Friday, September 30, 2011

Around the Word

More than just, like, a tic? Ever since the Valley Girl emerged onto the American cultural scene, language lovers have been fighting against a particularly exasperating enemy: "like." Young people are the most likely to use this sometimes grating linguistic placeholder, nervously interjecting "like" every few words and driving their elders berserk. But Trinity College professor and Lingua Franca blogger Lucy Ferris isn't so quick to judge those who use "like," arguing that it can serve a more complicated linguistic function than just an annoyance. "Like"has been analyzed in all sorts of roles, including "as an aspect of 'sluicing' or elided speech; as a presentation of dramatized dialogue; as a useful point of departure for the study of the interactions of components of grammar." What do you think? Is there more to like about "like?"

How to become well noun: Forget writing the great American novel. If you really want to make your mark on the English language, work on becoming a noun. NPR science reporters Adam Cole and Robert Krulwich took a look at the people and history behind some common nouns, from Jules Leotard to Samuel Maverick to Charles Boycott. But be careful what you wish for -- sometimes being objectified isn't all it's cracked up to be. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin's family changed their name after the guillotine was named after him.

The Times, they are a-changin': The New York Times made history today by printing its first ever emoticon headline. The headline -- "Study of Twitter messages tracks when we are :)" -- was originally only intended for the web, but received so much buzz that it made it into the print edition as well. The Washington Post also embraced Twitter-speak when covering the same story. Their headline read, "Twitter study: We <3 wknds & a.m." Okay, grammar guardians: Is this a breach of professionalism? Or just all in good fun? (via The New York Observer)

Investigative crowdfunding: We've been keenly following/weighing the pros and cons of crowdfunding, so we're always interested/encouraged to learn about inventive new writing projects finding success on Kickstarter. 10,000 Words pointed us to three especially enterprising investigative journalism projects -- on Libya, the Great Recession and the world of crystal meth -- that are being funded through Kickstarter. Check out these campaigns if you need some crowdfunding inspiration of your own, or to donate to some worthy projects.

Engaging grammar guides: These aren't your grandmother's grammar books. Over at the Writing Resource, Erin Brenner knows that not all language books are boring, and she picked out some of the most entertaining and unique books about words she knows. Check out her reviews of Alphabetter Juice, On the Dot and How to Read a Word. What's your favorite book on writing and language?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Around the Word

To blog or not to blog? The conventional wisdom among many book marketing advice-givers is that blogging and social media are the key to your publishing success. But with an online market so saturated with author and writer blogs, is it really worth the effort? Editor and blogger Meghan Ward tackled this topic after a literary agent told her that a blogger would need to get 100,000 unique views a month and have 10,000 Twitter followers before a publisher would take notice. Does that mean everyone without astronomical numbers should step away from the keyboard and give up on blogging? Ward says no, as long as you don't let blogging get in the way of what's really important -- your book. How do you find the book-blog balance?

Speechwriter, check thyself: When you're a professional speaker or speechwriter, objective feedback can be hard to come by. Once the speech is over, there's often no way to evaluate how successful it was -- until now. Vital Speeches guru David Murray pointed us to a new software, Speakcheck, that runs diagnostics of speeches using "quantitative and qualitative data to measure the impact of a speech." With an algorithm based on research and years of communications experience, Speakcheck's diagnostic power might just change the way that we craft speeches.

Ahead of the digital curve: We were impressed to learn this week that novelist Paulo Coelho, who is known for his throwback fables, was publishing his work online before you even bought your first Kindle. The 64-year-old author of The Alchemist has made a habit of pirating his own work and making it available on the Web for people in countries who wouldn't otherwise have access to his books. In an interview with the New York Times, Coelho, who has been named the second-most-influential Twitter celebrity (after Justin Bieber), explained his desire to connect with his fans. "The ivory tower does not exist anymore," he said. "If the reader doesn't like something they'll tell you. He's not or she's not someone that is isolated." Coelho's web presence -- he has more Facebook fans than Madonna -- is inspiring to any writer looking to connect with their readers online.

News from the Great Write North: Two Canadian publishing stories caught our eye this week. BookNet Canada, an agency focused on the publishing supply chain, will begin tracking e-book sales as well as print. E-book sales data tracking is relatively new in North America, and BookNet will be the first agency to attempt this in Canada. Also up north, the the Writer's Union of Canada has come out with a "Writer's Bill of Rights for the Digital Age," meant to address the writer's role in these e-volving times. The document is focused mostly on copyright and contract issues to protect authors as the publishing business model changes. What do you think? Do writers in the U.S. need a digital bill of rights?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Around the Word

E-book boom: New numbers are in on the digital e-volution, and the e-book trend isn't slowing down any time soon. Especially notable were trade publishers, where e-book production jumped from 50 percent to 76 percent in the last two years. The study, from digital publisher Aptara, also found that one in five e-book publishers makes more than 10 percent of their revenue from e-books.

Happy Punctuation Day! We hope you used some celebratory semicolons this weekend, because Saturday was National Punctuation Day. The day is "a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semi-colons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis," according to the website of Jeff Rubin, the inventor of the holiday. Check out the site to see how other grammar-philes celebrated a day of punctuation, or head over to the Writing Resource for some punctuation-inspired videos. And if the semicolon really isn't your style, you can try to give it another chance after reading John E. McIntyre's recent column on the most pretentious type of punctuation. How will you celebrate punctuation?

Errorist threat: Looking at a slightly darker side of grammar enthusiasm, the blog Logophilius recently examined the term "Grammar Nazi." A Grammar Nazi "is someone who constantly corrects (sometimes erroneously) other people's grammar and usage." These sticklers for correctness can be irksome in conversation and online, but Logophilius blogger Andy Hollandbeck argues that "Grammar Nazi" might not be the best term. They seem to hone in on any error, not just grammatical, and Nazis just aren't as scary as they once were. That's why he suggests the term "errorist," a combination of "error" and "terrorist." We do think that the label has a nice ring to it. Will you be calling out the next errorist who criticizes your work?

Wiz kid: One sales savvy nineteen year-old already knows the importance of building a platform: he just signed a book deal with a Penguin imprint for a personal finance book based off of his website, The NYU student has a budding career as a personal finance advisor for high school and college students. After building a website and promoting it by blogging for the Huffington Post and appearing on just about every news and finance network, he's landed a book deal. Check out his story for some inspiration on the art of self-promotion.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Around the Word

E-readers and e-writers: Can you be a writer without being a reader? The answer may seem obvious to most of us, but many young, aspiring writers are showing an odd disinterest in consuming the words of others. Writer and editor Buzz Poole tackles this question about the future of prose in a post on the design blog Imprint. Poole worries that the popularity of constant social interaction (via social networking) among young people is creating a generation of would-be writers who are never solitary enough to actually read. He cites Boston University writing teacher William Giraldi, who was moved to understand the looming predicament he observed in his students by addressing it as an open ended analogy, which we invite you to finish:  Wanting to write without wanting to read is like wanting to _____ without wanting to _____. Email us your responses, or leave them in the comments below.

The king's speechwriters: If any of you speechwriting pros wonder what life/work is like for our peers across the pond, we'd encourage you to check out this write-up of the recent U.K. Speechwriter's Guild conference by our friend Charles Crawford. He overviews the highs and lows of the public-speaking contests and conference presentations, with one notably universal takeaway. Though many of the presenters were professional speechwriters, that didn't guarantee that they were all particularly polished speakers. As he puts it, "It's one thing to be a good speechwriter. Quite another to be a good public speaker." How do you transition from writer to speaker when delivering a speech?

Editing e-books: In our rapidly changing information age, sometimes a book becomes outdated shortly after it's published. So what do you do if you've written a thriller using Osama bin Laden as a character, only to find out that he's been killed? If you're Richard North Patterson, you jump on the computer and revise the e-book, then make the new version available to consumers. Though second editions and revised versions are nothing new to publishing, e-books have made post-production editing all the easier and speedier, writes Laura Bennett in the New Republic. Authors can go back and change their book with the click of a button, and e-book buyers can have the new version downloaded in seconds. Bennett asks the same question we would: "Is this a sign that our expectation for a book is shifting from finished product to perpetual work-in-progress -- or just the logical conclusion of a long tradition of multiple, unstable texts?"

The all-powerful "awesome": A word that has gone from reverent to surfer slang to ubiquitous to slightly retro, "awesome" is often the default adjective of praise for just about anything. How did Americans develop such a love-hate, slightly obsessive relationship with this not-so-super superlative? Check out this story in Intelligent Life magazine about the evolution of the term. It's pretty (ahem) awesome.

Hyphen hype: The hyphen is a particularly slippery grammatical tool. For example, why are "follow" and "up" sometimes hyphenated and other times not? Why is "de-emphasize" hyphenated while "debrief" is not? To avoid any future hyphen missteps, check out this refresher from Ragan on the rules for using this tricky little dash.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Around the Word

Jersey scorn: Professional jealousy is a significant hazard of the writing trade -- watching your friends and cohorts win awards and climb best-seller lists while you type away in obscurity can be hugely frustrating. Novelist Valerie Frankel tackles the topic of the green-eyed monster in a recent essay for the Daily Beast. She admits to hating every friend, acquaintance and stranger who ever made the New York Times best-seller list -- until a foray into ghostwriting, and a petite "Jersey Shore" heroine, helped her get there herself. Frankel collaborated with "Shore" star Snooki on her best-selling memoir, A Shore Thing. Though high-grossing celebrity memoirs, like the Kardashian sisters' new book, sometimes make us rage with jealousy, we find that the cure is to think about the anonymous ghost behind the glamour.

Real genius: Speaking of professional jealousy, several well-known writers and storytellers were awarded MacArthur foundation "genius grants" this week. RadioLab host Jad Abumrad, poet Kay Ryan and New Yorker writer Peter Hessler were among the literary types to each win a $500,000 grant. We're happy to see so many writers get an award that often goes to more scientifically-minded creators. For a list of all the word nerd winners, check out this post on GalleyCat.

The EP of e-books? We wrote on Monday about traditional news publishers venturing into the e-book market as a medium for long-form content. Now, the Columbia Journalism Review has delved deeper into the subject, looking at e-books as an opportunity for journalists to quickly release pieces that are too long for a magazine, but too short for a book. E-"booklet" publishers, like Byliner and the Atavist, have seen success with these in-between pieces, and they've taken advantage of new technology to give writers more flexibility in their word counts. "Thousand-word pieces are not in human DNA and neither are 400-page reported books," writes Alissa Quart for the CJR. "They were in the pre-digital marketplace's DNA, though." Do you think these digital booklets will find an audience?

Back to school: Thanks to the power of the Internet, you can now hear Ivy League-level lectures without paying a dime in college tuition. YouTube's educational channel, YouTube EDU, offers recordings of lectures from schools like Harvard, Yale and MIT, and GalleyCat has combed the site for the best writing and lit lectures at top universities. Check out the talks from luminaries like Ray Bradbury, Clive Cussler and Penelope Lively and let us know what you think.

Fill-in-the-blank: The Eloquent Woman is taking a poll on public speaking, and the results are a good cross-section of the trials and tribulations of being a professional speaker. So, we thought we would ask our gracious ghosts to give their opinion on the topic. The prompt asks you to finish this sentence: "I'd enjoy public speaking more if..." Leave your answer in the comments or send it to us on Twitter (@GothamGhosts) to let your voice be heard.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Around the Word

All the e-books fit to print? As print media accelerates its acculturation to digial, the line between long articles on the web and e-books has been getting increasingly blurry. To wit: the New York Times reported yesterday on the growing number of traditional news outlets -- including the Times, the Huffington Post, Politico and the New Yorker -- that are morphing into e-book publishers. The topical tomes that these outlets are selling, mostly written by their staffers, are being touted as a low-cost way to create a new revenue stream. Do you think these news organizations can handle this double duty?

The electronic campfire: With all the overhyped hand-wringing over the death of books going on today, we love to hear (and share) contrarian perspectives from smart publishing types who see the upside of the e-volution for writers and writing. A great example is this fresh take on an old metaphor from Molly Barton, president of the online writers' community Book Country. While storytelling originated as an oral form, where the speaker would stand up at the campfire and see how his audience reacted to the story, modern prose is a more solitary process. In the age of social media, "what if we could create lots of little fires around which writers could tell their stories and gauge the reaction of a keen audience?" Barton asks. Can crowdsourcing make for more inventive fiction and more compelling journalism? What do you think about writing for the crowd?

Kick-start your crowdfunding: Speaking of harnessing the power of the crowd, a new Kickstarter-like service specifically for book projects, called Pubslush, has hit the Interwebs and caught our attention. According to eBookNewser, "Readers can get a sample chapter of the book, and if they want to purcahse it, they can 'fund' the project." Though other "Kickstarter for books" sites, like Unbound, have encountered problems, it seems like Pubslush has a model that might work. Check it out and let us know if you agree.

Impressive imprint: As traditional publishers downsize and disappear, it's always heartening to see an independent publisher with a long history still thriving. Douglas & McIntyre, one of the largest indie publishers left in Canada, has just turned 40 and is going as strong as ever, reports the Vancouver Sun. Co-founder Scott McIntyre has seen a rapidly changing industry since he started the house in 1972. "I've never seen a rate of change like this," he told the Sun. "I've never seen conflicting signals of this kind." What's his secret to survival in this new landscape? Embracing e-books, venturing into digital start-ups, and maintaining a varied catalogue of books. "We're enormously proud of our survival skills," said McIntyre.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Gotham in the News

Our ghosts have weighed in on a heated topic: is it necessary to know grammar terminology to be a good writer? In a poll by Ragan's Russell Working, he received explosive and polarizing responses from our writers on both sides of the debate. With a mind favoring instinct over  formal instruction,  Charles Graeber replied, "Would you ever ask a painter if he needs to understand the physics of perspective? Does a speaker need to understand the Latin root of a word in order to employ that correctly? Sure, it might help -- but is it necessary?" Ron Finlay eloquently seconds with, "Knowing the terminology might add to your confidence, but you don't need to depend on it. It helps to know grammatical rules if you are to write clearly, but knowing the nomenclature is otiose." 

Equally passionate on the other side of the discussion is Gretchen Anderson, author of The Backyard Chicken, who starkly states, "If you make your living with words, you better damn well know how to use them." Todd Miller tends to agree and explains that fluency in terminology can be a powerful tool when communicating with clients and editors. Todd uses it when dissecting sentences much like how "...a doctor would use medical terminology to describe an ailment he or she diagnoses in a patient."

 So there you have it, whether you're a grammar snob or you just let your words go with the flow, you surely have your reasons. So tell us, which side of the debate do you agree with, and why?

Around the Word

Surveying the e-book scene: With an toward separating the wheat from the hype around self-published e-books, Publishers Marketplace recently put out a statistical analysis of sales trends that will be quite illuminating to those of you thinking of going solo. By analyzing consumer data, they found that up to 21 percent of e-book buyers have bought a self-published e-book. Consumers are attracted to the lower prices of self-published books, PM reported, and they're willing to try a new author at a low cost. Even more telling: e-book buyers weren't particularly discriminating when it comes to publishers -- big name or self-published. A surprising 80 percent responded that "the publisher is irrelevant to my decision to buy a particular e-book." So does this make you more interested in self-publishing your work? 

Rate your reads: Speaking of the e-volution, we learned this week of an interesting collision of newfangled social media and oldfashioned book swapping. Goodreads, a social media site for book lovers, announced they are surveying their army of word nerds to create what they hope will be the best book recommendation engine on the web. The site is asking their six million members to rate more than 190 million books to collect data on literary tastes. To try it out, the site will ask you to review 20 books to get a sense of your favorite lit, then generate recommendations based on your ratings. Let us know, did Goodreads read you like a book?

Polly wants a new publisher: Our favorite publishing scandal of the moment, and another sign of the shifting times, is the curious case of Polly Courtney. After enjoying success self-publishing her first work, the British novelist signed a nice deal with Harper Collins to put out her next book. But in a rather unconventional move, Courtney announced at the launch party for her HC debut that she was firing the publisher and going solo again. Turns out that the author, who made her name writing about sexism in the London finance industry, was outraged by the "fluffy" and "patronising" nature of the jacket design. The Daily Mail has the full scoop.

Best business books: The Financial Times and Goldman Sachs have teamed up once again to release the shortlist for this year's Business Book of the Year Award. The books have a wide range of subjects, from global poverty to the importance of cities to the dangers of ignoring the obvious. GalleyCat has provided links to free samples of each of the top books. Check them out and tell us what you think. Which business book tops your list?

Picking the right publicist: Also on GalleyCat this week, reporter Jason Boog delved into publicity for DIY authors in an informative interview with independent publicist Lauren Cerand (you can find the full recording here).With self-publishing, self-promoting and social media all just a click away, many authors don't need a publicist to perform the full range of services they once did, but rather to open doors and teach them the skills they need to make their work visible. As Cerand says, "In the age of the Internet, we've largely democratized the process. For authors, I always say: It's really about learning as many of these skills as you can." Where does a publicist fit into your book promotion plan?

The speeches behind The King's Speech: If the Oscar-winning film The King's Speech warmed your speechwriting heart, you might want to check out a follow-up documentary, The King Speaks, that gives more insight to the real story of King George VI. Gotham friend Hal Gordon turned us onto this gem with a review of the documentary on his blog, and points out that "speechwriters in particular will be intrigued to learn how [speech coach Lionel] Logue went beyond his role of therapist to actually editing the drafts of the king's speeches." Did the royal story inspire your writing?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Around the Word

iJournalist: Writing robots made news this week when the New York Times reported that 20 different companies and publications are letting computers do some of their writing. Narrative Science is a software developed at Northwestern University that analyzes data and uses it to create convincingly human prose. Currently used primarily for sports and finance stories, the creators of Narrative Science hope it has the potential to revolutionize data-driven journalism. "In five years, a computer program will win the Pulitzer Prize," company founder Kris Hammond told the Times. "And I'll be damned if it's not our technology." What do you think about this new form of cyber journalism? (h/t GalleyCat)

Time is on our side: The sheer number of traditional books in print, coupled with the thousands-upon-thousands of self-published titles available on demand, has made the business of deciphering the mediocre from the must-reads increasingly difficult. Luckily, Time magazine is here to help -- in one genre, at least -- by compiling a list of the All-Time 100 Best Non-fiction Books to help guide our wandering eyes. The list encompasses the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923 -- the beginning of Time -- and breaks them down by category (autobiography, memoir, biography, politics, etc.). Literary icons such as Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf and George Orwell all claim a spot, while some surprising contemporaries, including Barack Obama, Ralph Nader and Stephen King, round things out. Anything on the list you're surprised by, or wish you'd seen?

A book by any other name: Coming up with a title for your book can be mighty challenging -- a nonfiction title has to stand out from the crowd, capture your message and be SEO-friendly. For some helpful tips on navigating the pitfalls of naming your nonfiction work, check out this post at BookBuzzr. Strategies like mimicking your market's tone, engaging your readers' curiosity and staying searchable will help your nonfiction title find its perfect audience. What are your tips for finding a fantastic title?

Not your grandma's dictionary: When the boring old OED just won't do, we found a list of the best "Alterna-Dictionaries" the web has to offer. From the necessary-whenever-talking-to-a-fifteen-year-old Urban Dictionary, to the pop-culturally savvy Dictionary of TV Tropes, to the hopelessly nerdy Literary Terms Dictionary, these dictionaries run the gamut from occasionally useful to purely entertaining.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Around the Word

Bookflix? The mighty Amazon has struck again in the battle for control over the rapidly growing e-book market. The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that the online bookstore is preparing to launch a digital library service -- described as "Netflix for books" -- that would allow subscribers to access e-books for a monthly fee.  Amazon is in talks with publishers about the service, "but some publishers are not too happy about the idea," according to Mashable. Will a digital Amazon library be good for publishing? Or will we just see bookstores go the way of Blockbuster?

Looking back, linguistically: We wrote last week about changes in the publishing industry in the ten years since the attacks on September 11. In the Boston Globe yesterday, language columnist Ben Zimmer remembered the attacks from a linguistic perspective, examining the evolution of the term "ground zero." Soon after the attacks, the generic ground zero, meaning the site of a bomb or explosion, became Ground Zero, the site of the fallen World Trade Center. In a testament to the power of language, Mayor Bloomberg has now asked New Yorkers to retire the phrase. Will "ground zero" always be associated with 9/11? 

Happy Hobbit Day: We have never had so many reasons to celebrate since Doubleday posted this story about little-known literary holidays. From Bloomsday, which celebrates the work of James Joyce and is named after the main character in Ulysses, to a week-long celebration in Key West in honor of Ernest Hemingway, to Dictionary Day on October 16, book lovers can celebrate their love for lit throughout the year. Which holiday should you be preparing for next? Hobbit Day, of course, on September 22 -- part of Tolkein Week -- to celebrate everyone's favorite furry-footed protagonists. 

How to be a solo virtuoso: Just as you will find with the self-publishing industry itself, there's a lot of dreck advice online about how to master the indie literary track. One of the better how-to guides we have come across recently is book editor and blogger Meghan Ward's latest post, "10 Steps to Becoming a Self-Publishing Superstar." With the write advice on marketing, formatting and finding a good cover designer, she also provides links to lots of self-publishing resources. Check it out and let us know what you think. 

Travel writing: If you have too many books crowding your shelves (or haven't gone completely digital yet), a new book sharing service can send your paperbacks on a trip around the world. BookCrossing connects you with other bibliophiles who want to borrow your books and then lets you track your book as you send it on its way. GalleyCat has compiled a list of BookCrossing's most-travelled books, which includes travel tomes like A Passage to India and Bill Bryson's Africa. Have you ever shared with BookCrossing?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Around the Word

Remembering 9/11 by the book: With the ten year anniversary of the September 11th attacks this weekend, many literary types are contributing to the mass look-back at how the world has changed over the last decade. One that caught our eye was this piece by Edward Nawotka, the editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives, which examines his industry's response to 9/11. He argues with pride that the publishing community has been at its best in helping Americans understand 9/11 and its causes. "Today, people are much better informed about the world around them," Nawotka writes. "There are a myriad of titles available to Westerners addressing Islam, Middle Eastern history and politics, Afghanistan and Arab-American life." We can only hope that the last ten years have increased tolerance and understanding around the world.

The e-volution meets the E-conomist: You know the e-volution of the book industry has reached critical mass when the  Economist devotes major ink to exploring the digital explosion. The piece in the mag's most recent edition is a nice summary of the major issues facing the publishers today: the popularity of e-books, the difficulty of pricing them fairly and the dominance of Amazon in the e-book marketplace. Take a look and let us know what you think. Has the Economist provided a fair snapshot of what's happening in the book world?

Did Obama's speech to Congress do its job? There's no shortage of pundicating from communication pros whenever President Obama delivers a big speech, and his address Thursday to Congress outlining his new jobs agenda drew a wide spectrum of reactions. Typical was this piece from NYU PR professor Fraser P. Seitel, who gave the president mixed marks on technique but was generally positive overall. "He didn't exactly hit it out of the park—there were still too many platitudes, not enough detail, and the hectoring "Pass this jobs bill" refrain became annoying. But despite the odds against him and contrary to the universal "same old, same old" criticism from the right, the president did smack a clear double, which successfully put the pressure on conservative Republicans to "put up or shut up." What did you think of the president's address?

Release your creativity: Is it time to say goodbye to the traditional press release? Hip companies like Google, Zynga and Groupon are increasingly trading in stuffy paragraphs for zippy tweets and gimmicks when they have news to share. As the New York Times reports, Google announced its acquisition of restaurant ratings guide Zagat with a tweeted haiku poem. Groupon, a company with a notoriously wacky writing style, joked in a recent press release that it had raised, "like, a billion dollars" in its latest financing round. Is this informal style here to stay? How do you add punch to your press releases?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Around the Word

The BloGG is back from our summer respite (yes, you can all exhale in relief). Here's what we're reading as we trade swimsuits for sweaters.

Re@ding in the digital age: A new feature for Amazon's Kindle e-reader, @Author, is attempting to change the way we read and interact with books. The program enables a reader to highlight a passage in an e-book and ask the author a question about it. Though still in beta testing, several high-profile authors have signed up for the service, including Susan Orlean and Timothy Ferris. Today on the New Yorker's Book Bench blog, Mark O'Connell weighs whether this will revolutionize the reading experience or threaten the author's status as an artist and creator. Try it out and let us know what you think. 

Special agents: As the publishing world continues to e-volve, literary agents are continually wrestling with their place in this new word order. Some big name reps have tried to survive by reinventing themselves as Agent-Publisher hybrids, publishing their clients' work under their own digital imprint. While this mash-up may seem like an appealing survival strategy in a shrinking market, our friend Jason Allen Ashlock from the Moveable Type Literary Group argues that agenting and publishing at the same time creates a unnavigable conflict of interest that will jeopardize the interests of writers. Check out his provocative editorial in Publishing Perspectives and let us know what you think. When an agent becomes a publisher, does the writer lose?

The Art of E-publishing: For those who just can't get enough of a good meta publishing story, Vanity Fair is offering a look behind the scenes of the six-figure deal for unknown author Chad Harbach's baseball book, The Art of Fielding. The deal, which made headlines earlier this year after Harbach, a previously unemployed copyeditor, sold his book to Hatchette Book Group for $665,000 -- a sum previously reserved only for blockbuster titles (usually involving a vampire). Not content to do a standard magazine piece on the subject, Vanity Fair this week released a 19,000-word e-book chronicling the whole out-of-leftfield story, titled How a Book is Born: The Making of the Art of Fielding, for $1.99. Will you be purchasing a copy?

I am the Walrus: As professional word nerds, we were intrigued last month by the release of James Pennebaker's new book, The Secret Life of Pronouns: What our Words Say About Us. Now the New York Times has combined our love for grammar and our love for pop culture with a story about Pennebaker's analysis of pronoun use in Beatles lyrics. The Fab Four were pretty pronoun-happy, though as they matured they moved from fewer self-centered "I" phrases to "more socially involved perspectives." The high point, of course, was the first line of "I Am the Walrus": "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together."

Stori-telling: There's been a lot of hype about the social-publishing-real-time-news platform Storify, and we were curious to know how writers and publishing pros could get the most out of this hot new site. GalleyCat did us the favor recently of breaking down the advantages for literary types, from collecting everything on the web about a publishing trend to creating a tribute to your favorite author. Have you tried out Storify yet? Live up to the hype?