Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, December 4, 2009

This Week in Publishing 12/4/09

The number of links this week may set a TWIP record, but holy cow was there good stuff out in the publishophere this past week. Let's get to it!

But first, before we get to the links, today may be your last chance to see the award winning (not really) circa-1999 design of this blog, featuring its square, awkwardly fonted logo and its "I slapped this thing together in a weekend" design ethos. Barring technical catastrophe the blog will be transitioning over the weekend to a fresh new look courtesy of the wildly talented web designer Sean Slinsky. Pardon our dust as we get things running.

And there may just be a few more surprises in store come Monday.

Now for real let's get to it:

First up, in the wake of the controversy about their new self-publishing/vanity arm, Harlequin announced that the new outfit will be called DellArte Press. Which is, um, an interesting name for, um... moving on!

There have been some anonymous murmurings in the comments section that I have been too focused and too pro-e-books lately, to which I would reply: 1) umseriously this e-book thing is kind of a big deal and 2) let me repeat I am not and would never advocating getting rid of print books and/or bookstores. To that end, Amazon recently released a list of the Best Book Covers of 2009, which feature some awesome can't-be-replaced-by-e-reader design. (via The Millions)

And further to that point, Bloomsbury publisher/editorial director Peter Ginna, who recently launched the must-read blog Dr. Syntax, posted an ode to the print publisher's secret weapon: the book designer.

But the e-book world marches on. My client Jennifer Hubbard thinks about what the e-book future might look like, and Mike Shatzkin has a fantastic three point publisher plan for fighting piracy. My favorite is the first one, which entails getting proactive about spreading fake book files on file-sharing sites. Fight dirty, publishers!

And lots of people have been wondering what will happen in an era where getting published is as easy as uploading a file to a website. GalleyCat asks: do we really need three million books? (To which those three million authors answer: yes for my book, no for the others!). And meanwhile, via How Publishing Really Works comes an article on how self-publishing doesn't (usually) work.

And finally in e-book news, J.A. Konrath has eleven bold e-book predictions for 2010, including e-readers for less than $99 and the rise of estributors.

Just kidding, that wasn't the last e-book link. Alan Kaufman wrote an article comparing the closing of bookstores and the rise of e-books to... the Krystallnacht of Nazi Germany. No, really. He writes, "The book is fast becoming the despised Jew of our culture." Also: the article is available on the Internet. Horrors! (via HTMLGIANT)

Upstart Crow announced the details of the second annual auction for author Bridget Zinn, who has had quite a tumultuous year getting married and getting a book deal while also fighting cancer. Details about the auction, which includes signed books, manuscript critiques and more, here.

The Rejectionist went and got all famous on us, writing an article for The Stranger about what one agent assistant's inbox looks like.

RIP Borders UK.

Cormac McCarthy's old Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter is being auctioned off today, and you people had better bring the cash because I'm going to outbid all y'all and in fact.... um.... oh. It's expected to go for between $15,000 and $20,000. Nevermind! Maybe I can bid for a bottle of white-out instead. UPDATE: the typewriter sold for $254,500 (via @JBD1). Rumors that this was purchased for me as a Christmas present: unconfirmed. Also the rumors were started by me.

Pimp My Novel has a fantastic two part post on the factors that go into how many copies of an author's book an "account" will order. Pimpin' a novel ain't easy indeed.

In Curtis Brown literary agent interview news, I was recently interviewed by The Writer's [Inner] Journey, and my colleague Ginger Clark was interviewed by Editor Unleashed.

Rachelle Gardner posted a plea for authors to stop complaining about agent response times, and author Lauren Barnholdt chimed in that "Agents not responding to your email is not the reason you are not getting published." Meanwhile, INTERN marveled at the mere fact that with book publishing you can actually send things to agents and editors and have them read for free. Unlike, say, patent applications.

And in somewhat related news, had an article about a study suggesting that happy writers don't generally make good writers. Get cranky, people! (via The Book Bench)

Almost finally, Moonrat posted a very helpful list of things authors should expect from their agents, and Kate Schafer Testerman added some things to the list as well.

And finally finally, via the Book Cover Archive blog comes a fantastic video from the New Zealand book council. A journey through a book:

P.S. This is the future:

Have a great weekend!


Anonymous said...

The Comcast/NBCU merger, while mosting posing a primacy megamedia giant conglomerate also will have a major, though unnamed in the news, impact on digital and paper publishing markets.

One umbrella roof under which a majority media outlet has control over content and dictating fashion appeal.

Verd verificate: wriata, writing errata.

The Rejectionist said...

Famous!?!? Oh STOP! Thanks!

We'll challenge you to a fancy revamped blog-off... arm wrestling? Light-saber battle?

ryan field said...

The eleven bold predictions are interesting, especially the exclusivity prediction.

Nathan Bransford said...

Le R-

It's on! I should warn you though, Sean's design powers are fierce.

Scott said...

So being cranky's not a bad thing anymore? Woo-hoo! Who knew? Time to dig out my "Mr. Cranky" t-shirt and get to writing!


p.s. thanks for all the links!

clindsay said...

Holy cow, that was SOME week in publishing! =)

Gordon Jerome said...

Self-publishing is always a mistake--except for one instance: you wan't to be a publisher as much as you want to be a writer. Then it wouldn't make much sense to let someone else publish your novels or books.

Independent publishing/small press is not the same thing as self-publishing. There's a huge learning curve associated with publishing that most writers are just not equipped for. Better they should find a small publisher they believe in and go with them.

In my always humble opinion.

What's so great is that there's going to be a zillion indi's soon servicing a zillion niches and we're all going to have a better literary experience!

Tracy Hahn-Burkett said...

Nathan, I'd love to hear your take on the Georgia case this week where a jury found that an author had defamed her former friend by basing a novel character on her. Seems like frighteningly bad precedent to me. Here's a link:

There's always an appeal--maybe.

Nathan Bransford said...


I've always advised people to write all their books, including novels, such that no one could possibly recognize themselves in the book. Laws are even stricter in the UK and Australia.

Polenth said...

The happiness article is just another in the line of articles telling me I shouldn't be a writer. To which I go...


If I ever get a book deal, I should print up pro-happiness smiley face stickers and stick them to people at writing conferences.

Marilyn Peake said...

Love that study about how happy writers don’t generally make good writers. Thank you for that! I’m a happy person in general, but I think good writing requires a certain level of intensity.

ali said...

Wow, I loved that Book Council video :) Thanks for the review Nathan! I missed some of those events.

Marilyn Peake said...

I think we’re in for huge changes due to the growth of electronic books, newspapers, magazines, and so on. I think the changes will be much broader than what we’re expecting. Currently, there are only five large corporations running all the major publishing houses. Huge corporations have been buying and selling TV channels for some time now. On the news yesterday, I was surprised to hear a news commenter mention that free broadcast TV may eventually disappear, replaced entirely by cable TV purchased as subscriptions by customers. Reason: cost of advertising cuts into the parent company’s ability to increase profits every quarter. The large publishing houses also work on the financial model of trying to increase quarterly profits for stockholders. That model is limited in regard to selling books. If all of China suddenly begins to read voraciously, that would open up a new market, but the eBook revolution is much more likely to happen in the near future. I could see technology companies buying up the major publishing houses, selling off all the parts of the current publishing industry little by little over time as people become acclimated to reading books electronically, and handling the entire publishing process themselves: selecting books for publication themselves rather than using literary agents to find books, quickly publishing books electronically, and then providing advertising online. It’s probably a wonderful time to own a good small eBook publishing company because larger companies may offer to buy it as all these sweeping changes take place. I remember when, less than five years ago, hardly anyone knew about Fictionwise. They were a very small business. Then, in March of this year, Barnes & Noble purchased Fictionwise for $15.7 million. I’m guessing that sometime in the near future a larger company will purchase Barnes & Noble and shut down all their brick-and-mortar bookstores in order to increase profit. The changes will probably happen slowly, but I bet ten years from now a whole lot of things in today’s publishing model will sound extremely dated and old-fashioned.

Rick Daley said...

Is this the first instance of Godwin's Law being invoked in the ebook discussion?

Ed Miracle said...

You're re-designing the blog? But . . . but . . . Blubber,sniff.
How will we know it's really you?

Crystal said...

Wowie, that is a lot of links! I'm actually very interested in this new Ebook trend. To be honest, don't most people get their books digitally right now anyway? I know a lot of people that get audio books digitally downloaded instead of getting them on paper. So if there is a way for them to actually read the books via Ebook, what's the harm?
But here's a concern I have with the whole Ebook trend. Even if these Ereaders will go down in price to be affordable, do you think that any of the manufactuerers will make the Ereaders automatically accessible to the blind and visually impaired? I was thinking that since Apple has a new way to make all of their products accessible, that they might be the first to implament this factor into an Ereader. Otherwise, third-party software developers will have to make a new technology for blind people like myself to be able to access these Ereaders.

Thermocline said...

That Tablet demo was pretty cool. Can multimedia books be that far away?

Methinks ... nope.

L. T. Host said...

Gah, I'm already waiting for Monday for so many reasons... now I have to add seeing your new blog design and the "surprises in store" too!

*bites nails*

Kristi said...

The Rejectionist's article made me even more empathic toward the slush readers and more determined to make my query stand out - in a good way, not in a "God I need a drink" way.

As far as happy people not making good writers - yeah, we'll see about that. Thanks for the wonderful links and Happy Friday!

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

I gotta have those Kiwis do my book trailer. That's one of the most seriously cool things I've ever seen.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

I now know how we're all gonna get our 15 minutes...


Haste yee back ;-)

Mira said...

Just a tweak. No need to re-read.

E-books? We've been talking about e-books?

Huh. Didn't notice. What are e-books?

So, there are way too many links to discuss, which is always a HUGE problem on Fridays. There are all these incredibly interesting things to talk about and not enough space.

So, naturally I picked the most important things, which are:

a. You're changing your blog layout??? NO!!!! I love this layout. It's comforting and familiar. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

On the other hand, there is a silver lining. This makes me deeply unhappy which will undoubtedly make me a better writer.

On the other hand, though, you have SURPRISES. That makes me totally excited and thrilled, which will probably make me a worse writer. So, that's bad.

On the other hand, I CAN'T WAIT until Monday. What's the surprise? What is it? What is it? Is it good? Is it money? Is it for me or do I have to share it with the other bloggers? What is it? What? What? What?

Okay, so that part is making me crazy, so I'll probably be a better writer because of that, so it's all good.

b. Really great interview, Nathan. Truly - Very interesting. Although you forgot to talk about e-books.

Um, I like what you said about how it's the manuscript that takes precedence. That was a great relief to me for many, many reasons, but perhaps the primary reason is I'm probably really pushing it right now with the e-book jokes. I just couldn't resist. :)

c. About the happiness stuff. I can happily report that I am a pretty grumpy most of the time. The whole layout debacle is just icing on the cake. So, I'm really happy about that, because it means I'm a better writer than..but wait. If I'm happy about that than......

Oh no.

I give up.

I'd say have a good weekend, but I'll probably be back tomorrow to comment on some other of the links.

Especially the e-book ones.

Oh. Okay. I'll say it. Have a good weekend everyone. :)

Ginger said...

Thanks for the shout out!

Tracy Hahn-Burkett said...

Thanks Nathan. Hmm, maybe I need to take a stroll through my MS this weekend . . .

Regarding the question of whether a writer needs to be unhappy to write well: I prefer to think that writers who have been unhappy in the past but who have reached a better point in their lives can both be happy and write well. After all, we've got the material, but we're not too depressed to get out of bed, sit down at the keyboard and write!

Marilyn Peake said...

Anon @ 12:16 PM –

I’m so excited to see that someone else is following the Comcast/NBCU merger. I was watching the news today on MSNBC when I suddenly realized I was watching a show called The New york Times Edition. I thought, What the heck? Wasn’t The New York Times a print newspaper from 1851 to the present day, with an online electronic version started only fairly recently? Now it’s also a TV show? Hmmm ... I’m guessing print newspapers and most free broadcast TV shows will eventually disappear, replaced by Internet and cable TV news. Non-media corporations are purchasing media companies, and those huge non-media corporations will probably bring sweeping changes to the way we receive information by creating entirely different models than those we use now.

Here’s something interesting. MSNBC (name standing for combination of "Microsoft" and "NBC") recently purchased a company called EveryBlock, a two year-old hyperlocal news start-up company that will allow MSNBC to collect huge amounts of local news that they can utilize in various ways: article here.

Marilyn Peake said...

I saw the news about Cormac McCarthy’s typewriter earlier this week, and soooo wanted to buy it. Saw the price; changed my mind. Bidding on a bottle of white-out sounds like an excellent idea! :)

Vacuum Queen said...

Couple thoughts I had while reading is that as a teacher, I've got the support of knowing a published book I'm giving to my students to read has at least passed some sort of rigorous journey to completion, and should therefore have something in it worthy of reading. BUT, once publishing becomes similar to uploading to youtube (youpub?), I can pretty much guarantee that the students may only ever acquire a taste for crap for the rest of their days.

Second, once you think about it, a blog is sort of a self publishing moment. Today I had a few moments to sit and read something and I chose to read your blog. So there goes THAT book reading moment. Why are we people so anxious to get words bound into paper if we can already post stuff online - for FREE? I mean, your Cormac M. paragraph was funny and I giggled out loud. That almost never happens with 20 minutes in a book.

I'm just sayin.'

Chuck H. said...

I guess there's no need to worry about e-readers 'cause the Wall Street Journal says they will be obsolete soon anyway.

Harlequin, as if you didn't know Nathan, is one of the standard characters in Comedia del Arte. So why not name a self-publishing/vanity arm after it?

Nathan Bransford said...

chuck h-

Hadn't thought that, though I would think at this point Harlequin would want to avoid references to comedy.

Terry said...

So many good links. So far, I've enjoyed the agent interviews and Dr. Syntax. I love book covers too.

That blog, in general, is good and his Risky Business post, which mentions Nathan, was a good read. Loved the accompanying pic. Nathan in his high school days, no doubt.

I'm also wondering, if I put on a pouty face, will it make me smarter and less dangerous.

GhostFolks - Getting back to you from yesterday. I knew what you meant and I take it as a compliment, ;-)

Thomas Burchfield said...

Sheesh, enough with the Holocaust comparisons already.

Good stuff on the e-books, though. Regarding these predictions, I think a new species of agent will evolve, so Nathan's enthusiasm and interest indicates he's currently evolving himself an extra set of legs and longer more sensitive antennae (sorry to bug you with the metaphor.) I certainly intend to crawl out onto this new dry land, myself.

In the meantime: some mini reviews at

Anonymous said...

What's up with people who blog to complain about writers complaining? Those types of blogs are getting really old and drive away writers, perhaps even good writers who don't complain. Just sayin'.

Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing the video from the NZ Book Council. It was amazing, and it really captured the magic of a book. It's about amazing stories, interesting scenes, new characters, and seeing a printed word, all together. Lovely.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

The last paragraph of your linked article by Max Dunbar, “Why Self-Publishing Doesn’t Work”:

J D Salinger is rumoured to put his finished novels in a sealed box, unread by anyone except himself. It seems sad but it’s a better outcome for him that any writer will have if they go into self publishing: which is vanity publishing in a hired suit, and is to actual publishing what alternative medicine is to medicine.

I see a lot of "anti-self publishing" articles like this, with a noticeable air of superiority layered with undertones of defensiveness. If self-publishing is only for untalented, egotistical wannabees, why do geniuses like Dunbar waste their time writing about it?

And I kind of like alternative medicine.

Bane of Anubis said...

Looking forward to the new layout -- hopefully something other than Blogger orange ;)

Laurel Amberdine said...

Wow, that Kaufman article... I can hardly believe anyone would make that comparison. Kindle = tool of Nazi-like oppression!?! The Onion wouldn't be that silly!

Susan Quinn said...

OK, I have that tablet screen in my story . . . in the FUTURE! Guess I'm going to have to come up with something a little more out there.

Can't wait to see what you have up your sleeve for Monday.

And are you going to go all sleek and pretty on us, like the REJECTIONISTA? Cuz I'm kind of fond of the dorky look. And isn't organge your favorite color, anyway???

Happy Weekend. :)

Anonymous said...

Mergers like the Comcast/NBCU one are like parasitic growths. Unable to build real growth, large companies combine or devour smaller ones in order to satisfy a bottom line index increase. It's been going on now at a breathtaking pace for half a century.

It's already a bean counter world in the upper echelons of the Big Six Sisters of transnational publishing conglomerates. What the heck, mix in broadcast television, cable, satellite, telephone, Internet, screenplays, information exchange, communication, music, games, advertising, never forget advertising, and education, what a monopoly game.

Antitrust laws were recently gutted so anything big goes bigger anymore, like it was with the junk home loans that spoiled a sure investment strategy, spoiled a global economy, like it was with junk bonds, and like it is with mega Ponzi schemes.

And next comes energy taxes, and runaway excise taxes, and healthcare taxes, and all the middlemen taking their tithe rake on top of the taxes adding to the costs.

One way to get people back to work and keep them there is to make it all so expensive that the working slobs at the bottom have to work eighty-hour workweeks in thankless menial jobs just to keep our heads above the red tape, and so that we enrich corporate high muckety-mucks and fund corrupt government with their heads in the sand so far out of touch with the everyday people that the concept of budgeting for bare subsistence is unthinkable.

And while they're at it, conglomerize what little there is in life that's meaningful and enriching and entertaining so that the packaging and distribution of propoganda is carefully centralized and targeted predigested and wholesomely moral and choiceless. And information/entertainment becomes the next tobacco, the next cotton, the next whale oil, the next petroleum economy.

Yep, I'm an unhappy writer. But it's not only that I'm unhappy, it's that I've got problems I can work out by writing, not solve, just find some cathartic release for a never-ending slog through all the misery heaped upon my shoulders. Thank Providence, there's a light of hope at the end of the tunnel from reading and writing.

Marilyn Peake said...

Anon @ 3:49 PM –

I’ve discovered a most wonderful thing while writing science fiction. No matter how depressing, the news can be used by science fiction writers to create fictional worlds in which trends are carried to logical extremes.

T. Anne said...

I'll be curious to see your new site! Does it involve technical thingamabobs such as entering out name, email address and website?

Marilyn Peake said...

I originally went to college to become a journalist, pursued other avenues but still love research. I decided to do a little bit of research to see if Harlequin’s self-publishing venture might be part of the new buy-and-sell-and-increase-quarterly-profits model. Well, what do ya know? Harlequin is owned by Torstar Corporation, a broadly based media company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Harlequin partnered with Author Solutions to create their new self-publishing venture ... and Author Solutions is owned by ... wait for it ... Bertram Capital Management LLC. So, is Harlequin’s self-publishing venture really so surprising, considering the prices they’re charging for their services? I don’t think so.

Anonymous said...

Yes, ma'am. I'm a Down and Out in Paris and London in a Nineteen Eighty-four world.

I've been exploring a common assumption that individuals are personally responsible for their happiness, especially when blaming people for not being happy; meanwhile, in the health and prosperity challenged populations, who have happiness acquistion challenges to boot, it's easy to look up and see that good health and prosperity don't make the privileged any happier, but money and material wealth sure make miseries easier to bear.

Nick said...

I want to begin by replying to something you said yesterday but I didn't notice until this afternoon, and I gather it is likely to be missed if I respond to it over there, so yeah:

"...and then 500 years went by and books didn't change that much."

Perhaps this is because the format we've had for the past 500 years works, non? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Anyway, on to today:

Three million books a year? Even if that means I'm more likely to get published in a fair amount of time (which, let's face it, it doesn't really improve the odds any of getting published period, let alone quickly) I feel I must quote one of the comments,

"Something often overlooked when discussing the failings of publishers is that they polish books before publication. Few publishers will release a book as handed in by an author: copy-editing and proofreading are things that must be done by third parties in order that they are done well, and very few authors are capable of writing manuscripts that don't need the guidance of a line editor."

Three million means either /a lot/ more editors and the like are needed, or it means the quality of books is going to decrease. The former is not likely to be answered to appropriate scale, and the latter is not an option I welcome. Pass on the mega-printing, thanks.

Haven't read the Krystallnacht article yet but it sounds like a roaring time. Of course he may have very valid points. Will return with post-article judgments in due course.

And because I don't feel like leaving this tab open for a long time as I go from link-Facebook-link-Sharpe-link-PBS-link-Facebook-link-MSN etc. etc. etc. I'm just going to shut up now and come back with any more observations when I've finished.

Malia Sutton said...

Your posts are so cute. I love them.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

Oh dear, it's all going to be shiney happy on the Blog by Monday. I liked the 'part-time Blogger threw-it-together' look. Whatever next? Paperless books?
I'm looking forward to checking out all the links in depth - once I've gotten over the march of progress and time.

Marilyn Peake said...

Anon @ 4:45 PM –

I feel your pain. Personally, I think what’s happening to many individual people is extremely sad, even though I didn’t mention it earlier. Extremely sad. I try to reflect that in the fictional worlds I build in my novels and short stories. I’d like to make a real difference with my writing someday, but who knows if that will ever happen. Good luck with all of your own writing.

Anonymous said...

Most of those covers are awful.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Ah, lots of links, lots of reads for the weekend. Thank-you for putting them together for us ; -)

Nick said...

So I'm almost finished with the Nazi E-Book article (to be fair, I only just got round to it six or seven minutes ago, tops) and I agree, to a point. Perhaps it's a bit over-the-top at the moment. The Nazi analogies are almost certainly OTT. But then, I live in suburban Philadelphia, not in San Fran. There used to be only three major bookstores in the area -- a Borders, a Barnes & Noble, and an Atlantic Books. Everyone else was a small local seller, most of them used bookstores. Some of the used sellers have gone under over the years, but most are still plodding by. And of the big three, only the Atlantic Books went under (which still makes me sad, as I used to get things like my collection of Sherlock Holmes and vintage comic books on the cheap at Atlantic). San Fran, judging by this article and some other things I've read, is experiencing the deaths of many more bookstores, although perhaps it is not really more, it just seems like more because I live in fairly populated suburbs, which, if you take just the population of my county comparatively to the San Francisco Metro area, my county is equal to about 5.6% of the SFMA population. So if 1/3 bookstores is dying for 5.6%, 1/3 dying in 5.6 by 5.6 by 5.6 forming a whole seems like a lot more. And yes, that is probably impossibly shoddy math. There's a reason I write books and don't work at a flipping bank.

Other Lisa said...

I pretty much agree with anon @3:49 PM. Part of the reason I am perpetually melancholic. Which at least makes me a better writer. Which makes me happy!

Oh. Wait...

Nathan Bransford said...


I wouldn't correlate a loss of bookstores with a loss of books. Every person in America now has ready access to more books than anyone in human history. That constitutes the death of books? There's no evidence that people are reading less.

I really appreciate good bookstores and am rooting for them as much as anyone, but I also didn't have bookstore growing up. I grew up in the country. The nearest bookstore was a crappy B. Dalton 30 minutes away and the nearest real bookstore was over an hour away, and I was lucky to get there a couple times a year. Our library was pretty tiny. I would have KILLED for a Kindle or for Amazon growing up. I probably would have bankrupted my parents.

Now people in rural areas have access to an infinite number of books, just a few clicks away. That's progress.

Change is disruptive, but it ain't always bad.

maybegenius said...

Ha, it's funny that you mentioned book designers being the secret weapon of publishers, because I've just recently starting wondering what's going to happen when the creative heads get seriously involved with e-readers. Imagine the possibilities...

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

This week in publishing: I won the Beat Poetry Contest! To read my winning poem, "WHAT WAY TO GO TODAY," go to:

Anonymous said...

Alan Kaufman is an acclaimed writer whose fiction has been described as “extraordinary”. His article took a great deal of poetic license and used quite a bit of hyperbole. But, at its core, it was about much more than electronic vs. paper books or physical bookstores vs. electronic publication. He has his own Internet blog, is a member of numerous online sites, has been interviewed online and participated in online videos. In his article, he talks about many things, including the Google lawsuit. The following excerpt demonstrates the primary message at the heart of his article:

“But the truth is, Nourrey, like Bertelsmann, like most American book publishers, are linked to twenty first century, late-stage hypercapitalist imperatives predicated entirely upon ceaseless expansion, the inherent belief in Darwinian obsolescence and succession as the lifeblood of successful economics and societal advance.

“Thus, publishers, like the technologists who slit their throats, are producers not of books but money, while books have become simply another vehicle, along with the Washing Machine and the iPod, for generating capital.”

Nathan Bransford said...


Alan would have a hard time convincing me that the publishing industry has ever, at any point in history, been primarily driven by anything other than capitalism. And yet - look at all of the great books that have come out of that system.

Equating e-books with the Holocaust is so outlandish it took me a while to figure out whether the article was satire.

Things change. Artists persevere. Life goes on.

Anonymous said...

Alan Kaufman wasn’t talking about capitalism. He was talking about the effects of unregulated capitalism. Huge difference. He was over the top in his hyperbole, but he makes some good points. He’s an internationally acclaimed poet who writes about the Jewish experience and whose writing has been compared to that of Walt Whitman. He took poetic license in his article, but he’s a brilliant guy. No doubt he himself will continue to persevere as a writer. I don’t think he’s complaining about his own personal level of success.

Nathan Bransford said...


But again, I don't see evidence that unregulated capitalism is destroying publishing. There are some multinationals, lots of healthy independents, and lots of upstarts. And to suggest that Google and/or Amazon are verging on anything approaching a monopoly is a serious misreading of the situation.

I don't really think there's a salient point underneath the (rather offensive) hyperbole.

Nathan Bransford said...

I don't question that he's a brilliant guy though. Doesn't make him right in this case.

kalincasey said...

Cool video from NZ! I just got back from three-week road trip there and now have to catch up on the blog. Nathan, since I wasn't here for Thanksgiving, I have to say that I am thankful for you and your generosity year-round.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Alan Kaufman is using rather offensive hyperbole. But it may come from his family's past experience. He’s the son of Holocaust survivors. He used Bertelsmann as an example. Bertelsmann, by its own admission, has lied about its Nazi past: BBC article published in 2002. I would recommend reading the entire BBC article, even though the admissions are rather sickening. Bertelsmann made huge profits writing anti-Semitic books and using Jewish slave labor during Hitler’s reign. The head of the company back then made donations to the SS, Hitler’s special forces and concentration camp guards. IMHO, that’s much more offensive than anything Kaufman has done by writing his article.

Google and Amazon aren’t true monopolies, but Bertelsmann is. I think Kaufman’s article reflects our current zeitgeist in which many people are suffering while others rake in huge profits. Today, 1 in 4 (25%) of children within the United States don’t have enough food to eat. Kaufman impresses me as someone sensitive to injustice.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 12:40 AM –

Alan Kaufman explains his reasoning more clearly in another article - - Google Books And Kindles: A Concentration Camp Of Ideas.

Cam Snow said...

In you summary of pertinent publishing news you forgot to mention that I received my 10th rejection letter! Oh, wait, that's not news. said...

What's so great is that there's going to be a zillion indi's soon servicing a zillion niches and we're all going to have a better literary experience!

Gordon, I think it is your time to do this, being a publisher again. Will you do physical books?

Violet Baudelaire said...

Nathan, your point about rural book stores is shamefully something I'd never considered. which is worse considering I live in the back of beyond myself. I mean I'd still like it better if people just ordered physical copies from amazon or where ever but I think maybe, possibly e-books are not a sign of the apocalypse...

wendy said...

I've heard that before about artists suffering to produce great art. Well, it worked for Van Gogh. I don't mean to be facetious about him. I adore his art, and his tragic, shining life makes me teary. If his life had been much easier than it was, and if he had the distractions of a family, I think the quality and quantity of his output would have been effected. His isolation motivated him to fill the emptiness with passsion and zeal for his work.

A blog revamp? Grrreat - hope it's something sexy, in a manner of speaking, to compliment saucy and sassy posts, links and...ebooks.
Roll on surprise Monday!

Oh, brother, that was me trying to be hiliarous. I should leave the hilarity to Mira. Btw, very funny post today, Mira. :)

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

There was even more good stuff in the publishosphere this week. Two bloggers wrote paeans to copyeditors, making it seem to be unofficial Copyeditor Appreciation Week:

Ode to a Copy Editor

Hail to the Copy Editor

Dara said...

Oooh, a new blog design? And more "surprises" in store on Monday? I think this is the first time in a long while I've ever looked forward to a Monday...somewhat :P

And if eReaders go below $100, I'm thinking I may have to get may just have another eBook convert if that happens :) Of course I'll still buy the "old-fashioned" books too!

Kristopher and Crew said...

I read Konrath's posts about ebooks, and while I'm one of those paper book die hards that still look at e-readers with a mix of fear and covetousness (That's right, covetousness!) His idealized world with an e-reader is pretty blasted cool.

Allison said...

Here's the thing that bothers me about the furor over self-publishing. Everyone is behaving as though once a book is published that it automatically lands on shelves at the local bookstore and in catalogs for online book sellers. That just doesn't happen. Consumers won't get confused because unless the self-pubber can convince a buyer to stock it, the consumer will never see it.

As a writer, I honestly don't care if someone else wants to take a short cut to seeing their name on a book cover. I want to be published because I wrote a quality story that someone else sees value in sharing. Success in that will never be devalued by someone on an ego trip with a pile of books in their back seat and no audience.

Lisa Lenard-Cook said...

It's taken me this long to read all the links. Thank you for the time & energy it must have taken to compile them. Each was worth the click.
A friend recently pointed me to your blog. Love it. Thank you.

Nick said...

While I can agree with that, one also has to consider how one defines "book". Is a book a just a published story? Or is it the tangible product we have now? I can definitely agree with your statements, but I'm just saying, it's a bit subjective. Because personally, I categorize e-book and book as separate things, and I'm willing to bet other people do, too. Similar products, but like VHS and DVD, they are not the same. Now, like I said, I think that article is a bit OTT, but I think there are some valid points there being blown out of proportion. And really, if e-books do continue to catch on, given the continued trend of digitizing everything, won't the book eventually die out? Oh sure, it might not be in any of our lifetimes. Might not even be until the 51st century. But it might happen. And, well, I just don't like change, really.

And yes I realize this response is late. Retired a bit early last night and then I woke up this morning to find it snowing. From the way I react every year you'd think I'd never seen snow before.

Nathan Bransford said...


I agree that there are things that are lost (and gained) with the transition to e-books. But I don't think an e-book is anything approaching a fundamentally different experience from a book. The important thing about a book are the words.

As I've said elsewhere, Casablanca is Casablanca whether you're watching it in a theater, on a DVD or on your phone. And MOBY DICK is MOBY DICK whether you read it via ink or pixels.

A book is a book as long as you're reading the words.

Sure, there are disruptions to bookstores and some peripheral aspects of the reading experience that are lost like the smell and feeling of the book in your hands. But those elements are just the means to the end. I'm sure people nostalgized scrolls and stone tablets. The words are where the power lies.

Books aren't going to disappear, no more than typewriters and horse riding has disappeared. They'll be rarer and more precious, but we never completely abandon the past. Nor should we.

But to suggest that all of this amounts to a Holocaust? That's just a pathetic gasp of technophobia. He should be ashamed.

Nick said...

"Books aren't going to disappear, no more than typewriters and horse riding has disappeared. They'll be rarer and more precious, but we never completely abandon the past. Nor should we."

is really about the only point I'd argue. I think, eventually, they will. Not disappear entirely, but I do think that, again eventually, books will end up like scrolls and stone tablets -- museum pieces. Honestly, when was the last time outside of a film, Renaissance fair, or museum have you seen a scroll? I sure haven't seen any. Now like I said before, it may well be centuries before we reach that point, but I do believe it will, ultimately, come to pass.

Melanie Avila said...

Nathan, you crack me up.

Good info too. Thanks.

lilywhite said...

"I agree that Alan Kaufman is using rather offensive hyperbole. But it may come from his family's past experience. He’s the son of Holocaust survivors."

That makes his ignorance all the more reprehensible. He of all people ought to know better than to make a comparison of such magnitude. It makes him sound like an idiot and it cheapens what his parents went through. If comments were allowed at that article, I'd certainly have told him so. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

Godwin's Law, indeed. Alan Kaufman loses at the internet!

Anonymous said...

"And meanwhile, via How Publishing Really Works comes an article on how self-publishing doesn't (usually) work."

In the future, could you please link to an article by someone who knows what self-publishing is and not someone who is still suffering under the mainstream delusion that self-publishing is the exact same thing as Vanity Press?


I'm sorry, but I see this all the time from agents, publishers and writers -- I see this general 'Self Publishing is B.A.D. and no one makes any money.' mantra chanted by people who have no clue what self-publishing is or what it has become and who are ignorant of the growing number of success stories from people who have made as much (or more) money self-publishing than they ever could have done going through the mainstream press.

This is true now more than ever as both Agents and Publishers become insulated from new ideas by a poor economy.

If you want someone to write you up a Real Article on self publishing (Or How You TOO can make as much as New York Times Bestselling Author) please let me know.

Nathan Bransford said...


I'm not anti-self-publishing in the slightest, and I think it will increasingly be a part of the publishing landscape in the future.

At the same time, I think it's important to counter a lot of the myths that are out there about how easy/rosy it is to self-publish. I thought the article was a pretty good assessment of how hard it really is for self-published authors and how a lot of the chip-on-your-shoulder-eff-mainstream-publishing attitude is an easy cover for the fact that the vast majority of self-published books are self-published because the quality isn't there. Sure, there are obviously exceptions, but there are lots of myths and exaggerated success stories out there, and the reality isn't so easy.

I've seen this new meme coming out (and you basically repeat it here) that self-publishing is vastly different than "vanity" publishing, i.e. whether you pay someone up front or not makes a massive difference. I think people are exaggerating the difference.

With what is normally referred to as "self-publishing" you theoretically don't incur any upfront costs. That is, provided you do your own production, cover design, etc. etc. But you're not going to get a particularly good deal from a self-publisher and will have to give up a pretty big chunk of the profits. With a self-publisher like Lulu it's extremely difficult to set a $14.95 price point for a trade paperback and hope to make any money at all.

Meanwhile, with "vanity" publishing, assuming the deal isn't a ripoff, you are essentially subsidizing the print run with cash up front, but authors typically get far more on the back end. You pay for the books, you keep more of the profit.

Either way, you're sharing a chunk with the self-publisher. There's just higher risk/higher reward with "vanity" publishing and lower risk/lower reward with self-publishing.Provided you're not getting ripped off there's really not a massive difference between the two. Self-publishing is self-publishing.

And it ain't easy no matter how you slice it. Everyone who is considering it should go in eyes wide open.

Jelle said...

So am I the only one looking at the anti-piracy "fake book" plan and the Harlequin Horizons/DellArte plan and thinking that combining the two ideas may just be a win-win situation here? said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The advantages I've seen from self-publishing go beyond personal vanity or memento publication.

Number one, affordable short print runs for specialized or localized projects. Chapbooks, recipe books, yearbooks, project manuals, guide books, etc., of a local, regional, or civic, religious, municipal interest. Nonfiction.

Fiction, affordable short print run self-published for advance review copy distribution, course work, (nonfiction too), local interest, and memento publication.

No content at all, lined casecover journals. I once put together by hand a dozen casecover journal books in stitch binding. The covers were wrapped with blue dungaree fabric with the backseat pockets (Levis) on the front side. Get it? Pocket books. They were a big hit with the family's teenage girls I gave them to as gifts.

I do these sorts of projects for fun, profit, and prestige, for gifts too. For churches, for civic organizations, for municipal organizations, for friends and family, for acquiantances who come my way and want my expertise. Sometimes I do it for the money, sometimes as a volunteer, civicly responsible citizen.

I have no illusions that if there's no advance interest in a self-published work, there's no sales beyond a memento value. But every self-published work I've done exceeded fulfillment expectations.

Word verificate: grucked, what a bookbinder feels like after a week of hand-stitching books.

Nathan Bransford said...


You're just trolling at this point. I've never been anti-self publishing and am well aware of the pros and cons as well as the different models. Feel free to point out where you disagree with me but at least try and read what I wrote and have written before casting insults about.

Nathan Bransford said...

Whoops my comment refers to the anon I deleted not anon@4:06. Anon@4:06 is a great examlple of self-publishing that works.

essygie said...

Hi - I've nominated you for a Kreativ Blogger Award over at my blog - essygie :-)

Anonymous said...

CreateSpace, part of the, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) group of companies, today announced a new agreement with Lightning Source Inc., the print on-demand unit of Ingram Content Group Inc. The collaboration between the two companies will expand CreateSpace’s distribution options for its members beyond and CreateSpace eStores.

Under the new agreement, CreateSpace’s Books on-Demand platform will allow members to print and then distribute their titles to thousands of bookstores, libraries and online retailers. CreateSpace members will have access to this enhanced print and distribution option as part of the CreateSpace Pro Plan, a program which gives members access to lower print pricing for their own book orders and better royalties for sales on

“With this expansion, CreateSpace members will not only be able to reach customers, but they can also reach the thousands of bookstores, libraries and online retailers that work with the Ingram Content Group, ” said Dana LoPiccolo-Giles, managing director, CreateSpace. “With Lightning Source and Ingram, our members can make their titles available to the larger book marketplace while remaining inventory-free with print on-demand.”

“At Ingram, we are passionate about books and the book industry,” said Philip Ollila, chief content officer, Ingram Content Group. “Our new relationship with CreateSpace is a continuation of Ingram’s long-term strategy to offer the broadest selection of books to our customers worldwide.”

For more information about CreateSpace, please visit

Ink said...


That's called a cash cow. They take the writer's money for "distribution" and likely send a list of their self-pubbed titles to bookstores (if they go that far). Which the bookstores then ignore. At which point the writer is out even more money. I'd be very, very careful of that. It's easy to promise "Hey, we'll get you in bookstores!" And much harder to do.

david elzey said...

that sports illustrated isn't going to look so good on a kindle. but i think apple has a solution for that coming out next summer. the revolution will be apple-ized.

Anonymous said...

"the revolution will be apple-ized."

At a retail price of $999.99 and with a standard back-lit screen rather than an E-Ink screen, Apple's upcoming Tablet PC will be outside the price range of the normal person and will be horrible eyestrain for reading books.

It will be a great product for Apple to line their pocketbooks, but it will do nothing to encourage the sale of E-books.

Or didn't we learn our lesson from what Apple did to the music industry???

What was the end result of Apple's iPod revolution? Music has been devalued (and pirated) to the point where the music industry and the artists themselves are struggling to survive.

The LAST thing any sane person wants is Apple to get involved in books.

Anonymous said...

An ISBN or EAN are the hingepin for self-published title marketing. Online and brick-and-mortar book retailers won't touch a title without one. There's some wiggle room at brick and mortar bookstores--often clapboard and Sheetrock in the hinterlands--with an inside track approach, but none at online retailers.

CreateSpace and Lulu offer user provided numbers registration or assigned numbers. Lulu's ISBN assignment is free, user provided for a fee, or independent ISBN provided by Lulu for a fee--as far as I know, the only POD manufacturer that offers that range of choices. CreateSpace charges for either CS provided or user provided as well as other mandatory hidden costs a la carte. Lightning Source and xLibris require user provided numbers as do most other POD manufacturers. Vanity or poser publishers typically assign their own numbers regardless.

For user ISBN acquistion, R.R. Bowker is the U.S. concessionaire for ISBNs. They sell a block of ten ISBNs for a $30 registration fee and $245 regular processing fee. More for larger blocks and faster processing.

An ISBN gets a U.S. title listed in R.R. Bowker's Books in Print publications, annual paper book and online database. Physical store retailers rely on that publication or more commonly publisher catalogs for selection of titles to carry. If it's in there, though, they can order a title regardless of whether they carry it or not.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble online will eventually get around to listing most newly published titles, with ISBNs, in R.R. Bowker's database, typically six to eight weeks after release. But Barnes & Noble currently will not list a title with a CreateSpace ISBN. I expect Barnes & Noble's PODs, when or if that service becomes available, to be left out of Amazon's offerings.

Word verificate: piallari, proprietary reverse predation, pillorying the competition.

david elzey said...

that $999.99 price tag is a myth, as are half the "leaked" details filtering out. the grail for all e-readers is $99, and by pushing it off a little further they might actually fall in line with technological developments.

what apple did to the music industry? it's what the music industry did to itself. jobs spent MONTHS trying to convince labels that "ripping" music didn't meant "stealing." they dug in their heels and they lost the battle. bands are now working OUTSIDE the "industry" and doing better then they would have before hand.

the publishing industry has some choices to make here. e-readers are here. but they aren't necessarily doing themselves any favors by aligning themselves with amazon over apple.

Christi said...

You list a ton of great links, which I'll read later. I got drawn in by Sports Illustrated on Tablet. I couldn't care less about professional sports, but wow. I'm not sure if those flutters in my stomach are "woo! the future" or "ooo, the future."

I thought, I might even subscribe to SI if it's on tablet. Then, the swimsuit edition - girls in action - popped up, and my feminist eye started twitching.

But the tablet is tempting.

Kat Sheridan said...

Oooo, pretty new web design!!!

Mira said...

Wendy, thanks. Good to hear. :)

And I agree with you - being unhappy does tend to both focus the mind and create a drive for self-expression. So, I was joking, but I agree - I do think strong emotions help writing...

Nathan. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.

Gorgeous. And orange. You can not beat that.

Fantastic layout. So easy to navigate.



I'm saying that in a whisper, because it's a dream come true.

Forums. I couldn't have asked for a better surprise.



That might have been better. But the layout - wonderful.


Some happy dreams for me tonight. Very cool.

Other Lisa said...

Hey, I got on a train overnight and the blog changed!

Looks very cool!

Melissa Pearl said...

Go New Zealand Book Council! I am a very proud kiwi right now :) said...

Okay, Anon 4:06, you got me with this one:

Fiction, affordable short print run self-published for advance review copy distribution

I am MOST curious how this might work.

Professional storytellers and other who routiunely perform or do presentations for live audiences can benefit greatly from self-publication.

Folks who already have a retail outlet, perhaps in a tourist area, can do well with an approproate self-pub at the checkout counter.

But, seriously, the trial for self-pubbed titles is selling the things. Esepcially fiction. It's hard work day in and day out.

OMG, Nathan, Sean outdid himself! You are so web-glamorous now!

Ink said...

Great new site! But shouldn't that antique typewriter be an e-reader?


Gordon Jerome said...

I like the new look.

Susan Quinn said...

I'm so glad to see your favorite color is still orange! :)

The site is wicked cool. I love the nod to paper, in this time of e-ink.

And Forums?? Good Lord, man. Do you know how much time I can spend procrastinating there?

Kudos to Sean!

Ciara said...

swish new design! (i'm new to your blog by the way but i just caught the last few weeks of the old style)

Raynbow said...

The new format rocks! I love the typewriter. Just seeing it makes me very thankful for computers.

Terry Towery said...

Love the new look, Nathan. And forums, too! :)

rose said...

Holy Cow is right. I thought your site was kidnapped!

I like the new design, though I do have two quibbles: I must be right eyed because the links column just seems wrong on the left. And if you are embedding links in your text, they are not popping out at me. If you aren't that could explain why not.

Thanks to you I ordered the eSlick (Foxit) because it's .pdf reflow is just what I need for archival research (Foxit). I'm in lurv.

rose said...

oh, no! Not forums, too?

tosses eSlick over shoulder....

Jen P said...

Love the new look, though I'm still on the change curve and will have to get used to it.

"Not since the advent of Christianity has the world witnessed so sweeping a change in the very fabric of human existence." I'm still not sure his tongue is not firmly in his cheek at points in this article. I feel, even for someone with his background, any association between the events of the 30s/40s and anything less than genocide, seems rather inappropriate. And lays any article open to be misread as attention-seeking adding weight to an subject of less substance.

PS: For any sensitive souls the Kaufmann article comes with a language warning PG-label - contains the F-word once -. (Which seemed surprising and rather unnecessary.)

Anonymous said...

@ GhostFolk
"Fiction, affordable short print run self-published for advance review copy distribution

I am MOST curious how this might work."

ARCs sent to reviewers is a traditional publishers' marketing strategy also used by imaginative and resourceful self-publishers for generating parol buzz and blurb commentary for marketing, publicity, promotion, and advertising purposes. The Four Corners of Buzz, but it still boils down to a well-crafted entertaining story talked about in the street, at the water cooler, in the everyday daily lives of readers.

Many reviewers will briefly look at any bound book recieved gratis for review purposes, deeper if a novel grabs them in some visceral way. Prominent reviewers, however, tend to only review titles with an ISBN of a well-known publisher.

Nontraditional reviewers are legion, local columnists, academics, experts in a specific subject area, accomplished authors, celebrities, library organizations, and so on.

Reviewers are generally after-the-fact sorters, a nontraditional method for screening, but imaginative and resourceful self-publishers use it to test out the parol potential and to glean copy for back cover blurbs and press releases, and blog and Web site announcements coinciding with full release. Savvy reviewers are hip to the strategy anymore, so it's just another avenue for building potential self-publisher breakout.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and there are other ways for self-publishers to get the word out, like competitions. Writer's Digest has a self-published books contest, for example.

Lady Glamis said...

Fantastic new look, Nathan! I love it!

Jason said...

Love the new look...

Laura Miller Edwards said...

wow. And things got heated.

I will never go to an e-reader. Moby Dick isn't the same on a screen, as it's always been about more than the words for me. It's the cover art (which you mentioned), the pages, the feel. It's a huge part of my reading experience.

Just as I don't like audio books, though the words are still the words-- it's the same for me via a screen.

And blog reading is not the same as a novel for me, though I know some would say, "But you read blogs!" Please. I don't read blogs for several hours before bed. It would make me crazy.

And for me, Casablanca in the theater is a completely different experience. All movies are different on the big screen for me.

I guess reading is an experience for me, it's much more than the words.

*viva personal preference/opinion*

Laura Miller Edwards said...

Also, I didn't say "for me" enough in that comment... lol

Laura Miller Edwards said...

p.p.s. if I were you, I'd disable anonymous commenting... just sayin'.

Tris said...

OMG! Nathan's got a new blog layout!!

Vacuum Queen said...

Forums in the new site! yay! But wait...there's stuff about monkeys and bears. Interesting... said...

Anon 12:04:


There appears to be a clever use for self-pubbed ARCS out there, waiting to be discovered by someone willing to take the risk.
To create buzz.

Whirlochre said...

Just checked in and copped a load of the bold new look.

Much excitement.

Off now to link-hop about your bold new vista...

T. Anne said...

Nice! Thank you for not vexing us with inputting our info prior to commenting. ;)

Toni Kenyon said...

Hey Nathan. I loved the NZ Book Council trailer. The disturbing thing is that I live in New Zealand and have never seen it before!


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