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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Today... it's all about books

I would even go so far as to say, it's about traditional books. The ones with covers and paper pages. The ones that rustle and smell of fresh ink.

Why, you might ask, do I bother with this antiquated junk? In the age when books can be downloaded by a dozen and read on e-readers, tablets and laptops - why? Don't get me wrong, I understand the convenience of a sleek little device that can accommodate oodles of volumes. I can see its attraction for travel, if for no other reason. And yet...

1. A book cannot shatter into a thousand pieces if your cat accidentally knocks it off the table onto the floor.

2. If you are single, an avid reader, and want to date someone intelligent, when you see a person with a book, you can assume you have something in common. At least, it is safe to believe that the person knows how to read. But if you see someone with a Kindle or an iPad? There is really no way of knowing - they might be playing Angry Birds or, worse yet, Fruit Ninja

3. You can read books and decorate with them. Decorating with a tablet? Not so much.

4. All the best scenes in all the best movies happen in libraries - from marriage proposals to finding dead bodies.

5. Amazon cannot wipe your bookshelves clean and steal all the books you have already paid for.

6. Paper books do not crash, do not lose their content, do not require internet access, and do not need to be recharged.

7. Book pages are visible via reflected light. Electronic device screens are visible via projected light, which is much more harmful to your eyes.

8. There is no such thing as a leather-bound signed first edition of Alice in Wonderland on an e-reader.

9. If your electricity goes out, and you lose access to TV and internet, you can only use an e-reader as long as the battery lasts. But you can read a paper book all night by the candle light and not give a hoot that you are cut off from the rest of the world.

10. Quality illustrations are totally lost on e-readers. No HD screen can replace the joy of your kid pointing at an enormous 8-1/2" x 11" brightly colored page and saying, "Is that Wharton the elephant, mommy?"

I could make this a very long list, but I am sure you get the idea by now. Readers, I suggest that you use your e-readers for books you don't feel strongly about and can afford to lose. But if it's something you really enjoy and want to keep for a long time? Get a paperback. Or, better, yet, indulge and get a nice hardcover.

Writers, do not dismiss the print-on-demand channels out there. If you do not buy any of the fancy promotion packages (which do squat anyway and hardly ever pay for themselves in sales), it costs nothing to publish a paperback or a hardcover. Yes, the paper format requires more layout work and the cover design is an exercise in precision. But I think it's worth the effort.

Amazon's CreateSpace offers paperback publishing only - no hardcovers (they are missing the train on it, I think). Their books are of average quality, but cost less. The main advantage is that they actually review your book and cover .pdf files and tell you if there is an issue before you can publish. For instance, some page numbers in Word do not adjust their size, if the page count goes to two and three digits. So, page 165 might appear as 16 or 1. CreateSpace review people will point such things out to you. They also have a very nice on-line preview function, where you can electronically leaf through your entire book and make certain that everything looks in order.

Lulu offers both paperback and hardcover printing, and their size and cover options are superb, as is their quality. The basic cost of printing is higher, as the company uses superior papers. There is no review process, so your manuscript and cover had better be iron-clad. Fortunately, you can keep each book as "private access" and preview it for any issues, before you make it available to the public. Also, if you don't feel confident enough about creating something in one of the more complicated formats - like a photo- or a cookbook - Lulu does offer a wide range of pre-set templates you can use online, building your book and your cover one page at a time.

The last but not the least - and I have harped, am harping, and will continue harping about this - promote, promote, promote. Use channels like Hootsuite and BookBuzzr to plug your paper books along with the e-editions. Design your tag lines to attract the right audience - "No e-reader? No problem!", "Enjoy the old-fashioned reading here!". You get the idea. Promotion is not a dirty word and promoting your work is not beneath you. Collaborate with other writers and artists for mutual promo posts, blogs, and interviews.

Oh, and when you have a chance, buy a paper copy of your own book. Display it proudly.


Pal said...

Dear Maria,

First of all, thank you very much for making Ivan Yefremov's THAIS OF ATHENS available in English language. Your translation is just excellent! (I had already had the book with a different English translation, but your translation makes Yefremov's novel much more enjoyable and enlightening. In addition to the softcover edition, I have just bought the hardcover one :)

However, I respectfully disagree with your brief introduction to the Author.

Firstly, Stalinism can not be blamed for blacklisting some of Yefremov's books (actually, it was only THE HOUR OF THE BULL, which was withdrawn after its publishing), as Stalin had been long dead before the Author published his novels. (Similarly, Stalinism had ended - and been even denounced - well before Yefremov's mentioned novels got published.)

Secondly, I found it unfair to emphasize what some (ignorant?) people think of Yefremov's towering masterpiece, the highly influential ANDROMEDA NEBULA. Likewise, the claim that some of Yefremov's other novels are "more mature" suggest as if ANDROMEDA NEBULA were, in this respect, inferior to the Author's subsequent works - which can not be further from the truth.

The fact is that the publishing of the ANDROMEDA NEBULA (in 1957) initiated the Golden Age of Soviet Science Fiction. The novel influenced not only countless authors/artists, but world-renown astronauts (like Yuri Gagarin) and scientists (including the Nobel price winner Dennis Gabor) alike. In the wake of publishing ANDROMEDA NEBULA, reportedly forty percent of Soviet scientists and physicians were motivated in choosing their occupation as a direct result of this book!

If looking from a strict artistic point of view, one may find some shortcomings in ANDROMEDA NEBULA. However, considering that this unparalleled novel describes the only society that is feasible, sustainable and progressive, ANDROMEDA NEBULA has not been surpassed – by any other author for that matter. In other words, considering its universal and vastly important message (providing the key to our future), ANDROMEDA NEBULA is probably the most mature work ever written.

So, while you did a wonderful job with having professionally translated THAIS OF ATHENS, an accurate and balanced "About of the Author" section would be much more appropriate for this marvellous edition.

Good luck with you other projects - and I hope that you will eventually translate some of the other works by the great Russian author and scientists, Ivan Yefremov.

Sincerely yours,


Maria K. said...

Dear Pal,

Thank you so much for your comments. I am glad you enjoyed "Thais of Athens".

It is not widely known that Yefremov attempted to publish some of his better-known works while still under Stalin's administration - so much so that he tried using his leverage as an award-winning paleontologist to get them out. The Great Ring trilogy was conceived by Yefremov in the 1940s when conducting his paleontological report, but the first novel - "The Andromeda Nebula" conspicuously does not appear in 1957, 4 years after Stalin's death. The situation with "The Hour of the Bull" was similar - Yefremov himself admitted to having worked on the book significantly longer than it became an official project for realistic publication. I suppose it would be more fair to say that Yefremov was hindered and/or blacklisted by three subsequent Soviet administrations - Stalin's, Khrushchev's and Brezhnev's. I shall make that correction in the "About the author" section.

Also, while the scientists and intelligentsia hailed Yefremov's vision, the government and less educated masses did not. The books were parodied - and not in a nice way, dismissed and widely ridiculed. "There is no sex in the Soviet Union" remained a prominent government slogan, and Yefremov's placing gender roles and sexual relationships front and center in his books did not win him any fans in the Kremlin. His warning in particular that governments ignoring the lives of the citizens as individuals - including love, sex, parenthood, etc. - did not go over well.

I have now been battling for a year to obtain permission from Yefremov's heirs to publish his remaining major works, particularly "The Razor Blade", which is one mos profound books of all times and one of my favorites. Unfortunately, they keep changing their minds without rhyme or reason.

I have translated and shared snippets from "Andromeda Nebula" and "The Hour of the Bull" in the United States, and was promptly accused by the more conservative individuals for parading communism around like a wolf in a ship's clothing, for undermining American values and attempting to destroy American way of life. And there you have it.

Pal said...

Dear Maria,

Thank you very much for your - enlightening - response.

It is pity that you have difficulty in obtaining copyright release for translating Yefremov's other novels. The English translation of THE RAZOR'S BLADE and THE HOUR OF THE BULL (and even the LAND OF FOAM [what a ridiculous English title!] prequel, TRAVEL OF BAURZHED) is long overdue. (Fortunately, I am able to read these great writings in my native language [Hungarian].)

While I do agree on that Yefremov was (very unfairly) hindered - and even slandered - by Soviet administrations, party members and ignorant individuals, I still give credit to the Kruschev era (the "thaw") in particular. Those few years were inspirational too - especially in [space] sciences (which also positively affected the arts as well).

As for your (shocking) experience regarding those English translated excerpts from ANDROMEDA NEBULA and THE HOUR OF THE BULL, the values and benefits of the human race (as a whole) should be a way above any national interest. In fact, it could be the so-called 'way of certain national lives' [which might essentially be nothing but protecting business interests] that seem to be a main obstacle in the path leading to a united, just, peaceful, and truly advanced and civilized world (as it has been described in ANDROMEDA NEBULA - [which I consider the most important book ever written.)

Yefremov could be right in this respect too; [his words:] either we will have a world that he was attempting to show in ANDROMEDA, or we will have nothing.

That is why I am very happy with your translation; THAIS OF ATHENS - just like every other Yefremov writing - is a piece of a great mosaic. (For example, it was very rewarding to read connection in this novel to other literacy works by Yefremov.) Yefremov was a genius - and thanks again for bring him a closer to the English speaking people!

Maria K. said...

Dear Pal,

Not sure if you are familiar with them, but I also have translated some published works by other Russian/Soviet sci fi/fantasy writers - Alexander Belyaev and Alexander Grin. They are available across channels - Kindle, Nook, paperbacks, and hardcovers (the hardcovers are available on Lulu.com only). The works I have available right now are:

"The shipwreck island" and "The head of Professor Dowell" by Alexander Belyaev.

"The Golden Chain" and "The Waverunner" by Alexander Grin.

I am also working on a double publication including both these authors. It's called "Taking flight" and includes "Ariel" by Alexander Belyaev and "The Glittering World" by Alexander Grin - both of them dealing with the notion of a flying human being. So, there is more to come.

I did make the corrections I mentioned in the About the Author section across the books that include that information. Thank you again for your interest