Q & A with Erin Fitzsimmons

Q & A with Erin Fitzsimmons

House of Ivy and Sorrow

In recent years, I doubt there’s been a greater publishing success story than Young Adult — or ‘YA’ – fiction.

Sometimes mistakenly described as a genre, YA is actually an age-category roughly ascribed to books across a range of subjects and genres that are suitable for teenagers. Yet, confusingly,  YA is not quite synonymous with ‘Teen Fiction.’ While Teen Fiction is assigned books appropriate…

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Penguin Books Wallpapers

In a partnership with file-transfer service WeTransfer, Penguin Books (UK) has made a series of rather nice desktop wallpapers available. The photographs feature book covers from their Street Art series, as well as recent designs by Jon Gray and Nathan Burton. Click on the images for the hi-res versions:

Iain Sinclair, American Smoke (Cover: Nathan Burton)

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At Guernica Magazine, Jonathan Lee interviews Fiona McCrae, the publisher at American independent press Graywolf:

Any day of the week you can see that the big publishers are publishing some great books… But I think sometimes the context they’re working in involves the wrong kind of economic stress—or at least, a focus on economics and commerce that is not always conducive to interesting literary dialogue, or finding the new things that are happening at the edges of the literary culture. A very big publisher is unlikely to publish poetry unless the poets have already proven themselves—made it. And they are unlikely to go anywhere near essays, or hybrid books that fall between genres or play with conventions. Translation. Short stories. Criticism. We’re able to publish all these things, but someone who is required to hit X financial target each year is unlikely to go anywhere near those areas of literature…

There are dozens of obstacles to any given book succeeding. If a book succeeds it always does so against the odds. The odds in one generation might relate to the fact that people would rather be watching television than reading your book. The odds in the next generation might be that they’d rather be on their computer than reading your book. Once it was that people would rather be riding a bicycle than reading your book. It doesn’t do any good to be talking, as an author or publisher, about the obstacles. There are better uses of energy, I think. Yes, we can all feel helpless and wary in this industry sometimes, but it’s better, as a publisher, to look at the ways in which e-books and Twitter and so on can help us reach new readers, rather than treating social media as an enemy to literature.

Just last Friday, Publishers Weekly ran a short piece about the surprise success of Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize:

The Empathy Exams has already gone through five print runs, and a sixth print run of 10,000 copies has been scheduled, bringing the total number of copies in print to 25,500.

Graywolf, the small literary press in Minneapolis that published The Empathy Exams, is no stranger to media attention, having published books that have won National Book Awards and Pulitzer Prizes. While the publisher expected that the collection, which won the 2011 Graywolf Nonfiction Prize on the basis of a partial manuscript, would receive positive media attention, it is still a bit taken aback at the degree of acclaim. The buzz began months ago, when the key independent booksellers who received early galleys started talking it up on social media and recommending it to their colleagues. The bookseller chatter picked up steam at Winter Institute, which Jamison attended. It has continued through this past month, when Jamison launched her book tour at Yale University in New Haven, where she is pursuing a Ph.D in literature, followed by a more formal launch at Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minn. She has been speaking before standing-room-only crowds at indies around the country since then.

Well played.

(Disclosure: Graywolf Press are distributed in Canada by my employer Raincoast Books)

Graywolf and the Art of Independent Publishing At Guernica Magazine, Jonathan Lee interviews Fiona McCrae, the publisher at American independent press Graywolf…
Book Cover Design on Tumblr

Cover of Seeing Through Arithmetic, 1958.


Cover of Seeing Through Arithmetic, 1958.

Tags: books

The Accidental Universe by Alan Lightman; design by Pablo Delcán (Pantheon January 2014)

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi; design by Jo Thompson (Picador March 2014)

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi; design by Helen Yentus (Riverhead March 2014)


Chop Chop by Simon Wroe; design by Ben Wiseman (Penguin April 2014)

Danish Dynamite: The Story of Football’s Greatest Cult Team by Rob Smyth, Lars Eriksen & Mike Gibbons; design by Steve Leard (Bloomsbury April 2014)

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill; design by Gray318 (Granta March 2014)

The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison; design by Kimberly Glyder (Graywolf April 2014)


L’Exception by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir; design by David Pearson (Éditions Zulma April 2014)

David’s cover design for Rosa Candida by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (Éditions Zulma March 2011) is also stunning.

Mistakes I Made at Work edited by Jessica Bacal; design by Jaya Miceli (Plume April 2014)

Quand j’étais l’Amérique by Elsa Pépin; design by David Drummond (Les Éditions XYZ April 2014)

Resurrection by Wolf Haas; design by Christopher Brian King (Melville House January 2014)

The cover for next book in the series, Come, Sweet Death! (Melville House July 2014), is great too.

There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll by Lisa Robinson; design by Alex Merto (Riverhead April 2014)

Is it really April already? Recent Book Covers of Note April 2014 The Accidental Universe by Alan Lightman; design by Pablo Delcán (Pantheon January 2014) Boy, Snow, Bird…

Centred Concentric Circles — It’s a Thing

Centred Concentric Circles — It’s a Thing


This post actually started life on (one of) my other blog(s). I noticed a couple of rather similar looking covers that used a circle motif, but at the time I was sure I was missing at least one other cover. As it turned out, I was thinking of the cover of Who Owns the Futureby Jaron Lanier which is out in paperback this month. I hadn’t realised that it was a riff on an earlier Jaron Lanier…

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Hold or fold


At the TLS, Leah Price reviews On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History by Nicholas A. Basbanes:

You may be reading this across a fold of paper, or you may be squinting at an electronic screen. Two centuries ago, the former would have seemed almost as futuristic as the latter. Wood-based paper wasn’t successfully patented until 1845, after inventors had cooked straw, boiled…

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Tags: books design

Procrastination for Writers…

…a 10-Week Course. Tom Gauld.

Procrastination for Writers…

…a 10-Week Course. Tom Gauld.