Archives for the month of: June, 2018

Richard Charkin’s publishing alphabet is even more cynical than my one from last year.

  • Advance against royalty = outright payment
  • Bookseller = book borrower
  • Contract = piece of paper
  • Drivel = celebrity publishing
  • Educational publishing  = anything that’s not trade publishing
  • Finance director = landlord
  • Gross sales = 50 percent more than sales
  • Hardback = strip and rebind opportunity
  • Incremental sales = excremental profits
  • Jacket = sell-in material
  • Kiss ‘n’ tell = be sued
  • Literary = won’t sell
  • Management = something to do with football
  • Nonreturnable = a myth
  • Overhead = someone else
  • Profit = gross sales
  • Quality = won’t sell
  • Royalty = Meghan Markle now
  • Sales = loans
  • Traveler = managing director
  • Unputdownable = putdownable
  • Volume = sales without profit
  • Write-down = caused by predecessors
  • X-rated = might sell
  • Year-end = invoice early
  • Zeitgeist = learn German

It comes from Publishing Perspectives where Mr Charkin will be writing a monthly column.

Here’s a simple way to boost your literary productivity.

The Digital Reader discovers that Edie Bryant and Hayden Hunt (presumably one and the same person) publish books which are identical except for name and pronoun changes. One of them publishes in the Kindle category male/male romance, and the other in female/female romance.

Here, one of three examples shown by The Digital Reader, are pages from Savage by Hayden Hunt (top) and Her Prime by Edie Bryant below:


I suppose if you are a fan of one genre or the other you are probably unlikely ever to find yourself reading the same story a second time. The Digital Reader has discovered yet a third “author”, Aimee Alesi who appears to publish the same words with more selective name/pronoun changes in the male/female romance category. I’m not sure whether I think this is a problem in any other way than caveat emptor. Especially under a subscription model nobody is really harmed by this trick. And if the story is any good as a m/m romance, might it not also work as an f/f romance?

This practice is, perhaps unsurprisingly, officially disallowed by Amazon, but I guess when you have such an immense beat it’s hard to patrol every corner.

For another Amazon blind spot, see The business of books. Just today Nate Hoffelder (The Digital Reader in person) has a guest post at BookWorks, detailing the steps Amazon has taken in response to these misdeeds.

Shelf Awareness shows us this photo from Books A Plenty in Tauranga, New Zealand.

Need one say more? Luckily, not.


It’s good to remember in the midst of all the bad stuff hurtling at us these days that there are some people out there just quietly getting on with doing something about thing: specifically in this instance literacy, books and story telling. Electric Lit has an encouraging story about Literary Nonprofits Using Books to Make a Difference.

“Susan Neuman, a professor at NYU, conducted a study in Philadelphia to determine how many books were available in a given low-income neighborhood. She reported to NPR that in one neighborhood, there were a total of 33 books available for 10,000 children—versus the more affluent neighborhoods, where there were 300 books per child. Access to physical books is important for children’s development, bonding with their parents, and vocabulary development. That was nineteen years ago, and change is slow to come.” The organization coping with this one is First Book. Kind of reminds you of the talk about food deserts.

See also Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

The Academy of American Poets has a free program for teachers called “Teach this Poem” which involves sending out a weekly poem with materials to help in class discussion. These often include music extracts or pictures around which discussion can focus. Their efforts have been recognized by The National Book Foundation who have awarded them their annual Innovations in Reading Prize. There are 27,000 teachers subscribed to “Teach this Poem”. Publishing Perspectives sends the news. Previous winners of the Prize have included Barbershop Books.

As an example, this link will take you to the materials they sent out about “Binsey Poplars” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew—
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being só slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc únselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

This fascinating YouTube video from Verge Science was drawn to our attention by David Crotty at The Scholarly Kitchen. If you don’t see a video below, please click on the title of this post in order to view it in your browser.

We’ve probably none of us ever given much thought to the eye chart which we so often get to look at. It was designed in 1862 by Herman Snellen. The typeface is a bit odd when you think about it: Snellen designed the letters on a 5 x 5 grid, having started out with similar sized abstract symbols, and their size is based upon properties of the eye, nothing random. A recent book about the eye chart by Bill Germano (also author of Getting it Published) will doubtless teach you more.

Once again we hear that audio books sales are up substantially. According to the report at Shelf Awareness sales rose 22.7% in 2017 to $2.5 billion. Units sales were up 21.5%. Over 46,000 audio books were published in the year.

Edison Research’s consumer research findings include the following:

  • More than half (54%) of audiobook listeners are under the age of 45.
  • Audiobook users also read print books: 83% of frequent listeners had read a print book in the last year and 79% had read an e-book.
  • Audiobook users read or listened to an average of 15 books during the year, and more than half (57%) agreed that “audiobooks help you finish more books.”
  • More and more audiobook listeners use smartphones: the percentage of listeners most often using smartphones to listen to audiobooks is 47% in 2018 vs. 29% in 2017 and 22% in 2015.
  • Smart speakers are becoming more popular: 24% of listeners said they have listened to audiobooks on a smart speaker and 5% said they listen most often on a smart speaker.
  • More than half (53%) of listeners say they most often listen to audiobooks at home and 36% say their car is where they listen most often.
  • The top three activities while listening to audiobooks are driving (65%), relaxing before going to sleep (52%) and doing housework/chores (45%).
  • The most popular genres in audiobooks were mysteries/thrillers/suspense, science fiction and romance.
  • 73% of audiobook consumers say they agree that listening to audiobooks is relaxing
  • 55% agreed or strongly agreed that they choose to listen to an audiobook “when they want some time” to themselves
  • The top three reasons people say they enjoy listening to audiobooks are: they can do other things while listening (81%); they can listen wherever they are (80%); and audiobooks are portable (75%).
  • Libraries remain major access channels for audiobooks and important drivers of audiobook discovery. A total 52% of people surveyed said borrowing from a library or its site was important or very important for discovering new audiobooks. Those saying they downloaded an audiobook from a library accounted for 43% of respondents and 14% said that they most often use the library for their digital listening.

Publishing Perspectives also carries a report.

Now we get news of research that tells us that audio books are more emotionally engaging than films. BookRiot links to The Guardian story. There’s a 10-minute video showing physiological reactions to viewing and hearing a passage from Game of Thrones. They seem not to have measured subjects engaged in just plain reading. The fact that the research project’s sample was only 102 subjects might, however, tend to reduce one’s awe at the results. Mine isn’t too high anyway: I always think of viewing TV or video as a rather passive pastime.

Perspective always helps. In the same Shelf Awareness issue we are told that Barnes & Noble’s sales fell by 6% to $3.7 billion. $2.5 billion in sales of audio books is a lot — and very encouraging — but it’s not so large that we need to close all the printing presses. Print book sales rose 1.9% in 2017 according to NPD. The rise in print book unit sales during 2017 came to 13,100,000 copies more than in 2016, for a total of 687,230,000 (still less than ten years ago). This rather puts in context the audio increase, where the total universe is only 3,327,000 according to NPD (whose figures may have been superseded as they also show a decline for the year. I suppose it is possible that units could decline while revenues increase, though it’s a large gap.) I often find myself having to insist that while a casual reference to a 50% increase on a total of 100, may sound rather impressive, it is nevertheless exceeded by a 1% increase on 5001, an increase which the media would tend to treat as rather trivial. We went through this sort of hype with the percentage increase in sales of ebooks a few years ago. Small numbers will tend to increase in apparently large leaps, but the curve levels off as the numbers get higher. Panic should not be allowed to set in.

I wonder how many of these audio titles were self-published. Amazon dominates the market after its acquisition of Audible, and they do offer a self publishing option on that platform. Publishers Weekly did a round up of self-publishing audio options in 2015.


You get them all the time in magazines, and quite often in books.

Here’s an example provided by Neglected Books.* What Simon and Schuster were after was not of course your opinion on the book. What they wanted was your name and address so as to add you to their mailing list.


Library of America tends to have one in each of their volumes. I use them as bookmarks — I can never be bothered with those ribbon markers. The LOA cards are explicitly asking for your name for their mailing list, but they also ask that question about how you heard about the book. I wonder how much attention they pay to the answers: it’s nice to know your readers heard about the book through a book review, but is knowing this going to make you send out more review copies? I suspect the cost of recording the data is more than any value to be gained from it.

Blow-in cards are usually randomly blown into a magazine by a special attachment to the line. Book manufacturing lines tend not to include this facility which is much less commonly required, and thus blow-ins in books will more likely have been inserted by hand at the same time as the jacket is being put on.

More rarely you may find advertisements printed in the back of a book. Usually these are merely ads for other books from the same publisher, but ads for other products were energetically solicited by book publishers in the sixties and seventies of the last century, and during Victorian times. The Digital Reader has an account of the history and new on-line initiatives.

Photo: Toptenz



* Neglected Books is a great site that deserves more attention that this aside. They direct attention onto forgotten books and authors. Nowadays, with the availability short-run techniques and ebook publication making the cost of republishing a book much less than it once was, this site is no doubt being followed by lots of publishers.

An article on PubMed brings us the vital news that the reading of books will lengthen your life.

The abstract of the article, “A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity” reads thus:

Although books can expose people to new people and places, whether books also have health benefits beyond other types of reading materials is not known. This study examined whether those who read books have a survival advantage over those who do not read books and over those who read other types of materials, and if so, whether cognition mediates this book reading effect. The cohort consisted of 3635 participants in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study who provided information about their reading patterns at baseline. Cox proportional hazards models were based on survival information up to 12 years after baseline. A dose-response survival advantage was found for book reading by tertile (HRT2 = 0.83, p < 0.001, HRT3 = 0.77, p < 0.001), after adjusting for relevant covariates including age, sex, race, education, comorbidities, self-rated health, wealth, marital status, and depression. Book reading contributed to a survival advantage that was significantly greater than that observed for reading newspapers or magazines (tT2 = 90.6, p < 0.001; tT3 = 67.9, p < 0.001). Compared to non-book readers, book readers had a 23-month survival advantage at the point of 80% survival in the unadjusted model. A survival advantage persisted after adjustment for all covariates (HR = .80, p < .01), indicating book readers experienced a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up compared to non-book readers. Cognition mediated the book reading-survival advantage (p = 0.04). These findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.

So get reading. Even the longest books may be started with the confidence that we’ll be around to finish them. Is it possible that eternal life may be achieved by a combination of speed reading and a vast library?

Thanks to Philip Weimerskirch via the SHARP listserv for this notification.


At Medium, Glenn Fleishman offers us the introduction to his book London Kerning. The subtitle might make you think this was a sort of walking-tour-guide, but it’s not. The main focus of the book is St Bride’s Printing Library off Fleet Street and The Type Archive, south of the river. Fleishman is a fan of Berthold Wolpe, and there’s discussion of his type designs, primarily Albertus, used for much London signage, and of Edward Johnston, designer of the London Underground’s typeface, and other modern type designers. He takes us to three shops where letterpress is still being carried on.