Posts Tagged ‘Simon & Schuster’

By Hannah Bennett

bookishThere’s a new book retailer in town, and by “town,” of course, I mean online.  Bookish, the long-anticipated book retail website, was launched this week after several years of development.  And while the website is a retailer, it aims to be much more—a book recommendation engine, a repository for book information, and a source of news and articles related to the book industry.

One of the most highly touted aspects of the site is a book recommendation engine, which is powered by book metadata, reviews, and editor suggestions. Users simply enter the name of a book they enjoyed, and the site gives them several recommendations.  Since the website also hosts marketing information about the recommended books, an e-commerce feature, and links to other retailers, the intention is to make it as easy as possible to find (and buy) your next great read.

Bookish is backed by three of the “big six” publishers—Hachette, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster.  The site also has partnerships with USA Today and The Onion.  They hope that these partnerships, along with a variety of articles and original content on the site, will help attract new users.  As everyone in publishing knows, discoverability is key, and Bookish is an effort to expand the book market and make products easier to discover.

As a retailer, of course, Bookish faces tough competition from behemoths such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  And like any new website, there are bound to be kinks.  But Bookish is notable as one of the largest efforts from the big six publishers to directly compete in the e-retail game, and it will be important for the industry to take note of its successes and challenges.

How do you think Bookish will fare in this competitive and evolving market?


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The WNBA-NYC chapter is happy to announce our two new WNBA DPI/NGO United Nations Youth Representatives for 2013!

DianaDiana Cavallo is a graduate student in Pace University’s Masters in Publishing program. She completed her undergraduate education at Pace University’s Pleasantville campus in May of 2012, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications and a minor in Creative Writing. Diana was the Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning Pforzheimer Honors College newsletter, SCHOLASTICA, and a featured writer in VOX Literary & Arts magazine. She has held publishing internship positions with The Association of American Publishers and Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Diana will also begin an exciting Social Media internship with Simon & Schuster in the spring of 2013.

Diana is very grateful to have been chosen as a Youth Representative for the Women’s National Book Association to the United Nations. She was interested in this position because of her longtime passion for reading and writing, and desire to help others through charity work. Diana greatly respects the Women’s National Book Association’s literacy and awareness objectives and their emphasis on educating youth about developments in the book community. As a young woman entering publishing, she hopes to use this proactive outlet to help the voices and concerns of female readers be heard and appreciated. In her future career, she plans to focus on the editorial, publicity and marketing aspects of the field, in both book and magazine publishing. Ultimately, Diana hopes to become a bestselling novelist and children’s book author.

JennaJenna Vaccaro is a Graduate Assistant at Pace University pursuing a Master’s of Science in Publishing. She explored her passion for news, politics, and media through her undergraduate attendance at American University in Washington DC. She ultimately graduated with a major in Law and Society, and a minor in Sociology.  Throughout college, Jenna worked part time at the Smithsonian’s Asian art museums, the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art. Her first experience with professional publishing was through a college internship at the American Humanist Association. As an intern for the magazine The Humanist, Jenna learned about the role of an editor, the design of a magazine, and the circulation of a periodical.

Jenna is absolutely ecstatic to be working with the Woman’s National Book Association as one of its Youth Representatives for the United Nations. After working in an international museum exploring different cultures, this is a perfect outlet to focus those years of research, work, and study. With her interest in government and society, there is no better way to combine all of her past intellectual interests into one perfect internship. Jenna hopes to learn more about working with other NGOs, spread the message of the United Nations and the Department of Public Information, and meet other motivated young people. As a member of the Woman’s National Book Association, Jenna cannot wait to start empowering women home and abroad through literacy and publishing.

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By Hannah Bennett

Last Tuesday, some fellow classmates and I were invited to attend a Book Industry Guild of New York event entitled “What Inspires You?  Mediation on Jacket Design.”  The Book Industry Guild of New York is “a member-operated professional organization composed of professionals from every aspect of the book publishing and book manufacturing industries.”  As students and non-members, we felt a little timid as we entered the halls of Random House and took our seats for the panel, but we were instantly welcomed by the friendly people that we met on the way.

The evening consisted of three speakers, all prominent Art Directors and Jacket Designers, who came prepared with entertaining slideshows about what inspires them creatively.  The first speaker of the night was Krista Vossen, the Associate Art Director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.  She began by describing her path to graphic design, and then described her current work at Simon & Schuster, which involves overcoming the inherent challenges of working with middle-grade books and trying to make age-appropriate jackets that appeal to both genders.  Her description of YA jacket trends was hilarious, especially when she described how she used the “big dress trend” but “downgraded to a poofy skirt” for Poison Princess.  In the end, her inspiration was in large part the city of New York, where she said, “inspiration hits you in the face.”  However, she also emphasized the importance of clearing one’s head for true creative inspiration.

Next up was Greg Kulick, the Associate Art Director for Blue Rider Books (Penguin Group, USA).  Like Vossen, Kulick began his discussion of inspiration by taking a look at his earliest influences.  For Kulick, his early artistic influences were tied to skateboard culture and punk music. The intense graphic style of the skateboard artwork certainly had an influence on the jacket designs Kulick eventually created.  Kulick also discussed his transition to a management role and how that affected his creativity.  What inspires Kulick now?  “Giving work to other people,” was his tongue-in-cheek answer.  However, the ability to delegate has opened up Kulick to work on new projects, such as getting to produce photo shoots.  In a roundabout way, delegating truly has been a source of inspiration.

The last speaker of the night was the ever-vibrant Chip Kidd, who has garnered a certain celebrity status among jacket designers for both his inspired designs and his exuberant personality.  Kidd, who recently did a TED Talk in which he talked about some of his most famous designs, is the Associate Art Director at Alfred A. Knopf.  He looked at the subject of inspiration in several ways, discussing both his challenges, such as the crisis of redesigning a book last minute, and his successes, like the beautiful cover design of IQ84 by Haruki Murakami.  But after 25 years at Knopf, Kidd maintained that what inspires him is the text.  Another life-long inspiration for Kidd has been comics and graphic novels – as he said, he is a “professional Batman fan.”  In what was definitely the most entertaining part of the evening, Kidd discussed what it was like to write an original Batman graphic novel, entitled Batman: Death by Design.  Kidd showed pages of the graphic novel and narrated a scene from it, doing all the voices of the characters, including the Joker and the female roles.  Despite his great success as a jacket designer, it’s possible that Kidd missed his true calling of becoming a performer and comedian.

The entire evening was, for lack of a better word, inspiring.  So perhaps I should take a shot at answering the question of the evening:  ‘what inspires you?’  Well, creative people who work with books and are passionate about their jobs inspire me, as a student of publishing.  An organization that seeks to educate people about the book industry, and in doing so allows students to attend one of their excellent events, is certainly an inspiration.  And also, I’m going to have to agree with Chip Kidd and say Batman.

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By Sonia Kane

On the evening of April 26th, it was standing room only at Wix Lounge for WNBA-NYC’s panel discussion on the popular topic of historical fiction. The five panel members included literary agent Daniel Lazar (Writers House), editor Heather Lazare (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster), editor and reviewer Barbara Hoffert (Library Journal), and two authors of recent works of historical fiction, Carole DeSanti (The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R.), and Kathryn Harrison (Enchantments). DeSanti, who is Vice President, Editor at Large at Viking Penguin, contributed insights not only as an author but as a longtime publisher. WNBA-NYC’s Rosalind Reisner moderated the panel.

Reisner began with a question: What is historical fiction? Does it have to take place at least 60 years before the current period, as in Walter Scott’s Waverley, generally considered the first historical novel in English? Daniel Lazar noted that he considered anything set during and before World War II to fit the bill; Heather Lazare agreed that this was an appropriate benchmark, but said that a lot depends on how a book is packaged by an agent and what audience a publisher is trying to reach: “From a publisher’s standpoint, are we going after the historical fiction bloggers? The mommy bloggers?” Panelists generally agreed that whereas historical novels used to be considered strictly genre fiction, with plots featuring either romance or, as Barbara Hoffert memorably put it, “sweaty men sticking things into each other,” today’s historical novels are often more accurately labeled as literary fiction, as in the case of the phenomenally successful Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, which won the Man Booker and National Book Critics Circle Award. For a book review editor like Hoffert, this shift can make assigning books to the appropriate reviewers more perplexing, but she still is in favor of broadening categories to reach as many readers as possible, and has even at times used the seemingly contradictory label “literary/popular.” DeSanti echoed this thought: “Writers are working to broaden what historical fiction can be. . . . today the trend is toward hybridity, depth, and character-driven novels.”

Harrison and DeSanti shared brief descriptions of their novels:  Enchantments, set during the Russian Revolution, is told by Masha, daughter of the monk Rasputin. A woman whom Harrison found to be a “strangely modern character,” Masha escaped the Bolsheviks, survived a marriage with a husband chosen for her by her father, and eventually had a successful career as a lion tamer! DeSanti’s work, set in France during the Second Empire (1860-1871), focuses on a young woman who leaves her home in the provinces to meet her lover in Paris. Pregnant and alone, she waits for him in vain. DeSanti described her protagonist as “on a path to finding her center . . . in a polarized culture that was both hedonistic and moralistic.” She sees Eugenie’s story as one of “becoming alienated from what you love and desire and then finding your own way back,” adding that her book might be considered “self-help folded into historical fiction.”

Both authors spoke of their delight in giving voice to their characters. In Harrison’s novel, the protagonist is a real woman whose remarkable story had yet to be told. In DeSanti’s work, she is a type—courtesan—who recurs in the fiction of male writers of the nineteenth century, and yet whose thoughts are not often explored by those writers. As she put it, “Zola does not give Nana an interior history.” Harrison and DeSanti also spoke of the immense and consuming pleasures of research—as well as its perils. DeSanti noted that she “used artifacts to get the emotion of the time,” artifacts such as ration cards, dancing slippers, and even a piece of bread perfectly preserved from the Siege of Paris. She became so immersed in the period that her friends were worried, asking her, “Are you ever going to leave the nineteenth century?” Harrison pointed out the danger for historical novelists of trying to “jam things in” to their novels, just to put their research to work. “You will use three to five percent of what you have taught yourself; it’s important for a historical novelist to be disciplined.”

The evening concluded with a robust question-and-answer session in which the authors provided further details about their research methods (DeSanti noting that she had read “an entire dictionary of smutty French words from the nineteenth century”) and literary agent Lazar gave tips on how to write a good query letter (“be very specific and evocative, give us a taste of the atmosphere of your novel”). Afterward, audience members milled about happily and got their newly purchased books signed. Ashley Gallman and Omri Arad of Wix Lounge were enormously competent and convivial hosts, as always; many thanks to them for their enthusiasm and good cheer. For the hosts, the panelists, and the audience, it was clear that historical fiction remains an enduring genre.

Sonia Kane is a free-lance editor and writer living in Brooklyn. Formerly Assistant Director of Book Publications at the Modern Language Association, she has a PhD in English from the CUNY Graduate Center and teaches literature and writing at Hunter College. She has recently been appointed Co-Editor of the NY Bookwoman, the official newsletter of the NY chapter of the Women’s National Book Association.

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