Monday, February 28, 2011

It's great to see screenwriters like Aaron Sorkin and Chris Sparling getting the recognition they deserve

It's been said "film is a director's medium," and the whole notion of a name above the title and possessory credit was a battle long ago given up by the Writers Guild of America. Yet a recent wave of Hollywood films seems to be shifting toward what was unthinkable years ago--acknowledging the screenwriter as auteur. It's a subject at the heart of Steven DeRosa's book Writing with Hitchcock, which, in a new expanded edition, closely examines the most important writing collaboration of cinema's most celebrated auteur.

In Writing with Hitchcock, Steven DeRosa invites the reader into what was sacred territory at Paramount Studios for much of the 1950s--Alfred Hitchcock's office, where he and a young screenwriter named John Michael Hayes hashed out, debated, and plotted the movie at hand, until it was time for the director to go home, or to one of his favorite restaurants, leaving the writer to sort through the ideas they discussed that day and weave them into a screenplay. The first of their collaborations, Rear Window, marked a turning point that began the Golden period of Alfred Hitchcock's career, a ten-year-run during which he made his greatest films in Hollywood.

In all, four of those films would be penned by John Michael Hayes, the only screenwriter in Hollywood whose collaboration with Hitchcock lasted beyond two consecutive movies. Yet in spite of Hayes's considerable contributions to films such as Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, and The Man Who Knew Too Much, the director barred Hayes from speaking to the press about his work. It's hard to imagine a director or studio being able to silence a writer in such a way today.

One of this year's top contenders to take home the Academy Award for Best Picture is The Social Network, the film about the battle between the creators of Facebook, which is being touted more as the product of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's talent than that of director David Fincher. Even the official website for The Social Network contains a downloadable PDF of the screenplay. While Fincher himself has been dismissive of the film, Sorkin's script has been praised as an incisive look at a generation and for the irony in its subtext--the story of an idea that promised friendships, but ultimately caused destruction of the friendships between those who created it.

Another film released in 2010 which created a stir around its screenwriter was Buried, the movie which placed Ryan Reynolds in a wooden coffin beneath the Iraqi desert with a cell phone, a cigarette lighter, and little hope. For all the dazzling direction by Rodrigo Cortes, who faced the challenge of making a visually interesting movie in the smallest of spaces, the studio did not shy away from the fact that the concept was the brainchild of screenwriter Chris Sparling. Sparling would later be at the center of his own controversy when an email went out in his name to Academy members asking them to consider his achievement for an Oscar nod.

"It's great to see screenwriters like Aaron Sorkin and Chris Sparling getting notoriety and the recognition they deserve," says Steven DeRosa. "In Hitchcock's day and during the height of the studio system in Hollywood, that just wasn't done. Rear Window is as much John Michael Hayes's film as it is Hitchcock's. But for so long in Hollywood, unless you were a writer-director like Billy Wilder or Preston Sturges, or speaking of more contemporary hyphenates like Woody Allen, Sofia Coppola or Quentin Tarantino, the perception has been that it was solely the director's vision that reached the screen." DeRosa writes that Hayes drew upon situations in his own life when creating the central relationship between the characters played by James Stewart and Grace Kelly in the film. Like Kelly's character, Lisa Fremont, Hayes's wife Mel was a high-style fashion model.

DeRosa makes a compelling case for the significance of Hitchcock's collaboration with Hayes, as the director was in the midst of a career crisis following the failure of his own production company and a string of box-office failures when he called upon Hayes to help him reconnect with his audience. "Although they enjoyed a very fruitful association, it ultimately came down to a matter of contending with Hitchcock's ego. After Rear Window was released and was a huge hit, Hayes began to get recognition from the press and award nominations. After that, his days with Hitchcock were numbered. It's too bad," notes DeRosa, "because the films they made together were the pinnacle of sophistication and suspense at the movies."

Writing with Hitchcock is available now on in both print and e-book editions.

For more information visit, you can join the Writing with Hitchcock Facebook community at

Barnes & Noble's New PubIt! Platform Grabs 11,000 Publishers and Authors

Barnes and Noble, Inc. reported major growth for its news PubIt! (, an easy-to-use digital publishing platform for independent publishers and authors. Since launching four months ago, more than 11,000 independent publishers and authors have joined the PubIt! community of booksellers, adding more than 65,000 new works to the NOOK Bookstore. In fact, there are currently 35 PubIt! titles among the Top 200 NOOK Books based on sales, and Barnes and Noble customers have purchased PubIt! works in more than 50 categories to date.

Barnes and Noble will also expand promotion for PubIt! titles and authors into its retail channels. In addition to in-store events, the company offers PubIt! authors and publishers access to the unique marketing and merchandising opportunities through the NOOK Bookstore, a PubIt! bestseller list and additional exposure through the Read In Store  program.

Authors have found great success with PubIt!. H.P. Mallory, author of Toil and Trouble, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble, and To Kill a Warlock, calls PubIt!, "an incredible experience… one of the best decisions I ever made." Mallory's paranormal romance books have become such a hit that she just signed a three-book deal with a major publishing house. Lori Brighton, author of A Night of Secrets, The Mind Readers and The Ghost Hunter, says, "PubIt! places publishing in the author's hands, which benefits not only the author, but also the reader."

Collection of Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Work Contains New Material

A University of North Dakota authority on Victorian era poetry and literature is celebrating collaborative efforts that has resulted in a new five-volume edition of the works of famed English poet and thinker Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The works contain previously unpublished material. It is the most comprehensive modern collection of Barrett Browning's works to date, and the first new compilation in nearly a century.

A cooperative project by scholars from three countries, the work began in the early 2000s.

Sandra Donaldson, University of North Dakota Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of English and Women Studies, was named to head up one of the more challenging recent scholarly projects in Victorian literature.

A career expert on famed English poet and thinker Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB), Donaldson was the earliest published among a group of fellow EBB scholars who determined that it was time to undertake a full scholarly edition. Those credentials led to her being named general editor of the new five-volume The Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (2010, Pickering & Chatto).

And now that the long-awaited edition is complete, Donaldson can reflect on the specialization and collaboration that made it all possible.

"I like taking care of details, organizing things, seeing patterns," Donaldson said, explaining the work of general editor.

Donaldson led a varied and talented team of junior and established EBB scholars in creating the edition. Nine people from three countries (the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom) are listed as part of the editorial team, including university professors and curators at the Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University. One of the editors, Barbara Neri, is also a performance artist who specializes in spot-on, historical re-enactments of Barrett Browning.

A number of graduate students and other scholars also are credited with assisting the project.

"We all were writing, and in addition I had to make the voice consistent across all five volumes," Donaldson said of one of her duties as general editor.

The idea for the project stemmed from a 1995 conversation among Donaldson and two other principal editors, Marjorie Stone, professor of English and women's studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Beverly Taylor, professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The three lamented the lack of quality and accurate materials for teaching university students about EBB.

Available at the time were outdated works with no annotations, some errors and missing facts because they simply were not known yet. Donaldson and her colleagues knew that without a full scholarly edition, with all the right background and context, a good classroom edition of EBB's works could not be achieved.

In the early 2000s, work on a new scholarly edition began in earnest. A publisher, London-based Pickering & Chatto, was chosen and work was divided and assigned among the editors. Another important consideration was how "copy-texts" -- an author's original text -- might be treated and defended in the new edition.

"Some say only the first version should be used because that is what created the writer's first audience," Donaldson said. "I didn't really like that idea at all because so much was added (in EBB's later versions.)"

Donaldson's team had hoped to tackle the daunting task in three volumes, but the publisher suggested more, settling on the eventual five-volume set early in the process.

"I never imagined it would be that big," she said.

Donaldson was a hands-on manager, not only serving as general editor but also as volume editor of parts three, four and five, including EBB's verse novel, "Aurora Leigh." Stone and Taylor primarily handled parts one and two.

Donaldson said Volume Five, with its inclusion of works that had remained largely unknown -- some uncollected during her lifetime and others simply unrecognized as hers -- was especially exciting to research.

"I love (all the volumes), but that (Volume Five) was the most fun to do because we were truly discovering things," she said.

Donaldson said the collaborative nature of the project worked because there was an implicit sense of trust among the writers despite their geographical differences.

The collaborations were not exclusive to the established EBB scholars on the team. Junior scholars, who in some cases were working toward their master's and doctoral degrees, also benefited.

While at UND, master's degree candidate Jane Stewart Laux contributed to the edition by painstakingly recording variants to EBB's "An Island," inspecting it line-by-line and comparing it with various other versions of the same poem. After graduation, she was named editorial associate on the project.

"She had some wonderful material to work with and she got paid to do it," Donaldson said.

Then there was Clara Drummond, who, at the time the project was in development, was a doctoral student at Boston University. Drummond's master's thesis and Ph.D. dissertation on EBB's translations of Aeschylus' "Prometheus Bound," as well as Drummond's classical journal essay on the same topic, were used and cited extensively by Donaldson in a portion of the edition.

Donaldson also credits Simon Avery, a senior lecturer of humanities at the University of Hertfordshire in England, as another invaluable member of the team. During the course of the project, he became a professor at the University of Westminster in London.

"We learned a lot from Simon, in particular, and Clara did an incredible task — she had knowledge that we did not have," Donaldson said.

Donaldson said the entire process was an effective exercise in collaborative writing. The resulting edition now allows readers, literary historians, students and scholars to more easily study the life and works of EBB.

"Before, you'd have to go to the different libraries around the world where we went to read them," she said. "There were no other places to see these unpublished works, of course."

As part of a requirement to receive National Endowment for the Humanities funding that helped support the project, Donaldson and her team had to lay out a plan for digitizing their work; in other words, make the research accessible on the Web.

Donaldson currently is working with UND's Chester Fritz Library to create a Web presence that features full presentation of all versions of some of EBB's substantially revised poems.

Donaldson said she is happy with the way the long-overdue EBB scholarly edition turned out. It had been more than a century since anything equivalent had been published. She said also she is grateful for the support of the UND community and the great reception the edition has received.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Christian Writer Cecil B. Murphey Supports New Authors Again

Christian writer and New York Times' bestselling author Cec Murphey will for the second year sponsor ten writers with full scholarships to the OC Christian Writers Conference. In addition he is sponsoring two writers with scholarships to the intensive pre-conference workshops. The conference will be held on April 29 & 30, 2011 in Irvine, California. Find out more at

Who is Cec?

Cecil B. Murphey is best known for writing 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper), which has sold more than five million copies and has been on the New York Times best seller list since October 2006, but has actually been in the top-selling 150 books for 15 years, according to USA Today. In fact, plans are in the works for a full-length feature film. For more on his books and work go to

But that's not all he wrote.

Cecil has authored or co-written more than one hundred books that have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold millions of copies. No doubt he has encouraged and touched the lives of millions of readers with hope and inspiration. What has he done with all the fame and prosperity? Cecil says that he can't think of any better investment in the kingdom than to mentor and support other writers, especially Christian writers.

Cecil understands our unique branch of artistry for God. Prior to launching his career as a full-time writer and speaker, Cecil served as pastor of Riverdale Presbyterian Church in Metro Atlanta. He was also a volunteer hospital chaplain for ten years and a missionary in Kenya for six.

He holds bachelor's degrees in education and religious education, as well as master's degrees in education and theology. In addition to all of that, Cecil was awarded an honorary Doctor of Literature from The Richmond Virginia Seminary for his contributions to the writing field. A pastor, a writer, an educator, a philanthropist and a mentor. Cecil B. Murphey is all of this and more. The OC Christian Writers Fellowship and our aspiring writers for God thank you, Mr. Murphey, for your encouragement and generous support.

The OC Christian Writers Conference held on April 29 & 30, 2011 in Irvine, California, is one of the longest running one-day conferences in California. This year's keynote speakers are Simon Tolkien, grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien, and Vinita Hampton Wright. With 27 writing workshops, four writing contests, four acquisition editors, three literary agents, and authors and writers in almost every genre, this is a place to get instructed, get connected, and get published. Find more about the scholarships at

Monday, February 21, 2011

Latest forecast predicts U.S. e-book sales will reach nearly $2.7 billion in three years

The catchphrase "There's an app for that" may soon be replaced by "There's an e-book for that." In a new report, "2011 E-Book Forecast: Get Set for the Next Best-Seller," Yankee Group predicts U.S. e-book downloads will grow at an 83% CAGR by 2013, while paid mobile app downloads will grow at a 72% CAGR during the same period. U.S. e-book sales will grow from $313 million in 2009 to $2.7 billion by 2013.

The report also finds:

E-book unit sales will skyrocket. By 2013, U.S. consumers will purchase 381 million e-books, roughly four times the amount they purchased in 2010.

Average selling prices of e-books will plummet. By 2013, the average e-book retail price will fall to $7, down from an average of more than $9 in 2009.

Age is a factor in e-book adoption. While a third of 18-19 year olds express high interest, key features like scalable fonts, text-to-speech conversion and lightweight e-readers have attracted more than 22 percent of the 65 and over crowd.

Students will have a big hand in stirring e-book sales. Textbooks are heavy, expensive and unwieldy. It's no surprise then that 1 in 4 students express strong interest in e-books.

"E-book prices are falling, unit sales are growing and revenue is skyrocketing--you may ask why this didn't happen 10 years ago," said Dmitriy Molchanov, analyst at Yankee Group and author of the report. "Aside from the growing adoption of e-readers like Amazon's Kindle, new content formats, better content discovery tools and new business models will all drive e-book sales in the next three years. The ecosystem is maturing fast--device makers and others who don't make their move now will miss out on a multi-billion-dollar market."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nook Or Kindle? New Developments In 2011 Creating A Stir by Kathy Erickson

The choice for many people searching for ebook readers in 2011 still comes down to the Nook or Kindle. There are other ereader choices on the market, but the most popular devices by far are still the Nook and Kindle. Let's take a look at an updated comparison of the two and uncover some controversial developments.

Nook and Kindle Physical Design-

Both the Nook and Kindle are similar with same size reading screens, but the 3rd generation Kindle (Kindle 3) has a slimmed down design compared to the Nook. The Kindle 3 is noticeably smaller and lighter than the Nook. Barnes and Noble's device has gone through little or no noticeable changes from the original physical design released in 2009.

The Nook has updated its software to version 1.5, allowing for sorting of titles into "shelves", giving the ability to password protect the device, and giving it the ability to sync between devices. Amazon's Kindle allows you to do all these things with their products as well.

Differences Between Nook and Kindle-

Their are some obvious and not-so-obvious differences between the two devices.

Navigation: The Nook has a color touch screen underneath the reading screen that allows for the user to scroll between and within the titles using the swipe and touch of a finger. The Kindle is pure push-button technology. This technology difference alone is a source of love or hate for each product depending on the customer.

Battery Life: Battery life on one charge differs greatly between the two devices. The Kindle is 30 days with the wireless off, whereas the Nook has a max time of around 10 days with wireless off.

Memory: The Nook has expandable memory, with a standard memory of approximately 1,500 titles. The Kindle has a standard (not expandable) memory of 3,500 titles.

Speed Of Device: Both devices are very comparable in page turn speed. It is apparent when watching both devices work side-by-side, however, that the push button technology for scrolling through the text itself is a little faster.

International Capabilities: Only the Kindle works in foreign countries with the 3G wireless. Otherwise, of course the Nook works anywhere in the world, one just has to think ahead and download titles on the internet.

New Developments Proving To Shake Up The Battle

EPUB Issue: Only the Nook allows for use of the "Epub" file. Why is this important? Public libraries across the country are slowly becoming capable of lending out digital content via "Adobe DRM" software. Not all libraries are there yet, but they are getting there soon.

This issue alone is causing many people to thumb their noses at Amazon and buy the Nook. How will Amazon respond in 2011? They can't ignore this issue forever, or they will get left in the dust, right? We'll have to wait and see.

Amazon's Faulty Covers: Many people this holiday season were getting Kindles that seemed to have a strange problem...They kept re-setting! Amazon worked with numerous people, sending them new Kindles, only to have the same problem happen over and over.

The culprit has now been found and officially acknowledged by Amazon. It was the "non-lighted Kindle covers" that were apparently causing the constant resetting of the devices.

Amazon is attempting to resolve the problem by sending a free "lighted cover" to customers having trouble.

There are some major differences one can see when choosing between the Nook or Kindle, and it will ultimately come down to preference. Both devices are leading the market in ebook reader sales because they are both considered solid products.

Check Out Both Devices In Action

You can get help deciding between the Nook or Kindle by watching a great video showing both in action and getting more info at

Professional Publishing Revenues Rebound with Help from E-books and Online Strategies

Professional books, still a foundational reference source for most working professionals, grew 1.1% to $13.9 billion in 2010, an initial step toward a full recovery. Media and publishing forecast firm Simba Information's latest report, "Global Professional Publishing 2009-2010," details the resilience of professional books through the recession and the explosive adoption of electronic models.

After losing sales in 2009 due to contracted library budgets and decreased exports, professional book publishing, which includes the legal, medical, business, scientific and technical fields, has nearly regained its 2008 position. Although largely due to a recovering economy, new e-book strategies and products from large commercial publishers have helped libraries make the most of their budgets and shelf space.

"Although publishers have dealt with electronic journals for years, producing electronic books as a viable publishing product is slowly taking hold," said Dan Strempel, lead author of the report. "E-books are now gaining a prominent foothold within the professional and academic world at large."

Historically vilified by the scholarly publishing world, search giants, such as Google and Yahoo!, have proven to be a boon to the industry, as added exposure has increased book sales. The report finds publishers are especially excited about Google Books, which allows users to browse sample pages before purchasing the full text or designated sections.

"The number of publishers distributing through search engines is remarkably increasing, a trend which will continue over the next few years," noted Strempel.

Publishers have embraced a print-on-demand distribution model, which allows buyers to purchase a specific digest and have it shipped within 24 hours of placing the order. According to the report, partnerships with online distributors, such as Amazon, have helped make backlist, out-of-print and large print books readily available.

"In short, as the Internet age continues to evolve and offer new business models and distribution routes, professional publishers must continue to explore the many ways books and book content can be seen, explored and purchased," added Strempel. "The possibilities for reaching the right consumer are now limitless."

New York Times Bestselling Author Launches Website For Writers uses state of the art technology to build a unique and free platform for writers to create, edit, publish and sell their books in one seamless process.

The new website offers members (membership is free) a complete set of tools letting writers log on to their book from any computer in the world with an internet connection and write. The built in word processor compliments writing alone, collaboration or co-authoring regardless of geographical boundaries. The program supports multiple story lines and exclusive applications for creating a cast of characters, storing author's notes and chapter outlines and more.

The website has a built in social network, forums and, professional assistance.

Once a book is ready for print, provides a built in cover design wizard and printing at a push of a button directly from the site. There are no set up fees or royalty sharing. The author retains 100% copyright and can order as little as a single copy. TheBookPatch printing price is unparalleled and declines with every additional copy even if ordered one at a time. Authors can update and make changes to their books with no additional charges and retain the previous editions discounts. An average book price for a

200 page book with a full color cover will run between $5.50 and $16 on the average. TheBookPatch also offers an online book store where authors can sell their books and collect the profit while TheBookPatch retains only the printing cost.

"By making the website free to use I want to encourage educators to take advantage of this great tool for their students in this time of economic crunch." - Victor Ostrovsky CEO

More information is available on

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Publishing: Do You Want Your Writing to Stand Out or Blend In? by Cheryl Pickett

One of these things is not like the other... I'm guessing at least some of you know what follows that line from the famous Sesame Street song. For those of you who aren't familiar, the gist of it is that one of four items is not like any of the others displayed together. It might be an orange vs. three apples or three blue items vs. a yellow one for example. The simple sing along lesson reinforces shapes, colors and the skill of comparative analysis.

Along with that, the exercise can give the impression that it's not good to be the one that's different-the one that doesn't belong. It's better to be in the group of what is the same. In truth, sometimes that concept can serve you well. There are times when we don't want to stand out in the crowd, or when we should go with the flow. However, there are also situations when that strategy is detrimental. It's likely you've experienced both being odd person out and blending in perfectly. In publishing, you'll find that, most of the time, you'll need to do some of both.

First, your book needs to be in the "like the others" category in that it falls into a recognizable heading or spot on a shelf, whether physical or virtual. If it's aimed at a particular audience like entrepreneurs or home cooks, it needs to fall within expected norms of what a reader would expect from that kind of book. Even if you publish independently, you still have to be able to speak to the attributes your potential reader will identify with. Go too far to one side or the other and you may only appeal to a fringe audience, which often means fewer sales.

That said, the crazy thing remains that at the same time the book needs to be clearly defined, it also needs to be the attention grabbing yellow one among the blue ones. It's good for it to stand out because it gives a reader who has hundreds of choices an incentive to at least consider it first over the others. If they like it, it makes a recommendation easier instead of comments along the lines of "it's like most of the other ones you've probably read".

The vast majority of holding this fine line will come in the writing. As you write the content of your book, you'll need to develop your unique voice, yet not get too far out of line with regard to common expectation. It's a very tricky balancing act for sure. Walking this line with the right amount of skill means you'll keep the readers happy and your wallet full as well.

If you would like to learn how to create quality content and write your B.E.S.T right now, I invite you to visit my website

Cheryl Pickett has been writing articles, blogs and books for well over a decade. Her mission is to help message driven entrepreneurs, authors and other thought leaders create compelling content faster, easier and with less stress.