April 15, 2024

Media Decoder: Author Found on Penguin’s Web Site Signs Book Deal

Penguin Group USA has plucked its first author from its new electronic slush pile.

Ace Books, an imprint of Penguin, has signed the debut novelist Kerry Schafer to a two-book deal, only weeks after Ms. Schafer posted writing samples on Bookcountry.com, a Web site Penguin introduced in April that invites writers of genre fiction to share their work.

Penguin created Book Country as a site where aspiring authors could post their writing and receive critiques from other users — with the hope that some of the writers might be good enough to publish under the Penguin name.

One of those early users, Ms. Schafer, began posting chapters from an unpublished novel that she had written — a story of geriatric vampires in a nursing home — early in the site’s days. The chapters attracted dozens of comments from other users, but no interest from agents or editors.

In November, Ms. Schafer, who lives in rural Washington State and has a day job as a mental health professional, tried again with “Between,” a fantasy novel about a woman named Vivian who must destroy a powerful sorceress.

That attracted the notice of Deidre Knight, a literary agent, who was browsing submissions on Book Country.

“I read the first 10 pages and said, yes, she definitely needs to send to us,” Ms. Knight said.

Within weeks, Ms. Knight had taken on Ms. Schafer as a client and negotiated a deal with Ace Books, which included a second book, “Wakeworld,” a novel that Ms. Schafer is in the early stages of writing.

Never, Ms. Schafer said, did she expect that an actual book deal would come out of her postings on the site.

“You always hope,” she said. “You always have in the back of your mind that maybe something like this will happen. It was an act of faith on my part.”

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 9, 2012

An earlier version of this post misstated the month in which Penguin Group USA created the site Book Country. The site was created in April of last year, not in May.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5956800e2035b33d276cac6ba06cdf7b

‘Three Cups of Tea’ Author Defends Book

The report could puncture a hole in the uplifting narrative of “Three Cups of Tea,” which has fed a charity run by Mr. Mortenson, the Central Asia Institute. The institute has built schools, mostly for girls, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The report has also revived a chronic concern in the publishing industry over the accuracy of nonfiction memoirs, which are typically only lightly fact-checked by publishers, if at all.

Viking, the imprint of Penguin Group USA that published “Three Cups of Tea,” declined to comment on the book or answer questions about how it was vetted.

The CBS News report questioned, in particular, a central anecdote of the book that was as dramatic as it was inspirational: in 1993, Mr. Mortenson was retreating after failing to reach the summit of K2, the world’s second highest mountain, when, lost and dehydrated, he stumbled across the small village of Korphe in northeast Pakistan. After the villagers there nursed him back to health, he vowed to return and build a school.

The CBS report, broadcast on “60 Minutes” Sunday night and citing sources, said that Mr. Mortenson had actually visited Korphe nearly one year after his K2 attempt. Mr. Mortenson said on Sunday that he did reach Korphe after his climb in 1993, and that he visited again in 1994.

But he added a disclaimer in an interview with The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, saying that while he stood by the information in the book, “the time about our final days on K2 and ongoing journey to Korphe village and Skardu is a compressed version of events that took place in the fall of 1993.”

Viking has maintained near silence since the report trickled out on Friday, saying on Saturday that it relied on its authors “to tell the truth, and they are contractually obligated to do so.”

For the publisher, the situation with Mr. Mortenson was not as clear cut as it was with another of its authors, Margaret Seltzer, who wrote “Love and Consequences,” a memoir discovered to be fraudulent only days after it was published in 2008. Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin that published “Love and Consequences,” immediately recalled all 19,000 copies, offered refunds to readers who had bought it and canceled Ms. Seltzer’s book tour.

“Three Cups of Tea” had a modest start when it was released in hardcover in 2006 but took off after it was published in paperback.

Set in the remote mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, it would be a difficult exercise in fact-checking for any publisher.

“It really is the responsibility of the author to write the truth,” said David Black, a literary agent. “If a publisher were to establish a fact-checking department the way a magazine fact checks, given the length of the works and the number of books they are dealing with, it would become very difficult to publish a lot of nonfiction.”

William Zinsser, who is the author of “Writing About Your Life: A Journey Into the Past,” said on Sunday that publishers have had a “slippery” standard for accuracy in memoirs.

“I don’t think they much care whether it’s true or not,” Mr. Zinsser said. “To me, the essence of memoir writing is absolute truth because I think everybody gains that way.”

Mr. Mortenson declined requests for an interview on Sunday, but he released a memo to several news outlets detailing responses to the “60 Minutes” report. He also forwarded a cheerful e-mail to his staff, sent early Sunday morning, telling them that after suffering from “low oxygen” for 18 months, he had recently been found to have a heart ailment and would be undergoing a surgical procedure on Thursday to correct it.

“Don’t let NYC sensational TV mess with Montana, or the tens of thousands of girls and boys we empower through education, our supporters will rally!” he wrote.

Elisabeth Bumiller contributed reporting.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c275ea93ff38f6045a810d60fd2f8996

Borders Plan for Recovery Is Described as Doubtful

Borders presented a restructuring plan to its creditors on Wednesday that promised publishers and landlords a sleeker, more efficient company poised to emerge successfully from bankruptcy through increased online sales and revamped stores.

But publishers characterized the plan as unrealistic and said they were more convinced than ever that Borders would be forced to sell itself or liquidate.

In a lengthy meeting on Wednesday with creditors, which include Penguin Group USA, Random House, HarperCollins and the Perseus Books Group, Borders executives tried to persuade publishers that since filing for bankruptcy protection in February, the company has stabilized itself and laid a foundation for growth.

It has secured $505 million in financing from lenders led by GE Capital to keep it operating throughout the bankruptcy process.

According to the plan, which was described by people who were briefed on it but who spoke on the condition of anonymity because those discussions were intended to be private, Borders said that it could make a profit by the end of this year and that by 2015 it hoped to make nearly 40 percent of its revenue from online sales, including e-books and print books sold on its Web site.

In February, Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after years of declining sales and management turnover. In the third quarter of 2010, its same-store sales were down more than 12 percent, a loss of $74.4 million.

Borders is in the process of closing 226 superstores and is prepared to close 20 more. Liquidation sales are already complete at some 50 stores.

The company has negotiated rent reductions of more than $30 million with its landlords and is trying to renegotiate other contracts with vendors, people familiar with the plan said. It has also told publishers that it has changed its distribution system to make it smoother and more efficient.

Borders also said that it would tailor its product offerings more closely to customers who frequently shop in the stores. In stores with an especially high number of female shoppers, for instance, categories like children’s books, education, cooking and lifestyle could be expanded.

The company has planned significant changes to its stores, clearing out more space for nonbook products like games, stationery and pens, and expanding its cafes, which could sell a wider array of items, including food from local sources and wine.

Borders said that even in bankruptcy, it has successfully expanded its customer rewards program, called Borders Rewards, and is counting on further growth.

It also plans to offer a larger selection of tablet devices in Borders stores, and to work with the manufacturers of Kobo to make the Kobo e-reading device available more widely in other brick-and-mortar retailers.

The company headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., are expected to be moved to the Detroit metropolitan area, in an effort to cut costs, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

For months, publishers have been skeptical of the quality and permanence of Borders’s plans for the future. They have also privately grumbled about Borders’s plan, recently filed in bankruptcy court, to award its executives as much as $8.3 million in bonuses, in an effort to retain high-ranking employees throughout the bankruptcy process.

One of Borders’s major objectives is to persuade publishers to resume shipping new books to stores under its previous terms. Several publishers said they had been unwilling to ship books to Borders unless they were first paid in cash, and after the meeting on Wednesday, they said they were no more likely to resume normal trade terms with Borders.

“We are not impressed,” one publisher said of the plan. “None of it gave us any reason to think they can get themselves out of this. I don’t think it’s changed anybody’s mind.”

Mary Davis, a spokeswoman for Borders, declined to comment on the specifics of the restructuring plan.

“We had a productive discussion,” she said in an e-mail, and told the creditors “that the business plan we are proposing represents the best path forward for a vibrant and profitable Borders that is in the best interest of our creditors, employees, publishers, consumers and other stakeholders.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0101054e9b7152cdbe917d79ab58c4ae