Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, September 18, 2009

This Week in Publishing 9/18/09

This week! Publishing!

Lots of good stuff this week in publishing, but first, I thought I'd lead with a tremendous post by my friend Kristin at Camels & Chocolate, who has some tough, honest, real-world advice about freelance travel writing. She should know - she's extremely good and successful at it, which does not come easy in the freelance world. If you've ever thought about plying your writing trade around the globe, that article is a good place to start.

Meanwhile, this week's End of Publishing as We Know It articles were brought to you by, well, me, and also former Random House Executive Editor-in-Chief Dan Menaker, who starts off a long post about the myriad challenges facing editors in today's industry with Point #1: "Publishing is often an extremely negative culture." It doesn't get much more uplifting from there.

And speaking of, The Millions pointed me to a self-publishing success story by author Kemble Scott, who hit the SF Chronicle bestseller list for a book released in a limited hardcover edition and e-published on Scribd. Scott is far from an unknown (his book SoMa was a bestseller published by Kensington), but he didn't want to wait to get his book out and just got to it.

Reader/commenter Lady Glamis and friends are hosting a Genre Wars contest at The Literary Lab. Submit your short stories and (possibly) win prizes, including a shot at being included in an anthology.

Also in short fiction news, my colleague Sarah LaPolla is soliciting material for her bright and shiny new blog Glass Cases, so check that out as well.

Some guy named Dan Brown has a book out (via Danny Parker), and apparently the e-book version has been selling as well as the hardcover on Amazon. The Guardian summed up the early responses, and also posted a pained defense of Brown. Kind of.

And now that THE LOST SYMBOL is out, I'd like to make a personal plea that literary bookish types abstain from the whole "I'm so above his writing but okay the books are kind of fun to read" attitude. People! They're entertainment. It's okay to like them without apologizing. Or don't like them. Whatever. Just don't be too cool for school. It's not like I watch The Bachelor in the hopes of finding deep meaning and spiritual enlightenment!! That's just a bonus.

In more serious topics, World Politics Review notes the dearth of works of art that have emerged from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, in contrast to long conflicts in the past. Their theories: changing media landscape, the Internet, publishing trends, and a professional military. (via Andrew Sullivan)

Those wacky kids over at Google are partnering with an on-demand publisher to make all 2 bazillion out-of-copyright books available through the fancy Espresso book machine, which churns out a finished book and a mean latte (I wish) in just a few minutes. (via Scott Spern)

My colleague Katherine Arathoon passed me some pretty awesome links, including two post that rename classic books according to current publishing trends. My favorite: Old: THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. Now: INVISIBLE HANDS: THE MYSTERIOUS MARKET FORCES THAT CONTROL OUR LIVES AND HOW TO PROFIT FROM THEM.

Almost finally, my most excellent client Rebecca Ramsey tackles one of my great loves: strange idioms in other languages. In this post she runs down the different expressions for when it rains really hard. I think the Danes win hands-down for "it's raining shoemaker's apprentices."

And finally, thanks so much for all of the very interesting comments on yesterday's anonymous commenting question. Your input was extremely helpful, and I was surprised at how evenly divided people were on the pros and cons. After giving this a lot of thought, I've decided to leave anonymous commenting on since people articulated some very good reasons for posting anonymously, and hopefully the comments will be more open and free-ranging if people can use the anon option to evade the purview of their employers and/or (politely) go out on a limb with a contrary opinion.


As Spider-Man will tell you, with great power comes great responsibility. Because of the tendency toward abuse of the anon option and the lack of context for an anon post, I'm going to unabashedly hold anonymous commenters to a higher politeness and constructiveness standard than those who post under a name or handle so that the anon function is not used as a cover to espouse an unproductive attitude that might otherwise not be written if the person were associating their own name with the comment. Hopefully this will best facilitate a constructive dialogue, and polite anons will have nothing to worry about.

Have a great weekend!


Anonymous said...

Good news indeed! Thanks.

Brian Crawford said...

I agree about Dan Brown – and about books being entertainment. In this day of Twitter-sized attention spans, if an author can get millions of people to finish his book, he’s extremely talented, if not in prose than in some other even rarer and more elusive skill.

Natalie said...

It seems the link for Rebecca's post isn't working.

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, Natalie. Fixed.

Other Lisa said...

Nathan: you watch The Bachelorette to find deep meaning and spiritual enlightenment. Sheesh. Everyone knows that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for keeping the anons option open. Holding those comments to a higher politeness standard seems quite fair to me. Thanks for the links too.

Rick Daley said...

That was Uncle Ben who gave the line about power and responsibility. But I guess Spider Man would be likely to repeat it.

I'm not ashamed to say I am about 2/3 of the way through the Lost Symbol and I'm enjoying it.

Thanks for posting the link to the genre wars contest, I'm preparing an entry, and the more people that participate the more fun the contest will be!

Lady Glamis said...

Thank you so much for announcing our contest, Nathan!

Dara said...

I'm loving the Espresso printer! I don't know how many times I've come across an out-of-print book that I've needed for research being sold for a ridiculous sum on Amazon (the last one I needed was selling for nearly $400!)

Now to see if I can find one of these nifty machines :) Thanks for that link, and all the other ones too!

Chuck H. said...

Genre Wars! I think I have a couple of entries for that one. Thank you, kind sir.

Word Ver: brasten - polish up your brass?

nkrell said...

I agree with holding anon commenters to a higher standard of politeness.

"It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power."

Way to let them have their anon option, Nathan. You have shown, once again, why you have hundreds of minions hanging on your every word.

Anonymous said...

Genre Wars--I love it!

Camels & Chocolate said...

Thanks for the shout-out Nathan--can't wait to see you tonight!

Eric Shonkwiler said...

It's interesting that there's a lack of fiction about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but there's still plenty of war fiction coming out. Eck's The Farther Shore and Johnson's Tree of Smoke come immediately to mind.

Lydia Sharp said...

That Espresso book machine would look good in my basement. Anyone got a spare 100 grand?

Regan Leigh said...

Have you seen the articles Google's acquisition of reCAPTCHA?

It's about the word verification and how it aids in scanning books. I thought others might find it very interesting.

And this week, it has been raining she-trolls at my house! (According to the Norwegians from that link.)

Tracy Hahn-Burkett said...

Hmm, I can't seem to get the World Politics Link to work either.

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, Tracy. Any day now Blogger is going to fix that bug. Annnnnnnny day now.

Bane of Anubis said...

Dan Brown's books are like summer blockbusters... Suspend disbelief, grab the popcorn, and have some fun.

Linda Godfrey said...

Thanks for keeping the anons AND defending name-users. I do like to see who is writing but also enjoy the feisty anon wild cards. As long as you rein herd on rude abusers, I'm happy.

As to Mr. Brown's new book, any title that can drive people into bookstores these days is a lovely thing IMHO.

Terry said...

Good decision on the anons. The more I read the more I realized there are legit reasons for posting anonymously. Laura's advice was fun though and good too.

The Guardian link to Dan Brown's defense was particulary good. Why not be happy for a successful writer. He keeps the average person excited about books and isn't that what we all want.

Whirlochre said...

Glad you've hung on to the Anons.

Fawn Neun said...

As far as I'm concerned, there's someone for everyone and a book for everyone. The whole publishing industry doesn't rest on my individual tastes (and I quite like lit fic). I haven't read anything by Dan Brown, but I have read Stephanie Myers. Not my thing, but nobody asked me. :)

It'd be pretty dull if we were all the same.

And thanks for leaving the anons open as an option.

ryan field said...

I'm going to for the DB e-book instead of the print book. But that's not because my reading habits have changed altogether...yet.

Rick Daley said...

I did buy a second (non DB) book when I picked up my copy of The Lost Symbol. Wasn't planning to, but did it out of principle.

WORD VERIFICATION: untsp. A cooking term where you remove a teaspoon of an ingredient.

Livia said...

"It's okay to like them without apologizing. Or don't like them. Whatever. Just don't be too cool for school."

Marilyn Peake said...

OK, this is officially the coolest blog ever. I mean, where else are commenters warned: "As Spider-Man will tell you, with great power comes great responsibility." Ha! Ha! That’s absolutely awesome!

Thank you for so many great links. I love traveling and photography, took photos of some amazing sights in Alaska (including close-up photos of a black bear and blue glaciers), am planning to do more travel photography in the future, and look forward to visiting the CAMELS AND CHOCOLATE blog on a regular basis.

Exciting news about Kemble Scott’s self-publishing success. I finished writing my science fiction novel this week, still need to edit it, but it’s nice to know there are lots of publishing options out there.

Thank you for the links to the GENRE WARS contest at THE LITERARY LAB and to the GLASS CASES blog. I recently wrote three post-apocalyptic science fiction short stories. One has been accepted for publication in a small press anthology currently under consideration for a TV series, and I’ve started realizing I should work on finding a home for the other two short stories.

Have a great weekend!

Kristi said...

In other positive short fiction news, Oprah picked a short story collection as her new book club pick - "Say You're One of Them" by Uwen Akpan. Happy Friday!

Ink said...

Interesting about the war literature. I have read some good war memoirs about modern conflicts. War Reporting For Cowards, and Anthony Loyd's fantastic My War Gone By, I Miss It So. But fiction... I can't think of much war fiction written about recent conflicts. Very strange. And yet conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan are still ongoing, and often a lot of the great literature comes after... once people have had a time to digest their experiences, or be haunted by them. Writing as exorcism...

J.J. Bennett said...

I can't wait to get my hands on that stupid Dan Brown book. (I call it stupid because I've been waiting too long to read it.) I'm waiting to steel my Mom's copy she bought the first day it was out. I wish she'd hurry up dang it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping anon available or at least open for now.

I love This Week in Publishing Fridays.

Can't wait to read Dan Brown.

Love the crowd on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Numina Press seems to be a "referral only" press. How does that make it self-publishing?

(Oh no, is self-publishing now gatekept too??

Nathan Bransford said...


Yeah, I don't know either.

Thermocline said...

Dan Brown isn't trying to write lyrical masterpieces. He's writing what he loves. It works for him and millions of others. I don't think there's anything to be ashamed of for liking a great story. I can't wait to read his latest.

writerjenn said...

Before coming here, I had just linked to Rebecca Ramsey's post in a comment response on my own blog. I'm partial to "it's raining chair legs."

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, if I'm in love with my story and my characters, at the very least they work for me.

At this humble point, I am aiming for a twenty-person readership fan club.

I have 2 for 2 on full reads so far and a handful of chapter fans. It may seem like small stuff, but I can't begin to tell you all how wonderful even one reader is, especially when they go on about your characters because they came to life for them.

(When and if the price for on-demand is ever right, I am considering hiring an editor so that my novel is polished and then on-demand pubbing it for those twenty folks. My own little limited edition.
But if you can't make it in the big pond, maybe a little puddle could be a splash.)

Anonymous said...

Wow! Daniel Menaker's article was truly impressive. Like all well-written novels, his voice was engaging, the facts were frightening, and yet, he ended it on a positive note. Well, he ended it as positively as reality would allow.

I learned more about the deeeep inner workings of the publishing industry from his article than I've learned from anywhere else. Sure, I've known the facts, the statistics, and all of the other assorted bad news for some time, but I’d never experienced it.

By the end of the article, I was genuinely feeling empathy for the acquisition editors, even the ones who will one day be rejecting the fruit of my blood, sweat, tears, and fragile ego.

Thanks for sharing the article.

AM said...

Wow! Daniel Menaker's article was truly impressive. Like all well-written novels, his voice was engaging, the facts were frightening, and yet, he ended it on a positive note. Well, he ended it as positively as reality would allow.

I learned more about the deeeep inner workings of the publishing industry from his article than I've learned from anywhere else. Sure, I've known the facts, the statistics, and all of the other assorted bad news for some time, but I’d never experienced it.

By the end of the article, I was genuinely feeling empathy for the acquisition editors, who will eventually be rejecting the fruit of my blood, sweat, tears, and fragile ego.

Thanks for sharing the article.
(I didn't mean to post as Anonymous)

Davin Malasarn said...

Nathan, Thanks a lot for mentioning our GENRE WARS contest! I really appreciate your support! I also wanted to mention that the proceeds from the anthology will also be donated to a reading/writing charity or non-profit.

The Decreed said...

"It's not like I watch The Bachelor in the hopes of finding deep meaning and spiritual enlightenment!! That's just a bonus."

How many times have I laughed on this blog? I'm going to have to start a Nathan Bransford quote wall in my room.

On another note, I'm starting to wonder if holding on to my novel until brighter (or at least different) days wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Robin said...

Nathan, regarding your anon judgment, King Solomon would be so proud.

And I do like Dan Brown because sometimes you just want to sit down and plow through a book. His books are fun. It's as simple as that.

wickerman said...

Spiderman? Spiderman?

Nathan, Nathan, Nathan...

BATMAN. Find a BATMAN quote. BATMAN is so much cooler I can't even type BATMAN unless I do so in capital letters.

Spiderman.... sheesh!


Jen C said...

I'm not going to diss Dan Brown because I think I'm too cool for his books, but the Da Vinci Code was one of those books I put down after a couple of pages because I didn't get into it. Saying that, I do that with a heck of a lot of books. It's just that anyone would think God had released a sequel to the Bible, the way everyone is carrying on... Surely it couldn't have been THAT fantastico a book? Or should I give it another shot?

Here I'll go by: Ash. Elizabeth said...

Ha. love the spider-man comment. I still can't believe brown broke the sales on first day record. crazy.

Dawn said...

Thanks for the interesting links.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying like crazy to think of some comment that's just on the edge of smarmy but not something that would have to be moderated.

Either I'm too tired or Nathan's good karma is blocking it.

Curses. Foiled again!

Mira said...

Warning: extremely complimentary post about to follow. :)

Nathan, yesterday was marvelous. Watching as you asked input, engaged, weighed both sides, and came to a decision was major cool. You have a gift for leadership.

But most important, thanks for allowing this blog to continue to be an open forum. And I like your compromise. I hope having to ponder deletion decisions less will make your job easier.

And speaking of gifts, since I'm being complimentary, can I just add that I gave alittle sigh of envy at your humor writing in your post? The line: "That's just a bonus" - oh, such nice timing. Surprise jokes like that - they're delicious.

Sigh. :)

Hope you and everyone else on the blog has a great weekend.

Mira said...

Lol. I re-read my post, and realized I ended up editing out most of the compliments about ethics and responsible handling of power and your award for best industry blog and how I saw your leadership abilities at your workshop as well.

Well, probably just as well I edited all of that out. It might have been abit too much.

mkcbunny said...

I dunno. If it rained she-trolls, I might be more astonished than if a hail of shoemakers' apprentices fell down around me.

Anonymous said...

Great links!

terri said...

Awesome post as always Nathan. Even when I'm too busy to read all of my fav blogs, I never miss TWIP.

I am looking forward to Brown's new book. I like being entertained! I also agree that anything that gets folks into bookstores and reading is a good thing.

Our business has one employee. He barely finished high school. However, he could build the space shuttle with a 2X4, a screwdriver, and a roll of duct tape. Not well educated, but tremendously talented. He told me one day that he doesn't read a lot, but has read every book written by Grisham.

Tell me, you literary critics, how is this a bad thing?

Long live books that are entertaining for the sake of being entertaining!


terri said...

Can't wait to submit to "Genre Wars". I have a shortie called 'Serial Killer's Day Off' that might be just the ticket!

Chuck H. said...

Well, I did it. I submitted a literary short story to the genre wars. And would you believe my word verification for this comment? suffur - exactly what I'll be doing till January when they announce the winners.

Cynthia said...

Wow... The Menaker piece kind of makes you want to stick a pencil in your eye. "Redactor Agonistes" (Publisher Struggles) is beyond bleak.

Admittedly, I tend to be the snotty literary type Nathan describes, but I enjoy a Twinkie book every now and again... and not just to be lamely ironic.

Anonymous said...

Generally I'm pretty easy-going, but all the Dan Brown bashing going on has made me really impatient and frustrated with the literati--and the twitterati. For all people are talking about literary merit or success or whatever-- what does any of that matter if people don't read your work? People are reading his book. MILLIONS of people. And I'm sure a good portion of those people will like it, enjoy it, love it, etc. Who's to say that those people are enjoying it, but it's still crap? I think it's horrifically patronizing to say that Brown must want to write something of "great literary merit" but can only come up with crappy thrillers. What rot. A huge value judgement, as if brilliant writers can't choose to write genre fiction. As if choosing to entertain with your writing cannot be a valuable goal in itself.

And maybe I feel so strongly about this b/c as someone who writes romance, I've had to grit my teeth on too many occasions to count when told that romance is crap or--the term used most often--"trash." As if there's something wrong with writing about love and sex and commitment, about falling in love and the beauty of human connections. I'm always saddened to see someone in the romance community coming out with a "defense of romance" blog post or article, because the need for defense is predicated on the idea that writing and enjoying romance must be justified. It shouldn't have to be, though. It doesn't have to be. In that same vein, I don't think the people enjoying Dan Brown's work need to offer a defense or justification.

Oh, wow, I guess I had more to say on this topic than I thought.

Back to lurking now...

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Dan Brown is laughing all the way to the bank. People can talk about the "drivel" that he writes and he will still be sipping margaritas in The Bahamas. I'd trade places with him anyday, and I'm actually doing very well. Brown's publisher is pretty happy too. Even with all the lukewarm reviews the book is still in the Amazon top 10.

Just watch though--- he might just pull an Anne Rice and get all nutty. Authors seem to go a little crazy when they have too much success.

Jenn said...

I'm sorry but I never understood why Dan Brown ever got such a bad rep.

I have not bought the book yet. However, it will be the next book I buy! I'm not afraid to admit Dan Brown is one of my favorite writers (if not THE favorite). Think what you will! But DaBro has mad skillz.

Thanks for the links! I appreciate it. I'll try to get through them during the week (yes I'm slightly behind is kicking my hiney)!

Sorry to hear you're keeping anonymous commenting. lol. But hey, maybe you made your point. :) There is always the option of holding anonymous comments but I'm not sure blogger does it.

I know Jennifer Jackson can do it. If you use your profile, there is immediate posting. Anonymous posts are held to be reviewed prior to posting. She uses LiveJournal though. We would follow you if you moved! Or maybe you could mention it to blogger?? I'm sure you have a bit of weight you can throw around. ;)

PurpleClover (Jenn)

Jenn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenn said...

OMG Nathan! I'm not sure you subscribe to comments on older posts so let me reiterate what I was saying when I read about JACOB WONDERBAR!

HOLY CRAPOLA!! I'm so terribly sorry I missed the fantastic news! I've been SO busy with school (I'm in the ICU this semester and clinicals have been kicking my hiney since I'm on evening shifts). I'm SO PROUD! I love when great things happen to great people and I'm not just saying that.

I'm so happy for you and I knew you seemed to understand the writer's perspective too well to not have experienced it! You are fantabulous and I can't wait to read your MG book. My daughter will be 6 when it comes out so just in time!

MANY MANY CONGRATS! And again, I apologize for not seeing it sooner!

PurpleClover (jenn)

Botogol said...

essay by Paul Graham on future of publishing

Anonymous said...

Wonderful links. Thank you, Nathan.

Scott said...

A tiny "boo" from me on keeping the anons, Nathan. I can understand your reasoning, but the effort to identify one over the other in order to respond could so easily be reciprocated by the effort to register a name. I tend to ignore them as a result.

Anyway, I've got no problem with Dan Brown's books. Genre fiction is fun. But if an author's writing is awkward or poor, or his or her ideas are hackneyed and/or weak, I don't see anything wrong with saying so. Criticism helps us become better writers––or, for others, better thinkers. Monetary success shouldn't function to stifle the evolution of either.

Oh, and thanks for the travel writing link!

Alessa Ellefson said...

As usual, thanks for keeping us posted on the latest industry status.

Funny you should mention Dan Brown's latest book (or is it?), because it has been the topic of discussions at the office here.

One of my colleagues, who rarely reads outside of work (work read = lots of numbers and raw data = oh-so-boring) actually mentioned he wanted to buy it. Whereas I, an avid book collector, will not. Why? After reading the Da Vinci Code (which I thought was brilliant as I hadn't read a similar story that involved following clues that involved pseudo-historical facts, or at least not quite like Dan pulled it off), I immediately read Angels & Demons. And that led to immediate disappointment. The story was the same, just different setting. But same beginning, same way to get to ending, and as we all know, same ending. That put me off completely and to this day, I refuse to read another Dan Brown book (though I hear the Angels & Demons turned out to be 100 times better than the Da Vinci one, so I might check that one out. One day).

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