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January 12, 2005

Richard Curtis at Backspace

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Back when I was following books and the publishing biz, I found it surprisingly rare to run across people with sensible, long-term overviews of the institution of book publishing. Lots of smart people knew a lot about lots of the bits and pieces, of course. But where was the One Guy who had the Big Picture? Sad to say, I never found him.

(I hear that the wonderful Princeton scholar Robert Darnton is at work on a history of publishing, though. Pant, pant: can't wait!)

Still, a close-to-ideal source was the book agent Richard Curtis. I found Curtis brainy and informed; down-to-earth as well as literate and tasteful; and thoughtful. He's also an excellent writer himself: his books about publishing were some of the most helpful I read.

So it's great to see that Curtis is in the middle of a three-part discussion about the State of Publishing over at Backspace. People with an interest in books and how they come about shouldn't miss the series. Part One is an overview of the current state of the biz; Part Two is an enlightening discussion of what's become of paperbacks. Part Three is, so far, something to look forward to.

Backspace itself is a resource that I wish had been around 20 years ago, when I began to fumble my way through the biz. Visitors will find tons of frank discussions about what the whole mess of activities that's collectively known as "book publishing" is really like.



posted by Michael at January 12, 2005


The article on paperbacks is fascinating.

A couple of months ago I made a decision to publish my novel myself; given what Curtis says, that's a good decision--at least, the way I'm doing it. has a nice deal. You upload your book as a high-quality PDF file, along with cover art. You set up an on-line store on their site. They print your book on demand, and take a fixed cut of each sale. You pay no money up front. In otherwords, it's different from most of the self-publishing houses out there--they don't promise you anything, and they make their money from sales of your book, not from your pocket.

So I can get my book published in a nice format, can buy copies for myself and my friends, and if anybody else feels moved to buy a copy they can. If they don't, that's fine too; I've not spent my childrens' inheritance on a garage full of boxes of my own book.

Posted by: Will Duquette on January 13, 2005 8:37 PM

Will -- That's fascinating,tks: I wasn't aware of Sounds like a very sensible way to arrange print-on-demand, which ought to be (but hasn't yet been) a really revolutionary force in publishing. Congrats on the novel too.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 14, 2005 11:08 AM

It's not available yet; I've only just finished getting the PDF ready for printing, and I'm waiting on some cover art my brother's doing up for me. But it should be soon!

Posted by: Will Duquette on January 14, 2005 11:29 PM

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