Monday, December 31, 2012

Publishing News: “Big Six” may soon be a “Big Four.”

I think we can see more of the “writing on the wall” for the publishing industry.   On October 29th, the proposed merger of Random House and Penguin was announced.  Within three weeks thereafter, the Wall Street Journal reported merger talks between HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster.  Thus, the “big six” may soon become the “big four.”

Simon & Schuster is now owned by CBS.  The firm publishes titles under something like three dozen imprints – most of which were at one time separate, independent publishing companies in their own right.  However, “the big fish ate the little fish,” as the saying goes, and as I remember only too well from my days as a literary agent.  [Simon & Schuster bought up Prentice Hall, and effectively killed one of the book titles I had placed at the latter house.]

HarperCollins is now owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation Ltd.  It, too, has numerous imprints.

The same is true for Random House (which includes Dell, Dial, Doubleday, Knopf, Modern Library, et al..).  The German firm, Bertelsmann, now owns the Random House Group – the same Bertelsmann who were once the largest publishers of Nazi propaganda (and, allegedly, even benefited from slave labor under the Third Reich!).

On to Macmillan (which includes Holt, St. Martin’s, and Farrar, Straus & Giroux among others).  Another German company, Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, now owns Macmillan.

The Hachette Book Group includes Little, Brown & Company and Warner Books, and is owned by the French firm, Hachette Livre, which is itself owned by Lagardère Publishing.

Finally (saving the largest for last), there is the Penguin Group, which includes Putnam and Viking.  It is owned by the British conglomerate, Pearson. 

But what does this mean for authors?  Obviously, it will become increasingly more difficult for outsiders to “break in” or even “get a foot in the door.”  There was a time when a manuscript could effectively be shopped around to 20-odd houses in New York and eventually get published.  Now, with centralized (computerized) control over increasingly fewer publishing options, things can only get more difficult.  Where HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster might once have bid against one another for a title, they will soon be the same company. 

Is it any wonder, then, that I continue to believe more openings lie in the world of digital publication than through the good graces of the New York Axis?  The Big Five or Big Four -- who may some day be the Big One or Two! -- will continue to serve the privileged few (celebrities, insiders, jocks, politicians, syndicated media personalities, etc.), but for most of us, the future lies in iPad, Kindle, Nook, and other such technologies. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Paganini tops Bieber, Khalifa??

This posting is somewhat dated, alas, but here goes.

Last fall, Stay Thirsty Press launched a "free promotional" weekend on Amazon -- a practice that is not at all uncommon these days.  The idea is that as more people read a work, they will tend to pass along the good word.  With any luck, these "promotionals" lead to sales in the future.

Under the category of "Music/Biographies" (which, we must assume, includes historical fiction as well), Charlie Brown's book on Wiz Khalifa finished #3, and Andrew Morris' volume on Justin Bieber took the #2 slot.  Topping the list was Paganini's Fire.

How often does a 19th century violinist top finish ahead of two pop stars?  Let us hope that this novel is finally beginning to gain some recognition!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Another (co-authored) e-book Now Available on Kindle!

On December 7th, Don Gibbons, Ph.D., and I uploaded our volume, Exploring Alternate Universes:  And Learning What They Can Teach Us.  The bulk of the text stems from Don’s work as a clinical psychologist.  Amazingly enough – and I suppose I must anticipate this question! – these “alternate universes” actually do provide a valid instrument for personal growth, self improvement, and (in a clinical setting) therapy. 

This will almost surely develop into the “alternate and parallel universes” series, utilizing techniques of self-hypnosis and hyperempiria.  We have found a number of practical applications for various endeavors, and Don’s notion of “remembering the future” should prove particularly helpful in the volume that addresses motivation.  Stay tuned. 

Meanwhile, readers can find this 99-cent volume on Amazon through the following link:


Stephanie Chase Interview, Part II, Is Published

Earlier this month, Stay Thirsty released the second part of "An Interview with Stephanie Chase." This hyperlink will take you to the site: .  Once again, we get some wonderful performances by the violinist as well. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Interview With Stephanie Chase (Part I) Is Published

My article, "An Interview with Stephanie Chase, Part I," was released earlier this month by Stay Thirsty Media. You may access it most expeditiously through this hyperlink:

Stephanie is another remarkable artist, a towering intellect, and a "complete" musician.  She also plays Bach beautifully, as readers will hear immediately upon logging on!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

NEWSWEEK Will Go All-Digital

In what must be considered a fairly significant development, Newsweek announced this week that it will publish only online, beginning in 2013. Once a mainstay of home delivery and news stands, it will now be distributed via iPad, Kindle, and Nook (and, presumably, other such avenues).

Of course, leading magazines and newspapers have had online (in addition to printed) editions for many years already, but I believe this is the first of our "major" periodicals to go all-digital. Yet again, we must reflect carefully on an apparent trend in the publishing industry.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Digital Books Sales – USA, UK, and elsewhere

A Thomson/Reuters article published earlier today cited data indicating that “e-books account for about 30 percent of the U.S. book market and 20 percent of sales in Britain, but are still negligible elsewhere.” However, I predict that results in France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia will change significantly over the course of the next decade.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Another Digital Success!

I have recently read Jessica Yadegaran’s article, “Self-publishing or Vanity Press? The Answer May Surprise You,” dated 2 September 2012 and published in the Contra Costa Times. The short text discusses the enormous success of Tina Folsom, yet another author who “gave up” on the conventional route after collecting a string of rejections (over 30) from both agents and publishers alike. Since December, 2010, Folsom has earned $1.1 million selling digital books online – and is no longer even interested in landing a deal with a major publisher!

It would seem the writing is on the wall. Presumably, the agents, editors, and others are able to figure out what will sell. Obviously – once again! – they missed the mark.

As I have quipped before, the New York Literary Mafia are clinging to a model that has failed repeatedly. I see no reason whatsoever to suffer the “slings and arrows” of these “know-it-alls” when an expedient like Kindle Direct Publishing is so readily available!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Interview With Alexander Markov Is Published

My article, "In the Footsteps of Paganini:  An Interview with Alexander Markov," has been released by Stay Thirsty Media.  You may access it most expeditiously through this hyperlink:

I must append that it was an absolute pleasure working with Alex.  Moreover, I truly believe what I asserted in my introduction -- that his performance of Paganini's music is without peer.  The article includes Markov's video-streamed performance of the composer's famous "24th Caprice," and I think most viewers will agree that Alex complements a masterful interpretation with an absolutely striking stage presence.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What I've Read and Written Recently

I finally got my hands on Talulla Rising, the second volume in Glen Duncan's werewolf series.  I truly enjoyed this narrative.  Duncan uses words wonderfully, and while his characters may seem more monstrous and less likeable than those in Anne Rice's novel, the heroine definitely began to grow on me over time.  I think plot of Talulla Rising, though far more convoluted, was actually better woven together than that of the earlier work (The Last Werewolf).

I have a far more modest literary accomplishment to report.  I interviewed violinist Alexander Markov for Stay Thirsty Press, and await publication at some point in September.  Stay tuned. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Books I Read Recently; Hope To Read Soon

I recently finished reading two books I can recommend to those who find the subject matter interesting: 

Daughter of Smoke & Bone, by Laini Taylor, will surely have a sequel. This fantasy depicts the war between the devils (chimeras) and angels (seraphim), and the love between the heroine, Karou (who had also been Madrigal), and the seraph, Akiva.  An angel fell in love with a devil, and as promised, “It did not end well.”  But perhaps the sequel will prove happier. 

I Am Forbidden, by Audrey Markovitz, is the terribly sad tale of Satmar families, beginning in Transylvania during World War II and continuing across what actually spans four generations.  It provides a rare glimpse into a rather poorly known Orthodox Jewish group.

I'll be trying to get my hands on Talulla Rising, the sequel to Glen Duncan’s earlier volume, The Last Werewolf.  It is interesting that Anne Rice, who enjoyed immense success with her vampire books, also turned to the lycanthropes (cf., The Wolf Gift).  I read both works earlier this year, and enjoyed them.  The Rice story unfolded more smoothly until the end, which appeared somewhat rushed.  Duncan’s volume presented an uglier side of the werewolf phenomenon and a less plausible plot, although his mastery of the language is certainly somewhat stronger.  Stay tuned; we shall have more anon from both authors, I’m sure!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

E-books Outsold Hardcover in Adult Fiction in 2011.

I was delighted by the latest news from Reuters, published 18 July 2012.  Selected blurbs follow, below:

<< Electronic books more than doubled in popularity in 2011, with ebooks outselling hardcover books in adult fiction for the first time, according to a survey released on Wednesday. >>

<< Net sales of e-books jumped to 15 percent of the market in 2011 from 6 percent in 2010, according to a report by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. >>

<< According to the report, in the adult fiction category, e-books accounted for 30 percent of total net publisher sales compared to a 13 percent share the year before. >> 

Of course, people will continue to purchase printed books for the foreseeable future.  However, it is clear that e-books are now a reality, also.  I have already sold considerably more copies of my Trojan War novel and bare-knuckle boxing novella in their Kindle editions than I ever managed in hard copy, and I heartily recommend digital publishing to aspiring authors. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012


What do pornography and historical fiction have in common?  More than one might think!

Frank Santo’s review of Fifty Shades of Grey (NY Daily News) included this striking commentary:  << But this is exactly why this book matters. It manages, miraculously, to be at once pornographic and deeply unappealing to men – it is a kind of pornography that attracts only women, and thus far it is selling off the charts. >>

Jessica Reaves, writing for the Chicago Tribune, posed some interesting questions:  << Of all the erotica published in the last couple of years, this bizarrely conservative sexcapade is the one anointed by a seven-figure movie deal? . . . Why has this book, of all the thousands of books released this year, caused such a sensation? Why are so many people — mostly women — reading it? Honestly, I'm not sure. It could be that American women are tired of listening to presidential candidates and radio hosts chastising women for having sex. It may also be that e-reader technology allows readers to download even the world's most inane books without revealing the reader's terrible taste to fellow commuters or people waiting in line at the DMV. Whatever the cause of the book's popularity, one thing seems certain: It has nothing to do with the book itself. >>

Now, without presenting a critique of the work in question (which I have neither read nor felt inclined to review), I should like to offer a few thoughts of my own.  These, in some ways, reflect the reality of the publishing world at present.

Erika Leonard, who authored Fifty Shades (under the pseudonym E. L. James), was a British television executive; her husband is a screenwriter.  We must remember that the biggest problem with the publishing world is that of “connections.”  Those privileged “insiders” who have the “connections” find it far easier to get published; those who do not are generally consigned to the literary dung-heap.  Does anyone truly believe that the children’s books by Jill Biden and Michelle Obama were gobbled up on the basis of their literary merits?  How many equal, if not superior volumes were rejected by the same publishers?

I marvel at Santo’s naïveté.  Does he not realize that while men (particularly younger men) may enjoy watching pornographic videos, it is women who read pornographic literature.  Moreover, two corollaries develop:  (1) Most successful writers in this field are women; and (2) The publishing moguls are therefore far less inclined to “take a chance” on a male author in this field. 

And this segues to the “bigger” picture.  Who actually can get published these days – on anything?  Whether fiction or nonfiction, name recognition and celebrity status are vital.  Former House Speaker and presidential aspirant Newt Gingrich, for example, has no problem getting his novels published.  Historical fiction, alas, is always a difficult sell, and the slightest lapses in scholarship can demolish the credibility of most mortals.  Well, “most” mortals:

In his review of Newt Gingrich’s Civil War novels, Alan Wirzbicki (Boston Globe) observed, << However, Gingrich makes a number of embarrassing historical mistakes. Some are relatively minor: for instance, he refers to an old fort atop a hill in Baltimore where there had in fact been no fortifications prior to the war. . . . Others are more significant: Admiral David Dixon Porter’s name suddenly becomes John, and a controversial proposal by Confederate General Patrick Cleburne to free the slaves is referred to as introduced in 1862, when it was not actually made until 1864. . . . But perhaps the most glaring is that Gingrich gives Lincoln a new Vice President and somehow replaces Hannibal Hamlin with James G. Blaine. >>

So many errors from an author – at that, someone with a Ph.D. in history!  Far better manuscripts than The Battle of the Crater are routinely rejected by editors; many times, the poor authors can’t even get anyone to consider their work.

With enough "hype," though, anything can be sold to the public. Of course, it is far easier for the publicists and their coterie of hacks to begin with a recognizable name or "credible" source.  True, some lucky authors "win the lottery" and become "super-stars," but this, too, is part of the publishing "game."  For above us all hovers the remarkable “crap-shoot” – the bonanza, the “great discovery,” the “new sensation,” the next big thing.”  Out of nowhere, the media decide to “create” someone – and they do!  

Erika Leonard was already a media “insider”; E. L. James is now a phenomenon.  Gingrich was probably both long before his latest scholarly lapses and omissions.  These two authors illustrate the business of publishing today.  They also explain why I have soured on the “mainstream” axis (aka “New York Mafia”).  But stay tuned; things will get worse.  They always do! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Resurrection of the Blog!

In recent weeks, I have disbanded one of my websites (, and shall attempt to make far greater use of this blog.  Perhaps I shall also learn how to organize material on the page more smoothly!

The Janus Literary Agency remains "active" to the extent that it is still collecting royalties and retains its listing in Literary Market Place.  That said, I am no longer functioning as an agent, and haven't added any clients in quite a few years.

However, I continue to edit and/or ghost-write as much as time and opportunity permit.  I have working arrangements with two small publishers, Mojocastle Press and A Flair For Writing, and also work independently.  In addition, I hope to run courses in "Journaling," "Memoirs," and related subjects.  Finally, I shall assist authors with the process of self-publishing, particularly for Amazon's Kindle.

Two of my own works --  Trojan Dialogues:  The Memoirs of Diomedes and The Greatest Champion Who Never Was -- are now available in digital format on, and Paganini's Fire, my late mother's novel ("edited and revised" by me), released by Stay Thirsty Press, is also available online.  I can also provide "hard copy" volumes upon request (cf., my profile).

My earlier, somewhat caustic remarks about the state of the industry have proven prophetic; things continue to go downhill.  I suspect that even the "die-hards" began to get the message when Border's filed for bankruptcy protection.  Although printed books will remain with us for a long time, I suspect that digital publication truly is the wave of the future, notwithstanding its immediate limitations.  Stay tuned!