California’s Growing Publishing Industry

Donna Levin
California novelist and author of California Street (Simon & Schuster)

Is the printed word becoming as old-fashioned a way to tell stories as carving figures into totem poles? If you attended the American Library Association Convention at Moscone Center last week you would know that books are not only alive and well, but beloved my many, including the over 22,000 librarians, library workers and library […]

Read more

Once Upon a Time…Translating the Tech Movement into Fiction

Donna Levin
California novelist and author of California Street (Simon & Schuster)

Fiction has always documented social change. And no matter how talented the author, no one can document the times as well as those living in them. Think of F. Scott Fitzgerald writing about the Jazz Age. Charles Dickens portraying the harsh working-class conditions in 19th century London. Mark Twain observing the societal effects of slavery. […]

Read more

The Last of the White Collar Apprentices

Donna Levin
California novelist and author of California Street (Simon & Schuster)

Once upon a time the apprentice
model – a fancy way of saying "learn on the job" – was widespread.   Today,
very few apprenticeships exist outside the building industry.  One of the few fields in which it does, however,
is the business of being a literary agent.

Most
readers will know that a literary agent is the person who sells your
lovingly-written book to a major publisher. 
(To sell to a small or university press you usually won’t need an agent
– you also usually won’t get as much, if any, money.)  This gives an agent prestige among writers,
especially those in the early stages of their career.  Go to a writers’ conference, get a lanyard
that announces that you are a literary agent, and writers will follow you
around all weekend, as if you were a mama duck and they were your devoted like
ducklings.  I’ve been the mama duck and
it’s really fun.

Read more

A Better Place to Live

Donna Levin
California novelist and author of California Street (Simon & Schuster)

Michael Connelly’s 21st novel, The Reversal, was released by Little
Brown a few months ago.  Publisher’s
Weekly, the industry’s trade publication, gave it a starred review which
concludes, "Reading this book is like watching a master
craftsman, slowly and carefully, brick by brick, build something that holds
together exquisitely, form and function in perfect alignment."

The Reversal brings together Connelly’s
best-known detective hero, Harry Bosch, and his newer hero, defense attorney
Mickey Haller, who is not only starring in his third Connelly novel but will be
played Matthew McConaughey in the soon-to-be
released movie The Lincoln Lawyer, based on the novel of the
same name in which Haller was introduced.

The Reversal is also set in Los Angeles,
the primary setting for all of Connelly’s work.

Read more

The Writer Reinvents Him(Her)self – Again

Donna Levin
California novelist and author of California Street (Simon & Schuster)

What do journalists and elevator operators have in
common?  (Hint:  This is not an "ups and downs" joke.)

But
first a few words from the star of this blog, author Adair Lara: "All journalists aspire to write books, which many consider the blue
ribbon of our profession."

Yes,
in today’s expanding world of blogs, tweets and instant messages, the publication
of a book still gives writers a legitimacy unrivaled by any other achievement.  Newspapers are out of date within a day;
tweets within minutes.  (If they’re really memorable.)  Blogs are archived but surfers rarely go back
to find waves that have already crested.

It
wasn’t long ago that even books had fairly short lives:  The vast majority were out of print within
two years and one had to turn to garage sales or to the pipe-smoking
book-seller (there was one in every town) who specialized in finding rare
manuscripts.

Read more

Changing the World, One Book at a Time

Donna Levin
California novelist and author of California Street (Simon & Schuster)

Readers and contributors alike to Fox and Hounds have strong, well-thought out opinions – and plenty of ideas. Ideas from election finance reform, to motivating their neighbors to take public transportation, to improving our educational system and to ending road rage – any of which would make Planet Earth a more comfortable address.

What if you are one of those people with an idea, and it is an idea that requires more than a hundred characters to explain? Maybe even more than the 420 characters allowed in a Facebook post?

Read more

The Mysterious Lure of San Francisco: Bouchercon by the Bay.

Donna Levin
California novelist and author of California Street (Simon & Schuster)

San Francisco had the honor of hosting Bouchercon 2010. Or have I got the "honor" backwards?

First, for the apparently small percentage of people out there who aren’t fans of the mystery genre, Bouchercon is an annual convention named for Anthony Boucher, the late author, editor and critic (after whom the prestigious Anthony Awards are also named).

Read more

Friday Culture Piece: Writing in the Wine Country

Donna Levin
California novelist and author of California Street (Simon & Schuster)

You don’t have to live in San Francisco, or another major urban center, to thrive as a writer. Anywhere in California will do just fine, thank you.

We all have the image of the writer working alone in the garret room with the slanting roof, maybe a window like the one in the women’s apartment in Friends. But if you are a writer you know that while the "real" work must be accomplished alone, one cannot survive long emotionally, nor make the contacts necessary for ultimate success, without a community of fellow writers for emotional support, feedback on technique, and – what everyone wants most – referrals.

Read more

Friday Culture Piece: Chicklit from the Block

Donna Levin
California novelist and author of California Street (Simon & Schuster)

What’s a nice suburban dude doing writing Chicano-chicklit?

Something right, apparently, because Mike Padilla’s second book and first novel, The Girls From the Revolutionary Cantina (after the short story collection Hard Language) is finding fans among readers of the genre.  This from ChicklitClub.com: "I did not want to put this page-turner down, there is so much happening at once yet it all ties in brilliantly."

"Initially, when people started applying the ‘chicklit’ to my novel, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it," he says.  "I didn’t want to be pegged in a specific category."

Read more

Scribd.: the New Self-Publishing Highrise

Donna Levin
California novelist and author of California Street (Simon & Schuster)

You send a manuscript to New York agent.  The agent sends it to an editor who buys it for a lot of money.  Soon your book is on the New York Times bestseller list.

A dream? Well, as Bloody Mary sings in South Pacific, "You gotta have a dream/If you don’t have a dream/How you gonna make a dream come true?"

Time for some different, but no less marvelous dreams.

In a recent post I warned that self-publishing on Kindle was not a ticket on the bullet train to success. But everyone from the editor-in-chief at Random House down knows that the publishing landscape is changing rapidly, and that the power is shifting to the people.

Read more