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July 2, 2012 11:51am
Rarely do I receive anything worthwhile in the mail, just the regular bills and junk. But last week I received two beautiful zines and a handwritten note from Kate Larson
, one of the contributors to our forthcoming anthology of young women writing about The Sexual Politics of Meat
. The package stood out right away: wrapped in a page torn from an old magazine and addressed in a careful hand.
Kate's zines are called no better than apples
and are filled with thoughtful stories and illustrations about sickness and healthcare, being on the road with her band, good times with a bedazzler, her incredibly close relationship with her mother and her distance from her father, the landscape of the Hudson Valley, natural disasters, friends, losing one's home, and dumpstering. We're all enamored with them.
Kate wrote for our forthcoming anthology on The Sexual Politics of Meat
. After a chance meeting with Kate (Larson) in a New Paltz bookstore and after reading (in issue seven) about her meeting feminist and printmaking heroine Kate Millet, Lantern publisher Martin Rowe envisioned the book as a "next generation" expansion of Carol Adams' ideas, stretching them into uncharted philosophical/feminist/animal rights territory.
We look forward to bringing these stories and ideas to you. Though I apologize: they won't have silkscreened covers and the labels won't be addressed by hand.
If you are interested in getting your hands on issues of no better than apples
, contact Kate at P.O. Box 1250, New Paltz, NY 12561 or teamkate [at] gmail [dot] com. If you're interested in getting your hands on a copy of our anthology on The Sexual Politics of Meat
(20+ years later), sign up for our newsletter at the top of this page, and we'll let you know when it's available.
December 12, 2011 12:52pm
You gotta start somewhere.
Once a week or so, a friend contacts me and tells me that she or he has written a novel or a bunch of short stories and wonders if I have any advice for them on getting published. I've already written a blog about the novel
, but thought I'd put down my thoughts on short stories here.
In a recent issue of Poets & Writers
magazine, four editors of literary journals lamented the fact that very few of the many individuals who submit stories or poems to their periodicals were subscribers. What did it say, they wondered, that writers weren't apparently interested in reading what other writers produced and didn't support the very outlets in which they were so eager to be published? None of them had an answer to this discouraging phenomenon.
Centuries ago, literacy rates were so low that writers and readers were few and far between. If you could read and write, you were speaking from and to an elite, and you were likely to be noticed. The rise of the reading public in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries gave writers a much larger audience. Because there were few publishers, the relatively few writers reached quite substantial markets. These days, any fool can set up a publishing concern and write a book, and publish it on demand or electronically. However, the number of readers has not increased much in decades. The result is that lots of writers and outlets are chasing the same number of readers—which means that a book that might have sold 10,000 copies four decades ago now does well to reach 2,000 today.
December 6, 2011 1:30pm
Time to make an ass of myself.
After eleven years at the company I co-founded and five at Continuum; having worked on over 150 titles; and ghostwritten approximately ten books (including three in the last five years), I have decided that I need to concentrate on my own writing. If I don't do it now, I fear I may never get to undertake those projects that require concentration and dedicated time, and which I am not currently able to do while editing and acquiring books for Lantern. It is now, or it may be never.
Pending Lantern's finding of a suitable replacement
, I'm therefore going to take a twelve-month sabbatical from February 1, 2012. Some of you has asked just what I'm going to be working on. So, here is a list of some of the projects that I'll be trying to develop.
The Polar Bear in the Zoo
I've been interested in the work of the wonderful Canadian photographer Jo-Anne McArthur for several years, particularly her We Animals
series. I'm especially drawn to the photograph of a polar bear in the zoo, which Lantern used for the cover of a book called Teaching the Animal
. I want to write about this photo, and how it captures the soteriological function of animals, the topsy-turvy world in which we interact with them, and a whole host of other prejudices, predilections, and permutations thereof. I will start with John Berger's chapter "Why We Look at Animals" from his book Ways of Seeing
and move into continental philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and aesthetics, all through the lens and frame of this photograph. This will be my "animal book," and will in due course be published by Lantern—if it's any good.
I've been reflecting on the story of Balaam
and the donkey from the Book of Numbers for almost 20 years. I was taken with Balaam's mysterious biography: how did he become a prophet and what happens in the Israelite camp that turns Balaam from a heroic prophet of Israelite triumph to a villain who is the nonpareil of mendacity and double-dealing? I then wondered to myself what would happen if the donkey continued to keep talking after their experience before the angel of the Lord? What stories would she tell? I have drafted an outline of that story, and now I need to tell it—or perhaps let it tell me.
I've been mulling over this story for a decade and a half. It's based on a number of true stories, but is fiction. The story is about what happens when a man who taught sign-language to a chimpanzee visits the ape in a primate lab facility. I have a draft that needs to be wholly rewritten. Open
form a diptych, each commenting on the other.
Whatever happened to King Lear's queen? Why is no mention of her made in Shakespeare's play? I've constructed a story that explains why Lear's daughters so readily plot his downfall, why the Fool remains so loyal, and why Cordelia seems so different from her sisters. Now I need to write it.
Vegans know what we don't
want, but what is our vision for what we do? Imagining an America that's vegan in 2100, I want to construct a number of arguments and storylines that follow dystopian, utopian, and a mixture of both "histories" to examine resource use, social change, economic development, and a range of other subjects, using veganism as a heuristic. Claude Levi-Strauss noted that "animals are good to think with." Veganism should be the same.
These are a few of the projects I want to develop. Others I can't talk about as yet. I'm not so naive as to believe that I'll finish these in twelve months, but I hope to push them forward. Thank you for your supportive thoughts.
November 22, 2011 4:29pm
Publisher certification awarded by Green Press Initiative, November 2011.
The results are in, and Lantern has been given a gold certification in the Green Press Initiative's new publisher certification program. This is great news (though it proves what we already know)!
Lantern was the first publisher to sign up with the Green Press Initiative in 1999, and we work hard every day to make responsible business choices, from our power sources to our computer disposal choices to our eating and travel methods. As a company that prints books, we've paid special attention to paper issues. The publisher certification program is rigorous, but as we told our GPI rep, we aren't interested in anything but the gold.
Here's what gold certification means:
- The vast majority of our books are printed on post consumer recycled paper. That paper is also certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, meaning that the supply chain is documented.
- We print our books in the U.S. to cut down on transportation costs and so that work conditions are regulated.
- We run a green office, with clean sourced energy, the strictest reuse and recycling policies possible, and various other efforts like composting and the use of public transport.
We hope that you, the reader, will support Lantern and GPI in our endeavor to preserve the ancient forests and the natural systems on which all life depends. One way is to buy books that cost a little more but make a positive commitment to the environment no only in their words, but in the paper that they are printed on. For more information, visit www.greenpressinitiative.org
July 5, 2011 4:24pm
A Sterne Lesson
Those of you who are our Facebook friends (Lantern Book)—and if you're not, for goodness' sake what are you waiting for?!—will have seen my screed regarding the confusion about when to use "everyday" and "every day." A correspondent expressed her relief at seeing the light and then asked—perspiration mantling her brow—about dashes. Well, since you happen to ask. . . .
Just to freak you out, there are three
kinds of dashes with which I'm familiar. There's your hyphen, which joins two words (usually adjectives) together in holy matrimony, or separates an awkward prefix from the noun, as in "re-occurrence."
Then there's the en-dash, which is used in several ways:
- to join multiple word–phrases (as in "World War II–era music") where one of the joined word-phrases is being used as a compound adjective, and you want to know which bit of the phrase goes with which;
- to notate dates or places, without "from" or "to": as in "World War II (1939–1945) or "Berlin–Baghdad Railway";
- to indicate an adversarial or non-compound connection between two nouns: i.e. "Ali–Freeman rematch" or "Franco–Prussian War." (I like this usage because it reminds me that no such people as the Franco-Prussians exist.)
The final dash is the em-dash—the long one, the one you once had to signify by hitting two hyphens on your typewriter keyboard.
July 5, 2011 12:35pm
Tim Robbins in Robert Altman's The Player: Be careful what you wish for.
Occasionally, someone will approach—if that's the word I'm looking for—one of our authors about making a movie of their book or life. When you sign a contract with Lantern, you usually assign all your subsidiary rights—those are rights to your work should they become dramas, radio plays, movies, documentaries, etc.—to Lantern. We act as your intermediary and we split 50/50 any money from the purchase of those rights. Of course, as an author, you can "retain" any of your rights before signing the contract—preferring to negotiate them yourself or hiring a professional to do it. And some authors have done that.
June 10, 2011 3:49pm
Translation: Be Kind, Rewind
Authors contact us frequently because a devotee in another country has either offered to translate their book or has already done so and is looking for a publisher. What should we do? the authors ask. Consider this post our response to that question.
Among our tasks as publishers is to protect the copyright of our authors. That means no unauthorized reproduction or use of an author's work without our permission or paying fees to us and the author—who after all put time, effort, and money into the book in the first place. That, of course, applies to translation. The best way to secure copyright protection is for one publisher to contract with another to translate, publish, and distribute the book in that country, and for that publisher to have exclusive rights to do those things. Without that surety, an author cannot guarantee that he or she will receive royalties, that the translation will be accurate, and that the book itself will be produced and distributed professionally.
So, if you're an author, and a kindly Croatian claims kinship or a friendly Finn fans you on Facebook and wants your book to be available in their language, do the following:
- Thank your fan very much, and ask them to find a publisher in their country who's willing to publish the book.
- Ask them to tell the publisher to contact Lantern, or our rights manager, Sabine Weeke (through Lantern).
- Indicate to the kindly Croatian or friendly Finn that the publisher may not choose them to be the translator.
- Discourage the devotee from photocopying their translation and disseminating it. That's theft, and you've no idea of whether they've a minimum grasp of your language.
Of course, the devotee may find it hard to find that publisher, which is why Lantern has its own rights manager trying to do it for the authors and us. But, as slow and frustrating as the process is, it offers some chance that one's work won't be pirated.
June 10, 2011 3:13pm
Nightmare or Sweet Dream?
The New York Times
ran a story
the other day about the dilemma facing Johnny Temple of Akashic Books, whose office is just an odiferous canoe ride down the Gowanus Canal from Lantern's own. Akashic is the publisher of the latest phenom, Go the F**k to Sleep
by Adam Mansbach. Akashic has presold 50,000 copies of the book, and has printed 300,000. The Times
Mr. Temple has already fended off major publishers who tried to muscle in on his sudden hit. After its Amazon ranking began to climb, “Go the ____ to Sleep” was in such demand that more than a half-dozen large publishers approached Akashic Books about licensing the rights to the book, vying in effect to take over the publishing duties, Mr. Temple said. Some of the bids approached the $1 million mark.
For me this story encapsulates the challenges facing small presses who suddenly produce a huge bestseller, and provides a teachable moment for authors and publishers alike.
April 29, 2011 9:14am
We're ready for her call.
We often get asked by authors how large the print run of their book will be. Like the issue of advances
, the question is tinged with anxiety about how valued the author feels by the publisher, or, to put it another way, how much confidence the publisher has in the author's work.
From a publisher's perspective, however, the question doesn't make any sense, since publishers and authors don't make money on the number of books printed but on the number sold
. After all, which is better for either party: 2,322 copies sold from one print-run of 25,000 copies or 2,323 from three print-runs of a thousand each?
Of course, the author's fear is that there'll be so much demand for a book that the publisher won't be able to keep up, ultimately depressing sales. However true such a fear may have been in the past, technology now enables books to be printed in twenty-four hours and shipped to consumers directly. Indeed, e-books are always available, instantaneously, meaning that demand theoretically will never outstrip supply.
Of course, it's part of the fantasy world of both publishers and authors that Oprah will call and tell the publisher to get 300,000 copies of said book on Barnes and Noble's shelves in three weeks. If that happens, dear author, we'll deal with it (believe it or not, we have a plan for just such a contigency)! The reality, however, is that very few of the big publishers actually print the 100,000 copies at a time they advertise in their publicity materials. Like Lantern, they print small numbers frequently, maintaining as tight a hold over their inventory and sinking as few costs into their print-runs as possible.
So, all you would-be authors, the question you should ask your publisher is not how big the initial print-run will be, but whether your publisher is able to switch between web-press, short-run, and print-on-demand technology to satisfy the demand as it waxes and wanes—and whether the e-book version of the book will be out at the same time as the printed one. In our case, the answer is, simply, "Yes."
April 29, 2011 8:20am
You can have it. Just not yet.
Occasionally, a prospective author will ask us whether we give advances. Our answer is "no." We used to, back in the day, do it on a regular basis, but decided it made no sense (cents?). Here's why.
An advance is in effect an interest-free loan to an author. It's meant to provide them with financial resources to enable them to finish the book (if they haven't done so) or as some kind of "thank you" (if they have). The advance is a loan because the money that's given is "against" royalties. In other words, if the publisher gives you a $5,000 advance, it means that you won't get any money from your sales until you've sold $5,000 worth of royalties.
A very large percentage of books never earn out their advances, leaving publishers, quite literally, at a loss. Unfortunately, too many authors and agents think that the best possible outcome for their book is to get the largest advance possible—with actual sales of the book, apparently, being almost an afterthought. These days, those authors who do get the big advances—just like the singers who get major recording deals or filmmakers who get national distribution—are in the small minority. But they're the standards against whom everybody measures their success.
The simple fact is, with no advance, if the book does well, then both publisher and author reap the benefits. If the book doesn't do so well, then publishers are somewhat protected against the investment they make in producing the book in the first place. Of course, authors who wish to make more money can self-publish: taking on the risk of production for a much larger portion of the sales.
At Lantern, we're very proud to have been in this business for more than a decade and that we've been able to pay royalties to all our authors in every one of those years. Some of our authors have by now collected over $20,000: not enough to earn a living perhaps, but certainly a very respectable "advance." Long may it continue!
March 16, 2011 8:00am
One of our new titles is Into the Depths
by Mary Margaret Funk
. I first heard Sr. Meg tell the story that constitutes the heart of the book over a dozen years ago—and even then I heard it secondhand. Garbled and half-baked though that rendition was, I immediately sensed its immense power and wanted it to be told properly. But the story was incredible painful for Sr. Meg, and she told me to wait, and that she would pray for guidance.
At the beginning of 2009, Meg told me she was ready, and we set to work on the story. There were tears and hiatuses, but we finally completed our work. I feel immensely privileged to have been a part of the process, and am proud of the honesty and conviction with which the story has been told.
The creation of Into the Depths
also reminds me that sometimes you have to wait for a story to come to its fruition, and that it may take time and patience and deliberation. But all of the deferrals and difficulties are worth it in the end.
March 2, 2011 9:08am
Writer William Van Ornum discusses the changing landscape of publishing in his America
article Bye Bye Borders
. There he mentions Lantern and Gene Gollogly (our prez) as an example of small publishers who are adapting and thriving in the world of books.
March 1, 2011 1:28pm
Some useful thoughts
on being a writer. The bit about writing a lot strikes me as true.
February 23, 2011 4:44pm
Don't Even Think of Reading It
As some of you may know, early in 2010 I found myself seized with the craze of zombie literature mashups
involving the undead and classic English literary characters. How amusing, I thought, it would be to apply the zombie trope to the world of P. G. Wodehouse
, particularly Jeeves and Bertie Wooster
I knew as I wrote my pastiche that the Wodehouse literary estate wouldn't allow me to be published (a hunch that was duly confirmed), mainly because Wodehouse only died in 1975, but I thought there was nothing stopping me from privately printing the work or turning it into an e-book and giving it away for free or for charity.
I was wrong. The literary estate has told me that I cannot in any way distribute any of the work in any form to anyone in any manner: not a "what ho" or an "I say" or a "Very good, sir." Nada. Zippo. They've asked me to tell you what a fool, what a mad ignorant fool, I was. Here was I believing that people might respond to the work as fan fiction, and enjoy the book so much that they'd go and buy the Master's work. This, indeed, had happened. Plus, some of the copies that I'd printed had gone to a charity to help women in Rwanda earn a living and another to people planting trees to save the planet. So, they'll be missing a few pennies because of it.
Nonetheless, as someone used to the vagaries and unwelcome unpleasantnesses of the publishing profession, one carries on—as someone bearing no relation at all to Bertie Wooster might say. It's a strange sensation being banned: not least over such a deeply uncontroversial book—one whose only utility would be to help the disadvantaged or encourage people to read the work of the author whose very estate has banned it. Hey ho.
October 15, 2010 3:19pm
Valley of the Kings: I'll take you there.
The current e-book's days are numbered. Just as DVDs now contain "extras" involving audio commentary, outtakes, and so on, to provide added value for purchasers, so e-books are going to have to follow suit. In a matter of months, readers are no longer going to be content to read simple text on their electronic device. They're going to want multiple hyperlinking, video, and audio (the author talking, an interview with the editor, etc. etc.) as a way of experiencing the book in a "richer" way. That means that publishers will have to hook up with multimedia companies or bring them in-house and have them involved in the e-book's production from the outset.
Naturally, this poses a big challenge to small publishers. We're going to have to be smarter, and offer more specialized skills and products in order to survive. However, as a consumer of entertainment content, I'm quite excited about the future. Let me give you an idea of what I'm talking about, by offering you a vision: one, I think, that will be realized within the decade.
You will own a device that not only is wireless, but (through the provision of 3-D spectacles or special holographic imaging), offers a multidimensional experience. You purchase a book and download it. You press the screen button marked Read
on the machine, and you can read the simple text (like you do today), or, with the provision of the 3-D/holograph, you actually have the book in front of you, which you can "turn" the pages of. If you want something a little more interactive, you can press/touch the button marked Link
. Up comes the text with multiple hyperlinks that "pop-up" on the "screen" (in 3-D/holographic space).
You press the button marked Audio
and the "book" not only becomes an audiobook, but at certain points in the text, which you can still follow, but by pressing a word (perhaps the text is a different color) a recording of somebody (perhaps a sound effect or voice of the author) provides a little "added value" to the paragraph.
You press the button denoted Video
and within your visual field pop up—at moments controlled by you (much as in the same way as the "audio" button)—filmed clips of the author speaking, or pictures that show the scene unfolding (from a movie or perhaps a set of still photographs). The result is that no book need be unillustrated again.