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April 16th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Book Biz; Philip Turner's Books & Writing

Eager to Participate in the Adirondack Center for Writing’s Publishing Conference, June 7

I’m looking forward to being part of the Adirondack Center for Writing’s Publishing Conference on Sunday June 7. I will be evaluating the work of about a dozen writers during the workshop. It should be fun to encounter all this new work and talk about writing and publishing with all the participants. The conference will be held near Lake Placid, NY. If you know any writers who live in that region of upstate NY, please let them know about the event. Thanks to Michael Coffey and Nathalie Costa for the invitation. Click here for more details and see the screenshot below. 

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March 24th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Art, Film, TV, Photography, Fine Printing & Design

“Beurre,” a Short Film about Butter—by Ewan Turner

Some fun from my film-making son Ewan Turner, 2:20 in length, viewable here. Apologies to Edith Piaf.

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March 12th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Publishing & Bookselling

Inspired Readings by the 2014 NBCC Award Finalists

NBCC AudienceFrom the opening night of the National Book Critics Circle‘s annual two-night literary extravaganza, here are pictures I took of some of the finalists who read excerpts from their nominated books. They gave inspired renderings of their work. The awards will be given tonight, in six categories—Poetry, Criticism, Biography, Autobiography, Nonfiction, Fiction—at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium on W. 11th Street at 6pm, free admission. I hope to sit even closer to the stage tonight, for the best possible pictures.

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March 6th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Art, Photography, Design; Urban Life & New York City

NYC & Hudson River Views, March 5-6, 2015

4 Shore SnowPictures taken on walks in my Manhattan neighborhood March 5-6, 2015. On Thursday, there was wind-driven snow from midnight till evening with about 7 inches accumulation, when I took the first two pictures posted here. Today, Friday, was bright and sunny, a good day for a walk along the Hudson. All pictures here.

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March 5th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Publishing & Bookselling

PEN’s Annual Meeting a Reminder of the Organization’s Mission

PEN’s annual meeting last night was the third or fourth such gathering I’ve attended, and it was enriched by the fact that a programmatic element was included in the event, a panel on a recent PEN visit to China, when the delegation met with Ai Weiwei, among other artists and writers. While in other years the meeting was mostly minutes and committee reports, last night’s reminded us of PEN’s mission as an advocate of free expression. Quoting Aung San Suu Kyi from her years as a political prisoner in Myanmar, incoming PEN president Andrew Solomon reminded us of PEN’s mission: “Please use your liberty to defend ours.”

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February 8th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Book Biz; Philip Turner's Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling; Science

Tracking Malaria, its Calamitous History and Worrying Future

Fascinating Q&A on C-Span BookTV w/narrative science writer Karen Masterson, author of The Malaria Project: The US Government’s Secret Mission to Find a Miracle Cure, which chronicles the efforts of the US military, which— worried about the disease’s potential to infect American troops serving in far-flung locales—to find a cure for the mosquito-borne disease. Interesting to me, the book, which looks to be fairly serious science, is published by NAL. They brought out it in 2014, apparently first in hardcover. By my reckoning, NAL is a house long known more for mass-market paperback fiction than narrative nonfiction in hardcover. It looks like the book is now out in trade paperback. Good for NAL, a nice piece of publishing. More on Masterson and her book via this link. You can view the video via this link on BookTV’s website.

One thing Masterson said amazed me. The effectiveness of bed nets—which have been a useful tool in combating malaria, preventing mosquitoes from biting people while they sleep—is being eroded because mosquitoes, hungry for what scientists call their “blood meal,” are adapting their behavior and learning to bite people earlier in the day when they are still out and about. In watching her talk about this global affliction that sickens and weakens millions worldwide every year—and kills a considerable percentage of those stricken—I was reminded of a book that I began discussing in 2006 with Paul R. Epstein—a doctor and scientist, and at the time, associate director of Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment. Epstein was a trailblazer in studying the effects of climate change on human health. I first heard his distinctive New York accent when he was a guest that year on an episode of “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross. You can still hear it, via this link. Listening to their conversation in a rental car, in a classic ‘driveway moment,’ I learned that due to the planet’s warming temperatures, mosquitoes that transmit malaria have over the past several decades begun doing so at more northern latitudes and higher elevations than they have ever been known to do before. Epstein also discussed the finding that the tick-borne illness dengue fever is also occurring at latitudes and elevations where it was before not seen. Epstein discussed how these diseases are infecting a much greater number of people worldwide due to the warming of our planet.

These are only a couple of the scientific discoveries chronicled in Epstein’s book, Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It, co-written with Dan Ferber, which ultimately came out in 2011. I actually commissioned it in 2007, shortly after I became Editorial Director of Union Square Press at Sterling Publishing, a job that ended two years later when Sterling, a division of Barnes & Noble, shuttered the imprint, a milestone I’ve also written about on this blog. When I left the company, my old bosses quickly canceled Dr. Epstein’s book, although I had nearly completed editing the manuscript. Fortunately, that decision, though very shortsighted, did prevent the book from being published as soon as it might have, but it was later picked up by the University of California Press, to be published alongside other important environmental titles. This is a link to the book on U Cal’s website. Sadly, Dr. Epstein, died in November 2011, at age 67, of cancer. Here’s a Washington Post obit on him. Though we fell out of touch after Union Square Press closed, I recall we did speak a couple more times, and he sent me a finished copy of the book, which he inscribed to me with a very generous message, “April 25, 2011 To Phil Turner—The motivating force for this book. Warm wishes, Paul,” pictured below. I didn’t know he was ill, and was stunned by news of his death.

Before Dr. Epstein became a teacher and researcher at Harvard, he had worked as a doctor in places like Mozambique and Angola, devoting himself to the study of tropical diseases and improving public health in developing countries. It was a privilege to meet and work with him. I was really sorry he wasn’t able to make personal appearances in front of audiences, on TV, and on radio, like I first heard him. As I listened to Karen Masterson on C-Span tonight, I found myself wondering if she knows about Paul’s research on the growing incidence of malaria and other illnesses worldwide due to climate change, and if she has perhaps read Dr. Epstein’s book. I see she teaches science writing at Johns Hopkins, so perhaps I’ll have a chance to send her this post and find out.

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February 1st, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Book Biz; Publishing & Bookselling

And Yet…Looking at Publishing’s Big Five and the Book Business Today

This weekend I read an essential piece about the state of the book business today from industry analyst Mike Shatzkin. It’s titled “No, the Big Five are not a cartel and it really ignores reality to label them as one.” You may read it at the author’s blog via this link. (Disclosure: I’ve known Shatzkin since 1980.)

His piece, in part, pushes back on rhetoric from some people in the self-publishing community who cast publishing’s Big Five (that’s Penguin Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins) as a veritable OPEC of books. He doesn’t so much defend the Five as point out realities that apply in the business, actualities that are sometimes overlooked or skipped over by some of self-publishing’s most zealous celebrants. One critic, Barry Eisler, claimed during a panel at the recent Digital Book World conference that publishers don’t really compete against one another, and instead largely cooperate with each other to the detriment of authors. As Shatzkin shows, this isn’t really borne out by the facts:

“First of all, the Big Five have plenty of competition: from each other, as well as from smaller niche publishers who may but [sic] be ‘big’ but certainly aren’t ‘small’. (That is why the big ones so often buy the smaller ones — they add scale and simultaneously bring heterogeneous talent in-house). They are all quite aware of the authors housed elsewhere among them who might be wooable. In fact, since we have started doing our Logical Marketing work, we have done several jobs which were big author audits commissioned by publishers who wanted to steal the author, not by the one which presently has them signed. Eisler explicitly resisted accusing the publishers of ‘collusion’, but he does accuse them of ‘not competing’ with each other. That is an accusation that is simply not supported by the facts. Nobody who has spent any time talking to people who work in big houses could possibly get the impression that they don’t compete.”

My own outlook on the book business is derived from the fact that I’ve worked in many sectors of it—retail bookselling from 1978-85; small and big-house publishing from 1985 to 2009; and for the past six years, I’ve been working independently, often with self-published authors. I appreciate the new access writers have to publication, an emerging space that’s also enabled me to chart a new career path over the past six years. As an editor and consultant, I help writers pursue all their options, including self-publishing; as an author’s representative, I also look to license books to traditional publishers. I have criticisms of big and small houses, believing, for instance, that they should pay higher royalties than the 25% of net proceeds on ebooks that is common. And yet, I also appreciate what traditional publishers, big and small, are capable of doing for the titles they acquire and publish.

I don’t believe self-publishing solves all problems in the book business, and am uneasy with what I take to be a kind of evangelical fervor for self-publishing exhibited by some people. And yet, I definitely relish the variety in the business now, as barriers to publication have been lowered for many writers who wouldn’t earlier have found their way in to print. If you want an informed perspective on the business today, I recommend you read Shatzkin’s latest column, and keep up with what he posts on his blog. For starters, here’s a screenshot of the first four paragraphs of “No, the Big Five are not a cartel and it really ignores reality to label them as one.”

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January 24th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Personal history, Family, Friends; Philip Turner Book Productions; Philip Turner's Books & Writing

Glad to Be Part of Publishers Weekly’s Coverage on Post-Corporate Life in the Book World

I’m glad to be one of three editors featured in a Publishers Weekly article about how editorial professionals with long careers in-house have re-made themselves post-corporate life. The other editors are Pat Mulcahy and Joan Hilty. It’s up online today, and will be a spread with photos in the magazine’s print issue on Monday. I’ll scan a copy of the print story to share on this blog when I get a print copy, but meantime here is a link to the story, headlined “Publishing, After a Life in Publishing.” In particular, I was happy to explain to PW reporter Calvin Reid the role that my blogs have played in my post-corporate career, which Calvin characterized it this way: “He launched a blog, the Great Gray Bridge, on his website, philipsturner.com, and got his first job, ‘by word of mouth.’ He credits the blog and his writing with bringing in work. ‘People come to my blog and find out that I’m offering editorial services,’ he said.”

Also very glad my author client Mike Orenduff and his superb six-book POT THIEF mystery series are both mentioned in the article, along with a mention of Open Road Integrated Media, the company where I licensed the books in 2013, to editors Tina Pohlman and Philip Rappaport. Until I get the print issue, Below are scanned images of each of the story’s three pages, and then a screenshot of the online story’s first six paragraphs. Please note I submitted three corrections for the story that have been input on the online version.

Readers of this blog, please note, I submitted three corrections for the story that have been input on the online version. For the record, they are: 1) In the 4th paragraph, while I was first “executive editor” at Carroll & Graf, I was “editor-in-chief” my last couple years there. 2) In the 5th paragraph, the author of the POT THIEF series is “J. Michael Orenduff” (not J. Michale Orendoff). 3) In the 14th paragraph, the correct quote about my writing is that I found I had the “psychic elbow room” to write, not “psychic space.”
 PW Turner Jan 23, 2015