Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, June 12, 2009

This Week in Publishing 6/12/09

First up, unless you have been living under a rock (or somewhere other than the US of A), you probably know that today is the premiere of "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta, which just got a terrific review in the NY Times. On the other hand, you may not know that it is based on a classic urban thriller by John Godey that is truly awesome and gripping and a great look at 1970s NYC and whose tie-in rights may have been sold by a certain agent whose blog you happen to be reading. Please buy the book or e-book!

Meanwhile, a busy link week in the publishing industry.

Jeff Abbott pointed me to a really cool site that shows writers in the spaces where they write. I'm always fascinated by the writing process, and this is a cool inside look.

Ever wondered why new books (and DVDs and music) come out on Tuesdays? Me too. The Millions investigates. (via Book Bench)

Former Random House CEO Peter Olson is back with an essay about e-book pricing and, among many points, he argues that demand should drive the price point for e-books (not any relation to print prices) and also argues that publishers are not sharing enough e-book revenue with authors. To which authors and agents say: THANK YOU. (Via Pub Lunch [subscription])

HarperStudio recently spotlighted a cool interactive map of New York's literary landmarks, which did not at all make me nostalgic for living in NYC. Nope. Not. At. All.

The millionth English word was invented!! Do you know what it was? "Web 2.0". Which is, um, two words. Or, if you want to be specific, a word and two numbers and a punctuation mark. That were already invented. Way to go, people who decided what the millionth word was. (via Neil Vogler)

In agent advice news, if you've written more than one novel but none are published, is the fifth one you're written still "your first novel" for the purposes of the query? Janet Reid says yes, and I agree.

Meanwhile, Jessica Faust tackles a tough topic. Surely in a free country everyone who wants to write should write. But should everyone seek publication?

And some funny stuff this week: first, what can books learn from the movies? Among other things: more suspenseful music, that's what. (via Christopher Ryan).

And finally, thanks to Nikki Duncan for passing along a hilarious comic about life as an acquisitions editor (or, really, agent).

Have a great weekend!


Bane of Anubis said...

Thanks! - Did you get to attend the red carpet premiere of TOP123? Assuming you've seen it, how does it compare to the book & original movie?

Have a great weekend, everyone. Go Lake Show (D-Fish is now officially out of the dog house :)

Nathan Bransford said...


Rub it in why dontcha. (sadly, no).

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Hmmm. I see Jeff Abbott has no photos of people writing in their office cubicles, pretending to toil over stuff that's work-related. I should give him my number.

Mira said...

Friday is movie night; I'm going to see Pelham 123 today. Yea!. Denziel Washington and John Travolta. I'm going out on a limb here and predicting good box office, and good follow-up book sales. Congrats, Nathan.

The comic is really funny, and the 'what books can learn from movies is even funnier. I wish I'd written that. Sigh. Writer's envy. It's hilarious.

I need to think about Jessica's article. That's a really interesting subject. I'm going to ponder it, and return.

Thanks for all the links, Nathan.

Scott said...

Lots to feast on here, Nathan. Thanks.

A couple of observations:

First, hasn't ToP123 been set in the present? How does that compare to the 70's themes of the book?

On the map, they give an example from Gatsby in which Tom says something "impatiently". Tsk, adverbs. Don't you think agents should issue some kind of worldwide warning to new authors about borrowing from the classics? Times change, and we need to be made aware that some stuff just doesn't fly like it used to. Also, I thought these were going to be actual writer landmarks, not silly fictional ones. Boo. ;-)

Nice to know about the "first novel" rules. I'm always confused about that, because as a new writer, you don't want to be lumped into that kooky category of people who think they got it on one try 'cause their mother liked it.

And I agree, not everyone should seek to be published. Amazon is getting crowded with crap. If only there were some kind of filtering system in which certain books were set apart as fit for consumption. Hmm...

A Paperback Writer said...

About a newbie author having various novel manuscripts stuck in a box somewhere and publishing what amounts to the fifth one actually written, isn't that why we have the term "debut novel"? Presumably, one's debut novel need not be the first thing one has ever written (and probably shouldn't be, in most cases).

Kristi said...

Congrats on Pelham 123 - sadly, getting out to the movies is a once a year event for us, unless it involves talking animals and we can take the kids. As I saw no sign of talking animals in the commercials for the movie, I'll try to grab the book.

The "Kickass Lessons" link was hilarious - I learned I need to add a few explosions into my wip. Happy Friday to all! :)

Don said...

Let's not forget that Pearls Before Swine did a week of comic strips on mean rejections.

A Paperback Writer said...

Oh, and I was comforted to see how many of the authors pictured on "where I write" seem to prefer spaces filled with books and papers and piles of stuff. (I'd fit right in.)

Raethe said...

I'd actually heard that the one millionth word to be added to the dictionary was "noob"...

Joel Q said...

...premiere of "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta, which just got a terrific review in the NY Times...

Sorry, but the review I saw gave it a D-.

Dawn Maria said...

Loved the Where I Write link. I'm so jealous of all those floor to ceiling bookshelves. What an amazing environment for creativity.

Margaret Yang said...

re: Janet Reid's link.

How does one phrase this in a query letter?

"This isn't the first novel I've written, but it is the first of publishable quality. And yes, I know the difference (at least I do now)."

Is there a code word for that?

Nathan Bransford said...

joel q-

You must go around telling kids there isn't a Santa Claus.

Nathan Bransford said...


You just say "this is my first novel." We assume there are more in the drawer.

Anonymous said...

Who cares what critics say?

People will go for Denzel.

Author Guy said...

Loved the comic. It reminded me of a Monty Python routine, called 'Novel Writing from Dorset' or some such.

"(Voice of Dennis) Well, this is true to form, no surprises there. He’s started five of his eleven novels to date with the definite article. We’ve had two of them with "it", there’s been one "but", two "ats", one "and" and a "Dolores"(?). Oh, that , of course, was never published."

That was an interesting thread on whether writers should seek publication, as well.

Other Lisa said...

"Pelham" got a very nice review in the LA Times.

Author Guy said...

"Presumably, one's debut novel need not be the first thing one has ever written (and probably shouldn't be, in most cases)."

In my case it was, but the second revision. The first died in a crash and is not mourned. Since then I have contracted the first version of every novel/story I've ever written.

Tina said...

With Travolta and Washington it'll be a success!!

Joel Q said...

I like Santa... it was a Bradon Fibbs article in the Colo Springs newspaper... I hope that doesn't stop you from coming back to the Pikes Peak Writers Conf.

He did say DWashington gave good performance.

Thermocline said...

Hallmark is is already half way toward the Books Providing Soundtracks idea with their greeting cards that play music. Trendsetters?

Marilyn Peake said...

Congratulations on The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3! I've noticed that bookstores usually showcase books with movie tie-ins while the movies are in theaters, so hopefully you'll see a huge spike in book sales this weekend. :)

Love the writers' spaces ... especially those with piles of books and papers 'cause that's what my office looks like when I'm writing.

I'm relieved to discover that a web monitoring firm, not a Dictionary company, decided "Web 2.0" was a word. The web is the Wild West.

I saw the comic about the job of an acquisitions editor when an acquisitions editor posted a link to it on Twitter. Thought it was hilarious!

Should everyone seek publication? I think it's too late to effect any changes in that regard, so the question is somewhat moot. Self-publishing companies make a boatload of money, so much so that the quickly growing Amazon jumped on that bandwagon a long time ago. I think a better question is: how do readers and writers navigate the waters of the modern publishing world?

Have a great weekend!

Vacuum Queen said...

re: Jessica Faust. Interesting. I think that if you enjoy writing or have lots of ideas milling in your head, you get them down on paper. That satisfied me for 20 years. It has only recently changed for me that I have a couple of ideas that I want to share with people...and therefore I started querying agents. I'm assuming there are others like me, meaning that not everyone IS seeking publication. For awhile at least.

I will say that my being a regular person makes me feel like I'm a big zero when I'm querying. "Hello, you don't even know my corner of the world, but I'd love to part of YOUR world."

Kristin Laughtin said...

Ahh, I wondered when I saw TOP 123 show up in your sidebar!

I love that "spaces they write in" site.

I'll admit that "Web 2.0" being the millionth word angered my linguist side. I'm usually all for arguing about the constantly evolving nature of language, but taking two words (or more, if you want to quibble on the 2.0 part) and sticking them together to make a new term whose meaning really isn't all that different...makes me a little angry. (It would mean the same thing if we viewed it as a phrase instead of one word!)

Yat-Yee said...

Congrats on Pelham!

And hooray for the recognition that music is powerful, so powerful it renders a deadly-scary monster into a lost soul! (I miss standing on the highest platform, playing my copper beauties, and spying on my orchestra mates are doing...)

Laura Martone said...

Congrats, Nathan, on "Pelham 123" - I was wondering about that book when I saw it in your sidebar (as one of your represented titles). No offense, but you didn't seem old enough to have rep'd it in the 70s. NOW, I get it!

I must admit I probably won't catch this flick in the theater - I LOVE Denzel (and only thought he misstepped once - in "Training Day"), but sometimes Tony Scott's look grates on my nerves ('cause, seriously, all his movies look the same... "Deja Vu" anyone?). And don't get me started on Travolta as an over-the-top bad guy. Besides, why must Hollywood continue to remake classic flicks? I love the first "Pelham 123" - I mean, how does it get better than Matthau and Shaw?

Okay, enough ranting. I'm going to see "The Hangover" instead... I need a good laugh or two.

In the meantime, thanks as always, Nathan, for your terrific links. I especially enjoyed the cartoon - and have to agree with Jessica's assessment, even if it does make me even more nervous about my own publishing efforts. :-(

Rick Chesler said...

Thanks for yet another TWIP, Nathan!


Karen said...

Nathan, I went to see the Taking of Pelham 123 today pretty much ONLY because I remembered seeing your name attached to the novel somewhere...

I really enjoyed it. Now I'm definitely going to have to go buy the book!

Anonymous said...

thanks as always Nathan.
I just feel like sharing that I believe I write in one of the most unusual places. I live in NYC and frequently write in the women's bathroom on the fourth floor of a landmark department store. (can't name it because I don't want anyone taking my spot.) In a city where real estate is hard (and expensive) to find, this store still has ample stalls and a lounge fully equipped with a couch and chairs ... and most importantly, and outlet for my laptop.
People come in and out of the space which is essential for me not to feel deprived of human interaction, and there is even piped in decent music. Best of all, I don't need to buy coffee, which is good because by the time I land on the fourth floor, I've already written for an hour in a local starbucks and had two double lattes.

Anonymous said...

Another great site that showcases where writers write:

And thank you Nathan for all these wonderful links!

Scott said...

Are you a woman? Would be kinda cool either way.

nkrell said...

Congrats! As far as the movie goes, anything with Denzel (yes, I like to think we're on a first name basis) is bound to be box office gold.

Thanks for all of the useful and often humorous links!

nkrell said...

Did anyone else notice something about all of those pictures? I don't think any of them have small children at home. I wonder what that's like...writing a complete paragraph without being interrupted twenty times?

Nikki Duncan said...

I'd never thought about the number of books if you hadn't sold any. Interesting.

I want to see Pelham123 really bad! Denzel and Travolta have got to be awesome.

That comic still cracks me up, though I did tell my editor not to get any ideas when she was reading my new stuff. LOL

Jen C said...

Looking at the writer's workspaces is fascinating. I couldn't write in most of them, though! I need a completely clean and uncluttered space, or else I can't keep my thoughts straight.

Very pleased to see a pic of my hero, Piers Anthony in there, though! So, that's where he created some of my most treasured literary experiences :)

Vegas Linda Lou,

hahahahahahhaa! That's me as well! I have it down to a fine art though, so that I can always see the Word window that I'm writing on, but to anyone walking past it looks as though I'm doing actual work. It took me weeks of studying the angles to get it down, lol!

Nikki Duncan said...

Nathan, I think they should have let you go to the premier. :(

Mira said...

Okay, I saw Pelham 123. Fun!

I haven't seen the original, so I can't compare, but I thought this was exciting. I liked both leads, Denziel especially. Travolta had some funny lines, and he was scary.

The audience clapped at the end. I think this will make people want to read the book - you don't want the movie to end.

Anonymous said...

Great links. Thank you Nathan.

Yamile said...

Thanks for the links Nathan. They're awesome, like every Friday. I was all week at my first ever Writers' Conference, and I'm serious when I tell you I couldn't wait to come home to check on your blog.
Have a great weekend!

Matilda McCloud said...

Pelham 123 sounds like a great summer flick...esp since I'll probably see it in a theater with the NYC subway rumbling underneath it!

I get nostalgic sometimes for NYC the way it was in the 70s, so maybe I'll pick up the book as well...

Avis HG said...

New Girl reading. A font of wonderful advice and information. Bless you Nathan Bransford.

Becky said...

I laughed out loud at Robert Brockway's "Five Kickass Lessons Books Could Learn from the Movies." Funny stuff!

A Paperback Writer said...

Author Guy,
I wasn't talking about revision. I meant that most folks begin at the bottom -- even if they're very young when the begin. And, presumably, most people get better with practice. That's all I meant.
Most people also need to revise. If you don't, well, that's great. I heard Alexander McCall Smith (at a reading) indicate that he almost never revises, and he most certainly has good sales (although he's known for loose, wandering plots). I've also read that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never revised, either, and he also had great sales. I suppose you're in good company.

Thomas Burchfield said...

Thew Original Pelham is a great movie; I'll be seeing the new one though I'm skeptical; Tony Scott, the man with the constantly jiggling camera and jump cuts.

As for music in books, I have only two words: Ennio Morricone.

Central Content Publisher said...

Apparently the 1,000,001st word was "GLM can kiss my ass".

In my opinion, my captcha is a better word candidate that "Web 2.0".

captcha: "gorous"
- adjective
1. having the quality of shed blood or violence.

PurpleClover said...

Thanks for the links Nathan. I'll be going through them today. Pelham 1 2 3 looks fantastic. I have about three other movies I'm dying to see in addition so I'm not sure what month I'll get to see it. lol.

Hope everyone is having a fantastic weekend!

PurpleClover said...

Nathan wrote: "may have been sold by a certain agent whose blog you happen to be reading. Please buy the book or e-book!"

Lol. After reading the link about what you don't blog about, I must say I like how you turned that into a promo. ;) hehe. Nicely done.

richfigel said...

Hey, Nathan -

If you sold the tie-in rights to the Godey book before the original movie came out in 1974, how old were you at the time? Your photo doesn't look like you were old enough to be an agent back then!

Or did I misread your post? BTW, the original movie had great supporting characters which made it a fun and interesting flick. Were they in the book version too?


Stuart Neville said...

The Taking of Pelham 123 was one of my favourite movies as a kid - I remember a furious row in my house because I needed (and I mean NEEDED) to stay up late on a school night to watch it on TV. I hope the remake does it justice.

Anyway, I also have a fondness for 70s thriller novels (Marathon Man is one of my favourites of all time), so I think I'm going to have to get a hold of the book - despite a TBR pile that is taking over my living room.

Nathan Bransford said...


I wasn't born when the book originally came out. I represent the estate, and re-sold all rights in advance of the new movie so that there would be new editions in stores when the movie came out. Here's more info on literary estate representation.

richfigel said...

Aha! Thanks, Nathan, for the explanation and link to the older blog post.

I didn't realize you could resell movie rights for remakes... or did the original movie rights just give the producers a certain number of years to make their movie?

Nathan Bransford said...


I didn't personally handle the movie rights, just the book rights. I can't get too much into the specifics, but I was able to re-sell the rights for the new editions of the book.

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Nathan.

It was just pointed out to me that I might have sounded overly harsh in my "Pelham 123" rant on Friday. I was just expressing my movie opinion - not my opinion of the book or your part in its latest incarnation. I'm sorry if I offended you in any way.

I'm so excited to be a part of your blog fan club - and grateful for the wonderful tips I've learned here (and new writing pals I've made). And I, of course, am happy for your accomplishment - and hope the book sells like hotcakes. :-)

My words on Friday simply reflected my general malaise about Hollywood remakes (especially when I adore the originals, as in the case of "123"). I have no doubt that I'll see the movie soon - as I do love me some Denzel - but I was feeling grumpy on Friday about the remake resurgence (given that I'm married to a struggling filmmaker) and certainly intended no ill will toward you.

I'll try to keep my grumpiness to myself in the future. :-)

Mira said...

Laura, I didn't think you were grumpy at all - just expressing an opinion. I got the same opinion walking out of the theatre yesteday. A theatre guy on his lunch break stopped us on the way out. He asked how the movie was, and wondered why there were so many re-makes. He liked the movie though.

So, yeah, I think film-makers stick with the known in order to make money. And that may limit the money going toward new artists. (I'll cross my fingers for your husband.) But the reality is, I would not have seen the original movie. So, at least with a re-make, the story will reach a new audience, and....sell new books, of course..

You know, I wish I had stayed to the end of the credits to see if the book was mentioned. You know: Book available at....whatever. If it's not, I throw my hands up in utter despair over the complete and total lack of marketing sense shown by the publishing industry.

deb said...

I just found your blog. Thank you so much for taking the time to create it. You have done a wonderful job providing writers with some very useful information.

Anonymous said...

Pelham 123. Good movie.

Chuck H. said...

I was shocked when I saw the picture of Samuel Delaney and his writing space. I thought someone had put a spy camera in my space. But then I noticed that "Chip" is a little (not much) heavier than I am and his space is cleaner and has a window. Whew! Missed an attack of paranoia by this much.

Chuck H. said...

Oh, and by the way, Happy Flag Day!

PurpleClover said...

Just a comment on Jessica's post about whether everyone should seek publishing. I thought she did a great job and drove home her point well. I began reading some of the comments and was a bit shocked by some of the commenters that not only took offense, but others took a totally different approach to suggest the banning of full genres.

I would not be so brazen to say such a thing no matter my thoughts or opinions of specific genres (least of all my worries are teen vampire books - lol). I was just shocked. WOW.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. I don't think you were born when the book first came out. So what exactly did (or do) you rep?

-meant sincerely, not snarkily

Nathan Bransford said...


No worries! I didn't make the movie.


I discussed that elsewhere in the comment section.

PurpleClover said...

Sorry to separate all these comments so I'll try to make this my last.

The million word? Really? Web 2.0? I'm not even sure I know what Web 2.0 is?? Is that like the second version of the World Wide Web? Am I the only one that doesn't know?! I'll have to google it. Granted I don't know a lot of the words in the dictionary but since this was created in my generation I feel I should know it!

I liked the photos of writer's spaces. Maybe I'll take a pic of mine!

I LOVED the comic strip. Hilarious! That sums up my feelings toward work in general. lol.

Also, I appreciated Janet Reid's post but the part about hoping they have more manuscripts in the drawer really scared me since I don't. This is my first adult length novel so I've got nothing else except for a ton of picture book manuscripts which probably won't make a hill of beans for someone that doesn't rep PB's. I'm almost afraid it could be viewed as a handicap that I don't have something else. Yikes.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

I always enjoy the Friday links... you do a good job, Nathan!

Haste yee back ;-)

Oriane said...

Great blog! Thanks for sharing all this valuable info.

For those of you in New York, I just noticed that the original Pelham movie is on TV at 8 pm, (45 minutes from now) channel 11 (CW). I've seen it; it's very entertaining, although on the violent side. Walter Matthau is the best.

Ink said...


I think Janet Reid was hoping writers have other books in the drawer not because she wants to represent those books, but because she hopes they've spent all their noobie mistakes on those early manuscripts developing their craft, and thus the current book is professional (noob mistake free) and ready to go. Not that noobs can't write something brilliant right off the bat, but more often than not it takes a lot of written words to finetune the wordsmithing.

Who was it that said you had to write a million words of crap before you could write the good stuff? Someone help me out here...

PurpleClover said...

Ink -

I know it has to do with newbie (or noobie?) mistakes and that is what I have a lot of fear of. I LOVE my manuscript (I mean who doesn't love their story) and I'd hate to think it wasn't good enough to be "the one" (or "the ones" since I plan for a series). I'm a Type-A dreamer. ;)

I know there will be a ton-o-mistakes but I really wish and hope and dream that I can make it par for publishable by the time it's done. I'd really hate to think this is just my practice piece, you know?

Anyhoo, I'm not sure who said the million words of crap line but it sounds Mark Twainish.

PurpleClover said...

okay I thought you were paraphrasing with the "crap" but I googled it and I think it was Ray Bradbury?

lol. Not Mark Twain I guess. ;)

Laura Martone said...

Hey, Purple Clover! Don't worry - you're not alone. I'm currently revising my first novel, too - and I have every intention of querying that one first (even though I'm working on a second book for your JuJu write-a-thon).

I understand the reasoning behind Janet's comments, of course. Newbies (as Ink called us) need practice, no doubt. But I'm passionate about THIS story - and I think it deserves an audience (even a, gulp, small one).


P.S. Phew! I'm glad I didn't offend you, Nathan. After I posted my apology (which was not meant in a kiss-arse sorta way and was truly heartfelt), I was actually worried about it. Sigh - I need a thicker skin if I'm gonna make it in this business. ;-)

PurpleClover said...

Laura -

I feel ya! I have an idea tucked away for a YA thriller but of course I want to finish my existing, write the two after and THEN focus on the YA. I need to sit on the idea for a while though...let it simmer until it's ready! It's in the conception stage and needs to go thru the full 9 months before it can be born on paper. ;)

Yes. Yes, I am a dork. I had sushi tonight. Just sayin...


P.S. The thick skin will come!

Mira said...

Pelham 123 is on here at 8 too, the original. I'm going to compare.

I thought Janet Reid had an interesting point. I have mixed feelings about it. I think there are some first novels that are incredible. But I think many authors need practice in their craft and the first novel may be something to re-visit once they have more practice. That's not true for everyone, of course.

I think it's interesting that other artists practice more than writers tend to.

For example, a violinist will spend hours every day on one passage from a piece. Over and over.

But writers often expect themselves to hit it out of the ballpark through total natural ability and no practice. This may be why writers get blocked so easily. When they don't just flow from pen to page without practice, they get discouraged and think that means they have no talent or nothing to say.

So, I agree with Janet, in that it's good to look toward a body of work, rather than just one.

Ink said...

I think Janet's advice is good - as generalization's go. That is, as long as we take it for what it is, a generalization. In any specific case you have to account for that case on its specific merits, and on its specific merits alone. So, look closely at your book, and then look at the competition on the shelves. Is it ready?

I also think, though, that submitting an early book that's not ready is not all that harmful - except to the free time of agents, of course. If you have the talent, but it's too raw yet... well, you'll get some rejections. Painful, maybe, but certainly not ruinous. And you might get some feedback that helps push you to that next level. So, submit away.

I do think there might be quite a few writers without the talent... but it's always hard to evaluate that. How do you know? Hard work, years of dedication... talent can grow in those optimal greenhouse conditions. No one can perfectly account for the limits of potential. So, write, try... see where it gets you.

But there's nothing wrong, either, with simply writing for the writing. There might be many writers better served by removing the goal of publication. And doing so might allow those writer's to find the proper place for their writing gift within their life.

It's something to think about. Maybe we should all take time to evaluate our goals. Are they the right goals? And, if so, what should we do to meet those goals?

Current goal: Sleep.

My best, as always,

Mira said...

Ink - I thought that was well said.

Those are completely different movies. It was a much more innocent time then.

The original is too dated; the re-make adds a whole relationship between the sociopath and the every day man that made it a deeper movie.

Just my opinion.

Jen P said...

1)..."unless you have been living under a rock (or somewhere other than the US of A)"

2)..."You just say "this is my first novel." We assume there are more in the drawer."

I'd be curious to know:
a) what % of the community regulars (since I'm sure anyone who ever stops by becomes a regular, even if a lurking one) are living in the USA and what % elsewhere.

b) what % are already published, what % are actively seeking publication of a completed first work and what % have really their first book in a drawer but are seeking pub of a second or later work?

May be worth a poll on a quiet rainy day?

Laura Martone said...

Mornin', Jen! Or should I say afternoon where you are? (wink)

Ooh, a poll! I love a poll!

I'm an American gal - course, where I am exactly depends on the season - Michigan in summer, New Orleans in spring/fall, Los Angeles in winter. Crazy, I know.

And, wise or not, I'm seeking publication for my first novel (while working on my second).

How 'bout you? Cheers!


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