Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, March 12, 2010

This Week in Publishing 3/12/10

This! Week! Publishing!

Here comes the iPad! Yes, the iPad is ready for pre-order and Apple has given a deeper look into the iBook experience. And for those who had hoped that iBooks would be incorporated directly into iTunes like movies and TV shows were, or at least that it would come pre-installed: doesn't look like it. You have to download the free iBooks app, although there seems to be some interaction with iTunes. Standing by.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble announced that they would be making their own app available for the iPad. Let the great iPad book app wars commence!

And Mike Shatzkin has a typically brilliant post, this one about how in an era where anyone can sell books on a relatively even playing field it diminishes traditional publishers' historic advantages: namely their unsurpassed ability at getting print books out to "the trade." The new era may favor multi-niche publishers who specialize because they are adept at building followers interested in certain topics, and this doesn't play to traditional publishers' strengths. Really interesting stuff. Can you tell how much I love Mike Shatzkin's blog??? The people who complain about all the e-book posts are lucky I don't geek out on you more.

Oh. Um, on second though I guess I'm too late on the whole geeking out thing.

This week in the Forums: we reached 1,000 members! If you haven't joined the conversation it's extremely easy to register. Among the topics being discussed this week: when will e-books reach 50% of sales, does your genre make it difficult to find an agent, how to avoid info dumps, and..... yes, still trying to figure out what is happening on Lost!

Over at her Writer's Digest blog, Jane Friedman talks about some very common advice that writers should be very wary of/careful about: opening books with action.

And speaking of which, lots of people talk about the necessity of "tension," but what is tension exactly? My wonderful client Jennifer Hubbard has a fantastic definition: it's "desire balanced by obstacles."

Carolyn Kellogg at the LA Times has a very interesting look into the modern book tour, a landscape that is being stratified between publisher organized book tours and decidedly DIY versions as everyone tries to deal with fewer bookstores and less space in local media.

Remember the wolf T-shirt at Amazon with the hilarious reviews? Reader John Ochwat has a survey of some of the different products that have attracted these hilarious reviews, including a can of uranium and a book priced at $7,679.00.

And finally, Orbit Books has one of the coolest book trailers I've ever seen: the making of a cover. In two minutes:

Have a great weekend!


Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

if I ever order the iPad, I want the iWings to go along with it.

roxy said...

I'm backward, I know, but I have a hard time picturing myself reading Jane Austen or Tennyson on an iPad. If there isn't gold trim or old leather involved, it doesn't seem right.

Margaret Yang said...

Never fear that you've geeked out too much. Your geek cred is well-established and somewhat expected by now.

Yat-Yee said...

Re: starting with action. It's so true that an advice that is generally a good idea, can be taken as gospel. Another fav of mine: show not tell, which results in pages and pages of scene that may best be communicated with a few brief lines.

I'm waiting, and waiting for the right piece of tech for me and my beloved books. Not willing to jump in there yet.

Ulysses said...

Okay, yes, fine. But what I need to know is whether the $7,679.00 book will have an electronic edition for iPad priced at $9.99?

Leila said...


Please excuse my ignorance, I'd just like to ask for a bit more of a translation on Mike's article please?

Re the trade book era issues, is he saying/speculating he thinks the impact will hit (in a big way) soon? Or that it will gradually eat away at more traditional publishers over the next few years until they either make some changes or are snowballed?

What sort of timeline (roughly) do you think applies? I'm just interested because when people use terminology like the 'new era' and 'soon', I find it interesting to understand when they mean, and put it context with the rest of the changes going on in the world of writing.

Sometimes, significant changes start out small and expand over time, rather than happening in one big hit. I know that's an obvious statement but just so you know where I'm coming from...


LurkerMonkey said...

Mike's post is interesting ... I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the coming "democratization" of publishing he casually mentions. I get the basic idea—that a disruptive technology is about to fragment an old business model. And yet, judging from history, this will be a temporary, fluid and unstable period, followed by the rapid reorganization of publishing into large ... publishers? content-producers? editorial/marketing collectives? agribusiness concerns where writers are hatched?

I know the e-book community is busy getting breathless over the opportunity this upcoming period will present. For once, at least for now, it seems the little guy (literally, since I'm a dwarf) has the potential to be on equal footing with the big, mainstream publishers. But—and I have little to go on here except a gut instinct—I have a hard time believing this is the future. How long will it be before the multi-niche publishers aggregate into a mega-niche? How long will it be before Amazon or other e-book retailers capitalize on their distribution system and offer preference to those who can afford to pay more? It strikes me that the tendency of economic systems is to organize into larger systems.

I dunno. And in case you're wondering, my whole week has been like this.

Nathan Bransford said...


In his words: "We are now seeing the early signs of what will soon be a tendency, then a trend, and then a stark reality: you just can’t sell as many copies of most books if you don’t have a proprietary position with a vertical audience"

Nathan Bransford said...


Ultimately I don't know how things will end up - probably somewhere between the extreme outcomes of my post yesterday. It remains to be seen whether middle-men will be really necessary in between authors and readers (in which case the landscape in the future will look much like it does now) or whether it will be easy to bypass publishers and go to readers directly. Or some combination.

But yes, I agree that out of a period of chaos big players tend to emerge.

lotusgirl said...

That cover video is so cool. Photoshop, etc. are something else.

The possibilities of the iPad are mindblowing. Mindblowing, I say. I can't wait.

ryan field said...

I'm curious about how the ipad will sell. With an iphone, I'm not even considering it. But I'm interested in seeing how many people are.

Leila said...

Indeed. I'm just wondering if you have a gut feel for the sort of timeline that implies.

For example, (I know it's not the same but just as an example) the fact that ebooks share of the market place is slowly but incrementally climbing, clearly (and obviously I realize) indicates a definite hold on the market that will only increase over time. (Go ebooks).

But what is over time? Three to five years? Could we expect an exponential growth or continued steady growth? (I suspect the latter) Do you anticipate devices like iPad will contribute to higher figures or not? Will all the potential impacts on authors/agents/publishing houses etc be experienced more as ripples in the next year, small waves in say two years then surfing suitable ones in five?

Clearly publishing models need to morph now to remain competitive in the marketplace in the medium to long term. Morphing, redefining, finding one's place in the world then actually making the change, involving everyone in it then living it is a big thing.

Obvious statements I realize.

I'm just interested in your
predictions in these sorts of areas,and Mike's article bought these questions to the forefront of my mind again.

Any thoughts you might have would be much appreciated.

Nathan Bransford said...


I think growth will be exponential, but it's still starting from a very small base - 3-5% of the market right now. Even exponential growth is going to take some time before we're approaching anything close to 50% of sales. The impact of e-books will be felt early though. Take 10% more sales away from print bookstores, for instance, and they're really going to feel it.

But as my post yesterday reflects, I think the future could go several different directions. I think the e-book era will be here sooner rather than later, but as we were discussing in the forums, 10+ years after mp3s exploded onto the scene digital music sales still haven't surpassed CD sales. It will probably take time for true mass adoption even if we're very much feeling the effect of the change in the meantime.

Mira said...

Fun links this week, Nathan, thank you.

I liked the
geek out line. Funny.

This whole e-book thing is so interesting. (Mike's article used business speak which is above my head, so although I don't doubt it's brillant, I didn't follow it. So instead, evidently, I'm writing my own article. In this post.)

I've come to a new prediction. I think e-readers are ultimately doomed too, and eventually, we'll all just be reading from the web, like with the I-phone. I think you'll see a wide variety of booksellers - niche, one-stop shopping, and writer collectives, who will also function as publishers/editors. Agents will still be there to negotiate, but they will be taking on the role of career makers/guidance/developers also. Their name may change. You'll also see a rise of sites devoted to reviews and recommendations, which the one-stop shopping will also provide.

It will be interesting to see if the public gets tired of searching for things, and wants centralization, or if they.....don't. Or if the public splits into two groups - niche and centralized.

Also, as an aside, I've been thinking. Alot of folks use the music industry as an example - but I think they may forget that the music industry isn't done yet. It's resting. It won't stop here.

In other links, I really liked Jennifer's article. Nicely put.

I think Jane Friedman is dead on target. That article about the strange products was hilarious. And the book trailer - cooooool. I may be in the minority, but for some reason, I love book trailers. For one thing, they don't give away the ending, like the dumb movie trailers, so I don't have to close my eyes and plug my ears while they're on, like I do in the movies.

So, that's it for now. :) I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Leila said...

Thanks Nathan.

I just find it interesting to try and anticipate how much said changes will impact the here and now v's tomorrow.

It doesn't feel so much like change to me anyway, more like evolution, moving towards the inevitability of progress. The world is usually better off because of it, it just takes time to be understood, absorbed, appreciated and experienced.

Thanks again.

Rachel Bateman said...

Hey Nathan;

I have an interview with Jennifer Hubbard up on my blog, tied in with a giveaway of a signed copy of THE SECRET YEAR. I thought you might want to know.

I love the book cover video. I could watch it over and over again–it is just so intriguing!

Nathan Bransford said...

Awesome interview, Rachel, thanks for sharing the link!

Linda Godfrey said...

3 wolf moon t-shirt video was my best moment of the day. Thanks for sharing the awesomeness.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Thanks for the great links, Nathan!

I got my copy of this month's "Atlantic" today, and lo and behold, they had an article about the Battle of the eBook Giants, otherwise known as the pros and cons of Kindle vs iPad. You can read it at

My newest question is: books can literally last a hundred years or more. When will they make an electronic reading device that can do the same thing? I know, I know, I'm swimming against the tide - and I'll never protest if a publisher wants to make my books available in e-format - but the prevalence of more devices just sounds to me like more stuff for us to have to throw away in 5-10 years' time because it has stopped working.

Hillary said...

I know, right, Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! - I love Apple's genius, but the iPad sounds like a bewilderingly high-tech feminine product (and yes, I am still waiting for an awesome parody ad on youtube, complete with soft and pleasant indie rock music).

Right on, Orbit. Lovely and interesting making-of/advertisement.

D. G. Hudson said...

Loved the trailer on creating the book cover.

Regarding iPad, and all the other readers - with so many choices, I'm hoping the price will level out soon.

T. Anne said...

I had never considered until now that Amazon reviews might be my only means to publication, and after reading the reviews on John's blog I'm not so offended by this thought. Funny stuff.

Donna Hole said...

I wasn't impressed with CreatSpace. Mostly b/c they seem to publish anything as long as you pay them. They don't edit; possibly don't even read the ms.

But I wonder if real soon the only way to get published is through some e-book self publishing type company. e-books being the wave and all that. I like the idea of e-books, but sometimes I worry they're just another way to bilk a substandard writer out of some cash.

Take the forum - I don't remember the author's name - about some genre's having limited agent representation. Say you can only come up with about 30-60 agents to query, and they all reject. Now what. Consider yourself a bad writer? Or move on to the next form of publishing to see some progress?

It's very tempting, for me at least, to want that CreateSpace option. Sometimes, the only thing stopping me is the couple of books I've read from authors I thought shouldn't have published - at least, not without some editor taking a serious look at the writing; and something from Nathan's 9/09 work shop.

I don't know if it was Nathan or Jennifer Laughram of Andrea Brown Literary Agency who stated that having a poor publishing record was worse than having none, but the statement stuck with me.

So it's not that I'm against e-publishing, but it has that POD/inde publishing feel, and with sites like CreateSpace owned by reputeable houses, publishing anything that pays the bill, well.
I just wonder about e-publishing.

Great discussions all Nathan, and I really enjoyed the book cover video. Have a good weekend.


word verif: citypti. Almost sounds like a real place.

elancross said...

I just read Pride and Prejudice on my e-reader and it felt very, very right. I gave up sleep, missed bus stops, and totally fell in love. I was a skeptic too, but I almost didn't notice the absence of paper, or leather:)

JohnO said...

So, Nathan - If Mike is right about the rising percentage of a publisher’s revenue that is generated by fragments and aggregations, can I interest you in 30 to 40 choice sentences and paragraphs from my last book?

Amanda P. said...

I've never seen the wolf shirt before, but can I thank you for giving the the biggest laugh I've had all week? I'm so behind the times, apparently, but holy crap, hil.a.ri.ous.

When I get my first book deal, I'm celebrating by buying myself a brand spankin' new wolf shirt. Nothing says success than that.

And I feel quite silly that this would be what I zeroed in on through this whole post. *sigh*

Martin said...

The ipad is awesome...but not for the reason you think:

Susan Quinn said...

Thank you for that link about action openings! I've been looking for the right words to describe my issue with that piece of "advice."


Sometimes when I carry a book to the train, I'm comforted by the fact that it's cheap and easy to replace--I'm not sure I'd feel as comfortable lugging an ipad around, knowing it's worth a lot more money. The "aura" around objects isn't just about convenience, or how well it replicates the reading experience. It's also about their financial value, and wanting something "disposable" in your hands, as opposed to something of value, that can be stolen, or broken if roughly handled.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Confusions abound:

Re: Mark Shatzkin:

"Because “book publishing” in an increasingly vertical world is less and less about content sales in the unit of “books” [...] and more and more about sales bigger than the book (databases that stretch across many books and other things [Such as? What are these "other things"??] too) or smaller than the book (chapters or fragments that naturally stand alone or which address a particular content need [as pertains to fiction?].)

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

I don't know if this "vertical marketing" - or in the ballpark of vertical marketing - but it does address "other things":

A book, a bumper sticker, a t-shirt, and a calendar - and if you create the artwork and the text both - it's like a 360-degree experience of the content - well, maybe you'd have to throw in some music or video for 360 degrees...but maybe 270...I mean, if you download an ebook and you like the title, or there's some catchy line in it - why wouldn't you want the bumper sticker? At least that demographic that buys bumper is the bumper sticker business, by the way, not sure...but if the publisher buys the mac'n'cheese cookbook, to fill out their database...maybe there's a publisher that specializes in "book-icizing" promising they buy a bumper sticker company because a bumper sticker is like a "brick'n'mortar" tweet...I don't know...maybe that's what is already...

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