If there was a recipe for the best-selling writer Rick Riordan, it would go something like this — start with a love of storytelling, fold in more than a decade of teaching middle school English, combine that with two sons of his own who don't quite share their dad's love of literature, and marinate all of that with a deep passion for mythology.
Riordan has sold tens of millions of kids' books. He hit pay dirt with the Percy Jackson series — it's about an everyday kid who has superhero powers because he's the secret son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.
They used to call it the "vanity press," and the phrase itself spoke volumes. Self-published authors were considered not good enough to get a real publishing contract. They had to pay to see their book in print. But with the advent of e-books, self-publishing has exploded, and a handful of writers have had huge best-sellers.
The literary world was abuzz this year with the runaway success of "Fifty Shades of Grey" and J.K. Rowling's books for grown-up muggles. But it was Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Philip Roth's retirement that got the attention of commentator Ben Dolnick.
BEN DOLNICK: This fall, in an interview with a French magazine, Philip Roth announced his retirement. I no longer have the stamina to endure the frustration, he explained. Instead, he's been entertaining friends, playing with his iPhone, and eating meals prepared by a personal chef.