Book Review: The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
One of the greatest love stories never told…until Miller chose to work with this ancient story.
This is the love song of Patroclus for Achilles, a demi-god who befriends him while they are both young. Their friendship grows into something more, a powerful expression of the heart. But when the winds of war blow over them both, they must bow to Achilles’ fate and join forces fighting Troy to recapture Helen of Sparta.
Told in prose that is spare yet masterful, The Song of Achilles reveals the deeper movements that drive both Patroclus and Achilles forward to their deaths. Told with warmth that lacks any overblown sentimentality, this story is moving and emotionally fulfilling. A must-read for fans of mythology and those who enjoy walking side-by-side with lovers who face destiny with courage.

Children’s/YA, Religion, Education Profits Up

As we’ve seen over the past several years, YA/children’s books continue to fuel growth in print and ebook markets. The Association of American Publishers (AAP) released figures for January to July 2014 showing that ebook revenue grew 7.5% compared to the same period in 2013. Ebook revenue in the children’s/YA category rose 59.5% over the same period in 2013.
Religious ebooks climbed 25.7% compared to the same timeframe last year.

Educational revenues are also rising. School-age titles are up 21.5% and higher education materials rose 10.9 percent.

An Agent Helps Self-published Authors Sell Foreign Rights

Bookcase Literary, established in July 2013 in Brazil, helps self-published romance authors sell foreign rights. Meire Dias and Flavia Viotti launched the innovative approach because they saw that self-publishing is mostly centered inside the United States. They knew authors didn’t have access to international publishers and yet readers worldwide want to read American authors.
In less than a year, they have sold 28 titles. They have also become co-agents with Rebecca Friedman, opening the path to new deals and possibly an expansion of their focus to other genres in the years to come.

Book Review: Fram

Fram by Steve Himmer
Available January 13, 2015
I received an ARC from the publisher.
A fantastic romp with an ending that couldn’t make sense any other way. Oscar, a bureaucrat made dry and brittle by a life of paperwork and duplicate copies, lives in his imagination. He nurtures a childhood dream of being an arctic explorer, something he vicariously fulfills by working at the U.S. Bureau of Ice Prognostication, an agency created to counter the Soviet’s Cold War threat. The agency never died, nor did Oscar’s dreams.
He spends his days living those dreams by imagining what might be discovered in the Arctic then generating the reams of paperwork to prove that these “discoveries” are real. Towns, schools, mining companies and paper mills, even hot springs are all drawn onto the vast emptiness of the ice. At home, he communes with decades of old National Geographic magazines that trumpeted the original polar explorers’ journeys.
When Oscar is sent on an actual mission to this place he has only ever dreamed about, he becomes entangled in a snarl of espionage and rival agencies. As he digs deeper into the secrets and strangeness, he discovers that the arctic expanse of his marriage has been as important an element in his life as the actual region. At the end, readers will know that there could have been no other resolution to the bizarre journey that is Oscar’s life.

The Secret Self-publishing Companies Don’t Want Authors to Know

Whenever I help clients self-publish, one of the important considerations is how they’re going to reach readers. Too often clients tell me they have already bought marketing services from the company that will produce their book…only to discover that what they’re really bought is PR.
PR is public relations. It’s defined as the management of the spread of information. PR services usually include press releases, feature articles, and author interviews. It sounds like the right step: authors want readers to know about their books, and PR can alert them to the book’s availability, message, theme, and impact.
PR is a powerful tool. The number of individuals who discover an author and their books can reach hundreds of thousands for a single press release, article or interview. But the key is that PR only spreads information. It doesn’t generate a purchase.
Marketing is different than PR. Marketing is geared to generate the purchase of one or more of the author’s books. Marketing plans vary according to the book’s content, the author’s short- and long-term goals, even by the types of distribution channels lined up for the book. Generally, however, marketing aims to generate sales rather than publicity.
Very few of the companies that produce self-published books for authors offer actual marketing services. If you know of one, I’d love to hear about it! Meanwhile, know the difference before you buy. You’ll make wise decisions that can support your career for years, and many other books, to come.

Association of Authors Agents (AAA) New Guidelines

Self-publishing is truly coming of age. The force and energy behind this movement is so intense that agents have for several years been offering adjunct services like marketing, assisted publishing, and the like to self-publishers.
Because of these new services, the AAA has laid out new guidelines for their members. The guidelines encourage members to provide their terms of business with regard to all services offered in writing. These should include any costs associated with the agent’s assistance and who will pay those costs.
If you haven’t heard about agent-assisted publishing, it can be a real boone. You’ll have access to the agent’s network, including connections at the media outlets that feature articles, interviews, and reviews of authors and their books. You’ll also tap into their marketing savvy as you reach out to readers.
How do you connect with an agent for this kind of relationship? You create the same pitch items you would if you were submitting to their firm for representation to traditional publishers: a query letter, book proposal (for nonfiction) and a synopsis, bio, and marketing overview (fiction).

Book Review: The Guard

This work by Peter Terrin is a fantastic book that looks into many areas of the human mind at the same time. Written in spare prose that reflects both the setting and the lack of information the guards have about the outside world, the novel is truly a literary and storytelling triumph.
I received a copy from the publisher so that I could write a review of the translation, and was rivited by the work. I haven’t heard about this author before but the concept was interesting. While I expected a dystopian style read, what I found was much more nuanced and stylistic than the usual novels in this genre.
The guard who takes the lead in the narrative is not the leader inside the two-person squad. That choice from the author opened up this story to telling a subtle yet powerful story about confinement, control, voluntary subjugation, and the dynamics of human relationships in personal and organizational terms. The same elements can be read on an extended level that touches on elements we’re experiencing in different developed cultures today.
All these elements unfold in tiny ways that are no less powerful for the gradual movements involved. Some readers have responded to this work with confusion, claiming that they either didn’t understand the work or that later events were not supported throughout. I disagree. This novel reveals itself to readers who pay attention. For those who want more from a dystopian story than the usual justice-is-served or all-are-doomed endings, The Guard is the one to read. The Guard will be available in English starting Jan 6, 2015 in the U.S. and Canada.