Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, February 5, 2010

This Week in Publishing 2/5/10

Yeah, wow.

This was quite an epic week in publishing, and on top of this epic week I still have a couple of leftover weeks because I haven't done a link roundup in a while, so... buckle up, everyone! We're going for a long drive together.

But first, this week in the forums we are busy discussing: Do you have a rejection contingency plan?, What is Literary YA?, What writing disorder do you suffer from? Do men read less fiction than ever? and, of course, what in the heck happened this week on Lost?

The big news this week, as we all know, is the Amazon/Macmillan kerflareup. If you have been on the moon the last few days, welcome back and here's basically what happened: Macmillan wants to set their own retail prices to open up the marketplace and are willing to accept less per copy to make this happen. Amazon wants to be able to sell books as cheaply as they want. The Kindle Missile Crisis ensued and Amazon took down buy button links for nearly all Macmillan titles for both print and e-books. Since all that went down, buy buttons have not yet been fully restored, and meanwhile, Macmillan released a full page ad for THE CHECKLIST MANIFESTO that very prominently says: "Available at booksellers everywhere except Amazon." Yowch.

Also since the announcement, in a letter to agents Hachette CEO David Young announced that they too would be adopting the agency model and Newscorp CEO Rupert Murdoch (owner of HarperCollins) spoke out against the $9.99 price point. Meanwhile, lurking behind all of these discussions is the iPad - Carolyn Kellogg at LA Times' Jacket Copy has a great analysis of whether the iPad and the iBooks store will challenge Amazon (plus some good Apple DRM info for the DRM/anti-DRM junkies out there), and the Associated Press wonders if people will be confused by different proprietary e-book formats.

Whew! Want more e-book news? CAUSE THERE'S MORE.

Ad Age thinks ahead to a future in which advertising agencies could enter the publishing industry with book products on the iPad (via my colleague Katherine Arathoon), Mike Shatzkin ponders whether free promotional e-books are a good idea or not (short version: short term/individual author yes, long term/industry wide no), and Steve Ross surveys some of the digital issues facing the publishing industry as discussed at the recent Digital Book World conference.

And last but not least in really huge e-book news, the Justice Department took a look at the proposed (revised) Google Settlement agreement and said, "Nuh uh." Their concern: that the agreement "still confers significant and possibly anticompetitive advantages on Google as a single entity."

In "Hey people, paper books still exist ya know" news, The Millions has a really cool post dedicated to deckle edge pages, the rough edges of some books that give them an old-fashioned feel, reader Emma Michaels has a DIY guide to giving books new covers and restoring old books, and the Guardian reminds us that the print book's obituary has been written many times before and guess what they're still here (via Neil Vogler in the forums).

The Wall Street Journal recently had a fascinating history and update on The Slush Pile as it continues to move from editors' desks to agents' (via HuffPo), starting with Anne Frank all the way to Stephenie Meyer.

I had a fabulous time this past weekend at the Austin SCBWI Destination Publication Conference where I met lots of fabulous and talented individuals! The indispensable Cynthia Leitich has a roundup of the conference roundups.

In agent advice news, Janet Reid has an awesome checklist of things you need before you query, divided between fiction/memoir/nonfiction, Jessica Faust at BookEnds writes that unless each book can really truly stand alone, it's probably not a good idea to write a sequel to an unpublihsed first book in a trilogy, and Rachelle Gardner surveys ten query mistakes.

ALA awards announced, including Newbery, Caldecott, Printz and much more! Congrats to all the winners and finalists.

You probably heard that J.D. Salinger passed away last week, but we also recently lost beloved long time Curtis Brown client Louis Auchincloss as well as the scholar Howard Zinn. GalleyCat has a roundup of tributes.

In The Life of Writing news, Bryan Russell/Ink has a great post on the simultaneous necessity and difficulty of considering your audience,

The Rejectionist and boss received 537 queries last month, a record for them (I've been blowing past query records as well). Le R has, as always, some hilarious stats on the themes and categories.

As many have deduced from the title of my novel I am a massive, massive Calvin & Hobbes fan, and the ever-reclusive Bill Watterson turned up this week for an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Which I devoured faster than you can say Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie.

The kind Stephen Parrish pointed me to a survey that says that people refuse to cut back on books even during the recession. The poll then inexplicably moves on to address attitudes toward cheating on spouses and sabotaging coworkers. Um. Wow. Maybe they're reading the wrong books?

And finally, as you know this was a huge week for publishing news, but the great Jeff Abbott (who is celebrating a new book deal!) pointed me to the biggest, most massively epic publishing news of all: Makers Mark is releasing a new bourbon. Now I have to decide whether I'm going to wait in line for two months for the iPad or the new Makers. Hmmmm..... Choices choices......

Have a great weekend!


lynnrush said...

Wow, busy week! Thanks for the post. Have a fantastic weekend.

Keri Stevens said...

I live 1.5 hours away from Maker's Mark. I'm going on the sampling tour, then I'm going to read your post again and see if I can wrap my brain around all of the info in the links.

Kurtis said...

I love Makers Mark, but their last experiment was the julep in a bottle, and it was practically undrinkable. It tasted like bourbon and mouthwash. I can't believe that they let it past product testing, sullying their very respectable name. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

katswhiskers said...

I only recently discovered your blog (joined twitter - world now at my fingertips, it seems) but am so glad I did. I appreciate your take on publishing issues, both through tweets and posts. Informed but not emotive. Thanks for sharing.

Myrna Foster said...

I love Calvin and Hobbes! My youngest brother is named Calvin, and he was a bit of a handful.

Bane of Anubis said...

Lots of links... almost as mind-boggling as the parallel-universism of Lost.

Marilyn Peake said...

Wow, lots of links. Thanks! Have a great weekend!

maine character said...

Thanks for the Watterson link! Years ago I got the 10th Anniversary book just for his comments - the only glimpse I could find of the guy and his views on his work. I especially liked how he said he used the sledding-into-oblivion strips as a way to keep people's attention while discoursing on philosophy - not a bad tip for any writer.

Nick said...

I would vote the iPad, if only because I dislike whiskey. I much prefer whisky. And yes, the lack of an E is a vital difference.

Will return after reading the gunnery of links, and that shan't be for a little while, as I'm in the midst of catching up on TV shows. And there's new Caprica in two hours (squee). So, watch this space, because I might not be back until the morn.

Also, on a totally unrelated note, my mentioning of Caprica has just reminded me that this weekend is going to kick some serious buttocks. Caprica tonight, SNOW from earlier this evening through to mid-afternoon tomorrow (I react like a 2 year old from LA every time it snows, despite living in PA, where it snows a good bit most years), the big 213th Merseyside Derby kicks off tomorrow morning (Everton fans or any fellow LFC fans will understand the importance), and then Sunday is the Super Bowl. I apologize for this totally off topic rant but I got myself way too excited. Snow, sports, and sci-fi. It's S Weekend apparently.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads-up with C&H!

dan radke said...

Ooooo, you got your title from the Horrendous Space Kablooie? I may pick up your book after all.

Kurtis said...

"And yes, the lack of an E is a vital difference."

Please explain, Nick. I thought it was only a regional thing. I think the Scotts like Whisky and the rest of the world likes Whiskey, but I'll drink either. I'm a true multiculturalist.

Richard Mabry said...

If your blog suddenly starts making less sense, we'll know you didn't go for the iPad.

Nick said...

Really it's more just a preference thing. To my palate at least, there is a very definite difference between Scotch, Irish whiskey, and American whiskey (not had the others). I refuse to touch bourbon, Jack Daniel's, or any other American whiskies. For whatever reason they give me the runs, so they automatically lose for setting my stomach afire. Irish whiskey...I'm not much for the taste of any alcoholic drink, and while I know the point of it isn't to taste good it's to get you plastered, I find the taste of the various Irish whiskies disgusting and their alcohol content weak. Scotch is delicious and can get me knackered decently fast, and considered how high of a tolerance for alcohol I have, that's no easy feat. My personal favorite Scotch is The Glenrothes (

Now, I'm not the only person who feels Scotch whisky is better, but whereas for me it's a matter of palate and ability to get drunk when I want to (which isn't often), to quite a few of my friends, there is a much bigger difference in terms of the whole process. I'm not really an expert on any alcohol though, and most of my alcohol knowledge relates to wine. So if you want technical details, I'll have to bug friends (which I am totes cool with doing).

ryan field said...

"THE CHECKLIST MANIFESTO that very prominently says: "Available at booksellers everywhere except Amazon." Yowch."

Wow. This is bold. What interests me about all this is we, people who work in publishing and read about publishing, know all this is going on. But the general public doesn't know about it, and the mainstream media never mentions anything...unless it invovles a celeb. And I think this would be newsworthy to the public. Millions of people from all walks of life make purchases on Amazon.

Christi Goddard said...

It took forever to get through this and the links, but as always, Nathan, it was incredibly helpful and insightful. Especially when I can go 'Phew! I didn't do that wrong!' when I see the do's/don'ts at other pages.

Tambra said...

Wish I were going with you.

I'm going to try and go to the LF weekend. If it works out we definitely need to meet. I'll meet you at the bar. I'm buying you a drink. :)


Tambra said...


You're so right about the spelling of whiskey and whisky.


Tambra said...

Thanks, Nathan for taking the time to your information with us.

We appreciate it.


JustWriteCat said...

Oooh, Maker's Mark...I'll have sweet dreams tonight!

Ink said...

"You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don't help."

Good stuff. Oh yes.

Kurtis said...

@Nick and @Tambra Have a Blanton's neat someday, then tell me you don't like bourbon.

P.A.Brown said...

It looks like Hatchette group is joining MacMillan in demanding the agent model. Check out the L.A. Times blog.

T. Anne said...

So many twists and turns in the publishing world it makes my head spin. Thanks for the links! Have a great weekend.

Mira said...

I LOVE Calvin and Hobbes. Someone stole my book years ago, and I've missed it. It just occured to me while typing this, I could buy another one. See? I learn so much on your blog. :)

So, what an array of links. You really outdo yourself on Fridays, Nathan. Not just the links, but your breezy, humorous style. Your paragraph about Stephen Parrish - I laughed out loud - that was funny.

So, I haven't even started going through the links, but I'm looking forward to getting all worked up and having steam come out of my ears this weekend, as I rummage through the news.

Except I did read that one link for that Bryan/Ink fellow. That was a good post. Hope we hear more from him in the future; he's got a way with words.

And is having quite a week, being promoted on your blog on top of everything. You go, Bryan! :)

Okay, off to order my Calvin and Hobbes. Have a great weekend!

Laurel said...

Nick, Tambra, and Kurtis:

Chiming in on the bourbon/whisky/whiskey discussion. My formitive experiences with bourbon were:

1. Senior seminar class in college. William Faulkner. The class opened with a shot of bourbon because the most amazing professor in the universe said you can't read Faulkner if you've never had a shot of bourbon.

2. Infield. Kentucky Derby. I wasn't sure if the horses were moving in circles or the world was simply spinning around me. I don't drink bourbon any more.

A whisky neat looks so cool in the glass I wish I could drink that. But I can't. I'm a beer girl.

Mary Miller said...

Thanks for the wrap-up Nathan.

Calvin and Hobbes are cool but please tell me you don't have a sticker of Calvin urinating on something glued to the rear window of your car :). Someone once told me a sign of the apocalypse was when you see a sticker of Calvin urinating on a Calvin.

What up with Lost? Do you like the new season? I watched because I feel since I've come this far I must finish. Do you watch Fringe? Also by J.J. Abrams. I highly recommend it!

Have a great weekend.

Nona said...

and in other whiskey news . . .|htmlws-main-n|dl1|link5|

Margaret Yang said...

"Available at Booksellers everywhere except Amazon."

Well played, Macmillan, well played.

BigWords said...

Nathan - a question about agents' views on references, shout-outs and tips of the hat, if you don't mind. Is there accepted preferences and / or limits amongst agents on what constitutes too much in-jokery? I have a habit of using things which anyone who isn't obsessively familiar with an old property wouldn't know.

Titling a book after something which shares themes with the novel (or is simply really, really cool) is one thing, but if a book is peppered with subtle allusions to obscure television shows, forgotten novels and comic-book characters (tastefully done references though) is it a black mark against the writing?

Anonymous said...

What a report!

Thank you.

Question: Nathan, where do you stand on the pricing of e-books?

Lindsay Culbert said...

With all this talk of eBooks, do you think publishing is going to go the way of, "We'll publish the manuscript in an eBook, if it doesn't make a killing, we won't have to print it." I've been trying to follow the discussion on eBooks, and from what I can gather, they are much less expensive to publish.

In the near future, do you think an author will be considered more thoughtfully by a publisher if he or she is willing to first be published as an eBook?

Ishta Mercurio said...

I ask the same question as Ryan Field - why don't more people know about this? Equally, why didn't more people know about the whitewashing issue at Bloomsbury?

I generally discuss these things with my friends and family, but being the introverted writer-actor-type that I am, that's a pretty small circle.

Another case of good content being smothered by the morass of cyber-schlock? A case of 24-hour news reporting gone wrong, because it's just the same thing over and over instead of new content throughout the day? Do people just not care anymore? I think these are all problems, to a certain extent.

And Calvin and Hobbes - YEAH! If I had any reservations about checking out your novel (which I didn't, by the way - I'm just saying, "if I HAD"), they're gone now.

DG said...


It only makes sense to pick up the bourbon first, then you'll have something to drink while waiting in line for your iPad.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion about guys and fiction. Most guys I know read more non-fiction than fiction. This is why, I think, YA so important right now.

Jille said...

Loved Calvin & Hobbes since I was a kid. Frequently as poignant as they are hilarious.
Thanks for the links!

Who is Felicia? said...

Definitely the bourbon.

Mainely Marla said...

Hi Nathan, I must side with Amazon on this. I don't think publishers should have the right to dictate to sellers, prices or anything else. If the seller is willing to pay the price asked by the publisher, why should the publisher determine the profit the seller is willing to make?
I think when publishers figure out that ereaders and ebooks are a seperate market from hardcover books, sales will increase for the publisher. Ebook readers will wait for the ebook rather than buy the hardcover. Most will not pay the same price as a hardcover for it. In my opinion, $10.00 for a newly released ebook is fair. If publishers want to increase profits they should release both at the same time and capitalize on both markets.

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