Category Archives: Brenna


Statements and Payments and Questions, Oh My!

As I’m gearing up for a very busy month handling royalties, I’m doing everything I can to prepare. And in doing so, I had a discussion recently with an intern about the basics of royalty processing. It occurred to me that because I’ve been “in the trenches” for what seems like forever, I’ve almost forgotten how intimidated and inexpert I was when I first started. Lucky for me, the gifted Jim McCarthy was just a hop, skip, and crazy-steep staircase away to answer my most inane questions with an encouraging smile.

So, now, I turn it over to you, the loyal readers, for your own questions. Curious what a reserve against returns is? Wondering what the difference between net and retail pricing is? Let me know!


Yet another holiday list…

There’s little else besides holiday parties and lists on my mind these days, so when I saw this funny and insightful piece on Flavorwire today about the 10 books your relatives know of that you don’t, I knew I had to blog about it. We all know that books have the amazing ability to connect perfect strangers in ways unmatched by any other media, but this piece works to help us connect to those we already know. And to piggyback a bit on Miriam’s last blog, it’s a nice tip sheet for those of us whose family and friends assume you’ve read everything just because you work in publishing.

Take a look. And who knows—you may even have a book or two in common!


Lincoln Love

I can’t say that I’m much of a history buff, but there was an interesting article that caught my eye in the Wall Street Journal last week about the overwhelming amount of books there are in the market about President Lincoln. Of course it’s clear that books about Honest Abe sell nicely—just take a look at Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s Killing Lincoln or Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. And according to the article, a minimum of 20 more books about Lincoln are set to be published in the next year!

But what I hadn’t thought about before that the article explained so well is how one subject—or one person, really—can reach such a wide audience. Besides for the obvious fascinating and fatal historical events, Lincoln as a man was beyond extraordinary. For one, he’s the perfect example of someone who achieved the American Dream, all while experiencing personal tragedies. But, part of what makes him so interesting is that, as the article points out, he is still mysterious: “Scholars continue to debate how and when he came to the decision to end slavery.”

But, if you’re already sick of him, the buzzed about Lincoln movie with Spielberg directing and starring the masterful Daniel Day Lewis is sure to rekindle the flame!

What about you all? Are you a Lincoln buff or is there someone else in history that you prefer to read about?


Television and Novels: A Love Story

I came across this fascinating article in The Chronicle of Higher Education and simply had to share it. It  accounts for the evolution of arc television (ex. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones) and highlights the similarities between these types of shows and other creative media. I have to admit, the title, “Storied TV: Cable Is the New Novel,” threw me for a loop at first. I thought this piece was going to propose that these wildly popular and critically acclaimed series are on the road to replacing novels, but after reading it, I don’t think this is what the author intends to suggest (even if some of the people who commented disagree). In fact, it seems that the author is comparing the television vs. motion picture dispute (until now, films have undoubtedly beat television in terms of status, merit, and praise) to that of the new journalism vs. novel debate from the 70s.

In fact, the author of the piece, Thomas Doherty (a writer, among other things) points out what makes these television shows as enthralling as a great novel: “Like the bulky tomes of Dickens and Dreiser, Trollope and Wharton, the series are thick on character and dense in plot line, spanning generations and tribal networks and crisscrossing the currents of personal life and professional duty.” In the comments, someone even points out that several of these shows were actually based on novels. This brings me to my question for you, the readers: Think about your favorite novel. Would you rather see it as a television show following the format described above or as a big screen debut?


Keep your day job

In light of the recent Labor Day holiday, the Huffington Post posted this article about the day jobs famous authors had—and kept even after they made it big. It’s fascinating to me that people have the passion and hunger to both write and work full-time even after they become successful. I know there are tons of people out there who are finishing their first novel on nights and weekends, especially in this economy when very few people can afford to not work full-time, but it’s a whole other thing to continue to push yourself when you already have the respect, recognition, and money that comes with being a successful author. I would love to hear from you about this—do you split your time between writing and another job? Would you give up your day job if you made it big as an author?


Books as Art

The outrage surrounding MTV reality starlet and YA author Lauren Conrad’s destroying some of Lemony Snicket’s books on her DIY craft show to make them into storage containers has reignited the debate over books being used as non-reading materials. Rebecca Joines Schinsky of Book Riot posted about this and makes some really great points worth considering if you find yourself appalled by Conrad’s actions. For one, Schinsky notes that people love books for the stories, not the medium in which they’re delivered—most evident nowadays in the success of digital publishing. On top of that, she quotes Rachel Fershleiser—author, former bookseller and publicist, who has the publishing experience and no-nonsense attitude required to set the record straight—that books that don’t sell are often recycled. So, why shouldn’t creative people use them as they see fit?

Now, there are a couple of things that certainly don’t help Conrad’s case. The books she destroyed were Lemony Snicket’s. Lemony Snicket, people. The girl writes YA and doesn’t appreciate a modern classic children’s author? And storage containers? Really? Not the most original or useful endeavor. If, however, you don’t see the problem with that, check out The Repurposed Library by Lisa Occhipinti or Playing with Books by Jason Thompson for some truly great ideas.

And if you’re as fascinated by a celebrity feud as I am, take a look at Lemony Snicket’s amusing response here.


The unusual places we turn to for help

My infinitely wise co-worker Michael Bourret pointed me to this great piece from WBEZ’s radio program This American Life that his client, Joelle Anthony, blogged about recently. (A big thank you to both of them!) There are two really interesting stories here that definitely deserve another post because of their relevance to publishing. The program breaks each story into an act, and in each, as well as the heart-wrenching introductory story in the prologue, we’re introduced to sympathetic characters that turn to unlikely people for help when they’re in trouble.

The first story is about a teenager, Andy, who had problems with his broken family and fitting in at school, so he decided to travel 1,000 miles—alone—to find his favorite author, fantasy novelist Piers Anthony. He impressively found Anthony’s address by piecing together clues from his books, something only a genuine fan could do. When Andy finally arrived at Anthony’s door, though he wasn’t welcomed to live there—as his great imagination led him to believe—he was met with at truly compassionate man who listened to everything the young boy had to say. And even though he didn’t get what he wanted, Andy left the next day feeling, for the first time, the hope that there was a better world out there for him. I wanted to share this tale to once again illustrate the colossal effect a book can have on readers. I’m sure that the very feeling Andy describes at the end of his story is a reason many of us have chosen publishing as a career path—whether as agents, editors or authors.

The second story beautifully re-imagines the plight of poor Gregor Samsa from Kafka’s THE METAMORPHOSIS. Gregor, having famously transformed overnight from a human into an insect, enlists the help of one Dr. Seuss to make Gregor a human again, or at least a healthy bug. I’m going to hold back on giving any more details on this one, as the letters between the two are such a delight to listen to. I will say though, that I really enjoyed the creative way the authors brought these two unlikely comrades together. A recent post of mine was on re-telling classic stories…but what’s really interesting to me is when writers can create a new story from the bones of others. I’m curious if anyone has read any of these types of stories lately. Anything you’d like to recommend?


A Tale of Two Cities disguised as The Dark Knight Rises

As the details of the Aurora, CO, tragedy emerge, I’d like to point Batman fans to something that will get their minds off this dreadfulness. Surprisingly, I haven’t heard much about Christopher Nolan’s comments that this latest Batman installment was inspired by Charles Dickens. That is, until this article on Slate. (Warning: Do NOT read this article if you haven’t seen the movie yet!)

Take a moment to consider this. There’s the location—the corrupt, crime-ridden city; the orphans as principal characters; the lower class uprisings. You may even notice (full disclosure here: I didn’t) that the novel itself makes an appearance in the film. As we all know, there are a handful of stories that have been told and re-told throughout the centuries. Some people just happen to be better at re-telling those stories in new and unusual ways—like Christopher Nolan—than others. Yes, other film directors that have come out with a new superhero movie lately, I’m thinking of you.

We’ve been seeing interpretations a lot more than usual recently—or maybe I’ve just been noticing it more—from Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter being the basis of Easy A to the influx of modern day fairy tales at the multiplex. What classic tales would you like to see re-told and in what way?


What Really Happened with the Pulitzer

Just yesterday, Michael Cunningham, one of the Pulitzer jurors this year, posted a letter on The New Yorker’s website explaining why there was no fiction winner this year. Finally, some clarification! Or, so I thought–but then comes the acknowledgement that because the Pulitzer board’s discussions are sealed, nobody but the board itself will ever really know what happened. Oh well…

Disappointment and curiosity aside, Cunningham’s letter was a refreshingly honest glimpse of what it’s like to take part in nominating books for such a renowned and highly regarded prize. The highlight for me was when he cited the differences between the three jurors, and which features in novels they’re each partial to. I also found merit in the comment, made by HENKE_M, that suggested seeing this as an opportunity to read three worthy novels, instead of just one.

Cunningham posted a reflective follow up letter today, outlining the issues that arise when faced with choosing the best, and observing that even the most lauded critics can miss a classic.

So, now, I’ll reach out to you, have you read any of the three nominees: “The Pale King” by David Foster Wallace, “Train Dreams” by Denis Johnson, or “Swamplandia!” by Karen Russell? What title do you think deserved to win?


Redemption through Reading

Brazil made headlines yesterday for introducing a new program to reduce prison sentences, aptly titled “Redemption through Reading”. According to this article from the Huffington Post, inmates in Brazil’s federal prisons can now minimize their sentences by up to 48 days per year by reading one book every four weeks, then writing an essay on it.

While there’s no shortage of literacy programs in prisons all over the world, I thought this was the first case where it actually had a concrete impact on a person’s punishment, but I was wrong. After a little searching online, I found Changing Lives Through Literature, a rehabilitation course introduced in the early 90’s in Massachusetts as an alternative to prison. Created for repeat offenders of serious crimes, this initiative forms reading groups where offenders discuss the classics.  It has proved to significantly reduce recidivism rates and violent behavior among participants.

Avid readers know that literature has the ability to change lives, but these programs bring this concept to fruition. By reading about characters and situations they can relate to, convicts get the chance to look at their own lives, and the way they affect others, through a different lens. They also develop skills to analyze, articulate, and communicate more effectively, equipping them with the ability to make more positive contributions to society.

Does anyone here have experience working in this capacity in the penal system?