C. M. Rubin Writer Producer The Real Alice In Wonderland book and film

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How Will We Read? The Book Makers

"We are at a very early stage in imagining the future of the book." — David "Skip" Prichard

The publisher delivers a single file. With that file, Ingram Content Group will deliver the content globally in a variety of ways, whether as a printed book or as a digital file which will ultimately create books for every digital platform around the world. They have the industry’s largest active book inventory (access to 7.5 million titles) and the markets they serve include bookstores, libraries, schools, and specialty retailers.

What do the book makers believe about the future of reading? I had the pleasure of speaking with the charismatic President and CEO of Ingram Content Group, David “Skip” Prichard.

How do you see the growth prospects for books in all forms over the next five to ten years?

I’m bullish on the growth prospects for books. First, the demographics are favorable. We have an aging baby boomer population that should fuel reading. Demand for English-language books is also a positive long-term trend. Second, technology is increasing demand for books whether on digital devices or through the ease of buying books online. Enhanced e-books are only in their infancy, allowing authors to add alternative endings or interviews. Down the road, who knows what’s possible? Maybe we will have biometric devices that can sense your pulse and body temperature and change the plot based on your feelings — and you think Stephen King is scary now. Third, the very definition of a book is evolving. The information in books is fast becoming linked to other content in various forms, blending into articles, research, and other media. As books become part of the larger information landscape, they become both more relevant and more important.

Are there enhanced books available this holiday season that have already changed the definition of a book?

Yes, for example, a biography can to come to life in many ways. Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy has all of the interview audios, videos, photographs, text, and transcripts available. Even classics — Penguin has updated Pride & Prejudice with clips from the movie and even instructions on dancing. For the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit, HarperCollins released an e-version with exclusives including J.R.R Tolkien’s book illustrations and recently discovered Tolkien recordings. Publishers are still learning what added value readers will or won’t pay for. I expect we’ll continue to see lots of experimentation in this arena.

Does this mean authors will require different skill sets to create books?

Yes, there is definitely a demand for new and emerging skill sets. Publishing is full of creative types, including talent that is savvy about the new tools becoming available. The challenge is less about talent and more about the need to find the right business model. For example, you don’t want to create a book that’s very cool but too expensive for the average reader. There’s no limit to what can be done, but there is a limit to what consumers will pay for.

"We are able to print a book on demand within hours and deliver it the next day." - Skip Prichard

How do you see the playing field for books evolving in the next five to ten years?

Three powerful trends in the last few years have been the growth of online retail, the rise of the e-book, and the explosion in the number of titles available. These will continue for some time. It doesn’t mean that all bookstores will close. And it doesn’t mean that the printed book is dead. What it does mean is that traditional bookstores will need to continue to be creative — change inventory, add more events, and make the local experience unique. Large print runs will diminish as e-book sales increase. Today, many printed books are created through the technology of print-on-demand, arriving in stores, libraries, or at home the day after printing. Finally, authors are finding new ways to reach markets directly. All of these potentially threaten players not adept at staying ahead of the changes. Fortunately, many publishers are ahead of the curve and already anticipating the next phase of growth. We are at a very early stage in imagining the future of the book.

What will be the effect on brick and mortar outlets? What recommendations do you have for these outlets?

Physical stores are redefining their role for the future by finding unique and compelling ways to differentiate the experience from online. Just as print and digital will find a balance, so too, will online and physical retail. My recommendation is, “Find your niche, your unique value proposition, and lock in your customer relationship experience.” The challenges ahead for brick and mortar outlets are not unique to bookstores. Almost all physical retailers are confronting these same challenges.

What will be the effect on publishing companies and what opportunities will this provide to authors for self-publishing?

Publishers are making changes and developing new models for the future. The publishing house of yesterday is being replaced as visionary publishers adapt to new ways to reach readers. Content creation will extend past the current definition of the book. With the explosive growth of books in recent years, the role of the publisher to select, edit and promote content is more valuable than ever. And the prestige of getting published remains for all authors and potential authors.

There are also more opportunities than ever for self-published authors as the barriers to publishing are lower than ever. Self-published titles are increasing in both print and digital formats. We’ve seen some self-published authors break into the bestseller lists. Interestingly, these same authors generally end up accepting lucrative publishing deals when they are approached.

"Three powerful trends in the last few years have been the growth of online retail, the rise of the e-book, and the explosion in the number of titles available." - Skip Prichard

How can the book industry protect itself from piracy?

Piracy isn’t a new issue. In fact, the majority of pirated copies are from print books being photocopied and distributed rather than from the distribution of digital copies. Keep in mind that what separates books from other forms of entertainment: for those who can’t or don’t want to pay for books, they’ve always been available for free from libraries. The key is to continue to make books not only an engaging experience but also an affordable and easy-to-access experience. We need to make it easy for consumers to find and purchase books legally, meaning publishers must package and share e-content with consumers in formats they want to read without unreasonable restrictions.

Why should a book be your number one gift purchase this holiday season and what are your recommendations?

Books educate, inform and inspire. They cultivate curiosity, nurture the imagination, and promote a sense of wonder. Books are also terrific conversation starters. In addition, books keep on giving well beyond the day they are received whether to the original recipient or to someone else.

How is Ingram changing its culture to embrace the digital age?

We have been early adopters of a number of different technologies. Our print on demand business, Lightning Source, started fifteen years ago. As more books go digital, publishers will have to cut print runs. We are able to print a book on demand within hours and deliver it the next day. Last year we expanded to France. This year we expanded to Australia.

Ingram was an early investor in digital. We’ve had experience in digital for many years and expanded these services to include things like CoreSource, a digital warehouse for publishers. We can send an e-book to all the sources for digital devices, so a publisher does not have to worry about the logistics of file conversions, the bibliographic data about the book, and the security of delivery to consumer channels.

Ingram also purchased VitalSource, an electronic textbook platform that is our fastest growing business. We now have 2 million students using the platform worldwide. It’s transforming the way students interact with educational material. Textbooks come alive using video, audio, and text, and allow students to share notes. It has technology that allows us to tell a publisher: “Nobody is reading Chapter 8.” Or, “People like these three chapters best so you might want to expand them.” It helps the students learn better by engaging with the material in the way that they learn best.

We are watching the digital space carefully. We’re an active participant behind the scenes in this transformation. We embrace it and will continue to be a central part of it. Ingram sits as the center hub between the publisher and libraries and retailers. We get a wide view of what’s happening in the marketplace.

      C. M. Rubin and David “Skip” Prichard

Photos courtesy of Ingram Content Group, Inc.

Visit Skip Prichard’s blog:

C. M. Rubin is the author of the widely read online series, The Global Search for Education, and is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.


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Lessons in Creative Collaboration

At a time when traditional publishers are releasing fewer books than ever, the same is not true for the self-publishing world.  In 2009 over 750,000 books were self-published, a 181% increase from the year before.  This year that number is expected to rise again.  I get calls every week from authors wanting to self-publish a book with significant visual content and looking for a book designer.  I hope my most recent adventures with my pictorial biography, The Real Alice in Wonderland, will be helpful to those authors and to others.
Translating Vision into Images:
Tim Burton and  Dariusz Wolski.  Woody Allen and Carlo di Palma.  James Cameron and Russell Carpenter. Francis Ford Coppola and Gordon Willis.  Claude Chabrol and Jean Rabier. The best pictorial biographies, like the best films, are made through great director/designer collaborations. The Author must play the role of Director.  You have the vision. The Designer must play the role of the Cinematographer. She will execute your vision. Make sure your designer is experienced with all the current design software, including Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Fireworks, Adobe Flash, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, MacFreelance, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, QuarkXPress,Quicken and Stuffit. Phew!
Getting organized:
You will need to source visual materials for your book before the design process can begin.  There are a number of online visual sources where authors and designers can find and purchase graphics. I Stock is one of the biggest, but also try Gettyone, BigStock,, and Illustration Works.  The Real Alice In Wonderland had a large visual component.  It involved collecting artwork and photographs from museums, libraries, and private collectors all over the world. This was no easy task (it took years).  Permissions to use these materials would have been impossible to get without the help and support of my business and legal partner, my husband Harry Rubin.
I asked my designer, Deborah Frano, if she would be willing to answer a few questions about the creative process:
1.  How did you get involved with design?
I’ve always been creative, and I have loved to draw and paint as far back as I can remember.  I double majored in college – fine art and graphic design. I wanted something art-related that I could make a living at, and still satisfy my need to be creative. Actually, designers are very much like fine artists in their own right. The difference is that designers create their art with a computer instead of a paintbrush or pencil. I find that my fine art background sometimes influences my design work. A good design should evoke an emotion and communicate a message or feeling, much like a painting or a sculpture.
2.  Are there certain types of projects you find the most attractive?
I really enjoyed working on The Real Alice In Wonderland.  It was challenging.  It pushed me to raise the level of my creativity and the flow of my ideas.  Getting inside the author’s head and trying to graphically interpret her vision was challenging.  Although she knew what she wanted the end result to be, she was ready and willing to take risks to create something that was really cutting edge.   We shared ideas – some ideas panned out and some did not.  You have to  “wrestle” an idea out – discarding what doesn’t fit and refining what does, until the design communicates what the author is looking for. Sometimes a design seems great until you hit upon something better.  For example, well into the design of the book we realized we had raised the bar on our artistic translation.  It meant going back and reworking some of the spreads to reinforce the visual thread that tied everything together.  It was worth it.  I would love to do more projects like this in the future.
3.  How do you see your role as a book designer changing as the industry moves more towards digital media?
My field has changed enormously in the past ten years, and the next ten will bring even more changes.  With The Real Alice In Wonderland, I was constantly aware that many of the designs for print would ultimately get translated into digital media for the promotion and marketing of the book. However, even when books with a significant visual component move into the world of digital transmission, there will still be things that only print media can do.  Texture, quality and design of a paper book all affect the way art communicates. Think about it this way.  Will a digital image ever replace an actual painting?  I don’t think so.
Thank you Deb. Last and not least, it really helps to find a designer you are comfortable and  compatible with, and especially someone you enjoy spending a lot of time with.  Deb Frano and I have a similar work ethic.  We don’t give up until we get what we want.  We respect each others talents.  We feed off each others ideas.  We like working together.  Some other places where you can check out designers and their work are Illustration Mundo, Etsy, SBWI, Society of Illustrators, Illustration Friday, and Theispot.  To contact Deborah Frano directly, please go to

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Response to Huffington Post Blog about Book Publishing

CM Rubin is the author of two best–selling, award-winning books.  Her third book, The Real Alice in Wonderland, is currently available in retail bookstores nationally. 

I found your article interesting, although a little long and perhaps in need of a little editing, but certainly well written enough for your arguments to be understood and debated by your readers. I do not believe that you adequately understand what is happening in publishing today or the pros and cons of self-publishing today, possibly because you didn’t have enough time to research it before writing your article.  As an author with 20 years of experience in virtually every publishing medium, and who is both traditionally published and self-published, I would like to give you an update on what is happening. Traditional publishing is in decline and fewer books are being produced.  Self-publishing is booming and has come a long way from where it used to be.  There are both traditionally published authors and talented newcomers making use of self-publishing.  The best authors are getting their work edited by publishing professionals.  The editors used by these writers are either freelancers who are out of work due to the enormous cut-backs in traditional publishing, or professionals provided by the better self-publishing companies.  Most of the development staff I know in the good self-publishing companies came from executive positions in the publishing world.  Authors of self-published books are also getting their work reviewed by respected trade and consumer book reviewers because these publications are realizing that there are increasing numbers of great books being self-published.  Authors of self-published books are also getting their books promoted at independent bookstores, online retailers and at national retailers such as Barnes and Noble and Borders, because store buyers are realizing that there are great books being offered to them that their customers want to read.  As regards promotion, authors can get guidance from their self-publishing companies on marketing and promotion, and in many cases, the authors have managed to do a better job themselves than if the traditional publisher had managed the project.  In fairness to the traditional publisher, they don’t have the staff or budget to do effective promotion in every case.  An example is my book, The Real Alice in Wonderland, the true story of my relative Alice Liddell’s life.  My book has achieved all the things I have just described but had to be self published because the traditional publisher couldn’t turn it around fast enough for the release of Tim Burton’s film. I agree that writers should certainly seek perfection in their work.  The focus of the struggle to be published or to self-publish should be about creating the best book that it is within you to write. Progress and technology in the publishing world now make it possible to self-publish when you have your masterpiece so perhaps the most important difference is that no one can ever stop you from having your voice heard again.
Yours most sincerely,
C.M. Rubin

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