People of the Book
A Blog about Book Publishing from a Catholic Perspective

Farewell for a While

March 27th, 2008

Why Publishers Are Slow

February 3rd, 2008

Why does it take so long to publish a book? asks a Times Book Review essayist. Answer: marketing. “Publishing still relies on a time-honored, time-consuming sales strategy: word of mouth.”

    As soon as a literary agent has sold a publisher a book, and even before it’s edited, copy-edited, proofread and indexed, the publicity wheels start turning. While writers bite their nails, the book editor tries to persuade the in-house sales representatives to get excited about the book, the sales representatives try to persuade retail buyers to get excited, and the retail buyers decide how many copies to buy and whether to feature the book in a prominent front-of-the-store display, for which publishers pay dearly. In the meantime, the publisher’s publicity department tries to persuade magazine editors and television producers to feature the book or its author around the publication date, often giving elaborate lunches and parties months in advance to drum up interest.

January Catholic Bestsellers

January 31st, 2008

From the Catholic Book Publishers Association:


1. Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism.
George Weigel. Doubleday

2. The Dream Manager
Matthew Kelly. Beacon Publishing

3. Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light
Mother Teresa with Brian Kolodiejchuk. Doubleday

4. Celebration of Discipline, 25th Anniversary Edition
Richard Foster. HarperOne

5. Technology Tools for Your Ministry
Tim Welch. Twenty-Third Publications

6. Rediscovering Catholicism
Matthew Kelly. Beacon Publishing

7. Jesus of Nazareth

Pope Benedict XVI. Doubleday

8. The Rhythm of Life

Matthew Kelly. Beacon/Fireside

9. Simply Christian

N.T. Wright. HarperOne

10. Catechism of the Catholic Church
Doubleday/Our Sunday Visitor/USCCB Publishing


1. The Screwtape Letters

C.S. Lewis. Harper San Francisco

2. Mere Christianity
C.S. Lewis. Harper San Francisco

3. Catechism of the Catholic Church

Doubleday/Our Sunday Visitor/USCCB Publishing

4. The Great Divorce
C.S. Lewis. Harper San Francisco

5. The Cross, Our Only Hope
A. Gawrych & K. Grove. Ava Maria Press

6. The Only Necessary Thing
Henri J.M. Nouwen. Crossroad

7. The Complete C.S. Lewis Classics

C.S. Lewis. HarperOne

8. On Christian Hope

Pope Benedict XVI. USCCB Publishing

9. Life of the Beloved
Henri J.M. Nouwen. Crossroad

10. The Handbook for Today’s Catholic
A Redemptorist Pastoral Publication. Liguori

Review of Reviews

January 30th, 2008

Missed the Sunday book reviews? Catch up here.

Online Book Sales Booming

January 29th, 2008

More books are sold online than any other product and online books sales are booming, according to a Nielsen Online report. 41 percent of internet users in 48 countries had bought books online, up from 34 percent two years ago.

The biggest increases occurred in China, India, and other developing nations. Here are the top ten countries by percentage of internet users buying books online. (The U.S. had 54 million online book buyers, but that was only 38 percent of internet users.)

1. South Korea - 58%
2. Germany - 55%
3. Austria - 54%
4. Vietnam - 54%
5. Brazil - 51%
6. Egypt - 49%
7. China - 48%
8. India - 46%
9. Taiwan - 45%
10. UK - 45%

Fr. Martin Off Broadway

January 16th, 2008

JudasThe Catholic Digest has published a fascinating interview with Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, about his new book A Jesuit Off-Broadway. The book tells the story of the author’s involvement with the theater troupe that produced the play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.

The Digest also interviewed actors and the playwright, Stephen Adley Guirgis, who said this about his play:

    I do think that the idea in the play that’s borrowed from a lot of Christian philosophers is true: that we’re responsible for our own salvation. In the play it’s like Jesus is right there, and I think Jesus is right there for everyone all the time, but you just have to move an inch. And that can be difficult to do, but I don’t think He goes away. I think even if hell, if you flinch, you wake up in heaven.

Dumbing Down

January 15th, 2008

Seth Godin (him again) has a good post on the dangers of dumbing down.

    When you dumb stuff down, you know what you get?

    Dumb customers.

    And (I’m generalizing here) dumb customers don’t spend as much, don’t talk as much, don’t blog as much, don’t vote as much and don’t evangelize as much. In other words, they’re the worst ones to end up with.

    I’ll take the smart customers/readers/prospects every time, please.

Book Titles

January 8th, 2008

Seth Godin has some thoughts about titling books (and other things too). You can be descriptive. You can be clever. Or there’s another alternative: “The third approach is to pick a name that gets talked about. To create a phrase that you hope will enter the vocabulary. . . . It doesn’t always work, but when it does, you sell ten books, not one.”

This List Is What It Is

January 7th, 2008

Lake Superior State University in Michigan has released its annual list of words “banished from the Queen’s English for misuse, overuse and general uselessness.” On the list: sweet (”It is annoying when young children use it and have no idea why, but it really sounds stupid coming from the mouths of adults”); post 9/11 (”You’d think the United States didn’t have jet fighters, nuclear bombs, and secret agents, let alone electricity, ‘pre-9/11′”); and organic (”Things have gone too far when they begin marketing T-shirts as organic”).

My favorite is the ubiquitous phrase it is what it is. Said one critic: “It means absolutely nothing and is mostly a cop out or a way to avoid answering a question in a way that might require genuine thought or insight. Listen to an interview with some coach or athlete in big-time sports and you’ll inevitably hear it.”

The full list is here.

The Secret of Reading

December 19th, 2007

“What will life be like if people stop reading?” asks the subtitle in a New Yorker article. The article doesn’t really answer the question, and reading is actually here to stay. But the piece reviews very interesting research about the beneficial cognitive changes that reading brought about in the human mind. Says one researcher, “The secret at the heart of reading is the time it frees for the brain to have thoughts deeper than those that came before.”

O’Connor on Jansenist Catholics

December 17th, 2007

From “Flannery O’Connor’s Religious Vision,” an article in the new issue of America by Archbishop George Niederauer:

    Still another Catholic fault O’Connor described is, I believe, an evergreen reality in the church: a Jansenistic disdain for human weakness and struggle and distrust of questions, speculations and discussions of any depth. Of the pseudo-faith of such persons she said:

      I know what you mean about being repulsed by the church when you have only the Mechanical-Jansenist Catholic to judge it by. I think that the reason such Catholics are so repulsive is that they don’t really have faith but a kind of false certainty. They operate by the slide rule and the Church for them is not the body of Christ but the poor man’s insurance system. It’s never hard for them to believe because actually they never think about it. Faith has to take in all the other possibilities it can.

    In considering such people’s self-righteous judgments of others, she made an acute observation: “Conviction without experience makes for harshness.”

The article is here, but behind a subscriber wall.

Learned Attack Ad

December 16th, 2007

A philosopher goes negative.

Advent Reflection

December 14th, 2007

“Isaiah’s discovery that God is beyond compare reveals what may seem a disturbing truth: God is, finally, unknowable. Still, while he is not to be absolutely known, he is apparently willing to reveal something of himself to us at nearly every turn. Think of it like this: he cannot be exhausted by our ideas about him, but he is everywhere suggested.

“He cannot be comprehended, but he can be touched.

“His coming in the flesh — this Mystery we prepare to glimpse again — confirms that he is to be touched.”

–Scott Cairns

From God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas

Turning Web Material into Books

December 13th, 2007

The Times looks at successful books that have been created from free content on the web. It turns out that many people would rather read a book than read something online. These books “may allay some fears that giving something away means nobody will want to pay for it.”

New Books

December 12th, 2007

Before I Go: Letters to Our Children About What Really Matters by Peter Kreeft (Sheed & Ward) is one of the author’s most clever and readable books. (He’s written forty-five of them.) Kreeft, who is a philosophy professor at Boston College, distills his wisdom about what matters into 162 nuggets of entertaining prose. #48 is titled “The Oprah Piss Test.” What’s the difference between books written by tough-minded agnostics (Scott Peck) and tender-minded ones (Mitch Albom)? Books written by the tough-minded will piss off Oprah. Books by the tender-minded never do.

John Paul II: An Evangelical Assessment, edited by Tim Perry (IVP Academic) testifies to the late Pope’s vast impact on all of Christianity. These essays show evangelical Protestant scholars thoughtfully engaging John Paul’s writings. One of them, Timothy George, calls John Paul “our common teacher.”

E-Books and Google’s Scanning Project

December 5th, 2007

Forbes has a succinct review of e-book technologies present and future. “Even if Kindle’s hardware doesn’t yet wow users, its competitors’ inventions soon will.”

The AP’s technology writer surveys the sales of e-books. They are catching on in a few niche markets: fantasy game players, some college text buyers, and readers of romance novels.

Powerful forces are lined up to oppose Google’s project to scan millions of books. This piece in the American Standard suggests that Google’s enemies may prevail.

The Meaning of Christmas

December 3rd, 2007

God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas (Paraclete) is a lovely, enormously appealing book that is a companion for prayer and reflection throughout the Christmas season — Advent to Epiphany. It features splendid writers: Scott Cairns, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Eugene Peterson, and Luci Shaw. It also contains reproduction of great art.

In their reflections, the contributors return to the paradox of Christmas. The season is full of stress and troubles. We fume at iits commercialism and its busyness. And yet it celebrates the Incarnation, which means that God entered our messy world just as it is. Eugene Peterson puts it eloquently:

    There is too much stuff, too many things. And all of it festively connects up with Jesus and God. Every year Christmas comes around again and forces us to deal with God in the context of demanding and inconvenient children; gatherings of family members, many of whom we spend the rest of the year avoiding; all the crasser forms of greed and commercialized materiality; garish lights and decorations. Or maybe the other way around: Christmas forces us to deal with all the mess of our humanity in the context of God who has already entered that mess in the glorious birth of Jesus.

Reading and Surfing

November 29th, 2007

Why do some people become voracious readers? Motoko Rich has some thoughts.

Are people going online instead of reading books? A new study suggests that television might be the big loser: “The study found that 36% of respondents spent at least four to six hours of personal time on the Internet versus only 23% of respondents who spent that amount of time watching TV.”

Tiffany Sanders set out to read all the Loyola Classics books, but something happened: “The first book I ordered was Jon Hassler’s North of Hope, and I’m afraid it’s derailed me. I planned to work my way through the Classics list, but that’s going to have to wait until I’ve worked my way through Hassler’s other novels.”

Busted Halo loves Fr. Jim Martin’s new book A Jesuit Off-Broadway.

This is very beautiful: a high-definition image of Leonardo’s “Last Supper.” The same site also has an image of Pozzo’s fresco of the glory of St. Ignatius Loyola.

Kindle Buzz

November 26th, 2007

Amazon’s new Kindle eBook reader has been met with mixed reviews. A “future of the book” cover story in Newsweek sees the Kindle as the device that will bring about the much-predicted and long-delayed digital upheaval in publishing. Other reviewers are more skeptical.

Seth Godin thinks that the Kindle can make Amazon a publisher.

Meanwhile, there’s news of an even more revolutionary breakthrough in information storage.

Trinity Wins

November 25th, 2007

Even a lukewarm football fan like me finds this play pretty exciting. Trinity has the ball on its own 40. They are trailing 24-22, and there are two seconds left in the game.


November 22nd, 2007

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

–e.e. cummings

Do Good and Learn Too

November 19th, 2007

Test your vocabulary, learn some new words, and feed the hungry at My high school Latin came in handy while I was taking the test.

The Pope Is Writing

November 18th, 2007

The Vatican says that Pope Benedict is working on the second part of his book Jesus of Nazareth. He will discuss the gospel accounts of Jesus’ infancy and his passion, death, and resurrection in the second volume. The first part of Jesus of Nazareth was published this year. Benedict is completing an encyclical on hope that may be published this year, and he working on another text on social issues.

Other6: Ignatian Spirituality Online

November 16th, 2007

Loyola Communications had just launched, a website that offers a simple program to help spiritual growth. Visitors are asked to answer two questions: “Where have you found God today?” “Where do you need to find God today?” The site will keep track of your answers. Over time, you should be able to see patterns of God’s work in your life.

Paul Campbell, the Jesuit who leads the site’s team, is so confident that Other6 will make a difference that he’s issued a 14-day challenge. Use the site every day for two weeks. “If at the end you haven’t learned more about yourself and about God, we’ll give you your old relationship with God back to you!”

Paul is confident because the idea behind Other6 has a long and distinguished history in the church. It’s based on the Daily Examen of St. Ignatius Loyola. This is a method of prayerful reflection on the events of the day that is designed to detect God’s presence. The Examen is a daily discipline which especially looks for God in the ordinary events of life. The name of the site reflects this emphasis. It refers to the “other 6″ days of the week — the days of the week besides Sunday.

At the site you can read what other people say about where they have found God, and where they need God. (Identities are hidden, of course.) My favorite today is a woman from Pennsylvania who writes, “After six years of loneliness Bob came into my life. I feel like I’m 60 again.”

Digital Distribution and the Book Biz

November 15th, 2007

Barry Eisler foresees the time, coming soon, when the clerk at your bookstore will print a copy of any book you want at a POD station. Distribution is no longer an issue. What will this do to the book business?

Publishers won’t need their sales forces. Price will become less important. Selection won’t be an issue because every book will be available at every store. Retailers will become publishers — something we already see at Borders and B&N. Eisler wrote three articles on the subject. The first one is here.

My question is: what will bookstores look like in this new world? Won’t they still shelve books for the many buyers who want to browse? Who want to hold the book in their hands?

National Novel Writing Month

November 13th, 2007

I haven’t had much web surfing time lately (too much writing to do) so I just learned about National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in the month of November. Last year 13,000 writers did it (out of 79,000 who signed up): “They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.” Details here.

A Cautionary Self-Publishing Tale

November 13th, 2007

The Wall Street Journal tells the story of a self-publisher who made every mistake possible: bad title, too many books, no distributor, weak marketing. But he learned. He’s recouped his investment and the book is up for an award.

The Catholic Novel

November 9th, 2007

“The Catholic Novel Is Alive and Well in England” is an excellent essay about Catholic writers and the future of the Cathlic novel. Author Marian Crowe praises the work of Alice Thomas Ellis, Sara Maitland, David Lodge, and Piers Paul Read. She makes some bold predictions about what we might see in Catholic novels to come. Among them: a rapprochement with secularity, a broader perspective on sexuality, and more fiction in the comic mode.

Book Blogs and Book Reviews

November 9th, 2007

Many newspapers have been drastically reducing the space devoted to book reviews. At the same time, blogs where books are reviewed and discussed have proliferated on the internet. Are these trends related?

Book blogger Jerome Weeks thinks they are, but in a surprising way. Book blogs haven’t caused the decline in newspaper reviews. That’s happening because newspaper advertising is declining, forcing cutbacks of all kinds. But book bloggers are benefiting from these cutbacks, Weeks says. Publishers are shifting their advertising from print to the web and a significant amount of this money is going to blogs.

Weeks sees Jessica Crispin’s Bookslut blog as the leading success story. She makes a living from Bookslut. Says Weeks: “to put this in an even larger context, just so we can fully grasp its significance: It has been fairly rare in the history of American literature that anyone has made a living writing about books in any medium, in print, online, on air, whatever.”

Three New Books

November 7th, 2007

At the height of the sexual abuse scandal several years ago, Boston College editor Ben Birnbaum asked Catholic writers to “reflect on the nature of hope and its sources and uses in our time.” Only one writer said he had no hope. The answers of the other 35 are published in Take Heart: Catholic Writers on Hope in Our Time (Crossroad). Some of the writers tackle hope in theological and philosophical terms. But almost all of the writers, being writers, associate their hope with things: “green chile, a blooded crossroad, a Monday evening meditation group, a subway ride, charm braclets, ‘Danny Boy,’ a neglected church building, and AIDS clinic, and Spanish anarchists,” writes Birnbaum. In other words, hope is everywhere.

Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2008 (Ave Maria) is the dead-tree version of the hugely popular website The website, operated by Irish Jesuits, is a superb destination for daily prayer. The book contains most of what’s on the site. It frees you from the limitations of the internet. You can read it in bed, in the bathtub, on the beach, in church — anywhere.

The Benedictine Tradition by Laura Swan (Liturgical Press) presents Benedictine spirituality through the lives and writings of great saints, scholars, abbots, and martyrs. Swan writes concise essays about 13 Benedictines, along with excerpts from their writings. It’s an excellent way to learn about this great spiritual tradition.

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