Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, August 31, 2007

This Week in Publishing 8/31/07

Ah, the end of Summer. May the mosquitoes of the Northern Hemisphere die a cold, unmourned death as fall weather makes their habitat inhospitable.

Human literary award winning machine Cormac McCarthy has added another award to his increasingly full closet. This time it's UK's oldest literary prize the James Tait Black Memorial for THE ROAD. How long before we find out that Cormac McCarthy's body has been magnetized by a rogue scientist to emit a special frequency that attracts prestigious literary awards? Not long, people. Not long.

Thanks to Jonathan Lyons for linking to an incredible article in Publishers Weekly by Sterling Lord, who writes about how he stuck with a young author named Jack Kerouac as he shopped the manuscript for ON THE ROAD for four years. FOUR YEARS!! Oh, and I don't want to give away anything, but it all turned out ok in the end.

New Yorker writer and author Pete Hamill opened up his TV Guide the other day and thought, "Hmm... now that sounds familiar." And he wasn't talking about Kid Nation. According to the Washington Post, the new Fox show "New Amsterdam" bears some, well, "odd" resemblance to Hamill's fantastic book (I can vouch for this one meself) FOREVER. One is about a man who was killed centuries ago but is now immortal in New York... and the other is about a man who was killed centuries ago but is now immortal in New York. (I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which.) For his part, Pete Hamill is being an exceedingly good sport, telling the Post, "To try and prove anything about this would take thousands and thousands of dollars, which I'd rather spend on my grandson," Hamill said. "You've gotta laugh." Wow. Let's just say if a TV show appears about a literary agent who blogs about bad reality TV shows, there would be only one word to describe me: litigious. Also flattered. And confused.

And finally, in other news-via-GalleyCat, MTV has named its first poet laureate: John Ashbery. Well. With all due respect to Mr. Ashbery, who has had a long career filled with many awards chosen by some very smart people, including a Pulitzer, I'm completely shocked that MTV did not choose me. Who is better qualified to write haikus about The Hills than I am??

Sitting at the beach
Audrina, Justin Bobby
Capt. Cook wants his hair back

Jason and Spencer
Justin Bobby and Brody
Wise choices, ladies

Rolling up on Lauren
Former besties in drunken fight
"You know what you did."

Oh, Whitney, Whitney
You're way too normal for this
That's why we like you

Have a great weekend! (and please share your The Hills haikus in the comments section!)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

How to Write a Synopsis

Much like my haircuts, this is a blog post that I have put off for quite a long time. How to write a synopsis. It's like my own personal kryptonite. I've been meaning to post about this for such a long time, but then I'd think, "How in the world am I supposed to give advice on how to write a synopsis? Ohh! I know! I can write about The Hills instead!!"

But I shall put it off no longer. Today's post will be about how to write a synopsis.

I'm starting now. I can do this.

I mean it. I'm going to do it.

Starting now.

Ok, really starting now.

The reason for my recalcitrance is that there's really no one way to write a synopsis. Everyone has a different idea of what a synopsis should entail, how long it should be, whether it should be single- or double-spaced, whether it should include all of the plot or just the really important stuff... I mean, how I can even begin to summarize this and offer any advice is frankly beyond me.

But here is the thing to know about synopses: A synopsis is not an opportunity to talk about every single character and every single plot point in a "and then this happened and then this happened" fashion. A synopsis needs to do two things: 1) it needs to cover all of the major characters and major plot points (including the ending) and 2) it needs to make the work come alive. If your synopsis reads like "and then this happened and then this happened" and it's confusing and dull, well, you might want to revise that baby.

A good place to start for a model on how to write a good synopsis is to mimic book cover copy, only also include in the synopsis what happens in the end. The blurbs on flap jackets and on the back of paperbacks are usually good synopses -- they're a hybrid of plot points but with a bigger sense of what makes the book unique and interesting (although discard the stuff in cover copy that talks about the author -- that doesn't go in a synopsis). You want to strike a balance in the synopsis between covering the plot and characters, but also conveying the spirit and tone of the book and smoothing over gaps between the major plot points you describe.

So in the synopsis, you definitely want to capture how the novel begins and the hook and include all of the major climaxes and the big climax at the end. Between those points introduce major characters and their relationships, and make sure you're conveying the core of the conflicts between all of these elements. But then, rather than just filling in with more and more plot and more and more characters, connect the dots between them with your own summarizing, in order to make the synopsis easy to read and compelling on its own.

Easier said than done, I know. Synopses are tough. Like mosquitoes (my war against them is going better, btw).

How long should a synopsis be? Unless the agent specifies otherwise or you have found better synopsis-writing advice elsewhere (the odds of that are pretty good, frankly), I'd shoot for two to three pages, double-spaced. If it's longer or shorter than that I don't think anyone is going to be angry, but that should be enough to do what you need to do.

So there you have it. It's done. I did it. Thank goodness. Now about that haircut I've been putting off...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How Many Books Did You Read Last Year?

I'm sure by now you have heard the sobering news that one in four Americans did not read a single book last year. 25%. Two and a half out of ten. Two bits. The proportion represented by 15 minutes on a clock. You get the idea.

Meanwhile, the typical person read four books. But as we all know from the comments section, the people who read this blog are far from typical.

So you tell me: how many books did you read last year?

In keeping with my recent tradition of asking You Tell Me questions I can't answer myself, I read... uh... maybe 50? I'm not really sure. The thing is, it's hard to estimate because while I spend a good portion of every day reading, I spend most of my time reading partial manuscripts and proposals, and I can't really count those. So I'll say 50 to be safe. A good round number.

What about you?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Verdict on Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions are clever, clever foes. Following yesterday's blog post in which I stepped up my aerial bombardment and general attack mode against these pests, I subsequently had a night I will not soon forget. Not only did rhetorical questions convince UNNAMED CABLE PROVIDER WHO I LOATHE to mess up its programming guide so that I missed The Hills, RQ also enlisted hoards of mosquitoes to attack me throughout the night. Despite a 3:00 am counterattack in which I slayed 10 of these foul beasts with a dustbuster, I woke up with a bite on my eyelid.

Well played, rhetorical questions. Well played indeed.

But despite this additional setback, and despite the best efforts of you the intelligent and savvy readers and commenters, who put together some very intriguing rhetorical questions involving The Hills, peanut butter, and rhetorical questions about rhetorical questions, I am here to announce that there are two rhetorical questions that would officially circumvent my vendetta:

From Lawrence: "Are you perhaps wondering why I, Michael Chabon, am sending you this query?"

and reader burgy61 pointed out that the classic Bob Dylan song "Blowin' in the Wind" is all rhetorical questions, and I subsequently acknowledged that "How many roads does a man walk down before you call him a man?" would probably catch my attention.

So I have an announcement: Michael Chabon and Bob Dylan are officially exempt from this rule. Otherwise, my feeling about them stands. I remain unconvinced that an opening to a query can be said better with a rhetorical question than with a non-question, and therefore I feel well-justified in my bias against them.

Especially now that they have enlisted the insect world to their cause.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Death, Locusts, Plagues, Queries Beginning With Rhetorical Questions

Lock the doors. Close the windows. Make sure the kids are safe. And for the love of Justin Bobby, stay away from the computer. There is a scourge sweeping the nation.

My stance on queries beginning with rhetorical questions is well-documented. Normally I am a mild-mannered fellow. I always wave "thanks" when a driver lets me into their lane, and when pigeons hit me in the face with their wings when they fly by me, I blame myself -- pigeons just don't understand how I walk.

Queries beginning with rhetorical questions, however... this I cannot bear.

And I have some bad news. I'm losing. The frequency of queries beginning with rhetorical questions is rising. Sweet Magnolia cupcakes, I'm losing!

I know, I know - what a strange battle to be shedding tears over (yes, I cry every time I receive one of these letters. Leave me alone). But I will riddle you this: there is no way to make a rhetorical question an interesting start to a query.

The more extreme the rhetorical question (Have you ever wondered if space aliens live in your underwear drawer?) the more I want to say, "NO." The more mundane the rhetorical question (Have you ever felt sad?) the more I want to say, "NO." Only the second no is more of a sarcastic no, like noooooo, rather than the first no, which is more of a serious no. It's all about inflection, people.

Some have pointed out that very good ad campaigns have utilized rhetorical questions. Some have pointed out that movie pitches often use rhetorical questions. True and true. Query letters and rhetorical questions, however, go together like peanut butter and asphalt.

So I have a challenge for you today: maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I should surrender the battle and pledge fealty to my rhetorical question overlords. Should you have the talent, the wit, the hardy constitution, write a rhetorical question that would make a great beginning to a query letter. Let's see if it can be done. I'm ready to be convinced.

Or you could craft the wildest, craziest, most hilarious rhetorical question that would ever grace my inbox. You know. Whichever one you would find more fun.

Friday, August 24, 2007

This Week in Publishing 8/24/07

Hello to everyone coming to the blog via today's Publishers Lunch, which links to Wednesday's discussion of the pros and cons of DRM, which originally linked to Publishers Lunch. And, uh, here's a link back to today's Publishers Lunch, although be advised that if you click on it you will be trapped in an infinite feedback loop for all of eternity between my blog and Publishers Lunch (but hey -- at least you'll always be up to date on publishing news!).

Everyone's favorite de-motivating website 101 Reasons to Stop Writing has a new paint job and a new address, so put down those pens and typewriters and be sure and update your bookmarks. Oh, and don't forget to vote on your favorite cliche in fiction.

Empty out your couches for some loose change, because you're going to want a limited edition diamond-encrusted edition of British entrepreneur Roger Shashoua's book DANCING WITH THE BEAR, worth approximately £3 million. Thanks to GalleyCat for the heads up! I'm so on it. Does someone have change for £10 million?

Jonathan Lyons, in his continuing series on agents standing by their clients through the submission process, has a great entry from friend and former colleague Edward Necarsulmer IV, director of the children's department of McIntosh & Otis. He calls his slush pile the "discovery pile," which had me slapping my head and whining, "Why didn't I think of that?" (Edward is a very smart individual and a great agent). Thanks to Ello for reminding me to link to this.

And finally, thank you to everyone who has commented and are busy networking with other writers who are commenting on yesterday's post on networking. Yay networking! You guys are so awesome. And increasingly well-networked, I might add.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More About That Slush Pile (and the importance of networking)

Tuesday's post on the importance of avoiding the slush pile in the first place elicited quite the strong response. Some people pointed out that other agents are on the record stating that they find most of their clients through the slush pile (true - for them), some people expressed reservations about calling in favors (more on that later), some people wanted to know how in the heck you're supposed to network when you live in Antarctica, USA (more on that too).... and then we started talking about sports and that was that (the Kings' offseason has been so bad it makes me want to talk about soccer).

So I thought I would revisit the post and reiterate some things that were said in the comments section and generally make an attempt to keep this conversation going because 1) I think it's advice that perhaps some people may not want to hear, and 2) because that comments thread was interesting and people had lots of differing opinions. 3) Have you noticed how I like to number things?

First, on the matter of networking. There used to be a time when a lack of networking could be chalked up to living in Wyoming, not knowing the right people, not being familiar enough with the industry... any number of things. There really was no hope unless you lived in New York. And in fact, aspiring writers would move to New York just so they could run in the same circles as the publishing industry. This was a quaint time when writers wore berets and were not expected to be savvy self-promoters and when there was no such thing as a "platform" and blogs.

At the risk of getting all "the future is now" on you, well, the future is now. That time is no more. And that is because of the Internet. But also because berets are lame.

Physical proximity to the industry doesn't matter anymore, or at least not nearly as much, and there's not a whole lot standing in the way of someone becoming a well-connected writer with a strong network and industry connections. You can do plenty of networking from your living room if you have a computer (and if you're reading this, well, I assume you at least have access to one). So ultimately (and this is where people may get mad) there's no excuse for not being at least somewhat connected anymore. Unless, of course, you just don't have the time (and who does?).

And it's not just demanding agents like me who expect this -- publishers increasingly expect even fiction writers to have a platform to draw upon, to be savvy self-promoters, to be capable with the media, to be able to draw upon a network. We live in a time when there are endless distractions competing for a reader's attention, when publicity budgets are tight, and when there are a whoooooole lot of books beings published. Most (caveat: not all) bestselling writers are magnificent at promotion in addition to being great writers, and the two things go together like glass noodles and roasted pork (mmm... leftovers).

Now -- will I pass on a prospective client with an amazing book who doesn't have any connections, doesn't have a network, and lives on the moon? No, I will not. A great book trumps all. But I will at least hope that the author is receptive to building a network and making some game attempts at self-promotion.

I know that a lot of writers are introverts, that knocking down doors and asking favors and talking to booksellers and trying to meet writers and doing a lot of non-writing grunt work is not most writers' idea of a good time (and, tellingly, isn't really a part of most people's fantasy of what it's like to make a living as a writer). Some people are wary of asking favors, of seeming unseemly, and find the whole thing generally distasteful. But. It is so important at every stage of the publishing process. Some people don't like that a writer is now also expected to be a publicity machine, and deep down they want to just write good books and retreat back to their den and be showered with bestsellerdom. Good books do trump all, but people have to be convinced to buy them first. And that's where networking and promotion come in.

So. What can you do about it?

Kaytie M. Lee posted a great summary of things you can do to network in the comments section of Tuesday's post, and J.A. Konrath just happens to have given a fantastic rundown of things you can do to promote a book on A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.

But specifically with regard to networking, the best way to network is to find other people who want to network. As I mentioned Tuesday, J.D. Salinger is probably not going to blurb your paranormal urban fantasy novel. But there are plenty of authors positively desperate to meet other readers and writers, who put themselves out there on the Internet specifically to meet people, and who are willing to invest time and energy in the less-fortunate writers out there. If they are out there on the Internet, posting comments on other blogs and maintaining a blog of their own, chances are they want to meet you. Why? They want more readers and to spread the word about their book, and they need your help. Read their books, comment on their blogs, help them spread the word about their books, keep paying it forward, and they'll be happy to pay you back and help you out. It's like rhinos and those birds that sit on rhinos and eat ticks -- everybody wins.

I feel like I know a lot of the regular commenters here and would give their queries extra attention and try and help them out -- not because I'm so flattered they read my blog, but because anyone who is reading industry blogs every day and investing their time in them is serious about writing, serious about the business of writing, serious about creating a network, and those qualities bode well for an aspiring author.

That's how connections are made. And you'll need every one of them you can get. Please share more networking suggestions and ideas (and disagreements) in the comments section!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

DRM vs. Piracy?

One of the hats I wear at Curtis Brown, besides my toupee, is that of an audio rights specialist. You know all those audiobooks your mom likes to listen to in the car? Well, those rights don't just sell themselves, sweetie. Audiobooks are a continually growing business, and within that growing business, downloadable audio is a fast-growing part of the overall growing business.

So it was with a keen eye that I read in Publishers Lunch (subscription required) last week that Random House Audio has decided to move away from DRM in an attempt to expand the overall audio market.

Background. DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is software encryption intended to prevent piracy by limiting the use of an audio file. So, for instance, when you download a song or audiobook from iTunes, you can only transfer that song or audiobook to a certain number of devices. DRM is also used by library programs such as Overdrive to "check in" and "check out" electronic copies -- literally you have to "check out" your audiobook to listen to it, and check it back in to the library before someone else can use it. Just like with a hard copy.

So basically DRM is intended to prevent piracy, by making it more difficult to reproduce a file endlessly, and to control usage, such as with Overdrive's library program, to prevent free downloads from overwhelming the market.

But one perceived downside with DRM is that there are compatibility issues. For instance, most music downloaded on iTunes can only be played on Apple-compatible devices like iPods, and most music downloaded on, say, Overdrive can't be played on iPods. Some people feel that this creates confusion and frustration in the marketplace, and many people I know continue to buy CDs simply because DRM annoys them and they want to be able to burn and share the CD without the hassle.

Fast forward to last week. Random House Audio Group publisher Madeline McIntosh announced in a letter: "The potential benefits of moving away from DRM are clear: it would allow the market to open up, so that any online retailer would be able to compete to sell content destined for any device, including the iPod. The hope is that the greatly-simplified consumer experience, coupled with greater retail competition, would lead to growth."

However, Ms. McIntosh points out, "the risk is also clear." While DRM was by no means a perfect encryption device, it did make it incrementally more difficult to pirate a digital file. It seems as if there would be a correspondingly incremental risk of increased piracy when people are downloading easily share-able files.

So put on your author/agent/consumer hats on and you tell me: Does the benefit of growing the overall audio market by eliminating consumer frustration/confusion, increasing competition, and making audio files universally compatible outweigh the risk of increased piracy? Would you make your work available DRM free? What if you were a bestselling author like J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

About That Slush Pile

Well, I was going to completely ignore The Hills today just to show that a) I am so not obsessed with a show that demonstrates to everyone that I have -- at best -- questionable taste in television, and b) so I wouldn't risk losing readers who are here to learn more about, you know, publishing.

But Justin Bobby. Justin Bobby!! He leaves me no choice. I am now utterly convinced that a crazy homeless person who spent the last two years stowed away on a smuggling ship that ran drugs across the Pacific (how else to explain his hair and, uh, personality) has now stumbled his way onto The Hills. Meanwhile, Audrina vetted Justin Bobby in a meeting with noted relationship expert Lauren Conrad that went something like this:

Lauren: So, hi.
JB: *Burp*

It only got more awkward from there, culminating in a conversation with Audrina about why they should be more than friends that included this classic turn of phrase from JB: "Truth and time tells all." Yes. Yes indeed. Audrina nodded like she had just heard a speech from the Dalai Lama.

Justin Bobby's antics left me *this close* to being over Spencer's transfixing craziness... until Spencer topped his own level of hilarity at the end of the episode. You see, Heidi started painting over his beloved graffitied "Hollywood" on their living room wall, and when Spencer came home he looked like Heidi had smashed his homeboy phone, took away his trust fund, put his jellyfish in a blender and kicked him where it hurts AT THE SAME TIME. I have never seen someone on TV look so sad.

Anyway, next week I will completely show I am over The Hills and don't need to blog about it at all. I hope.

Well, in actual publishing related blog-related... stuff, I seem to have developed a reputation for being a slush pile killjoy. I think this is due in part to the fact that my post on how to find a literary agent (which was written March 28, 2006 -- it was a totally different year!) states that I have only taken on two clients via the slush pile. Hey, that number has since risen to, uh, three (with a few more potentials on top of that), BUT STILL.

The reality is that most agents do not find the bulk of their clients through the slush pile. They find them through referrals, by people they have actively pursued after becoming familiar with their work, and by people they meet at conferences, literary events or at parties. It's worth stressing again that your #1 method for finding an agent should first be to mine your personal connections and to try and not be in the slush pile. The slush pile is a last resort -- it's one that works very occasionally, but it's not the avenue with the best odds.

But this doesn't mean I am anti-slush pile. I am very pro-slush pile. I put a whole lot of time into the slush pile, and I still remain hopeful that the next big thing is going to come through my slush pile, which is why I am more out there on the Internet than most agents. I am, however, very selective, and the numbers bear that out.

Well. I'm selective when it comes to queries. TV is another story.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Agent as Editor

Hope everyone had a nice weekend. It was a typical weekend in San Francisco -- one day the wind blew so hard my toupee went flying into the bay and the next day I kept telling everyone it was really hot, but actually it was only 75 degrees and just felt hot because someone had moved San Francisco into the Arctic Circle the past few weeks and I'd kind of gotten used to it. (No, I don't actually have a toupee -- I told you, it blew into the bay.)

Oh, dear. Can you tell it's Monday?

Anyway, I had a great question from faithful reader OBF over the weekend (and I'm paraphrasing here) -- how much do agents edit? If the agent suggests changes, are they suggestions or holy commandments? What if the author disagrees? And what happens when the author actually has an editor? Does the agent still edit?

This one is difficult to answer because every agent is different. Some agents are very hands-off, some agents are very involved -- and it even varies from client to client, depending on the needs of the client and whatever arrangement the author and agent are comfortable with. But usually an agent will mostly work with a client on work they are preparing to sell, and once the agent has an editor the agent will usually take a back seat on the editing front. But of course I have to add the caveat "usually" because there are always exceptions, and every arrangement is different.

Now, as for me, on the editing spectrum I'm somewhere in the middle. I feel that it adds value to a work to make sure it is in the absolute best shape possible before it goes out to editors, and I do my best to help the author make this happen. However, at the end of the day the author is the author, they are the ones who have to be comfortable with their own work and whose instincts have resulted in success. I feel that it's my job to help an author achieve their own vision rather than impose my vision, and my edits are meant to help refine and shape the author's intention rather than trying to remake the book into something the author isn't comfortable with.

I also will very occasionally offer suggestions to prospective clients in the hopes that they will be able to revise the work to the point that I would feel comfortable offering representation and submitting the work to editors. However, if my vision ever differs too much from a prospective client's and they decline to make changes I suggested, it might just mean that I'm not the right agent for them, and I will suggest that they go their own way to find someone whose vision matches theirs. I am always disappointed in these instances because I think that when you have an enthusiastic agent who knows the marketplace it's worth giving the changes a shot to see if they work. But ultimately I'm sympathetic to the fact that the author is the author and they have to shape the work themselves and be comfortable with the end result.

So, uh, there you have it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

This Week in Publishing 8/17/07

All the news that's fit to print. In a blog.

Karl Rove has stepped down from his position within the White House and like 299,999,999 other Americans (wait, how many people are there in this country again? Basically that number minus one), he is interested in writing a book. So how much would editors pay for Turdblossom's memoir? I'm glad you asked, because blog favorite AP reporter Hillel Italie is on it. Steve Ross, newly of Collins, Jon Karp of 12 and Ash Green of Knopf expressed some degree of interest, but according to Italie, "Asked what kind of money Rove might receive, Karp and Green each said they doubted he would receive anything close to the multimillion dollar contracts of former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan or of former President Clinton." Let's just say Mr. Rove may have helped elect a two-term president, but he is no Keith Richards.

Jonathan Lyons compiled some query stats for a day, and if you're anything like me (and if you are, God help you), you will find them very interesting. In particular, 5 people sent queries with Spam blockers in effect, and 5 queries made no sense whatsoever. Wait. Shh. Did you hear that? That was the sound of MY HEAD EXPLODING. Sadly Jonathan did not compile statistics on queries that began with rhetorical questions, but I'd like to think he did that to spare my mental well-being.

Via Publishers Lunch, POD publisher AuthorHouse has teamed up with Borders UK to sell self-published works through five Borders stores. Authors will pay anywhere from £849 to £1999 for the Borders package, which, according to the current exchange rate, translates to about $237,000 USD. (Ah, financial humor. Have you heard the one about the Fed overnight loan rate? No? It's not very funny either.)

And finally, are you a Borders employee? If so, you now have a one in 30,000 chance of being published ( you're telling me there's a chance...). Yes, as reported by our good friends at GalleyCat, Borders announced a plan to solicit manuscripts from its employees. The winner(s) will then be published by Borders and mark sold in Borders stores by the 29,999 other employees who were not deemed worthy of publication. Ha! That's going to be rough.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Young Writers

I have been getting an astoundingly high number of queries from novelists under 18 lately. What was once a steady trickle has now turned into a.... um, more steady trickle. I'm not sure why this is -- maybe because it's summer vacation? Maybe everyone wants to be the next Chrisopher Paolini? Maybe everyone had their XBox 360s taken away?

But for all the young writers out there -- here's the thing. You're up against people who are much older with much more experience, and you don't really get bonus points for being young. Sure, publishers would probably appreciate the marketing angle of a young writer with a great book, but you have to write that great book first. It's not, unfortunately, enough to write a book that's good for your age (and most of the young writers I hear from could easily beat the pants off of whatever drivel I wrote at that age) - you have to write a book that's as good as what the best adult writers in the country write, and they've been writing for years. That's really, really hard and really, really rare.

There is a silver lining -- Mary Shelley wrote FRANKENSTEIN at 18. S.E. Hinton wrote THE OUTSIDERS when she was 16 (I've seen a copy of S.E. Hinton's query letter in the Curtis Brown office -- gives you goosebumps!). About once a generation there is a prodigy who makes it happen. But it does happen!

Really though, I think the most curious phenomenon about young writers these days is that they are much less likely to send a personalized letter and to have read agent blogs or to be familiar with industry conventions. Come on now, teens! You're supposed to be teaching people to Google and laughing at your parents when they ask what a "blog" is.

So if you know a young writer, I would be honest with them about the realities of the business, but encourage them to keep writing (and point them to some industry blogs). The best thing is that young writers turn into adult writers with a world of experience.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Censorship vs. Public Interest

So much for a quiet August. News has leaked that Beauford Books will publish O.J. Simpson's quasi-memoir IF I DID IT, which was going to be published by Regan Books until public outcry led HarperCollins and News Corp. to suspend publication of the book.

You tell me: should a book like this be published?

Do publishers have a responsibility to the public to publish books that are in the public interest? Should anything be published for the public to decide or should there be limits placed on what should be published? If so, who should set those limits?

And where do you draw the line? Yesterday an anonymous poster linked to a discussion on Libba Bray's blog about an attempt to ban Maureen Johnson's book THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE in a school library in Bartletsville, Oklahoma (they subsequently put the book on a reserve shelf). Should we place limits on what children see?

Lastly, should jellyfish be fed a steady diet of phytoplankton or do you recommend microscopic crustacean?

You decide!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How Often Should You Follow Up With a Prospective Agent?

For the three of you who want to hear about how the episode of The Hills was last night, let me tell you: it was amazing. Exceeded my expectations. First of all, Heidi walked home and Spencer was overseeing the installation of a piece of furniture that looked like an old armoire, and they proceeded to have this conversation:

Heidi - What is that?
Spencer - It's a jellyfish tank.
Heidi - Oh. So anyway, here's what happened today.

The things I love about this: 1) Spencer has a jellyfish tank. 2) The fact that Spencer just purchased a jellyfish tank appears to be the least interesting thing he did that day and 3) Heidi just got engaged to someone who buys jellyfish tanks and it is so unsurprising that a jellyfish tank is being installed in her apartment that she does not even raise an eyebrow.

Later on in the episode, Heidi comes home and Spencer has apparently let the guy who airbrushes t-shirts on the Santa Monica pier into their home to graffiti the word "Hollywood" and a bunch of dollar signs on their living room wall. That at least got Heidi to raise her eyebrows.

But to me, it was Audrina and her new boyfriend who stole the show. Yes, Audrina is dating someone who calls himself alternately Justin or Bobby (but don't ask him if you can call him Justin Bobby, that's a sore spot), who looks like Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers upon graduating from pirate school, and who apparently once abandoned Audrina in Las Vegas (but other than that he's great... at being borderline hostile). That relationship is one to keep an eye on.

And.... well, I will restrain myself from going more in depth lest you think you stumbled upon the official blog for Us Magazine.

In other news, as previously mentioned it's August in publishing, which is a notorious slow month. Yes, work gets done and no, I am not writing this from the Hamptons, but things do tend to slow down due to the number of people on vacation and due to the fact that if you work in New York the heat is inducing you into a coma and if you work in San Francisco it is so cold your teeth are chattering as you wonder aloud why you are wearing sweaters in August and are STILL COLD.

So, this brings us to another oft-asked question: how often should you follow up with that prospective agent who has been sitting on your manuscript for what seems like several eternities?

Over in the Absolute Write forum, I am often asked this very question. And in general (and in my sole and humble opinion), when an agent has your manuscript, here's the general rule: After you submit, wait 60-90 days (opinions vary among agents on this - for me personally, 30 days is okay). Then follow up once a month, exceedingly politely, via e-mail, until 1) you hear back or 2) you get tired of asking. Include every e-mail you have exchanged with the agent in the body of the e-mail so the agent can easily refresh their memory about who you are.

The exceedingly polite thing is key - agents do not mean to sit on your manuscript, they do not enjoy making you wait and turning you into a nervous wreck, and always remember that you have one manuscript to worry about while an agent has dozens of clients and even more prospective clients to juggle. Waiting can turn people hostile, and it's not fair to the agent -- we're not lazy or mean, we're just busy. I've also had situations where a poor author waited three or four months to check in with me and I had never received the manuscript. That was unfortunate. So mistakes also happen, and a responsible and timely follow-up can eliminate those errors.

Now, should you follow up on unsolicited queries? For me -- yes, please do follow up if you haven't heard in a month (via e-mail, politely), because if you haven't heard from me in a month it means something went wrong somewhere along the way. However, in general I don't know if it is that wise to follow up. Whatever its merits or demerits, many agents follow the "I'll respond if I'm interested" policy, and if you continue to follow up you may only aggravate said agent, and that isn't productive.

If, however, you have received a request for a partial or full, then it's ok to follow the once-a-month rule, unless the agent has a policy or tells you specifically that they will get back to you within X months (in which case you should follow up in X months -- ha! Good luck marking THAT on a calendar).

So there you have it. And if anyone asks you what they should get me for Christmas, I'm just saying...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Query Critique: The Importance of Recognizing Your Selling Points

This is a momentous day. It is the culmination of months of anticipation, a time for which people all across this great land of America have been marking their calendars, setting their timers, and readying their homeboy phones.

Yes. The Hills is back tonight. I'm more excited than a publishing employee with a free bagel. Which is to say: astoudningly excited.

But enough about my obsession with scripted/unscripted/ah-who-the-heck-cares-isn't-Spencer-insane? reality television. Today another kind soul has offered up a query for critiquing. As always, please be astoundingly (yes, I have so far used that word twice and am not afraid to use it again) polite in your comments, or else I will say "Sweet, my answer is get out of my car" and delete your comment.

As always, I prefer to print the whole letter so you get a sense of the flow and then my comments are below. Here goes:


I decided to send you a query soon after discovering your blog. Thanks to you, I know not to start queries with rhetorical questions, to avoid evil albinos, and to always Google search an agent. I appreciate your fairness and work ethic, but I keep coming back for the funny. Plus you’ve got great hair, and call me shallow, but that counts for me.

As a kid growing up on a farm, I related best to stories set in the country. In my 95,000 word Young Adult Novel, TROUBLE WILL FIND US, a group of teenagers are growing up rural at a time when friends must wait to call each other on their rotary phones until the long distance rates go down in the evening.

For Jenny Hofstetter and Katie Kipfer, proving that they aren’t just two nice little Mennonite girls is the most important goal of the 1988/89 school year. They want to be more than the farmer’s daughter, or the accidental child of a repented black sheep mother. They’re going in with a plan, “unaffected with an edge of tough for unpredictability,” and to do that they’ll have to get some distance from their sheltered, church-going roots.

Quiet, sensitive Katie and her best friend, tiny volatile Jenny, are going to stand out from the crowd and surprise everybody who ever thought they knew them. Soon after Jenny starts going out with the most notorious bad boy around, Katie is swept off her feet by a new kid in town with a troubled past. It’s the perfect way to make jaws drop, teachers steam and parents tear their hair out. Everybody’s talking about them, exactly as planned.

But plans can fall apart. Katie’s boyfriend has some serious problems that she refuses to recognize, while Jenny, still heartbroken over the death of a friend two years earlier, begins a rapid emotional unravelling. All they want is to be cool, but when hanging around with the bad boys means crime and hard drugs, they realize that they are not prepared for it. Jenny and Katie wanted to change the way people thought of them, but couldn’t have guessed that by the end of the school year, everything will change.

When I was a teenager twenty years ago, I knew a few kids like these. Fortunately, I came out the other side relatively unscathed.


This query falls into the "fine" category that I discussed in the last query critique (summary for the link averse: fine is good, but not, I'm afraid, good enough). The query is just a tad long but is competently written, there seems to be a plot, and it's personalized and it's a blog reader (bonus points). It's all fine.

But here's the thing. Just like most of you all, I read a lot of books, I watch a lot of movies, I watch a lot of TV, I read the Internet... you get the idea. We live in an incredibly story-saturated age, to the point that we are all intimately and intensely familiar with archetypes and conventions. And most queries I receive fall squarely into a certain familiar archetype.

This isn't the kiss of death -- the coming of age archetype, for instance, has been the backbone of stories as disparate as Star Wars, The Graduate, and HARRY POTTER. Archetypes stick around for a reason -- we love them. But you must must must recognize when your work falls into an archetype. It is astoundingly important (told you I'd use it again). And then you must know what makes your take on that archetype unique.

So let's take a look at this query. Two girls decide to rebel while they're in high school and they flirt with danger before coming to some sort of new understanding of themselves. It's a very familiar plot.

But wait -- look deeper there is something different about these characters. They are Mennonites in rural America (or Canada, as the case my be, eh?), which has the makings of a very unique spin on a standard genre. How many coming of age novels feature rural Mennonites? I'm sure there are some, but with a conventional setup, that is what is going to make this story stand out -- the setting and an unfamiliar (to most people) religion.

It is sooo essential to know what is going to make your story stand out in the marketplace and to then make those selling points the centerpiece of your query. The author here made a stab at mentioning these elements, but I don't feel that they went far enough. The rotary telephone detail was a nice attempt, but that evokes a time period that most people experienced more than a specific time and a specific place. Details are crucial in queries because they have to connote so much in such a little space.

And then it was more or less mentioned in passing that the characters were Mennonite. I was reading reading reading, then thought, "Huh, that's interesting, they're Mennonite?," but then it never really reappeared. After a follow-up with the author I learned that she wanted to downplay the Mennonite angle because they are not the old-order Mennonites but rather new-order. Another great detail that could have been mentioned in the query! So you have a conflict here not only in that these are rural religious girls in a modern world but they are also departures from an older more traditional faith. Not quite modern but not quite traditional is a fascinating gray area that could really be mined for some good conflict.

And then the details of the plot and relationships that make up the rest of the query really could have happened anywhere. They aren't infused with the uniqueness of the setting, which they could have been if they were attached to details that convey that uniqueness. If your selling point is your setting, nearly every event you describe should build on that selling point.

After writing a whole book and thinking about it for so long it can be hard to see the selling point forest from the plot point trees. But you have to arm yourself with an ironclad sense of what makes your book different and then hammer it home in the query.

Friday, August 10, 2007

This Week in Publishing 8/10/07

This week (in August) in publishing:

The Man Booker longlist has been announced, and congratulations to the nominees for one of the most prestigious prizes in literature. And since I know you are dying to place some cold hard cash on who you think is going to win, you can do so at the William Hill betting site. Yes, I'm serious (I heart England). Blog aficionado Ian McEwan (ha! I wish. He doesn't really read this blog) is currently the favorite at 3-1 for ON CHESIL BEACH. (thanks to the Millions for the tip).

The New York Times assesses the canon of assigned summer reading for students entering college, aka the first of many books college students everywhere will fake reading.

And finally... uh... did I mention it's August in publishing? Yeah, I think I did that. Hmm... let's see.... did I mention you can bet on the Booker prize? Totally insane, right? Oh, shoot, already talked about that.

Wait, what are you still doing here? Shouldn't you be at the beach by now? Shoo! Go!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Self-Publishing and Your Writing Career

Wow, first off I have to say, best discussion in the comments section ever in response to yesterday's You Tell Me about self-publishing and the future of publishing. Really, really good stuff there, very informative, very interesting, thanks so much to everyone who posted. I could only hope to be as smart as you people. And in the meantime, please keep up the discussion.

The more anxious self-published authors out there want to know if having a self-published skeleton I mean novel in the closet will kill their writing career. No. It will not. So you can all exhale now. Whoa, NOT AT ONCE! Ahhh! HURRICANE!!!

Ahem. Now, is there a "stigma" attached to self-publishing, and will people in the publishing industry look down on self-published books? Well, things get a little more complicated here. Anyone who has read more than three self-published books knows that the average self-published book is not very good. And (truth alert) anyone who has read more than five self-published books know that "not very good" is being kind. I know there are exceptions (insert plug for PODler and iUniverse Book Reviews for finding the gems in the Jupiter-sized cavern), but let's face it. Most self-published books are not very good, and agents know this as well as anyone.

I don't, however, feel that "stigma" is quite the right word. I'm certainly open to the idea that someone could have self-published a stellar work that was overlooked by mainstream publishing, and we all have heard about books like ERAGON that were picked up by a major publisher and went on to be bigger than Ryan Seacrest. I'm definitely open to considering self-published books. So while I wouldn't say "stigma," I do think "skepticism" is more apt. In other words, you have some convincing to do.

Here's what I would like to see from a self-published author when I'm considering their work. I want to see that the author:

1) Wrote a really great book that for whatever reason was overlooked or the author just decided to self-publish to save the hassle of submissions.
2) This author put a tremendous amount of energy into getting the book attention, reviewed, into bookstores, made connections with local publishing people like sales reps, got themselves onto the radio or even TV, received media and Internet attention and all of this effort translated into a solid fanbase and sales in the thousands.
3) The author has a killer idea for a NEXT book that they hope to place with a mainstream publisher, and wouldn't you know it, that manuscript is all finished and polished and is ready to go to build on the author's hard-earned success.

That's what I want. And I have seen this with these very eyes! I've seen self-published books that were reviewed in Entertainment Weekly, self-published books that were mentioned on the Huffington Post blog and received the endorsement of a major comedienne, self-published books that have won awards... I've seen some pretty amazing things. It can happen. It's difficult, these authors work harder than you would believe (and they are talented and wrote a great book as well), but it can definitely happen.

Now, about that pesky #3. I'm going to don my white coat and stethoscope (that's Dr. Bransford to you) and tell you about a pernicious disease called Self Publishus Myopialoma, or SPM. SPM is a disease that afflicts many a self-published author. These authors invest their time and money and energy into self-publishing a book, and they become so invested in that book they don't want to even contemplate writing another book with new characters or in a new world or really think about what their next step should be. Symptoms include refusing to work on a new (or non-sequel) work until the day they see their self-published book picked up by a mainstream publisher, murderous rage toward agents when they suggest that perhaps the author should work on something new, and frequent ranting against publishers for a) only caring about money or b) only putting out crap. SPM commonly mutates into Acute Sequelitus and... well... let's just say these cases are tragic and fatal. I've seen these my share of these cases and it's enough to keep you awake at night, clutching a towel, shouting "Why, God? Why????"

Don't let SPM and Acute Sequelitus happen to you. The chances of a mainstream publisher picking up a sequel to a self-published book are so small you can't even find them using an electron microscope.

Also with regard to #3, I hate to be the bearer of bad news (it hurts you more than it hurts me), but even if your self-published book is magnificent and has sold a bunch of copies, publishers might not want to pick it up. Publisher may feel that the book has already sufficiently run its course, or it might no longer be timely, or they might just not be that into you. They might, however, take note of your success and be interested in your NEXT book, and since they're now in the business of investing in your career, your new agent might be able to convince them to pick up the reprint rights to your self-published book. And voila, you fulfilled your dream of having your self-published book picked up, but it was your NEXT book that was the key to getting the publisher interested.

Now, if you have a self-published book in your past that you aren't proud of and you have a new idea, there's no rule that says you have to mention it in a query. You should tell your prospective agent about it at some point in the client/agent mating dance, but if your self-published book didn't do well and you want your new idea to stand on its own, just pretend you wrote your novel in Vegas.

And there you have it. Remember the big three bullet points of self-publishing, and above all, KEEP WRITING. And no sequels, Mr. Acute Sequelitus.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

You Tell Me: Self-Publishing -- Wave of the Future or Just a Sideshow?

In anticipation of tomorrow's post, which should be about self-publishing and an author's career path (unless I forget), I'd like to hear your thoughts on self-publishing.

Andrew Sullivan wasn't the first and surely won't be the last to assert that POD (in this context I believe Andrew is referring to POD as self-publishing mechanism rather than the printing method that is also used by mainstream publishers, although I don't speak conservative pundit-ese) will eventually replace the old-fashioned publisher and distribution model that has prevailed for the last hundred and some odd years.

Due to the Internet, which allows people to discover small and hidden-away books that in days of yore needed to get into a bookstore to sell, some people see the potential for self-publishing to reap the YouTube effect -- little known authors can all of a sudden catch on through word of virtual mouth and become big in a major way. Or people will still depend on those old fashioned and yawn-inducing nuts and bolts things like marketing budgets, bookstores, sales forces, distribution, imprint cache and professional editing offered by mainstream publishing.

So what do you think -- will self-publishing make inroads into the territory once reserved for mainstream publishing or will it always be an also-ran for lack of the distribution and big-ness of the mainstream publishers?

The future hangs in the balance. Or it doesn't. You decide.

I Was There

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Publishing Myths 101: Publishers Only Care About the Bottom Line

First off, thank you to everyone for your forbearance yesterday as I attended to work matters. Second, PUBLICATION ALERT for the paperback edition of FEAR, Jeff Abbott's masterful suspense thriller, which I really enjoyed. If you're on myspace, you can befriend Jeff here.

And now for today's post.

Way back when in the early days of the blog, back when the blog was written in paper and then mailed to a distribution list who then called a phone chain where everyone was responsible for telegraphing the message in smoke signals... er, you get the idea... anyway, way back in March I was going to start a semi-regular feature whereby I presented a publishing myth and said Yea or Nay to said publishing myth's validity. Then I promptly forgot about the feature. That is, until Andrew Sullivan decided to be the shotgun to the publishing industry's clay pigeon.

So today, back like a phoenix rising from ashes of a, um, semi-frequented blog: Publishing Myths 101. Today's myth: publishers only care about the bottom line and this is why only crap is published (but what I really mean is publishers only care about the bottom line because no one will publish my 978 page treatise on the human condition and its discontents).

First, let us trace the origins of today's myth. In the dawn of man, back when we lived in caves, there lived a forward-thinking Neanderthal named Thad. Thad had a fantastic experience with a UFO, was chased by an evil albino, and exposed a secret society. He decided to write this story down, using newly invented devices called words. He tried to sell these words to a his friend Editorus, who carved words into stone and sold them to other Neanderthals. Editorus said no.

Thad was very distressed. First he said, "I hear Editoruses don't edit anymore, they just carve out whatever crap they're submitted." Then he said, "All publishers care about is money." Thus the myth was born.

So. You'd think a myth that has been around as long as this one would have been dispelled a long time ago. You would think wrong.

Some people probably think I'm stooping too low to even address this question (of course, such people probably don't usually read this blog). But its persistence amazes me, and you know what, I don't want to dismiss this out of hand. So here goes.

Publishers are businesses, agencies are businesses, businesses have to make money to put out books. Ever since Thad's time there has always been a tenuous balance between art and commerce. There are huge massive corporations that sell a whole bunch of copies, a good deal of which is commercial and isn't intended to be hung in an art gallery. But then again, these massive corporations also produce some of the finest works of literature ever written. And then there are small publishers, many of whom are not-for-profit (take that, myth), who are dedicated to new, innovative, overlooked voices. So which is it?

I think what is at the heart of this oft-repeated myth is the idea that people not only want idiosyncratic works to be published and find an audience, they want them to be HUGE BESTSELLERS. When a small, idiosyncratic work fails to become a HUGE BESTSELLER (or fails to be published at all) people think it is 1) the rank commerciality of publishers who are standing in the way of anonymity and bestsellerdom or 2) the stupidity and venality of the American public who don't appreciate quality until the author has died of alcoholism and depression provoked by a public who doesn't appreciate him (that is a topic for another day). But what is most ironic to me about this sentiment is that the same person who will decry publisher's supposed commerciality is the same person who wants to be published and find a huge audience (and I doubt many of them offer to give the money back). So which is it, HYPOTHETICAL PERSON?

And then there are the Beatles of publishing, those Ian McEwans and Cormac McCarthys and Anne McDermotts and the Jonathans (Franzen, Lethem, Safran Foer) of the world who are some of our best living writers AND are bestsellers. They tend to be published by the big publishers who supposedly only care about the bottom line, so these big mean corporations also somehow manage to produce much of our best literature.

But truthfully, at the heart of any myth there is a kernel of truth (well, except maybe this one) and I've had my heart broken many times by publishers who had to make a business decision over an artistic one. I don't think publishers do this because they are evil, but because they are businesses who depend on other businesses (booksellers) who depend on customers who will buy books to keep the publishing machine running. So yes, the bottom line is important, essential even, to most publishers, but that doesn't mean that gems aren't published and that doesn't mean it's the ONLY thing that matters, particularly not for the independent presses who are dedicated to literary merit. Plus, publishers are highly functioning machines adept at giving readers what they want, and a good portion of the reading public wants quality (they also want something to read at the beach too).

So for this myth I will say: SORTA TRUE, SORTA FALSE, KINDA DEPENDS.

Hope that clears things up.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Making Time Stand Still

One of the more flattering questions people ask me is, "Where do you find the time?" Hey, who doesn't want to be asked how they manage to be so busy? (I'm sick, I know). My answer usually involves 1) saying with a question in my voice "Uh, thanks? I guess?" or 2) making up something involving a time machine and the space time continuum.

But today I actually don't have the time. So the blog will return tomorrow. Hopefully the time machine will be done by then.

Friday, August 3, 2007

This Week in Publishing 8/3/07

Andrew Sullivan's rage against the publishing machine has spread... to people in publishing. Galley Cat prints a disgruntled (and unnamed) publishing employee singing the blues: "I have worked in the industry for years and I have never seen so many people who have emotional problems," says this anonymous reader. "They either suffer from depression or a lack of interpersonal skills. The pay in publishing does not attract the best people and that includes me I guess. Publishing is not a field that has a bright future because kids today do not want to read and the industry does nothing about it. Sometimes I think it would be better to wash cars." Why yes, because washing cars is SO MUCH FUN. I hear it pays well too.

Also via GalleyCat (What would I do without you, GalleyCat? Who's a good kitty?? Who's a good kitty?? YOU ARE! YES YOU ARE!!), a look at how Harry Potter has changed the publishing industry. I know, I know, how many of these articles have been written in the past month? But this one has sweet info like quotes from Steve Rubin and analysis of the effect of faster printing methods and fewer distribution hubs (now you're speaking my language). Associated Press reporter Hillel Italie, I salute you.

Agent Kristin Nelson is posting a running analysis of author/agency agreements. I'm going to go ahead and mark those posts down as assigned reading, and class, there WILL be a quiz Monday morning. San Dimas High School football rules!!

I linked to this in passing yesterday, but the New York Times has an article on the Espresso Book Machine, which churns out a fully printed book in 15 minutes and it makes a KILLER latte. It also cures cancer and doggone it, it's WORKING on world peace if people would please just LEAVE IT ALONE AND LET IT THINK. Geez.

And finally, now that Bryan Catherman has concluded his "Name George W. Bush's Memoir" contest (winning title: WTF: THE GEORGE W. BUSH STORY) and queried me with the proposal (I ultimately did not feel that I was the most appropriate agent for President Bush's work), and I am now on every watch list and do-not-fly registry from here to Gitmo (to which I have recently received first class tickets! Bright side!). So it behooves me to link to the Travelocity blog The Window Seat, which is written by some friends of mine and which you will enjoy if you like to travel or if you like gnomes. And no, I didn't get paid to mention this. That you know of. But they did promise me I'd get to meet the Travelocity Gnome (great galloping galoshes!)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Complaining About the Publishing Industry is the New Black

Ah, the publishing industry. So large, so vast, such an easy target. Complaining about publishing is so old it's gone from cool to lame back to cool again. Or is it lame again? I think whoever was keeping track lost count.. IN THE 1940'S.

While catching up on my Shelf Awareness and GalleyCat, I was directed to two separate articles that chide the industry for being behind the times. First up, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan, who blasts the publishing industry here. Oh, and here. Um, here too.

Among Mr. Sullivan's complaints (and that of the anonymous readers he quotes): The good old standby....... No one edits anything (I address this myth here). Also they messed up the page numbering on his book, and publishing jobs don't pay and have uncertain career tracks. He writes, "The publishers do not care what is in their books and neither, by and large, do editors." (Which must come as some surprise to all of the people who have had their manuscripts rejected by said editors.)

Also joining the fray is Peter Osnos of The Century Foundation, who was chagrined that many New York bookstores did not carry the book he was looking for that day and Amazon was listing the book as being available in two weeks.

I feel compelled to defend the publishing industry because 1) I'm in the publishing industry and 2) because I think the publishing industry is often subjected to some common criticisms that people tend take at face value. Is the publishing industry perfect? No, it is not. Can it be improved? Yes, it can. Will I speak in rhetorical questions for the rest of the day? Read on to find out.

Mr. Sullivan posits that "Soon, print-on-demand may put the publishing houses out of business. It can't happen soon enough." I would like to counter-posit that Mr. Sullivan will not likely go the POD route for his next book. Whatever its flaws (and apparently sequential page numbers are not a strong suit) the publishing industry exists because it is the best mechanism for getting good books to readers. And it is really, really good at that. Editors, although worked to the bone, love books and take a great deal of pride in the works they steward. Publishers work very hard to print the correct number of copies. Sure, people make mistakes (they are, last time I checked, human) but it's easier to find a book, any book, than it ever has been.

Which leads us to Mr. Osnos (Maya Reynolds's take on the article is here). Maybe it's because I grew up in Colusa, California, population 4,075, but I never thought that a book should be delivered now. WAYYYYYY back in 1987, my family had to DRIVE thirty miles to the bookstore. And it was just a tiny little B. Dalton with a paltry selection. And the store was filled with three feet of snow and the aisles were all up hill!!

I applaud Mr. Osnos' attempts to consult with publishers on new methods of distribution, because to me it is physically impossible for even all of the bookstores in Manhattan to carry every book that everyone wants, let alone the bookstores in the vicinity of my rice-farming town. That's why God invented Amazon, abebooks and eBay. If your bookstore doesn't have it, the Internet will. Now if only people would just invent a device that will print out any book for you immediately. Oh wait, they have.

Now if only publishing had a device that would beam books directly to my brain. Where is THAT invention, publishing? Huh? Huh? Yeah, that's what I thought. I bet no one will edit those beamed books too. Publishing is so lame.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

What Are You Reading at the Moment? (besides this blog)

A short post for a short Wednesday.

Actually it's not a short Wednesday but still. I reserve the right to write this blog nonsensically. TOMATOES.

Anyway, just curious what people are reading at the moment. So you tell me -- what book are you reading right now?

Me? When I'm not reading for work (rare these days) I'm reading DECEMBER 6TH by Martin Cruz Smith.


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