ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Agent Andrew Wylie Is Threatening to Bypass Publishers

Agent Andrew Wylie is threatening to bypass publishers and license his authors’ e-book rights directly to Google, Amazon or Apple because he is unhappy with publishers terms. In an interview with Harvard Magazine, Wylie said the agency’s negotiations with publishers on e-books were currently on hold across the board.

“We will take our 700 clients, see what rights are not allocated to publishers, and establish a company on their behalf to license those e-book rights directly to someone like Google, or Apple. It would be another business, set up on parallel tracks to the frontlist book business,” Wylie said.

Such a “heretical strategy” would likely meet with stiff resistance from publishing houses, the piece notes in response. The Wylie Agency’s stellar list includes authors Martin Amis, Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie, as well as the estates of giants including Italo Calvino, Arthur Miller, Vladimir Nabokov and John Updike.

Wylie also takes issue with the deals publishers are making with Apple, which he says are similar to those entered into by music publishers. “The music industry did itself in by taking its profitability and allocating it to device holders. Manufacturing and distribution accounted for roughly 30 percent of the music industry’s profit. These were conveyed to Apple in the deal for iTunes. But why should someone who makes a machine—the iPod, which is the contemporary equivalent of a jukebox—take all the profit?” (The

Ah-ha, a standoff! Just what we’ve been waiting for, a player with enough hudzpah to challenge the Big Six. Benedictine Page’s post pits literary superagent Andrew Wylie against the publishing industry. That is, thetraditional publishing industry. This could get ugly, but I’m pleased to see someone willing to challenge the Gutenberg Paradigm from within. Outcome will be watched by authors, agents, publishers, book sellers everywhere.

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Are Cells the New Cigarettes?

We don’t yet really know the physical and psychological impact of being slaves to technology. We just know that technology is a narcotic. We’re living in the cloud, in a force field, so afraid of being disconnected and plunged into a world of silence and stillness that even if scientists told us our computers would make our arms fall off, we’d probably keep typing.

~ Maureen Dowd (The New York Times)

Owl Defense

Think this spinning, hooting fellow will keep the raccoons and squirrels out of our vegetable patch? The dealer claims it will! Here’s the pitch: “Realistic-looking electronic Great Horned Owl uses 4 motion sensors to detect nearby pests. When a pest is spotted, the owl moves its head in the direction of the pest and sends out a genuine Great Horned Owl call to scare away the pest. Safe, chemical-free pest control for your home and garden.” Call me a sucker; I’m going to give it a try. With a little luck and a regular change of batteries owl defense will yield better gardening. Any bets?

Nobel Prize-Winning Portuguese Writer Dies


Photo credit: The New York Times

As a professional novelist, Mr. Saramago was a late bloomer. A first novel, published when he was 23, was followed by 30 years of silence. He became a full-time writer only in his late 50s, after working variously as a garage mechanic, a welfare agency bureaucrat, a printing production manager, a proofreader, a translator and a newspaper columnist. (The New York Times)

José Saramago, released from this mortal coil at 87 years old, told The New York Times in 2007 that his fortune as a writer hinged upon his premature professional demise due to the collapse of Portugal’s Communist-led revolution in 1975. “Being fired was the best luck of my life… It made me stop and reflect. It was the birth of my life as a writer.”

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Self-Publish with Apple’s IBookstore

Self-publish with Apple iBookstore

Official instructions are now available on how to self-publish books for the iBookstore. Until recently this information was inaccessible to the public, favoring larger publishers with which Apple has formed deals. In order to submit a book, several criteria must be met. These include having an ISBN-13 number and a US tax ID, and uploading only ePub files which have passed EpubCheck 1.0.5.

Apple also warns prospective sellers that while titles can be sold in multiple countries, the company will not pay out until unspecified earning thresholds are met in each region. Payment may be faster, it suggests, through approved aggregators including BiblioCore, Constellation, Lulu and others. The tradeoff is that aggregator services collect some of a writer’s income from each book.(

Apple has posted their guide for everyone to publish and sell their titles through it’s immensely popular platform. And CreateSpace opens up Amazon’s self-publishing and sales platformAre we seeing a major sea change, or what?


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Publish and Distribute with CreateSpace

Create. Collaborate. Distribute.

Our free online publishing tools and Community can help you complete and sell your work. Distribute on, your own website, and other retailers without setup fees or inventory. (

I’ve been reading up on CreateSpace self-publishing, and I’m impressed. Especially interested in the “Expanded Distribution Channel”… Any experience/reviews out there?


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Story Circle: Digital Story around the World

The idea of creativity clusters has been around since the beginning of time.  Anything that works this well is worth noting!  Usually linked to the high-tech cluster in Silicon Valley, a creativity cluster is simply a collection of people in a high-performance environment that maximizes creative output. Building a cluster using digital technology and storywork is a powerful combination.

Story Circle is the first collection developed to track the digital storytelling movement around the world.   Exploring the digital landscape – consumer-generated content, memory grids, micro-documentaries, this book highlights who is doing what and where.  Following Joe Lambert‘s original version of digital storytelling as ‘knowing in practice’, Story Circle collects and describes digital projects in social, educational, activist and community contexts.  Great resource! (via

I’ve just ordered Story Circle: Digital Storytelling Around the World and I’m looking forward to plunging in. Will update you all soon!

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Inverted Publishing Funnel

Nathan Bransford’s June 10 HuffPo post, “The Rejection Letter of the Future Will Be Silence (And Why This is a Good Thing)” expresses the optimism that I share about the democratization of the publishing industry. His Neil Postman-esque reflection doesn’t flinch from the downside of the Post-Gutenberg Paradigm, but the tenor is undeniably positive: “the very nature of commercial viability in the publishing world is changing quickly with the transition to e-books, and I think it’s ultimately a change for the better.” The agents and publishers who recognize that this publishing funnel inversion will thrive, profit and help redefine the future. Those who hesitate, resist or cling to the Gutenberg Paradigm will struggle to survive.

Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, notes that we’re moving from an era where we filtered and then published to one where we’ll publish and then filter. And no one would be happier than me to hand the filtering reins over to the reading public, who will surely be better at judging which books should rise to the top than the best guesses of a handful of publishing professionals.

I don’t see this transition as the demise of traditional publishing or agenting. Roles will change, but there are still some fundamental elements that will remain. There’s more that goes into a book than just writing it, and publishers will be the best-equipped to maintain the editorial quality, production value, and marketing heft that will still be necessary for the biggest books. Authors will still need experienced advocates to navigate this landscape, place subsidiary rights (i.e. translation, film, audio, etc.), and negotiate on their behalf.

What’s changing is that the funnel is in the process of inverting – from a top down publishing process to one that’s bottom up.

Yes, many (if not most) of the books that will see publication in the new era will only be read by a handful of people. Rather than a rejection letter from an agent, authors will be met with the silence of a trickle of sales. And that’s okay!! Even if a book is only purchased by a few friends and family members — what’s the harm?

Meanwhile, the public will have the ultimate, unlimited ability to find the books they want to read, will be unconstrained by the tastes of the publishing industry and past standards of commercial viability, and whether you want to read experimental literary fiction or a potboiler mystery: you’ll be able to find it. Out of the vastness of books published the best books will emerge, driven to popularity by passionate readers. (Bransford, Nathan.”The Rejection Letter of the Future Will Be Silence(And Why This is a Good Thing).” The Huffington Post. 6/10/2010)

Update: Several colleagues and friends get their feathers ruffled each time I pronounce this vision, and I expect this post will be no exception. But it’s worth noting that I do believe books have a long and exciting future. They are valuable, enjoyable and luxurious. They will continue to be. Perhaps moreso as the publishing world evolves in and increasingly digital, decreasingly paper-based direction. Specialty book publishing is likely to endure for these reasons, and because certain content lends itself to print far better than digital formats. But, bibliophile leanings notwithstanding, I’m quite comfortable with the transition from print to digital for most content distribution including fiction, non-fiction, literature, education, etc. In fact, the transition excites me enormously. I believe that digital storytelling will reignite innovation among writers, artists, designers and publishers. New genres will emerge as a result, and debates will rage over what is/isn’t literature. It will be exciting! And there will be less silo-ing, less manipulation of markets and information, less “clubbiness” in the publishing world. This may not last forever, but even for a while these will be positive changes.

Read Nathan Bransford’s full post at The Huffington Post.


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Kevin Rose’s Ebook Wish List

Digg founder, Kevin Rose, brainstorms digital book improvements in a YouTube video published yesterday. In a meandering rumination titled “Some random ideas for ebooks” he shares his personal wish list for ebook publishers based on his experience with the Kindle and iPad. I’ve voiced this same frustration that you still  really can’t do anything social with digital books, and yet this seems like one of the most obvious and promising value-adds to reading a book digitally instead of in print. It should be quick, easy and fun to share my marginalia with others! I understand that these early forays into digital publishing are still primitive, exploratory and cautious. With one notable exception (What is a vook?) digital publishing so far has amounted to little more than digital format print books. But it’s time to leap forward. It’s time for innovation, for a  a new digital storytelling paradigm unfettered by the conventions and limitations of 500 years of print publishing. Here’s what Kevin Rose hopes to see.

Top 5 eBook Wish List:

  1. Character Zoom: Why can I click on a character’s name to access background information, etc.
  2. Audio/text annotation: Find something interesting while reading an ebook? Highlight and annotate the section to share with friends.
  3. Lend a book: Why can’t I click a button and loan my ebook to a friend? And access there progress while they’re reading so I know what sections to discuss? And then click again to take my ebook back?
  4. Dashboard: Why isn’t there a stats page which tells how many pages I’m reading/minutes, when I can expect to finish reading the book, etc?
  5. Share: Why are net connected devices not better at sharing? Why isn’t there more rich media (dictionary, videos, additional information, wikipedia articles, etc.) embedded in (or accessible from) ebooks? Why is it so hard to connect/share ebook experiences with others over the web?

Kevin Rose ponders virtual book groups with tracking to show reading progress of other members to facilitate talking, etc. Pipe dreams? Probably not. In fact, I expect that we’ll see many of these changes soon. It’s inevitable. My ebook wish list includes integrated text, audio and video; digital marginalia annotation (text, audio, video, etc.); and quick, easy sharing. What’s your ebook wish list?

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Wandering Within

I loved Franklin because, when we talked, I always felt as if I were wandering around in a big house, a big house with endless rooms, and every time we came to a closed door in one of these rooms we were able to open it. Open doors, open doors, one after another. That’s why I loved him.” (Nelson, Antonya, “Or Else”, p. 86, The New Yorker, November 19, 2007)

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