Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, February 12, 2010

This Week in Publishing 2/12/10

Publishing decided to go and have a relatively quiet week this week. Thank you for the breather, publishing news! I had gotten used to the world being revolutionized. Every single day.

First up, for those of you in the vicinity of New York City, on February 18th there will be an upcoming panel on Digital Publishing and the Author with some publishing luminaries, including my quite brilliant colleague Ginger Clark. Be sure and check that out.

And speaking of digital publishing and the future, the NY Times found some customers who do not like e-books that cost more than $9.99. One. Single. Bit. Though I would have been more impressed if the NY Times found any consumer who would go on the record saying they like higher prices. Maybe someone living in opposite land.

The most helpful Stephen Parrish pointed me to an article wonder, so what in the heck is in J.D. Salinger's safe anyway? So far the answer from everyone who might know has been "No comment. Hopefully this will end up being a tad more exciting than the time they opened up Al Capone's vault on TV only there was nothing in it. Then again that might be kind of awesome too.

This week in the forums: I created a new forum for All Things Feedback, people discuss their writing processes, there's a new thread devoted to nonfiction, and perhaps most importantly, we continue to discuss what in the world (or maybe it's ANOTHER WORLD) is happening on Lost.

Jennifer Briggs pointed me to a very enjoyable post on the tacky book covers of yore. The cheesiness, it abounds.

In life of the writer news, @colsonwhitehead linked to a really interesting article by Dani Shapiro about the difficulty of making a living writing. She laments our current emphasis on publishing rather than creating, though I somehow suspect this isn't actually a recent development.

In agent advice news, Rachelle Gardner has a great post on the three things that make her say "yes": craft, story, and voice.

And finally, in an attempt to out-Twitter Twitter, Google Buzz launched amid a flurry of, well, buzz and controversy. Anyone checked it out yet? What do you think?

Have a great weekend!


Marilyn Peake said...

I love all your Friday links, and look forward to checking them out. Your Forums are great. So many interesting and friendly discussions going on over there, I find it a great place to relax and chat with writers. There's a very friendly, positive vibe in your Forums, Nathan - a really nice accomplishment! Have a great weekend!

Margaret Yang said...

Reading Dani Shapiro's article makes me think of that quote about writing: you can make a killing at it but not a living.

Joseph said...

I already post on Twitter (two different accounts) and Facebook and am well established in both. Buzz doesn't offer anything new, so there's no reason for me to make the effort to reestablish myself there.

I do like it better than Wave. Wave is more versatile, but I don't have a need for that versatility. Buzz is nicer than that.

Kayeleen said...

Since I all ready had a gmail account, I got buzz whether I wanted it or not. The nice thing is that it automatically tells people when I have a new blog post, but the other sites do that too. It seems like just another way of doing the same thing. Yay for more effort involved to stay current with all the different people in my life.

JohnO said...

If Colson Whitehead didn't already have an agent, I'd suggest you hit him up on writing a humor novel based on his tweets about the Segway racing circuit.

PS - Buzz: meh.

Portuguese cunt said...

Shapiro's article is fantastic.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

The last thing I need is another social network. So I'm avoiding Buzz.

Thermocline said...

Dani Shapiro mentioned that small whispering voice that said she couldn't do it, even after she'd become published. That's depressing. Mine is a full on rant.

Eileen Wiedbrauk said...

My friend called Buzz a bastardization of Twitter/Facebook and I have to agree ... I feel like I spend more time updating my status on various forms of social media than actually doing things worthy of typing.

Kayeleen said...

In a related aside, I have a yahoo mail account, too. Just logged onto it, and they have a buzz going too. It might actually be called Yahoo Buzz or it could be part of the regular email program. Who knows. Everybody wants to get a finger in the social networking pie. I just hope they don't all end up with pie on their faces.

Limari Colón said...

Thank you!!!!!! I turned the damn buzz thing off :)

Nicole said...

I am undecided on Google Buzz. I have twitter, I have facebook so it seems like what's the point? It's a bit late on their part. They are going to have to do something to entice people to switch from already established twitter followerships or at least be able to link the three so users don't have to post to all three. Just my opinion though.

Nathan Bransford said...

What I don't understand about Google Buzz is why you can redirect your Twitter feed to Google Buzz but you can't use Google Buzz to post to Twitter. They're only letting it go one way. Seems pretty evil of Google and would be much more useful if you could truly sync the two.

Thomas Burchfield said...

Yes, to all the links as usual, Nathan. They're extremely helpful, wide-ranging and entertaining.

In my publishing news of the week, I decided to dip one of my smaller toes into the e-publishing pond by publishing an old unsold comic screenplay of mine called "Whackers" at . . .for FREE as a download to your computer, e-reader, and, I gather, even your i-Phone. It's madcap slapshtick sex farce and hit man comedy in tradition of Abbott & Costello, Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot" & "The Fortune Cookie" and Mel Brooks' "The Producer."

Those of you with a high silliness quotient might like it. 70 downloads so far (but what does that mean, anyway?)

You can access the "Whackers" page by clicking on my name. An introduction to it is at my Red Room Blog at:

And I've started just my own Twitter account . . . and I've about reached the borderline of ability to handle all this social . . . sigh . . .

Dara said...

I could not stop laughing at those cheesy covers. Especially the excerpt on the back of the one:

"Maggoty hag of indecency! May your bones rot before you die!"

They just don't write 'em like that nowadays :P LOL.

Anonymous said...

Man as bad as some of those covers are, it kills me that some of the modern one;s are worse!

Has their been progress? We have gone from women in translucent gowns to showing leather clad asses and tramp stamps...

Other Lisa said...

Mini-rant -- I have 'issues' with people who think eBooks cost too much and who yet have disposable income for fancy electronic gadgets to read them on.

/end mini-rant.

Lauri Shaw said...

I scrambled to turn off Google Buzz the second it reared its ugly head. But I'm atypical. I'm not on Facebook, will never be on Facebook, and if Google turns itself into a social site a la Facebook, I will be outta there, too.

So far, no one's been able to convince me that Facebook is worthwhile despite its privacy issues. But for me, even more worrying is a herd mentality the likes of which I haven't seen since I finished puberty.

I'll stick to being an antisocial writer, thanks!

Have a nice weekend.

Tina Lynn said...

Is it just me or does anyone else think that Google is trying to take over the universe?

Amy said...

I'm with you, Other Lisa! You'd think it was a constitutional right that has been taken away. I can't even find Publishing on Fortune's list of 50 most profitable industries, but yeah, THEY'RE practically stealing from consumers.

Can't wait until all we have left is Walmart and Amazon.

Anonymous said...

"And speaking of digital publishing and the future, the NY Times found some customers who do not like e-books that cost more than $9.99. One. Single. Bit. Though I would have been more impressed if the NY Times found any consumer who would go on the record saying they like higher prices. Maybe someone living in opposite land."

I've actually had customers leave nasty messages on amazon, on the review page for my books, where the customer thought that amazon was cheating them by charging too much. So instead of leaving a review for my book, they complain to amazon. This really isn't fair to the author. I have no control over how the book is priced.

camelama said...

I turned off Buzz as soon as it popped up on Gmail - I go to Gmail for *EMAIL*. I don't want all the other social networking stuff there, I just want to read the email and get on with my day *away* from the computer. (Oh no! I've become a grumpy old Unix curmudgeon! Aieee!)

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Re: Digital Publishing and the Author: Surviving and Thriving in Emerging Media

A great bargain - free for WNBA (no, not basketball) members, and only 10 bucks for nonmembers!

Here's the subject matter, if you don't feel like clicking on link:
* What do authors need to know to survive and thrive in the digital marketplace?
* Is giving content away for free always a benefit to the author?
* How has digital changed the relationship between author and agent?
* Will self-publishing continue to grow as a business model? Is it having a significant impact on traditional book publishers?
* Has digital changed the way authors conceive of and write books?
* Do authors play a role in publishers’ decisions about the business of digital publishing, from pricing and distribution to marketing and promotion?

WICBT (Wish I Could Be There)

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Re: Complaints about ebook pricing - if I read the same article a day or so ago - one of the people complaining about ebook pricing owns 2 houses.

just balance those two things in your mind for a moment:

houses / ebooks


ebooks / houses


T. Anne said...

Thanks for the links.

* Have a Happy Valentines Day Nathan!*

kimberlyloomis said...

Buzz, after collaboration with my gchat friends, is something we refer to as "twigleface" - or any other variant combining twitter, facebook and google. Overall- meh and blah. I need more social networking like I need another hole in my cranium.

eBook pricing is certainly an interesting topic and one I can't help but continuously think is being addressed from the wrong angle. People don't like paying more for things but it doesn't mean they won't. I can't recall if I've said it here before or not but, at the risk of repeating myself, here goes. Why not raise the prices on paperbacks/hardcover as well as the ePub versions? Make it a natural incentive for people to "go green" and remind them they're paying for CONTENT not materials unless they choose to pay that ADDITIONAL cost for the copy in their hands.

Great post, Nathan! As always- I loved your links.

JTShea said...

I DEMAND that EVERYTHING be available IMMEDIATELY on my Kindle, and for NOTHING! Carrie Fisher WAS right! Instant gratification IS way too slow! I paid $300 for a glorified kid's toy (Not that I'll ever admit it...Oh I just did...) so I'm certainly not going to pay for actual BOOKS to read on it if I can help it. I'd much rather make Jeff Bezos even richer than pay an author for his or her work. I should be paid to read books. Otherwise I'll post a bad review of every book on Amazon! I also want a Mercedes for $9.99 and I want it YESTERDAY! Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz!? Metal cars are like paper books. I demand electronic cars! The car industry should learn from the publishing industry! Or maybe the other way around. Omigod, I'm having a KINDLE TANTRUM!

Anonymous said...

The eBook pricing situation is a double edged sword. Consumers who own kindles get burnt with the price increase, and authors get burnt when demand for their product drops due to price. No one wins.

Amber W. said...

Sorry, but I'm failing to see why not wanting to pay $15 for an e-book would make me a terrible person.

I don't have an e-reader, but I would like one. I don't own two houses, I can barely pay rent, and I love to read. I can't afford anything new at the book store, I go to the library instead. I'm not saying that books are overpriced, BUT;

There are a lot of factors with an actual book that aren't factors with e-books. Actual print costs, shipping, distribution around the world, I mean I imagine that would take up a HUGE chunk of the profits. So when I'm only paying $5 less than I would if I had bought a physical book that had been printed on paper, shipped from china to a distribution center, shipped through 15 different states, driven to my store, and stocked on these shelves... I think something is wrong with that.

If a million people buy a $20 new release in the stores, and a million people buy a $10 new release on Amazon, the profit margins still should be relatively the same, even factoring in Amazons cut. Perhaps I'm missing some facts but I'd love it if someone explained it more if my reasoning is unsound.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Re: "Actual print costs, shipping, distribution around the world, I mean I imagine that would take up a HUGE chunk of the profits."

The publishers are saying, no, that doesn't take up a huge chunk. If you think about it, publishers have always had a huge incentive to find the absolute cheapest way of producing a physical book - it's like any other physical, manufactured product.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

PS I would imagine the number of people actually employed in manufacturing physical books has been dropping over the decades, due to robotics, etc.

Anonymous said...

I think the NYTimes article is just the tip of the iceberg.

In this economy, I have seen people look at the cost of common things who never did before.

My husband and I now wait for the dollar movie version or the home rental. We make gourmet dinners at home and don't go out to dinner except rarely. We dropped several monthly services that were around $10. a month, saving more than $800. a year. We never thought too much about the smaller things like this before.I used to buy books when I wanted them. Now we wait and pick and choose much more selectively.

We live in a very professional,well educated, and affluent area and for the first time I can remember, ALL of our acquaintances remarked in passing conversation recently about the high utility bills our area encountered last month.

People are paying attention to the dollar.

Chuck H. said...

Buzz, huh? And yet, in spite of all efforts to wipe it out, in tiny little pockets of stubborn resistance, actual face to face life, practiced by real live people (as opposed to reality tv people), continues. So, Google, take that!

Chuck H. said...

Oh, and as to J.D.'s safe, someone cue Geraldo, please.

Mira said...

A world where people wanted to pay more? Opposite land. Lol. You're so funny, Nathan.

Great links, thanks for all the work you do every Friday just to keep us informed. :)

I want to second what Marilyn said about the forums. They're wonderful - interesting, friendly, discussions, great feedback on queries and people's work. I can't get there much right now b/c of school, but I really enjoy them.

I did look over Dani Shapiro's article. A good one. Did anyone else feel sad, though, that we lose so many brillant writers because they start doubting themselves? Seemed sad to me.

I agree - I really liked the article by Rachelle Gardner.

I have no idea why Google is competing with Twitter....? I guess everyone wants an empire nowadays.

Come to think of it, I do. I want an empire, too.

Well, on that note, hope everyone is having a nice weekend!

Amber W. said...

@ Wanda: Just because the publishers say that it doesn't take that much, I wouldn't believe them.

Think about it. If you take out all the production costs, you are left with only fixed costs, which would be the same cost for a physical book or an e-book.

Author's advance, Publishing people salary (agents, editors, etc) and the advertising budget, which these days for a non-famous author is severely small.

When you put out an e-book or a real book these costs are going to be exactly the same because that's the part that pays for the 'creativity' and the 'quality' product that publishing houses are giving as reasons to hike up e-book prices.

Actually if that's their reasoning, and you're paying $25 for a brand new book, and $15 for an e-book, that means that there's a $10 production cost/shipping cost for EVERY book. Because Everything else is exactly THE SAME, the time the author put in, their advance, the editors and everything else is a fixed cost.

$10 out of $25 is not what I would consider a 'small percentage', even if it was half that, $5 out of $25 is still 1/5th, and I would not consider that a small cost either. Assuming the other half goes to the bookstore and all. I mean it just seems like any way you slice it, paying more than $10 for an e-book does seem unreasonable.

Francis said...

Google is Skynet in disguise.

I thought it was obvious! :)

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Re: "that means that there's a $10 production cost/shipping cost for EVERY book"

I don't myself personally have the actual numbers - but $10 production cost for EVERY book seems high - when I can go and get a 300-page book printed and bound at Kinko's for $10 or so (haven't done it in a while, so not sure).

But $10 per book seems quite high, just based on what it costs retail at Kinkos.

If you want better numbers, do a search on Google, because I am certainly no expert. All I point out is, as far as manufacturing ANYTHING physical goes, manufacturers do everything in their power to drive the cost down.

Which is why, I suppose, you have people in, as they say, "developing countries" going on strike for better wages - though they don't exactly trumpet that in the news. But that's another subject, perhaps for a poem: "The Chinese factory worker is my friend." I live in the Detroit area, I get to say that :)

Nathan Bransford said...

amber and wanda-

Please check out this recent post for more info on e-book pricing and how much goes into print costs vs. e-books.

david elzey said...

google messed up big-time. by importing all your gmail contacts as part of instant netowrk building it becomes a security nightmare. especially so considering that you have to manually opt out, block all users you don't want to see you buzz comments, and then modify your profile to make sure it's still secure.

then you have the whole problem of google saving everything you write in perpetuity, even if you've deleted it and "turned off" buzz: people can still see what you once posted even if you cannot, and some public buzz comments are searchable via google.

they should have either just bought twitter or facebook and been done with it. this is the definition of an epic fail.

Nathan Bransford said...

(deleted anon)

Plenty of places to discuss politics on the Internet.

Anonymous said...


What's your take on this post:

Does the math look right to you? If it's right, then authors look to lose money on a per book basis with the new model. This would hit your 15%, right?

So consumers pay more and authors get less.

Nathan Bransford said...


The numbers look like they're in the right ballpark, but I don't agree with the analysis. Publishers aren't making more money with the agency model either. So why are they doing it? Because of the reasons I outline here.

SB said...

on buzz -- not sure yet. still on the fence about twitter too...this whole tell the world my business and hope they care thing is seriously new and genuinely a bit a diagnostic way of course...

slovly said...

Thanks for this wonderful collection of links. :)

Steph Damore said...

Re: Buzz--Haven't checked it out yet. Actually, I've backed off social media lately to focus on my writing.

And honestly, I'm a little Googled out. Why do they feel the need to be involved in all facets of the Internet? Monopolies are bad. I think I'll change my homepage to Bing.

Kate Lacy said...

You've made quite a case out of linking us into the many sites praising or lamenting the new e-book sales, pricey or not. I personally don't want to sit with something electronic because I love circling beautiful lines, wonderful quotations I hadn't heard before (or in a long long time) and correcting the printing mistakes. Somedays I like being reminded that no one is immune from the surprise bug. So here's my real question: Is the hype of e-books creating a recpetive world for e-books much like hype for a second-rate movie creates an audience that swamps the movie theatres and brags about having been to see it? Politicians use this productive hype system for promoting themselves and their interests all the time. Is this what's happening rather than an intrinsic growth of delight from readers?

Malia Sutton said...

All this talk about google buzz is interesting. I'd love to see someone do a post about it, for the people like me who don't really know what it's about.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Re: Link to recent post on e-pricing by Nathan -


abc said...

I would hope that Geraldo Rivera and his most excellent mustache would host the opening of Salinger's safe.

Amber W. said...

@Nathan Thanks for the link to the post. I'm not sure I'd agree that shipping, warehouse fees and everything else would only be another 2.00 per book, especially given the hike in fuel costs and the fact that they have to be shipped, trucked, delivered, to every bookstore in the country and many places outside of the country, even little Juneau here in alaska. If it costs 2.00 just to bind each book, I think it might be a little more to house and ship each book than that.

That said, it seems like book publishers might actually do well to start looking into releasing e-books from their own sites or platforms in order to keep all of the revenue and not have to split it with Apple or Amazon. Though I did read that Apple was only taking 30% not 50% like your other post said, which still seems a little heavyhanded to me given all they're doing is selling the e-book and nothing else really.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Okay, So It's A Boring Box Example

Did somebody say "shipped, trucked, delivered?"

$2.00 sounds about right for all the other stuff - by way of a very recent example (as of an hour ago), I just broke down and bought some boxes, 4 x 4 x 58 inches at the UPS store. They were $3.85, and I bought 4 - I only need them half as long, so actually I'm making 2 boxes out of each one. So 3.85/2 = $1.93 (rounding up) each for the boxes.

If I were to buy 10,000 boxes, the price would drop down - at Uline (not the cheapest box place), you can get 1,000 4 x 4 x 30-inch boxes for $0.61, which is less than half walk-in retail (besides I don't have to cut boxes in half to get down to the size I want).

Oh well.

author Scott Nicholson said...

I find it comforting the digital publishing conference actually includes the word "author"!


Amber W. said...

@ Wanda

But that was just for the physical boxes, right?

I know that shipping on a large scale makes a price drop, otherwise things would always be impossibly expensive. And even though it would cost me 15 bucks to ship a book to Canada, I know it costs a big corporation with all these things set up much much less.

It just seems like a lot to place the cost of binding a book at $2.00 and then all the other costs also at $2.00. I mean they have to ship it from wherever they bound it (Around the world usually) by boat or plane, pay for pallates, boxes, delivery systems, workers to make sure everything goes where it needs to go organizing all of this stuff, filling orders etc, so you've got their salaries, plus then the trucking and shipping costs to get them to every city, then every county, then every town...

These costs are of course divided amongst a large grouping of books. But perhaps I just have a hard time agreeing that a book I paid $25 for from the store physically only cost $4.00 to get to me, especially since everyone says book prices are already incredibly low and unfair to authors and publishers alike. That seems like a pretty good profit margin to me!

Rita Kaye Vetsch said...

Here is a Wonderful & Inspiring Multicultural Children’s book called “The Many Colors of Friendship”. Realizing how important it is to give our children tools and the right education about Diversity, Multiculturalism and Racism, I wanted to write something meaningful that children come away with a positive message. A great way for us to give children ‘wings’ for the future, and encouraging our children to make new and diverse friendships.
Rita Kaye Vetsch

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