Today in books and publishing: A nun's banned book on sexuality has a renewed life on Amazon; the business of digital self-publishing; writers and friends remember Ray Bradbury; BEA's last day.
Banning a book is one tried-and-true way to revive its sales figures. We've seen this with Y.A. and now after the Vatican condemned Sister Margaret A. Farley's 2006 book Just Love, A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics. Farley, a nun, talks about topics including human sexuality, gay marriage, and masturbation, the book has "ascended [pun intended?] from No. 142,982 to No. 16" in Amazon's overall rankings. It was also the #1 best-selling religious studies book as of Tuesday. “Over the long run,” [says Margaret Bald, who has written about the religious repression of literature], “it does seem that religious censorship has been pretty futile.” (The Post's Alexandra Petri provides a list of ways more effective than banning to prevent people from reading books: Assign it for homework, for instance.) Darn it, it's out of stock. [Washington Post]
Forbes has an interesting piece on digital books entrepreneur Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, a California-based company that provides free self-publishing software to authors to convert Word documents to e-book files, allowing them to set their own price. Sort of like a Priceline of e-books, maybe? Via partnerships, Smashwords then places those books on the shelves of digital bookstores from Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and Kobo (but not, yet, Amazon). "Smashwords publishes 127,000 titles by 44,000 writers, each of whom collects at least 60% of royalties–four times the amount offered by traditional publishers." (Though the books, of course, are priced lower than traditional printed material.) "The company takes a 10% cut of the proceeds from partner sales and 20% from books sold through its own website," writes J.J. Calao. [Forbes]
Fall book teasers are here! Publishers Lunch is offering "exclusive pre-publication excerpts" from 33 titles to be released in the fall, from authors including Neil Young, Junot Díaz, Barbara Kingsolver, J.R. Moehringer, and Mark Helprin in an ebook called BuzzBooks 2012, downloadable on iTunes, Kindle, Nook, and more. [Publishers Lunch]
In other exclusive previews, check out the first lines of Michael Chabon's new novel, Telegraph Avenue, via The Millions. There's more to come, they promise, in less than a month. [The Millions]
The Ray Bradbury obits and reminiscences continue. Among them, one from Junot Díaz in The New Yorker—"I was speaking of him only yesterday"—one from Patt Morrison in The Los Angeles Times —"Ray, darlin’. That’s what I called him"—and one from Gerald Jonas in The New York Times that remarks upon Bradbury's early success thusly (themes, the more they change, the more they stay the same):
His first big success came in 1947 with the short story “Homecoming,” narrated by a boy who feels like an outsider at a family reunion of witches, vampires and werewolves because he lacks supernatural powers. The story, plucked from the pile of unsolicited manuscripts at Mademoiselle by a young editor named Truman Capote, earned Mr. Bradbury an O. Henry Award as one of the best American short stories of the year.
Sigh of sorrow, sigh of relief: It's the last day of Book Expo America, the big publishing industry event being held at the Javits Center. It closes at 3 p.m. today, and it is open to the public today for a $45 ticket fee (you must register ahead). Go now, or wait a whole year for the next one. [BEA]