Nathan Bransford, Author


Friday, October 30, 2009

This Week in Publishing 10/30/09

A heads up: I'll be in New York next week so blogging will be sporadic.

But this week!

People are still working their way through the week that shook publishing, with WalMart slashing prices and all kinds of e-readers debuting, and are digesting what it all means.

First up, some people have noted that with WalMart, Amazon and Target drastically slashing prices on some upcoming bestsellers and taking losses it may make sense for independent booksellers to just go ahead and stock their books by ordering direct from WalAmaTargEars, thus getting their books more cheaply than they would be able to from publishers and ensuring that WalAmaTargEars take as many losses as possible for this stunt. Smart, right?

Well... not so fast. First, WalAmaTargEars are onto you and are limiting how many discounted books you can buy. And at the WordHoarder blog, a bookseller cautions against the WalAmaTargEars end-around as a long term strategy. According to the post, sales reps for indie booksellers are already dwindling, and such a move hurts distributors, whom indies really need. (via Booksqure)

Meanwhile, Mike Shatzkin surveys the landscape and considers the implications of a gradual publishing transition to smaller print runs and greater electronic market share. This transition is already rocking the newspaper world, and publishers, bookstores, and the entire print distribution chain will all be challenged by this transition because they require a certain critical mass to be sustainable. The winners according to Shatzkin? Agents and the top 500 authors, who will be able to sell e-books directly because of their personal brands.

And how is all of the pressure on publishers trickling down to the editorial side? As Kristin Nelson says, agents and authors on submission are hearing these frustrating words a lot these days: "I just don't see how I can break this out in a big way."

Oh, and Philip Roth thinks novels are going to have only a cult following in 25 years. Who's feeling the optimism???

Perhaps exhausted by the last couple weeks of news, Publishers Weekly decided to go ahead and just call it a year and released their top books of 2009. Sorry books published between now and the end of the year! (via Scribbly Jane)

But with all of this big and slightly unsettling news, let me just say it now: don't panic. Things are changing, it's going to be an interesting/challenging couple of years as we gradually succumb to our coming e-book overlords, but it doesn't mean the novel is going to disappear or that we're all going to hell in a handbasket. Things aren't going to be worse (at least in the long term), they're just going to be different. And in 50 years when we're making the transition from reading e-books on screens to having them beamed directly into our heads we'll wax nostalgic about the charming blink of electronic pages and the smell of plastic and people will get angry about the change and say that you can pry their e-books from their cold dead hands.

Also there's more news! Martin Amis has taken aim at popular British author and model Katie Price/Jordan for, among other things, being, shall we say, cosmetically enhanced. He even memorized the poem she read at her ill-fated wedding. A case of hating the player instead of hating the game? Or is Amis himself such a high level player that he is playing the game and the press fell for his trap? (via Greg Peisert)

Over in the Huffington Post, Rob Asghar thinks self-publishing has an image problem and wants to rebrand it "indie publishing." Interesting, but..... aren't there already independent publishers, i.e. strong non "Big 6" houses like Soho and Kensington?

Reports of VS Naipaul's death have been greatly exaggerated. Um. BY THE FBI.

My awesome client Natalie Whipple has written an instant classic post just in time for NaNoWriMo: advice on writing a first draft. First and most importantly: don't worry about how others write, write how YOU write. SO TRUE.

Janet Reid passed along her outline on a class she gave on writing effective queries.

Almost finally, via Jeff Abbott, a patron of a library in Maury County, Tennesee has taken upon him/herself to black out the curse words in mystery novels. Because with so many problems in the world, if there's anything worth spending your time on it's surely blacking out naughty words. Way to save America! Anyway, I would say that the newscast on the incident is priceless, but that would be a complete understatement. It's amazing.

And finally, this video is just.... I mean..... love love love:



Have a great weekend!






122 comments:

Arabella said...

oh, man, my head is spinning even with the filtration system of screen text processed through eyes and finally brain. Maybe electronic darts of info shot into my brain ought to be the next wave, right after I get my fast food via pump system at gas station, al estilo de Homer Simpson.

Devon Ellington said...

Haven't "They" been predicting the demise of the novel since it debuted? I agree-- we're in for a tough couple of years, and then things will level out again. HOpefully, some of the mega-publishers will implode and actual independent houses will flourish and continue to gain momentum -- similar to the cycle of small theatre Renaissance that gave us O'Neill, Glaspell, et al.

Natalie Whipple said...

I always had a feeling Vader had a sense of humor.

Mira said...

Great links, Nathan, thanks.

Your paragraph comforting us about the future - hilarious.

Honestly, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. I mean, in terms of readership. Seems to me that easier access which will increase readership, not lessen it.

No clue why people think lowering prices or making books more accessible to readers through electronics means less readers over time, not more. I am very confused. Confused, confused, confused.

Another hilarious thing - that video. So funny.

Have a wonderful week in New York - hope you have a totally fun trip!

Marilyn Peake said...

Thanks for all the great links. The publishing world is indeed going through many huge changes right now. I’m OK with change, and I’m along for the ride. All of a sudden this past week, I received some incredible feedback regarding both a short story I wrote and my new science fiction novel, GODS IN THE MACHINE. I’m going to hang in there, through all the highs and lows of the publishing industry and all my own highs and lows as I struggle to get my latest book to market. Good thing I don’t mind change, unpredictability, or hard work. :)

Margaret Yang said...
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JohnO said...

"The Darth Vader video is in no way to be misunderstood as an allegory about pitching to agents at conferences," Nathan hastened to add.

Rick Daley said...

Great Darth Vader video. I do that to my kids sometimes. It's fun. Pure evil, but fun.

Angie Muresan said...

I prefer not to be discouraged. And somebody give that librarian something to do, other than vandalizing property which does not belong to her.

Ink said...

This is a very odd comment:

"If you read a novel in more than two weeks you don't read the novel really."

-Philip Roth

Um...? What exactly were they doing, Mr. Roth? Drinking the novel? Buffing the novel? Flossing the novel?

It appears even genius lets you down sometimes. Between Portnoy's Complaint and that comment there lies many a deep abyss...

Maybe I'll let him off the hook because it's an interview, spur of the moment sort of thing. But still. That's a pretty silly comment.

On the flipside...

Darth = Funny

And Nathalie, your article was great. Today you were better than Philip Roth! Exult!

TC Laverdure said...
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TC Laverdure said...
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Ink said...

Nathan,

Is that the right link for the top books of 2009? I get a page showing first lines and pub info on a few books...

ryan field said...

I love Philip Roth. We were both born in Newark. I'm surprised, but I don't agree.

I keep hearing two different sides these days. Those who know traditional publishing well are gloom and doom. Those interested in where publishing is going, or where they think publishing is going, are very positive.

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, Bryan. Fixed.

TC Laverdure said...

Since reading is going to be a hobby of cultist soon I better get published really soon. Going to give NaNoWriMo a go. Ha Ha Or Ja Ja as they say in South America.

Good writing to all

Ink said...

Thanks, Nathan. Now I can properly enjoy the pleasure of disagreement. :)

Marsha Sigman said...

I don't get that Darth Vadar video. I mean thats just rude.

Dawn Maria said...

I always knew how layered Vader really was, now there's proof! Have fun in New York!

dernjg said...

Vader's "look" at 35 seconds in makes me giggle EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Jenni Bailey said...

Awesome. That means I have 25 years before I have to worry about getting a real job. ;)

Anonymous said...

Doomsayers abound in every walk of life. What is it about pessimism that appeals to impressionable minds? Maybe it's just there's some inner need for stirring up conflict.

The e-data market will no more replace paper in the novel marketplace than it did in the office place.

All those e-gadgets need to be fed on a regular basis; books are very low maintenance.

And all that button pushing and fidgeting with the infernal thumbing alienates rather than immerses readers. Convience and prestige, interactivity, that's the appeal of e-pub twits and twonks and twibbles.

Give me a novel in book format for the least alienation, where I interact emotionally, not mechanically, and become the novel.

And the idea that big box stores can impact the culture marketplace in any meaningful way is just absurd. Some bean counting mogul has got his hat on backwards.

See the track record for beer manufacturing in the 20th Century to get an idea of what will happen to publishing in that vein. The U.S. went some few decades satisified with straw soup beer until the craft brew industry reasserted itself after Prohibition's stifling fallout.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I'm not a doomsayer, but I think it's not going to be very long until we look back and think, "Holy cow was it inefficient to have people delivering newspapers printed on paper."

Same thing is going to happen with books.

Some people don't like it, but it's coming regardless.

When phonographs started, people thought it couldn't compare to live music. Tapes and CDs couldn't compare to the sound of vinyl, vinyl still went by the wayside. mp3s can't compare to CDs, CDs still went by the wayside.

Convenience and efficiency wins every time.

Linda Godfrey said...

Vader - what a cut-up! I'd love one of those egg-shaped meditation chambers meself.

I would crawl into it to forget about all the momentous publishing changes and focus on writing the best way I know how. What else can a writer do? There is no screed telling how to write to achieve Big Store Megalith placement, nor should there be. Thinking about sales obstacles down the road just strengthens the dark side of the force.

I'd rather go all Yoda and proceed on simple faith: If we produce something good enough, the market will adjust and sell it, it will.

Other Lisa said...

But I do think there's a difference between books and newspapers, in terms of the natural facility of reading them electronically. Newspapers -- and I took a daily newspaper for many, many years (until the LA TIMES p1ssed me off by cutting too much of its staff) --- they pile up. They clutter. I mean, they come every day. And they are designed to be read and discarded. The articles are generally short and you consume them quickly.

Books? You read them over a longer period of time. You probably keep the books you buy, as a part of a larger library (or at least some significant portion of them). And paper books really are a pretty decent storage device for the function they fulfill.

I still plan on getting an eReader -- there are definitely books/situations for which that makes a great deal of sense -- and I think eBooks will inevitably take over a much larger share of the publishing market. But I'm guessing that it's not going to be the same kind of near total takeover as what we saw in the music business and print journalism..

Thermocline said...

My favorite Star Wars spoof is What Really Happened When The Death Star Blew Up.

Judy said...

I think discount pricing misses the point. With more books being published each day, should we all be reading the same half dozen books? The real question for any author is how to reach the reader. Discount pricing is just another unfortunate distraction.

Nathan Bransford said...

lisa-

Definitely agree, which is why I think the transition from newspapers to the Internet is happening extremely fast while the transition to books to e-books will happen more slowly.

At the same time, I don't know anyone who switched to e-books and then decided to go back to paper. Once you make the switch it's pretty much game over.

Terry said...

Natlaie won the day for me. Vader came in second.

Thanks for the links.

Ben Dutton said...

I've been thinking about the Roth comment - in many ways I agree with him; Inmy day job I work with twenty other people and not one of them reads novels. I know so many people who do not. And yet, looking at it from what we hear from publishers - there are more novels being submitted to agents than ever before. There seems to be a glut of writers out there - and all of them must be readers, right? The screen may have won the battle for popularity and may makes itself known more commonly, but I've come to the conclusion that Roth is wrong - there are lots of readers, and they're using screens to discuss their love of reading (and writing, as evidenced here and elsewhere).

In a connected point, I've just read Roth's latest - I'm a huge Roth fan, and think he's working in such a way, that of all the writers working today, he's the one that stands the best chance of producing a Brothers Karamazov - that is a work of such transcendental beauty and power. He got very close with Everyman, and Exit Ghost and Indignation echo with it; American Pastoral, The Human Stain got close too. The Humbling, though a slighter novel than anything else recent from him, buzzes with that same quality; I feel it is a very good book though sadly filled with a little too much mastubatory fantasy from Roth. Still, I believe that true masterwork is being distilled through these other works, and that his best it yet to come.

Anonymous said...

-Nathan to anon at 1:32

Convenience and efficiency are commercial drivers.

People still bake bread in the most ancient of methods and everything in between since the invention of sliced bread.

I'm not going to go "holy cow" did we actually used to read novels on paper?

I do screen read a significant portion of short fiction, news, entertainment, research, and work reading, hundreds of thousands of words a day. But for a novel entertainment, give me a convenient book, a mug of cocoa and a clean, private, quiet, well-lighted place to read in for the most enjoyable reading experience.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Curling up with an iPhone is just as comfy, and better yet, you don't even need the "well-lighted place."

Anonymous said...

I guess it's the differences in aesthetic connections. Mine, a book is it for novels. I've read hundreds of novels on screen and it's just not the same. But then I've been a passionate novel reader for half a century.

And no, I'm not a Luddite. I believe that digital is an emerging aesthetic. It just doesn't do what other techonology has done in terms of providing an improvement over traditional delivery. Sure digitial music, digitial visual media have advanced to the point that it's almost like being there, but then, being there, that's the alternative. Digital reading doesn't add much, in my opinion, detracts from the experience, so far, anyway.

Vacuum Queen said...

You're the only one who can write a funny account of the whole sack-o-poo situation this seems to be. Fridays are my favorites around here. You write a good essay/recap.

nicola said...

Am I the only one raising my eyebrows at the fact that every single one of PW's Top 10 are by men?

Anonymous said...

Nathan, but what about that library feeling? I remember housesitting for one of my most beloved professors and walking into his office/library--there was an entire (huge) wall of shelves filled with books, complete with a sliding ladder. It was delicious.

Do you think I would have had that feeling with a white wall and a kindle on the desk? More importantly, do you think he would have had the same creative feeling in there?

Am I hopelessly nostalgic?

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Definitely not accusing you or anyone of being a Luddite - there are lots of people who just prefer paper books and they're no more right than I am.

But at the same time, at least in my own personal experience I know so many people who never thought they'd enjoy reading on an e-reader or cell phone and ended up enjoying it immensely.

And I disagree that e-books don't provide any advantages. The portability is unmatched - I might not always have a book handy, but I always have my cell phone. I might be in the dark, but the iPhone is back lit. I live an apartment and don't want the clutter of a huge book collection. I can buy just about any book instantaneously. And studies have shown that e-books are better for the environment (at least from a carbon/global warming perspective).

The only disadvantage is that some people don't like reading for stretches on a screen, there's a cost issue, some people like the permanence of physical books and some people are nostalgic for the book as artifact. And I get that.

But for me and many others, the benefits of e-books far outweigh the drawbacks, and I'm just not going back to paper.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I love me some bookshelves and sliding ladders, but it's not like those are going to disappear any more than antique maps showing countries that no longer exist. It's just that a wall of books will remind us of the past, just like antique typewriters and record players.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

That's a lot to think about. I guess the trick is to not think about it too much or I'll end up deciding to spend my time surfing instead of writing...

Ink said...

Nathan,

No exceptions? Not even a few shiny Jacob Wonderbars?

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest turn-offs for me reading on screen is the proportions and framing of text. On-screen reading slows me down because text line widths and blocks are inconsistent. I read paper publication at a fast pace and with high comprehension, but it's not the same on screen.

Though lately digital readers are getting better at taking into account the ergonomics or reading, it's not all the way there yet. Line widths should be what a human eye can take in in one or two blinks, roughly 33 (five words) or 65 glyphs (ten words), a text block adhere to the golden proportion, and glyph size be roughly 12 points and in a typeface that's ammenable to reading ease. Some of the latest devices are getting there. But there's still all that button pushing.

Nathan Bransford said...

Ink-

Some exceptions, yes! Especially old books. Nudge nudge.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I'm with Nicola. PW's top list was all novels by men about men and it's a damn shame.

Um, PW? Women read, too. A LOT. Sad that they forgot half the human race.

I lurve me some Vader though. :)

Christine H said...

JohnO said: "The Darth Vader video is in no way to be misunderstood as an allegory about pitching to agents at conferences," Nathan hastened to add.

I was laughing at the video. Now I've stopped.

Actually, it reminded me of that Austin Powers movie - when Seth Green was trying to talk and Mike Myers kept shutting him up.

bringmethehead said...

slightly off topic i know, but lately a lot of author posts have described being rejected solely on the basis that their book is, ‘too hard to market’? What exactly does this actually mean? So what if a novel straddles genres. Can’t a well written Lesbian Vampire Western be marketed as a Western with a bloody, Sapphic twist? Doesn’t that make it a selling point? Are marketing models really so narrowly insular? Can a book store not buy in three copies and keep one in each respective section? Are marketing people just too lazy to come up with something different? Granted, precedents might indicate guaranteed sales, but surely a well written book, helped by a marketing strategy which promotes its originality or innovation, stands a better chance than a mediocre copy of something that was original. Shouldn’t publishers be primarily looking for the new original success?

Drink anyone?

Christine H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ink said...

Nathan,

It's funny, but I just stumbled across an old book in my stock today that made me think of you. Looks pretty interesting...

Anonymous said...

Ink-

When he said "If you read a novel in more than two weeks you don't read the novel really," wasn't he talking about skim-reading? As in, there's a difference between really READING a book (acting out the character's voices in your head, thinking over every tiny detail that pops up) as opposed to speed-reading it (oh no a huge block of text let's just skip down to the next dialogue part.)

I'm guilty of speed-reading :)

Also, I disagree that all writers are readers. Totally disagree. I wrote for 5 years without even touching a novel, and I doubt I'm the only one.

I do agree with Roth, though (I'm anonymous, how can I not? ;))
Short attention spans are the problem, and they're only getting shorter. I just don't see how society is going to reverse the effects of the internet age. I can only see it going downhill from here.

Other Lisa said...

In my house, (affectionally nicknamed "Shack by the Sea") my wall of books is not only aesthetically pleasing, it makes great insulation!

Nathan Bransford said...

ink-

Wow, amazing. When they publish a book on my correspondence with my clients I hope they take out the bits where we talk about reality TV shows.

and anon@2:57, if there's anything I've learned in twenty-nine years of life it's that everyone always thinks everything's going downhill and yet things actually always keep getting better and better.

Other Lisa said...

Hey, what's wrong with talking about reality TV shows?

Ink said...

Anon,

I think he was saying the opposite... that if you take too long to read the novel you haven't really read it. So if you haven't read it in two weeks you haven't read it at all. Which kind of boggles me. So, say, it took me three weeks to read Matthiessen's Shadow Country... but apparently I haven't read it. I merely fondled it for awhile. What a waste of great literature! Admittedly the pages were very nice. Can't fault the Modern Library on that. Mmmmm...

I can't even imagine reading Finnegan's Wake in two weeks. I think I just started a nosebleed...

And I think short attention spans and competing media can be problematic... but even in the young techno generation upcoming there are millions and millions of kids reading Harry Potter and Twilight. So I don't really see the reduction of books to minor cult status any time soon.

Nathan Bransford said...

TWILIGHT, for instance, is actually very languorously paced. If kids still have the attention span for it I think they're going to be fine.

Nathan Bransford said...

lisa-

True - we embrace the times!

Anonymous said...

Ink-

What? Really? What the hell?
If that's the case, then count me in as confused as well.

As to TWILIGHT- yes, the story dragged, but the writing itself did not. It was written very simplistically and was very easy to read. It took no effort and practically zero concentration. It was kind of a book for people who don't like books. And in any case, you weren't reading for the story; you were reading for Edward Cullen ;)

Compare to manga. Again, most of the plots drag on and on and on, but it's so easy to read (and instantly rewarding) that you don't really care.

Compare again to George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones. I would say that's pretty fast-paced, but holy crap there are a lot of words. It takes effort to slug through that, no matter how great the story is.

It is great, by the way. More than great. It's epic. If you haven't read it by now I recommend you sprint to your nearest bookstore RIGHT NOW and buy 10 copies. Or 20. Or 100.

Ink said...

Yeah, my daughter loves her animated shows, but she can sit and listen to my wife read Anne of Green Gables for 45 minutes. She's emotional and usually jumps from thing to thing quickly but she'll listen to that story even though she's only 4.

It's all about engagement, I think. As soon as kids find books that engage them, their attention spans are fine. If my four year old can listen to a pictureless story for 45 minutes I'm guessing there are millions more, too. I don't think attention spans are set in stone, but rather vary from task to task, mood to mood. Engagement leads to focus. And I think many people will crave that sort of engagement and focus in a culture of quick and throwaway entertainment. In a shallow world depth can be enticing.

Susan Quinn said...

My mom called me - she wants to get an e-reader, wants to know what kind I think is best. My mom.

She's not known for being a techie, but she reads a gazillion books a year. The game is over on that one, folks. Just sayin'.

And kids these days have just as much attention span as you could want for things they want. It just has to be original and relevant to them. They would play that Darth Vader vid about 20 times before tiring of it.

Anonymous said...

Ink-

That's a good point. I'd certainly like to hope so, anyway. I just look at all the people my age (18-25) and despair. Facebook and Twitter is all they care about. Even movies and TV seem to have become insignificant when put alongside "Photos of How Drunk Me & My Friends Got Yesterday Night."

But yeah, I suppose everything does go full-circle. Maybe the younger generation will get sick of all the shallowness and go the opposite way. Here's hoping :)

Susan Quinn said...

Ah, Ink! Once again, we are on the same wavelength.

Jill Edmondson said...

This really is a scary time to be a debut author. The weeks that shook the (publishing) world, indeed... and the season of change.

I am worried sick about my first book ... will it sell? Will it be remaindered? Will it be reviewed? All the usual stuff. But when you are trying to establish a name and a reputation, and to build an audience, how can a new author possibly compete? My paperback will retail for a bit more than the slashed prices of some Big Name Authors.

Oh dear, oh dear... and to think that in a generation, novels may only have a cult following? Oh dear again...

Jill
www.jilledmondson.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

When the Personal Computer went mainstream in the mid-1980's it was heralded as the dawn of the paperless age.

When the Internet became an indispensable method of contact it was claimed hard currency would become extinct and society would contract, due to vast majority of people working at home. And, once again, the claim was made paper would cease to exist as the electronic highway became dominate.

When the next claim comes along stating that paper is dead I'll wager the Novel's rebuttal will be made via Post-it Note, with the ironic notation:

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. :D

Jen P said...

In the same interview Philip Roth said he lives an austere life which enables him to work, and he allows himself only one day a year for frivolity. He doesn't seem a character prone to over optimism and positive thinking.

The Humbling has had such a slating here that it seems is own life is blended too much with his protagonist, has he lost his magic?

Storytellers have had an important place in all societies since time began, we may need to adapt, but we will survive.

Thanks for sharing the Vader for the weekend. safe travels in NY.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Paper might not be extinct, but I use far, far less of it than I ever have at any point in my life. I hardly ever print anything out at work. I also use far, far less cash than I have at any point in my life now credit cards are taken practically everywhere.

I'm not saying paper books are going to disappear entirely, but they're going to be less ubiquitous than they are now.

Raethe said...

That is one fantastic video.

Rosetta said...

I have a question not related to today's post: what is the difference between a query letter and a proposal? Thank you for your time.

Anonymous said...

And what else is new. When you run faster than you can walk, you usually end up crawling. These next two years will tell a lot. Thanks for the heads up. As for me I prefer a book in the hand. I don't like reading whole novels off the computer. It's too hard on my eyes. The hand held's are even worse. I like the good old fashioned method. I love the smell of a library and the smell of the pages of a new book fresh off the print. Give me a hardcover or paperback any day.
Okay on a better note, I Loved Darth Vader.

Christine H said...

I think that "taking more than two weeks to read a book" means that you only read a page or two at a time, with large gaps in between. So there's not much continuity. You are just snatching little bits here and there. You don't really get the overall picture.

I do that quite a bit, unfortunately. The side effects of a busy life.

Anonymous said...

Nathan said, "and anon@2:57, if there's anything I've learned in twenty-nine years of life it's that everyone always thinks everything's going downhill and yet things actually always keep getting better and better."

We'll give you another ten years and ask you again. %^)

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I know, right?

At 39 I'll be anxious about the future
At 49 I'll think everything was better when I was a kid
At 59 I'll hate my kids' music and think society is going to hell

annnnnnnnd so on.

Gilbert J. Avila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gilbert J. Avila said...

I did some misspellings, so here we go again:

I happily volunteer to restore the texts of the vandalized books. I have a white ink pen, a feverish imagination, and a lot of free time. ;-)

Mira said...

Nathan - I thought your 1:32 post was really well-spoken.

You're on a roll these last couple of days.

I love my I-phone. Love it, love it, love it. It was like I was living a half-life and didn't even know it. Now I am awake and alive and I-phoned! Life is good.

The only downside of the I-phone is the battery runs out. I have to think of some way around that.

And anon 8:19, I'm in my 4th decade, and I think things are definitely getting better if you look at the big picture. Without question.

My final comment for the night is about writing a book about the client/agent relationship. I plan to do this myself, although the book won't actually be about a client and an agent. It will be called "Chasing Nathan" (no resembelance to anyone living or dead, not even someone who can spell resambulance.) It will be a harrowing tale of drama, pathos and suspense, and that's just on the part of the agent. It will be an oddly one-sided relationship, in that the agent will never say anything. Ever. Through the whole darn book. But it will be very exciting, because the reader will always be thinking: okay, this time he'll say something. But nope, doesn't happen. But nonetheless, it will be a masterpiece of depth and meaning (in that it will be extremely difficult to find any). A feel-good book for the generations.

eyeswide said...

Hey, Nathan, I forgot to say Thank you. Thank you for showing respect. You ask the tough questions. Say the tough things.

You had some things to say and you came to our Face with it. In my book, that's a sign of respect. Thanks for giving us enough credit to handle it whether we liked it or not.

It's a strange world for a simple artist to be in. So many things about it are foreign. So I appreciate you being a straight shooter (must be the rice farming. keeps you close to what's real).

Anyway, good job.

Tina Lynn said...

Don't books get beamed into our brains already...wait...those are just the ones I write. You mean I'm supposed to read books other people write, too? What is this world coming to?

Darth Vadar is so hawt!

Anonymous said...

Whether or not a person feels social and economic trends are getting better and better or worse probably has much less to do with age than it does with life circumstances, or working in jobs directly helping people struggle through these kinds of circumstances. There are many young social workers and journalists who feel there are real problems today that need to be solved and would have great difficulty saying that things are getting "better and better". Also, people who are at the poorer end of the widening gap between richer and poorer as well as many people of all age groups who study these trends (including young college students!) may not feel that things are getting "better and better". Or maybe it just depends on how you define "better and better".

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add that, even though advancements in computer and electronic gadgets are making life better and better for some people, it's getting much worse for people like this. Again, people of all ages (including many college students!) are working on solutions for these problems and clearly see where things, at least temporarily, are worse and worse.

Steve said...

The appropriate term for self-publishing based on music biz parallels is not "indie" but "DIY".

-Steve

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I didn't mean to suggest that things are getting better for all people, just that overall, for the average person, things tend to get better. There are fewer starving people in the world than ever before, life expectancy is higher than ever before, etc. etc. I realize that it's an uneven progression, but even poor people in today's world live better than the kings of 500 years ago.

Jen C said...

I tried reading some e-books on my iTouch (same interface and roughly same size screen as the dreaded, overhyped iPhone).

Not a fan of the e-reader at all. It just felt wrong, to me. I'll be one of those lame-o's still reading paper books when everyone else is reading digital!

Joshua said...

Ah...best video I've seen this week. Fantastic.

Anonymous said...

I've decided that I am going to just ignore all the "doom and gloom" news regarding the publishing industry. I'm a writer; I gotta write. That's what I do. The End.

Nathan Bransford said...

(re: my last comment: I mean at least from the perspective of life expectancy/diet/access to technology/etc., obv. not comfort/leisure/justice)

Pam said...

Nathan, by chance are you going to be attending the Backspace Writers Conference in NYC next week?

Nathan Bransford said...

Pam-

I thought about going, but I'm going to be too busy with meetings.

Pam said...

Darn. I was hoping to meet you. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to query you the old-fashioned way.

eyeswide said...

Short attention spans? Nah. I don't think it's short attention spans as much as the upcoming generations gather and process information far quicker than we do.

Their minds are so fast now and we basically approach them with a "dial-up" kind of mentality/teaching efforts. They get the point already. Everything else is beating a dead horse. Eyes glaze over and they wonder if you think they're stupid.

Nothing is wrong with their attention spans. It just doesn't take as long for them to process the info. as it did for us.

eyeswide said...

In addition, that guy in TN blacking out the curse words...Arrgghh! But then you have a community (I believe in a suburb of Chicago) that wants to get rid of the public library altogether. They don't want to pay taxes for the upkeep of the local library. Why, they say, when there's the internet?

That mentality is deeply disturbing to me on so many levels...I can't begin...

Funny thing is, I was driving my daughter to school and the thought struck me (she's 13 now). I asked her why her school hasn't had her read Lord of the Flies, yet?

She turned to me and let me know it had been banned.

Mom is Agog!

They felt it was too violent. Along with another book Call of the Wild that she wanted to read.

I've got to go and buy them for her now. I don't recall Call of the Wild, but I remember reading Lord of the Flies. It had a profound impact on my young mind in a deep, enriching, positive way. Talk about Themes! Whoa.

Banned. I didn't know people still did that sort of thing.

There are alot of disturbing things going on.

As far as the library..well, in my view a civilization without public libraries is a dead one.

If that kind of thinking catches on, imagine how many great minds born into poor circumstances would fall by the wayside. We wouldn't have anymore Richard Wright's, that's for sure.

Okay, enough of this...I've got work to do....

Mira said...

Natalie - that was a really good article! Helpful - thanks.

Jen - no, no, no. Not over-hyped. No. I didn't understand before I got one, but the I-phone...it's amazing. You carry around a back-lit computer in your pocket all day, anywhere, everywhere. Not to mention the camera, GPS, voice recorder, I-pod, I-tunes, oh, and cell phone. And e-reader!!!! And more apps. - I haven't even looked.

I understand other companies are about to copy it, but kudos to Apple for making it. It's amazing.

Anon. 11:04 - I'm a social worker too, and absolutely - of course there is still massive poverty and injustice in the world. People starve to death, have no homes, are persecuted to the point of genocide, are in virtual slavery, are abused, tortured, and so much more.

That doesn't mean that if you take a larger picture, things aren't getting better. I completely agree with Nathan here.

But there is still so much to be done. Viva the college student who sees that!!! But it's also good to that those who have fought in the past, including college students, have made some in-roads and made a difference.

Nathan Bransford said...

mira-

I agree - if people get complacent about the work still to be done in the world it wouldn't keep getting better. It's good that we're always worried about the way things are going - attentiveness and action are the way things get better.

T. Anne said...

Nathan, I agree, cuddling up to my itouch (the less technologicaly advanced twin to your phone) is better than Kindle but only slightly. I do miss looking at the cover of a book. I'm simple that way. But alas no paper books for me unless its an unusual circumstance. And in reference to Twilight being 'languorously paced' I concur, plus I'm in awe of the the fact the word 'languorously' actually exists. Well done word master. ;) I shall eat a bag of peanut M&M's in your honor (fun size of course).

Chuck H. said...

Is anyone else suspicious about the fact that Nathan's posts are going to get sporadic just as NaNoWriMo is getting started?

So you won't be attending Backspace, eh? Bunch of meetings, eh?

Methinks a sequel is in the works. Jacob Wonderbar II.

Jen C said...

Mira,

I'm an Apple girl from way back, and I worked in telecommunications for a few years. So it is with more than your typical layman authority that I say I wish everyone would stop going on about them.

I know it's a nice little gadget but seriously, it's not the be all and end all of phones. I won't impart what we (the non iPhone conforming Apple people) have started calling the phone, because I like you too much!!!

Jen C said...

Eyeswide,

I totally, totally agree with your view on short attention spans and the modern delivery of information. I've often thought that school education takes the wrong format, considering people learn in different ways (I'm a visual, so sitting in a room listening to someone talk does absolutely nothing for me).

But now it seems like things will have to change even more to keep up with the currently accelerating evolution of information and our digestion of it.

Mira said...

Nathan - Thank you. I completely agree.

Jen C - I like you too much in return to tell you that you are wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong about the I-phone (did I mention wrong), but please don't call my I-phone a phone. It is so not a phone. :)

Malia Sutton said...

I'm reading all the comments while deciding which e-reader I want. Or, if I should just get an iphone. I like knowing I can read anywhere, and the iphone seems best for me.

StrugglingSerpent said...

All I've got to say is....HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!! P.S. Loved the video too. Thanks for the laugh.

historywriter said...

The big guys fighting over prices. It doesn't seem that serious until you understand that indie stores that bring us such variety of things to read will be hurt and authors just won't get paid for their work. Everything is free, seems to the attitude of many. So why pay an author? The person who made the book? Edited it?

The biggest concern is exactly what you are getting with digital everything. You can't save it in a museum or archive. It's not real and every few years the technology to read changes. Only a few will control the written word.

I work at a museum and already the impact is being felt. What to save? I can read a 150 year old book but the digital picture scanned last week will have a shelf life of a couple of years.

Other Lisa said...

@historywriter -- I used to work in a library that has a lot of archival materials and a lot of great old stuff - and it amazed me sometimes the number of people who would ask, "Why don't you just scan everything and get rid of all that stuff?" You try to explain that first, we don't have the staff or budget to scan "everything," and even though it does make sense to scan some things, getting rid of the originals is almost always a bad idea. Digital technology changes so quickly; no one knows what the life-span of any particular platform is.

But I used to take out a lovely book on Russian costume that was published in 1804 and marvel at the quality of the paper and the beauty of the images.

Portuguese cunt said...

Trying to re-brand self-publishing as "indie publishing" isn't going to work, mainly because most self-published authors have a difficult time understanding their desperate need for an editor.

Anonymous said...

Nathan and Mira,

I don't think anyone can accurately say that the world is getting "better and better" or "worse and worse". The world just is what it is, and now is one of those times in history when things could go either way. Worldwide poverty has decreased if you look at the world overall. However, if you look at individual countries, many (including the United States) have a widening gap between wealthy and poor with a shrinking or non-existent middle class. Check out this map of Global Wealth Distribution. If you live in or do volunteer work for any extended period of time within the slums of the third world or the tent cities in the United States, it is impossible to say that things are definitely getting "better and better".

Anonymous said...

One more post. I feel this is strongly related to writing because many literary writers tackle these topics, and many of those books become best-sellers. If you look at this article, The Threat of Global Poverty, you can see that half of the world's population lives in poverty. Definitely, the world isn't clearly getting "better and better" or "worse and worse". It's about 50/50.

Nathan Bransford said...

Anon-

I have done volunteer work in third world countries. Look - I agree. It's important to remember the work still to be done. No one living in a poverty-stricken or wartorn region thinks things are getting better. And maybe it's overly reductive to then look at the numbers and say hey, less of the world is in poverty than ever before. Still, overall people are living longer and better lives if you average across the globe. That's progress, even if there are pockets where things are getting worse.

Anonymous said...

Nathan,

Agreed. And I think an important job of writers is - and has always been - to shine a light on the dark places in the world. Not all writers want to take on the hard work of serious writing, but those who do take it on and do it well should be applauded. :)

Anonymous said...

"I just don't see how I can break this out in a big way." Yes, this is exactly what my agent has been told about my two novels. Editors love the voice, characters, great polished novel submitted.....but...but....but --- it's not big enough, etc. etc. So we agonize over writing the best book we can to get an agent. We get a good agent and she faces this baffling conflict.

Does every single book have to be a blockbuster? Note to editors: Blockbusters are far and few between and some of them are just not good.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

But where, where?!

"...I used to take out a lovely book on Russian costume that was published in 1804 and marvel at the quality of the paper and the beauty of the images."

What's the name of this book, and where is it?

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

I over-think things.

Anon 11:44

I think you are a truly compassionate person, and it's wonderful that pointing out the suffering in the world. So, please understand I'm not negating that by disagreeing alittle....

I don't have much to add to what Nathan said, I thought he said it well.....but one thing I will say is that you can't measure progress only by looking at poverty levels. That's just one factor.

There are others. Human rights awareness; the number of people who live free lives, and can speak and think freely; the knowledge of the world around us, both within and without; the ability to address problems; the growing global community which attempts to heal global wounds; and so much more.

Please know that I am very personally aware that there is suffering in the world. I've been a social worker for a very long time, I see great depths of suffering on a daily basis. I am not naive or deluded.

But I feel as though making the world a better place is a chain of action that stems far into the past, and moves ahead of me into the future. I am just one link. I would like to add my contribution; I hope I will. But I acknowledge that those before me have made a difference, and those that live on after me (perhaps, you, for one) will continue to fight the good fight.

Anonymous said...

Mira,

Exactly. My point is that the world is 50/50, good and bad. My original point was simply that people who concentrate on serious problems in order to make the world a better place aren't necessarily pessimists or glass-half-full kind of people, and they aren't always from the older generation.

Mira said...

Well, I'd say we're 50/50 in agreement. :)

I don't think it's 50/50 good/bad. I think it's in flux, but headed toward improvement. That's my belief, and I'm sticking to it.

But I'll agree that people who see and address problems, and shine a light on them, as you eloquently put it, can be visionaries: young, old and somewhere in between.

So we agree about that. :)

And I applaud the idealism and energy of the young. Go for it. We need you. :)

writergrrrl said...

Also, I disagree that all writers are readers. Totally disagree. I wrote for 5 years without even touching a novel, and I doubt I'm the only one.

This baffles me. One of the reasons I write (probably the main reason) is because I love to read so much. And whenever I read a great book, I'm re-inspired to work that much harder on my own fiction.

I do know writers who can't read fiction while they're working on their novel, but will read non-fiction. But to go for years without picking up a book? I'd go crazy and start reading the backs of cereal boxes. (Actually, I already do that.)

Anonymous 2:57 (and any other writer out there who's either not a big reader, or who has stopped reading for an extended period of time): what caused you to pull away from books?

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks they can write without ever reading a book is either delusional or making others think they are so gifted, and clever they can write a book without reading one.

Not possible and arrogant. That's like a master chef who specializes in pastries saying he hasn't tasted or eaten a pastry in five years, yet continues to perfect his work?

If a writer hasn't picked up a book in even a year, I would bet their writing would reflect it and would think they are not published at all.

Marilyn Peake said...

For those who love to read, check this out: the Library Hotel, as described on the Book Patrol blog. A rather unique, luxurious and relaxing place for bibliophiles!

Robert Michael said...

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine--R.E.M

Amber said...

"Anyone who thinks they can write without ever reading a book is either delusional or making others think they are so gifted, and clever they can write a book without reading one."

This is so true. I know this might be different from the above stated quote, but I don't understand how you can love writing but not reading. Maybe you can love bad writing and hate reading, but if you're serious about writing, I don't see how you can dislike reading.

Marilyn Peake said...

Also via Book Patrol, a fascinating interview with Sherman Alexie about writing, writers, storytelling, the publishing world and more: here.

Amber said...

I disagree that Kindle is going to completely take over novels, with novels only having a small cult following.

I'm going to compare this to photography. When the digital camera first came out, it was thought that it would take over the film camera. It hasn't. Despite how insanely advanced digital cameras have gotten, there are still loads of people out there who use film cameras--plus, photography minors like me have to use film before jumping to digital. And you have to wonder why as well, what with the convenience a digital camera offers and all. But I think the battle between digital and print is going to follow the same vein as digital versus film.

I could be wrong, but both sound very similar.

Marilyn Peake said...

I just finished listening to the entire Sherman Alexie interview. He has a fascinating point of view regarding e-books and the Internet. He touches on many of the topics recently discussed here on Nathan's blog. He refers to e-books as "elitist" and explains why he feels that way. He also talks about where the large corporations will most likely take the Internet, the lack of real Internet "community", how current trends will most likely increase the divide between pop culture and literary writing, and how it will most likely eventually become nearly impossible for most first-time writers to ever get published. He expresses what I’ve been thinking for some time now. Whether you agree with him or not, he offers an intelligent, thoughtful analysis of the marketplace.

AM said...

Marilyn,

Thanks for sharing the link to the Library Hotel. I might go to NY just to check out that hotel!

eyeswide said...

This is a little piece from a treatise called "On the Soul" supposedly written by Themistius way back there in ancient Greece.

It is on the process of Initiation of the soul. There's an uncanny resemblance to the process a writer goes through from trying to get an agent to being published :0 (Hmmm...just wanted to share):

"At first one wanders and wearily hurries to and fro, and journeys with suspicion through the dark as one uninitiated: then come all the terrors before the final initiation, shuddering, trembling, sweating, amazement: then one is struck with a marvelous light(i think this is the getting a great agent part), one is received into pure regions and meadows, with voices and dances and the majesty of holy sounds and shapes: among these he who has fulfilled initiation wanders free, and released and bearing his crown (getting published?)joins in the divine communion, and consorts with pure and holy men."

Lol. Sheesh.

doctorquery said...

Nathan: Thanks for all you do in compiling and discussing so much of what goes on in publishing these days. A vast terrain of change is before us.

Doctor Query

Joseph L. Cooke said...

Had a chance meeting with an assistant working one of the lit desks at William Morris in LA. They don't measure the number of queries, but the pounds of queries. If the first sentence or two don't do the job, then the querie is tossed.

Ten Ring, by Joseph L Cooke, will be released as an audio book only; it won't be in print - or, that's the plan at present.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Here's my proposed solution: I believe that independent bookstores should become a publishing cooperative, and sign exclusive publishing contracts with "non 500" authors who are out of contract. Here's how it would work: The Indie-publisher would agree to exclusively sell, promote, and distribute an author's work through Indie bookstores for the duration of a contract. Those works would not be sold at Amazon, WalMart, or chain stores (except for used, private copies which can't be controlled). The Indie publisher and bookstore network would have to establish its own outlet for ebook downloads. So we'd wind up with an Indie publisher developing the "midlist" authors, leaving the established Big Boy/Girl Authors to the old publishers and WalMart. My thinking: eventually the "star" authors will burn out, and the Indie stores, with their exclusive distribution, will build new business at the edges of the market.

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