Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Stepping Up Your Game

So, I don't know if you've heard the news, but we're in a bit of a recession. I know. I'll let that sink in. I was floored when I heard yesterday too.

And the recession is coinciding with the rise of digital media and the Internet as a (mostly free) competition for eyeballs and leisure time. Fewer people have the disposable income to buy books, and if they had more money people would be spending more time on the Internet anyway. These two forces are currently squeezing the publishing industry for all it's worth (and all its worth without an apostrophe too).

One of the big current questions I've been receiving is whether this is affecting what I consider representing. Here's my answer: YES.

Publishers right now want the surest of sure things that are so sure it beats surety over its sure head. And agents have to adjust what they take on accordingly.

I don't know if you've heard this news either, but there are very few sure bets in this business. So editors have to be really really really really really really convinced that they want to invest in a project in order to take it on, particularly for debuts, and particularly particularly for previously published authors with a mixed track record.

This means that editors are looking closely at fewer projects. It means that books that editors may want to acquire may not be cleared for acquisition or it may mean that the editor wants a revision and a perfect manuscript before making an offer. It means that authors whose sales have been respectable but not eye-popping may not have their contracts renewed, or if they are renewed the bookstores may only order half as many copies as they ordered for their last book.

No. Don't... Don't jump off the ledge! Come back! YOU HAVE SO MUCH TO LIVE FOR!!

In the midst of my travels last week I became completely addicted to the TV show Friday Night Lights. I don't know if you've seen it, but it's about a small town in Texas that is completely obsessed with football and in particular its very good high school team. It focuses in part on the coach, the inestimable, talented, and at times beleaguered Coach Taylor.

Now, Coach Taylor is a really good guy. He has a heart and he cares about his players. But he also doesn't tolerate any dissent and is fond of ending meetings with players with benedictions like, "Now get the hell out of my office," which makes me giddy every time. Oh, Coach Taylor.

I'm going to channel my inner Coach Taylor on you now and speak in declarative sentences.

"Listen up! We got a big submission Friday night, and the publishers out there are going through some hard times. They want to see your submissions sparkling! They want perfection, and as the literary agent of this here team I aim to give it to 'em! It's time to look deep inside yourself and step up yer game! This means everything from revising to your queries to your submissions needs to be absolutely 110% perfect. And anyone who wants to cry about it can take off their shoulder pads and get off my field!"

That was fun.

But honestly, we're all doing the best we can in tough times. There's more competition at every single stage. I'm getting more queries. There are fewer editors at fewer publishing houses acquiring fewer projects. Bookstores are ordering fewer books. It's tough out there, and it's not the time to complain.

It's time, basically, to look inside yourself and step up yer game.


Maya / מיה said...

Thank you for the inspirational/scary pep talk. I'll try!

Maya / מיה said...

ha, and I have to admit that I was ridiculously psyched about getting the first comment on the list. How's THAT for my A-game?? Boo-yeah!

This is also officially the first time in my life that I have actually used the expression, "boo-yeah."

Ah, a day of firsts. :)

Quadruple Life said...

Got it coach. Thanks.
(I still might have to take off my shoulder pads and cry, though).

WindyA said...

Thanks for the, er, motivating words. At least you're telling it like it is!

Tracy said...

It's a good thing I live in my own little bubble where everything is sparkly and shiny, and everybody loves me (okay, so they're related to me, but still...)

Mari Adkins said...

And to think just this morning I sent my manuscript out into the world and began its journey! :dies of nerves:

bryngreenwood said...

Yes, sir! 110%, sir!

(I never could figure out the whole "more than 100%" thing, but I'm willing to try.)

Suzanne Young said...

I love FNL!!! And if only there were more YA books that were as awesome as that show! (gives people ideas)


Marilyn Peake said...

Thanks, coach! I love a challenge. Perfection is my goal. I’ll up your 110% and aim for 120% perfection. I’m not intimidated by the toughness of the marketplace. I’m going to continue to write even if the economy gets so bad, there are paper and computer printer ink shortages and I have to scribble my novel in the sand and rewrite it every time the winds of change blow through (and those appear to be at gale force level right now).

I’m on summer vacation, even planning to take a trip to Alaska to photograph wildlife and glaciers. I’m planning to have a well-rested writing mind in the fall, when I will look at competition as a good thing, and eat it for breakfast.

Thank you, coach! I’ll buy some shoulder pads and a good strong helmet. I love the publishing game!

allegory19 said...

Aye aye captain. Er, I mean Coach.

Not that I need more motivation to bring my A Game, but I appreciate the reminder.

Justus M. Bowman said...

"Publishers right now want the surest of sure things that are so sure it beats surety over its sure head."


Margaret Yang said...

Okay, but here's my question. Is there any writer or agent or editor out there who is NOT giving 110 percent? Because it isn't like we were slacking up until the recession made us step up and write better/sell better/edit better. We have been giving our awesome best for a long time.

The Writers Canvas said...

Incredible post, Nathan!! Thank you.

There was also a movie made about that coach's team/life called Friday Night Lights starring Billy Bob Thornton.

Thx again!


Nathan Bransford said...


Some have. Not everyone. I wouldn't even say most.

MorganX said...

Well, I guess it is good that I've spent the last year on the first six chapters, perfecting, editing and polishing. Now on to the remaining twentys-six chapters! I hope there will still be an industry left for me to break into by the time I'm finished.

Haha. No, I'm taking the pep talk to heart, and getting my butt in year. It is my goal to have my manuscript finished and declared "totally awesome!" by the end of September.....ok, maybe October :)

Anonymous said...

Has there ever been a "good" time to get into the business?

Nathan Bransford said...


It depends on how you look at it. It was tough five years ago, but five years ago looks like a bed of roses compared to now.

Elyssa Papa said...

My first reaction is not a "Yay" and "I'll make that Hail Mary pass" but more of a s**t from a somewhat seasoned querier who knows what happens when the clock hits zero.

Margaret Yang said...

Nathan, seriously? Shows what I know. Maybe I just hang out with really driven people.

I am very grateful that my agent took me on last year, because I wonder if he would have done so this year, in this different climate.

Anonymous said...


I think your post should say "Everyone stop writing now, there is no longer a demand for the written word." That way I'll be the only aspiring author left and they'll have to buy my book!

Is that incredibly greedy or what?

Sarah Laurenson said...

*sigh* It's such a hard time. And you're such a nice guy. Thanks, coach.

Lisa said...

Nathan, your post actually makes me want to play football instead of write. And, it reminds me of my old high school basketball coach: "Just keep playing! So what if half your tooth got knocked off! Get your a_ _ down the court!" Heading out to run sprints. :-)

RW said...

It feels like writers have to accommodate themselves to two contradictory realities: 1) Writers deserve to be paid for the work they publish. 2) But they're probably not going to be.

Liana Brooks said...

You need to come down south more. Football is religion around here.

Good pep talk though. I'll go edit some more.

Nancy Coffelt said...

Put me in Coach! I'm ready to play.

I started my fine art career in the early '80's recession and ended up doing pretty well. I've seen ups and downs in both the art and writing market since then and I've still managed to stay "successfully unemployed". Even put a kid through college.

What that early experience taught me was that I ALWAYS had to be on my "A" game. That doesn't mean cut throat. It means working on your craft, doing your research, and adjusting your game if needed.

Decide to be the last one standing - that's my motto.

Word verification - fugst - as in, "Fugst it all, anyway."

Peri1020 said...

SIR YES SIR! [slowly backing away from ledge]

Awesome post, Nathan. Really made me laugh. Okay, done laughing now...back to work.

Jen P said...

I think you should have "Coach Taylor Tuesdays" - weekly go gett'em team inspirational words with a bit of 'no more Mr. Nice Guy' benedictions thrown in for good measure. Great stuff!

Laura D said...

There will always be a demand for the written word. In times of trouble people crave the escape that fiction gives them. If I build it, you betcha they will come!

Sara Tribble said...

I couldn't agree more! I really do think I have a lot to live for! haha!

It's true though us new writers are "potential risks" and publishers/agents/editors are going to be crazy picky when it comes to one of us.

I been trying my best to step up my game and hopefully it pays off! I swear I'm a good risk to take! I actually plan on querying you in a few weeks when I am finished with my novel! Keep the advice coming so I am more prepared!

Lisa Schroeder said...

Okay Nathan, NOW you are talking my language.

FNL - my favorite show EVAH! Have you watched season 3 yet? I think I teared up EVERY SINGLE EPISODE in season 3. So so SO good. Lotsa heart!!!

As writers, we have to git 'er done. Hard? Yes. Impossible? No.

So can you channel Tim Riggins next? Maybe, uh, tell everyone to go buy books with a steamy look in your eye? :)

Nathan Bransford said...


Ha. I don't know if Tim Riggins is the book buying type.

Lara said...

This is a funny coincidence. The other day I pulled up the locker room speeches from Bull Durham, Hoosiers, and Miracle and watched them all right in a row. And I felt SO. MUCH. BETTER. Anybody who's feeling discouraged should try it!

T. Anne said...

OK Coach stepping up my game. *Off to make my work sparkle.*

Can't wait for more 'spidyvision' later tonight. How low can entertainment go?

Weronika said...

Thanks for throwing that out there. Way to be explicit. :) I think we all realize to a degree that we have to try harder--for ourselves and for our work.

Thanks, coach!

JES said...

Kind of interesting, isn't it, that it takes a recession (or other emergency) for people to suddenly wake up and go, like, Whoa -- guess I need to do my job RIGHT!?

(And yeah: I've given less than 110% in the past, too -- so I'm by no means talking in an "All of YOU have been lazy all along!" mode.)

Rick Daley said...

'Nuff said.

WORD VERIFICATION: pentiose. The stretchy things my mom wore on her legs?

Dearth of Reason said...

I'm astounded that nobody is stepping up, even after that masculine pep talk and smack on the patties on our way out the door. Okay then, I'm going to do my part.

I formally declare the recession is OVER.

Yes, you heard it here first. So stop tweaking that query and let's all run out there and buy some books!

Rick Chesler said...

Good post!

Charlie said...


I need to thank you for your constant inspirational posts. As a new writer, the road to publication is steep enough and the current recession is foremost in my mind. I appreciate your constant request for excellence in all queries and submissions. Those moral-boosting speeches are doing the trick.

I’m sure there are days when you’re sick of blogging and of people that might attack you and other agents for whatever imagined reason - please don’t let it get to you. Keep up the great work.

Even though I’m a wise-ass with every third comment or so, I’m very serious this time. Thank you. :)

(I’m not kissing up; you don’t rep my genre and even if you did, you’d forget about it thirty seconds later. And, all the kissing up would be rendered moot if the query/submission wasn’t perfect anyway, so why bother...
—you get my point)

Cat Moleski said...

I’ve been working on a couple of project seriously, hoping to polish them up one by one and submit them, but your post and others like it over the last few weeks and months have made me reconsider that strategy. I’ve decided to stop working on one manuscript altogether, as it is a long shot and concentrate on my next most viable commercial project. It’s still a long shot, just with slightly better odds. I do feel like I need to step it up!

Dana Fredsti said...

Are you slapping everyone's butts on their way out of your office?

terryd said...

It seems as if quite a few of my online writer-friends are being published now. It says a lot about them that they're doing it in this market.

Of course they've been at it for years, they absolutely refuse to surrender, and the price includes one or more practice-books-gathering-dust-under-the-bed.

But yes, it's possible.

Scott said...

Nathan, would you be amenable to lending your stamp of approval to a manuscript you thought worthy of publication but had to pass on for a variety of practical reasons? Some kind of logo or seal that a small self-publishing house could use to filter their projects and market them as "passed fit"?

With self-pubs finally outnumbering legit pubs, books that can't find a home but are up to snuff in other ways should be able to set themselves apart from vanity or hobby projects. That might give new voices a platform to rise above the slush, and perhaps prove their marketable worth to agents and the like for eventual contracts.

If enough agents do this, they can in effect create a second tier of publishing (or top tier of self-publishing) that won't cost them a single penny or moment of their time. And if they like, they can track the progress of these "farm club authors" and bring them up if they see something's getting hot.

Passed On It but Passed Fit™. What do people think?

Alex Green said...

I get it, I'm glad to take it all in, I miss positivity week.

Nathan Bransford said...


Interesting question. One barrier is that it would be really time consuming, but I do wonder if something like that would be possible. I think you'll see more experimentation in the coming years, and something along those lines could be one avenue for exploration.

Jil said...

As someone else wrote, it seems assumed that we aren't doing our very best all the time. All that polishing and redoing - one cannot do better than one's best or try harder than one's hardest. Also some of us write to have our novels published, not just to be published. Will bookstores soon be filled with junk because that is what sells? Is a time coming when there are no new books for me to buy because I'm not interested in Palin, Science fiction, mysteries or Harlequin romances but want to escape into the drama of other lives and see situations from a new perspective. This is also what I write and would not want to change those hours (years) in my imaginary world to write something I don't feel in my heart just because it's more certain to be published.

I know, Nathan, you cannot help the way things are, and perhaps feel somewhat the same way. I appreciate your honesty and how upbeat you remain in times that must be difficult for you and I think you will do well.

Now I'll run out and do something really worldwide shocking. Publishers will be hammering on my prison door for my autobiography and I'll sneak all my novels between the covers,

Anonymous said...


Your idea would definitely create extra work for agents. Suddenly they'd have not 2 categories of submissions to consider (REPRESENTATION or PASS) but now 3: REP, PASS, or PASS FIT, meaning "I don't want to rep it but it is probably suitable for another agent to rep).

Since agents already do, to some extent, refer projects to colleagues which they might be interested in, I don't think agencies will ever band together to formalize such a 3-tiered system.

Besides, in self-publishing, the cream rises to the top in that great filter known as Sell enough there and the agents will come to you, anyway.

Kristi said...

Nathan doesn't rep my genre either but with pep talks like these, how can you not read this blog? Oh, how I love rhetorical questions :)

I tend to be a perfectionist by nature anyway, so I say "bring it on."

I also liked Scott's idea - sort of like the minor leagues in're still hoping for the majors but it's a start.

D. G. Hudson said...

That's it, we needed a cold splash of reality to ensure we haven't become complacent about the publishing world. Perhaps this was generated by all the queries you had waiting for you on your return. (Hmm-mm?)

Better that we know what to expect and how to deal with it, than being blindsided when we venture to test the waters by sending out our work.

Writers are a stubborn lot, so we'll keep trying.

Glad you're back, Nathan! Your presence or lack thereof on this blog is always noticed. Maybe it has to do with the strange discussions that seem to crop up on this blog when you're away.

Mira said...

First of all, I would like to say that I am rather grumpy. I appear to have eaten too much chocoloate.

So I am going to carefully say......I hope you don't mind if I make an recommendation to agents? I think it would be great if agents can find a way to start to separating themselves from publishers.

Re-invent themselves as guides/mentors/advocates/editors who nuture a writer and take them through the process of publishing, whether that's self-publishing, e-book or traditional.

Mainstream publishers are like the airlines. It's really just a matter of time. That's my opinion anyway. They just don't seem to have the creativity and passion that would be needed to thrive given the changing scenery. They seem to be pulling in, protecting and imploding rather than taking the necessary steps toward expansion.

Book sales may have been down for some, but - I just googled it - Amazon is doing fine.

I believe that at the base of it, writers like agents. They like having an advocate and a friend in the business. Writing is a very lonely task at the heart of it.

Hitch that sail onto a new wind, that's what I say.

Does that metaphor work? Hmmm. I really may have eaten too much chocolate.

Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, Coach Bransford. *sigh*

Laura Martone said...

I'm with allegory - I already aim to bring my A-game when it comes to queries, the manuscript, pretty much everything. Nevertheless, the reminder - however painful to hear - is still welcome. Thanks, Nathan.

WV: idiumpa - sounds like something an Oompa-Loompa would say when he has an "a-ha!" moment.

Kim Lionetti said...

What took you so long? FNL is the best show on television!

So glad you saw the light.

abc said...

Thanks, Coach! I'm going to go make out with Tim Riggins now. (love that show).

Nathan, is there any genre or market (YA, Sci Fi, etc.) that is less picky? Whatever I mean by that. You know what I mean? Not that I'm going to do anything but YA but I'm just wondering if perhaps YA looks for less of a high concept, if you will, or if it is all high concept these days.

Nathan Bransford said...


I really don't know how I missed this show, but it's amazing.

Nathan Bransford said...


Everything's tough right now across the board.

The Rejection Queen said...

I'm happy to say that I am going to be published with no literary agent...still bummed about that but at least I am getting published.

Creager Studios said...

Brilliantly Stated... cold hard facts to re-focus by! At this point I would be happy to be the Water Boy!

Jodi Creager

abc said...

I'm currently in Deadwood territory. No idea what they are talking about half the time, but I still love it, especially that Calamity Jane.

I used to live in Austin and kept hoping I'd run into Coach Taylor or Tim Riggins or Landry (ok, I know they are just characters, thank you) but I never did. Bummer. Bummer Dan.

Jil said...

Did everyone see this week's New Yorker cover? Future Generations. I love it!

Julie said...

As another recent convert to FNL, can I just say that show rocks?

I bought season one on DVD because the protagonist in the project I'm shopping is a small-town Texas high school football player. I figured the extra visual research couldn't hurt, though my kids go to school in small-town Texas and I've attended a few games. :) (Not YA, Suzanne, but it certainly has crossover potential.)

I am overwhelmed with the depth of character development and amazing writing in the show. Should have started much earlier, but I'm slowly making my way through the seasons.

And Coach Riggins may not buy books for himself, but you can bet your bippy he buys them for Julie (his bookworm daughter)!

Hmm, thinking I need to go query Nathan Bransford while he's on a FNL kick ...! :)

Thanks for the pep talk.

Nathalie said...

You so rock!!! Nuf said (from a former bookseller)

PS: Aaah, FNL... :)

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eva Ulian said...

Love the "Benedictions".

Dawn Maria said...

Between you and Janet Reid, it's been a lot of writing reality hard talk today! And I'm listening, I really am. I don't disagree with anything you said.

That's why Anne Lamott's words are so important. She advises- "You should work on your novels anyway. There are very few better ways to spend your life."

If we're happy to show up on the page all alone, then we can make it. I have to believe that.

David said...

Sigh. Okay, where that's ledge?

Haste yee back ;-) said...


Tell Henry, no garlic eatin' before game time... gives him terrible gas and makes us dread huddles! And...

I need a new jock strap!

Haste yee back ;-)

intotheforest said...

Great post, Nathan! I have to say, though, that I've actually been buying more books. It's cheaper than a lot of other forms of entertainment (been to a movie lately?), lasts longer, and in my obviously subjective opinion often is better quality.

PurpleClover said...

Thanks, Nathan. If I can get back my 30k words from my laptop hard drive, I promise to make it sparkle. Still waiting for my computer guy to get back from vacation. Sigh.

David said...

Aargh. "Where's that ledge?" I meant.

Mira said...

Oh, sorry Nathan. I was just trying to lighten up from my last post without actually deleting the post.

I worry sometimes that I take it too far when I talk anti-publishing. But I guess you'd let me know if I did.

Nathan Bransford said...


I think you make some good points in your first post, and another change that I think you'll start seeing is agents who work outside of the mainstream publishing industry to get their clients' works to readers.

Natalie said...

Thanks for the much needed pep talk. Must keep running. Must push past the fatigue.

Also, you as football coach? That's kinda funny.

Nathan Bransford said...


Yeah, I'd be terrible.

"Get the hell out of my office! Um. Wait. Sorry. That came out wrong. How are you feeling?"

Anonymous said...

Ugh what an honest post. And depressing. Yet - ! - entirely nescessary and something that's very much in the air (Alexie's recent comments about the Kindle/DRM, though provocative, seem like a canary in the mine warning - your post struck me as part of that larger dialogue.)

I like that you've stepped out of the query posts: some of us have agents and are in the what happens next phase. Learning. Growing. Dating (yeah, like a thirteen year old headed for puberty.)

Beyond writing the manuscript, the submission process seems largely out of one's control (see, puberty, eeuw, I know, rather not but still ...)

In any case, being in the submission stage (twelve months & running) of a first manuscript, the post made me - "wonder" if I should consider ... what? I don't know.

You advise, '"stepping up the game." Being a sedentary person with zero interests in sports, I had to think about that (bookball?)

Besides not bugging my agent (who I check in with every few weeks), creating a blog (which I haven't done though I love reading them!) and getting blurbs from published writers (how helpful are those to you when you're submitting a manuscript? and can they be added during the submission process? and blurbs from established authors, in general, how helpful are those?), what else does a writer do during the submission process?

All I can think of is writing another book (check - well, part of an "X" drawn through box) and ... ?

Please advise.

Bane of Anubis said...

It's hard enough for me to find work in the field for which I am well qualified, but writing's more fun, so I'll keep pluggin' away... (just keep swimming, just keep swimming :)

Mira said...


That's a good idea - that agents could take that role, but they could.

I agree with what some people said here - books are very affordable sources of entertainment, and people turn to entertainment more during a recession, rather than less.

This really doesn't have to be a time of belt-tightening. It's a good time to think outside the box.

Okay, enough chocolate for me. Time to shake it off.

Nathan Bransford said...


Honestly, beyond what you're doing (and I don't know that blurbs will be make or break), the only thing authors can do besides "keep writing" during the submission process is to stay as sane as possible.

Shell said...

Make strawberry jam, plant the garden (hecka late, but better than last year), feed the kids (I'm making the jam ain't I?), give 110% to my writing. (I knew chapter six needed help. This confirms it.)

All on my list of things to get done today.

Cleaning the house is so not on the list. Maybe tomorrow...

PurpleClover said...

So will we get a post on these "sure bets" that are the "surest of sure things that are so sure it beats surety over its sure head"??? :D

Surely you can share. How come when you write "sure" that many times it looks like you spelled it wrong??

Nathan Bransford said...


Basically the surest of the sure are existing bestsellers and a tiny handful of new projects (if any) per publisher year.

Scott said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Nathan.

Anon, on your extra step––I don't see it. In fact, I see the opposite.

An agent reviews a partial or full request because they're already interested, which cuts out any extra step right there. Once they get it, they realize the work is quality but for any number of practical reasons decide it's not right for them to take on. At that point, they don't even have to follow up with a letter. They just return an email with a "passed on, passed fit" seal or logo or some other insignia.

Of course they could just blow off a reply, but the author isn't going to allow that to happen. But to receive this "gold star" of sorts not only represents quality feedback without the agent penning a single word, the author can use it as a pass to cash in.

And as ridiculous as it sounds, if an agent did decide to mention something in terms of written feedback, those quotes could be used as blurbs to sell the book. The benefit to both parties (and why it's worth any small amount of time) is that agents can track the success of the book, or "test" a) reading public interest, b) an author's dedication to assisting with the marketing of the book which is often a big issue, and/or c) help break new markets that could become valuable revenue streams in the future.

Let's face it: as the industry sprawls with technology (e-books, etc.), possible business models in the future may be required to rely on small-ticket volume rather than just a few, big ticket winners.

Win-win, as I see it, and no more work for the agent then they've already requested. Less, perhaps.

PurpleClover said...

Well then mine will sparkle so brightly it will blind the extraterrestrials.

I'm feeling a bit left out that I've never seen FNLs.

Silicon Valley Diva said...

Can't say I'm surprised. Practically every industry is hurting right now, so I would imagine publishing is even worse.
Hopefully you don't feel like throwing in the towel either lol!

Jude Hardin said...


I don't think that system would be very useful, because agents' names aren't familiar to most readers. A gold star from, say, Donald Maass, would be meaningless to the vast majority of book buyers. Publishers use blurbs from famous authors because, well, they're famous authors. Readers figure if Stephen King liked it, it must be good. That's the theory behind blurbs, anyway. An endorsement from an agent just wouldn't carry the same weight in the marketplace.

Laura Martone said...

Hey, Bane! You quoted Dory - awesome!

And you're right - despite the doom and gloom we continuously hear re: the recession and the impossibility of being published, all we can do is just keep swimming!

Mary said...

Excellent post!

Nett Robbens said...


I'm really, really, really laughing out loud. You have a great sense of humor. However, your message is crystal clear and serious. As always, thank you for such great advice.

Indigo said...

And if we weren't all afraid of the big bad wolf - we are now! (winks)
I think in any business venture you have to give it your all. No matter what you strive to do with your talent, the realization is there will always be someone bigger and better out there. What does that leave? Unique and originality? I'm guessing those traits might play a hand as well. (Hugs)Indigo

Jen C said...

Maybe it's just me, but I read a post like that and get excited.

Recession? Near impossible to break into the market? Never going to make a living from writing? Death of publishing as we know it?

Let me at it!

The more impossible things seem, the more excited I get. I love challenges and obstacles, it's in my blood. If Nathan was to write a post about how everything is peachy and we all have a really good chance of getting published I'd be all frowny face...

As a PS, I know that it won't make anyone in the US feel any better, but Australia officially had an economic growth in the last quarter, thus meaning: no more recession here. Apparently that makes us the strongest industralised economy in the world at the moment, or something. OMG. Watch out, we're going to take over the world!

Nah... not really. I'm sure none of us could really be bothered... There's more important things to worry about like football and beer.

Scott said...

Kristi, that's exactly it. There are only so many big stars to go around, but yet there's a market for other leagues where authors can be spread around, collecting percentages of revenue that require no cost outlay. Who is going to turn down 50% of a couple thousand downloads? Most authors are just trying to make a name for themselves, and a 50-50 split where the author does all the leg work sounds like a multi-million dollar contract if the alternative is to have it wallow in Amazon (not a filter at all, at present) or on the shelf.

And those books that play in these "minor leagues" can target smaller niches that are being left out because of tighter costs and lessening readership. They can be anywhere from those people who love fantasy so much they never get enough and could easily double their collection, to those who like the boldest, transgressive stuff imaginable. Word of mouth would spread fast through publicity and more concentrated efforts, all electronic, all low-cost.

Jude: educating the reading public to look for certain logos would be very easy. Directories could be made, and separate categories created where only "authorized" self-publications are permitted. The idea is based on the volume of books idling, and the loss of more niche markets. Taking your passed fit book to the top of these lists is a great way to break new markets, and I just don't think it would be hard to construct a model among booksellers who try and use reviews to do the same thing. In that sense, a model's already in place.

Hey, I'm just trying to up my game! Or more accurately, trying to up everyone's game. Rising tide, and all that. :)

Anonymous said...

In lean times the entertainment industry typically fairs well.

what else does a writer do during the submission process?


"All I can think of is writing another book (check - well, part of an "X" drawn through box) and ... ?Please advise."

the publishing business is full of waiting periods--waiting to hear back from an agent, waiting to hear from the agent if the ms. has been sold, waiting to hear from your editor on the latest round of edits, waiting for the edited book to be published, waiting for news on your next deal, waiting for your first royalty check to arrive..w.aiting...

The only way to be productive if you want to always have more books come out is to keep writing new material. If you're not sure how long a wait you will have, say like you're waiting for edits and there's not enough time to write a whole new book before you will have to get back to edits on your last book, then you can write outlines of potential new projects. Then, when your publisher finally does put out your first book, you will have a "proposal file" of new projects for them to consider ready to go, which will hopefully get you a new (multi-) book deal.

Never just sit around and wait. The biz moves so slow that you should always be at least 1 book ahead. (But don't write ahead in a series unless you've sold the first book int he series).

Vacuum Queen said...

I want you to be my coach. :)

Jo said...

Amen! Quit yer bellyachin'! That's my motto.

Jim Thomsen said...

All the more reason to self-publish.

Jim Thomsen said...

Also, I would submit that it doesn't matter how hard an agent or editor works ... if their judgment about what will connect with readers is off. I'd like to see just as much focus on developing one's smarts as in intensifying one's work ethic.

Lucinda said...


"...the only thing authors can do besides "keep writing" during the submission process is to stay as sane as possible."

But, I write best when I feel terribly INsane.

When I wrote the first draft of one of my novels, my day job was waiting tables. After excitedly telling a customer about my aspirations to becoming a novelist, he said that only about two percent of all writers become successfully self-sufficient.

Without hesitation, I mocked his discouraging words with: "Two percent? Great!! Then I have a chance!"

Reality Checks don't bounce, but they do tend to take the wind out of our creative sails.

It has been said that I am not ruin such a rep? I find this blog very inspiring. It makes me want to prove the "signs of the times" wrong.

So...nuf said and back to the polishing...wax on...wax off.


BJW said...

Who knew literary people would take things so literally?

Good heads up.

Ruth said...

...I hate when people say 110%. I mean, something like "achieve 110% of last year's sales" is fine. But when people tell a person to work at 110% of their best... well... that's not actually possible. You can't be 10% better than the best you can be (100%). You can be 110% better than your previous efforts, sure. But you can't be 110% of *yourself*.

My old manager always used to tell me I had to work 110% to get that promotion. I glowered silently at the lack of possibility of working 110%, worked at the best I thought I could work at (not 110%), and got the promotion. Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah to him.

[/end irrelevant rant]


litenup_rach said...

Hey Nathan - You Rock... No B_S_ -- just straight, honest, authentic. My kinda Coach... thanks for throwing it down and getting to the heart.

BTW - I LUVVVV Coach Taylor; you've really gotta love a character who 'gets' the magnitude of his 'coaching' role; takes on the responsibility - to family and team - with unwavering ethics, compassion, and no-nonsense tough love.

Adam Heine said...

Is Positivity Week over? I missed it.

MH said...

This is good advice, but when I see all the Real Housewives of New York getting book deals, I have to scratch my head. I also hear Octo Mom is getting a big deal. Is it really about stepping up your game, or appealing to the commercial market Nathan?

Do you think Fitzgerald and Faulkner would get published today?
I don't know if the advice is about crisping everything up and being perfect is really "all that" although I do like your writing style and post.

I won't be surprised if next everyone on the Real Housewives of New Jersey gets a book deal. :) Incidentally, I read that despite a tough economy book sales were only down 1%, True?

Robert A Meacham said...

Friday Night Lights! Heck I lived it and in the era that the movie portrays.
Listen heart is full. I will not gripe about hard times. The cream rises to the top, now, yesterday, and tomorrow.
Hey its easy in these three tiny steps as this blog pointed out on Nicholas Spark's Web site:
1. write a great novel
2. write a great query
3. find a great hungry agent that believes in your work.

Maybe I have two and three mixed up.

By the way, I don't fumble the ball or run out of bounds to avoid the hit.

Write a winner on two...hut hut.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

You make me laugh.

Every. Day.

word ver: Moldoph, Which will be the wizard in my new fantasy.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jen C said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I've been writing my book daily for almost 18 years... and am nearing agent query time. Something is needed in theses bad times...and of course I'm sure: it's my book. At least I've located a REAL agent in Nathan: I'm sure he'll take 10 seconds to look at my query to decide wether he wants to read on; rather than letting a helper decide what he should see. Right? Nathan?

Robert A Meacham said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Other Lisa said...

I love football! I love football metaphors!

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a pretty well-known music engineer who was teaching at a recording school. My band got some free recording time there. He really encouraged me. His line: "You can't make them throw you the football. But you can be ready to catch it when they do."

Oh, and I love FNL. I really need to catch up on that now that BREAKING BAD is done for the year.

Nathan Bransford said...

Re: deleted comments

Let's stay reasonably on topic, hmm?

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mira said...

Nathan, I'm confused. How is talking about the recession not on topic?

I'm not challenging you, I'm just trying to find out where the line is.

Nathan Bransford said...


It's one thing to talk about the recession and how it impacts books, I just don't see a discussion about media bias ending well given how wrapped up that is in politics.

Mira said...

Okay, I see.

My intention had more to do with calming fears, but I can see how it could open a can of worms.

Sorry. No disrepect to the topic intended.

Robert A Meacham said...

I apologize Nathan. I knew I was wrong after I hit the enter key.

Nathan Bransford said...

No worries, we all have our hot button topics!

Amber Argyle-Smith said...

I'm your man!
Er, woman.
Anyway, send me in coach!

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan said:
"It depends on how you look at it. It was tough five years ago, but five years ago looks like a bed of roses compared to now."

That’s true even within the small press world. Five years ago, it was relatively easy for writers with well-written, out-of-the-box novels and short stories to get published by good small publishing houses. Now, the competition is extremely tough even at those places. One of them actually closed to all authors except those already published there and authors referred by them. Because things change so quickly within the publishing world, I think it’s helpful for authors to get started wherever they can before the next wave of change arrives. I know quite a few authors who have agents and books published by the big publishing houses, and all of them work very, very hard at writing, never giving up when the going gets tough.

Kelly said...

Go! Go! Fight! Fight!
Get that WIP into shape tonight!
Go ME!
I'm psyched, Coach.

Hilabeans said...


Min said...

I love this post because I love FNL. And I'd never thought of it before, but Texas high school football and publishing *are* similar!

Say it with me now: "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!"


Jen C said...

Oh. My bad. I think Twitter has stripped from me all of my previous (limited) ability to stay on topic.

Meine Entschuldigungen, Nathan.

Sheryl said...

Steppin' and poppin...

Anonymous said...

question: why is Janet Reid's blog "currently unavailable right now?"

CJB123 said...

I usually don’t comment on things that are written on blogs or other types of opinion pieces. However, I felt the need to do so with this particular posting. I think that when a person within the book industry---be it an agent or a publisher---tells writers to step their games up, they are taking the easy way out. The problem is within the industry itself. People aren’t buying books because books aren’t offering anything new. Fiction, especially, has become a craft of parody. The bookstore shelves are filled with the same books. They may have different titles, but they are nonetheless the same books. The industry has become lazy and if it is to be successful, it is up to the people who control it to look for stories that can shift the reading world away from the same old stuff. If the agents and the publishers step up their games and move away from conformity, then I’m sure they will see that the writers will respond to the challenge.

Nathan Bransford said...


I'm only somewhat sympathetic to that. I'm as frustrated as anyone else when editors pick up the latest clone of a book that's already popular, but you really can't tell me that all of the books in a bookstore are all the same or that there is no quality or variety there.

Marilyn Peake said...

terryd said:
"It seems as if quite a few of my online writer-friends are being published now. It says a lot about them that they're doing it in this market."

Me, too. I belong to writers’ groups in which authors are constantly finding agents and getting published by the big publishing houses. Two of the writers received 2-book deals, and another recently made the New York Times Best Seller list for the second time. Quite a few write beautiful literary fiction and historical fiction. All of these writers work very, very hard and accept criticism practically without complaint. The excerpts and reviews I’ve read of their work are exceptional, and I was delighted to find one of their books on one of the main displays in my local bookstore.

Anita said...

I looove FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS...and everything that's great about it makes for really great novels, too: it's sexy, mysterious, dangerous, etc. And writing is in my system just like football is in Coach's...I'll be putting fingers to keys no matter the economic conditions. Thanks for the pep talk! No get the hell off this comment.

Marilyn Peake said...

Many successful big businesses were created during the Great Depression and launched when the Depression ended. I think one way for a writer to stay sane about the publishing world during the current recession is to write, to keep writing, to get better and better at writing, and to have as many polished books and short stories completed by the time the recession ends when there most likely will be a sudden increased demand for new manuscripts.

cjb123 said...


Yeah…sure, there may be a few books on the shelves that have originality and when I see one I am sure to buy it. I buy it because it is intellectually stimulating for me and also because I want to support people who are not afraid to break the mold. I went to a writer’s conference a few months back that was advertised as a conference for writers of all genres. Only when I got there, I found myself in the middle of a CSI/Espionage writer’s conference.

I told this story to a friend of mine (also a writer) and she told me about a meeting she had with a literary agent. The agent told her that they very much enjoyed her sample chapters but would not consider representing her because her genre was not “in” right now. This baffles me. Isn’t good writing, good writing---and isn’t it in the best interest of the writing industry to give the reader the best of what their craft has to offer. All I’m saying is that the original story nowadays is few and far between.

Nathan Bransford said...


You're painting with too far large of a brush, my friend. If you're not finding good books on the shelves you're not looking very hard. And I wouldn't read too much into a single rejection. The agent might have really been trend following or they might have just given a reason to be polite.

I am concerned at the shrinking lists and what that means for literary diversity, but it's far too simplistic to make the kind of generalizations you're making.

cjb123 said...

Well, I think we will have to agree to disagree on whether my ideas a too simplistic. It’s late in Ohio and I need to go to bed. I wanted you to know that I do find most of your ideas refreshing and I always enjoy a good debate. I will say though, that if you do care about the shrinking lists, like you say you do, then use your writing, your connections and your blog to change things. You have a voice and a following---so break the mold.

Rivulus said...

So in an effort to step it up without pulling a hamstring, what are your thoughts on revealing the ending in a query letter -- particularly if it's germane to "the really great idea"? I know this appropriate, indeed required, in the synopsis. But is it overkill in the query?

Appreciate your insight, Nathan, as always.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with cjb--right before "Black Wednesday," I was getting same-day requests for fulls and partials. But then publishing turned upside down and suddenly agents took days and weeks to reply--mostly no's; requests were few & far between.

In fact, an agent who liked my novel "a lot" backed off representation based on the opinion of one editor who said my time period didn't sell. Editors say they want "fresh and different," but they publish the same old thing over and over...
Lemmings, anyone?

Yamile said...

thanks for this down to earth post Nathan. And I'm with Jen C. When I read something like this, I feel stronger drive to do my best and make it, even against all odds.
And on another topic, and I hope you don't delete me:
Not only are you coach Nathan, but also King Nathan, from the Query Tracker. I knew you'd win!

Memoirs of a Bulimic Black Boy said...

"Publishers right now want the surest of sure things"

Yes, finally, my high school reputation is going to work in my favor. About time someone pulled the teases card.

Anonymous said...

Help! I subscribed to your blog via email and have been having a few problems with Outlook (2007) and particularly the security centre. Now I am not getting your blog anymore and I am very unhappy. Any commenters that can help, please!

Miss Mapp said...

Wise post and some discussion you have going here!

Thermocline said...

No one is forcing us to write. So all the complaining about the economy, structure of publishing houses, trends, etc. is rubbish. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get published (read: paid) but we are the ones who’ve chosen to write. The odds being stacked against us just forces us to be better writers, which is what we should want anyway.

The First Carol said...

This is a perfect follow up from the Write to Publish Conference last Friday. Great, great stuff. Education is everywhere and so are books. It's worth it to me to read as many as possible this weekend and keep all publishing friends in jobs. Any suggestions from your sidebar? I'm feeling flush and a Powell's moment coming on.

PS I don't watch TV, do you think it would make me a better writer? And, Coach, do you wear that crown on the field...just asking.

Anonymous said...

If we aren't allowed a ledge, would a nice, tall bridge do?

The alternative to that is to just stop trying, and write for fun. Perhaps I'll try that. Yes. Much better.

Anonymous said...

P.S. To explain my previous comment... the other readers of this blog are so superb it would take me a decade to catch up with you. But perhaps in ten years the economy will be better anyhow!

Mary said...


You've inspired me!
I'm going out to do wind sprints right now!

superwench83 said...

So do you think the rise in the number of submissions you see is actually related to the recession? Do you think some people who know nothing about the industry are naively thinking they can get a book published and make an easy buck? Or is a rise in quality also accompanying the rise in submissions?

Pamela T Hammonds said...

The fourth happiest day in my life (I have three kids) was when I heard FNL got picked up for TWO new seasons. If I had to say good-bye to Coach Taylor and Tami and the kids, I would have worn black for a month. (Or at least metaphorically--I look really washed out in black unless I have a tan.) It's hands-down the best casted, best written show on television. Best episode: This season when Tyra has to write her college entrance essay. Makes me tear up to think of it. Nathan, with your audience, maybe you can convert enough viewers that we can keep FNL on the air until Coach Taylor has to hobble around the sidelines with a cane. Gracias for the shout-out.

The First Carol said...

superwench83: I believe the rise in the number of queries is the extended world of recession-depressionites escaping into another dimension: fiction.

Matilda McCloud said...

My husband works for a major NYC publisher and tells me that the only thing selling now is "YA paranormal romance." But for how long? He brings me home lots of free books. I read 20 pages of one novel that they had big hopes for and predicted it would sink like a stone (it did). Now that same novel is a bestseller in paperback--so much for my predictions.

I guess that's what gives me hope. Publishing is such an inexact science (unlike, say, the automobile industry where if you produce a crummy car, people won't buy it). Even the "sure bets," like celebrity-driven stuff, are not guaranteed to sell.

In this economy, however, writers do have to make sure their manuscript sparkles before sending it out. Don't send out your first drafts. Send out your 30th draft. Writers also need to query widely. Don't give up after 25-50 queries.

Beth said...

I never wanted to be second string to begin with. Thanks for the pep talk, coach. I think I'll hire a professional editor right now!

P.S. I was a cheerleader. Does that count? And I dated a quarterback. Football is a good thing. :)

Scott said...

I intend to make Cormac McCarthy look like a complete wussy, coach!

Brigid said...

Clear eyes, full hearts.

Can't lose.

Dara said...

Thanks for the pep talk! It can get frustrating seeing what's happening, but the best we can do is keep writing. Even if my books aren't meant to be published, I at least had fun writing them! :)

Chuck H. said...

After reading all this gloom and doom (and football! For cryin' out loud!) I'm about ready to chuck it all (pun intended) and hit the road. How about a new version of Motorcycle Diaries or maybe Travels With Harley?

Christine H said...


I've scrolled through the comments but don't have time to read them all in detail. I just wanted to say that I don't think it's *quite* cricket of you to say that we need to have "the surest of sure things" without giving us any kind of criteria against which to judge ourselves.

I know the market is constantly changing, agents, editors and publishers are very subjective, etc. etc. but can't you give us even a couple of pointers by which to judge ourselves?

Even a little hint? Something? Anything?

Nona said...

"Publishers right now want the surest of sure things that are so sure it beats surety over its sure head. And agents have to adjust what they take on accordingly."

And if publishers were stock brokers, they probably would have wanted GM. Lots and lots of it!

verification: pucki

KayKayBe said...

My new song for writing is "Chariots of Fire"!

Nathan Bransford said...

anon, Matilda, Christine H, nona-

I agree with all of you (even if you said slightly different things), and I think it's a definite worry that publishers are going to overreact to the current marketplace and only snatch up books like what is already popular which, as we all know, is not how you find the Next Big Thing.

I do think this is happening to a certain extent and it's worrisome, but if you watch what sells on Pub Lunch, there is a little bit of everything. Ultimately, everyone is making their best guesses. They just happen to be making fewer of them at the moment.

Teri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristi said...

I've actually been encouraged by what I've seen on Publisher's Lunch - sure you have your celebrity memoirs but I've also seen debut authors on the list.

Also, as far as complaints about people like Octomom getting book deals, I don't fault the publishers - they just print what they think people will buy. Unfortunately, there are plenty of consumers out there who will shell out money for a trainwreck story like that rather than a literary work. Sad but true.

Christine H said...

Well I suppose it all goes back to what was posted a few days ago about having a good concept to begin with. If other people seem interested in it, then chances are you have a chance of a readership.

Mostly, I think, people read for entertainment. They don't want anything too deep or disturbing. At least, I know I don't. Real life is disturbing enough!

Christine H said...

Tracy, where can I get one of those bubbles?

Mira said...

You know Nathan, when I first read your post, it brought up alot of thoughts for me about the politics of writing; writing as a business; the frustrating lot of the writer. Very old, familiar thoughts.

But over the night, what stuck with me was a feeling of: Dig deep! Go higher! Do it! I love that feeling of inspiration.

It showed me that I could - there were depths and heights I wasn't tapping.

What a gift. Thank you.

As I said before, writers are often writing in isolation, and it's really nice to feel believed in - that you not only CAN do it, but you WILL do it.

Maybe you're pointing out the gift of challenging times like these is to make us dig deeper and reach higher.

And then, when your book is published, whether it's now or later, it will be the very best.

Anonymous said...

I really love your ideas.

word verification: solut!

TC Laverdure said...

That was a very cool posting Nathan, you took a negative and turned into a very effective pitch to turn up the quality level of our writing.


Anonymous said...

Honestly, that was very helpful advice. Maybe we rejected ones can think our work isn't THAT bad, just not a hit for this economy.
And then we can roll up our sleeves and try to write the 110% next novel.

Two amazing –really amazing– writers I know (the kind that blow my socks off) quit writing after their first novel was rejected.

Now, I understand why. It can be soooo depressing out there.

So it dawns on me that the feedback, the responses and critiques from my writing group may be the ONLY response I will ever hear. It may only be a handful of people, but it is VERY nice.

What a weird world.

I think it means, as a writer, go with what you want to write, what you really really want to write.

Make that writing 110%.

...And damn the torpedoes.

Bane of Anubis said...

Sounds very similar to the movie business, too - hence why they're doing all these remakes/reboots of classics (and even not so classics - like "Cliffhanger")... It's easier all around. Less innovation required, less legwork to get the story out, and an already built in fan base.

I don't begrudge clones/imitations b/c the familiar is almost always easier to identify/enjoy (and not just in books/movies).

Christine H said...

Wait a minute... something struck me here as I was doing housework and my mind was (naturally) wandering.

Isn't this admonishment a bit unneccessary? Aren't writers by nature an extremely fastidious bunch? Who *wouldn't* make their manuscript the absolute best they possibly could before sending it?

Or am I missing something?

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Christine H.

Ugh. That reminds me - I should be doing housework, too.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to address your last question... while I'm sure that most of the writers who frequent this blog are already trying to give 100% when it comes to their manuscripts, queries, etc., I have no doubt that plenty of others do not give the process their all - and end up wondering why they keep getting rejected. And even for those of us who are trying hard to make our work "sparkle" (incidentally, I despise that term - blame it on Stephenie Meyer) - a pep talk can only help motivate us that much more!


wv: blogerso - an obsession with reading blogs, to the point that all else gets swept aside (including, er, writing).

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan, I have a random question about etiquette.

If you were lucky enough to be picked up by an agent and that agent were amazing enough to get you a very good deal, how should you respond in terms of thanks?

I mean, of course acknowledging them in your book is a must and Christmas and birthdays are a given, but do you celebrate with a nice dinner? Buy them tickets to their favorite game? Send them flowers for the rest of their life?

What’s the norm?

Marilyn Peake said...

Kristi said:
"I've actually been encouraged by what I've seen on Publisher's Lunch - sure you have your celebrity memoirs but I've also seen debut authors on the list."

I also feel encouraged. I belong to online writers’ groups in which, day after day throughout this entire recession, announcements have been made by debut authors that they signed with an agent, then signed with a big publishing house, sometimes for two-book deals, and then had the deal posted on publishing sites. They write mostly literary fiction, rarely popular type books. Some have had books rejected because it was felt they wouldn’t sell in today’s marketplace, but they buckled down and wrote another book. This past week, there were quite a few happy announcements.

thoughtful1 said...

I feel like I am jumping in here a bit late, but your words were provoking.

My game is so slow moving that by the time I get all the threads woven and tied, things may have changed in the market. And I am so enjoying the writing, and the reading I am doing to understand the shape of what I am writing. I actually think this is my A game, a real detailed, in depth work, and we'll see what happens.

I like my quickies, too, and was toying with the idea of tossing some of these out there, but my first two efforts got form letter rejections, including one which was clearly a cheap copier copy of a form letter, when I had sent a personalized query, even following all of your recommendations. It seemed to be telling me to keep focused on the big kahuna. Well, we'll see about that also. May try getting a smaller work out there again once school ends.

I like your A game attitude though.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this admonishment a bit unneccessary? Aren't writers by nature an extremely fastidious bunch? Who *wouldn't* make their manuscript the absolute best they possibly could before sending it?

I agree, Christine. Maybe some writers are trying to "skate by," or don't take their work seriously enough or push themselves hard enough. (Who are these people, anyway?) But for me, I don't send out ANYTHING that's not the absolute best I can make it.

JuLo said...

Nathan, any thoughts to what this means for the long term? If the economy picks back up, do you think the pub industry will start to get more adventurous with what they'll take on? It's a depressing enough prospect to almost make me not even want to attempt the ms I've been batting around in my head. Almost.

You made a comment that we thought the industry was tough 5 years ago, and compared to today it was nothing. Does that mean 5 years from now it'll be even worse, or is right now just not the best time for the biz.

Just curious!

Christine H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bane of Anubis said...

Stepping up your game, IMO, doesn't just entail perfect polishing of manuscript - writing/publishing nowadays also involves significant business sense/marketing savvy.

So, along w/ polishing your darling, you've got to go out of your comfort zones (speaking for myself) and do things like blogging (i.e., starting your own, trying to create visibility and bringing people in).

Also, picking up your game includes building your credentials - getting more short stories out there, etc.

Also, picking up your game means using existing resources (Rick Daley's query site, Query shark, etc.) to polish your marketing skills and to help you realize what (might) resonates with others and w/ agents.

So, normally, though I, too, deplore the 110% phraseology, I think it's appropriate in this case - in fact, it should be 200% - give 100% to your writing and 100% to marketing (visibility and ability).

I know that I'm working 100% on the writing, but I could definitely do more on the other side of the aisle.

Lyle Skains said...


I wonder what your (and editors/publishers) response would be to an author who approaches you with a story that exists across platforms (print and digital).

I'm a PhD student/writer, and my research is creating fiction that bridges the divide: readers can get the book in brick-and-mortar (or on Kindle, whatever), but can also experience the digital version.

Digital adaptations would include interactivity, visuals, audio, possibly nonlinear structure, even game and reader-collaboration aspects. So, not just an e-book version, but a story experience as different as film from novel.

What sort of response do you think you might have to an author who presented you with a) a well-written query and sample pages, and b) a web link where you can sample the digital version?

Maniac Scribbler said...

Nathan, quick question about the general consensus regarding novellas: can they be submitted like a novel, or do they need to be treated as a short story, seeing as they are inbetween the two?
ManiacScribbler =^..^=

Zoe Winters said...

I think now might be a good time for some writers to take matters into their own hands, if they want their book to ever reach an audience at all. (plus assuming you find any success, you're a sure thing) All the pep-talk and perfection in the world doesn't change the odds.

Independently producing (as in on your own), one or two novels (or even more) doesn't mean you can't shop others to larger houses.

But seriously, there comes a point where you have to decide "Do I want to be read, or do I want a publisher?"

It's not the "vanity" it once was to put out your own work, not sure it was ever really "that vain" to begin with.

Just saying. Independence is a good thing... even with books. It's really not all crap.

Your mileage may vary, if it does, carry on with what you're doing.

Creative A said...

"It's tough out there, and it's not the time to complain."

I love that. I think it pretty much sums up everything about the current publishing situation. And your speech was good, Nathan! You should do more like that :)


Sexie Sadie~ said...

Damn, coach! This is bullshit, I tell ya! Looks like my first book is going to need to sparkle with perfection before I send in my query to you. Hmmm... better get to cleanin'.


Denise Unland said...

The newspaper industry is suffering the same crisis.

As a freelance features writer, I'm still swimming in work (not money, but it pays the bills), watching good, fellow writers get cut, knowing my time is probably around the corner.

I reinvent the wheel everyday; often I wish I could tweak a story one last time, but deadlines beckon.

Picked a bad time to seek represenation for my first young adult novel. But hey, with six kids, I'm used to hearing the word, "No."

No rejection, no troubled economy can remove the pleasure I gain from writing, even to an audience of one.

Love the sand idea!

girl jordyn said...


C. Patrick Schulze said...

It is what it is. Thanks for this important insight to the marketplace.

AmyR said...

Wow!! Are there any cheerleaders out there???

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