Nathan Bransford, Author


Friday, March 5, 2010

This Week in Publishing 3/5/10

This week! The Publishing!

Lots of links this week, so let's get right to it.

First up, my client Jennifer Hubbard is hosting in her second annual library loving challenge and you can participate too! All you have to do is pledge a certain amount of money per comment on your blog, and on the contest day everyone will jump around and leave comments on the other participating blogs and link to each other and raise money for a great cause. You can find more details here.

Surprising no one, e-book sales went up 176% in 2009 even in a down year for the book business. The American Association of Publishers estimates that they now comprise 3.3% of the market. Meanwhile, Craig Mod has a terrific illustrated post about the future of book design in the iPad era (via Publish or Perish).

Jason Epstein wrote an fascinating and beautifully written article for the New York Review of Books about the impact of digital publishing, praising the coming diversity and limitless possibility while expressing some anxiety about the ephemeral nature of digital content. Which I'm always so curious about - things published on the Internet sure seem pretty permanent to me. Someone always comes along to worry, "What about a power outage?" "What about a virus?" "What about the government censoring everything?" "What about the guy out there with his finger hovering over a button that will erase everything ever written with one click?"

People, people, people: if something happened that erased every e-book on every computer and e-reader on Earth it would just be a sign that the robots have finally won and we'd be better served practicing how to bow than worrying about what happened to our e-books.

Honestly: we'd be better off worrying about the permanence of everything published electronically rather than its supposed fragility.

/Digression

My colleague Katherine Faussett passed along a whopper of a post about how books are becoming fringe media. Because the author of the post doesn't read books very often and people who buy (expensive) e-readers tend to be older. Why certainly the kids aren't reading at all these days. Not at all.

And speaking of which, congratulations to the fabulous Cynthia Leitich Smith, who in addition to having one of the most helpful and awesomest blogs on the Internet, just received the terrific news that her novel ETERNAL debuted at #5 on the NY Times children's paperback list! Congratulations!

Just as Harper Teen pays a whopping seven figure pre-empt for a debut YA series, former Harper editor Marion Maneker has an article in the Big Money noting how Hollywood is beginning to opt to pay talent less up front and more on the back end, a model the publishing industry may be forced to emulate (via Jay).

This week in the Forums: authors are plugging their blog posts, discussing how to avoid taking rejection personally, sharing their opening sentences, and, of course, we're still trying to figure out what in the heck is happening on Lost.

The NY Times recently had a nuts and bolts article on what goes into the cost of e-books vs. a print book (i.e. savings not that great), and Eric from Pimp My Novel has an interesting take as well. In response to the Times article, Michel Kinsley from The Atlantic posted a snarky rejoinder that includes such costs as lunches and wild overpayments, leading Eric to wonder, what is the public perception of the book business anyway?

In publishing advice news, agent Holly Root has a terrific post on what is and isn't a referral, agent Rachelle Gardner discusses the importance of craft when writing memoir, Moonrat gives some insight into some of the different ways advance payouts work, and the Dystel & Goderich blog is hosting a Slush Week where the agents post their thoughts on selected queries.

And finally, two videos for you this week! The first is a hilarious one that comes via editor Molly O'Neill about dreaming of writing the perfect novel:



And the second comes via Penguin UK, who put together a fascinating presentation on the future of books on the iPad (hint: pretty awesome):



Have a great weekend!






42 comments:

Donna Hole said...

OHG: I'm always commenter three hundred something.

Love the links Nathan. And that iPad demo has me sold. That's way cool.

No, if someone would just put the price down where average, working class, obsessive readers can afford it, that'd be great.

You've got your wand out, right?

The thing it doesn't mention, and I'd like to see, is if you can actually write a novel on it or just do limited functions in the note pad.

Have a wonderful weekend.

............dhole

Margaret Yang said...

I am also aghast at people who think the internet is ephemeral compared to hardcopy.

I write SF short stories. I prefer that they be published in ezines rather than paper ones. The paper magazines are here today, gone in four weeks as the next issue takes its place.

Stories that appear in ezines are archived and people can read them today and tomorrow and next month and next year. I can link to them from my own webpage, giving me free exposure from publication day onward. That they pay a bit less is more than made up for in increased exposure.

Joseph L. Selby said...

That iPad video was the first thing in my inbox when I got to work this morning. Pearson (Penguin's parent company) has an astonishingly forward vision of the evolution of electronic publishing in comparison to many of its peers.

Anonymous said...

Here's another good link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-bransford/dont-believe-the-e-book-s_b_485984.html

M. D. Fields

JDuncan said...

Wow, that books on the ipad video looks pretty damn cool. Now if I only had 500 bucks to get one when they come out. Ah well. The future certainly looks interesting.

Nick said...

So many links...So many old TV shows to watch first...

And still not sold on the iPad, sorry. The iTouch is kinda fun, but I'm not in love with it, and everything I've seen about the iPad is it's a bigger, slightly better Touch. Also I did break down and add e-books to my iTouch. Surprisingly, the world didn't end(!) but I am a bit cross with the publishers. I know the plots of every Holmes story inside-out and can recite quite a few more or less on-target from memory, but it's nice to have copies, y'know, and I figure if I'm bored somewhere when I don't have a book handy, I'll always have some good stories on hand, because I pretty much always have my iPod...and yet I never carry my mobile. But anyway, cross with the publishers BECAUSE they purport to have all of the Holmes stories, but they COMPLETELY LEAVE OUT The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. Adding to my consternation is the fact that the overall books are wildly out of order in the collection, with only A Study in Scarlet being in the right place, and there are no indexes in the books, so if I want to go to a specific story or chapter I have to flip madly through until I get to it, which is a hassle for stories that are towards the end of collections, like The Adventure of the Final Problem. Of course not all e-books are like this, but it is irritating nonetheless.

So e-books and I are having kind of an awkward string of sloppy hook-ups, basically.

Steve Masover said...

Addressing two angles on your post, Nathan: I just posted on my blog this week (1) on the topic of digital preservation: Rock, Paper, Digital Preservation is the post's title.

I'd agree, the short-term worries are silly. Longer term, I'm not so sure.

ryan field said...

"...we'd be better served practicing how to bow than worrying about what happened to our e-books."

I'm laughing right now because I'm one of those people who is always worrying about this for absolutely no valid reason. I feel better now :)

lotusgirl said...

That iPad is freakin' cool! Just when I got the Kindle for Christmas. Now I want an iPad. Ugh!

Mira said...

Wow, Nathan. Great links this week.

I thought your comment about the permanence of the web was pretty funny.

Actually, I haven't even looked at the links yet, really, because I was distracted by the quality of your writing. I promise, I'll stop enthusing soon, but for some reason, it really hit me this week what a good writer you are. Maybe it was the phrase "the road to clique is paved with imitation." Really. That is just....good.

You're settling into your voice, it's a pleasure to read.

I wonder if it's appropriate to write this here - to be commenting on your writing. I'm not sure, but I'd rather make the mistake of being alittle inappropriate, rather than holding back on sharing my appreciation. But, either way, at least I can be reassured, that inappropriate or not, at least it's permanent.

I'll also stop now - you won't have to deal with this next week. :)

I might be back to comment on your links, but if not, hope everyone here has a wonderful weekend!

Rick Daley said...

Wow, a seven figure pre-empt...that really happens?!?!?!

Congrats to the author and agent, and anyone fortunate enough to follow suit! I hope the investment pays off for the publisher as well...

Anonymous said...

I can't take anymore of this e-publishing stuff. Excuse me, while I go and let out a primal scream.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I hear ya. Every time someone complains about the future of books or how much I post about e-books I want to let out a primal scream too.

Kristi said...

Yay for Cynthia! Thanks for the lovely linkage, Nathan, and Happy Friday to all!

richfigel said...

Re plugging blog posts... oops, should I not have done that? I only mentioned it because your last post on "Lying" preempted my own Squashed Gecko blog post related to the movie, THE INVENTION OF LYING, which I felt was relevant to the discussion.

If that was in bad form, my apologies! But I did like the thread and consider myself a professional liar of sorts.

Aloha,
Rich

T. Anne said...

176%!?! Wow, I contributed to that. Have a beautiful weekend Nathan!

Scott Appleton said...

I'm not sold on ebooks taking the place of print books. Why? Because the vast majority of people I meet prefer to have the physical book in hand. Even if they own a Kindle they still obtain a physical book. The markets I see the ebooks destroying are Airport bookstores. I do a lot of booksignings in many parts of the country and the growing trend at airport stores is that, when I show someone by novel, they appologetically say they get books for travel on their Kindle device. I completely understand that, especially with the direction the airports have headed; added security measures and decreasing luggage limits.

Also, I think readers are on the rise, not the reverse. During the 90's a generation was practically raised on video games. Schools (at which I often speak, particularly Middle and High Schools) are re-emphasising literacy.

Just a few thoughts of mine.
www.flamingpen.blogspot.com

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Thanks for the shout out, Nathan! I'm honored.

And as for helpful and awesome blogs, look who's talking! You do a terrific job. Can't wait to read your upcoming book!

Thanks to Kristi for the cheer, too!

Anonymous said...

I have this delicious sense that my book library is going to be even more of a collection like no other and that my e-library is going to be those disposable books or all-text books I don't need as pieces of tactile art in my library.
There will be my "Books," like art, that I own. And e-books, good reads, or good reference, but not necessarily art,that I can access in air-form.
I will be freer and my actual book library will become more of a "collection" and even more-so something one wants to touch and hold.
And I have the sense that bookmakers will become more artful too. Books will become rare and collectible the minute they are released for sale.

A Paperback Writer said...

Oh my freakin' heck.
I'm buying myself an iPad, if THAT'S what reading will be like on one!

A Paperback Writer said...

Uh, that doesn't mean I'm giving up my paper books that I can color code and write on, though.....

Susan Quinn said...

Leviathan is awesome, I have it on my nook. My kid has already read it. On my nook.

Westerfeld is rockin' the MG+YA world. I want to be him when I grow up.

/fangirl rant

Susan Quinn said...

Also: Your Huffington Post article was awesome!

Anonymous said...

Somebody help me out. Why does printed books even come up in discussions about eBooks? They are two different mediums. When buying an eBook, I can care less if the book is out in hardcover or paperback. I just don't want to feel like I'm getting ripped off. If I do, then I just buy the book used.

Phyllis said...

I love the worrying part. I say (with Graham Greene), What about Strontium 90?

Tracy Hahn-Burkett said...

I have not had any inclination to hop on the e-reader bandwagon until now. Where do I get in line for my iPad, please? Also I'd like one for each of my kids, and I'd like to give them as gifts . . . (I guess I'd better find a more profitable profession.)

therese said...

Lots of interesting links! Loved the iPpad demo and your digression. It is funny what people will worry about.

Also, laughed at books becoming fringe media - because only rich old folks read anymore. LOL!

Peter Dudley said...

Careful, people. The iPad demo is just that: a DEMO.

Back in the early 1990s, I worked for a company that made the software for the Casio Z-PDA, the competitor to the first Apple Newton. At the time, I was a huge proponent of digital books, which at that time were largely published on CD-ROM. I led a project to create a digital book publishing tool for our Z-PDA and other mobile devices. This was before Adobe came out with PDF, before Amazon.com had been founded, and right around the time Netscape 1.0 arrived. Windows 95 was still to be released.

I remember making a demo that, given the available hardware and system technology, was not that different from the first several books shown in the iPad demo. We had hypertext and interactive content. We did not have a screen that auto-rotated, GPS, compass, or video in the device. We were working with about 1MB RAM, no SD cards or even USB ports (they hadn't been invented yet), and no wifi. In fact, the first smart phone was still a year or two away (we also provided the software for the first smart phone, the Nokia 9000). Those were the days in which terms like multimedia, PDA, and "content" were coined.

What I love about demos is that they show what is technically possible today but not necessarily what is commercially available today. All those features waiting to be implemented--they take work and time and money. They're wicked cool, but they take the full skill set of a multimedia design shop.

I am still a huge believer in electronic books and multimedia, and I too love the possibility shown in that demo. A world with that kind of toy is a world I want to live in.

M Clement Hall said...

Always grateful to Nathan for his pot-pourri Friday selection of publishing news. My comment is really in the nature of questions on the YA.
First: if the author gets "seven figures," how much more does the publisher have to expend in publicity etc. to recover that? Presumably there's some kind of ratio known in the trade.
Second: How many authors, who would have been pleased with a small advance, will never see their book published because of this single huge payment?
Third: Is there a difference between a series and the despised sequel? This is called a "three book series," featuring Helen in each.
And no, I don't do YA, my eyes are not green!

Jenny said...

There is one huge problem with electronic media that us old folks are very familiar with. As technology advances, media change, and eventually there is no device that can read your e-thing.

This happened to much of the data collected by the moon missions of the 1970s. By the 1990s there was no device that could read it.

It happened to my electronic first edition of Outlander, sent to me by the author in 1991 on an 8" floppy disc.

It happened to the files from my first published book which were written using a long vanished word processor.

Unless you are vigilant about converting everything you own in one electronic format to the next format, it will eventually happen to your e-things too.

How many of you still have floppy drives? How many of you have old manuscripts you saved on floppies that you didn't bother to print out?

It is a real issue that those of us with IT backgrounds do not underestimate.

Anonymous said...

I just wish they would stop calling them "ebooks". They're electronic medium stories. Hell, I'd be okay with enovels (maybe). But ebooks? A book is a bound raft of papers. Always was and always will be. We don't call movies "eplays" or laptops "etypewriters".

Okay, I'm all curmudgeoned out.

Chuck H. said...

Then I'll curmudgeon in. Can you stuff that thing in a back pack, strap it to the back of a motorcycle and head for the woods? I can do all that with a bunch of paper backs and not worry once if I'm destroying hundreds of dollars worth of electronics. I'll take my books on paper, please, not plastic.

Jill Elizabeth said...

So this morning I've been procrastinating up a storm, trying to find the motivation to tackle that ending I'm trying to rewrite.

And then you post that PW link about the Harper Teen deal. Yeah, that lit a fire under my ass.

Nathan Bransford said...

M. Clement Hall-

If there is an advance-to-marketing ratio I don't know about it, nor do I think it's a zero sum game where Harper is not going to publish X number of books because they paid X advance.

On the third, I never said sequels are despised. I'm writing a sequel myself! All I was saying with that post was that it's not a good idea to write a sequel when the first book isn't published. That doesn't apply here.

Nathan Bransford said...

chuck h-

Pretty soon e-readers aren't going to cost hundreds of dollars and you won't be taking much of a risk if you take one with you.

JTShea said...

So Jason Epstein thinks 'Industrial Capitalism a paradise for some, at the expense of others' but rails against 'the exorbitant demands of bestselling authors' and defines advances as 'nonrecoverable guarantees' by publishers who 'bear all the risks'!? Motoko Rich's NYT article seems more balanced, but is $3.25 really enough to print and store and ship a $26 hardcover book and also cover returns? Mass market paperback maybe, but hardcover?
I heartily agree with Susan Quinn and yourself, Nathan, regarding LEVIATHAN, though, ironically, the sheer physical excellence of its black and white illustrations and color covers is the main reason I bought the hardcover edition. Regarding Penguin's I-Pad demo, on Tuesday I bought eight small paperbacks of public domain classics such as TREASURE ISLAND, PETER PAN, CANDIDE and THE WIZARD OF OZ, though I already have free E-book versions of them. The eight cost me about $4 each. The publisher? Penguin Popular Classics!

Amy said...

Jenny, I still have floppy disks!

I don't think my ebooks are going to disappear on me (unless I were to go with Amazon, wink-wink), but I do think the technology is going to go through many changes in the next few years. I'll evaluate the features again in a few years, but for now, it's too soon for me to buy a dedicated ereader.

My husband reads on his iPhone, though, and he just bought a new ebook to read on there. The DRM on the ebook required him to use the vendor's ereader software, but it kept shutting down on him.

I don't know if he ever got it to work. But he said to me -- we were just at the bookstore. For a dollar or two more, I could've just bought the paperback. And I could be reading it RIGHT NOW.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the digital delivery system, the problem has more do with perception of value than longevity. As someone who works in the music industry, I've seen it firsthand. All the hours and collaboration put into creating a song and it sells for less than a candy bar (or is stolen). Albums are fading away, split into pieces. When the system of delivery gets more news than the art itself, something is wrong.

Other Lisa said...

Echoing what Jenny said, I used to run a research library that held a fair amount of "archival" material (original photographs for example). Digitizing is one of those issues that constantly came up, and while it's great to do (and very useful in many ways), in general you want to keep your originals. Because storage systems change, technology improves, and in many cases digital media do not last as long as the originals.

I think I will be one of those folks who does make the jump to eBooks for certain kinds of material, things I don't necessarily want to read a second time (I'm saving up my pennies for an iPhone). But for books I value, I'll take the hard copy.

K.L. Brady said...

Wow, this week's posting on the advances couldn't be more timely. Some great information there. An executive editor from a publishing house recently expressed interest in my indie published novel and requested my two works in progress--which is of course exciting but I'm absolutely clueless about what to expect. At least this posts and the one author's blog posts have given me some idea as to how the deal might be structured. I'm crossing my finger and toes that she wants all three. :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Thank you for the links, as always!

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