Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, June 20, 2008

This Week In Publishing 6/20/08

Week This Publishing In

Over in the domain of Moonrat I offered my own contribution to her celebrating reading series. I dissected the appeal of THE CAT IN THE HAT. Things One and Two still freak me out.

Kristin Nelson relayed the results of a Publishers Weekly poll on the preferences and habits of book buyers, and solicits a poll of her readers, which made for a very interesting comments section.

Ulysses pointed me to a Toronto Star article about Canada's contemplation of a revision of copyright laws, and interestingly enough, the primary concern among Canadian booksellers isn't piracy, but rather the territorial integrity of e-book sales. There those darn e-books go again, breaking into countries and stealing stuff. E-books, what are we ever going to do with you!

Two articles of note came via Publishers Lunch. First, Smart Bitches Trashy Books interviewed AP book reporter Hillel Italie, in which he makes a hilarious analogy about dire predictions being to book conventions what balloons are to political conventions.

Second via Publishers Lunch, in case you had any doubt that bestsellers don't just drop from the sky, the Wall Street Journal breaks down the early success of THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE, which was championed by Amazon, which subsequently drove demand at the other chains. The lesson as always: get Amazon to pick your book out of all the books published and you shall do well. A glowing review from Janet Maslin never hurt anyone either.

And finally, some people have pointed out in response to yesterday's post that characters should come before plot. Personally I don't think plot and character can be separated from each other, and I'm hoping to post more about that next week.

Have a great weekend!


Adaora A. said...


Hey I see my neck of the wood's mentioned. We can't start our day over here without the Toronto Star!

Things One and Two still creep me out a bit too. I honestly cannot enjoy the idea of an 'e-book.' I just don't want any part of it. I know that might be where things are headed, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. I'll just sing Bob Marley's DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY, all the while...

"the landlord say you rent is late, you may have to let the gate. Don't worry, be happy....."

I look forward to more of your thoughts on plot and character next week. This is honestly the best blog for writer's out there.

Sam Taylor said...

"Personally I don't think plot and character can be separated from each other"

They *can* be, but they shouldn't be. And that's where most writers get into trouble.

Anonymous said...


As always, I love your blog. I read it religiously, and enjoy every bit.

On an unrelated note, I'm coming to SF in late August (and BTW I love the "Magic City" and have not been there in far too long). Can you recommend a great Chinese place? I've read all the books, but how's a person supposed to choose? Thoughts?



Nathan Bransford said...


I'm told the best Chinese food in the area is not actually in San Francisco but in surrounding cities, such as Koi Palace in Daly City, although I haven't been there.

In my opinion, best Chinese food in Chinatown is Hunan Home's, best Chinese food overall is Sun Tang in the Sunset neighborhood, the single best Chinese dish is the General Tso's chicken at Tai Chi in Russian Hill, and the best dim sum is at Ton Kiang in the Richmond neighborhood.

Depends on what you're looking for!

Nathan Bransford said...

Oops, I meant San Tung, not Sun Tang.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, as always, you rock!

Thank you so much for the recommendations. :)

Have a great weekend!


JES said...

Things One and Two, eh, not so much for me. But I bet all word-y types were freaked out by something when they were kids, something which still gives them the creeps.

Might be ventriloquist dummies for me. And I even had one of my own, a Jerry Mahoney which sat on top of the toy chest 24x7.

And then came "Magic," with Anthony Hopkins...

Gwen Hayes said...

I loved Thing One and Thing Two.
And I also love ebooks. I have a reader from ebookwise (chosen because it is backlit and doesn't have fussy buttons) and I love having a ton of books in one place for the same reason I prefer an mp3player to a cd-layer.

I would happily replace all my books with ebooks.

Furious D said...

1. They should, since THEY'RE IN YOUR HOUSE!

2. Polls can't be believed. 43% of people surveyed said that.

3. I guess all the sellers should be concerned about is who lands the sale, not where. That's called competition.

4. Bit of semi-related trivia about balloons at political conventions. Some sources cite author Robert ("Psycho") Bloch as the man who came up with dumping balloons from the ceiling at the end of a political convention. As for dire predictions, don't worry, global warming is going to cause us to be all sucked into a black hole in 2012. The Mayans said so. ;)

5. I guess having the most people know that your book exists definitely wouldn't hurt.

6. If you're doing it right, plots and characters should arise naturally from each other.

Bernita said...

And a very nice contribution to Moonrat's Celebrate Reading series it was, Nathan.

superwench83 said...

I agree about plot and character being inseparable. It should be interesting to read that upcoming post.

pseudosu said...

I agree with Sam about character / plot. I liked the plot post, but I guess I was assuming very well developed characters, great dialog, intriguing setting, and rich, layered writing would all be employed in a good plot.

Let's face it, just one or two of any of those to the exclusion of the others will leave you short of the mark.

Shell I said...

Really looking forward to that upcoming post. I don't really have too much drama with plot or characters but I think extra assistance never goes astray. I believe even the best of the best of the best can learn something new from someone else (and I am no-where near that level!).

A Paperback Writer said...

Ah, Nathan, I agree: characters, plot, setting .... they're all kind of like holistic medicine, where you can't work on one part without considering its effect on the ms as a whole entity.
I look forward to your post on this.

Beth Terrell said...

Nathan, I can't believe someone else has actually read THE SILVER SWORD. When I was a child, I read that book so many times the cover wore off. No one I know has ever even heard of it, but I will always remember Edek clinging to the bottom of the train, hands frozen to the metal.

(The Cat in Hat was pretty good too, though.) Thanks for a great post.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

Waiting for your post on characters and plot.

Isabelle Santiago said...

Well put, Nathan! I agree. Characters and plots are tightly intertwined. Plots are conflicts that come from character motivations, histories, and plans gone terribly sour. Very often a good plot includes good, complex characters, though that isn't always the case. I suppose the same can be said the other way around. But when a story is a home run, it's usually because it has both. Strong plot AND strong characters.

Anonymous said...

Hey Adaora,

I think it's actually,
"you may have to litigate."

I love lyric misunderstandings!

Adaora A. said...

Oh darn you're right! Thanks for that.

lj said...

At a certain point, though, character development and plot and all the rest are elements of craft that, with enough work, settle into the bones of a writer and become as instinctive as breathing. For me, at any rate, there is something beyond.

It's hard to articulate, but there's got to be something that haunts me-- an object, a phrase, an image of light on a certain face-- whatever. Something that makes no real sense bobs to the surface of my mind, and seems to hold power. I've learned that means I have a story somewhere that wants to be told. And so I begin to play with that image or thought, and the tale begins to gather itself around the central kernel, and grow organically.

Because I've worked a long time at my craft, that organic growth takes a halfway decent structure, and of course there's constant revising and refining. But for me, character and plot and theme and all the rest come later. The initial spark is primary, and primal.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

lj hits it on the nose. Great post.

Miss Savannah Spitfire: said...

Well, thank you for your nice update, my darlin.

Now, about the next week in publishin...

ChrisEldin said...

AHHAAHAH! Who let Savannah out?
I'm afraid she's loose on the internet. And by loose, I mean loose.

PK said...

First of all, love LOVE this blog--so much useful information! I don't think I've ever seen a more succinct review of any book, than your Cat in the Hat piece. It was genius, really.

I have a question, though. With all the genres and sub-genres, is there any place reliable to find out how the publishing industry catalogs books? I ask because I've seen works described as one thing, while I certainly think of them as another.

Just wondering...

Jeff said...

A complete plot is also a big plus. I've read far too many brilliant books that fail at the end. They read as though the author either didn't know how to resolve the book, or got bored with it, or had to meet a deadline.

I plot in detail. A typical outline will run about 10,000 words, but I have one fantasy novel outline that runs 20,000. I realize this method isn't for everyone, but it works for me. If outlining of a novel drains my interest in writing it, then I know the story wasn't interesting enough to write in the first place.

That is not to say once it is outlined I never deviate from it. Rarely does the outline perfectly resemble the completed story. But outlining helps me to know whether or not the plot works. It's easier to go back and repair an outline than to repair a novel, especially when you're half-way through writing the novel when you realize you have a plot hole.

Anonymous said...

Nathan - I was glad to see "My Side Of The Mountain" mentioned among your favorite books. When I was a kid I was obsessed with that book, reread it many times, and always planned to run off to the Catskills at the earliest convenience to hollow out a tree and get me a falcon. I have purchased several copies, new and used, over the years and given them to children who apparently did not share our excitement. Oh well...

The first book I ever bought on my own was "Search For A Living Fossil", the true story of the rediscovery of the Coelacanth, presumed extinct for 65 million years. What a page-turner that was. dylan

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

There's hope for us all:

Ten years for Edgar Sawtelle -


"David Wroblewski wasn't worried the time he spent on his first novel might be fruitless.

Even if it wasn't published, the 10 years of writing, editing and revising were worthwhile.

"I was absolutely willing for it to be a learner's novel," says Wroblewski, who lives Colorado. "And I was determined I was going to write it in a way that made me happy and not worry about publishing it, because there would be other novels. This one was coming from the heart."

Wroblewski's efforts -- and faith in his material -- yielded "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle," one of the most atypical first novels in recent memory.

nona said...

I believe that characters should come before plot in a character-driven work.

I laid an extensive foundation in character development before I really even knew where the plot was going and guess what? The piece basically wrote itself! I left a few supporting characters sketchy in my notes and I found that I had to go back and fill in the details (all of them) because these characters were doing and saying all the wrong things. Plus it was terribly difficult to write -- lots of false starts, erasing, hair pulling, etc.

Once I went back and "got to know them" they wrote their own lines for me. And that's the best of all possible worlds, if you ask me . . .

Anonymous said...

I agree, confusing cataloging isout there.
Last Sunday, I was trying to to buy my daughter a sequel to a book I had bought her in the fantasy section at Barnes and Noble. I had looked it up on line to see if it was released and supposedly it was a BIG NEW release at Barnes and Noble. This time, it wasn't anywhere to be found in the Fantasy/SciFi section. There was only one clerk -(from the cafe, not the bookstore)- on the floor and I stood around for thirty minutes waiting for her to be free to look it up. After being sent in circles around the children's area where everything is mis-cataloged, around a back wall, in a teen section, I found a copy of the original book I had purchased and then later, on a table the sequel.
(The clerk was still busy and I bought the book downstairs with more knowledge of how to locate a book than any of them.) Whew! With that system, only a dedicated book buyer or one who is willing to just buy random books will be all that keeps big bookstores alive. Scary!

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