Thursday News: Another book challenge, mainstreaming POD books, women writers and alcohol, and film options for books
Mom Launches War Against Bestselling Book About Race, Science -Another day, another attack on a book. This time it’s Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken without permission, and used in myriad scientific experiments, leading to momentous discoveries like the polio vaccine, cloning, and assisting in the acquisition of thousands of patents. The importance of her body’s contributions to science is set against all of her life challenges and struggles against discrimination, illiteracy, poverty, and lack of recognition. A parent in Tennessee called the book “pornographic” because of the nature of Lacks’s cancer (cervical) and some of the descriptions in the book related to her disease. She acknowledges the book’s value, but not for teens, making a very unfortunate analogy between the language in the book and sexual predators. Although I don’t often advocate an author defending her own work, in this case, I think Skloot offered a great alternative to the Knoxville controversy:
Just yesterday, I got a letter from the head of the Science Department at Notre Dame Academy in Kentucky, a Roman Catholic High School for girls, saying, ‘Our community shared experiences and had many discussions concerning the topics raised in the book. The student body and staff have learned a great deal from the story of the Lacks family, and as a token of appreciation, please accept this donation to the Henrietta Lacks (aka HeLa) foundation,’ of funds raised by students and staff. I choose to focus on those stories, and I hope the students of Knoxville will be able to continue to learn about Henrietta and the important lessons her story can teach them. Because my book is many things: It’s a story of race and medicine, bioethics, science illiteracy, the importance of education and equality and science and so much more. But it is not anything resembling pornography.”–Yahoo
Walmart is Carrying a Self-Pub POD Book In-Store -A discussion on Twitter yesterday reminded me that I had not posted this story about Walmart’s decision to carry a POD version of Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Redemption in their physical stores. Although you can apparently order POD books from Walmart’s website, according to Nate Hoffelder, who counted 60 in a recent search, giving up precious shelf space is another thing entirely.
There has been more and more talk lately about the technology of creating and dispensing books to end users, which reminded me of Moriah Jovan’s rendering of a “perfect bookstore,” all the way back in 2010. Jovan imagined a bookstore (two versions, actually) where readers could order POD books, which would be produced via Espresso machines on another floor. Is her vision becoming reality? I always thought she had a great design that allowed readers to browse books by physically accessing covers, and then ordering, either onsite or through a computer/smartphone:
- You will sit at the counter and flip through [cover flats, separated by genre, subdivided by subgenre]. You will have a little wifi gizmo tied to the store’s computers. You will enter your account number and you will order what you want by pointing the gizmo at the bar code. Your order will go downstairs to the Espresso machines.
- If you want an electronic version, it can be wifi’d do your device and/or you can have a CD/DVD burned, and/or you can have a download link emailed to you.
- If you have already ordered what you want from a home computer or smartphone or other device, it will be waiting for you at the customer service counter (“Espresso Order Counter”).–The Digital Reader and Moriah Jovan’s blog
Drunk Confessions: Women and the clichés of the literary drunkard – A pretty interesting article that examines the stereotypes around women and alcohol, from the way in which women used to be unable to even talk about drinking publicly without being demeaned, to the double standard around alcohol and creativity for women v. men. Male authors often become more glamorous or talented in their drunkenness, while women are sloppy and irresponsible. Even the way women often write about alcohol is different, focusing on the drinking as an issue, not as a function of their work. Which may go back to the way in which women are often expected to be more self-aware and focused on self-improvement, their sense of responsibility often tied to others, as opposed to these male writers who can down shots in the corner, self-destructive and surly to everyone around them, while they pound out the great American novel on an old typewriter. Yeah, so very romantic.
But, as ever, the benefits of the myth were doled out unevenly, because there was always a different kind of weight attached to a woman drinker. “When a woman drinks it’s as if an animal were drinking, or a child,” Marguerite Duras once wrote. “Alcoholism is scandalous in a woman, and a female alcoholic is rare, a serious matter. It’s a slur on the divine in our nature.”
We are mostly beyond the point, in this world of ours, of calling women “divine,” and we are also past the point where a woman alcoholic is truly rare, in the open, public way Duras meant. Women now talk often about drinking and being drunk. Their memoirs on the subject are best-sellers. But the genre of personal testimony turns the role of drinking in writing on its head. Instead of being the engine, it is the subject. . . .
The place where drink makes women less powerful, however, is in the same place that women always get attacked for adopting vice: the realm of high prestige. When Olivia Laing set out to study and explore alcoholism and the great writer in last year’s The Trip to Echo Spring, she ignored women. Faced with such a wealth of famous sots to choose from, Laing canvassed only six: John Cheever, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Berryman, and Raymond Carver. She explains away her choice of only men with a wave-of-the-hand parenthetical: “(There were many women writers I could have chosen too, but for reasons that will become apparent their stories came too close to home.)” Which is fair enough; The Trip to Echo Spring does delve into Laing’s own family history, and she is deeply critical of the self-aggrandizement and self-destructiveness of these men. –New Republic
How Does a Book Get Optioned and Become a Movie? – And speaking of creativity, I thought this was an interesting look at the process by which books become optioned for film. Priyanka Mattoo, a former agent who now writes and produces her own work (she and Jack Black also started a TV production company together) talks pretty optimistically about how an author can get his or her work into the hands of an actor or director or other film insider. She offers advice like adapt your own book into a screenplay, even if you’ve never done it before, and remain engaged in the process for as long as you can, sobering the giddy exuberance I’m guessing a lot of authors feel by this point in the article by discussing option fees:
Option fees are small. Unless you’re dealing with a competitive studio situation, we are talking a range of $500-5000, to a high end of $10,000 (although there are outliers in competitive situations). That is your money for a year. The “real” money is in the purchase price, which you get paid if the movie actually gets made — say this is around 2% of the movie’s budget, with a cap. So for an indie that has a $5 million budget, that’s $50k. for a studio movie in the $20 million range that can be upward of $400k, but is likely capped. TV deals are structured for pilots and then episodes, if a series is ordered (big if). This is a long-winded way to say — count on an option not to bring you money, but to build your reputation, and to get more of your work optioned. Movies can take a year in development but could easily take 6-10 years, or just evaporate when your director is offered the next Marvel movie. Cautious and mildly distracted optimism is the best approach when your work has been optioned.–Splitsider