iBooks moves to iTunes: Does anyone read books using Apple’s iTunes store?
It used to be called iBooks, but as of July, Apple iBooks is now built into the iTunes store. And yes, Madville has books for sale there. The following list is incomplete and out of order, but we have books for sale there. We even have a few audio books for sale there, since ACX serves both audible and the iTunes store!
Shortly after my short story collection Judgment Day & Other White Lies was picked up by Madville Publishing, I read “Under the Cover – Mistakes by the Lake” on Madville’s blog where author Brian Petkash describes his process of coming to the stunning book cover design for his debut short story collection Mistakes by the Lake, a collection that is coincidentally my favorite book I’ve read from the Madville catalog. Since my own short story collection is, like Petkash’s, a linked collection with several shared themes, I reached out to Kim Davis, press director for Madville, and asked if it would be possible to have a local artist and graphic designer I knew design the cover for me.
Kim informed me, in fact, that it is the intention of Madville to offer author’s more creative control in the publication process, that she believes collaboration makes for better titles. Especially on an element like the cover design, she thinks writers can offer much help in selecting pointed images that direct readers’ eyes to books they will enjoy reading.
In my own case, I knew right away I wanted to ask Crowcrumbs to design the cover. She is an old friend of mine and local artist in Houston, TX who studied design at the University of Houston and does compelling illustrations and graphic design. I also have always sensed a lot of similarity between her work and my own in terms of its thematic nature. In particular, two images spoke to me and told me she would be the best person to ask.
You see, my collection is centered around retellings of Greco-Roman and Christian myths that challenge foundational truths in American society like patriarchy, capitalism, and in particular, white supremacy. The above images jumped off the page to me as ones that were both blasphemous and reverent at the same time, images that could reflect my own technique of using meta-narratives that both reify and problematize traditional culture. Additionally, two of the more prominent stories in the collection in terms of their imagery are the opening alternative telling of Genesis “Para(Fa)ble of the Stoned Ape,” where violent sex-crazed stoned monkeys create western civilization by hallucinating and then telling stories of their hallucinations, and also, “‘Per-C and ‘Dusa: A Narrative Representation of a Graphic Epic’ by Angela Ames, PhD,” which is an ekphrastic retelling of the Perseus and Medusa myth in the form of a fake scholarly article. Therefore, the monkey and the mysterious woman adorned in religious imagery felt like they could be synthesized in some form that would make for a great cover to Judgment Day & Other White Lies.
Not to mention, most of the collection takes place in Houston, TX, where Crowcrumbs and I both live. In fact, one of Crowcrumbs’ most sought after images is her sketch of the famous rock music club Fitzgerald’s (RIP) which was once home to many of our favorite local punk bands over the years (buy a print of the below image here!). I figured between the ominous religious imagery, the evolutionary and creationist themes, and her photorealistic interpretations of local landmarks that we would surely find a cover design that was perfect for the book (and I believe the one we eventually came to is, in fact, perfect).
Setting out with a few images I picked out of Crowcrumbs’ catalog to give her direction on what kind of design I would like, we discussed the possibility of synthesizing local haunts, religious imagery, and also some imagery from the stories themselves. We also discussed doing a black-and-white color scheme that would align with the discussions on racial identity that are interspersed throughout the collection. Crowcrumbs went to work sketching some rough images that we might use on the cover.
She also told me she liked the process because while “it relates to the text, it is also not necessarily true to life, something that makes it both an interpretation and its own creation, and I get to use my other skills at my day job too where I focus on user experience of software design. It forces me to consider the audience and what they will imagine as they read the words and process my artwork.”
I was thrilled with it when she sent me the initial proof and believed this was where she really came through in taking ownership of the image, as I told her she had free rein to do, since she was the artist and I was the writer. I trusted her skill and trusted her as a person, us being friends for years and all (and in the same online book club together to protect our sanity during the pandemic).
I just love how the image is both threatening and playful, evocative in the color scheme, and how with the presence of Greek history, a revolver, an egg timer, and a wild monkey, that it creates a true sense of urgency, along with mystery, something that I hope this collection does in terms of engaging white people in their own interest in dismantling white supremacy.
So that’s the story of how the book cover came into being. If you like the cover design, please consider commissioning Crowcrumbs for your own artistic needs. Again, this cover perfectly captures my literary aesthetic in a visual form. Also, you can purchase copies of her prints, as well as t-shirts and stickers with her artwork on it here. Lastly, for those of you local to Texas, be on the lookout for combined readings and art show collabs between Crowcrumbs and me to promote the book release, and to promote Crowcrumbs as the incredible artist and designer that she is.
Curious to hear a comprehensive analysis of the state of the publishing industry, I attended a ZOOM webinar this week put on by Ingram entitled: How has Covid-19 impacted the Book Industry? There was a lot of optimism. Here are the key points I took away from the meeting:
Book sales are up right across the spectrum by 6%, and a whopping 29% for Q1 2021 over Q1 2020 in the US. Global book sales reflect similar upticks. Basically, we’ve seen the market grow five years-worth in a year, with books finishing in the top five in retail sales.
The categories that saw the greatest increases are, 1) Juvenile fiction, 2) Fiction, and 3) Juvenile nonfiction.
Also of note, buys are interested in new formats, as well as titles that dealt with the state of the world today.
They report that the way orders come in changed dramatically due to the lack of face-to-face events. However Ingram’s ability to fill customer orders through drop shipping met a need, and eased issues with shipping in general. (On a global level, think Brexit. UK to EU shipping was particularly interesting, but thanks to Ingram’s multiple manufacturing plants throughout Europe, they were able to sidestep this border-crossing problem.)
Digital sales rose 17%, and with the biggest rise in academic sales which were up 120%. There was also heavy interest form Libraries.
Audiobooks have taken off, not just through ACX (Audible), but across platforms. Here again there was spike in the demand for Children’s titles.
Don’t write off the print marked, however, because it also grew in 2020.
Microtrends spotlighted included African American titles and civil discourse, for example. So, as a publisher, we do need to have our finger on the pulse, and consider bring books to market faster.
Social Media usage is on the rise, with the average user spending 2 ½ hours per day online, and buying things they discover there, and there was a 50% increase in book-related searches on Google and Amazon. And of people surveyed 40-60% of consumers report they expect to continue this new shopping behavior post-COVID
Even brick-and-mortar sales are starting to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Francis N. Stein is the last descendant of Dr. Frankenstein’s wretch. I bet you didn’t know that the “monster” procreated, did you? This current generation Stein (the family shortened the name for obvious reasons) is a big hearted guy, and he really wants to do good, for all the right reasons. He’s just too trusting, and others take advantage of him, leaving him with trouble always nipping at his heels.
Set in contemporary Colorado, The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean is a hell of a story about the last imagined descendant of Dr. Frankenstein’s wretch—the spurned monster. It offers struggle and pathos, pain and absolution, deception and deliverance. Reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Shadow Moon from American Gods, Francis Stein is a slow thinking giant of a man who attracts attention wherever he goes. Stein seems cursed with bad luck, and trouble waits for him around every turn in spite of his good intentions.
A. Rooney is an associate professor who teaches writing at Jindal Global University in Sonipat, India when not in Denver, Colorado. He has published a collection of stories, The Colorado Motet (Ghost Road Press) and a novella, Fall of the Rock Dove (Main Street Rag). His stories and poems have appeared in journals, magazines and websites all over the world.
Mix Blue Velvet with a dash of True Romance, add some gothic and some noir, flavor with firebear and Pho—and enter the engaging, shifting, transforming, surreal vision of Francis, offspring of one of literature’s most famous creations . . .
Rooney’s title character is a superb creation and, like Mary Shelley’s original, a compelling chronicler of life as a monstrous outsider, as terminally unique, “dependent on none and related to none” (to borrow Shelley’s phrase). Yet, driven by the police and other would-be destroyers high into the Colorado Rockies, Francis Stein manages to forge tenuous friendships: fragile connections with others that offer the possibility of redemption, of a second chance, of learning what it means to be genuinely human. Sharply written, with flashes of dark comedy and lyric evocations of the 21st-century American West, The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein gives us a beautiful monster for our time and place—as Shelley did for hers.
The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean is a story of struggle and pathos, pain and absolution, deception and deliverance. . . . [It] is an inherently fascinating novel about the last descendant of Dr. Frankenstein’s wretched creature, the spurned monster who ultimately turned upon his creator. [This is] An inherently riveting read from cover to cover, . . . a compelling novel that reflects the author’s genuine flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling. Doing full justice to the literary legacy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Autobiography of Francis N. Stein: The Last Promethean is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community library collections and the personal reading lists of all dedicated Frankenstein fans.