Books, self-published and otherwise

A story broke in the UK about a 93-year-old woman who sold her first novel and received pots of money. Turns out she didn’t, because it was a vanity press (which, like most vanity presses, prefers to be called a ‘self-publisher’). Finally, the truth is coming out, but of course the corrections won’t get half the press attention as the erroneous story, because ‘nice old lady brings out self-published book and wants to help her friends avoid care homes’ isn’t half as newsworthy as ‘first novel earns pots of money and encourages the delusions of anyone who thinks self-publishing is the route to riches.’

(There are plenty of sensible reasons to self-publish, but fame and fortune are not two of them.)

Anyway, I’m not reading books lately, which is partly because I seem to have picked up a work ethic somewhere and have been working on the novel as well as a couple of freelance projects. I also haven’t been commuting as much these days, and I tend to do a lot of reading on the bus. This means that it’s halfway through the month and I’ve only read one book – Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, which seems to be nominated for/winning awards in every possible genre. I liked it more intellectually than I loved it, if that makes sense, but then at heart it’s a police procedural, and those simply don’t thrill me.

Meanwhile, I gave up on Midnight’s Children. I feel ashamed to ditch the Booker of Booker of Bookers or whatever it is, but I slogged halfway in and I just couldn’t face getting out the hard way.

Translator missing!

I’m annoyed at Penguin Books and the BBC. Well, specifically at a couple of people in the marketing department

Here I have a copy of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s masterpiece Crime and Punishment. The cover art is a photograph of a man who is presumably rushing from one place to anther, judging from the blurriness of his leg area. There is also a tasteful BBC logo up in the corner, and a ‘BBC The Big Read Top 100′ sticker. The title of the book is in a decent-sized font, and the author’s name is in a much smaller font way down at the bottom. (Clearly you’re expected to see the title and Mr. Blurry and cry, ‘oh, that’s the mini-series!’ and grab it from the shelf.)

Okay, I am not going to be a snob about tv tie-in copies of books. *thinks* Sorry, in fact I am, because I’m never going to READ one. What you read gives people information about you, and the information they should know about me is that I read Booker-nominated novels, not that I go to see movies starring Keira Knightley and then say ‘gosh, it was a book?’

But what I am not a snob about is using covers to attract readers who might not otherwise pick up that book. So Wuthering Heights is being marketed to teeny goths by use of brooding, shadowy cover art? Great! I’m slightly less enthused about Jane Austen relaunched as Dame Barbara Cartland but you know, we all find our own ways in to literature, and not everyone wants to spend their summers reading through the shelves of the public library. (And in these days of public library cutbacks, not everyone can.)

So here’s Fyodor being marketed as a miniseries tie-in. The back cover blurb is as reasonable as any – and it neither gives away the plot nor gets it wrong, which is a plus – and the list of credits for the tie-in and the new cover art are tiny and tasteful.

First page: long bio of F.D. Followed by: title page listing a) title, b) author, c) Penguin Books logo, d) ‘Penguin Books’ and ‘BBC Books’. Verso: List of Penguin’s worldwide offices, date of Penguin Popular Classics publication (1997) and tv tie-in edition (2001), notice not to rent it without permission etc.

So apparently this novel transmutes from Russian to English by the power of my mind.

Because there sure as hell isn’t a translator listed anywhere. No, no, you have to make sure that the guy playing Luzhin gets mentioned on the back cover, but heaven forbid you acknowledge the poor soul who turned 400+ pages of 19th-century Russian tragedy into comprehensible English. And I can’t even FIND this edition in a non-tv edition, because there are no less than 3 subsequent Penguin editions and they’re clearly different, because they don’t start “One sultry evening early in July”. Nor does a search on that provide any clues.

So I’d say the real crime here is the eradication of the translator. Well, whoever you are, some of us salute you.

Thundercat, meanwhile, is undergoing a different form of crime and punishment. You know what they have at the vet’s? Big needles. And you know what they do with those needles? Use them as instruments of torture on kitties. And then I had the effrontery to put raspberries in a bowl that would be much better used for kitty food. Pah, says Thundercat, sulking on the windowsill.

[12 days left to use the discount coupon that Better World Books set up exclusively for readers of this blog! Details in this entry. And yes, that's 'exclusive' in the women's magazine sense of 'world exclusive interview with someone who is interviewed for every single issue.']

We have coupon!

Jack from Better World Books just stopped by. (In a comment. I’d be concerned if he came by my house, though given how many times I’ve ordered from BWB, he could find out where I live by dropping an e-mail to the shipping department.)

He gave us a coupon!


It’s good until April 22.

I will, of course, be testing this out personally. After all, I couldn’t dream of letting my faithful blog readers go ahead and use a coupon without being absolutely sure that it works. In fact, I’d probably better test it out multiple times.

ETA: yep, I just tested it and it works! (I ordered Michaela Roessner’s Vanishing Point, Bruce Feiler’s Learning to Bow, and a 19th-century Swedish novel. My reading is nothing if not eclectic.)

Please drop me a comment if you use the coupon – I’d love to know whether it’s just me…. For those who are wondering where to use the coupon: it’s the final page of the process, after you’ve confirmed which books you want and how much they cost. When you get to the payment page, there’s a place to put a coupon code. Put the code in and push enter (or whatever it is) and the page will reload with the discount showing and the price re-calculated. Note that the discount doesn’t cover shipping costs [though it's free shipping in the USA, anyway].

And in case you were wondering: this isn’t a kickback/affiliate-type program. I don’t get a penny from the link or from you using the coupon. It’s just them being nice to my readers. And, um, me!

Published in: on April 7, 2008 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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First, a quotation from Jenna Crispin at Blog of a Bookslut, and when I say ‘quotation’ I mean ‘somehow she has crawled inside my head and read my most secret thoughts’:

I was checking for on-board restrictions for an international flight, and found I was only allowed to bring “A reasonable amount of reading matter for the flight.” I foresee an argument about my definition of “reasonable” and theirs.

Books are the FIRST things I pack, and this is subject to endless revision up to the point when I’m holding the front door open and triple-checking that I have my passport. It’s a difficult matter to select books for traveling with (especially on international flights). You have to choose books that will hold your attention for the duration, but which can easily be jettisoned without regret when you finish them. Should you go with many short books, and risk wanting to ditch one or several before the flight even gets off the ground, or one seriously long book, and risk not finishing it before you arrive (and thus having to drag it around and try to finish it even though you are already buying MORE books for the return journey)? It’s very complicated.

But the good people at Better World Books are going to make it easier – or, rather, more difficult, but in a better way. Remember how in yesterday’s entry I urged you to go there and buy more books? DON’T DO IT!

Not yet, anyway. ‘Cause Jack from BWB left a nice comment and he’s going to come back and give my lovely readers (and me) a coupon! So wait until you get the coupon code and THEN go there and buy books. Remember: free shipping in the USA! (Books start at $3.48 so you’re already one-up on most used book sites.) And only $2.97 shipping per book internationally, which is astonishingly cheap (no per-order charge, either).

It’s a good thing Thundercat doesn’t take up much space and moves around a lot, because I’m going to need more shelves around here.


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