Home » Posts tagged “trade books”

What to worry about, and what to let go

September 16th, 2010

Today in the nonfiction trade publishing workshop for scholars, we discussed some key differences between a prospectus and a proposal, and how to approach those editors whether they work at the trade divisions of university presses, or at trade presses (FSG, Knopf, Norton, Random House, etc.).

An author asked whether the sample chapter had to be chapter one, and I said yes because it’s so important to see how the book begins.  Openings are absolutely things to fuss over… an editor doesn’t want to hear “It really gets going on page five,” or “Chapter One is background, and Chapter Two is where I get to the meat of the argument.”

However, another author asked about the title, and I suggested that’s not as big of a deal in the prospectus or proposal stage.  Unless you have an amazing title in mind, it makes sense to give the project a robust working title that conveys at a glance what the book is about, rather than something fun or clever, but not necessarily clear.  Editors expect — at least at this stage — a working title only.

So worry about your opening, and don’t (yet) fret over your title.  More from the workshop soon when we post video clips!

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Distinguished trade publishing for scholars — a workshop

September 9th, 2010

On two consecutive Thursdays, September 16 and 23, from 10-noon, the Office of Scholarly and Literary Publications will host a workshop plus Q&A for tenure-line faculty on distinguished trade publishing for scholars.  The workshop is free, but RSVPs are required (see below).

AGENDA

September 16: Introduction to trade publishing; key considerations from Carole Sargent’s visits with major presses and editors (Knopf, Norton, FSG, Oxford, Chicago, Yale); elements of the nonfiction book proposal; assignment to create a draft nonfiction proposal and submit before second workshop; discussion about whether and how to work with a literary agent.

September 23: Talk and Q&A with Richard Brown of Georgetown University Press about trade considerations (he is the current president of the Association of American University Presses); discussion of specific faculty book proposals that have been submitted for group consideration.

Where? Murray Room of Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
When? Thursday September 16 and 23, 10-noon
Who? Richard Brown, Ph.D., Director of Georgetown University Press; Carole Sargent, Ph.D., Director of the Office of Scholarly and Literary Publications
RSVP? Required, to booklab@georgetown.edu

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Literary agent Jennifer Carlson in Poets and Writers

August 19th, 2010

Although Booklab focuses more on scholarly work for university presses and academic journals, I like to keep a weather eye out for what is going on in the trade world.  After all, I got my publishing start in that wonderful place, and many academic authors hope to cross over at one point or another.  This month’s Poets and Writers features a Q&A on page 111 with Jennifer Carlson of Dunow, Carlson & Lerner that seems unusually well-tuned.  I can’t link to the piece (it is paid content), but that link will take you to her profile page.

Why is it notable that her Q&A is kind?  Well, I’ve found some agents to be anything ranging from a bit tone-deaf to outright wrong.  And although I like to keep my interaction with most humans sane and low-key, the only tense squabbles I have ever had on the phone that weren’t with lawyers were with agents.  Sheesh.  However, the ones we work with are terrific (we have placed fiction for Booklab authors with agents at Trident, William Morris, and several amazing boutiques), yet often the ones whose advice I read in the how-to places is an odd combination of trite and dismissive.  Not this bit, however.  Carlson actually sounds kind to authors who lack confidence, and she doesn’t look down on the self-published — which is great, because Dickens, Housman, and Proust were all self-published at one point or another… I honor that history.

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Story in the Chronicle about a book that collapsed

August 4th, 2010

Such an interesting interview in the Chronicle of Higher Education with Michael Bellesiles, a historian whose 2000 Knopf book won the Bancroft Prize and then lost it again (login required).  He has a new book… the article is complex enough in its own right, but the online comments make it fascinating…

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Enter the University Presses

June 4th, 2010

One of the many reasons I love university presses is their business model that focuses on books for content and author rather than for commercial sizzle.  Wags might complain that’s changing, but overall UPs still keep their eye on the superb prize of publishing good books even if their sales potential is not obvious.

This passage from a recent New Yorker article on digital publishing points things out nicely:  According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of independent booksellers has declined from 3,250 to 1,400 since 1999; independents now represent just ten per cent of store sales. Chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders account for about thirty per cent of the market, and superstores like Target and Wal-Mart, along with clubs like Costco, account for forty-five per cent, though they typically carry far fewer titles. As a result, publishers, like the Hollywood studios, are under enormous pressure to create more hits—more books like “Twilight”—and fewer quiet domestic novels or worthy books about poverty or trade policy.

As more trade publishers say “no” to what they see as mid-list books, I believe qualified authors will seek refuge at great university presses.  After all, as one university press director pointed out when I visited his office in New York, a book that sells 10,000 copies at a trade press might be considered an under-performer, whereas that same book with the same sales could be the top title at a university press.

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More about Nancy Sherman’s newest book

April 28th, 2010

Untold WarNancy Sherman’s book The Untold War has received some amazing press:

THE UNTOLD WAR:
New York Times Editor’s Choice: “Sherman’s ‘philosophical ethnography’ is at its most powerful documenting the stories of veterans”
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/books/review/EdChoice-t.html?scp=1&sq=Editors%27%20Choice&st=cse

Featured in Time magazine:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1968116,00.html

Huffington Post: “One cannot overstate the importance of this book”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-alexander/the-untold-war-by-nancy-s_b_500530.html

She will be at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on Friday, April 30.  The announcement is here, click to view.

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More about “Buffett Beyond Value”

April 28th, 2010

Buffett Beyond ValueMore from Georgetown University McDonough School of Business author Prem Jain:

Most authors describe Warren Buffett as a value investor alone in the tradition of his professor and mentor Benjamin Graham. The most important part of the book is in my argument that Warren Buffett is not a pure value investor. Buffett has incorporated ideas from others as well, especially from Philip Fisher. In other words, he does not emphasize historical numbers alone as Benjamin Graham did. He combines value investing with growth investing in the sense that he invests only when he is comfortable about a company’s growth prospects for a long term, say for 10 years or more. So, he looks at the future carefully.

This is the reason I label chapter 6 as “Buffett Investing = Value + Growth.” Prior to this chapter, I use one chapter each to explain value investing and growth investing. This thinking on investing for a very long term sets him apart from other growth investors who invest in high-tech companies for growth and hope to make a quick profit. Instead, Buffett invests in companies such as Coca-Cola and American Express which may grow more slowly, but for a very long term. He holds on to his investments for a long time, usually longer than 10 years.

Why is it that other managers think that investing in high-tech companies equals growth investing but Buffett does not? My conclusion is that he emphasizes the importance of managers who engender growth even in the so-called traditional low-growth industries. His success in long-term investing, especially for growth, can be attributed to people (rather than investing in high-tech companies) who manage his companies. Without doubt, he emphasizes the quality and integrity of people more than any other financial metric. Yet I do not stereotype Buffett as a particular type of investor, and I explain why it is important to consider a multidisciplinary approach by not forgetting the importance of other fields such as psychology.

In this environment, when Wall Street has been affected by many scandals, Buffett’s emphasis on slow and steady growth should be a good lesson for investors and CEOs.

Here are two links provided by Georgetown author Prem Jain.  The first is a review, and the second is a Q&A conducted by the same blogger, private investor and writer Ravi Nagarajan at Seeking Alpha.  Please also see the video from TheStreet.com in the post below.

http://seekingalpha.com/article/196893-prem-c-jain-makes-significant-contribution-to-crowded-field-of-buffett-books

http://seekingalpha.com/article/197799-interview-prem-jain-author-of-buffett-beyond-value-discusses-a-berkshire-without-buffett

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Georgetown author Prem Jain on TheStreet.com

April 28th, 2010

This is great — Dr. Prem Jain from the McDonough School of Business on TheStreet.com: Warren Buffett as Growth Manager — TheStreet TV.

Dr. Jain’s new book, Buffett Beyond Value, is new from Wiley.  He knows Warren Buffett, who has come to Georgetown as his guest to speak to business students, and he takes students to the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting.

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