Posts Tagged With: American Music Series

Dollars, cents and sense of book-publishing

Something I always tell people: Don’t go into writing books for the money, because there’s a lot less of it than you’d think. Sure, books are worth writing and publishing, enough so that I put a lot of effort into both writing and editing them. But for those of us who aren’t J.K. Rowling, say, you’d be amazed at just how little money can change hands over it.

Case in point is the annual royalty statement from University of Texas Press that hits my mailbox every year around this time. I have a small back-end interest in the books I’ve brought in to the American Music Series at UT Press, and a few of them have “earned out” — sold enough to recoup their advances and generate back-end royalties. Valhalla!

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It comes to a few hundred dollars every year, which is good to have and I’m happy to get it. No, it’s not a living or much of a contribution to the retirement account, but every drop in the bucket helps here on Planet Freelance. The work is still fun to do, and it’s satisfying to feel like I’m involved in putting good things out into the world. That’s still more important to me than money.

But yeah, this is the time of year I pay attention to the money, especially since I have an even more direct rooting interest in one of those UT Press titles — because it’s a book I wrote, “Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown.” It was published way back in 2012 and did pretty well; sold decently by university-press standards while picking up mostly (but not unanimously) positive reviews and even winning an award.

Losering.JPGNaturally, I still feel like it could have done multiples more in sales if I’d caught a break or two — a review in the right place, the right person tweeting something about it at the right time — but that was not to be. All of which is to say that, while I’m still proud of “Losering,” it has yet to earn out and get to the promised land of back-end royalties.

But man, it’s close. By my back-of-the-envelope calculations based on this statement, it needs to sell only around 40 more copies to get there.

Seems like a sure thing, right? Guess again.

In the wake of that bombshell New York Times feature back in February, which accused Mr. Adams of various #MeToo misdeeds, his career pretty much came to a full stop. He was to have released three albums this year while touring the world, but that was all canceled.

It’s hard to tell if this is going to be a temporary lull or a permanent ban for Ryan, or if he has it within him to do what needs to be done for him to resume his career. I’ve not been able to bring myself to listen to his music since the news broke, which leaves me with profoundly mixed feelings. But in the grand scheme of things, the fate of my little university-press book on Ryan is an insignificant little blip. This time next year, I kind of expect it will still be in “Unrecouped” purgatory. So it goes.

Meanwhile, I’m just about done with my next book — this one for UNC Press, a history of North Carolina music — which has been my main side-hustle project for close to three years. There have been times when it’s felt like a sanity-keeping labor of love, others when it’s felt like an anchor I’m lugging around. But it should be done and dusted by the end of this month, with publication to follow in fall 2020.

The advance is just about the same amount I was paid to write “Losering.” Maybe this one will take less time to earn out.

(Originally published on the Piedmont Laureate blog.)

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Attention is the sincerest form of flattery

PopMattersIt’s always nice when your work gets noticed, however tangentially, and here’s a nice little gift from the universe that feels like a drink of water in the desert. I’ve been involved with the American Music Series at University of Texas Press for close to a decade now, writing one of the titles myself and also co-editing a fair amount of the 14 total titles we’ve published. More books are on the way and we’ve had some decent success, including accolades and even a bonafide New York Times best-seller.

But you love all your books the same, no matter their fate, just like you love all your children the same. And the reason I love this Pop Matters “Revenge of the She Punks” review is that the critic, Megan Volpert, singled out for praise two books I brought into the series and co-edited: “Madonnaland” and “Chrissie Hynde.” I’m quite fond of both, even though they’re far from our top-sellers.

But I’d say this is just proof of Volpert’s outstanding judgment, perception and taste!

 

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Chris Stamey: Lucky 13 for the American Music Series

20180321_200029You can work on a book for months (or years) and it’s still kind of an abstraction — nothing more than a collection of computerized pixels. And even though we live in a digital world nowadays, I’m still enough of an old-school creature to where a book doesn’t feel real to me until there’s a physical copy I can hold in my hand. So it’s always a satisfying moment when a box of a new American Music Series title shows up on my doorstep. Here we have our 13th and latest book, Chris Stamey’s fantastic new memoir “A Spy in the House of Loud: New York Songs and Stories.” Speaking as a longtime fan, I am beyond proud and thrilled to have this one in the series.

The “official” publication date isn’t until April 15, but you should be able to find “A Spy in the House of Loud” in better bookstores already. Chris is already out there working it, including an entertaining South by Southwest panel recently where he appeared alongside some of his New York peers to tell stories and share memories about the old days at CBGB way back when.

There’s also a Spotify playlist of songs covered in the book. And Chris has some bookstore readings coming up, too. If you’re in the Raleigh vicinity, please come to Quail Ridge Books at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 15, for an event where Chris will read a few passages and play a few songs with his dB’s cohort Peter Holsapple, among others. I’ll be there as well, in the role of guest interviewer for the Q&A session.

Chris will also do another music/reading event at Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books on April 28; and there’s a May 12 performance in Winston-Salem involving reunions of some of the 1960s-vintage hometown acts he wrote about in the book.

 

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American Music Series: We wanna take you higher

UTPressLogoWhen the American Music Series first started up in 2012, there were two co-editors — my old chum Peter Blackstock, and me — working with Casey Kittrell at University of Texas Press. Peter and I functioned as frontline gatekeepers, trying to coordinate authors and subjects with Casey as in-house acquisitions editor, and I think we got the series off to a solid start with books about Dwight Yoakam, Merle Haggard, Flatlanders and (ahem) Ryan Adams.

But then Peter’s career circumstances changed drastically when the Austin American-Statesman hired him as music critic. Austin is Peter’s hometown and this is his dream job, so I was thrilled for him, of course. But the Statesman’s music beat proved to be so all-consuming that Peter had to bow out of the AMS co-editorship in 2014, leaving Casey and me to carry on as best we could.

We’ve done our best to push things forward and diversify the series beyond its original Americana focus, with books about Madonna, Chrissy Hynde, Mary J. Blige and (coming next spring) Chris Stamey. But it’s been clear for quite some time that moving up to the next level was going to take new blood on the editorial side of things, which I’m delighted to say that we now have.

UT Press announced this week that two new American Music Series editors have signed on: Jessica Hopper, whose books include 2015’s “The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic”; and California State University professor Oliver Wang, author of 2015’s “Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the San Francisco Bay Area.” Both have super-impressive credentials beyond the books they’ve written, and they’re already at work on extending the series’ stylistic reach even further. As Jessica puts it:

JHUTP

Welcome aboard, y’all. Let’s do this.

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Chris Stamey spies on the house of loud

CSspyIt’s been kind of a long and winding road, involving a title change — but Chris Stamey’s book is officially in the pipeline as the next title up in the American Music Series. The book’s final, full title is “A Spy in the House of Loud: New York Songs and Stories,” and it’s due out next spring on University of Texas Press.

This will be the 13th book in the series, going back to 2012. And as a long-time dB’s fanatic, I could not be more thrilled to have the co-leader of one of my all-time favorite bands be a part of it. Dig the cover here, and look for “A Spy in the House of Loud” in stores in April 2018.

 

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Next up: “Woman Walk the Line”

WWtLNow that “Chrissie Hynde: A Musical Biography” is out in the world, attention here at the American Music Series turns to the next book up. And this will be an especially good one, “Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives.” It’s our first multi-author anthology in the series, with essays about everyone from Loretta Lynn to Rhiannon Giddens, and it’s a fantastic collection, thanks to the Herculean efforts of editor Holly Gleason. It may say, “Edited by Holly Gleason” on the cover, but “Lovingly sherpheded by” would be closer to the mark because Holly has done a spectacular job pulling this together.

One early fan is Americana icon (and noted author) Rodney Crowell — former husband of contributor Rosanne Cash, son-in-law of her essay subject June Carter Cash and longtime Emmylou Harris collaborator. He writes:

“‘Woman Walk the Line’ is tender, tough, raw, informative and emotionally intelligent, carefully framing twenty-seven of country music’s most evocative and enduring artists. It delivers truth and beauty on every page. I bow in earnest.”

Look for “Woman Walk the Line” in September as our fall release, and the 12th American Music Series book overall.

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Publication day for “Chrissie Hynde: A Musical Biography”

sobseyA few years back, I wrote a News & Observer story about a really cool project called “Bull City Summer: A Season at the Ballpark.” A year-long chronicle of the Durham Bulls minor-league baseball team, “Bull City Summer” brought together more than a dozen photographers, writers and artists to document what went on over the course of a season — not just on the field but in the stands, behind the scenes and even on the streets outside. By all means, buy the book because it’s really worth your time even if you’re not a baseball fan.

I was immensely impressed with everyone on the “Bull City Summer” crew, but especially journalist Adam Sobsey, a baseball reporter who penned a series of insightful essays that brought the world of Triple-A baseball to life. The subject was more sports than music, but I loved Adam’s writing and was also kind of in awe of his ability to turn around fully thought-out essays literally on the spot. I got in touch with Adam because I figured he had a book in him, and that definitely turned out to be the case.

Tuesday is the official publication date for the hardcover version of Adam’s “Chrissie Hynde: A Musical Biography,” a modestly titled but nevertheless brilliant look at the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and iconic leader of The Pretenders. Among other things, “Chrissie Hynde” fills in a lot of time periods that Hynde herself didn’t cover in her own 2015 memoir “Reckless,” and Adam’s music criticism throughout the book is absolutely first-rate.

This is the 11th entry in the University of Texas Press American Music Series (with  No. 12, the anthology “Woman Walk the Line,” set to come out in September). Adam covered some of the background to his book here, and there’s a link to an excerpt here.

Adam will also be conducting readings (accompanied by a live band playing Pretenders songs, of course) at Greensboro’s Scuppernong Books on May 4, and Durham’s Global Breath Studio at a date to be announced later.

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“Madonnaland” — Rolling Stone digs it, too

“Madonnaland: And Other Detours Into Fame and Fandom,” the wonderfully quirky Madonna quasi-biography penned by the great Alina Simone, is shaping up as one of the most acclaimed books we’ve published with the American Music Series. On the heels of year-end honors from National Public Radio, “Madonnaland” has earned a spot in Rolling Stone’s “10 Best Music Books of 2016” list — alongside Bruce Springsteen’s memoir “Born to Run,” Bob Mehr’s Replacements tome “Trouble Boys” and other notable titles. Jason Diamond calls “Madonnaland” a “fuller, weirder and more interesting overview of Madonna than we may have thought possible.” Check the full entry here.

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Chris Stamey’s “New York Songs”

stameystudioLong before I ever moved to North Carolina and met Chris Stamey, I was listening to him in the dB’s, one of my all-time favorite bands. And I’ve loved pretty much all his solo records over the years, too, avidly following his many projects (including his new radio play). So it’s a huge, huge thrill for me to be able to welcome Chris to the American Music Series as our newest author.

University of Texas Press has signed Chris to write a book for the AMS, which he is calling “New York Songs.” Chris describes it as “a cross between annotated songbook, musicology and recording-technique tome, and memoir,” with his songs serving as reference points. And thanks to his time playing with Alex Chilton and various CBGB denizens in Manhattan and beyond, not to mention his current status as one of Chapel Hill’s top studio gurus, Chris has some pretty amazing stories to tell.

If all goes according to plan, “New York Songs” will hit bookstores in 2018.

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NPR’s year-end visit to “Madonnaland”

Hearty congratulations of the season go out to Alina Simone, whose American Music Series title “Madonnaland: And Other Detours Into Fame And Fandom” has picked up some pretty exquisite year-end love from National Public Radio. NPR included “Madonnaland” in its Book Concierge listing of 2016’s best books, with book critic Michael Schaub pronouncing it “wonderful” — and I quite agree. The full blurb is below.

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