Tag Archives: publishing

Maybe (just maybe) not everyone likes to read

Readers of this blog will surely recognize the sentiments in the linked essay. Even if you’re not a writer, you have experienced this very same frustration.

The Eighth (and Biggest) Book Marketing Mistake: Assuming Everyone Likes to Read

Of course, there was the possibility that my book was boring. Hence I would ask, “Did my book put you to sleep, did you give up a few pages after starting?” The answer would be, “No, honestly, I just haven’t started.” This was getting me nowhere. Were they lying to protect my feelings, or were they telling me an underlying truth, a truth I couldn’t comprehend?

I started pushing deeper: “Come on, tell me. I can handle it. What’s the real problem?” I would probe. After a few of these awkward conversations, I finally had the truth: “Actually, it’s not just your book in particular, but um, ah, honestly speaking, I just don’t like reading books.



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Spider Bites: Immortally Giving Back

Coming almost as a surprise, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has proved to be quite popular even here in New Albany, with word-of-mouth providing almost as much impetus to new readers as the publicity here and there during its hardcover run.

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Still Giving - in paperback this March

As usual, Saturday’s we point you to an author Website with “Spider Bites.” This week, we have an unusually rich array of links to help you discover why this book has been so popular and why it will be made into a film by HBO and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.

With the paperback release on the near horizon (early March), the New York Times profiled the philanthropy established by the author with some of the profits from the book. Henrietta Lacks was, of course, real, and her cells have proved to be immeasurably valuable. Yet, neither she nor her family new that these cells, dubbed HeLa, could be cultured outside the body and used extensively in medical research. The Lacks family obtained no benefit from them, either.

Until now, perhaps.

The author has a bright, informative Website that’s loaded with multi-media features and links, and you can access it here.

And as the Times article attests, Skloot has established a foundation to ensure that some of the proceeds from the book would help Lacks’ descendants achieve some of the educational and health benefits they arguably deserve. The foundation’s Website is here.

If you’ve read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, please share your impressions with our readers in the comments section below. Have a great weekend.

Sunday will bring another installment of “The Lists.” If you have a suggestion or request for which list we ought to feature, let us know. And hey, I understand there is a ballgame of some kind on Sunday evening. Enjoy it.

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“You Should Write a Book!” Uh-huh

Neal Genzlinger, writing in the New York Times on Friday, lamented the explosion of memoirs. Perhaps its purely a professional lament, but what he has to say is worth considering.

Looks Easy Enough

Yeah. Maybe that's the problem?

In the process of reviewing 4 new memoirs (3 of which he says should never have been written), Genzlinger complains that the plethora of new memoirs tends to crowd out those with a truly compelling story, not to mention those exemplary writers who can take the mundane and turn it into a singular snapshot of a historical moment.

Here’s a passage from his piece:

“Sure, the resulting list has authors who would be memoir-eligible under the old rules. But they are lost in a sea of people you’ve never heard of, writing uninterestingly about the unexceptional, apparently not realizing how commonplace their little wrinkle is or how many other people have already written about it. Memoirs have been disgorged by virtually every­one who has ever had cancer, been anorexic, battled depression, lost weight. By anyone who has ever taught an underprivileged child, adopted an under­privileged child or been an under­privileged child. By anyone who was raised in the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s, not to mention the ’50s, ’40s or ’30s. Owned a dog. Run a marathon. Found religion. Held a job.”

Now, you might think that Genzlinger is being an elitist … that a literary world where “Every Man a King” becomes “Every Breathing Soul an Author” is a good thing.

But I tend to side with him (and yes, that may also be a professional lament).

It is possible today for almost anyone (anyone with the financial means, anyway) to “write” a book. There is no end to the number of “publishers” willing to take your money and promise you the moon.

And likewise, there’s no doubt that most of us have told a story and had a listener say “You should write a book!”

Countless bloggers have seen their work, if sufficiently unified, be turned into a book, a play, a movie, or a television series.

But for a reviewer (or a bookseller or a reader), wading through the output (sorry to say it that way) becomes a grinding game of blind man’s buff.

I offer no solutions. Perhaps the uber-democracy of self-publishing and the willingness of publishers to gamble on true tales in the hopes of landing their book author on Oprah is a sign of progress.

What do you think?


So here’s a bonus … a memoir that I loved, that Genzlinger probably wouldn’t have, that I always keep in stock, and about which someone surely must have said “You should write a book!”

Phoebe Damrosch

Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter
HarperCollins (2008) $13.99 PB

Phoebe Damrosch’s very personal account of moving up in the restaurant world by taking a job at Thomas Keller’s Per Se in Manhattan. It is delightful, and inspired my dream of taking a dozen of my patrons on a New York trip for dinner there and a Broadway play. Anyone interested?

Read about Damrosch in this 2007 New York magazine feature story (photo credit to same), or you can visit her Website here.


* Sincere apologies to the author of the book whose cover we used to illustrate Genzlinger’s point. Neither he nor I intend to cast aspersions on the value or quality of that work. It does, however, scream out the reviewer’s main thesis. Hey, at least I included a sales link. Anybody else do that for you today?

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Spider Bites: How Do You Make a Sniper a Hero?

Saturdays are for “Spider Bites.” Get it? Spiders make webs, and what’s on the Web is certainly worth sharing, right?

Hot Springs, an Earl Swagger novel

Father and son snipers

Today we feature the Website(s) of author Stephen Hunter. For me, his ongoing series of books about Bob Lee Swagger, and the companion books about his Dad, Earl Swagger, have been a pure pleasure.

The Swaggers are not quite anti-heroes, but the efficiency with which they dispense justice does put them outside the boundaries of your normal thriller hero. Some of you probably saw the movie Shooter, which starred Mark Wahlberg as a contract protective sniper who is framed for an assassination – an “executive action.”

That movie burst forth from Stephen Hunter’s book Point of Impact, and was drastically adapted to reflect a different backstory from the character of Bob Lee Swagger in the 1993 book.

One of my favorite Hunter books is Hot Springs, in which Bob Lee’s father Earl finds himself called on to clean up Hot Springs, Arkansas at a time when the place was totally mobbed up.

Anyway, the purpose of these Saturday Spider Bites is to let you explore on your own. Below are some links to sites by and about Stephen Hunter. Did you know that Hunter’s day job before retirement was as the film critic for the Washington Post? He turns 65 in a couple of months.

On Wikipedia

The author’s unofficial Website is at www.stephenhunter.net

His publisher (Simon & Schuster) author page is here.Stephen Hunter

Finally, here’s his page on the British Website Fantastic Fiction, a site I use extensively to help me annotate books in series – because publishers change and they are all terrible at letting us know the chronological order of series books.

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Just In: The Miracle That Earned Sainthood for St. Theodora (Mother Theodore Guerin)

The Third Miracle Guerin Theodore

First Step to Sainthood


Now she’s known as Saint Theodora, but for years we’ve known her as Mother Theodore Guerin, the guiding force behind the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of the Woods.

Random House now presents the seldom told story of the miracle that brought about the canonization of the saint, as told by Bill Briggs.

Saint Theodora entered the religious life in 1825 as Sister St. Theodore, in France. As she advanced in her service, she was called to move ultimately to Indiana, which she did so with some reluctance and trepidation. Today, she is honored for the educational initiatives she undertook while serving as head of the convent near Terre Haute, Ind.

But it is her beatification and subsequent canonization in 2006 that underlies the detective story in journalist Briggs’s The Third Miracle: An Ordinary Man, a Medical Mystery, and a Trial of Faith.

Here’s how the publisher describes it:

Part detective story and part courtroom drama—with a touch of the supernatural—The Third Miracle exposes, for the first time ever, the secret rituals and investigations the Catholic Church today undertakes in order to determine sainthood.

“On a raw January 2001 morning at a Catholic convent deep in the Indiana woods, a Baptist handyman named Phil McCord made an urgent plea to God. He was by no means a religious man but he was a desperate man. McCord’s right eye was a furious shade of red and had pulsed for months in the wake of cataract surgery. He had one shot at recovery: a risky procedure that would replace part of his diseased eye with healthy tissue from a corpse. Dreading the grisly operation, McCord stopped into the convent’s chapel and offered a prayer—a spontaneous and fumbling request of God: Can you help me get through this? He merely hoped for inner peace, but when McCord awoke the next day, his eye was better—suddenly and shockingly better. Without surgery. Without medicine. And no doctor could explain it. Many would argue that Mother Théodore Guérin, the long-deceased matriarchal founder of the convent, had “interceded” on McCord’s behalf. Was the healing of Phil McCord’s eye a miracle?

“That was a question that the Catholic Church and the pope himself would ultimately decide. As part of an ancient and little-known process, top Catholic officials would convene a confidential tribunal to examine the handyman’s healing, to verify whether his recovery defied the laws of nature. They would formally summon McCord, his doctors, coworkers, and family to a windowless basement room at the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. They would appoint two local priests to serve the roles of judge and prosecutor. And they would put this alleged miracle on trial, all in an effort to determine if Mother Théodore, whose cause for beatification and canonization dated back to 1909, should be named the eighth American saint.

“In The Third Miracle, journalist Bill Briggs meticulously chronicles the Church investigation into this mysterious healing and offers a unique window into the ritualistic world of the secretive Catholic saint-making process—one of the very foundations on which the Church is built. With exclusive access to the case and its players, Briggs gives readers a front-row seat inside the closed-door drama as doctors are grilled about the supernatural, priests doggedly hunt for soft spots in the claim, and McCord comes to terms with the metaphorical “third miracle”: his own reconciliation with the metaphysical. As the inquiry shifts from the American heartland to an awaiting jury at Vatican City in Rome, Briggs astutely probes our hunger for everyday miracles in an age of technology, the Catholic Church’s surprisingly active saint-making operation, and the eternal clash of faith and science.”

We have the book in stock now along with several earlier biographies of Mother Theodore Guerin. If you’ve ever wondered how a saint becomes a saint, this book will pull back the curtain for you.

* CORRECTION: The Sisters of Providence motherhouse is at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, about four miles northwest of Terre Haute. Thanks to reader Dave Cox, who works there, for straightening me out.


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