Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, December 31, 2010

This Year in Books 2010

"Transition" is the word I most associate with 2010. 

2010 will always be a year of major transition for me personally as it was the year I disembarked from an eight-year stint in publishing for a new life in the tech world. But it was also a year of major transition for the industry as a whole. Transition transition transition.

And the effect of all this transition is what I like to call the Big Squeeze.

Whatever the causes, whatever the broader forces at play, the reality is that we as a culture are moving at seemingly every level to a stark divide between the haves and the have nots. Whether it's income distribution or blockbuster movies, books, music, and celebrities, or even when you look at politics, for whatever reason we're at a time of polarization. There are a few people who win and find themselves at the top and have gazillions of dollars and fame and are bigger than ever, and a lot of people below the tip of the pyramid who are part of the long tail and living in the Big Squeeze.

Life inside the Big Squeeze is hard, and chances are if you're reading this blog you've experienced it. You're scrambling with lots of different people to try and get to the top, you have sent queries that have gone unanswered and feel lost in a sea of insurmountable numbers. The competition is ruthless and at times seemingly random. Who knows what will emerge from the scrum and why? But every now and then a book will become a force of nature and reach megabestsellerdom, a level that agents and publishers now increasingly depend upon discovering to make their careers and provide a reliable income/bottom line.

The day to day reality of life in the Big Squeeze is frustrating, especially if you are trying to make a living within that environment. There are obstacles at every turn, the successes are hard won, and the odds are always against you. And for me personally, a new opportunity came along in 2010 that was just so amazing I had to take it, so I'm opting out of the Big Squeeze. (At least for my day job. I'm still in the scrum as an author.)

But the Big Squeeze is about more than just the day to day struggles of trying to make it as a writer in a blockbuster world. It may be inevitable that the supply of books outstrips the demand and this will inexorably drive down e-book prices. There are a whole lot of books out there, and lots of authors who are willing to do whatever it takes to find their audiences.

Enter the agency model in 2010, which is essentially five of the major publishers' attempt to raise the dam to stop a great and probably inevitable flood. They are trying to hold the line at e-book prices above $10 even as the levees are springing leaks right and left, whether it's J.A. Konrath selling his books for cheap, or the thousands of authors out there who are willing to heavily discount or even give away books for free just to find their readership.

Maybe the quality of the books the publishers curate will be sufficient that people will pay a premium for them, and the levees will hold. Or, much like how journalism has been drowned in a sea of free and often inferior online content, prices may have to come down in order to compete with people willing to write for free or near free. The future of the industry as we know it likely hinges on the balance between these competing factors.

Publishers are hoping the levees hold, but there's a lot of water behind those dams.

And yet! If you're an author, things are not so bad as all that. These are tricky times to be a publishing employee, and I don't envy my former comrades-at-arms as they try to navigate these difficult waters. But if you're an author: it's still the best of times.

Your success is still not totally within your hands and the whims of fate are still very much alive, but your success is more in your hands than it ever has been. No manuscript has to disappear into a drawer. The ease of access to the marketplace has never been greater. The ease finding a potential audience has never been greater.

Within the Big Squeeze are so many success stories and so much day to day happiness, people finding their readers and sharing their books with friends and loved ones, and the happy feedback that comes with putting your work out there. As long as you're not counting on megabestsellerdom to satisfy your personal happiness or to pay your bills, there is so much satisfaction to be had.

So the best of times and worst of times continues to be an apt phrase for the book world in this time of transition. It's an industry I'm no longer a part of as an employee, but I'm very much enjoying the ride as an author.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Repeat: Choose Your Own E-book Adventure

I'm probably not allowed to choose which post is my favorite from 2010, but I'm doing it anyway! It's definitely this one: choose your own e-book future:

We all remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books as kids where you suddenly time travel to the Civil War and you have to decide whether to get on the raft across the river or run away and you have to flip to page 97 to find out if you survived?

Well, should you be intrepid enough to, uh, click on a few links, you're about to Choose Your Own E-book Adventure. Ready the time machine!

I know, I know, some of you are saying, another e-book post. Here's the thing: some of the most common questions I receive these days are along the lines of, "What's going to happen to authors/agents/publishers in the e-book era? Are publishers going to survive? What does it mean for authors?"

And while I try to give a reasonable answer, in the back of my mind I'm thinking, "Well, that depends on lots and lots of factors that are impossible to know at this point." It's really hard to look into the future when X, Y, and Z could throw the whole future into a wildly different outcome. The future might look basically like what we have now, with the major publishers distributing most of the books electronically through e-book stores, or it could look wildly different than that, with the e-book vendors or device makers or some combination being the main game in town.

So. I thought I'd turn some of those variables into a couple different guesses about what different versions of our publishing future might look like. Ready to play? Here we go:

It's 2010. Right now e-books comprise only 3-5% of sales, but some people think e-books represent the future of the book business and will eventually comprise the majority of sales.

Do you think this will happen?

E-books catch on in a big way
E-books remain a niche market

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How Do You Celebrate After Finishing a Draft?

It's been quite a busy and hectic year for me, which was why it was especially sweet to finish up my first draft of JACOB WONDERBAR #2 yesterday. Whew!!! Other than spending more time polishing and then sending it to my editor for revisions and then possibly a round of revisions after that and then the copyediting and proofs all of which will total dozens of additional hours I AM TOTALLY DONE.

So now I have a very pressing question: how do you celebrate after finishing a draft? And if you haven't had the pleasure of finishing up a completely draft, how do you envision popping open the proverbial champagne once you're done?

My celebrations tend to involve sushi and my guilty pleasure: the computer game Civilization. How about you?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Repeat: Writing Advice From Some Old Guys At My Gym

Here is a repeat post from 2007. I'll be back tomorrow with a fresh You Tell Me. 


I did not expect to receive writing advice at the gym. I'm not the sociable gym type who knows everyone and asks about their various pets, I like to get in, get out, and go home to complain about how sore I'm going to be the next day.

But there I was, doing my core exercises with one of those exercise orbs (which always ends up making you look rather ridiculous) and I overheard this conversation between two of the gym old timers. Oh, and the conversation is PG-13, so the young and/or faint at heart should go peruse the Sesame Street website for a while (just don't click on the trash can. Seriously, don.... why did you have to click on the trash can???). And for the record, I don't watch the Sopranos.

Old Timer #1: So, how about the Sopranos? Who do you think is gonna get whacked next week?
Old Timer #2: I hope it's the kid. I hate that kid. He's a waste of space.
Old Timer #1: Whaddya mean he's a waste of space?
Old Timer #2: He's got no balls.
Old Timer #1: No balls? Whaddya mean he's got no balls? He's leaving that world behind. He doesn't like the violence. He's going his own way.
Old Timer #2: That's because he's got no balls.
Old Timer #1: So the only way to have balls is to be a violent sociopath?
Old Timer #2: No. But if you don't have balls it's not a choice. If you got no balls you're just a wuss. In order to make a real choice you have to have it in you, only you turn your back. He's just got no balls.

Imagine my surprise.*

The gist of what Old Timer #2 is saying is that in order for a character to make a real choice, he/she has to have the capacity to make both choices he/she is presented with. This is really good writing advice!

One of the best ways to reveal character in a novel is to have the character make a choice because it reveals the character's core values. We all have this innate curiosity about what makes people tick, and when a character makes a decision under pressure when they're faced with a difficult choice, we learn about their priorities and values. Does the character value his pride or his life? Does the character love the girl enough to risk his own neck? Etc. etc.

But in order for this to work, a character has to have the capacity to make both choices. Otherwise your reader will sniff out a false choice a mile a way. So I can see Old Timer #2's point -- if the kid from the Sopranos doesn't follow his father's footsteps it doesn't necessarily mean that his value system is different, he just might not (forgive me) have balls. A more interesting dilemma would be if we got the sense that he DID have courage, but then decided to go his own way. Then it would mean that he was rejecting his father's value system in a real way.

There you have it. Writing advice from the gym.

*The words "imagine my surprise" are an inside joke between me, my fiancee, and the wonderful patrons of San Francisco's greatest bar, John Barleycorn. Larry, the amazing bartender and owner, was working the bar when a homeless man stumbled in with a mysterious paper bag. He walked slowly up to the bar and things got quiet as everyone was wondering what the guy was going to do. Then he opened the bag to reveal a wine bottle with a cork instead of a screw top. He looked up at Larry and said, "Imagine my surprise."

**12/28/10 UPDATE: Sad coda, the John Barleycorn is now closed. Also there is no longer a trash can on the Sesame Street website.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Repeat: Digging For Mushrooms

Happy Holidays, everyone! I'm going to be running a few posts from Christmases past (or in this case Septembers past) today, Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday we'll have a fresh new You Tell Me, and on Friday I'll post a review of This Year in Books. Hint: Agency model. No, please come read the post anyway!!

This here post was from 2007, when I was an agent. Important note: I am no longer an agent. You can stop querying me. Really. (Please.)


Watch out, because I'm about to get all metaphorical on you.

I recently read a New Yorker article on mushroom pickers (bear with me here). There are these people who go into the forests in Oregon to pick matsutake mushrooms, which are very popular but difficult to find. You see, the matsutake doesn't grow above ground, so the mushroom pickers have to look for small mounds in the ground in certain places near certain trees and dig to see if there's a matsutake there. So there are these people who will see an almost imperceptible mound of dirt and yell out, "MATSUTAKE!"

(I especially like to imagine the part where they yell out "Matsutake!", which I completely made up. In fact I just like saying, "matsutake." I think I'm going to use that when I finish a book or find a good manuscript. The end MATSUTAKE!!)

Anyway, the whole matsutake search is just like being an agent. Mostly. Kind of.

As anyone who has worked in publishing knows, there's a huge psychological difference between reading something as a finished book and reading it in manuscript form. With a book, not only is the reading experience completely different, but when the book is published by real publisher you are absorbing the implicit endorsement through the binding -- someone out there believed in the book and invested in it and thinks the book is good and will sell. Sure, not everyone will like the book, but it still carries that implicit weight of endorsement, particularly one that has already been branded a "classic." It's a mushroom that has already been dug up and cleaned off.

But when the book is just a manuscript, especially one by an unknown author, it is really, really difficult to read something and decide if it is good or will resonate with readers. Really difficult. Finding a mushroom in a small mound of dirt difficult.

Which is why I cringed when I saw the recent New York Times article that highlighted Knopf's old rejection files and readers reports, including the rejection letters for classics like The Diary of Anne Frank and The Good Earth and Lolita.

Let's be honest, people love playing the schadenfreude game with rejected books that went on to be mega-successes (to be fair, the Times article is very balanced). It's extremely tempting to laugh at publishers and agents who missed the big ones, and similarly tempting for publishers and agents to kick themselves when they miss said big ones. But there's a good reason this happens: it's really, really hard. It's subjective. It's slippery. Heck, sometimes an agent or publisher just wasn't the right fit, and even if they had repped/bought the book it might not have caught on like it did because they didn't see what someone else saw in it. The right fit can be everything.

So sure, everyone who has spent much time in publishing has missed one, but it doesn't mean we're stupid. At least I hope not. No one said digging for mushrooms is easy.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve!

Maddux Lights - Wizards in Winter from Joshua on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Still Time to Raise Money With Your Comments

The Heifer International fundraiser was supppoooooosed to end last night, but I'm keeping it going for another day. More cheer for a good cause! And all you have to do is leave a comment!

So please stop by Monday's post and leave your comments there.

Meanwhile, these other fabulously generous bloggers have made their own per-comment pledges. Every comment on these blogs means more llamas and bees and sheep for people who need them. Please please stop on by, it just takes a few seconds.

Multiply the giving and comment herewith:

Practically Twisted
Ink Spells (also a pledge to match your donation!)
First Person Irregular
Daily Awesomeness by Louise Curtis
Jenn Hubbard (Blogspot)
or Jenn Hubbard (LiveJournal)
Minus equals plus giving blog
Missed My Stop by Robyn Bradley
Tera Lynn Childs
Anna Saikin
Audra Krell
Life and Literary Pursuits of Alexia Chamberlynn
Daily Adventures
4 Free Ways to Be A Christmas Angel
Maybe Genius & The Joy of Giving
Anemone's Assays
my karma ran over my dogma

Thanks, everyone! Here's to making the world a better place in 2011.

UPDATE 12/26:

Donation made!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Book Most Changed Your Life?

First up, speaking of changing lives, there is still time to leave a comment for a great cause! Check out Monday's post, where every comment means $1.00 for Heifer International. There are many other great blogs participating, and please consider making your own pledge! Whatever amount you decide.

Meanwhile, one of the things I love about the holidays is that they seem like a time of possibility. Maybe it's the crisp air, the lights, the tradition, or the spreading of goodwill, but it is definitely a time where life feels a little more magical.

And to that end, I thought I'd bring this around to magical books: which one most changed your life?

I would personally have to go with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I just never knew books could be that funny, and reading it in high school literally opened up a whole new universe.

What about you?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fun With Google Ngrams

First up, if you haven't left a comment on yesterday's post, please continue to do so! Every comment means $1.00 more for Heifer International, and please also consider helping out the needy by making your own pledge.


Ever wonder how popular a word or phrase or person or thing is over time? Well, wonder no more. Google recently released an incredible new tool that searches across millions of books published in the last 200 years and graphs a word or phrase's popularity of time.

It is called ngram, and it is awesome.

Want to see how it works?

Here's vampires (blue) vs. werewolves (red) vs. zombies (green):

Want to track inventions?

Here's telegraph (blue) vs. telephone (red) vs. Internet (green):

Want to see if your slang matches the time?

Here's mama (blue) vs. papa (red) vs. mom (green) vs. dad (yellow):


Here's Faulkner (blue) vs. Fitzgerald (red) vs. Hemingway (red):

Preparation of the potato?

Here's baked potatoes (blue) vs. mashed potatoes (red) vs. french fries (green) vs. potato chips (yellow):

Honestly, I could go on like this all day. And if you want to play along, link to your favorite ngrams in the comment section!

Google ngrams

Monday, December 20, 2010

Making Spirits Bright With Heifer International

'Tis the season for our annual Heifer International blog fundraising goodness!! We are spreading the cheer with one of the most worthy causes out there. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post to help raise money for a great cause, and you too can participate with your own pledge!

You may have already heard of Heifer International, an organization that works to fight hunger by giving needy families around the world and in the United States livestock, training, or other assistance that helps improve their livelihood. Heifer has been recognized for its work in Fast Company and Forbes, among other places.

I know we're still going through some difficult economic times, but if you have anything to spare this holiday season I hope you'll consider making a donation.

In order to encourage people to spread the word, for every comment someone makes in this post between now and 6PM Pacific time on Wednesday, my wife and I will donate $1.00 (up to $1,000)

And, better yet, if you want in on the fun you could do a per-comment pledge on your own blog and enter it into the linky list at the bottom of this post. We can encourage everyone to stop by so we can multiply the giving! Last year we raised over $2,000 together.

In your comment I hope you'll list:

1. Your name
2. Where you're from
3. A wish for 2011
4. (optional) Your own per-comment pledge (amounts totally up to you). Write a dedicated post on your blog for people to leave comments on your blog and link to Heifer and state your pledge. Then enter it into the linky list so everyone can stop by and leave a comment.

Thank you so very very much for making 2010 such a great year, and let's keep the good cheer going into 2011.

UPDATE 12/26:

Donation made!

And thanks to the other generous bloggers/commenters, the total raised so far is nearly $1500 (and some are still in progress).

Thanks so much to everyone for participating!

Friday, December 17, 2010

This Week in Books 12/17/10

Books......... this week!

It was another big week for e-books and e-book readers, so let's get started. First up is my former colleague Sarah LaPolla, who wonders, are we still really worried that e-books are going to destroy the (still here) physical books and the world of books as we know it? Really? Really really?

Meanwhile, another innovation looks poised to change e-books as we know it: a color e-ink will debut at CES in January (disclosure: link is to CNET, I work at CNET). To review: e-ink looks like paper and you can read it in the sun, though color e-ink is not yet capable of rendering video, and some find the colors to be somewhat muted. But soon you won't have to choose between color LED and grayscale e-ink. The times they are a'innovatin'.

Speaking of e-books, Mashable put together a list of five innovative children's e-books on the iPad.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg may be Time's new person of the year, but for Publishers Weekly it was B&N CEO Len Riggio. To which the LA Times' Carolyn Kellogg said: um, why?

Speaking of social networking, How Publishing Really Works responded with quite justified irritation and umbrage at a recent interview that was dismissive of the time some agents spend blogging. This is something I will be blogging about in full force, but the idea that agents who blog are somehow less serious or less hardworking than the ones that don't is an idea that was past its time in 2007, let alone 2010. Look around. Every company in the world, big and small, is now trying to figure out how they can utilize social media. Why not agents?

Speaking of agents (and speaking of saying "speaking of"), Mary Kole has a great post about a very common question: do agents remember past submissions?

Reports of new Red Sox star Carl Crawford starting an antiquarian bookstore turn out to have been grossly exaggerated. As you were.

Still wondering what to get that special reader on your X-mas list? Well, the New York Times has one of the most creative gift guides I've ever seen for readers. Let's just hope your 2010 avoided the general economic downturn if you want one of these items. Oh, and the Rejectionist had a list of her favorite books of the year, in which she had choice words for my favorite book of the year.

And my former client Jennifer Hubbard had a truly meaningful and staggering post about the ways in which writing and life interact and inform each other, sometimes in very unpredictable ways.

This week in the Forums, which are officially one year old, Christmas party in the Forums!, how you probably don't want to try and find an agent via Craigslist, the what book are you reading now thread also turns a year old, why we love bad writing, how do you read, and what, exactly, is dark?

And finally, I've long been fascinated by Hong Kong's now-destroyed teeming slum Kowloon Walled City, which if you haven't seen, was an illegal, anarchic, unbelievably dense city populated by over 50,000 people. Sci-fi blog io9 recently uncovered a video of what it was like walking through its dark streets, and it's so far beyond science fiction it's hard to believe it actually existed in real life. Check it out:

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What Was Your Favorite Book Published in 2010?

It's been a great year in books, whether you were reading pixels or ink, and it's always fun to look back at the year that was.

Two books that were of great significance to me in my former life as an agent (and current life as major fan of my former clients) were released in 2010, Jennifer Hubbard's The Secret Year and Lisa Brackmann's Rock Paper Tiger, and both belong on every best-of year-end list ever anywhere as they're quite thoroughly awesome.

If I had to choose a non-former-client book that was my favorite of 2010, well, I'd have to go with the overdog and cast my vote for Jonathan Franzen's Freedom.

What about you?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tamales on Christmas Eve

My family has quite a long list of Christmas traditions, from my mom crying every time the choir sings "O Holy Night" at the Christmas Eve service, to my brother being the first one up on Christmas morning, to my dad passing out the presents. But there's one tradition in particular that I started thinking more about recently. And that's tamales on Christmas Eve.

Quick background on tamales. If you haven't had a tamale, well, you are missing out, my friend. Styles vary, but the kind that is popular in my hometown are meat and cheese mixed with a corn dough and wrapped and steamed in a corn husk. Simple and completely delicious. In some places they're wrapped in banana leaves, but I'm partial to the more savory style. They originated in Latin America way way way back when.

Now, it must be said that my family is not Latino and does not have any Latino roots that would result in a tradition like tamales on Christmas Eve. The ancestry we have been able to trace goes back to early America and then back to England.

But what makes these tamales interesting to me isn't just that we American/English types eat them on Christmas Eve. I mean, they're delicious, so why not. But after asking around, I started realizing that we're not the only white family with this exact same tradition.


In order to explain why I would find tamales on Christmas Eve significant, I probably should tell you a bit about my hometown. Colusa was founded in the 1850s, and for a long time was a significant port as it was the farthest place north that riverboats could navigate the Sacramento River, meaning all of the produce and grain grown in the region flowed through Colusa to the barges on to destinations elsewhere. From the 1850s onward the population has roughly hovered around 4,000-5,000 people. It remains a major rice growing region, as the hard clay soil common in the area lends itself perfectly to rice.

Local lore has it that the town was founded by Southerners, and that the town voted to secede from the Union during the Civil War. Whether or not that is true or apocryphal, it has always been a place where race and labor relations have experienced flashpoints.

There were major labor battles in the area, including the Wheatland Hop Riot, which resulted in four deaths, and happened just thirty miles away in 1913. And during the 20th Century, Colusa gradually saw a broad demographic shift take place, as the makeup of the migrant farmworker population gradually morphed from refugees from the Midwest Dust Bowl to immigrants from Latin America, and especially Mexico. Over the course of the 20th Century, the town went from a mostly white place with some Chinese-American families to now roughly 55%/45% white/Latino.

Growing up

I should say that I had the incredible fortune of coming from a very open-minded and decidedly non-racist household. My parents both grew up in Colusa, but did not share what are, unfortunately, relatively common negative attitudes toward immigrants.

As I spent time with friends and other families growing up, epithets, stereotypes, and hostility toward Mexican-Americans were commonplace. These stereotypes were exacerbated by economic differences. It's a town where the farmers were almost uniformly white, and the farmworkers almost uniformly from Mexico.

Those attitudes really permeated the atmosphere at school and in the town. When I was in 3rd Grade, at recess one day we kids divided ourselves into a Mexicans vs. Americans soccer match--it wasn't necessarily a hostile division, and at that age I think probably more of a quick way at arriving at roughly even sides rather than something we took overly seriously, but still a sign that even at that age we recognized the divisions. (Fortunately the principal quickly put an end to it and explained that wasn't a divide we should fixate on.)

And during my freshman year of high school, the town was roiled by Prop 187, a controversial voter initiative that would have denied all public services to illegal immigrants, including school and health care. The atmosphere was really charged in my hometown, and the Latino students in my high school staged a walkout in conjunction with a broader town protest. I didn't support the proposition by any means, but race relations being as they were, it honestly didn't really occur to me at the time that I could have attended the protest.

The initiative ended up passing in my county with 77% of the vote, compared to 59% in the state as a whole, though it was eventually ruled unconstitutional.


So believe me when I say, this isn't necessarily a town where you'd expect to find a white family eating tamales on Christmas Eve.

And yet my family is not alone in this tradition. The more I've asked around, the more I've heard of families sharing the same tradition, not just in Colusa but in other towns in border states. I don't know that anyone can necessarily put a date to when they started it, but it's an amazing sign of how the people around you can affect your lives and traditions in ways you may not initially expect.

There's something really American to me about all of this. As rough and as haphazard as the melting pot sometimes seems with the hostilities that creep up between cultures and races, we simultaneously grow together in imperceptible and meaningful ways just by living in the same space. We share our best traditions, and one day we wake up and find ourselves closer than we were before. And in my hometown, eating tamales is a way of giving back as well, as the ones we eat are made as part of a Christmas fundraiser to support community projects.

Sure, eating tamales on Christmas Eve doesn't solve the lasting issues in my hometown and doesn't mean everything is perfect. But for one night, people let a new culture into their cherished traditions on one of our most important holidays. Christmas is a time of tradition and family and continuity between generations and years, but also about letting new people into your heart.

Do you have any unique and cherished traditions, and have you thought about what they mean?

Friday, December 10, 2010

This Week in Books 12/10/10

This week in the Books

This should really be titled This Week in the E-books because there was some pretty significant e-book developments this week. The biggie is that after much anticipation, Google launched its e-bookstore this week in a format that can be read on pretty much any browser or device other than the Kindle. Since indie booksellers can utilize the format to sell to consumers, they cheered the news. The eBookstore is being billed as a more open format, but Farhad Manjoo of Slate disagrees with that assessment, noting that Google's format still employs DRM and doesn't truly offer more reading options than Amazon.

And speaking of Amazon, as Google was announcing its foray into e-bookselling, they announced a Kindle web app that will allow readers to read their Kindle books in any browser (disclosure: link is to CNET, I work at CNET).

In print book news..... yeah. Borders lost $74.4 million in the 3rd Quarter.

I love books and I love San Francisco, and I don't know if I've seen a better journalistic take on San Francisco and books than Gregory Dicum's exhaustive and accurate survey of the lively SF literary scene. Whether you're planning a visit or live in the city, definitely check it out.

Books about writing have a long and storied history, and Slate had a fascinating survey of one of the first popular ones: a 1895 Victorian-era guide called How to Write Fiction. Even more interesting, it was written by a 26-year-old with no previous publications other than a self-published poetry chapbook.

There will soon be an onslaught of end-of-the-year best of lists, but all will be hard-pressed to top Flavorwire's survey of the Year in Disturbing Celebrity Book Deals. Oh my.

This week in the Forums, your catch phrases, creating an agent search spreadsheet, sharing your editing tricks, getting through the middle, and a really great question, can you enjoy the book when you can't stand the author?

Comment! of! the! Week! goes to Chuck H, for a hilarious riposte to my post about the importance of exercise:

I'm a grumpy old man. The most exercise I get is rolling out of bed and snagging a cup of coffee. Would more exercise improve my creativity? Probably, but why take the chance?

And finally, John Ochwat passed along an entertaining explanation of one of the mystery of the ages: how the New York Times Bestseller list is created.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Do You Listen to Music When You Write?

The idea for this post was recently suggested to me by my pal John Ochwat, and was also a topic in the Forums: do you listen to music when you write? And if so, what do you listen to? Does it relate to your work in progress?

Personally I don't often listen to music much when I write, but lately I've been listening to quite a bit of Iron and Wine. And it relates to Jacob Wonderbar not at all. It's just awesome.

What about you?

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Importance of Exercise for Writers

Now that we are approaching the end of 2010, it will soon be time for our resolutions (or now time for pre-resolutions, as the case may be).

And as you cast your eye toward self-improvement, might I suggest one of the important fundamentals to the healthy and productive writer: exercise.

Not only because writing is a solitary pursuit, that writers sometime need the occasional mood-lift while pondering the depths of the human condition, and because we want to keep writing as long as Louis Auchincloss.

No. Not just those reasons.

Do it for the creativity boost!

I can't quantify this. I don't know if it's been proven by science (Livia? UPDATE: see her comment for the science).I don't know if it's the endorphins talking. All I know is that when I'm stuck on a plot challenge or can't think of where things go next, I exercise. And it's amazing how it unlocks the brain.

And even from a macro sense, I find myself more productive and happier during weeks where I exercise. The ideas and words just tend to flow better.

Am I alone on this? Does exercise help your creativity?

Photo by Gruban via Creative Commons

Friday, December 3, 2010

This Week in Books 12/3/10

This! Books! Week!

NaNoWriMo is over!! Congrats to all participants, and hope everyone is enjoying some non-writing activities. Would you believe that the event produced 2,799,449,947 words? That's two BILLION. Good work, people.

My former client Natalie Whipple has written one of the most beautifully honest posts I've read in an extremely long time. She dared to speak something that writers usually don't discuss: the agony of being on submission for fifteen months. A truly amazing post, and she followed it up with a post on what she learned.

And speaking of great writing advice, agent Rachelle Gardner talks about one of the most important lessons about staying sane as a writer: it doesn't work to compare your situation to others.

My wife sent me this amazing link that really is too incredible for words: Terrifying Nixon-era Children's Books.

But in actually-good book news, just in time for the holidays, my former colleague Sarah LaPolla has an amazing roundup of her favorite books of the year to help inspire your shopping list.

Simon & Schuster gave a book deal to God. Or at least God's Twitter account.

And e-book distributor Smashwords announced that it is ending discounting and is moving to a model where the author or publisher exclusively sets the retail price. CEO Mark Coker explains their reasoning behind the shift. Closely related to all of this, for all you publishing wonks out there, Mike Shatzkin reviews the biggest story in publishing in 2010: the shift to the agency model.

This week in the Forums, the strange things we think about, where do you find your list of agents, history buffs unite, wondering how "terrible" books get published (Nathan gnashes teeth), and what's your addiction?

And finally, via smasover in The Forums, a hilarious video that has been making the rounds: So you wanna write a novel...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Will You Ever Buy Mostly E-books: The Results

The results!

For the first time in the poll's four year history, more people welcome e-books than say they'd never give up print (as of this writing):

The percentage of people who said you'd have to pry paper books out of their cold dead hands:

2007: 49%
2008: 45%
2009: 37%
2010: 30%

The percentage of people who welcome their coming e-book overlords:

2007: 7%
2008: 11%
2009: 19%
2010: 32%

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Will You Ever Buy Mostly E-Books?

Get excited, it's time for our annual e-book poll, which I have held every year since 2007: will you ever buy mostly e-books?

Let's get this out of the way first: Yes, I know this isn't the most scientific of polls. Yes, the sample has changed from year to year. Yes, there are two polls from 2009 because I forgot one at the end of '08. Entertainment purposes only!

Here are the past polls:

2008 (technically beginning of '09)

And here is this year's poll. Do you think there will come a time when you buy mostly e-books? Click through for the poll if you're reading via e-mail or in a feed reader:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Last Week in Books 11/26/10

We are a little late on This Week in Books, what with the post-Thanksgiving food coma and Christmas tree procuring, but there were tons of great links last week, so let's check out what all happened.

Also, a bit of a programming change. I'm in crunch-time mode for the delivery of JACOB WONDERBAR #2, and will need more minutes out of the day to spare for writing and editing. So I'm going to move over to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday blog schedule for December, and am hopeful to get back on our regular programming come January.


The big news of the week was that HarperCollins sued Gawker for posting excerpts from Sarah Palin's new book, following Palin's tweet, "Isn't that illegal?" A federal judge subsequently ordered Gawker to take down the excerpts in advance of a hearing, and Harper and Gawker ended up settling the lawsuit. Gawker agreed not to post the excerpt in the future, and no word on any financial considerations.

And Borders announced that they were closing seventeen more stores, though they also announced that they will be using Google's Local Availability to create a more interactive shopping experience.

Slate had an excerpt of a fantastic article by Chad Harbach that is running in n+1, about the rise of MFA programs and the literary balance of power between the MFA world and the  New York publishing industry, and its effects on writers and literature. Some really great insights, factoids, and analysis and I highly, highly recommend reading it all the way through. Best factoid: did you know that the number of degree-granting creative writing programs has risen from 79 in 1975 to 854 now?

Your friend and mine The Rejectionist is having another uncontest, this one a Participatory Self-Actualization Opportunity wherein she is hosting pre-resolutions for the New Year. Because all resolutions are likely best if they are pre-tried. Also, don't miss the Rejectionist's The Book Release Party: A Tragic Monologue.

In agent and publishing advice news, Jessica Faust at BookEnds has an interesting post on the what-to-knows about launching your book via the Kindle, The Write Thing has an extensive post about creating a writing bible (via GalleyCat), and Eric from Pimp My Novel gives you everything you need to know about returns (and why debut authors shouldn't necessarily wish for their demise).

In an article for Shrinking Violet Promotions, my former client Jennifer Hubbard talks a bit about how to build a following online, and also reveals a bit about how she and I maintained our separate blog presences while also maintaining a positive working relationship that kept the things that needed to be confidential confidential. Jennifer also rounded up four YA novels where the main boy character is a nice, good guy.

The Lonely Planet had a roundup of their choices for the Top 10 bookstores in the world, and the LA Times book blog has an incredible photo of Lello Bookshop in Lisbon, one of the honorees.

And blogger Metalia has a hilarious post and two great cover ideas for her book idea for a book about a year of reading books about people doing weird things for a year.

This week in the Forums, don't forget about the Query Critique Forum, where there are people helping each other perfect their query and offer feedback for each other. Some other topics of discussion this week: some people somehow find a way to upstage the Turducken (warning, the video isn't for the faint of meat), our favorite mis-heard song lyrics, discussing muses and being the creator vs. the channel for creation of writing, and now that NaNoWriMo is just about over (congrats to all participants!), discussing successful post-NaNo strategies.

Comment! of! the! Week! goes to Nate Wilson, who had hilarious gallows humor about the post about the Nine Circles of Writing Hell:

It appears my circles have formed into a hellish Venn diagram from which my novels can never hope to escape. That's not good, right?
And finally, this isn't publishing related, but I found it extremely fascinating. It's an evolving map that shows 88 years of the shifting red-blue divide (via TPM):

Have a great weekend! I mean, week!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you have enough butter.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What is Your Favorite Thanksgiving Dish?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the USA, and for all of you folks outside the US who may not have experienced a traditional American Thanksgiving, it is quite the calorie-fest.

We gather together to ingest copious amounts of turkey, gravy, stuffing, honey baked ham, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, baked potatoes, basically lots of potatoes, our aunts' amazing casseroles, something green that we pretend is healthy, rolls, cornbread, butter, and honey. Oh, and that's before we get to dessert, where there's pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, apple pie, sweet potato pie, pecan pie, whipped cream, ice cream, and a nap from pancreatic shock.

And if that's not enough, some enterprising folks have recently decided that the Thanksgiving feast wasn't insane enough, and came up with inventions such as deep fried turkeys and a turducken, which is a turkey stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a duck. And yes, there are even deep fried turduckens.

And on top of all that, there are Thanksgiving-specific regional and ethnic traditions that means everyone has their own unique Thanksgiving meal.

It is America, and it is awesome.

So. For those of you who have been fortunate enough to participate in this feast, what is your favorite dish? Which one keeps you salivating all morning long at the mere thought of eating it?

For me personally, I have been, and always will be, a pumpkin pie man. Can't get enough of the pumpkin pie.

What about you?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Nine Circles of Writing Hell

El Coloso by Francisco de Goya
With apologies to Dante Alighieri...

We have all probably started ill-fated novels that, shall we say, did not go where we wanted them to go. For one reason or another, either our will or our preparation or the idea failed us, and sure enough, they ended up in novel hell.

Based on the Nine Circles of Hell in Dante's Divine Comedy, here are the nine circles of writing hell.

Save your novel from these sins, my fellow writers! Repent before it is too late!

First Circle - Limbo

Hello shiny idea for a novel! Should I write you? Should I not write you? Maybe I'll write a few pages and see how you go. Should I... oohhh Farmville.

Second Circle - Lust

Novel, you are so brilliant, you shine like a beautiful bright beacon, nay, like filigree sparkling in the darkest of unlit nights. Everything you do is wonderful, to change but one of your words would be a sin unto mankind. Whatever you want novel, whether it's second person stream of consciousness or an illogical plot twist or overwrought prose that makes people blush, you can have it, please take it, it's yours. I LOVE YOU, NOVEL.

Third Circle - Gluttony

No time to eat. No time to work. No time for breaks. No time to attend to essential hygiene. Twenty-six-hours straight. MUST. WRITE. NOVEL. I. WILL. NOT. BURN. OUT.

Okay, I'm starting to get burned out...

Fourth Circle - Greed

Dude, Stephenie Meyer wrote that vampire book in like six weeks or something and now she's a gagillionaire. How hard can it be?!

Fifth Circle - Anger

I hate agents, I hate query letters, I hate rejection letters, I hate editors, I hate published authors, I hate unpublished authors, I hate periods, I hate exclamation points, I hate semi-colons, I hate paper, I hate words, I hate the space between words, and most of all, I HATE THIS FREAKING NOVEL!!!

Sixth Circle - Heresy

You know what novel I don't like? The Great Gatsby. I mean, what's the big deal?! Green lights and drunks and parties and blah blah blah? What a bunch of trash. I threw that book across the room. That Scott person needs to get a clue, I can't believe anyone published him. And DON'T GET ME STARTED on how much editing he needed.

Seventh Circle - Violence

Oh, you think you're reeeeallll clever, don't you, Manuscript. You think you're smart and witty and amazing and your characters are funny and you're going to make people cry. Well, how about I introduce you to my friend MR. SHREDDER!!! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha.....

Eighth Circle - Fraud

Oprah won't REALLY care if I make up this memoir...

Ninth Circle - Treachery

This novel doesn't need revisions. I don't need to write a good query letter. Who needs to take the time to research agents? This novel is gold, baby, gold!!

What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Seven Tips on How to Build a Following Online

1. Be consistent. We are all creatures of online habit, and if you are hoping to build traffic and a regular audience, it's essential to worm your way into people's routines (much harder than actually getting them to like you!). And in order to do this, it's important to have a posting frequency that your audience knows and expects. Whether you blog/Tweet/Tumble once a day, five times a day, or once a week (but not less than that), know thy social media schedule and keep it holy.

2. Reach out and comment someone. The best way to build traffic is to be noticed. Pick a few well-trafficked blogs and/or Forums, become a fixture, get to know the regulars, write witty comments, and try to attract people naturally your way. The more you invest in other people, and I mean genuinely invest in them, the more they'll be willing to return the favor. Better yet, you might even make some wonderful real-life friends.

3. Take the long view. A following is not built overnight. When impatience enters the picture there's a temptation to be overly controversial, which is a good short-term way of getting traffic, but damaging in the long term. If you make everyone mad people will definitely stop by, but chances are they won't be back.

4. Find your niche. The Internet abhors a vacuum, and it's important to think about what unique information or perspective you will provide. Be as unique and interesting as possible, and make yourself stand out from the pack.

5. Short paragraphs. There are few things less inviting than a massive wall of text. Twitter forces you to be brief, but everywhere else make your paragraphs short and punchy.

6. SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Think about your post titles and imagine what someone would Google if they wanted to know about the topic you're talking about. The more links you receive from other sources the higher your search results, and the more natural traffic you'll receive.

7. Be selfless. It's not about you, it's about your readers and followers. Think about what you are providing them and deliver the goods.

Friday, November 19, 2010

This Week in Books 11/19/10

This week en los libros...

Query critique Friday/Saturday/Sunday! Yes, it is that time of week, wherein we critique a page or query (this week a query). The query for critique is up in the Forums. UPDATE: my critique and more about the importance of conveying your protagonist's motivation, posted here.

Meanwhile, the books had a week...

There were some pretty great articles this week about where things stand in the publishing business. First up was Publishers Weekly, who discusses how authors who may previously been published by one of the major publishers are now being published by smaller presses that are taking advantage of the titles that the bigs are passing up. Meanwhile, my mom sent me an article from Stanford Magazine, which has a great overview of the current landscape in electronic and print publishing, and describes how this is simultaneously the best of times and the worst of times in the business.

And Publishing Perspectives has an article by the great agent Betsy Lerner (whose blog you should be following as it is amazing), who writes about whether you should or shouldn't be embracing Twitter and social media, and what it means to be an author in the new era. Lerner's advice: get on it, people. Priceless quote for which we should all be paying Lerner cashmoney/first borns:
Writing is easy compared to finding an audience... People who have long given up on Santa, on lower taxes, on the likelihood of Lindsay Lohan’s rehabilitation, still believe that Oprah would like their book. Is this the Quixotic self-belief that compels a person to write in the first place? Or that leads him to be believe that his book should be a bestseller, and that everyone on the planet would like it, no matter that it’s about copper buttons in 18th Century France.
Actually the quote is even more priceless without the ellipsis, so click on through and check it out.

Meanwhile, e-readers are expected to be a big hit this holiday season, and some are suggesting that this is the tipping point for e-book sales.

But amid all of this transition, very very sad news this week as venerable 18-year-old Tricycle Press, which was recently acquired by Random House, was shuttered this week and its editorial staff let go. Blech.

Jim Duncan has a great post this week about Amazon's reviews problem and how there's really no way of controlling whether or not someone reviewing a book has actually read it.

The National Book Awards were announced! Patti Smith won for nonfiction and Jaimy Gordon for fiction.

And finally, Kate Shafer Testerman had a great breakdown of the business of book packagers, and differentiates between the reputable ones and a certain other one that came to light recently.

This week in the Forums, how to handle a request for an exclusive, should you reply to an agent who passed, writing fight scenes, non-stereotypical relationships, and are you more likely to buy a book that won an award?

Comment(s)! of! the! Week! You know, when I posted on Wednesday about everyone's greatest fear about writing, I thought it might be a little dreary. But you know what? I found it really amazing how many people weighed in with fears, at every stage of the publishing process. There's something really comforting about knowing we're all in it together. Collective comments of the week!

And last but not least, I really enjoyed the movie The Social Network and couldn't get enough of this parody, which shows The Social Network as directed by some other famous filmmakers:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Importance of Being Yourself

Oscar Wilde, photograph by Napoleon Sarony

The query process is understandably terrifying. In fact, I'm pretty sure they use it as a torture device in some countries. And that's even before you jump online and find out that every agent has a slightly different idea of what makes a good query and every discussion forum has a different formula and next thing you know you'll find yourself checking yourself into an asylum as a precautionary measure.

Lost in all of this is perhaps the most important element of the query: YOU.

You! The writer! The personage! The prodigiously talented talent!

A few months back, Jessica Faust at BookEnds had some terrific advice: don't try and write a query that will appeal to everyone, write the best query you can that will appeal to many.

Not only is this terrific advice, it doesn't just apply to queries - in fact I would carry this forward to the actual writing as well. It doesn't work to write the book that you think you should write or that you think is what the market wants or that everyone in the world will like. Don't try to write for everyone, write for many. And that "many" can be just as many people as you want.

And it doesn't just apply to queries and manuscripts, it applies to how you conduct yourself and think of yourself as a writer. Sometimes I think people get so nervous about doing the wrong thing they button themselves up and hide away their real self. And sure, put on some nice clothes and put your best foot forward, but don't lose yourself in the process. If someone doesn't want to work with the real you, trust me, you don't want to work with them either.

Queries, manuscripts, correspondence: the absolute best thing you can do is to just be yourself.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Is Your Greatest Fear as a Writer?

Writers are by nature intense creatures. I really believe people who are creatively inclined tend to experience life, well, more intensely than other humans.

Combine that with trying to break into or stay afloat in a tough publishing business, and the writerly pursuit is not without its fears and anxieties.

So what is your greatest fear as a writer? A horrible review? People not liking your book? Obscurity? Paper cuts?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why I'm Still Optimistic About the Future of Books

In March of last year I published a post called Why I'm Optimistic About the Future of Books, wherein I discussed the idea that despite the then-current difficulties of the business (which have morphed into still-current difficulties), ultimately e-books and the Internet are great things for books and everything will be fine. Everyone has a shot, people have more opportunities than ever to find the books they want to read, and eliminating distribution barriers will mean that books are not sent into drawers never to be heard from again.

And in fact, I gave a speech on said subject just a few months ago at the Central Coast Writers Conference.

So. Now that I've jumped ship and left the publishing industry for the tech world, how do I really feel?

Um. Well. The same way.

I really think the present is good for books and the future is good for books. People love to read books, they're not going anywhere, and the Internet is making it easier to find great books. Me leaving the business is not a sign that I think everything is heading down the tubes.

Sure, change is disruptive and this isn't to overlook the significant challenges the industry will face as we move into the new era. And in future posts I'll outline some of the obstacles I see coming down the pike (spoiler alert: I think agents and publishers will still be around in the new era).

But as a reader and as an author, I really do think it's a wonderfully exciting time for books. Authors have a chance to reach out to their readers like never before, readers have an opportunity to discover books they may not have heard of before, and technology will enable books to be delivered faster and more cheaply than ever before.

And that's still pretty great.

Image source

Monday, November 15, 2010

Alan Greenspan and the Greatness of Admitting You're Wrong

Note: And now for something a little different!

My wife left town a few weeks ago for a work trip, and like any thirty-year-old man away from the watchful eye of his spouse, I cued up PBS' Frontline documentary about unregulated derivatives and the early warning signs of the financial crisis.

You know women, always keeping a man from his current events documentaries. Am I right, fellas??

The documentary mainly centered on a battle of minds between Alan Greenspan, ardent de-regulator and chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Brooksley Born, who wanted to regulate financial derivatives. (Bear with me, this post will get interesting. I think.)

Backstory on Greenspan. He believed in the purity and rationality of financial markets, and thought that any attempt by the government to meddle with the markets was doomed to fail. And he believed this with an almost religious zeal. Greenspan was heavily influenced by the libertarian philosophy of Ayn Rand, and was a member of Rand's inner circle, to the extent that she stood beside him when he was sworn in as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors.

Well, we all know what happened. While serving as Chairman of the Federal Reserve for nearly twenty years during a period of nearly unprecedented prosperity, Greenspan succeeded in his efforts to persuade the country that a largely unregulated financial market was the way to go.

Then we experienced the greatest financial meltdown since the Great Depression, and guess what, financial derivatives and deregulation played a big role in that crisis.

Now. You're Alan Greenspan. One of the biggest calamities in financial history just occurred. You have just spent your entire working life trying to achieve a goal, you did it with incredible zeal, and you were so talented you succeeded at obtaining it. But just as you're walking out the door having completed your life's work, something goes very very wrong that strikes at the heart of everything you worked for.

What do you do?

I would wager that at least 95% of the human population would blame external factors. They'd say, "Oh, well, such and such couldn't have been anticipated!" Or they would point to the fact that not all of their suggestions were implemented, and say, "The problem is that people didn't listen to me enough."

Not Greenspan. In one of the most arresting moments in THE ENTIRE PBS SPECIAL ON FINANCIAL DERIVATIVES WHICH WAS BASICALLY THE CHUCK NORRIS ACTION MOVIE OF FINANCIAL DOCUMENTARIES, in October of 2008 Greenspan went before a Congressional Committee and said something pretty profound:

I was wrong.

And not a measly little, "I was a little bit wrong." Representative Henry Waxman asked Greenspan point blank if he was wrong about the events surrounding the crisis or whether his entire world view had been wrong:

Waxman: “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working."
Greenspan: “Absolutely, precisely. You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”


(In an action movie that's where a tanker truck would explode.)

We all know that it's not easy to admit when we're wrong. Heck, it's not even easy to always spot when we are wrong in the first place. The brain wants to think it's right.

And it's another thing entirely to admit that we've been wrong about something on the order of an entire worldview. This was essentially Greenspan's religion, and at the end of his life he realized the foundation was shaky. That's a really big thing to admit to yourself, let alone to Congress. What is it like to look back on a life's worth of work and realize you went astray?

And sure, it's probably better to be, you know, correct in the first place than to have a deathbed conversion after things have already burned to the ground.

But I still think there's something great about Greenspan admitting he was wrong. We live in a world that is perpetually torn asunder by divisions and partisanship and circles where there's no such thing as being wrong as long as you're on the right team. Sometimes it feels like the truth is being splintered into a million pieces, and everyone gets their own little sliver to call their own, and the whole idea of truth is perpetually in the eye of the beholder.

But Greenspan looked at the facts, he looked as his track record and beliefs, and he couldn't square it. And there's something kind of amazing about someone standing up and saying, "You know what? I was wrong."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New Ways to Follow the Blog

Happy Saturday!

Just a quick housecleaning note to let you know that there are now two new ways to follow the blog. I'm now syndicating this blog on Tumblr, so if you follow me there you'll get regular blog updates.

The blog is also now available for subscription via the Kindle for all of you e-book readers out there.

That is all! See you on Monday.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Week in Books 11/12/10


It's our new Friday feature, This Week in Books. Which will look a lot like This Week in Publishing! Only, since I'm not working in publishing I thought it should have a new name. Thus: This Week in Books. Stay tuned on Friday for your linkage goodness.

FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANTLY! It's still HARRY POTTER week, so please please don't miss the bottom of this post, where you'll have your chance to end HARRY POTTER week with a contribution of your own.

We're also bringing back Page Critique Fridays. Page Critique Fridays may not be complete until Page Critique Saturday or Page Critique Sunday, but the page up for critique is posted in the Forums. UPDATE: My critique and the importance of specificity posted here.

Meanwhile, I've been storing up lots of links over the past few weeks, and off we go!

How are the NaNoWriMo-ers doing?? There was actually a bit of controversy around NaNoWriMo as Laura Miller posted an article calling NaNoWriMo a waste of time and energy, while Carolyn Kellogg riposted point by point with a post called 12 Reasons to Ignore the Naysayers. Where do you stand?

Lots and lots of e-book news this week. The NY Times announced that they will have an e-book bestseller list in 2011 that will divide e-books into fiction and nonfiction, Engadget has a preview of a color e-ink reader arriving in China in March, Eric from Pimp My Novel notes that e-books are closing in on the $1 billion a year benchmark, and CNET (where, disclosure, I am employed), has a comprehensive post on how to self-publish an e-book as well as a breakdown of Kindle vs. Nook vs. iPad.

And in less than rosy news, GalleyCat picked up on a report that adult hardcover sales were down 40% in September, and overall sales were down 12%. Yikes. But speaking of those e-books, they were up 158%.

In really creepy and weird news, there was a significant controversy at Amazon this week around a guide to pedophilia that was self-published as an e-book. Amazon initially defended its decision to sell the book, stating to TechCrunch, "Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable," but by this afternoon the book had been de-listed without further statement by Amazon.

The Wall Street Journal confirmed a rumor that was making the rounds while I was in New York: Random House is significantly reducing its office space and will be leasing out the rest. Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum states that this is not a sign that the company is planning layoffs.

In honor of the new fictional Roger Sterling memoir, the Onion AV Club surveyed 30-plus books written by fictional characters (via BookSlut). Which fictional character do you want to see write a memoir? I'm going with Omar from The Wire.

There were two separate posts on the benefits and consequences of the Internet and social networking. Veronica Roth talked about how sometimes not writing is as important as writing, and Sarah LaPolla wonders if social networking is making us dumb (hint: her conclusion is rosier than that).

And the great Tahereh has a great and accurate list of 7 Things Your Characters Do Too Much.

This week in the Forums, talking about my decision to leave agenting and what it's like being an agent, debating the Kindle vs. Nook, your daily NaNoWriMo encouragement courtesy of Somner Leigh, do you have to be serious?, and what to do when you're losing the spark.

Comment! Of! The! Week! goes to Lindsey, who put a great image together with the concept of J.K. Rowling, clutch writer:
Here's my image of Rowling's final clutch touchdown: My daughter and I are standing in the parking lot of BookPeople in Austin, Texas. It is the midnight release of the seventh book. Thousands of people up and waiting. The Austin Symphony is playing Hedwig's Theme. Bookstore employees and fans are dressed as HP characters. All manner of games, mazes and foods related to the world of HP are tucked into different areas of the parking lot. My daughter looks around at some of the fans and says, "They're so old." (She was ten, 'they' were 20-somethings.) And that's when I got Rowling's amazing play: She reached generations of readers with this story. She created a world and we all entered in. Parents, grandparents, children, teens...we all know what a muggle is.
What a run, what a marathon.
And finally, a massive, huge, endless thank you to all of your kind words this week as I made my transition from the publishing world to the tech world. I can't say enough how thankful I am for the kindness of the Internet and this community! I never knew when I started this blog that it would lead to so many great friendships (and if I had, I would have started it in like 1992). Thank you thank you. I really, truly appreciate it.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST. It's been a blast hosting HARRY POTTER week, but now it's your turn!! If you'd like to write your own HARRY POTTER/J.K. Rowling post, add it to the list below. And be sure and stop back by to see what everyone else posted!

Have a great weekend!

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