Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Desks of Brilliant Minds

A while back I did some posts on the writing sites of certain authors like Mary Roberts Rinehart. It was fun, till I discovered that my idea wasn't too unique and the best I could do was refer to other articles. How droll.

So here's another article on the topic. Desks of the rich and creative, from Flavorwire.

May I draw your attention to the work areas of Albert Einstein, Tina Fey, and Al Gore, for starters? Obviously, a clean desktop is the sign of a less-than-exemplary mind! Or maybe, as author Emily Temple states, sometimes a cluttered desk is just a cluttered desk.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Uprising and Archaeology in Egypt

A February 3 story in Science Insider reports looting by around 200 people in Saqqara. The tomb of Maya, King Tut's wet nurse, has been "completely destroyed." Things may get worse. According to the story, looting in the area is out of control.

Saqqara is just south of Cairo, and is the City of the Dead--a huge, ancient cemetary. Parts of it are 5,000 years old. Saqqara contains pyramids, most famously the Step Pyramid of Djoser, but is not the site of The Pyramids--that's Giza. That's the Step Pyramid at right, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In his blog, Secretary-General Zahi Hawass denies that this happened. He says he has phone contact with every museum and site in the country. Dr. Hawass acknowleges two incidents: a break-in at the Egyptian Museam and at a Sinai storage facility where six boxes were taken.

At the Museum, he says 70 objects were damaged but can be repaired. Hawass claims that media reports of two mummies being damaged are incorrect; actually two unidentified skulls were damaged. He even posts a picture of a mummified head.

His Feb. 7 post details some of the harm done, such as the gold being stripped from a walking stick, part of King Tutankhamun's collection.

As for the Sinai breakin, according to Hawass all 288 objects stolen have been returned.

This is apolitical. Looting tombs and museums does not support either side. I appreciate that news is confused during such chaotic times and that rumors sometime get reported as news. OTOH, anyone who's ever seen Dr. Hawass on TV knows he has a. . . um. . . very unique, take-charge type of personality. I hope he's not exaggerating and that indeed, there's been no looting at Saqqara and all stolen objects have been returned.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Book Covers

As a follow-up to a point in the previous post--that self-published or not, ebook or print, covers are very important and no writer should scrimp on them--here is a blog entry from The Book Designer with resources. It contains 8 tips for selecting a great cover.

I even found a Book Cover Archive. Wow.

And to the right is a re-imagining of the Harry Potter books, with covers designed by M. S. Corely to make them look like Penquin Classics. I love it. These show how attached we can get to one cover design (which anyone who fell in love with a particular edition of a classic will understand.) But how elegant and simple these are!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Future of Publishing

That was the name of the panel discussion on the Westside of Los Angeles that I attended: The Future of Publishing.

On the panel were a couple of literary agents, one conversant with technology and one who didn't speak, a book consultant specializing in self-published ebooks and print books, two entrepreneurs--one with a company combining ebooks and video, and the other running a small press and a book PR firm, and a successful author covering the film industry.

One of the entrepreneurs met most questions with an answer along the lines of, "I don't know what's going to happen, but it should be exciting." I'm not mocking him. I think all in all, he probably expressed the most truthiness.

While one woman proclaimed that "the time for self-publishing is here, definitely and without doubt," not all agreed. Rather than repeat their (very polite) arguements, here's what I learned:

  • In the last six months, the publishing industry has convulsed and changed more than any other industry.
  • Before 1976 (before Star WArs, iow) two of five published books made money. But that was OK; in publishing up till then, novels had years to make back their investments with slow, steady sales. Now, however, publishers are conglomerates who produce only the cream of the crop, as proffered by agents. The business is Hits-drven and celebrity-oriented.
  • OTOH, there are more opportunities than ever for those willing to venture into self-publishing and ebooks. Remember, though, you still must produce a superior product. Spare no expense on a great cover and editing.
  • The gatekeeper and many middlemen are being eliminated. Everyone can be published, and hopefully the best books will rise to the top. This all means more $$ for authors who get bigger shares of sales for their ebooks, and who don't have to wait months and years for publishers to send them checks for books sold.

All agreed on this: Authors must become marketers. One entrepreneur advised learning as much as possible about the way Itunes works and sells. Reviews and word of mouth will still be important.