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Last weekend, Wendy Strothman joined two editors, three other agents and about 30 midcareer writers at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.  The setting was a panel discussion that sought to demisify book publishing.  Here's one piece of their invaluable advice:

Editors and agents think simultaneously about the quality of the idea and the existence of a market for it. This is why in developing a book proposals it’s important to research and write about the competition—the existence of other successful books in an area shows that people will be willing to plop down $25 for a book on the subject. As Wendy Strothman explained, if she’s going to spend months with an author developing a worthy idea, she wants to make sure that there will be a payoff in eventual sales.

For the rest of Constance Hale's report on the panel, head over to...

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The Teen Brain: It's Just Not Grown Up Yet

By Richard Knox

"When adolescence hit Frances Jensen's sons, she often found herself wondering, like all parents of teenagers, "What were you thinking?"

"It's a resounding mantra of parents and teachers," says Jensen, who's a pediatric neurologist at Children's Hospital in Boston.

Like when son number one, Andrew, turned 16, dyed his hair black with red stripes and went off to school wearing studded leather and platform shoes. And his grades went south.

"I watched my child morph into another being, and yet I knew deep down inside it was the same Andrew," Jensen says. Suddenly her own children seemed like an alien species.

Jensen is a Harvard expert on epilepsy, not adolescent brain development. As she coped with her boys' sour moods and their exasperating assumption that somebody else will...

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Client Hélène Boudreau has some excellent advice on her blog today about query letters.  Her query letter was so well done that Jabberwocky is using the first sentence on her book cover.

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2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalists

History Finalists
  • Richard Holmes, Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Pantheon)
  • Martha A. Sandweiss, Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line (The Penguin Press)
  • Kevin Starr, Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance 1950 – 1963 (Oxford University Press)
  • Amy Louise Wood, Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940 (University of North Carolina Press)
  • Gordon S. Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic 1789 – 1815 (Oxford University Press)

To see the finalists in the other categories, click here.

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What every author should know:  if you want your book to succeed today, you’ll need to do lots of legwork.  Here’s an inspiring story from a bestselling author:

 From: The Immortal Book Tour By Rebecca Skloot -- Publishers Weekly, 11/9/2009 2:00:00 AM

A month ago, I’d have thought the idea of organizing my own book tour with the help of my brain-damaged father was nuts. My father, Floyd Skloot, has written several books about the neurologic damage he suffered from a virus in the ’80s—it affected his memory, his abstract reasoning, and his ability to think about multiple things at once. Exactly the abilities a person needs to envision and organize a book tour. And I’m no better. Somewhere between writing a book, taking a teaching job, freelancing, and becoming my own publicist, things got a bit...

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Book Tours

From Publisher's Marketplace: Make eBooks Cheap, Or Grandpa Will Steal Them

It's tempting to dismiss today's NYT piece on ebook readers preference to pay less money for titles for the unsubstantial work that it is. But since it runs in the Times, some people will automatically take it seriously, despite the anecdotal reporting and absence of any data. (Not that none exists--but there's no mention here of recently-presented findings on price sensitivity from the BISG and Verso surveys, or Kobo's presentation that they sell almost as many ebooks at prices greater than $9.99 than they do at $9.99 itself, or the informal accounts of agents who have seen pricing data presented to them by Amazon. Or gosh, even the actual survey news of the week, in a "proprietary survey" from Goldman Sachs...
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Op-Ed From the Baltimore Sun, February 7, 2010:

Oysters vs. oystermen?Maryland should try harder to preserve both a healthy bay and a way of life

by Christopher White

A watershed moment in Maryland history unfolded last month when Chesapeake Bay watermen marched on Annapolis to protest Gov. Martin O'Malley's Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan. At stake was whether the bay's shellfish beds will continue to be in the public domain - a public fishery - or whether they will be reassigned, in whole or in part, as private leases available for aquaculture.

Unfortunately, this issue is typically...

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In the recent issue of The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik writes: “In American writing, there are three perfect books, which seem to speak to every reader and condition: “Huckleberry Finn,” “The Great Gatsby,” and “The Catcher in the Rye.” All three very good books, but what about the women?  We think Gopnik’s pantheon leaves out some equally wonderful American novels written by women. If we...

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Guest post by Martha A. Sandweiss, Author of NBCC finalist Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line

Researching and writing Passing Strange presented many challenges, not the least of which was making my two main protagonists – Clarence King and Ada Copeland – equally vivid characters in the book.

King’s life is well-documented in the historical record. An intrepid explorer and brilliant geologist, he led the fortieth Parallel Survey that helped map the West in the years following the Civil War and in 1879 became the first director of the United States Geological Survey. A talented essayist and celebrated wit,  he made his mark among the elites of Gilded Age...

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 From Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Jan. 27: Economist James Galbraith, author of THE PREDATOR STATE, explains whether President Barack Obama’s spending freeze will hinder the government's economic recovery.

 Watch the video here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/vp/35116049#35116049

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