IP eNews 54
the newsletter of IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)
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When is a Premier's Award No Longer an Award??
With swords in short supply around Queensland for ALP leaders to fall upon, this State is facing several years of conservative rule. Premier Campbell Newman has a massive mandate for change, and he quickly moved to ax the Premier's Literary Awards at a cost saving of $250,000. More important than the loss of a cash incentive to Australia's best and brightest authors is the signal that there will be no sacred cows in Queensland – in the arts and otherwise – when it comes to balancing the budget and ensuring that taxpayers perceive they are getting value for their dollar.
The arts community predictably condemned Newman's symbolic sortie against entrenched interests and some notable figures announced that the "Queensland Literary Awards" would fill the gap left by the Premier's Awards. Authors and publishers quickly endorsed the move, and presumably the new system of Awards will go ahead, but without cash incentives, unless private or corporate sponsors can be found.
But are maintaining these Awards a good idea? I'm doubtlessly a voice in the wilderness here, but I think not, at least from the online information I have about them.
Let's consider two scenarios. First, the Awards are carried off with cash prizes, with the same publishers entering the same authors they would have otherwise entered. The results are given even less than the usual brief coverage by the media unmustered by the Premier's Department and announced at the next Brisbane Writers Festival to a predictable selection of high profile authors promoted by mainstream publishing houses, and everyone involved pats themselves on the back as if to say we don't need Big Government's support to foster excellence in the arts – so there!
What's wrong with that scenario? Campbell Newman could then applaud his own foresight in privatising an activity that didn't need public funding after all. The great German author Heinrich Böll once said that art is compromised when artists are too well fed. He was being tongue-in-cheek, but Campbell Newman, pragmatist that he is, would doubtlessly accept this as an endorsement of his decision to ax the awards. Under this scenario there would be absolutely no reason for the Government to reconsider its decision. Worse than that, other cash-strapped States – does that leave anyone out – might decide to follow suit. Why should Queensland get off lightly? Should New South Wales, Victorian Western Australian, South Australia and Tasmanian taxpayers continue to subsidise awards to elite artists who are willing to accept mere recognition in a cashless award?
Scenario 2 has the Awards put in place but with only marginal support by authors and their publishers. In the absence of the usual contingent of branded authors, virtual unknowns win several of the awards. The short-lists are announced to an indifferent national media – since when are unknown artists newsworthy? – and the literary dinner at the Brisbane Writers Festival where the winners are to be announced – is under-subscribed. Campbell Newman's response? Sorry, no comment – the Premier is busy with issues that matter to the public.
If the goal of the organisers and supporters of the so-called Queensland Literary Awards is to put pressure on the Government to reinstate the Premier's Awards, clearly, neither of these scenarios will have that effect. The only hope of resurrecting the Premier's Awards is to convince the Government that Queensland will suffer politically without them.
The Queensland Premier's Awards had a soft underbelly in conception and realisation, and it's only by redefining their terms that there will be any hope of public funding being restored. The current Government has a populist and Queensland-centric attitude that makes a national set of awards vulnerable to criticism. The argument is why should Queensland taxpayers fund artists from outside this State? The notion that State based artists benefit from cash awards exported South is hard if not impossible to defend. The argument that Queensland artists are inspired to do better by others' success doesn't cut the wool. Emerging and developing artists in Queensland need Queensland role models and mentors to reinforce the view that something important culturally is happening here, rather than in Sydney and Melbourne.
A set of awards targeted at developing talent in Queensland's regions, as well as in the South-east corner, would provide tangible results because resident artists would be here to reinforce the benefit of such an investment in State-supported culture. Queensland investment in Queensland artists to develop and nurture Queensland culture is a much easier proposition to put to a conservative Government determined to ensure this State achieves its rightful place on the national scene.
Nor is there any danger that Queensland would become isolated culturally by investing more on its resident artists. The ACT already does this and has not been ignored by mainstream publishers more than willing to promote their branded authors there.
If other States follow suit – and they are likely to in direct proportion to the respective Government's elective majority – the next step will be to develop a comprehensive national set of awards to recognise the best from across Australia. One possible option would have State focused awards as an initial heat for talent within the State, and the artists concerned could then compete in a national heat with their counterparts from other States. Artists would then have access to two sets of awards: one from their State, and then one nationally. This contrasts with the current system where artist-stars can potentially win awards in every State open to Australian residents, a system that benefits the few at the cost of many deserving artists who currently have to go without.
We need to review these State-based awards and to contemplate how they could become more politically defensible – before it's too late.
Multi-channel just added yet other channel in the IP workflow!
We're pleased to announce our first titles published in the iBookstore as Fixed Layout titles:
I Love You Book by Libby Hathorn / Heath McKenzie (English & Portuguese editions)
The Sky Dreamer by Anne Morgan / Céline Eimann (English, French & bi-ligual French-English editions)
Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher by Céline Eimann (English, French & bi-ligual French-English editions)
Real Guns by David Reiter / Patrick J Murphy
Christina's Matilda by Edel Wignell / Elizabeth Botté
Newts, Lutes & Bandicoots by Mark Carthew / Mike Spoor
Don't know the difference between Fixed Layout and other digital forms? Check out our How-to column in this issue.
Some of these titles have also been translated. I Love You Book is available in Portuguese; The Sky Dreamer and Lyli are in French and a bi-lingual French and English edition; Real Guns appears in Spanish and German. We're in the process of having the foreign language editions approved by Apple, but if you're interested in a video of Céline talking in French about her illustration process for The Sky Dreamer, hop over to the mini-site for that title and check out the YouTube video.
The second edition of Newts, Lutes & Bandicoots by Mark Carthew / Mike Spoor is being released in Fixed Layout for the iBookstore and Kobo to coincide with the release of the latest Carthew/Spoor IP Kid title, Witches, Britches, Itches & Twitches (see the Interview in the Focus column). It will also be available in Fixed Layout for the Amazon Fire shortly (the only Amazon device that can handle Fixed Layout at the moment).
We're in the process of adding audio to the Fixed Layout versions of The Sky Dreamer. These will be our first audio enhanced picture book, and we're looking forward to seeing how they're received in the market. These new versions will be available from the iBookstore and possibly on the Kindle Fire. And, of course, directly from IP Sales.
IP recently signed with ebrary, a US based distributor with links to Australian library suppliers. We hope that this will expand our reach to libraries looing to start or expand their eBook holdings.
Our list is expanding to include more titles that are either digital first or digital only. One recent example is Past Perfect by Karen Zelas, whose poetry title Night's Glass Table will also be released in multi-channel by IP. Karen's novel was initially published in New Zealand by Wily, and the publisher there has retained the print rights, while our Digital Publishing Centre (DPC) releases the digital versions.
More and more authors are coming to us with the idea of going digital first, or reissuing a print title across our digital channels. Since already publishing titles take considerably less work to get to the digital marketplace than new titles, we're able to offer higher royalty deals to authors in these circumstances. Interested in knowing more? Just drop us a line!
Our Winter list this year is heavily weighted to poetry, with two IP Picks award-winning entries at the forefront.
Karen Zelas' Night's Glass Table and Sugu Pillay's Flaubert's Drum (formerly titled In Medias Res) will be released in our latest tour of New Zealand in late August - early September. See Out & About for more details.
Also nearing press stage is the Picks Best Poetry title musefood by Sydney poet Margaret Ruckert.
Adelaide author Valerie Volk's Even Grimmer Tales (not for the Faint-hearted) is at final copy editing stage, complete with intriguing black and white illustrations to suit the rejigged fairy tales.
Several other excellent poetry projects are in the pipeline. More details in the next issue.<title>IP eNews/<title>
IP Kidz Update
We’re about to go to print with Mark Carthew and Mike Spoor’s latest title, Witches’ Britches, Itches & Twitches! This illustrated book of rhymes, riddles and jokes would make an ideal present for reluctant readers. And the editing process has already begun on Janet Reid’s Granny Rags, the junior novel that won the Young Adult / Junior Prose category of IP Picks 2012.
Our three picture books that are currently underway are all coming along well, with the rough illustrations making us all look forward to seeing the finished products! No Matter Who We’re With and Bringing Down the Wall will both be 32-page picture books, while The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land & other eco-tales will be a longer illustrated book. Cheri Scholten, Sona Babajanyan and Gay McKinnon are all busy working on the illustrations now!
We’ve also recently made available a Brazilian Portuguese translation of Libby Hathorn and Heath McKenzie’s I Love You Book. It was translated by Juliana Dalla and joins the German, Spanish and French translations of various other IP Kidz titles.
[The reviews that follow are snippets from the full reviews, which you can find by clicking on the thumbnail for the title.]
The best poems abandon that kind of playfulness in favour of the bleak insight that comes with age – poems of men who haven't lived the lives they wished for, who have settled for less, have made do: 'Retired, he had his garden, / books, the heavy ticking // of the farewell clock.' There's a Larkinesque kind of resignation there, not least in the foreshadowing of death, but such men remain resilient, resourceful: the same poem ends with its subject searching 'tide tables, shipping movements, // looking for a sailing time, / a vessel heading home.'
– Tim Upperton, Landfall
Keith Westwater – Tongues of Ash
Tongues of Ash, Keith Westwater's first collection, is an extended conversation with place, primarily the land/whenua of this country, or landscape, rather, to use the more attenuated expression Westwater employs, with its suggestion of how the land is parcelled up and worked by humans, and mediated and refined through our gaze and memories and response – the full Romantic Monty, in fact.
– Cliff Fell, Landfall
Focus 1: Peter Kay
[Interviewed by Sarah Elliott, Peter talks about his IP Picks 2012 winning entry Blood, due for release in November.]
SE: Blood is positioned within a magical realist framework. What challenges did you encounter in adopting this complex structure? (Feel free to give a basic summary of the genre for those who are not familiar.)
Magic realism gave me the opportunity to create a narrative that is more like a mosaic. By alternating realism with fantastic events without explanation, I aim to create a more convincing contact with ordinary experience, alongside the fantasies that comment on it.
That's a simple definition of magical realism, but the potential is very powerful indeed. Harnessing that power, thinking outside the conventions, that was my other challenge and my joy in writing Blood.
The fantastic in Blood includes: walking, talking body parts, an invisible crocodile, a new take on what heaven is like, and switches between narrator, time and space. I wanted this book to be strangely real, tender, scathing, fantastic, funny, but above all original.
SE: How does this novel break new ground for the magical realist genre in Australian literature?
While the use of non-realistic fictional techniques to confront wartime atrocities is not unknown, it is rare. Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five is about the fire-bombing of Dresden, and D. M. Thomas's The White Hotel revisits the horrors of the Holocaust, but so far, no Australian literary or cinematic work seems to take the same interrogative approach to confront the issues that I have addressed in Blood: the hidden atrocities of war, the adoption scandals of the 1950s and 1960s, gay men in the military, and depression as a major national illness. So yes, it does break new ground.
SE: What influences, both artistic and experiential have informed your creative processes?
My father-in-law, Bill Bell, taught me about flying planes, along with Tasmanian aerobatics champion, Stan Tilley. Artist Nicole Belle taught me about art. A person close to me suffered from depression and the surfing scenes were based on my own experience.
My literary influences came from my Ph D studies and a lifetime of reading. Many magical realists from countries around the world inspired me, as well as the writers of dark comedy, the absurdists and science fiction writers, and, of course, various film-makers.
In no particular order, my main influences were: Cortazar, Allende, Castillo, de Maupassant, Akutagawa, Morrison, Salinger, Southern, Chekov, Pirandello, Kafka, Beckett, Barth, Barthelme, Wells, Stapledon, Niven, Vonnegut, the Coens, Greenaway, Kelly, the Pythons, Kusterica, Jonze, the Goons.
SE: The protagonist, Rob, is an advertising professional who begins to question the ethics of the industry. Is this something about which you hold a particularly strong personal opinion?
SE: Rob struggles with depression and is admitted into a clinic to undergo ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy). How have you used Rob’s experience of ECT as a plot device throughout the narrative?
SE: Andrew, Rob’s father, visits him from the past and asks Rob to help him make a film to expose the truth behind the Darwin bombing. Is this something you feel particularly passionate about? How do you think Darwin’s lack of prominence in the historical record has affected the collective consciousness of the Australian people?
[Simon is a Tasmanian author resident in the UK at the moment His manuscript Frenchmans Cap: the Story of a Mountain won the IP Picks 2012 Best Creative Non-fiction.]
SE: What is it about Frenchmans Cap that inspired you to write its history?
SK: Like most people I was taken by the physical size and presence of Frenchmans Cap, and the rugged and dramatic region that surrounds it. This in turn led me to learn more about the people who had visited the mountain before me.
SE: Why is Frenchmans Cap important to Australians? What is its universal significance?
SK: Frenchmans Cap is important to Australians because much of its history is linked with Australia's history, and particularly that of Tasmania. Set in one of the last true wilderness regions on earth, it remains of great significance to all peoples of all nations.
SE: How does Frenchmans Cap, Story of a Mountain differ from a general guide book? What about it makes it more personal?
SK: Frenchmans Cap differs from a general guide book because it delves deeply into the way the mountain has affected people, since the days of the Tasmanian Aborigines. These human stories of the people who have visited the region over the centuries is what sets it apart.
SE: What themes do you explore within the text?
SK: In exploring themes, I have explained how Frenchmans Cap is the result of the titanic forces of nature, and how those forces continue to affect the mountain today. This rugged grandeur has attracted human interest for thousands of years, but in my book I have explored the reasons people found that attraction so irresistible. Finally, I have explained why the mountain needs to be protected from commercial interests, how climate change is affecting it and why Frenchmans Cap is important to visitors today.
SE: You must have conducted a lot of research to be able to create such a rich and diverse history of the mountain. How did you go about collecting your research? How did you decide what to include and what not to include?
SK: I started researching the book in a small way. One door lead to another, however, and I soon realised I had opened a Pandora's box of potential information. Government archives contained an amazing amount of information, most of which nobody had fully explored before. Once I started my research the project gained a momentum of its own. I found people began offering useful leads and pieces of information. When I began looking at what I should include in the book I used a sort of 'self-check' mechanism. I continually asked myself whether it would be of interest to the general reader, not just myself. I also felt the stories needed to be exciting, concise and easily digestible.
SE: Why should people visit Frenchmans Cap?
SK: Frenchmans Cap has always attracted visitors and has a magnetism of its own. Although set in remote and very difficult terrain, the region is easily reached by road and the walking track to the mountain is graded, safe and well-maintained. It lies in the heart of one of the world's great wilderness regions and the ruggedness and diversity of its scenery is simply amazing.
[Wellington poet Sugu Pillay is interviewed by David Reiter]
DR: You write in several genres. Is poetry your first love?
DR: You were raised in Malaysia before moving to New Zealand. Does your work straddle cultural boundaries?
DR: You have extensive experience as a teacher of English. Does this dampen or intensify your urge to write?
DR: Your work ‘travels’ across countries in search of subject matter. Do you feel it’s necessary to immerse yourself in a foreign culture to write about it?
[Karen Zelas lives in earthquake prone Christchurch, New Zealand. She's interviewed by Heidi Kefer.]
HK: Night’s Glass Table, the title of your upcoming book, is an evocative image. Do you explore any dark reflections within your work?
HK: Striking and powerful imagery is one of the characteristics of your work; what inspiration do you draw upon throughout your creative process?
HK: You lived through the recent Christchurch earthquakes; does this experience resonate in your writing?
HK: You are a member of the South Island Writer’s Association and the New Zealand Poetry Society. How has participation within these communities supported your writing?
KZ: The collegiality and inspiration afforded by mixing with other writers have been and still are most important to me. I couldn’t do without my critique group – thanks, guys! I’ve found critiquing each others’ work to be of enormous value, both as writer and critiquer.
Fixed Layout Format, KF8, iBook Author… These are hardly household terms, but, if you write titles in which design elements are either crucial or complex, you may need to become acquainted with these emerging eBook formats.
Let's talk about the why first. Why do we need even more eBook formats to complicate life for publishers, distributors and readers? As you might expect, the reason has to do with the limitations of the existing formats.
Adobe Acrobat or pdf files are the traditional means of ensuring your content looks just the same in everyone's physical or virtual reading mode. PDFs accurately embed fonts, images, graphics, tables and formulae in the destination document. So, if design is important, why not just publish in pdf format?
As discussed in greater detail in Your eBook Survival Kit, pdfs tend to be rather large files, and the more complicated the content, the larger the pdf will be. Adobe has made progress with the optimisation of pdfs at a single key stroke, but there are still major publishers such as Amazon and Apple that won't distribute pdfs.
ePub is the eBook format of choice for most distributors, but its greatest strength is also its weakness as far as producing aesthetically pleasing eBooks. Like its html parent format, ePub adapts to the available screen space by "flowing" text and graphics in to suit. Unfortunately, the graphics and text are handled differently by ePub and their presentation on the screen can be unpredictable to say the least. While the latest incarnation of the ePub standard, ePub3, refines some of these elements, most distributors aren't accepting ePub3 files as yet (wait until next week!)
Enter Apple and Amazon, with their own solutions. Apple was, as usual, first off the mark with its Fixed Layout format, or flepub for short. This essentially requires defining a screen space into which all page element must fit, regardless of the available real estate. Visuals such as picture book illustrations become background layers onto which text can be positioned accurately by defining the text's distance from the top and left of the screen. These text layers can also have right margins and even justification, if that's required. Quite elaborate effects can be achieved through special coding applied to these elements, and the end result can be a publication that looks very much like its print cousin.
Most recently, Apple introduced iBooks Author, which, at first blush, is a designer's dream. Working with a pallet of templates and widgets, with coding invisible in the background, iBook Author allows importation of Pages files from the iWorks Suite, plus drag-and-drop simplicity for the handling of images and graphics. Multimedia elements such as audio and video can be added to widgets on the page to enhance the interactive experience. Apple's target audience wasn't particularly DIY authors but rather educators, with the software being seen as an easy gateway for teachers to get their content online and then easily distributed within their educational institution.
Of course, there's a catch: any files produced in iBooks Author will only work in iBooks Author, and they can only be sold in the iBookstore. You can distribute the files yourself, but only for free. Another slick strategy from Apple to increase market share in the schools.
It was inevitable that Amazon would answer Apple's move to increase their influence with their own Fixed Layout format. Soon after releasing the Kindle Fire, a dramatic departure from its e-Ink Kindle ancestors, Amazon announced that it was releasing KF8, a format dedicated to work just on the Fire.
Of course neither of the Fixed Layout formats will talk to each other because their coding systems are quite different. While many of the specialist conversion houses took fairly readily to Apple's version, progress has been slower with KF8, which many of the more established bureaus still have in testing phase.
All of this has given publishers more than a nervous twitch. Just when they were getting comfortable with preparing regular ePub files for Apple, Amazon and others, these new formats appear on stage. And any publisher dealing with heavily illustrated or scientific/technical material can't afford to ignore the new formats. Either they will have to develop the expertise in-house to process them, or out-source the work to specialty bureaus.
For DIY authors – not to mention shoe-string publishers – of these kinds of titles, the landscape has become even more pot-holed. The more formats there are, the less likely it is that a single shareware package will produce everything that's needed to make the work look professional.
It's enough to make you nostalgic for physical print publication, isn't it?
We were pleased by the turn out to our Autumn Season events in Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Castlemaine.
The Gala Weekend began with a Soirée at the Kookaburra Café in Paddington. Drinks and delectable finger foods were interspersed with tantalising readings by several of our Autumn Season authors including Adelaide-based Heather Taylor John (Letters to My Lover from a Small Mountain Town), Melbourne author Lois Shepheard (The Rag Boiler's Daughter), Brisbane author Duncan Richardson (Ultra Soundings), Byron-based Laura Jan Shore (Water Over Stone), and Publisher David P Reiter (My Planets: a fictive memoir).
At the Gala Performance, held as usual at the 4MBS Classic FM Performance Studio at Coorparoo, the cast from the Soirée was joined by Kathy Kituai from Canberra, who read from her recent IP titles Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow and her earlier tanka journal Straggling into Winter. Unfortunately, IP's relatively new video recorder chose a bad time to seize up – in the middle of the performances. The good news is that Sony has replaced the video with a new, even better, model, which we used to record readings from the southern tour.
As previewed in the last eNews, in late February, we held our Southern tour events in Adelaide, Melbourne and Castlemaine. The Tin Cat Café in Adelaide hosted a soirée for Amelia Walker and Heather Taylor Johnson, Sound & Bundy and Letters to My Lover from a Small Mountain Town, respectively, with an engaging set of interviews 'on the couch', which included performances by the authors.
We headed for the Hills the following evening, for an intimate evening at the Barossa Valley Brewery, where we warmed up with samples from the boutique brewery, followed by a sumptuous three course dinner, interspersed with performances by David from My Planets: a fictive memoir and Heather.
In April, David headed to Melbourne for a reading at Collected Works Bookshop with Amelia, E A Gleeson (Maisie and The Black Cat Band), Lois Shepheard. It was a stimulating evening of poetry and memoir, with David's cross-generic Planets providing an interesting transition between the poetry and memoir segments.
The next day, David and Amelia met up with E A Gleeson in Castlemaine for an event at the Castlemaine Word Mine to an appreciative audience.
Upcoming is a Spring Season tour of New Zealand to promote Sugu Pillay's Flaubert's Drum, which was Highly Commended for Best Poetry in IP Picks 2012and Karen Zelas' Night's Glass Table, which took out Best First Book. Confirmed stops from late August will include Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland, plus a few other stops enroute yet to be confirmed.
And we're already making plans for a tour of Tasmania in support of, Peter Kay (Blood) and Simon Kleinig (Frenchmans Cap, Story of a Mountain), which won Best Fiction and Creative Non-fiction, respectively, in IP Picks 2012.
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest breaking news on these and other events in the second half of the year.
Deal 1: "Like" our Digital Publishing Centre page on Facebook before 1 June for a FREE IP eBook of your choice! That's right, simply go to our Facebook page, check out all the digital news, "like" what you see and then email us your choice of eBook title, letting us know if you prefer a pdf or ePub version (the latter will work on most tablets).
Deal 3: IP Anniversary Special. Order ANY IP title for a 15% discount, plus FREE shipping.
Order by 1 June 2012 from firstname.lastname@example.org with Deal 1, Deal 2 or Deal 3 as your Subject. Include your postal address and whether you want to pay (for Deals 2 or 3) by EFT or PayPal.