Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, August 21, 2009

This Week in Publishing 8/21/09

This week!

In personal agenting news, I received some great news this week about one of the projects I recently handled: Audible announced that none other than Parker Posey is narrating the new audiobook of Betty Friedan's feminist classic THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE. Pretty cool.

It's apparently Google's turn in front of the firing squad this week as the Google Settlement was criticized first by William Morris Endeavor in not one but two letters (to which the Author's Guild issued not one but two rebuttals), and meanwhile, Microsoft, Amazon, and Yahoo announced that they were aligning against the Google settlement. Rising to Google's defense was a Washington Post Op-Ed titled..... "Google's Offer on Digitized Books Could Be Better." Despite that headline the Wash-Po mainly thinks it's a good deal.

NPR recently featured a new interactive book experiment by authors JC Hutchins and Jordan Weisman, published by St. Martin's. To accompany their new novel PERSONAL EFFECTS: DARK ART, they're including phone numbers and web links that provide an additional interactive experience. I'd be very curious to know what people think about this. (via David Moldawer)

Dan Brown's THE LOST SYMBOL is dropping in September, and already some quarters of the publishing industry are wringing their hands that it could be the End of Publishing As We Know It. Since Doubleday is releasing the e-book simultaneously with the print book, some think it will trigger a significant shift to e-books (hat tip to Neil Vogler for the link), while former PW editor Sara Nelson dubbed it a "book killer" and found lots of people in the biz worried that the hoopla about THE LOST SYMBOL will drown out news about books by other (massively bestselling) authors. EW's Shelf Life is all too happy to poke fun at the notion that a surefire bestseller can be considered a menace to the industry: "No wonder book publishers are in such dire straits. They even panic at the prospect of a big hit!"

Jofie Ferrari-Adler just completed the latest entry in his incredible series of interviews, this time with veteran agent Georges Borchardt, who, over the years, has, along with his wife and daughter, represented the likes of Samuel Beckett, Aldous Huxley, T.C. Boyle, Ian McEwan, and many many more. People often wonder how the industry has really changed over the years, and Borchardt has a wonderfully balanced take (and he should know).

Market My Words has a great interview with editor Molly O'Neill of Katherine Tegan Books (HarperCollins), who started on the marketing side of publishing and has some advice that may sound familiar: you need a web presence, you should know how best to use your online marketing tools, and communication is key. Check out the interview for more.

Jeff Abbott, author of TRUST ME, passed along a blog post from Dallas Mavericks owner/rich guy Mark Cuban about a really bad (business) query he received. UPDATE: You can follow Mark Cuban on Twitter here.

Also in Jeff Abbott news, he wrote a great guest post at Jen's Book Thoughts about the doors that writing has opened up. It's a really eloquent personal take on the writing process.

In writing advice news, my wonderful client Jennifer Hubbard has a truly insightful post on conflict: while you often hear that you must have conflict, sometimes the best way to build tension is to have your characters avoid conflict with each other.

Almost finally, ladies and gentlemen, as a front page article in the Wall Street Journal attests, there is a scourge sweeping my hometown and greater Colusa County. No, not meth. No, not tractor-battery burglary. Not even gas siphoning. It is the diabolical, evil fiends otherwise known as crayfish poachers. And yes, in case you are wondering, that really is where I grew up, and yes, that really was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Also we call them crawdads.

And finally, finally, I won't embed this video as it is decidedly not workplace friendly, and you should not click the link if you have an aversion to Rated R language. But given how much we talk about "The Wire" around these parts, I know some of you enjoy love this completely hilarious YouTube video: The Wire with a laugh track.

Have a great weekend!


MeganRebekah said...

I always love the links -- they're a great way to catch up on news I may have missed during the week.

Marilyn Peake said...

Geez, is it Friday already? Thanks for more great links. Have a great weekend!

JohnO said...

Another socko boffo roundup, craw-daddy. That Georges Borchardt interview comes courtesy of Poets & Writers, to which I recently subscribed. It's GOOD!!

It's full of good interviews and stories and a big roundup of writing contests and bits about journals and all sorts of good stuff youse writers oughta read.

Rick Daley said...

Good cap to a great week of posts, thanks and have a great weekend.

Deniz Kuypers said...

Thanks for another set of great links to while away the last few working hours of the week!

Kristi said...

Nathan - congrats on the project - Parker Posey is one of my favorite indie actresses. Thanks for all the links and Happy Friday to all:)

Heather Lane said...

I don't know about PERSONAL EFFECTS: DARK ART's interactive experience, but my son, who is 9, loves the web presence of the 39 CLUES. It's an interesting idea.

Margaret Yang said...

Jofie Ferarri-Adler might just give you serious competition for the "nicest man in publishing" title.

Mira said...

Great links, Nathan. Thank you!
I'll read them through this weekend.

But what do I think of the interactive book project? That's a big one. First though, I have to say, I don't like the writing of the book. It felt strained to me, like it was trying too hard. Interactive or not, it wouldn't be my cup of tea.

In terms of the interaction, I think we might as well welcome our new interactive overlords. It's inevitable. It's brilliant marketing, and it's the wave of the future.

And in the positive, it will bring more people to books, which can only be good.

It's also likely to be mega fun. How fun to interact with favorite characters from favorite books.

On the negative, it could be extremely addictive to vulnerable people, especially kids, and could further blur the line between reality and entertainment. There is something very dangerous that happens around that line being blurred, that I makes me very nervous.

Some people might think iteraction could interfere with the integrity of a book, as well, and I could see ways that would be a valid complaint.

But, like it or not, it's coming.

All hail our new Interactive Masters.

That's what I think anyway.

Bryan said...

The Lost Symbol is the number 1 selling BOOK on Amazon at the moment--a month before it comes out. It's been in the top 10 for weeks and the top 100 for 124 days. According to this post (, that means they're selling 3000+ copies of the book each day it's at number 1. Amazon doesn't pre-sell books for Kindle, but I suspect The Lost Symbol will have a tough time competing with all the top selling Kindle books listed at $0.00.

Shelli said...

Thanks for the mention on the
Market my words marketing interview! Molly is awesome!

Bane of Anubis said...

Mark Cuban's rant was a bit harsh, IMO, but the letter was definitely analogous to a query that is nothing but vague generalizations...

Jenn's post was a helpful reminder to me that to build tension, you frequently need to avoid conflict (or at least an all out beat down)... the balancing act continues.

The PERSONAL EFFECTS platform would annoy me -- I wanna just read the damn book and search for clues on pages; don't wanna have to multi-multimedia-task -- but perhaps this new generation (or more diligent puzzle solvers) would dig it.

Congrats on the PP news.

On a completely unrelated note, was at the bank and the teller told me her son was good friends w/ The Professor (after seeing my And One shirt) -- that's one impressive cat, like a miniature version of White Chocolate -- now those were the glory days in Sac town.

Malia Sutton said...

I love reading these Friday links. There's always something I missed during the week.

Sara Ohlin said...


Thank you so much for this post. I just read the interview with Molly on Market My Words. It was fabulous and overflowing with great information. You can tell she loves her job, knows her stuff and wants people to succeed. Very motivating. Thanks again.

Thermocline said...

I want a portable laugh track machine to take into meetings at work. There are so many great eye rolls and heavy sighs that don't get the recognition they deserve.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that interview with Georges Borchardt...

christicorbett said...

Thanks so much for the link on conflict. It is something I am currently struggling with, and now (after receiving a note from my agent suggesting some changes before submitting to publishers) I find my storyline involves arguing for the sake of arguing.

"Sigh"...back to the computer for another weekend of rewrites.


Mark Terry said...

Although I was pretty young when I watched, about the only episode I can remember of The Beverly Hillbillies is when granny gets arrested because she's planning to "smoke crawdads." The BH cops asked her how she did that and she said, "First you have to get a little pot."

Interactive Master said...


You should start a blog where people can interact with characters. It would increase your standing with us, the interactive overlords.

Rose said...

Thanks, Nathan. Great news for you and great links for us.

I love the interactive idea. It's not for every story, but it has its place. I can even see how one oould get dual mileage out of creating an interactive version of an in-print book.

For example, the memoir we are working on comes complete with a forum full of subject aficionados interested in either replicating the science, or in documenting our covert NRO scientist's role in some really really black projects.

Over a several year period we have accrued numerous threads, all with external reference links. and the depth and breath of this material is far beyond the scope of a memoir But all of it would lend itself well to the creation of an interactive media project about his life and work.

As I think further about the dual purpose idea, it seems to me that video book trailers are the first step toward achieving this type of dual

Jen P said...

Google's also getting it from this individual..."Scott E Gant, an author and partner at Boies Schiller & Flexner, a prominent Washington law firm, has launched what is being described as the "most direct attack" yet on the Google Books Settlement." (The Bookseller -20.08)

Mira said...

Oh Interactive Master,

I have never before, on any blog in my formidable ubiquitous history of posts, been so neatly caught in a web of my own design.

I hereby cede your supremacy.

Someday, perhaps, I shall prove myself worthy to learn from your vast expanse of cleverness and wit.

Your humble servant,


katieleigh said...

That guest post on Jen's blog is fabulous. Thanks for all the links and news!

John said...

The book being promoted through web links and phone numbers--like an alternate reality game--reminds me of the games the producers of the television show "LOST" use to keep fans hungry between seasons. I like it, although I'm not sure a treasure hunt like this will draw in a lot of potential readers. It's usually a gimmick to stoke an already-loyal fan base, and to keep them thinking of your product between installments.

Lydia Sharp said...

What? You mean we can't just blog/twitter/myspace/facebook for no reason? But if you blog it, they will come...right? ;)

Excellent information here, as usual. Have a great weekend!

FictionGroupie said...

*Louisiana native shakes head* It's crawfish people, crawfish. :)

T. Anne said...

Thanks for the links, esp. Market my words. Should be required reading for all writer's that blog.

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, as always, Nathan, for the wonderful collection of links. And congrats on the Parker Posey news - that's thrilling!


P.S. In case these links aren't enough, everyone should check out the Literary Diet (thanks, Steph, for alerting me to this awesome link).

P.P.S. I know, Fiction Groupie, I know. As a New Orleans native, I, too, can't stand the sound of "crayfish".

Lena Phoenix said...

Crawdads, huh? Thanks to Google translate, on the English translation of a German restaurant menu I was at last week, they were referred to as "Rivercancertails." Mmmm...

PurpleClover said...

Thanks for the links. I'll look thru over the weekend. Sorry texting on Blackberry again.

I did hear the NPR interview (at least the intro) and I really loved the idea. I personally wouldn't be into the interactive part but some fans would and that's all that matters. Some people enjoy being a part of a really cool story. As for the packet in the front of the book with drivers license, etc, I think that is terrific.

When I read THE DA VINCI CODE I know I liked that I happened to have an artbook on Da Vinci and just seeing those pantings to look at made it seem more interesting.

Okay, fingers tired. Must go.


Richard Lewis said...

Thanks for these links! The Borchardt interview was terrific, and I highlight the following as one of many insights.

" of the admirable things about writers is that they really know they're writers. I mean, any normal human being would just give up. Why would you do something that nobody wants? But they do, and they have this sort of inner feeling."

Anonymous said...

So that's what a crawdad is! Thanks for the homework - I mean very helpful and informative links I will be reading this weekend when I'm not writing. Have a great weekend!

Richard Lewis said...

Now that I've had a chance to peruse the other links:

An observation: I think that many novice novelists assume agents are all about acquiring and repping novels, with maybe the odd film deal thrown in, but I know of one agent whose business is pretty much exclusively the representation of a couple estates of dead writers. A post on what you actually do in your job, Nathan—all the various things like audio rights and theme park rides and who knows what else – would be interesting (if you have written such a post, then it was during the months I was internetless).

What about the interactive PERSONAL EFFECTS? Well, if in writing a novel the writer is presenting an emotional experience for a reader, and a world for the reader to be emotional in, then why not expand the novel to clues and emails and websites as part of that world? The logic is the same. Doesn't mean all writers have to follow suit, and such novels might appeal mostly to gamer types (a lot of readers are plain lazy—they'd get annoyed at having to get up and get on-line for part of the story).

MARKET MY WORDS: Great blog title! And yes, good advice, but sigh, I am enough of a dinosaur (I have two arms and legs and green scaly tail) that I would love to see this year a writer cometing (a neologism akin to asteroiding) across the sky from out of the vast limitless darkness of no Internet presence. This would be the exception to the rule, granted. (A curious thing about the "exception to the rule" rule: Ask 100 people if they are the exception to the rule or the rule, and 101 (this includes the schizophrenic) would say they are the exception and all the others are the rule—methinks this is just human nature).

Yes and amen to Jeff and Jennifer. I'd say that avoiding conflict doesn't mean no tension: having two characters (on a life raft say, one a boy and one a tiger) trying to avoid conflict can certainly ramp up the tension.

And as for The Wire, don't get it over here.

That's it for my Saturday am procrastination, must get back to my wip's scene, which is proving to be like digging through granite with my fingernails.

MitMoi said...

A post with 2 links to home. I had no idea Tracy Kidder got his start with "The Road to Yuba City" - nor that it was a collectors item.

That was a great interview with Georges Borchardt. I really liked this question, When are you the most proud of what you do?, and Georges response. It's usually when we have a new author and I feel that we have really been able to change his or her life.

I can remember dad going out to the rice fields near the Colusa Weir and getting crawdads - and brining them home - and dumping them on the back patio - to watch Sheila (our German Short hair) snap off their heads!

Years later, when Justin Wilson and Cajun cooking popped up on the scene I couldn't believe crawdads and crawfish were the same thing.

Happy writing weekend everyone!

Trashy Cowgirl said...

Crayfish Poaching. Wow. We have all the other problems here, but not that one. Though, legend has it that a couple of well known rodeo figures found themselves short of the enterance fee to the Clagary Stampede. Being resourceful, they headed out to the reservation and trimmed the hair off of all of the Native's poinies. Sold a few bags of it, and made quite a name for themselves in the rodeo arena.

Other Lisa said...

I'm entering the "get off my lawn!" phase of life, apparently...I just want to read a book. The interactive bells n' whistles just make me wonder if the book can stand on its own or not.

Off to read about crayfish poaching!

CKHB said...

I've read Personal Effects: Dark Art, and I'd like to emphasize that it does not HAVE to be a multi-media experience. You can simply read the book, and there won't be any massive gaps in your understanding of the story.

But, I did call some of the phone numbers, and visited some of the websites, and played with the cool "personal effects" items that came with the book, and I'm glad I read it. I think the gimmicks did enhance the book. It wasn't the best writing in the world, but I had fun.

People who want to check out the stuff that comes with the book before they buy it can go here to see a video interview with the author where he explains it all. He also did some kick-butt video book trailers, did a "prequel" podcast/audiobook, and designed a "party pack" PDF of games so that you can host an evening of fun around the theme of his book (I've seen one other author that did a similar party pack, for a children's book called Where the Mountain Meets the Moon).

I think there's a very high risk of the gimmicks overwhelming a book, and reducing its value rather than increasing it, so I don't think it's the next new trend, but I think some books do lend themselves well to certain marketing "extras."

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

You know, that book (it slips my mind now) that you talked about here that had the phone numbers and web links sounds an awful lot like it's trying to be the adult version of Scholastic's "The 39 Clues."

Jil said...

Saw a tv documentary on Okie noodling. Maybe their version of crayfish thieving? More painful though methinks. but more to eat!

Trashy Cowgirl said...

OK, I actually just found the time to read the crayfish article. It reminded me of abilone poaching.

I worked as a waitress in a gentleman's (term used loosely) club in Cape Town. One day a bunch of poor looking Afrikaaners came in, and they were really spending the Rand. I asked another girl if they were merchants (SA term for drug dealers) and she said no, they didn't look classy enough. She was pretty sure they were abilone poachers. Turned out they were. And, it didn't take long to find out why they were in town. Soon, we were seeing them everywhere, and they were offering girls big dollars to come out on their boats with them the following week.

That was the week before a major summit was held on sustainable development for third world countries. Before we knew it, the place was crawling with Asian diplomats, in town to eat poached abilone. Men paid by their governments to come up with ways to prevent third world countries from pimping out their natural resaources. And who paid the bill? I can only speculate.

BTW, none of us went, though most only said no because they were scared of the diplomats.

Sometimes, I really miss ,my ignorance (I mean innocence).

Kristin Laughtin said...

Jennifer Hubbard's post gave me some relevant food for thought. Funny how often that happens.

I'm from Sacramento, and nobody seems to believe me when I tell them we have crawdads (and yep, that's what I've always called them too) up there. They're not just in the South, people, I swear! I had no idea there was a poaching problem with them though. I'm somewhat amused, although perhaps I should be outraged or something.

mkcbunny said...

Congratulations Nathan on the Parker Posey news. PP rocks!

Thanks for the links. The EW story did make me laugh with that movie-world comparison. If everything aimed at teenaged boys were discounted from the stats, and only "adult" movies counted in box-office scores, nearly everything that landed in the top ten would be a movie you'd never heard of. :)

Chuck H. said...

I've heard 'em referred to as fresh water lobsters but back in southern Ohio where I grew up, we called 'em crawdads. "You get a line and I'll get a pole . . ."

Ink said...

Crayfish (in my neck of the woods).

And apparently my nine-year-old self could have been sent down for poaching. Who knew?

F. P. said...

Glad I saw this post--lots of gems in that Georges Borchardt interview, lots of should-be-obvious warnings implied. Will many people listen to the warnings? I doubt it, which is very unfortunate.

I'll blog about the interview anyway though.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

My favorite line from the letter:

Attached is a copy of our executive summary. If you could be so kind as to take a moment of you time to overlook it, I am positive you will be as enthusiastic as I am for an opportunity like this.


God bless.

Ink said...


Yeah, I'd "overlook" it too...

Sissy said...

I just stumbled across your blog this week as I finished my manuscript and googled "literary agents." What a find this is!! I have now just spent hours reading all your sidebar tips posts and know what I need to do next: revise!

I'll certainly be coming back. Thanks!

Mira said...

Wow, Nathan, you really out did yourself. I'm through the links, and they are wonderful.

First and most important, congratulations on Parker Posey! She has a really distinctive voice, and I bet it will be a terrific match for that book. Kudos on snagging her. I think it's great you're sharing your successes with your blog - Go, Nathan! :)

The funniest thing about the video is I started to find the scene funny. The power of suggestion is...well, powerful.

Thanks for the warning about the diaboical, evil crawfish poacher fiends. Good to know. I checked my kitchen and there weren't any poachers there yet, so so far I'm safe.

The articles are fantastic. I'd talk about all of them, but this post would be so loooong. Quickly, I thought Jennifer's points were really well said, as was Jeff Abbott's post about writing - I resonated. I found the business query critique hard to read because it was so ruthless, but there were very good points there. The marketing infomation was really relevant. The interview with George B. was amazing. I think Shelf Life was right on topic - and pretty funny about the industry being worried about a big hit. I seriously doubt though that e-books will significantly decrease sales. The population of e-book readers is still small. The Google stuff is over my head, but I vote for Google anyway. Go, Google!

Wonderful stuff. I hope you touch on some of these topics in upcoming posts.

Jeff Abbott said...

Thanks for the shout-outs, Nathan. I still owe you a drink next time I'm in San Francisco. I've met a bunch of aspiring writers as of late and I point them immediately to your blog.

Other Lisa said...

Loved this passage in the Georges Borchardt interview:

That's the irony when you see how publishing works. You don't necessarily make the money out of the flavor of the month. The real money, if you're in it for the duration, comes from books like that—from books nobody wanted—be they by William Faulkner or Elie Wiesel or Beckett or many others. Unfortunately, that argument is totally unconvincing to publishers now. If you're an editor at Random House or one of the other large firms, you can't say, "We're not going to make any money on this book for the next three years, but in ten years everybody will be envious of us for having it." The guy you're saying it to has two years to go on his contract, which is about to be renegotiated next year. What good does it do him to have a book that will bring in money ten years from now? He couldn't care less! He wants the book that makes money now so he can tell his bosses, "You should give me another contract for five years at twice the salary." So it's become different, and I think that's what's weighing on publishing, more than any of the other crises that come and go.

e_journeys said...

"...and meanwhile, Microsoft, Amazon, and Yahoo announced that they were aligning against the Google settlement."

Okay, I just flashed on a scene from Mothra vs. Godzilla.

gapyeargirl123 said...

Nathan, I found an interactive book over a year ago, and thought it was a great idea. That was Cathy's Book.

TC Laverdure said...

Giving your readers links to relevant topics, news etc is very nice of you Nathan, thanks. I was thinking about the idea of conflict in writing and if characters avoid conflict is that a form of conflict, knowing that we are social animals? A lot of families use the avoid always as a way of dealing with "issues". Hmmm. More thought and writing needed.

Joanna Penn said...

I have read "Personal Effects: Dark Art" and also have been an avid JC Hutchins fan since listening to his amazing 7th Son podcast (the novels will be out this year with St Martins Press).

On the interactivity, I agree with the above comment that the book can be read on its own. However, JC has used some very cool things that try to make the book an alternate reality that I personally looked at and enjoyed:
*Call the voicemail and listen to a message (use free Skype!) - that was cool because voice brings the story to life
*Go to where the blogger is the 'girlfriend' of the protagonist - she has been blogging for ages so it is quite convincing
*Check out the websites for the psychiatric unit where the book is set It looks very real!
*You get a whole load of physical objects with the book including an ID card (where the bad guy looks scarily like author Scott Sigler!) which just add depth.

I would say that the extra 'effects' make the book stand out from other thrillers - they do add to the story but not significantly. But JC is also an incredible marketer and community builder and these extras help immensely!

I did a video on this as my own book review - and yes, I'm a fan but not being paid!
Thanks, Joanna

Dara said...

Well, Ohio crawdads are certainly much smaller in comparison! At least I've never seen any as big as the ones in those pictures around here!

Chrystal said...

This was posted on Twitter today: "BubbleCow If you DM me links to good blog posts for writers I will tweet them back out."

I submitted your blog, hope that's okay.

Henriette Power said...

It's not just crawdaddies. It's hay, too! (the WSJ is all a out weird stolen commodities).

jimnduncan said...

Holy crap. You can actually poach crawfish? Are there crawfish farms or something over there? I just have an amusing image of guys dressed in black, sneaking up in the middle of the night, and pouncing on unsuspecting crawfish with their over-priced, over-the-top crawfish catching hardware.

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