishers Lunch reports that Kathleen McGowan's The Expected One is written as fiction, but that, according to the author, it actually mirrors her own life. She believes, you see, that she is a descendant of a marriage between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. (Thank goodness they were actually married, that's all I can say. So many people don't bother, do they?) What is more, the visions experienced by the novel's main character are verbatim accounts of Kathleen's own visions of Mary Magdalene.
But, er, haven't we heard something like this before? Ah yes, but this is quite different.
'Everyone's going to think I'm on The Da Vinci Code bandwagon,' says Kathleen, 'but I'm not.' By way of evidence she adds that she began working on her book in 1989. The Da Vinci Code was published in 2003. So that's all right then.
Apparently Kathleen originally self-published her novel last year, but it sold only 2,500 copies. Imagine the disappointment of that. Still, now she gets a second chance, because Simon and Schuster are running a first edition of 250,000 copies. Full story in USA Today.
Digital options for Updike
A while back we noted that John Updike (a literary novelist of note, in case you're wondering) was not keen on the digital world. He likes proper books. Well, that's OK.
Publishers Lunch points to a letter in the New York Times in which Joni Evans points out that participating in the digital age is optional.
Couldn't put it better myself. Joni Evans, by the way, has worked for many years as an editor, publisher and literary agent. She's a known name.
Updike does not have to join the revolution. Digitization is optional. The Internet operates in the world of Also, Either/Or, Not One Way. Updike's intentions of privacy and intimacy are safe; his copyright thoroughly protects his choice to remain nonenhanced, nondigitized, nonhyperlinked and nonsearchable.
But what is good for John Updike is not necessarily good for the millions of authors the current system has locked out. Creativity does not flourish when books can't find publishers or when audiences cannot be sustained. Those authors whose works remain unpublished, out of print, out of stock or out of date will be the ones to march in the digital revolution. Updike is a large, elite fish in a small pond. The digital pond is primarily for other species — smaller, less recognized, exotic fish that need the oxygen this new world provides.
More on illustrated diy books
Last October I wrote a piece about how you can produce your own fully illustrated books by using the facilities of Lulu.com.
At Christmas, Mrs GOB and I were given a beautiful calendar, put together by our son-in-law, and featuring photographs of our grandchildren for each month of the year. And that got me looking at how he did it. It turns out that there are now lots of online firms which will do digital calendars for you. You can order just one copy if you wish.
The print quality of our gift calendar was extremely good. Not absolutely top quality, by comparison with, say, an art book issued by Thames and Hudson, but quite enough to satisfy all but the most critical eye.
Now, thanks to Galleycat, I have read an NYT article on further developments in this field. Perhaps the most promising of these is the service offered by Blurb.com (which seems to be for US customers only at present, but that will change). If they can produce a book which satisfies an amateur astronomer I think it likely that the result might also satisfy those ultra-picky amateur specialists in fine-art black and white photography.
When that's been demonstrated, then an age-old problem will be solved. There are lots of people around who would love to publish a book of art photographs, but who (a) can't find a commercial publisher to touch it (for obvious reasons: high cost, small sales), and (b) can't afford the £10,000 plus to finance it themselves via the old technology.
At blurb.com, even doggies can publish a book. (Take a look if you don't believe me.)
It's tough at the top
Publishing News reports (link from booktrade.info) that Ravi Mirchandani is leaving UK's Heinemann. PN understands that 'the move was not his decision'. So, in other words, he's been sacked.
Heinemann (established in 1890 and at that time, of course, independent) is now part of Random House, which is part of Bertelsmann, which is a big international media group. Such groups exist solely to make profits for shareholders and not to enrich the literary culture of our time. And when you look at Mirchandani's track record you see that he is a very lit'ry chap indeed.
The lit'ry stuff presumably isn't making enough money (hardly surprising), so Mirchandani gets the boot. Tough, but logical after its fashion.
The Book Bar
There's a new book blog/resource in town, and it's called The Book Bar. Very new as yet, but quite a lot there already.
It's the brainchild of Jessica Ruston, who tells us that she writes and works for a small publisher. She immediately gets into my good books by admitting to having read Katie Price (aka Jordan)'s Angel. Verdict: 'It's pretty appalling. But also rather wonderful.' Sounds right up my street.
Jessica also mentions Never the Bride, by Paul Magrs, which I'd not heard of before. Apparently it's about the Bride of Frankenstein, who lives in Whitby, and it's as weird and funny and quirky as that suggests. Just a minute -- I thought it was Dracula who lived in Whitby? Or am I more confused than usual? I shall just have to read it.
In case you're thinking of doing something similar, be warned. It takes a lot of time and effort to set up a site like this.
Danuta Kean's new web site
Another extremely valuable resource for writers is to be found on Danuta Kean's revamped web site.
Danuta is an award-winning UK journalist of long standing. She writes a regular column for The Author, which is the house magazine of the Society of Authors, and has written for most of the leading newspapers; she also interviews authors on Channel4Radio.
There is an enormous amount of valuable information for writers on her web site, with more to come, including all The Author columns. As a sampler, try her piece about super-agents. Yes, folks, it could happen to you. Keep the faith. But just don't hold your breath; you might go very red in the face.
Seriously though, that one article is in itself a valuable insight into how modern publishing interlocks with everything, notably TV. And you thought it was enough just to write an interesting book? Oh, dearie, dearie me.
I warned above that it takes a lot of time and effort to set up a halfway decent blog. But there are also other risks.
This week most of the UK papers reported the case of La Petite Anglaise, a young Englishwoman living in Paris, who blogged about her daily life in the French capital and lost her job as a result. Lynne Scanlon pointed me to a particularly detailed version of the story in the Telegraph.
La Petite's employers claim that she -- gasp of horror -- used the firm's time to work on her blog, and that she made them look stupid. Well, not nearly as stupid as they look now.
I'll tell you this for sure. You don't have to read her blog for very long to discover that this girl has been around the blogosphere for some time, and knows how to look after herself. And express herself. So far she has not named names. But if I were her former employer I would be feeling very, very nervous. There's ways to do things and ways to do things, and they done it all wrong.