Category Archives: buzz

1

Before the camera rolls

There is a book. Well, not always. But the other day surfing Netflix I realized just how many movies are based on books. There was an entire category devoted to them. And most were movies I had never realized were based on books.

So what’s the process behind turning a book into a movie?

One of the cooler things we do here at DGLM is meet with people in the film industry—production companies, packagers—basically anyone in development. In other words, we meet with people in the film industry who are looking for ideas, which they then bring to the studio, producer, or actor they’re representing.

In a very broad sense, these meetings are always the same. The producer is looking for great storytelling, there is a brief pause, and then we hear what the producer is actually looking for. Memoirs written by ordinary people who’ve lived through extraordinary things. Something geared toward an audience of middle-aged women. Something with a lot of action that can be done on a budget under $X. We then go back and forth with the producer explaining the various projects we have that might be of interest.

My point is that most people would be surprised how much the market dictates which movies eventually get to the “roll the camera” stage. Market and monetary constraints are king. So if there is a book you really, really want to see get made into a movie, be loud about it. If there’s a market, there’ll be a movie.

If you need further evidence, take The Fault in Our Stars, The Giver, and If I Stay, all films which were developed, in part, because of fan support.

So how about it? What do you want to see on the big screen?

1

All you can read books

It’s been very interesting to watch the unveiling of Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s new subscription-based e-book program. It’s not a new concept. In fact, entertainment and media industries have been heading this way for a long time. Netflix provides consumers with unlimited streaming of television and movies for a flat flee. Spotify provides the same for music. So why not books?

Kindle Unlimited isn’t even the first to offer the all-you-can-read buffet. Oyster and other similar companies have been around for some time; yet none have Amazon’s platform. Or its ability to stir up controversy.

Some of Kindle Unlimited’s critics have historically been Amazon’s staunchest supporters: self-published authors. They’ve claimed that they stand to be hurt the most from the program, in part because of the different royalty structure. Royalties will be allocated from a set fund divided across all borrowed units, which may mean lower royalty payments. Not only that, but self-published authors who choose to opt out of Kindle Unlimited so they can distribute to other vendors, such as Nook Press and Kobo, stand to drop in the Amazon bestseller rankings because Kindle Unlimited “sales” count towards those hourly standings. Pro Kindle Unlimited authors, on the other hand, argue that authors will benefit greatly from the discoverability that Kindle Unlimited and such rankings could provide. Unknown authors can potentially shoot up in rank, even if those “buying” their books never get around to reading them.

And what about on the consumer side? On the face of it, $9.99/month for an unlimited number of books seems like a great deal. But how many people subscribing to Kindle Unlimited actually read enough books every month to make it worth it? It’s one thing to binge-watch shows and movies on Netflix or binge-listen to music for hours on end on Spotify. But binge-reading is a whole different ballgame.

I’d like to hear what our readers think of Kindle Unlimited. Will you subscribe? If you’re an author, do you enroll?

2

What makes it work?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend over the 4th of July weekend. The internet has been abuzz recently with speculation about when fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire can expect to see the next book in the series.

And people have been freaking out. Practically trembling with excitement.

Now I’ve never read the books, but I love “Game of Thrones,” so my friend and I got to discussing how amazing it was that the books and television show seem to feed off each other. It’s generally accepted that movie adaptations of books drive book sales up, at least for a time, but we weren’t discussing sales. Rather, we were talking about the mania surrounding the whole series.

It’s really quite remarkable. The books compel readers to watch the show, and the show sends viewers to the bookstore. It’s been parodied, on talk shows, and all over the internet. So what makes it work?

There are many other instances of this phenomenon. Virtually every movie adaptation of a comic book seems to cause an uproar at Comic Con and comic bookstores across the nation. Harry Potter. The Hunger Games.  And the reverse is true too, if less frequently. Star Wars has countless comic books and novelizations with a wide readership—more than 30 years after the original film.

I think we can safely say that any of the examples above aren’t simply a series, but a franchise. So again, I’ll ask, only somewhat rhetorically: what makes it work?

3

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.

1

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?

0

Revolution

It’s hard to think about anything else today besides the noise and excitement going on nine stories below. If you’re not in NY (particularly Union Square) or another major city today, Occupy Wall Street is having its May Day protest. Without delving into the politics of all that, let’s talk books.

Books have historically been vehicles for major revolutions, just think about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Common Sense, and The Communist Manifesto.

So, what do you think the “Bibles” of OWS should be? What books have served to inspire you to make a drastic change?

25

50 Shades of Dumb?*

As those of you who read our rambling posts might remember, I belong to a neighborhood book club (because, yes, I don’t have enough reading in my work life).   Ordinarily, the choices we make for said club are solid—sometimes challenging, sometimes brilliant, sometimes just okay, but solid.

I am struggling with our latest pick, however, and not in the usual, I-have-no-time-to-read-for-fun-when-I-have-3,000-manuscript-pages-staring-at-me-balefully-from-the-piles-on-my-floor way.

This month, we’re reading 50 Shades of Grey (as you deduced from the title above) and initially I was excited to find out what all the buzz was about.  Certainly, this is one of the biggest publishing stories of the year and my colleagues and I like to keep up with what’s selling and why.  I’ve  also been hearing about this book at the supermarket, the library, the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office…so here, I thought, was the perfect opportunity to satisfy my curiosity and have something intelligent to say when someone asks me about this runaway bestseller.

Sadly, this story does not have a happy ending.  Oh, I don’t mean the Grey series.  I have no idea how that ends and I suspect I won’t find out first-hand.  I mean the story of my reading the first book in the trilogy, which ended badly almost as soon as it began.  I think this is a dumb book [she ducks under her desk].  No, I’m not offended by the mind-numbingly repetitive sex (there’s a lot of it).  I am bemused by the success of a book whose female protagonist has the personality of a moody fruit fly, whose hero is a creepy stalker, and which features a relationship that’s supposed to embody passion and mystery but that seems to have sprung from the feverish imaginings of a hormonal 15-year-old.   To me the book is a hot mess—emphasis on mess.

So, how has it become such a phenomenon?  Is it the kinky sex?  The innocent-virgin-seduced-by-the-tormented-cute-guy premise?  The money porn elements (the hero is filthy rich)?  Is this really a collective female fantasy or just really clever marketing?

I’m not a snob about commercial fiction (really!).  I didn’t think Twilight was particularly well written or plotted but I enjoyed it and I got it.  This, I don’t really get.

The last time I felt so out of sync about a book was when The Bridges of Madison County was tearing up the bestseller lists.  I found myself giggling through most of that heartfelt narrative until it hit me that it wasn’t meant to be funny.  So, can you guys explain this latest phenomenon to me?  Why is it working?  Are there shades of grey I’m missing here?

 

*Apologies in advance to all of those who love, love, love this book.

9

Screenwriter (finally) turns book author

Charlie Kaufman has sold his first novel to Grand Central, with no plot revealed, not even a hint.

And it’s about time! For those of you who have been living under a rock, the super talented screenwriter is best known for Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Being John Malcovich. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken him this long to dip his toes into book publishing. His screenplays are some of the most powerful I’ve ever read, and I really can’t wait to see what he does with a new format.

Oh, and check out this clever article from the AV Club!

We’re always talking about books being turned into movies – but what about the other way around? What movies would you like to see turned into books? Or better yet, what screenwriters would you like to see write their first novel?

8

Naughty books

A few weeks ago, someone who saw me reading on my Kindle while my son had his karate class asked me if I’d heard of a book called Fifty Shades of Grey.  As I usually am when anyone asks me if I’ve heard of a book and I haven’t, I was a little embarrassed (never mind that with a gazillion books published every year, it’s not possible to know about every last one of them or that my memory for titles and authors’ names is shockingly poor for someone who, well, works with titles and authors—do I sound a little defensive?).  I asked her what it was about and she told me it was a romance that she was trying to get a copy of without success.  I suggested Amazon and promptly forgot all about the discussion.

Of course, I now know that Fifty Shades of Grey is the latest publishing phenom (an allegedly not very well written kinky sex fest for Twilight fans who thought the vampire saga was too squeaky clean, according to Jezebel) and that Vintage has plopped down a ton of money for the print rights to a book that is currently selling like hotcakes…online.

Which raises a number of interesting questions.

As the Wall Street Journal  points out in a piece about the rise in sales of books that women have traditionally been embarrassed to be seen reading in public, e-readers have made sales of romance and erotica skyrocket precisely because of the privacy they afford.  So, how wise is a seven-figure investment for print rights to a book that people may not want others to see them reading?

And, does all of this mean that books in these categories will go exclusively digital in the near future?  I know lots of smart, professional women with a weakness for what we used to call “bodice rippers” in the good old days (before Kindles and romance branding) who didn’t want to be caught dead on the subway behind a cover of some buxom lass being ravished by a half-naked Fabio type.  I can also imagine all the soccer moms who don’t want their kids to know what kinds of books they’re devouring while they extol the virtues of Moby Dick and The Scarlet Letter.

Personally, I do think that e-readers are liberating in that way.  In my line of work, I occasionally have to read things that may be a little hard to explain to casual acquaintances or even my six-year-old.  What about you guys?  Do you find yourselves sneaking around reading naughty things on your e-readers?  And, do you think this is one of the “intangibles” that publishing people have overlooked when trying to figure out the value of e-books vs. print books?

14

The Uses of Pudding

From the always innovative Richard Nash, formerly of Soft Skull Press and Red Lemonade, comes an interesting new project called Small Demons. Media bistro covers it here, and Quill and Quire here.  I’m not 100 percent sure that I grasp its  implications, but Small Demons catalogs and compiles details within books, so presumably I could find what fictional characters also listen to Bach’s double concerto or the Stone Roses, both particular favorites of mine, or reproduce a cocktail menu from Brideshead Revisited for an equally fictional party I might throw. The computer can find links across books—resonances, repetitions, relationships–but maybe I’m being too literal and utilitarian when I claim I don’t yet see what it’s for.  What do you think?

Actually, scratch that. I can spy a use for Small Demons, and the site may prove a blessing or curse to lit graduate students, and many a dissertation has been based around this sort of quirky detective work. So whether The Use of Pudding in the Victorian Novel will remain an appropriate field for academic inquiry now that a website can investigate it in seconds is anybody’s guess. However, I’m planning to try it out, and you can too can give it a whirl in its beta site here.