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Celebrating the new year with six wishes for books and publishing
As we start a new year, it’s nice to envision the most perfect version of the future. Things like world peace, the end of poverty, a miracle cure for global warming, and free ice cream and tacos for everyone.
Sure, that’s a fantasy. But in that line, I’d like to share my list of wishes for books and publishing in 2015. The things that would make the publishing world brighter, bookish lives better, and bring smiles to readers’ faces. Here’s what I wish for 2015:
Publishers realize readers are their customers. This knowledge has been creeping into the world of publishing, but there is still a long way to go. Traditionally, publishers sold books to bookstores and bookstores worried about selling books to customers. That needn’t go away, but it’s not enough. Books are bought and sold all kinds of ways these days, and the better publishers get at reaching the ready reader sitting alone with an electronic device, the healthier their businesses will be.
Amazon figures out how to purge irrelevant one-star book reviews. To close 2014, bestselling author Harlan Coben tweeted his “favorite one-star Amazon review,” which reads, “One star: Never received it — don’t think I ordered it.” Clearly, this is not the fault of the writer, nor does it have anything to do with the book itself. Nevertheless, the one star gets factored into Amazon’s overall ranking of the book, bringing its average down. The only good thing about irrelevant single star reviews is the One-Star Book Reviews Tumblr, which compiles some doozies. For Emily Dickinson’s collected poems, “wah wah wah”; for “Sula” by Toni Morrison, “I rated it a one because I found the sex revolting, as I always do. That’s just me.”
No more novels based on literary figures. Books are great. People who write books are great. And nonfiction books about people who write books are great; no matter how you feel about Roland Barthes’ critique of biography-based literary criticism, writers remain strange and interesting creatures. But lately, our book room has been flooded by novels based on real literary figures. What contemporary writer can do justice in fiction to Shirley Jackson? How can a contemporary novel about her compare to the novels she wrote herself?
Fewer books like “51 Shades of Beige.” Every few years some beleaguered book professional notes that we have too many books, as anyone who sees about 100 per week come across her desk eventually concludes. Part of the problem is that we have too many copycat books. Yes, publishers are eager to capitalize on the last big hit by running the trend into the ground, but that’s not a good thing. Did we need more boy wizards after Harry Potter? A fleet of teens fighting to the death after “The Hunger Games”? Noted symbologists (not an actual occupation) springing up all over after “The Da Vinci Code”? And it’s not just publishers; writers hoping to become the next E.L. James have penned other erotic “Fifty Shades of Grey”-adjacent books like “Fifty Shades of Brown,” “Fifty Shades Pinker,” “51 Shades of Maggie” “Fifty Shades of Naughty,” and “Fifty Shades of Lady Mary Grey.” Too much.
Self-published writers will find better ways to reach readers. More than 450,000books were self-published in 2013. That’s a lot of books, and it’s almost impossible for new self-published authors to raise their profile above the crowd. There may be plenty of discussions around self-published books, but it’s hard to find authoritative takes on the books themselves. Publishers Weekly has created Booklife, which is still in beta, and its format may speak to book professionals more than readers. Maybe new websites will emerge; maybe new groups of writers will form. Maybe something out there just needs a little boost to become the go-to place for self-published books.
E-books will fulfill their interactive promise. When “The Silent History” was first published in 2012, it thrillingly demonstrated how an e-book could be both a well-written novel and fundamentally different from a print book. Delivered episodically, “The Silent History” was meant to be read on a phone, and if the reader passed certain locations, additional mini-stories set in those places would be unlocked. But two years later, look in the iBookstore and there’s nothing like it — the top interactive e-books are cookbooks, basically gorgeous instruction manuals, and illustrated books for kids. Meanwhile, the Atavist continues, as it has since 2011, to deliver longform nonfiction enhanced for tablets with video, photos and sound, but it remains an outlier. May 2015 bring more e-books that are truly transformed.
Here’s to 2015 being a creative, bountiful, engaging, surprising year for all writers, readers and book lovers. Cheers.
Local: Amanda Lohrey’s A Short History of Richard Kline will be her first full-length novel in over a decade. Photo: Kate Geraghty
We might have stopped the boats, but we’ve barely started to see a flow of stories about fugitives from tyranny or hardship who have landed on our shores to make a new life. The experience of migrants and their descendants, or of people adopted into our culture, is a strong feature of Australian books for 2015, particularly in memoirs. It’s a big year for local novels, especially from debut authors. Quite a few world authors are brought to us in translation through Australian publishers, and several of our prominent poets are turning to prose and fiction.
The past year has seen a stream of politicians’ stories and Anzac memories, but there are still a few tales of life in the trenches and on the Parliamentary benches coming up in 2015. And there’s a continuing trend towards non-fiction anthologies by women.
International: Toni Morrison’s new novel is The Wrath of Children. Photo: Lisa Poole
This is the year for a new Toni Morrison novel, The Wrath of Children (September), and a new title from John Irving (both from Random House). Kazuo Ishiguro has a novel, The Buried Giant (March), and so has Milan Kundera (both from Faber). There’s a novel from Zadie Smith (Out of Place, Penguin UK, May); two novellas from Haruki Murakami in Hear The Wind Sing (Random, September); and novels from Andrew O’Hagan (The Illuminations, Faber, February); Anne Enright (Random, May); Jane Smiley (Early Warning, Pan Macmillan, April); Sebastian Faulks (Random, September); Amitav Ghosh (Flood of Fire, Hachette, June); Kate Atkinson (A God In Ruins, Random, May); Elizabeth Knox (Wake, Constable & Robinson, April); Irvine Welsh (A Decent Ride, Random, April); and Daniel Handler – better known as Lemony Snicket – writing for adults in We Are Pirates (Bloomsbury Circus, March).
World literature, written in English or in English translation, is a notable feature of the 2015 list. Such books include Indonesian novelist Eka Kurniawan’s Beauty Is a Wound (Text, September); Raj Kamal Jha’s She Will Build Him a City, described as “Midnight’s Children for the new millennium” (Bloomsbury, March); Dutch writer Gerbrand Bakker’s June (Scribe, July); Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings, based on an attempted assassination of Bob Marley (Oneworld, January); South African-born Australian resident Eben Venter’s Wolf, Wolf (Scribe, February); and two books from the Mexican writer Guadalupe Nettel (Natural Histories and The Body Where I was Born, both UWA Publishing, May). Fans will welcome the fourth novel in Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series (Harvill Secker, March).
On the blockbuster scene, look out for Before I Go to Sleep author S. J. Watson’s Second Life (Text, March) and Water for Elephants author Sara Gruen’s At the Water’s Edge (Allen & Unwin, June). We’ll have a book from Jeffrey Archer (Mightier than the Sword, Pan Macmillan, March); a new James Bond novel from Anthony Horowitz, Murder on Wheels (Hachette); Louis de Bernieres’ The Dust that Falls from Dreams (Random, June); and fantasy phenomenon Samantha Shannon’s second novel in her Bone Season series, The Mime Order (Bloomsbury, January). Sue Grafton has reached X in her Alphabet crime series (Pan Macmillan, September); and Justin Cronin has the last in his The Passage trilogy, The City of Mirrors (Hachette, October).
Eagerly awaited: James Bradley’s new novel is Clade.
For a novel with inside literary gossip, try Muse (Text, June) by Jonathan Galassi, poet and publisher at Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Australian authors with eagerly awaited novels include James Bradley with Clade (Penguin, February), his first for nine years; and Amanda Lohrey with A Short History of Richard Kline (Black Inc, March), her first full-length novel in over a decade. We’ll also see the fifth novel in the Glenroy series from Steven Carroll (Forever Young, Fourth Estate, June).
Politician: Peter Garrett’s memoir is out in 2015. Photo: Sahlan Hayes
Other novels are on the way from Rod Jones (The Mothers, Text, June); Marion Halligan (Goodbye Sweetheart, Allen & Unwin, April); Jane Messer (Hopscotch, Picador, May); Mark Dapin (Vung Tau, Penguin, August); S. J. Finn (Down to the River, Sleepers, March); and in the second half of the year, novels from Charlotte Wood and Susan Johnson (both Allen & Unwin); and from Geraldine Brooks (Hachette, November). Frank Moorhouse has a novel about the cross-dressing hero of his Grand Days trilogy, The Book of Ambrose (Random, November).
Highly anticipated follow-ups include A Fraction of the Whole author Steve Toltz’s Quicksand (Penguin, May); Tony Birch’s Ghost River (UQP, October); Stephen Daisley’s Coming Rain (Text, May); and The Cartographer author Peter Twohig’s The Torch (Fourth Estate, July).
Australian poets turning to prose fiction include Philip Salom (Waiting, Puncher & Wattmann, August); Lisa Gorton (The Life of Houses, Giramondo, April); Alan Gould (The Poets’ Stairwell, Black Pepper, January); and John Kinsella, with a short story collection, Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge, May).
Forthcoming: The fifth novel in Steven Carroll’s Glenroy is Forever Young. Photo: Paul Rovere
If you’re after a lighter read, look for another novel from Di Morrissey (Pan Macmillan). Highlights for crime fiction fans include a new Michael Robotham novel (Hachette, August); Katherine Howell’s Tell the Truth (Pan Macmillan, February); and Robert Gott’s The Port Fairy Murders (Scribe, March).
The hard-worker prize goes to three totally different authors, each with a hat trick. John Birmingham has a science-fiction trilogy with Pan Macmillan, beginning with Emergence (February) and followed by Resistance (March) and Ascendance (May). Malcolm Knox has a novel about a trigamist, Wonder Lover (Allen & Unwin, May), but he’s also written two nonfiction books: The Keepers, a history of Australian wicketkeepers (Penguin, October); and Supermarket Monsters: The Price of Coles and Woolworths’ Dominance (Redback, June). From overseas, the reliably prolific Alexander McCall Smith brings us three titles: The Revolving Door of Life (August), Stories of Love (November) and Precious and the Zebra Necklace (July), all from NewSouth Publishing.
Next: A new novel by Geraldine Brooks will be published in the second half of the year. Photo: Randi Baird
But the marathon busy bee is Peter Corris, whose 40th Cliff Hardy crime novel, Gun Control, is out with Allen & Unwin in March.
There’s a big buzz about several Australian debut authors. In a heated international auction, Fourth Estate won Robyn Cadwallader’s historical novel The Anchoress (March), about a woman who shuts herself away in a tiny cell; and also secured an international three-book deal with young talent Eliza Henry-Jones, beginning with her novel In The Quiet (July). Picador has high hopes for Rush Oh! (October), a first novel from screenwriter and director Shirley Barrett, about an alliance between killer whales and a family of whalers. And Perth writer Lili St Germain has a three-book deal with HarperCollins, starting with Cartel (February), a romance set in the world of bikies. Her self-published Seven Sons series has sold 250,000 copies since it went online.
Anticipated: Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel is The Buried Giant. Photo: Mike Segar
Other debuts include Anchor Point by Alice Robinson (March) and Sing Fox to Me by Sarah Kanake (July, both Affirm Press); Fever of Animals by Miles Allinson (Scribe, September); The Bird’s Child by Sandra Leigh Price (Fourth Estate, April); Relativity by Antonia Hayes (Penguin, July); Ilka Tampke’s Iron Age saga, Skin (Text, February); A.S. Patric’s Black Rock White City (Transit Lounge, April); and three thrillers: Amanda Ortlepp’sClaiming Noah (Simon & Schuster, March); and with Scribe, Tania Chandler’s Please Don’t Leave Me Here (August) and J. M. Green’s Good Money (November). Penguin has a debut collection of short stories, Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands (March).
Overseas, Penguin UK is excited about the book billed as the new Gone Girl – What She Left by debut author T. R. Richmond. Garth Halberg’s City On Fire (Random, September) was sold in the US for $2 million. Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen (Scribe, March) is being described as “the African Kite Runner“. And Roxane Gay, well-known for her book of essays, Bad Feminist, has a first novel set in Haiti, An Untamed State(Constable & Robinson, January).
Fiction: Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh will be published in June. Photo: Jerry Bauer
We can’t get enough of Australians’ stories, whether told by themselves or others. Two formidable Catholics feature in major biographies: Brenda Niall’s Mannix (Text, April) and Gerard Henderson’s B. A. Santamaria (MUP, August). Two big art biographies are Nancy Underhill’s Sidney Nolan (NewSouth, June) and Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan’s Modern Love, about John and Sunday Reed (MUP, October). And Karen Lamb has a biography of Thea Astley, Inventing Her Own Weather (UQP, May).
Stories of immigrant Australians and their descendants include Cat Thao Nguyen’s journey from Vietnam across the killing fields of Cambodia, We Are Here (Allen & Unwin, March); Abdi Aden’s voyage from war-torn Somalia to Melbourne, Shining (HarperCollins, June); Osamah Sami’s Good Muslim Boy (Hardie Grant, May); Latika Bourke’s From India With Love (Allen & Unwin, May); and Maxine Beneba Clarke’s The Hate Race(Hachette, September).
This year was a bumper one for politicians’ stories, and they’re still coming. We’re promised memoirs from Anna Bligh (Through the Wall, HarperCollins, April); and Peter Garrett (Allen & Unwin). From MUP we’ll get memoirs by Tony Windsor (April); Stephen Loosely (Machine Rules, August); Christopher Pyne (Lessons from My Father, August); Jenny Macklin (Making Change, September); and John Brumby (October).
Life story: Kate Grenville’s One Life: My Mother’s Story is about her family. Photo: Rodger Cummins
David Day will bring us a biography, Keating (HarperCollins, February); Kerry O’Brien is also writing about the former PM for Allen & Unwin. There are books from Greg Combet’s former chief of staff, Allan Behm (MUP, June) and Julia Gillard’s former speechwriter Michael Cooney (The Gillard Project, Penguin, May). Chris Bowen will write about our 12 most notable treasurers in The Money Men (MUP, August).
Kate Grenville writes about her family in One Life: My Mother’s Story (Text, April); as will Ramona Koval in Bloodhound: Searching for My Father (Text, May) and Barry Dickins in Dad: A Line Drawing of My Father (Black Pepper, April). Playwright Hannie Rayson shows scenes from her life in Hello Beautiful! (Text, March). Gerald Murnane writes about his love of horse racing in Something for the Pain (Text, October).
Ray Martin has a biography of Fred Hollows (HarperCollins, November); Stuart Coupe writes on music legend Michael Gudinski (Hachette, August); there are memoirs from fashion queen Carla Zampatti (HarperCollins, March), and journalists Ross Gittins (Allen & Unwin, June); Greg Sheridan (Allen & Unwin) and Richard Glover (ABC Books, September).
Follow-up: A Fraction of the Whole author Steve Toltz’s new book is Quicksand.
Ever-popular survival memoirs include Bambi Smyth’s Bad Hair Year (Five Mile Press, April) about dealing with a brain tumour and breast cancer. And a memoir by Orry-Kelly, Australian costume designer for Hollywood (Women I’ve Undressed, Random, February), found in a pillowcase.
From overseas, we’ll have memoirs from everyone’s favourite neurologist, Oliver Sacks, and music phenomenon Brian Wilson (both Pan Macmillan, October); Richard Branson (Random, October); and Elvis Costello (Penguin UK, October. For fans of The Hare with Amber Eyes, author Edmund de Waal is back with The White Book (Random, October), about porcelain.
WARS, MILITARY AND CULTURAL
The recent World War I anniversary brought a bonanza of war books, and some are still coming. Harvey Broadbent looks at the Turkish story in Defending Gallipoli (MUP, March). Peter Rees has a biography of war correspondent C. E. W. Bean (Bearing Witness, Allen & Unwin, April). Black Inc. is publishing General Sir John Monash’s war letters in August, and Grantlee Kieza has a biography of the World War I commander, Monash(ABC Books, October). Peter Burness has a prose and pictorial survey, Australians at the Great War 1914-18 (Murdoch Books, April). For a view from the trenches there’s Watson’s Pier, with Joshua Funder writing about his great-grandfather’s experiences at Gallipoli (MUP, April).
Prisoners of War, by Joan Beaumont, Lachlan Grant and Aaron Pegram (MUP, June) is a history of Australian POWs. Stuart Macintyre looks at war and reconstruction in the 1940s in Australia’s Greatest Experiment (NewSouth, June). There are also Australian histories of old age (Pat Jalland, MUP, January); the Racial Discrimination Act (Tim Soutphommasane, NewSouth, May); cultural life (New Year’s Day at the Hotel Australia by Lindsay Barrett, Puncher & Wattmann, May) and the 1980s (Frank Bongiorno, Black Inc, November). And for recent ugly history of corruption, there’s Sydney Inc by Kate McClymont and Vanda Carson (MUP, October); and the last volume in Matthew Condon’s Three Crooked Kings trilogy, All Fall Down (UQP, July).
One growing field is anthologies by women. They include Purple Prose, edited by Liz Byrski and Rachel Robertson (Fremantle Press, December); Fury: Women Write about Sex, Power and Violence, edited by Samantha Trenoweth (Hardie Grant, February); and essays on motherhood in Mothermorphosis, edited by Monica Dux (MUP, April); and Mothers and Others (Pan Macmillan, April).
From overseas, look out for Johann Hari’s controversial survey of the war on drugs, Chasing the Scream (Bloomsbury Circus, February). But if you’d rather read about another form of mind-altering, there’s the ever-popular Norman Doidge, with The Brain’s Way of Healing (Scribe, February).
Les Murray’s first volume of poetry in five years, Waiting for the Past, is out in April; Black Inc is also publishing a collection of poems about his home, Bunyah (October). What is probably Clive James’ final volume, Sentenced to Life (Pan Macmillan, April), is a mix of poetry and prose; as is Mike Ladd’s Invisible Mending (Wakefield Press, March).
Other standouts are Net Needle, by Robert Adamson (Black Inc, May); and Western Australian Poetry Anthology, edited by John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan (Fremantle Press, November). Puncher & Wattmann bring us Heart Starter by John Tranter (April), M. T. C. Cronin’s The Law of Poetry (March), Martin Langford’s Ground (June) and Anna Kerdijk-Nicholsons’s Everyday Epic (June).
There’s a poetry retrospective from Jack Davis (Magabala Books, July); Cocky’s Joy by Michael Farrell (Giramondo, March); and Chiaroscuro by Sandy Jeffs (Black Pepper, February). Boleslaw Lesmian, a poet unpublished for 30 years in Soviet Poland, will finally have his voice heard in Love, Sex and Death, a collection translated by Australian Marcel Weyland (Brandl & Schlesinger, March).
Women writers are not getting published—or paid—at nearly the same rate as men. We’re going to change that this year.
After circulating in forums and book blogs for a couple weeks, the news officially broke over the weekend that Youtube star Zoella’s debut novel might not be entirely her own work.
Or at least that is what Zoella and her publisher are saying; I am reasonably convinced that Zoella didn’t write the book, and that this statement from her publisher only bears a vague relation to the truth:
Spokesperson Tania Vian-Smith told The Bookseller: “Siobhan was part of the editorial team.”
She said: “As with many new writers she got help in bringing that story to life. If you read the book, it is clearly Zoe’s story and an expression of herself… As publishers our role is, and always has been, to find the very best talent and help them tell their story and connect them with readers. Talented YouTube entrepreneurs such as Zoe are brilliant at understanding and entertaining their audience. For her first novel, Girl Online, Zoe has worked with an expert editorial team to help her bring to life her characters and experiences in a heartwarming and compelling story.”
So why is this a big deal?
I mean, ghostwritten novels are not a new idea; many volumes in The Baby-Sitter’s Clubseries were ghosted, and so were Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley books for teenagers.
But this is different. With those series, the name on the cover was actually involved in writing at least some of the books (or at least plotting them). But with this scandal, Penguin Random House had made a big deal about Zoella being the author when in fact she very likely had nothing to do with it, and the real author isn’t getting the credit.
What’s more, the book in question, Girl Online, sold 78,000 copies in its first week, leading many news sites to write about how a “24-year-old YouTube star has emerged as an unlikely contender to be this Christmas’s best-selling author” (in the words of The Financial Times).
And now it would seem that is not true.
As first uncovered by members of the forum Guru Gossip, the author of Girl Online is very likely writing coach and author Siobhan Curham. GG forum members were some of the first to cotton to the news close to two weeks ago.
I’d like to give a shout out to the member who listed Zoella’s public activities (and showed she probably didn’t have time to write a book). I’d also like to give credit to the member who found sluggella.tumblr.com, the blog which was the first to break the news on 24 November.
So far as I can see, Sluggella was the first blog to connect the mention of Siobhan Curham in the foreword of Girl Online with Curhan’s own blog post from late August which mentions writing an 80,000 novel in 6 weeks. According to The Telegraph, Curhan is thanked on the acknowledgements page:
I want to thank everyone at Penguin for helping me put together my first novel, especially Amy Alward and Siobhan Curham, who were with me every step of the way
Sluggella noted that type of mention is common for contracts with ghost writers which aren’t explicitly named on the cover. That blog also found Curhan’s blog post about writing a novel in 6 weeks. That post has since been deleted from Curhan’s blog, but a copy is still live on Goodreads.
Here’s the key section that makes me think Curhan wrote Girl Online:
So, when I was asked this year by a publisher if I could write a book for them and oh yes, please could I write it in six weeks, you can imagine the expletive deleteds that popped into my head.
But part of me was intrigued. The same perverse part of me that’s always wondered what it must be like to hang glide over the Niagra Falls.
So, I decided to accept the challenge aaaaaand … I did it!
I wrote an entire 80,000 word novel in six weeks.
That post was originally published on Curhan’s blog but was later deleted – almost as if the publisher was hoping that no one would find it and draw the obvious connection.
Do you know what’s also missing from Curhan’s blog? Any mention of having assisted withGirl Online. Curhan has an about page which lists her books as well as the books where she was hired as an editorial consultant.
Girl Online is not mentioned in that latter section, and given its immense success it really should have been.
All in all, I believe that Zoella didn’t write the book which bears her name. We might not have a smoking gun, but there is enough evidence that I am convinced.
I’m also not terribly surprised. When I first read this summer that a Youtube star had a book deal, I assumed that it would be a memoir and would be ghost written. To find out that the book was a novel, and that it was written by someone else, was only slightly surprising.
Slimy, yes, but not a shock.
Ronald Kessler reportedly attacks Bill and Hillary Clinton with anonymously-sourced stories in his forthcoming book The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of Presidents, according to British tabloids and The New York Post. Critics have described Kessler’s previous books as “National Enquirer-style gossip,” and claims in his previous book on the Secret Service were “strongly disputed” by the agency and other subjects. Kessler was an established journalist for credible newspapers like The Washington Post decades ago but became chief Washington correspondent for the far-right outlet NewsMax in 2006. He subsequently pushed false smears of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and led the charge to promote Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. The First Family Detail is part of a trifecta of anti-Clinton books based on anonymous sources published this summer, along with Daniel Halper’s Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine and Edward Klein’s Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas.
Kessler’s Books Criticized As “Page Six” Style “Gossip” — And That’s His Intent
Wash. Post Review: Kessler Book Features “National Enquirer-Style Gossip” That Could Endanger Presidents. National security reporter James Bamford wrote in The Washington Post that for his book In The President’s Secret Service, Kessler “milked the agents for the juiciest gossip he could get and mixed it with a rambling list of their complaints.” He added: “What is truly dangerous is the kind of National Enquirer-style gossip in Kessler’s book. In the future, without ‘trust and confidence’ in their agents, presidents will want to keep them at a distance, out of spying range — and out of safety range, when split seconds may count. And with President Obama, such concerns may be especially acute.” [The Washington Post, 8/23/09]
New York Times Reviewer: Kessler Book Is “Speculation-Filled.” New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani called Kessler’s Joseph P. Kennedy book The Sins of the Father a “meanspirited, speculation-filled biography … which purveyed a determinedly poisonous portrait of the man.” [The New York Times, 11/29/12]
Globe and Mail Review: Kessler “Relies Too Heavily On Speculation, Gossip, Innuendo And Secondary Sources.” Globe and Mail editorial board member Andrew Cohen wrote of The Sins Of The Father:
For what is called a major book, the research is sometimes suspect. The description of Kennedy’s affair with [Gloria] Swanson, for example, sounds much like her own account. Kessler relies too heavily on speculation, gossip, innuendo and secondary sources. He quotes the nephew of Francis Cardinal Spellman saying that Joe boasted to him that he had put JFK on the cover of Time in 1957 for $75,000 (U.S.). That’s enough for Kessler. Like a reporter on deadline, he goes with what he has, even when it isn’t enough.
Instead of dirtying the dustbin, Kessler might have advanced the story. [The Globe and Mail, 5/11/96, via Nexis]
Wash. Post Review: “Hey, Sex Sells, Maybe These Would Be Page Six Bites On A Slow Day.” Vanity Fair special correspondent Bryan Burrough wrote at the Washington Post of Kessler’s The Secrets of the FBI:
Revelations? Okay. There’s a nice section on what Kessler bills as the untold story of how the Russian spy Robert Hanssen was caught; that probably qualifies. More representative, though, is a chapter called “Threesomes” that recapitulates the 1970s-era Elizabeth Ray scandal — the news here is Capitol Hill’s purported appetite for the ménage àtrois — and tosses in a quarter-century-old tale about an unnamed young lady who supposedly had sex with groups of men in the upper reaches of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. “Attic Girl,” Kessler says she was “affectionately” named. Then it’s on to a 1980s-era tale of a CIA mole who frequented sex clubs. Not too sure what any of this has to do with, you know, the FBI — they made the arrests, I guess — but hey, sex sells. Maybe these would be Page Six bites on a slow day. [The Washington Post, 8/25/11]
Even Kessler’s Publisher Hyped The “Page Six Tidbits” In His Books. As Burroughs noted, publicity materials for The Secrets of the FBI promised it would be “filled with revelations about the Bureau and Page Six tidbits, just like those that made In the President’s Secret Service so successful.” [Crown Publishing Group catalog, Summer 2011]
Claims In Kessler’s Previous Secret Service Book Were “Strongly Disputed”
Secret Service “Strongly Disputed” Kessler Claim That They Are “Totally Overloaded.” In a 2009 report on Kessler’s book, CNN’s Brian Todd reported that the Secret Service “strongly disputed” one of Kessler’s claims:
RON KESSLER, AUTHOR, IN THE PRESIDENT’S SECRET SERVICE: The fact is that they’re — the Secret Service is totally overloaded. They have so many extra duties that they’re performing and the number of agents has not really increased.
TODD: Contacted by CNN, a Secret Service spokesman strongly disputed those assessments, saying the agency is not overstretched and that its ranks have increased. The spokesman says last year, while agents protected several candidates during the longest and most expensive campaign in American history, the Secret Service also had its biggest haul ever of financial assets seized from criminals — $141 million. [CNN,The Situation Room, 10/24/09]
Secret Service Director Debunked Kessler’s Claim Of A 400 Percent Increase In Threats Under Obama. In his previous Secret Service book, Kessler reported that the Service had seen a 400 percent increase in threats under President Obama compared to President Bush. Kessler’s statistic circulated widely. But in a congressional hearing, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said the claim was false, stating that the threats were “the same level as it has been [against] the last two presidents.” [PolitiFact, 3/18/13]
Mary Cheney Told Kessler The Book’s Stories About Her Were False. The New York Post reported of Kessler’s 2009 book on the agency, In the President’s Secret Service:
According to “In the President’s Secret Service” by Ronald Kessler, when Mary demanded the Service shuttle her friends out to restaurants, the agent in charge objected and she had him removed from her detail. The former veep’s daughter also allegedly complained about the Secret Service vehicle assigned to her. “She saw that her sister [Elizabeth] had a brand-new Suburban,” an agent who was on her detail tells the author. “Mary had an older vehicle. She was like, why can’t I have one? Next thing you know, within a day or two, she has a brand-new Suburban from the Secret Service sitting out there in front of her house.” But Mary told Kessler, “These stories are simply not true, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the men and women of the Secret Service.” [New York Post, 8/2/09]
Kessler Left Behind Credible Newspapers For Right-Wing NewsMax
Decades Ago, Kessler Was A Journalist At The Washington Post And Wall Street Journal. According to the biography on his website:
Kessler began his career as a journalist in 1964 on the Worcester Telegram, followed by three years as an investigative reporter and editorial writer with theBoston Herald. In 1968, he joined the Wall Street Journal as a reporter in the New York bureau. He became an investigative reporter with the Washington Post in 1970 and continued in that position until 1985.
Kessler has won eighteen journalism awards, including two George Polk awards–one for national reporting and one for community service. [RonaldKessler.com, accessed 7/31/14]
Kessler Joined Right-Wing NewsMax As Chief Washington Correspondent, Said He Was “Proud To Be Associated” With Outlet. From the 2006 press release announcing his hiring:
“Ronald Kessler is a rare find,” said NewsMax CEO Christopher Ruddy. “Few journalists can claim the enormous breadth and scope of the turf he has covered. He has a long history of combining quality work and balanced journalism, and he has an uncanny ability to ferret out news stories that other journalists miss.”
“Since I first learned about NewsMax, I’ve admired how, in order to tell the truth about subjects ranging from politics to medicine, it presents factual material that the rest of the media ignore,” Mr. Kessler said. “I’m proud to be associated with an operation that practices journalism honestly and fairly.” [NewsMax press release, June 2006]
NewsMax Was Founded By The Chief Promoter Of Vince Foster Conspiracy Theories. Bloomberg Businessweek wrote of NewsMax CEO and founder Christopher Ruddy:
The suicide of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster in 1993 became his defining story, and it was Ruddy who provided conservative talk radio with plenty of fuel for the wide-ranging conspiracy theories that sprang up.
He left the Post in 1994 when billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife hired him to be the national correspondent for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Ruddy would eventually turn his reporting on Foster into a book, The Strange Death of Vincent Foster, in 1997. [Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 3/6/14]
Kessler Left NewsMax in 2012 Citing “Editorial Changes.” On December 19, 2012, Kessler sent the following message titled “left Newsmax” to a distribution email list that he had used to promote his articles: “Because of editorial changes, I am no longer at Newsmax. I am exploring other opportunities and developing the idea for my next book. All the best or [sic] the New Year!–Ron”. [Kessler email obtained by Media Matters, 12/19/12]
NewsMax During Kessler’s Tenure: A Hotbed Of Conspiracy Theories And Smears. From 2006 through 2012, NewsMax frequently promoted conspiracy theories that there were questions about President Obama’s birth certificate (Kessler has written that “Obama was born in Hawaii”); repeatedly pushed false claims of “death panels” in health care legislation; published a column stating that a military coup “to resolve the ‘Obama problem'” was not “unrealistic” (the column was taken down following an uproar); published a column that stated of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, “One need not be a conspiracy freak to observe that such incidents seem to happen again and again at politically convenient moments for the left to exploit”; and stoked readers’ fears of hyperinflation to sell financial products. Salon’s Alex Pareene described the site in 2011 as a “nutritional supplement sales organization and expensive email list with a right-wing news website attached.” [Media Matters, 8/8/12; NewsMax, 12/8/08]
Kessler Won Top Award At Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Conservative activists at CPAC awarded Kessler the “Robert Novak Journalist of the Year” Award in 2010. NewsMax reported that in his speech accepting the award, Kessler said that he was “honored” to receive it. [NewsMax, 2/20/10]
Kessler Believes Fox News Is “Fair And Balanced” Compared To “Mainstream” Media. From Kessler’s CPAC speech:
I was on the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post in the ’70s and early ’80s and I guarantee you, even though the editorials on the Washington Post were liberal, we would have been fired for doing the kinds of stories that appear in the media today. They’re not only biased, they’re dishonest, in many cases they suppress the truth, they suppress the other side, they ignore, or they have it in the last paragraph. And that’s one reason why that the media are going downhill. The mainstream media.
And on the other hand, we have Fox News, which is, which really is fair and balanced. Aside from their opinion shows, such as Glenn Beck, when they cover the news, they actually have a rule that every side has to be presented. When they have guests, they have to have both a Democrat and a Republican. So anybody who says it’s not fair and balanced, I think, has either not watched it or is in denial. [Media Matters, 2/12/11]
Kessler’s Smears Of Hillary Clinton
Kessler Accused Hillary Clinton Of “Pathological Lying.” In a 2007 radio interview, Kessler said “I think people do want a — a fresh start. They don’t want to go backwards. And the other thing about Hillary, of course, is — is her pathological lying, and that’s going to come out.” [KSFO, The Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Program, 7/13/07, via Media Matters]
Kessler Pushed Conspiracy Theory That Hillary Clinton Drove Vince Foster To Suicide. In an August 2011 interview promoting The Secrets of the FBI, Kessler told Fox News of Robert Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, “I surmise that he broke up with her and that’s why she committed suicide, just given the timing.” He went on to claim that then-deputy White House counsel Vince Foster “was depressed, he did commit suicide” because Clinton had “humiliated him in front of all these White House aides.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/9/11, via Media Matters]
Kessler’s Attacks On Barack Obama
Kessler Urged Republicans To Campaign On Obama’s Ties to Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Prior to the 2008 election, Kessler wrote that the GOP should highlight Obama’s ties to controversial pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright “to illustrate how out of step he [Obama] is with most of America … Wright holds the key to what Obama is all about, demonstrating his attraction to a left wing, anti-American agenda.” [Newsmax, 10/28/08]
Kessler Falsely Reported That “Obama Attended Hate America Sermon” With Wright. As USA Today reported, in a March 2008 report under the headline “Obama attended hate America sermon,” Kessler claimed that Obama had been present “during one of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s most inflammatory sermons, even though the Democratic presidential contender has said in the past he wasn’t at the church when Wright made any of his controversial statements.” Kessler based his report on a previous Newsmax article, which he later acknowledged was incorrect. [USA Today, 3/17/08]
Kessler Cited Jeremiah Wright In Explaining Why Romney Would Win In A “Landslide.” Kessler wrote in a November 6, 2012, Newsmax column:
Thus, Obama’s comment that voters should vote for revenge sums up his motivation for running: to get back at the hated establishment, which by definition includes Republicans. While he may have been riffing on the expression “Living well is the best revenge,” you don’t talk about revenge against another individual unless you mean it. It’s the same nasty attitude of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., his longtime preacher, sounding board, and mentor.
Wright said America created the AIDS virus to kill off blacks. “We are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty,” Wright said. “God d*** America!” Thus, Obama emerges as the community organizer he once was — and the exact opposite of the person Americans thought they were electing as president.
According to “The Obamas,” Obama looks forward to leaving the presidency. Then, writes Kantor, he would “finally be unencumbered by politics and free to create real, lasting change.” That mirrors Obama’s recent comment that change can only be achieved from outside Washington.
As Mitt Romney said in response, “The president today threw in the white flag of surrender again. He said he can’t change Washington from the inside. He can only change it from outside. Well, we’re going to give him that chance in November. He’s going outside.”
Last Sept. 4, I wrote the story “Why Mitt Romney Will Win Decisively.” The shift to Republicans in the last congressional and gubernatorial elections, the intensity favoring Romney, and the early voting results on his side — not to mention the state of the economy — are all signs that point to the landslide I have been predicting. [NewsMax, 11/6/12]
Kessler Said There Was A Benghazi “Cover Up” By The White House. During a November 2012 Fox News interview, Kessler claimed then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s controversial Sunday show appearances constituted a White House “cover up” of the Benghazi attacks:
KESSLER: You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure this out. It’s clear that the CIA had the correct story. It’s clear that the White House put out these people. They were representing the White House.
The White House was calling the shots. The White House was trying to cover up the fact that there was a terrorist attack on 9/11. If you doubt that, look at what President Obama said several times trying to claim that a YouTube video was involved. So the president himself was covering up what the CIA was reporting.
A bipartisan Senate report concluded that there had been no White House “cover up” and that intelligence reports linked the inflammatory YouTube video to the Benghazi attacks. [Fox News, Hannity, 11/19/2012, via Nexis; Media Matters, 1/15/14]
Kessler Was Chief Promoter Of Donald Trump Running For President
Kessler Was Major Proponent Of A Donald Trump Presidential Run. Newsmax was “an early and enthusiastic promoter of Trump’s presidential ambitions,” with Kessler playing a leading role in that effort. In early 2011, as Trump sought to promote a potential run for office as well as his belief that President Obama’s birth certificate might be a forgery, Kessler produced articles with headlines like “Trump Says He Will Run For President,” “Don’t Underestimate Donald Trump for President,” and “Trump to Announce His Run for President” (Trump ultimately decided not to run for president, surprising no one except perhaps Kessler). [Newsmax, 1/3/11, 1/20/11, 4/14/11; Media Matters, 4/20/11, 4/13/11]
Kessler Played A Political Role As A Go-Between For Trump’s Nascent Effort. In an article headlined “Donald Trump Wows Conservatives at CPAC,” Kessler admitted to being the go-between who extended Trump an invitation to speak at the conservative conference. He further reported: “This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) focuses on the new kids on the block, the conservatives elected with tea party backing to overturn the liberal spending agenda in Washington. Nobody could have fit that description better than Donald Trump, who was a surprise speaker at CPAC and is planning to run for president.”
Harry Potter enthusiasts will be counting down the 12 days of Christmas with new stories on Pottermore. Over at the Pottmore Insider blog, fans were tasked with cracking a riddle (embedded above) about “a house in Spinner’s End” to unlock the first piece. Perhaps J.K. Rowling decided to continue challenging her fans with Ravenclaw-style puzzles as she did on Twitter earlier this year..K. Rowling Shares New Severus Snape Story On Pottermore
Bestselling author James Patterson may have sold more books than anyone else on the planet, but he’s also down to Earth: He’d hate himself too.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, which publishes next month. Patterson revealed: “I would be like, ‘Well, what’s this? He couldn’t possibly do what he does…I’d probably be kind of irritated by the guy.”
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Michael Pietsch—Patterson’s former editor who is now C.E.O. of Hachette (the parent company of Patterson’s publisher, Little, Brown)—tells Purdum, “In his case, it’s a drive like I’ve never seen. He’s a very competitive person, but I think he’s competitive with himself. Do I wake up at night wondering if it’s going to stop? We had a meeting today in which I proposed that we might want to hold off a secondary format of a book for some point in the future when there might not be an abundance of them in future years, and he looked at me incredulously, as if ‘When is that going to happen?
Author Seth Godin thinks that 2015 will be a big year for breakout self-published works.
In an interview with Digital Book World, Godin said that he expects that Amazon’s eBook market share to continue to grow in 2015. He also said that publishers that know their customers will do a better job building connections.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
What are you anticipating as the big change we will see in 2015?
I think the healthy back-list bump that ebook sales brought will start to be eclipsed by the noise and cruft and occasional winner that’s coming from the self-publishing community.
Looking for ways to promote your books without leaving the office? Shindig has Virtual Book Tour Platform that allows publishers to promote a book to by hosting virtual bookstore events with authors or people from your publishing team.
The platform allows hundreds of people to video chat in a virtual bookstore. As they would in a real book store setting, readers can interact with the authors who are featured and ask questions to a live group. There is even an e-commerce feature so that readers can buy the book from the event.
Bloomsbury Press recently hosted a Shindig event to promote some new titles to book bloggers. We’ve embedded a video demo from the Bloomsbury event above.
We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending December 07, 2014–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.
(Debuted at #7 in Paperback Fiction) The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami: “A lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plot their escape from the nightmarish library of internationally acclaimed, best-selling Haruki Murakami’s wild imagination.” (December 2014)
17-year-old Beth Reekles had a really good year. She published two books; appeared on national TV; sold the film rights for her first book, The Kissing Booth; graduated from high school and started college; and earned a spot on TIME’s list of the most influential teens of 2013, alongside household names like Malia Obama and Justin Bieber. And still she found time to watch five seasons of Gossip Girl.
How did such a young woman get so far so fast? When Beth was 15, living at home in Wales, she wrote a novel (“the kind of book I wanted to read”) and put it up on the story-sharing website Wattpad. 19 million views later, she won a three-book contract with a young adult division at Random House to publish that first book, The Kissing Booth, and two more, including the recently published Rolling Dice. That kind of transition from self-publishing to traditional publishing is rare — but her true-to-life stories of teen romance, sans vampires and werewolves, must have tapped a void that needed filling.
This much-in-demand writer has developed a routine that helps her stay focused. Beth likes to write alone with her computer and a cup of tea. (She avoids writing with others in the room, because she hates the idea that someone might be reading over her shoulder.) If she’s feeling blocked, she turns on background music — such as the soundtrack to Doctor Who or Pirates of the Caribbean — to help her feel more creative. “Something emotive and exciting,” she says. She experiments with form as well — on her Wattpad page, you can find short stories, chapters and novellas, including the holiday one-off “Deck the Halls.”
She’s a freshman at the University of Exeter now and plans to major in physics. She’s busy preparing for January exams and working on her third book. This summer, when classes end, she’s excited to spend her summer typing away, possibly working on a sequel to The Kissing Booth.
We talked to Beth via email about self-publishing, J.K. Rowling, and letting go of bad reviews. Our first question:
What inspired you to write a novel at 15? Here’s Beth –
I was looking for a high school romance that didn’t involve a vampire or werewolf – every teen romance seemed to have a paranormal element, and I was sick of that. So when I couldn’t find the kind of book I wanted to read, I decided to write it instead. That’s how I ended up writing The Kissing Booth.
What did you think when Random House called you up and said, “Hey, want to write a few more for us?”
I was thrilled! I’d thought about traditionally publishing my books, but I didn’t think it would actually ever happen, and certainly not like that! Sometimes I still can’t believe it.
A lot of people in the publishing world are wary of self-publishing. What is your take on it?
Self-publishing is making writing something that a lot more people take seriously now. It gives a lot of new and younger writers the opportunity to try and put their work out there quickly and easily, so it’s encouraging more and more people to write.
What are you writing now?
Right now I’m working on my third book for Random House, which is going to be another young-adult romance, called Out of Tune.
How do you come up with a new character or story? What’s your process?
I usually get the ideas for characters before I come up with a story. My characters seem to have lives of their own that I have to try and put down on paper. I’ve never been any good at planning stories; I often go with the flow and don’t know how the story will turn out until I’ve finished it!
Which authors do you really admire?
J.K. Rowling has always been one of my role models. I’ve loved the Harry Potter series since I began reading it as a child, and when I read about how she persevered despite all the rejection letters, it’s really encouraging and inspiring to me as a writer.
Are there any responses you’ve gotten from fans that have really stuck with you?
I get so many messages from young girls telling me that I’ve inspired them to write, or that they don’t usually read but tried my book and loved it. Those are the ones that really stick with me. They’re very humbling messages to receive, and they always make my day! It’s brilliant to hear that I’ve encouraged other girls to read and write more.
What is one thing you know that you wish everyone knew?
One bad piece of criticism can make you feel like everything you’re doing is a waste of time, but you really need to put it in perspective. Take note of all the good things people are saying!