Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, August 8, 2008

This Week in Publishing 8/8/08

So. As you may have noticed, I have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions I receive in my Inbox and in the comments section, along with links to the relevant posts. Hopefully I got everything, but if not, please leave a comment in that post and I will add the question in. Henceforth, if you have a question, please please please check first to see if I answered it there.

In other FAQ news, Janet Reid has written a post on what you need to know if you handle a contract on your own that is so incredibly awesome and indispensable I'M GOING TO WRITE THE REST OF THIS SENTENCE IN CAPS AND BOLD TYPEFACE. Seriously, check out this must-read post.

And in still other FAQ news, Adrienne Kress has compiled a great how-to on how to find an agent. Always good to see the perspective of a published author on this topic.

There's some very big and interesting news afoot at Random House, who has canceled a controversial novel about Aisha, the young wife of the prophet Muhammad. After an Islamic scholar who read an advance copy raised questions about the prospect of a backlash, Random House decided to cancel the book. Publishers Lunch has the latest. I shant be weighing in on this topic because I don't want to step on toes, but I would be really curious to hear what you think (and please keep it civil).

Maya Reynolds has a very interesting post this week about how we're going to make sense of the fracturing landscape for books following the decline of newspaper page and the rise of the Internet as a force.

Knowing I am a fan of all things space monkey, reader Joel A. Hokstra passed along his hilarious cover for the (sadly unwritten) SON OF JOXER AND THE ESCAPE FROM SPACE MONKEY ISLAND.

Reader Dan Donovan also passed along a hilarious art link, this time to the Cartoon Bank (which is a pretty incredible site). I give you: a cartoon of Shakespeare's first draft of Hamlet

Have you ever "wondered" why so many people use "quotes" when they aren't "necessary?" Well, now you have an "opportunity" to "laugh" at them too. Check out this "hilarious" site: The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.

And finally, also via Adrienne Kress, here's a seriously funny and awesome video of how one writer used to think the publishing industry worked. If only!

Have a great weekend!


Dave F. said...

The Janet Reid post is excellent. Thanks for posting it.

SON of JOXER is delightfully pulpy, orange, citrus pulp with a touch of kumquats, pink grapefruit and tangy mango... with champagne bubbling into your nose.

As for Random House: They cluck like chickens. You realize that those scholars are anti-modernity. The fight to return to the middle ages.

Renee Collins said...

Oh man, that video gave me a much needed laugh. Classic.

Adrienne said...

Ooh thanks for the linkage, Nathan!

Anonymous said...

sorry if this is an ignorant question:

I have been asked to write a chapter in a book for a scholarly press book.
Do I need an agent?
Should I be aware of all the other writers of other chapters in this book?

I have been asked to sign a contract.

Lupina said...

The mean, there really ISN'T dancing?


A Paperback Writer said...

Wow. This post is just loaded with good stuff. Thanks, Nathan.
:) I like Hamlet best, though.

Jackson said...

Thanks for linking the video! It was way too much fun to make :)


Dan said...

Nathan -

Do you agree with the idea of the book industry becoming fractured? I definitely get that (and think that) reader input should carry more weight - but even so, I'll always trust something that has to go through an editor (newspaper, publisher, film, etc.) as opposed to something that... doesn't.

And thanks for Adrienne's post, helps us see who the real writer is *cough*

Keep working on that jump shot...


Melanie Avila said...

Thanks for the video!

Kristin Laughtin said...

Adrienne Kress' post is a great, succinct guide to getting an agent.

Re: the novel about Aisha: Without getting into the politics of it, I feel for the author. Do tons of research, learn another language, write a novel and get a huge deal, only for it to be pulled away? Has to suck, no matter why.

I love the space monkey cover.

Speaking of Hamlet, have you seen the Facebook feed version?
(Saw this link courtesy of Suvudu this morning.)

Heidi said...

you mean publishing isn't just exactly like this???

pacatrue said...

The video forgot the party at Oprah's house!

Maya Reynolds said...

Nathan: Thanks so much for the link!



Anonymous said...

The decision to not publish the book about Muhammed's wife is unfortunate. Religion, philosophy, political viewpoints, etc., should all be open for discussion - whether that be frank criticism or simply discussion. Over the past several years there has been an alarming trend of kowtowing to more radical elements within Islam.
I think democracy needs free speech in order to survive (and, no, I don't think a book about Muhammed's wife qualifies as screaming "fire" in a crowded theater).

Corked Wine and Cigarettes said...

Great FAQin' post, Nathan!

Richard Mabry said...

Now you've done it, by posting the link to the video. Once my friends have seen it, they'll lose all respect for me. Up to this point, they believed writing was sort of like, well...You know, work.

Elyssa Papa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elyssa Papa said...


You mean this isn't how becoming a writer happens? You've shattered my world. LOL.

Loved the video. Am sooo sharing it with my writer friends.

(Just one too many typos in the previous post).

Anonymous said...

If you like a query and the author is from India, would you reject it?

Please answer this question. Please.


Kim Kasch said...

Absolutely LOVED the video clip from Youtube.


swati said...

Laughed so hard I nearly woke my kids re: the Utube.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious video!

I have an agent etiquette question:

A major agent at a major agency represented my first nonfiction book and got it placed at a major publisher.

Now this major agent says he/she loves the writing and “heart” of my second nonfiction book but doesn’t want to represent it because he/she believes it won’t be of interest to the major publishers he/she deals with. He/she suggested I submit it on my own to niche publishers. I don’t see this as a niche book at all.

My question is: Am I allowed to try to find a different agent to represent this book, given that the major agent has turned it down? I want to publish this book, but I don’t want to burn bridges with the major agent because he/she might be interested in my next book.

Jill said...

I think it's a shame the book about Aisha is not being published. It sounds like it would be a good read, as well as educational.

BTW, when I meet any writing goals, I do a big happy dance.

Nathan Bransford said...


This is really your decision to make, I don't think I can tell you what to do. Seems like the options are out there right now. Keep the agent and submit on your own, or leave the agent permanently.. How you decide is up to you.

Adaora A. said...

I love how every one of the questions asked are in previous blog posts.

That video made me laugh for 5 minutes. I especially love how
her new agent (attained by rushing into her office and slaming her freshly printed MS onto her desk), rush off and attain and editor in fully 20 seconds or less. Like magic.

Jackson Pearce is a blueboarder too (Children's Writers and Illustrators), and that just seems like the kind of thing she'd do. You've gotta love it.

mkcbunny said...

Thanks for all of the info.

Hope you are enjoying the summer heirlooms. I don't think they are as good as they were about two years ago, but they are still better than ordinary 'maters.

My pick: the dark purply-red ones.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bransford - It has been my understanding that if one is under contract with an agent, said agent is entitled to his/her percentage of one's income no matter what, as an incentive for the artist NOT to make side deals without the agent's participation and expertise.

This situation and your answer call into question my understanding of the relationship. So if you were to agent Joe Blow's first book there is no implied guarantee you'd represent his second? Joe Blow is starting from scratch with every book?

And, after all, wouldn't the best thing be for Anon to submit this question directly to the major agent to clarify her feelings and in order to avoid any potential future heartbreak and bitterness?

Deborah Blake said...

As you can see, I have finally forgiven you for (sob!) rejecting me (sob! with no dancing!) and am back to posting again. [Okay, really, I was away for the weekend, but still...]

Thanks for the video! What a hoot! Have you seen the one that Collen Lindsay has on her blog? Not writing related, but VERY funny. And more dancing!

H. L. Dyer said...

1. I love the video

2. If you are amused by unnecessary quotation marks, you should see the ones on the Cake Wreck blog, which I am currently in deep smit with.

Apparently there is an epidemic of inappropriate icing quote marks out there...

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...


I wrote two long blog entries on The Jewel of Medina, but the main thing I wondered about was this: I recently submitted a partial to a Brenda-Novak-auction-agent, and in her commentary she noted that I might well have some difficulty in selling the ms because of potential controversy. (The novel is about the Third Reich. That in itself is not controversial, but this isn't the place for details.)

Now, this is one agent reading one chapter of a novel that she is not representing (and will never represent as she does not handle this category), who feels it's her professional duty to alert me to the possibility that I may have trouble flogging it. Moreover, the controversy in question involves a group which is not exactly active these days. (Yes, there are plenty of neo-Nazis around, but they don't get the backing of governments or public opinion.) I absolutely see her point - heck, my dad said pretty much the same thing, and the old man is still on the ball - and it's certainly something I will be alert to as I start pitching to agents etc.

So the problem I have with Random House is: if they're so damn concerned about possible repercussions a la the Satanic Verses fatwa and/or the Danish political cartoons uproar - a situation far more recent and volatile than any Nazi-based novel - why the hell didn't they notice until the book was in the 'collecting cover blurbs' stage??? Are they really saying that NO ONE at Random House, or in Jones's camp, made any comments about this until one associate professor sent an e-mail?

I also have severe problems with the face that Spellberg is complaining that she's the only person being villified for the RH decision, in spite of the fact that she not only made them aware of her concerns (perfectly legit) but then shot off an e-mail to a colleague (why?) who put her concerns into a public forum. If she'd stuck to direct contact with RH alone, she'd be as anonymous as every other expert they consulted. (And meanwhile she threatened to sue RH if they associated her name with the book. File under 'you can't have it both ways' methinks.)

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

Oh! A friend of mine asked (in response to The Jewel of Medina story) whether the author gets to keep the advance. My thought was that she must (and the agent will already have taken their 15%, which seems even more unlikely to be clawed back). Speaking in general terms, i.e. not necessarily the specifics of this particular case, am I right in thinking that the publisher is unlikely to claw anything back? I believe that Kaavya Viswanathan kept her advance and *she* plagiarized.

Erik said...


Funny you should mention Nazis the day I make a blog entry on my checkered childhood including knowing some people who grew up to be Nazis.

But I think you really hit a sore point. Add to your observations about how far this book got the fake memoir about life in Da Hood that Penguin was a week from releasing before it was revealed to be an (obvious) fake, and there's something very wrong here.

The procedure for clearing books is apparently not working very well at both these houses, which makes me wonder if they have a written procedure at all. Does it sound cold to say that they need one? Yes, but it beats the Hell out of sloshing around waiting for the lawyers to show their dorsal fins..

Kate H said...

Re Random House: So it's OK to slander Jesus Christ in any conceivable fashion, but it's not OK to tell uncomfortable truths (or fictions based on truth) about other religious leaders. I can't say I'm surprised, but I am disappointed. Score one for the bully on the block.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"Henceforth, if you have a question, please please please check first to see if I answered it there."

Dude. Did you not read Miss Snark??

But yeah, awesome resource! Thanks!

Erik said...


As much as I appreciate your comments, a memoir would probably kill me. I've punted and started writing one Hell of a novel instead.

I could probably do pieces for magazines and so on, but I have no idea where to start with that routine. I'm fairly certain that popular media would have no interest in what I have to say, so I stay with my humble blog. I only wish I could find a way to monetize (icky word) the 4.5k unique visitors a week.

Memoir? You try to make sense of a life filled with casual contact with violence and pent-up rage. A few sketches are under my short stories section, and I'll bet no one wants to hear those, either. Our culture thrives on Disney sanitized violence presented by perky members of the white middle class. They don't want the details.

I'll stick with the novel form for now. It's more like a hobby than therapy.

Cloudscudding said...

Is it a good idea, a bad idea, or a neutral idea to have a chapter or two excerpt from an unpublished novel on one's website? Basically it's there as a short sample of a major writing project that I talk about a fair amount. No, it's not rough draft.

I've asked elsewhere and gotten mixed answers. I'm now more confused than when I started. Help? I've found your clear-eyed explanations of other publishing mysteries to be quite useful.

Amber said...

I agree with what Kate H said: the double standards of not just the literary world, but speech in general is getting very alarming - I'm seeing a greater and greater trend toward Speech Police and 1984(think of the recent basketball Olympics controversy). And isn't that what literature is all about - transgressing lines, crossing boundaries, challenging our comfortablely politically correct(or even incorrect) assumptions? There's so much reverse discrimination going on, and we're now forced to handle so much with kid gloves instead of honesty...

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