Category Archives: Facts & Statistics

Facts and statistics about books.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

How We Read. And Why It Matters.

I don’t think audiobooks would work for me. Other than music, I don’t think I’m a great listener for an extended period of time, unless words are set to music. I’m a visual person. A voracious reader. Because I spend so much time working on my computer, e-books hold little appeal to me. I’m just an old-fashioned girl who loves the look, feel and (sometimes) smell of print on paper, the choice of book cover design and even the typeface. How do you read?

Start with statistics:
• 72% of American adults have read a book in the past year – in whole or in part, in any format. That’s a 20% decline from 1978.
• Young adults (ages 18 to 29) were the most likely (80%) to have read a book within the past year while adults ages 50-64 were the least likely (68%).
• Women averaged 14 books a year compared to nine books for men.
• In the decade since Kindle, Nook and iPad introduced e-book formats, readership took off like a rocket, reaching 22.5% of book sales in 2012 before settling to a steady near-20% in 2015.
• Audiobooks, which have been around since the 1930s, took off with the ability to download through websites and subscription services. By 2015, audiobooks represented an impressive 38.9% of adult books sales.
• One-third of audiobook listeners fell into the 25-to-34 age bracket, with mysteries/thrillers/suspense being the most popular genre, followed closely by history/biography/memoirs and popular fiction.
• The narrator of an audiobook has a significant impact on sales; some narrators have developed followings that drive sales.
• Print books still dominate, with 77% of all sales.

Why do reading habits matter? If you’re a booklover, learning what others like could coax you to try new formats to increase or improve your reading experiences. For authors – especially self-publishing ones — it’s crucial to understand what formats your target audience gravitates toward to maximize your investment.

Footnotes

Booklovers understand how books can change the world for the better. Did you know they can also help us live longer? Researchers at Yale University studied the reading habits of 3,635 people over 50 for a 12-year period and found that bookworms who read books for more than 3½ hours each week (30 minutes a day) were 17 percent less like to die than their non-reading peers. It appears that delving into novels promotes cognitive processes, such as empathy and emotional intelligence, which can boos longevity. It’s believed books have an advantage over magazines and newspapers because, according to researcher Avni Bavishi, “books engage the reader’s mind more, providing more cognitive benefit, and therefore increasing the life span.”

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Note to Authors: Don’t Overlook the Midwest

Authors would be wise to go behind the numbers of this year’s BookCon to see why Chicago should be part of any book tour.

Reed Exhibitions, the organizer of BookCon as well as BookExpo America (which ran in Chicago May 11–13), reported that consumer attendance was 7,200 for the 1-day BookCon on May 14. The 2-day BookCon in New York in 2015 drew 18,000 attendees, and the first BookCon in 2014 attracted 10,000 readers over one day. However, attendees this year were more interested in the books, rather than just looking for celebrity authors, as was often the case at the past two NYC shows. Moreover, the audience in Chicago skewed slightly older and was more inclined to buy books.

Publishers reported that they ran out of their most popular free items – books, tote bags and T-shirts — quickly. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group said its signed copies of John Grisham’s The Litigators were gone in less than five minutes, and the same held true for the 10th-anniversary edition of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Galleys that went quickly included those of Carl Hiassen’s forthcoming novel Razor Girl and Nathan Hill’s The Nix. Abrams Books said its children’s titles sold “like hot cakes,” and that some adult titles also “sold briskly”. W.W. Norton & Company called the Chicago event “great”.

The biggest complaint from consumers, many of whom came from different parts of the country, was that BookCon wasn’t long enough.

What all of this should suggest to authors and publishers is that there is a hungry, healthy market of readers in the Midwest. Properly chosen venues and well-crafted publicity can pay back in strong book sales while building reader loyalty for authors who head to Chicago.

Because of the strong Midwest market, BOOKS ‘n’ BOTTLES™ will expand to a second venue next month. Authors and publishers are invited to check out BOOKS ‘n’ BOTTLES™ events in the greater Chicago area at the Booked website.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Claim Your Independents

April 30th will mark the second annual Independent Bookstore Day across the U.S. Followers of the Booked Blog know I’m a longtime big supporter of indie stores. Last December, I re-ran a post that first appeared in March 2013, titled Guilty as Charged. Little did I know, three years ago, the important role independent bookstores would play in the success of BOOKS ‘n’ BOTTLES™. There are more reasons than ever to check out your local independent bookstore. You are likely to be very pleasantly surprised by the changes taking place.

Because they are not bound by the corporate strictures of chain stores and large discounters, independent bookstores have freedom to be creative in the way they serve their customers. Their hallmark has been personal service. Now they’ve expanded in-store events to feature local and self-published authors, along with nationally known ones.

Some stores have created ongoing programs to instill a love of books among children from toddlers to teens. Others have added cafés or bars, becoming social gathering spots for booklovers. Independent bookstores make it possible for libraries and clubs to bring in authors for speaking engagements, as well as support community events, by handling book sales at those venues.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that bookstore sales increased 2.5 percent from 2014 to 2015. The American Booksellers Association, which represents independent sellers, reported 1,712 member stores (in 2,227 locations) in 2015, up from 1,401 (in 1,660 locations) in 2009. It has been reported that 421 independent bookstores in 48 states will participate in this year’s Independent Bookstore Day. Eighty percent of last year’s participating stores saw a sales increase, and those stores saw an average sales increase of 70 percent compared with the Saturday the year before. Will you be part of the fun?

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives – Pardon My Gender

Note to Readers – From time to time, I will re-post a past entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose Pardon My Gender from September 2015 because newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that female authors helped American bookstores increases sales for the first time since 2007. The top three U.S. bestselling authors were Harper Lee, E.L. James and Paula Hawkins. Listen up publishers!

Curran Bell, Acton Bell and Ellis Bell may not be names you recognize but what if I were to say Charlotte, Anne and Emily Brontë? In the 1800s, the famous Brontë sisters had to don male names in order to get their writing published after England’s poet laureate Robert Southey responded to 20-year-old Charlotte’s selection of poetry with, “Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life.” Other noted female authors of the same period who disguised their gender in order to get published include George Sand (Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin) and George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans.)

A century later, Nell Harper Lee dropped her first name for the more androgynous Harper Lee. Nora Roberts, a bestselling author of romance novels under her real name, became a bestselling author of detective fiction using the pseudonym J.D. Robb.

Perhaps the best known contemporary female author to neuter her name is J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. Her UK publisher, Bloomsbury, felt that replacing her first name (Joanne) with initials would make her book more appealing to boys. Without a middle name of her own, she used her grandmother’s, Kathleen. “They could have called me Enid Snodgrass,” Rowling told The Telegraph in an interview. “I just wanted it [the book] published.”

As long as women have written, they have had to contend with bias in the publishing industry. While some are hopeful that the growing number of female authors with successful books will open doors for more women, statistics suggest that traditional publishers still view women primarily as writers and readers of romance novels.

Two 2011 studies prove the point. They showed that The New York Review of Books reviewed 71 female authors, compared to 293 male authors; The New York Times reviewed 273 women and 520 men. Only Crown published a similar number of male and female authors; the others clearly favored men.

Women authors are not the only ones battling discrimination in the publishing world. Minorities are also largely underserved, much to the loss of booklovers. But women are not a minority, which is why I highlight this sorry aspect of the publishing world.

The emergence of self-publishing is resulting in some hugely successful female writers (see Footnotes) but traditional publishers need to step up to the plate. It makes good business sense. Car dealers, real estate marketers and political parties have awakened to the potential women offer, not only as consumers but as producers. It’s time for the white male bastions of the publishing world to make way for diversity. Let it begin with women authors.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Chinese Puzzle

Have you been thinking about China lately? After all, February 8th marks the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Monkey (specifically, the Red Fire Monkey). China’s economy (second only to that of the U.S.) has the world rocking and rolling but not in a good way. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea threaten conflict with several nations with whom the U.S. is closely tied, including Brunei, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. Lots of reasons to have China on one’s mind.

What has me thinking about China is a story that hasn’t gotten much play in the U.S. media but should resonate with anyone in the book industry: the mysterious disappearance of five Hong Kong book publishers since last October – publishers who had profitably produced and sold books on topics banned by Beijing: political corruption, religion and the intimate lives of Communist Party officials.

Chinese authorities confirmed that at least two of the missing publishers were being detained in mainland China. All of the disappearances are considered abductions, carried out to silence critics, part of a pattern against human rights lawyers, activists and bloggers. Before leaving Hong Kong to join family in the U.S., publisher Jin Zhong warned, “You don’t want to risk your life just to get a book published.”

Does this chilling series of human rights violations signal the demise of the banned book industry in Hong Kong? What does that mean for a Hong Kong fighting to maintain its personal freedoms? What might that mean for publishing in and outside of China?

Just last May, BookExpo America (BEA), North America’s largest annual book trade fair, welcomed China at its Global Market Forum. The China delegation was the largest international delegation that ever attended BEA, with more than 170 publishing companies represented and a 25,000-square-foot “Guest of Honor” display. According to a Publishers Weekly report, “The country’s publishers, who have imported an increasing number of U.S. titles, are hoping to build a market for some of their top authors overseas.”

Self-published authors requiring advanced (more expensive) production capabilities for their books have been increasingly turning to Chinese printing and publishing companies in order to produce books that would otherwise not be profitable.

Like so many other aspects of modern commerce, there is a symbiotic relationship between authors in the free world and publishing companies in government-controlled China. I suggest that much as we need them, they need us more, especially as their economy tries to calm its choppy seas. I hope authors and publishers who treasure their freedom of expression will join together and make sure China hears our voices speaking for those whose voices are being silenced.

For more about banned books, see my Booked Blog posts from 2013: “451 Degrees- Part 1” and “Part-2”. If you think banned books can’t happen here, check my “Recommended” post from March 31, 2013.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

And the Award Goes to …

Film awards season is gaining momentum in the run-up to the granddaddy of them all: the Academy Awards on February 28th. This year, as in the past, has seen many award candidates coming from acclaimed books. The list includes:

Bridge of Spies – Giles Whittell
Brooklyn — Colm Tóibín
Carol (book title The Price of Salt) – Patricia Highsmith
Room – Emma Donoghue
Spotlight (book title Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church) –The Boston Globe Staff
The Big Short – Michael Lewis
The Danish Girl – David Ebershoff
The Martian – Andy Weir
The Revenant – Michael Punke

Here’s what I said about movies adapted from books two years ago in my blog post, You Oughta Be in Pictures (in 2014, four of the nine Best Picture nominees were adapted from books; this year, all but one of the eight nominated films originated as books):

“Once upon a time, it seemed that great books rarely transformed into great movies. Times have changed as plot lines and descriptions in books are more valued by filmmakers. Possibly this change has also been as authors have grown up with movies, their appreciation for that art form inspires how they write.

Why spend many hours engaged in the active reading of books when you can get the entire story faster and easier by sitting in a theatre being passively entertained for a couple of hours? But let’s remember that these movie adaptations are made because of books that excited enough readers to come to the attention of filmmakers. Conversely, some movies lead people to the books that inspired them.”

In 2015, at least 40 books were adapted to movies. Not all of them received Oscar nominations but many are worth seeing and all are worth considering in book form.

There will always be room for various art forms to express a good story and we should celebrate all of them.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Pardon My Gender

Curran Bell, Acton Bell and Ellis Bell may not be names you recognize but what if I were to say Charlotte, Anne and Emily Brontë? In the 1800s, the famous Brontë sisters had to don male names in order to get their writing published after England’s poet laureate Robert Southey responded to 20-year-old Charlotte’s selection of poetry with, “Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life.” Other noted female authors of the same period who disguised their gender in order to get published include George Sand (Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin) and George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans.)

A century later, Nell Harper Lee dropped her first name for the more androgynous Harper Lee. Nora Roberts, a bestselling author of romance novels under her real name, became a bestselling author of detective fiction using the pseudonym J.D. Robb.

Perhaps the best known contemporary female author to neuter her name is J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. Her UK publisher, Bloomsbury, felt that replacing her first name (Joanne) with initials would make her book more appealing to boys. Without a middle name of her own, she used her grandmother’s, Kathleen. “They could have called me Enid Snodgrass,” Rowling told The Telegraph in an interview. “I just wanted it [the book] published.”

As long as women have written, they have had to contend with bias in the publishing industry. While some are hopeful that the growing number of female authors with successful books will open doors for more women, statistics suggest that traditional publishers still view women primarily as writers and readers of romance novels.

Two 2011 studies prove the point. They showed that The New York Review of Books reviewed 71 female authors, compared to 293 male authors; The New York Times reviewed 273 women and 520 men. Only Crown published a similar number of male and female authors; the others clearly favored men.

Women authors are not the only ones battling discrimination in the publishing world. Minorities are also largely underserved, much to the loss of booklovers. But women are not a minority, which is why I highlight this sorry aspect of the publishing world.

The emergence of self-publishing is resulting in some hugely successful female writers (see Footnotes) but traditional publishers need to step up to the plate. It makes good business sense. Car dealers, real estate marketers and political parties have awakened to the potential women offer, not only as consumers but as producers. It’s time for the white male bastions of the publishing world to make way for diversity. Let it begin with women authors.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From Pixels to Print, Oh My!

I came thisclose to disaster last year while compiling the photo images to be used in Searching for My Father, Tyrone Power. After selecting images from Romina Power’s collection that best carried her memoir forward, expediency required pulling several of the images from the internet where they had migrated over the years.

All of the photos looked perfectly fine to me on my computer screen. As I got ready to provide them to the print production people, one of my tech people caught me just in time and asked, “Have you checked the resolution of these photos?”

“What do you mean, ‘resolution’?” I asked. “They look fine to me.” Uh-oh! Had I not been pulled back from the brink, the handsome collector’s quality limited first edition of this very special book would have been a disaster!

When you go from screen to print, funny things happen. Here’s what I learned — and what you need to know, if you plan to print photo images from digital images you see on the internet or are provided to you: Resolution, printing capabilities, moiré and even paper quality can enhance or disgrace your book. Be prepared!

Pixels (short for picture elements) are tiny dots that make the digital photo images you see on your computer screen. Most monitors have hundreds of thousands, or often millions, of pixels.

Resolution refers to the number of pixels per inch (PPI) in a digital photo. The PPI is noted as one number and yields the image pixel height and width, e.g. for a 5″ by 7″ photo with a PPI of 300 yields an image of 1,500 pixels by 2,100 pixels. Images found on the internet typically have a PPI of 72, resulting in poor print quality. Generally, the higher the PPI the better the reproduction print quality.

The quality of an image also depends on the printer. DPI (dots per inch) refers to the resolution printers produce on paper. Higher quality printers mean higher production costs but they are worth the investment if your book includes photos. Rather than try to figure the mathematical formula that you need for your photo images, ask to see samples of print work before you choose your book’s publisher. Your eyes will likely tell you what is acceptable.

Another potential problem is moiré, an effect that looks like wavy stripes or a crisscross pattern. It can occur during photography or during printing. It can be avoided during photography by using certain lenses but if it appears when printed, there is a Photoshop technique that can correct it – if it is caught in time.

Paper quality affects not only the life of a book but the quality of its photos. Increasingly, publishers are producing books on groundwood, once used primarily for throwaway publications like newspapers and advertisements. Although the cost of paper constitutes only 3% of a book’s cost, it has become a popular way for publishers to shave expenses and remain competitive. For a more enduring book, one with crisper photos, use archival paper. If the book’s photos are important, consider using glossy paper instead of more porous matte sheets where spreading ink will decrease clarity.

Whether your book is self-published or published traditionally, it is your baby. Bring it up well.

My tech team carefully reviewed each of the approximately 90 photos in Searching for My Father, Tyrone Power. They photoshopped when necessary (it was often necessary) to enhance the crispness of the images and to remove moiré wherever it showed up. We went the extra step of having the photos presented in three sections on glossy paper. The result was that many of the photos that had appeared in the bestselling 1998 Italian edition of the book look even better in the 2014 centennial edition. For more information about Searching for My Father, Tyrone Power, contact Tyrone Power First Edition.

Footnotes

A study by David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, of the psychology department at New York’s New School for Social Research, suggests that reading literary fiction (compared to pop fiction) better prepares people to sense and understand others’ emotions. The study, published in the journal Science, suggests that literary fiction “may change how, not just what, people think about others.”

Recommended

Imagine if you could not read a book simply because you could not clearly see the text. You can help a child read, an adult succeed in his or her job, a senior maintain an independent life – simply by donating reading glasses you no longer need. Lions Clubs International has been recycling eyeglasses in one of the largest and most successful programs in the world. They make it very easy to donate your unwanted eyeglasses through the Lions eyeglass recycling program. Donating your unneeded eyeglasses is free for you – but can be priceless to the millions of people whose vision can be corrected with eyewear.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Burying the Hachette?

You know you’re in trouble when Stephen Colbert gives you the finger on his TV show. On June 4th, Colbert gave not one but two fingers to Amazon. Yes, that Amazon.

Now, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Amazon for a long time. I love it when I can order something from the comfort of home, assured that the item will be very quickly delivered to my door and I’ll probably have paid less than from anywhere else. I hate it when I have to admit that my efficiency and frugality are also laziness and greed; that by ordering from Amazon, I am denying smaller businesses and local merchants much-needed income. I hate it even more when I remember that Amazon’s business model takes a huge hunk of profit out of the hands of authors and threatens the existence of local independent bookstores.

The ingenuity and entrepreneurial genius of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, deserves admiration. But I am aghast at Amazon’s unnecessary ruthlessness in its ugly battle against Hachette Book Group, the publisher (under various publishing names) of such authors as James Patterson, Scott Turow, Malcom Gladwell, Mitch Albom, Jane Hamilton, J.D. Salinger, J.K. Rowling (under her pen name Robert Galbraith) and hundreds of other authors.

Hachette had the courage to stand up to the huge wholesale discount Amazon demands on the titles it sells. In trying to negotiate better terms with Amazon, Hachette wanted “to protect the value of our authors’ books and our own work in editing, distributing and marketing them.”

Declaring war on Hachette’s attempt, Amazon took steps to discourage book lovers from buying Hachette books on the Amazon site: they eliminated presales options; removed their customary Amazon discount; are telling potential buyers that shipment could take weeks; and removed some titles from the Amazon site or are suggesting less expensive alternative titles from other publishers.

This is not the first time Amazon has heavy-handedly threatened publishers. In 2010, they removed all buy buttons from the listing for MacMillan titles during a negotiation over e-book pricing. As far back as the 1990s, Amazon routinely punished imprints that didn’t accept its business arrangements. Until now, they’ve gotten away with it as the media largely ignored the story while customers like you and I increasingly purchased things through Amazon.

As big as Hachette is, Amazon is way bigger in its dominance of the bookselling industry. Hachette is the fourth-largest publisher by market share but Amazon is, reportedly, responsible for at least a third of all U.S. book sales and somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of the burgeoning eBook market. The battle may seem to favor Amazon … but I wonder. Most of us root for the underdog when we sense an unfair fight. We tend to favor the working person (in this case, authors) over the faceless corporate behemoth (Amazon). And we demand honesty in the companies we do business with. Amazon isn’t being honest with us about book availability.

Whether moral sensibility or greed guides us, there’s no point in saving money if the seller purposely holds the product back or attempts to misdirect us, especially when it’s so easy to shop elsewhere at a marginally higher cost. Brand allegiance is a myth and if people grow tired of Amazon’s inability to provide a certain level of service, we’ll shop elsewhere.

If Amazon doesn’t start playing more fairly, they may find more people giving them the finger.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Startling Summer Stats

According to Reading Rockets, a national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help, “Children who don’t read during the summer can lose up to three months of reading progress and that loss has a cumulative, long-term effect.”

Now that the school year is coming to an end, it is especially important for adults to encourage the children in their lives to read during the summer. The attraction of summer reading is that the genres and topics can be the child’s choice, not mandated by a teacher or curriculum. Because summer reading is less regimented, it is also an opportunity for adults to more closely engage with children in the joy of reading.

Children’s and Young Adult Literature are two of the fastest growing categories in book publishing. Books for all ages, interests and reading levels are more accessible than ever: in stores, at libraries and on eReaders. There are even strategies to help youth with reading challenges such as dyslexia.

Whether a child advances or falls behind in life can be decided this summer by you. For a treasure trove of ideas and links, check out Reading Rocket’s Summer Reading.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

First Things First

A friend of mine asked me to help her get her book published. Although it had been a best-seller in another country several years ago, she was frustrated by the lack of interest from American publishers. I suggested she let me help her self-publish her book. Unsure of the process, and wondering if there was a market for her book, she asked if we could publish her book in a limited quantity to test the market. Her father was a passionate collector of First Edition books, so we decided to self-publish a Limited First Edition, tied to a special year-long event. Even before the book was off the press, a buzz has been building and requests for the book have started to come in.

That got me thinking about the allure of First Editions, Limited Editions, and Limited First Editions. Book collecting, especially collecting special editions, is like faith: if you don’t understand the passion, I can’t explain it to your; if you have the passion, I don’t need to explain it to you.

The first printing of a book is called the first edition, although later printings of an unchanged manuscript may also be called first editions. Collectors most value the very first printing because it is the one the author saw through the production process and is closest to the time the book was written. If a publishing company owns the rights to a book, its editors usually can go to town in subsequent editions, revising as they deem fit to meet their marketing needs. Collectors like to have books that reflect the author’s – not the editor’s — intentions.

Limited editions range from as few as 50 copies to as many as 1,000 copies. They come in various forms, including those from trade (mass market) book publishers, small fine press publishers and private publishers. At the highest end, a signed, numbered and slipcased limited first edition will cost three to five times the cost of a regular first edition. An established book can be reissued with new material in a high quality Limited First Edition, offering handsomely bound books or with the author’s autograph, which also has added value to collectors.

Many websites offer first editions, limited editions and limited first editions. But if you’ve never held a limited first edition of a book in your hands – often a magical piece of history and culture — you might want to visit antiquarian bookstores, book fests, maybe even your local independent bookstore. Catch the passion!

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Gutenberg Redux

When you hear the name “Gutenberg”, your first thought probably is of the Gutenberg Bible. Printed in the 1450s by Johannes Gutenberg, in Mainz, Germany, the Gutenberg Bible was the first major book printed in the West using movable type. It was the revolutionary advancement in technology that introduced printed books to the Western world.

But do you know about Project Gutenberg? Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is part of an equally revolutionary advancement in book publishing: the eBook. Hart, who unfortunately passed away in 2011 at age 64, invented eBooks. His Project Gutenberg continues its mission of digitizing and archiving cultural works, to “encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks”. Not only is Project Gutenberg the oldest digital library, it is one of the largest and it is free.

Project Gutenberg offers more than 42,000 free ePub books and free kindle books that you can download or read online. An additional 100,000 free eBooks are available through Project Gutenberg’s partners, affiliates and resources. All their eBooks are high quality and were previously published by “bona fide publishers”.

A new service from Project Gutenberg facilitates online publishing by contemporary authors through its self-publishing portal. It offers a free Authors Community Cloud Library, a social network Self-Publishing Portal. This Portal allows authors to share their works with readers as well as allows readers to provide comments, reviews and feedback to the authors. Every eBook has its own Details Page, Star Ratings, and Reader Comment area. There is no charge for using this service. Registration is not required for reading or downloading the publications or comments. However, registration is required to upload a book or post a comment.

Project Gutenberg is a remarkable volunteer-driven venture. They are grateful for donations of money and services. Whether you’re a booklover or an author who is a booklover, Project Gutenberg is a revolution you should join!

Evelyn Eman Delmar

You Oughta Be in Pictures

How did your favorite movies of the past year fare at this year’s Academy Awards? Critics and fans alike said this was an extraordinary year for excellent movies. To booklovers, it comes as no surprise that four of the nine Best Picture nominees were adapted from books. Those movies are Captain Phillips, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street. And the Oscar went to 12 Years a Slave. The books behind these movies are all non-fiction. In recent years, novels also were adapted into Best Picture winners. These included Slum Dog Millionaire (2008), No Country for Old Men (2004) and Million Dollar Baby (2003).

Once upon a time, it seemed that great books rarely transformed into great movies. Times have changed as plot lines and descriptions in books are more valued by filmmakers. Possibly this change has also been as authors have grown up with movies, their appreciation for that art form inspires how they write.

Some people are concerned that literacy is diminishing as people skip books in favor of movies. Why spend many hours engaged in the active reading of books when you can get the entire story faster and easier by sitting in a theatre being passively entertained for a couple of hours? But let’s remember that these movie adaptations are made because of books that excited enough readers to come to the attention of filmmakers. Conversely, some movies lead people to the books that inspired them. The Monuments Men did not get stellar movie reviews but the story line attracted new readers to a good book they had previously overlooked.

The social media website BuzzFeed offers a list of 16 books you should read that have been adapted into in films released, or to be released, in 2014.

There will always be room for various art forms to express a good story and we should celebrate all of them.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

You Gotta Hear This

Recorded books date back to the 1930s, when the Library of Congress created a “talking books” program for the blind. For years, audio recordings of books were considered the realm of the sight-impaired. Changes in lifestyle and advances in technology have changed all that. Whether travelling, working out in the gym, engaging in some rote physical activity or simply taking a long walk, booklovers everywhere are using audiobooks to be informed, entertained or enlightened. Not only has technology transformed how we listen to audiobooks, it has expanded the choices of what we listen to. And booklovers are listening!

The Audio Publishers Association (APA) is the organization that monitors and promotes the audiobook industry. It reports that audiobook products, services and sales have been growing steadily for more than a decade and estimates that the total size of the audiobook industry, based on the dollars spent by consumers and libraries, exceeds $1.2 billion.

Audiobooks have followed the same technological path as music records, freed from bulky plugged-in machines with disks to portable cassettes to more portable CDs and, now, as downloads to smartphones. Production costs and purchase prices are dropping deeply while demand is climbing. But price, along with convenience and portability, account for only part of growing audiobook popularity. Selection and quality have also dramatically risen.

Just as we started to see new book titles go straight to eBooks without first being available in print, new titles are showing up in audiobooks that were not previously in print. It’s not surprising that the digital evolution is starting to pair eBooks with audiobooks. Audible, a company owned by Amazon, has paired some 26,000 eBooks with professional narrations. The company is adding more than 1,000 titles a month and aims to eventually bring the number to around 100,000.

“Professional” narration often means professional actor narration in the audiobooks being produced today. It’s not unusual to find your favorite movie and stage actors narrating books. Seeing great potential in audiobooks, producers are investing in high-quality production values. Max Brooks, author of the zombie novel World War Z scored a huge audiobook winner with 60,000 CDs and digital-audio copies sold in advance of the release of the movie taken from his novel. The success was fueled by an elaborate production with 40 cast members, including some A-list actors.

While sales figures indicate the public’s embrace of audiobooks, the format does have its critics who are concerned that this format will diminish the pleasure or comprehension of reading, even reduce the appreciation of the printed word. Many worry about a potential recession in traditional print books. Scientists, authors and booklovers debate the benefit and detriment that audiobooks might bring to literacy and literature. You be the judge.

For more about the rise of audiobooks, read the Wall Street Journal article, “The New Explosion in Audio Books”.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.

The six-word title of this blog post is considered by many to be the perfect example of the literary form called flash fiction. Although legend attributes those six words to Ernest Hemingway, similarly titled stories appear to predate him and there’s nothing to confirm him as the author. No matter. This is still powerful stuff.

Last week’s blog addressed the three traditional literary forms: novel, short story and novella. Flash fiction is the new kid on the literary block, having emerged in the past twenty-five years or so. It’s still evolving, going by such names as quick fiction, nano fiction and micro fiction. Flash fiction ranges in length from six words to as much as a thousand. There’s no set format; it can be a sentence, a paragraph, a page or more. No matter. It’s gaining fans everywhere.

The origins of flash fiction are as variable as its length and format. Aesop’s Fables, written in ancient Greece, are probably the first examples of flash fiction. We find flash fiction in many cultures and many languages. Its popularity has flourished in modern, fast-paced times when gratification wants to be served up promptly.

No matter how short flash fiction is, it still must tell a complete story. What’s left, after all non-essential words are removed, is clean and sharply focused. The choice of words, therefore, is critical. As readers might not realize but writers surely know, the shorter the piece, the harder it is to write.

The best flash fiction sparks something in a reader. It can raise the spirit or crush it under its heel. It can leave a taste on the tongue that is sweet or spicy or sour. The more minimal the language provided by the author, the more space there is for the reader to imagine the unspoken details. The story becomes something considerably larger than its diminutive size.

The format of flash fiction lends itself especially well to magazines, literary journals, online publications and chap books. But they are also published in books as collections by one or more writers, sometimes following a theme, other times following a format, still other times just being an anthology of very good writing. No matter. Just go find some and check it out because really good things can come in really small packages.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

The Long and the Short of It

Once upon a time, it seemed there were just three formats for literary fiction: short stories, novels and novellas. Although few readers could define exactly what constitutes any of these categories, they usually have strong preferences for one over the others.

Until a few years back, I favored novels. To me, short stories were sketches or snacks whereas novels were full-fledged paintings or sumptuous banquets. Who doesn’t love to become absorbed into a good novel?

In 2006, I started writing short stories as a way to hone skills I felt I needed in order to write a novel. Along the way, reading great short stories and writing my own, I came to appreciate the craft of short story writing. A great short story is as memorable and satisfying as a great novel. My list of favorite short story authors includes O. Henry, Edgar Allen Poe and Alice Munro.

Some novels are constructed of vignettes that could stand alone as short stories. Some novels expand this concept over a collection of books: each book stands alone but all are connected by plots that interweave the same characters or settings at different times or from different viewpoints. Ursula Hegi comes to mind, with several books set in the fictional German town of Burgdof before, during and after World War II, showing recurring characters from different viewpoints.

So many great books are novellas. Among the best are Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea; John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men; George Orwell’s Animal Farm; and Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

What differentiates a novel from a novella from a short story? Length, obviously, is one factor. Typically, a novel runs 40,000 words; a novella uses 17,501-40,000 words; and a short story runs 7,500 words or less. Between 7,501 and 17,500 words can be considered a short story, a novella or a “novelette”.

Beyond length is structure. Short stories have fewer characters and, usually, a briefer time span. Novels have the luxury of developing characters and plot. Regardless of the length, both forms have the ability to grab and hold you. The difference is akin to looking at photos taken through different lenses. A close-up photo may show you less than a panoramic picture but it can be examined in finer detail without losing your interest because of its dedicated smaller focus. The panoramic photo tells a more sweeping story that combines many points of interest but, perhaps, not so closely. Both can be dramatic or funny. Both can touch you deeply and stay with you like a whisper that lingers in your ear.

Form should follow function. An author should choose his or her story platform based on what the story needs in order to be most effectively told. Readers should be open to reading all formats because, as noted by my examples, great stories come in all sizes. That’s why Booked welcomes all formats for review and promotion.

I haven’t even touched on the increasingly popular format of Flash Fiction, also known as Micro Fiction, the shortest form of fiction. Stay tuned.

Recommended

If you’re an author, wondering if self-publishing could be a viable route to getting your book produced, you should read this Wall Street Journal article about prolific best-selling self-published author Russell Blake. This article should also interest booklovers who have shied away from self-published books in the past because they thought only traditional publishers produced good books.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

The Fallacy of “Best Books of the Year”

I have a bone to pick with the concept of “best books of the year” lists.

To begin with, there is no concurrence about what books comprise the top 10 in any category. Books get rated in many ways, including by sales, by genre and by critical review.

Booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble issue their lists based on their own sales data. The established arbiters of literary achievement, such varied media as the New York Times, NPR and Forbes, present their own critics’ annual list for your consideration. Some websites will offer their readers’ top ten favorites based on online votes. Some lists are specific to a genre while others embrace all genres. The Daily Beast aggregated 40 major lists to offer “a ranked ultimate guide” based on critics’ lists – a list from lists.

Regardless of which lists are consulted, rankings of “the top books of the year” help guide readers to books that have achieved recognition for a variety of reasons. All well and good as far as that goes.

Here’s my issue: these widely publicized lists routinely omit self-published books and almost all books published by small presses. The lists are dominated by the few big traditional publishing houses with hefty promotional budgets and access to booksellers’ coveted store positions. Meanwhile, many thousands of fantastic self-published and small press- published books remain in obscurity. The authors who write those marvelous works are denied the financial support they need to continue producing quality books while booklovers are denied the treasures these books offer.

As you peruse the various lists of “Best Books of the Year”, remember that there is more than meets the eye. Much more. Certainly, you should consider reading some of the books on those coveted lists. But don’t cheat yourself of the rewards of great self-published and indie books. You’ll find some of them (along with more traditionally published books) at the Booked website. That’s a good start.

Another excellent source worth checking is the list of Indie Book Award winners (you’ll find Echoes of Earth on their award list; a book excerpt and interview with author L. Sue Baugh can be found at Booked). A third source for finding independently published gems is the Independent Publishers IPPY Awards list.

A note of interest: some bestselling books started out as self-published works before they were picked up by traditional publishers. Titles you might recognize include The Joy of Cooking; The Tales of Peter Rabbit; The Celestine Prophecy; John Grisham’s first book, A Time to Kill and Tell My Sons (you’ll find a book excerpt and interview with co-author David Murray at Booked).

Evelyn Eman Delmar

What’s Your Type(face)?

You probably don’t give it a thought but your enjoyment of a book is enhanced or diminished by the look of the letters that form the words that form the phrases that lead you through the pages. The design of those letters is a craft that has developed over centuries.

In traditional typography, the specific size, style and weight of a typeface is referred to as a “font”. This harkens back to the casting of metal dies for seals and currency in ancient times and, later, to the development of movable type when letters were molded in metal. A typeface comprises an assortment of fonts that share an overall design. With today’s digital technology, the terms “font” and “typeface” are often interchanged.

Most of the common, classic typefaces we use today – including Roman, Italic, Garamond, Caslon, Fleischmann, Bodoni, Baskerville – were created before the 1800s. Fewer typefaces were created in the 19th and 20th centuries but industrialization of the printing industry brought major advances in print technology. Computer digitization of typography in recent decades resulted in countless new typefaces, including such contemporary type designs as Times, Helvetica and Futura, as well as variations of the classic styles. Today, there are thousands of different typefaces, and new ones continue to be developed.

Quantity equals quandary for the self-publishing author. Being familiar with typefaces and their effect on the reader’s experience is one more opportunity to soar or sink. Fortunately, someone decided to create a list of the most popular book fonts, based on the Top Ten Typefaces Used by Book Design Winners.

If you look at older books, especially those produced by major publishing houses, you are likely to find a note about the typeface that was chosen. That lovely piece of information is rarely mentioned in contemporary books, especially those that are self-published. It’s a pity. Not that you would choose to buy or read a book based on the typeface of the text; simply to appreciate the art in the creation and the selection. It’s worth another look.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Publishing’s Plenitude & Pitfalls

Do you remember the 1982 sci-fi movie Tron? It’s about a computer programmer who is transported inside the software world of a mainframe computer, where he interacts with various programs as he tries to get back out. I feel like that programmer nearly every time I start working at my computer. An endless universe of cyber-choices, with tentacles reaching out, sucks me into a virtual vortex, devouring real time.

This dizzying experience happened again as I started preparing my blog about Self-Publishing. My original goal was to provide an update of industry statistics about newly published titles in 2012 and show the value of Booked as an innovative marketing concept. I started with Bowker, the official ISBN agency for the U.S. and its territories. “ISBN” stands for “International Standard Book Number”. An ISBN is a number that uniquely identifies a published book or book-like product, facilitating the sale of the product to booksellers and libraries.

Bowker’s report for 2012 says ISBNs show nearly 60% more self-published works than in 2011. Self-published titles in 2012 jumped to more than 391,000, up an astonishing 422% over 2007. Just one year earlier, Bowker had reported nearly 346,000 new titles published (traditional plus self-published), of which self-published titles accounted for 43%. Ebooks continue to gain on print, comprising 40 percent of the ISBNs that were self-published in 2012, up from just 11 percent in 2007.

Critics of Bowker claim the figures should be far higher because an increasing number of books are coming into the marketplace as direct author-to-reader sales without the ISBN numbers that enable tracking. That means self-published titles are even higher than reported!

The bottom line for authors is that it is easier than ever to get published but harder than ever to compete for sales and readership. This is true for traditionally published books but much more so for self-published works. Authors can no longer view themselves purely as artists creating literary works. They now have to also don the hat of business owner; the business is selling their book.

Our rapidly evolving literary marketplace has created a new service infrastructure in publishing to fill the needs of authors with books to sell. In addition to companies that actually produce print, digital or audio books, companies offer a variety of post-production services. For the uninformed author, the new infrastructure is a dangerous minefield. As I wrote on this Blog back in February, authors need to be aware of “the good, the bad and the ugly about self-publishing.”

And so we return to Tron, trolling the internet, seeking information about resources for authors and feeling overwhelmed with choices. It has never been easier for authors to get published, or to be separated from money without getting adequate help to sell their books.

If you have written a book you want to publish, whether you pursue traditional or self-publishing, print or digital, traditional booksellers or direct to reader, tread carefully! “Biggest” is not always best and “cheapest” is rarely a bargain.

Get a first, second and possibly third opinion from people with experience at successfully producing and marketing books in your genre. Join writing groups, attend conferences, talk with consultants and network. Read leading industry magazines, take classes, read the insides of books to look for names of publishers, editors, agents and others who helped bring the book to you. Get to know published authors. Immerse yourself in the literary world, including both the writing craft and the marketing know-how. Read the Booked blog! Feel free to contact me for more information. You may feel overwhelmed at times but, like the programmer in Tron, you will emerge victorious.

Shout-Out

No relationship to Booked but I want to congratulate my son, SPC. Ian V. Delmar, on earning the Distinguished Honor Graduate designation from the U.S. Army Advanced Individual Training, Class 15-13. Top of the class!

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Thank-full-ness

There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American. — O Henry

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives. – Oscar Wilde

As we approach the quintessential American family holiday – Thanksgiving – I started to search for samples of Thanksgiving representations in literature. You’d think that the holiday would be ripe for comedy, drama, poetry, a touch of weirdness perhaps, and certainly a cornucopia of memories. But you’d be challenged to find a bounty of books whose titles or authors you’d recognize.

While there are passing references to Thanksgiving in various novels by such authors as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain and Philip Roth, you have to go back to 1882 and the novella An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott to find a classic story placed in the holiday. It’s a cute story that may remind you of the movie Home Alone, when children are left to fill their parents’ role in the household with comic results. While getting a taste of life in those long-ago times, we can relate to the spirit of the family-oriented holiday.

How authors view Thanksgiving reflects the time in which the author lives and the story is told. Such is the case with Rick Moody’s 1994 novel, The Ice Storm. Set in the 1970s, the dark story reveals the underlying dysfunction of two seemingly attractive upper-class suburban families, breaking apart under the weight of contemporary cultural pressures.

Most of us have Thanksgiving recollections that fall somewhere between Alcott’s version and Moody’s. Those of us “of a certain age” also recall the first verse of a melodic poem called Over the River and Through the Woods, learned in elementary school. Did you know that when you go past the first verse, it turns out to be about Thanksgiving? The original title of the poem (later adapted into a song and a play) by Lydia Maria Child was A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day. Now you have a piece of trivia to pass around with the turkey and stuffing at your Thanksgiving table!

Footnotes

Amazon’s latest generation of E-readers, the Kindle Fire HDX got a rave review at NYTimes.com, noting improved battery life, lighter weight and sharply defined images. PCMag.com takes you through a comparison of the current top eReaders.

Congratulations to 451 Degrees, the book club at Chicago’s Lane Tech High School that I mentioned in my March 31, 2013 blog. They recently won the Illinois Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Award for leading a protest after the book was banned from Chicago public schools and libraries. The clubs efforts via traditional and social media gained enough supporters that the ban was rescinded. 451 Degrees founder Levi Todd said, “A lot of books banned are really good books. They make for great discussions.”

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Spreading the Love

Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don’t believe that, watch an illiterate adult try to do it. – John Steinbeck

It was disheartening to learn that a study conducted in late April by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy found that 32 million adults – 14 percent of the population — in our nation can’t read. Among high school graduates, 19 percent can’t read; and 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level. Only 29 percent displayed a “basic” reading level. The U.S. illiteracy rate hasn’t changed in 10 years.

Illiteracy impacts so many aspects of society in general and countless individual lives. It denies people economic security, access to health care, and the ability to actively participate in civic life. Illiteracy is often a legacy handed down from one generation to another; parents who don’t read are much more likely to have children who don’t read.

For those of us who love reading, it may seem unimaginable that others are so diminished by their inability to read. What we need to understand is that, like many skills, there is an optimal period of brain maturation in which to develop reading skills. For many reasons, children may miss learning to read during this period, finding themselves illiterate by the time they graduate from high school. Having lost the chance to fall in love with reading at a young age, they may feel unable to learn this crucial skill and lack the motivation to take on the challenge.

Schools and libraries have developed programs to encourage reading and to help those struggling to become literate. As booklovers, there are some things each of us can do to support literacy. We can read to the children in our lives. We can volunteer at schools, libraries, houses of worship and other places that offer literacy mentorships. We can also get involved with World Book Night, an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.

Each year on April 23 –Shakespeare’s birthday– tens of thousands of people in the U.S. go out into their communities and give a total of half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers. World Book Day is celebrated in the UK and Ireland by giving schoolchildren a book token. World Book Night was introduced in 2011 in the UK and Ireland to bring attention to books for adult readers.

With its launch in 2012, World Book Night U.S. chose to continue the focus on adult readers,
with a few books for teens and middle readers included. Many, many other wonderful programs already exist to get books to young children, and they are essential. But World Book Night U.S. fills another important need: Encouraging reading in the teen and adult population, especially those who may not have access to printed books for reasons of means or geography.

The goal of World Book Night is to seek out adult readers wherever they are, in towns and cities, in public settings or in places from nursing homes to food pantries, low-income schools to mass transit. We owe it to our society to help lift others out of illiteracy. As booklovers – readers, writers, editors, agents, publishers, booksellers, librarians and teachers – we can join World Book Night to spread the love.

Footnotes

There’s encouraging news for those of us who value our local independent bookstores. The American Booksellers Association, a non-profit industry association founded in 1900 that promotes independent bookstores in North America, reports that its membership rolls have gone up every year since 2009, from 1,401 four years ago to 1,632 this year.

At the same time, the National Endowment for the Arts reports that only 47% of Americans say they read a book for pleasure last year. Read my Spreading the Love blog post to learn how you can help improve this statistic.

Recommended

The 2013 Nobel Prize winner in literature, Alice Munro, just announced her retirement at age 82. The author of 14 books was also the 2009 winner of the Man Booker International Prize for her body of work. Several of her short stories have been translated into movies. The wonderful 2006 film Away From Her was adapted from Munro’s The Bear Came Over the Mountain, which originally appeared in The New Yorker in 1999, was reprinted and is available for reading in their October 21, 2013 issue.