Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, August 6, 2010

This Week in Publishing 8/6/10

This Publishing Week!

Lots and lots of links to get to, but first I wanted to give a heads-up about the upcoming Central Coast Writers Conference in San Luis Obispo on September 17th and 18th. Spots are still available, and there will be keynotes and workshops and all kinds of good things. I'll be giving a speech on the internal combustion engine (or maybe the writing life, haven't decided yet), I'll be doing a query game/workshop, and there will be more! Here's the website, hope to see you there!

Now then, let's get to the links, shall we?

The big news this week that has everyone talking is Barnes & Noble's announcement that after being battered by a low share price, they might be open to selling themselves. What does this mean? Well, somewhat unclear. Investor Ron Burkle had been looking to increase his stake but had been prevented from doing so, and this could potentially open the door. But founder/chairman Len Riggio may be able to prevent that and has stated that he's considering organizing a private investment group. Stay tuned.

In other book news, Google has apparently determined that there are a measly 129,864,880 books in the world. Don't worry, we still need more!!

And in e-book news, Mike Shatzkin sizes up three new e-book formats about to hit the market.

Last week we discussed our favorite villains, and almost simultaneously The Millions featured a great article called In Search of Iago that traces Iago and other sociopaths through literary history.

In writing advice news, Eric from Pimp My Novel discussed why you still want an agent even if you're e-publishing, and Moonrat has a really terrific rundown of the pros and cons of every publishing option under the sun (or should I say the moon? Get it?? MOONrat? I slay myself.),  the LA Times took a look at startup OpenSky, which helps authors monetize their Internet presence/celebrity/authority with creative merchandising and branding, Rachelle Gardner compares the writing life with an Olympic athlete's, and the Huffington Post has a slideshow of 11 of the best creative writing programs.

Speaking of the LA Times, a big hearty congratulations to Carolyn Kellogg, who parlayed her terrific work with Jacket Copy into a staff writing position! This may be the smartest personnel decision at a major newspaper since the Daily Planet hired Clark Kent.

In drinking news, the Rejectionist (who is currently hosting an awesome Feminist Science Fiction Week) passed along this incredible e-books article drinking game, which will have you under the table faster than you can say "game changer," and the NY Times featured a great article on the tediousness of writers telling us how to drink, and the awesomeness when fictional characters show us. (via Dystel & Goderich)

This week in the Forums, your favorite part of writingare you a crafter or an artist, originality and race in fantasy, and of course, which superpower would you want?

Comment! Of! The! Week! Goes! To! Jabez, who has a very provocative comment on Writing vs. Storytelling, which I shall print in full. Do we agree? Disagree?

First, regarding Writing vs. Storytelling is Jabez:

A couple points. First, I've seen scores of people on blogs and otherwise say words to the effect of, "I'm not the best writer in the world, but I'm a good storyteller," but barely a handful who have ever admitted to being a better prose stylist than a storyteller. But being good at either one is really hard and rare.

I think the reason for the disparity, mostly, is that it's easier to delude yourself into thinking you're a better storyteller than you are, because you can grasp the quality (or not) of the prose in a short excerpt, but to evaluate storytelling you have to look at the work as a whole, which is harder to wrap your mind around. Plus we usually get into the writing game because we have stories to tell, and we don't want to think that on that basic level, we just don't have it. And people confuse storytelling, which involves a lot of different elements (choice of details, pacing, tension, characterization, plotting, setting, etc.) with just the basic idea of the story (which they think theirs is original and compelling, or they wouldn't be writing it) or with just plot at a high level of remove.

And my second point, which is I think too many people confuse "writing" as "writing in a literary fashion." I think a great "writer" is a writer who can best craft her prose to serve the particular story she's trying to tell, whether that is literary, fantasy, mystery, romance, or what not. But because people tend to equate fancy or elaborate (which may happen to be great) with great prose, lots of people who don't write in a literary style instantly discount themselves and similar writers as mainly "storytellers" and not great "writers."
And finally, this is one of the more hilarious videos I've seen in a while, though I fear it may not make sense to anyone under the age of 25. I give you.......... the trailer for Oregon Trail. The Movie.

Have a great weekend!


Katie said...

I'm under 25 and I LOVED Oregon Trail! Thanks for sharing!

Kristi Helvig said...

Rachelle's post was amazing, especially the quote about success. Thanks for the links, although now I'm wishing I didn't renew by B&N annual membership. Happy Friday!

Yamile said...

LOl! Hilarious video!
I've been thinking all week about Rachelle's post. Her comparison between writers and athletes is right on.
Have a great weekend! And how I wish I could go to the conference!!!

Emily White said...

Oh my goodness! That video is hilarious! I used to play that game all. the. time.

Thermocline said...

I was always losing bullets whenever I crossed rivers in The Oregon Trail.

Watching School House Rock Live! on stage two months ago was the best money I've spent reliving my childhood. "Conjunction Junction. What's your function?"

Matthew Rush said...

A wealth of great info here. Commenting now so I don't have to scroll as far.

Aoife.Troxel said...

Laughing at the Oregon Trail! I'm under 25, but I get it :)
I always seemed to do quite well...took the enjoyment out of it!

Anonymous said...

Rocking the Oregon Trail on my Apple IIC.

Renee Collins said...

Ah, the music at the end of that video brought a rush of warm memories. :)

Livia said...

Jabez raises some good and insightful points. Although, just for kicks, I'll now argue the opposite -- hat it's harder to define good writing than good storytelling. If you take his (her?) second point further and define good writing separately from "writing in a literary fashion", it soon becomes really nebulous what good writing is. What exactly does it mean for writing to "serve your purpose?"

To see if your storytelling is good, just look at how engaged your reader is. If she can't put your book down and can't stop thinking about it afterwards, then chances are you told a good story.

Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for plugging the CC Writers Conference--one of the best weekend conferences around.

Blog friends, this conference is an incredible deal, and YOU GET TO MEET NATHAN!!

So if you're going to be anywhere near the Central Coast of California on the weekend of Sept. 18th--come on over/down/up for a great conference, a laid back atmosphere, perfect weather, AND YOU GET TO MEET NATHAN!!

Of course I've signed up for the query-game workshop. I can't wait.

Nathan, I'm the person who suggested they invite you (after Laurie McLean dropped some hints at last year's conference about how you might be interested.)

I know you'll love staying in Morro Bay. See you there!

Alison said...

Here Lies POOP FACE.

That's all I've got. But I thought it was important enough to share.

Locusts and Wild Honey said...

Ignore this vain comment. I'm trying to get my profile picture to show up. I'm tired of being faceless!

Cats! said...

Storytelling is a great subject. Some storytellers hit tons of people just right. I think a lot of it has to do with timing. Not only the pace of a story fitting with the story being told, but what the story is about, how it's told in relation to what is going on in the reader's life.

Audrianna Hoover said...

I'm under 25, as well, and my younger brother and I both played Oregon Trail... That was hilarious!!!

Now, I have a favor to ask! I'm a regular reader, but don't comment a lot. I swear I'm not trying to spam - but rather trying to get information out to people I think would find it...interesting, maybe?

I am trying to establish a horse rescue in Arizona. Horses, especially here in AZ, are regularly dumped in the desert and the side of the road because the owners can't afford the upkeep anymore. That being said, we have been approved to run for a Pepsi Refresh grant, which would grant us $250K if we win.

I need help. I've been trying to get the word out, but we're staying steady around 175th place. I was reading the post today and thought I'd share it here. I know I don't comment a lot, but I AM here everyday.

To vote, the website is

Our website is

We're also on face book - "Four Hooves Equine Rescue".

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Jennifer said...

I just saw this video a few hours ago and totally worth it to watch again. "Nobody wants to be the carpenter!" Fond memories of the 90's and clunky IBMs in the computer lab at school.

Thanks for another great round-up

Anonymous said...

Re Jabez' comment:

There is indeed a difference between good storytelling (involving pacing, characterization etc) and a good idea (the outline.) The difference is you can only suss out one from reading a query letter/synopsis.

I'm not trying to bash anyone here-- I just think the system is set up to favour unique ideas/concepts over good storytelling/prose.

Christina B. said...

I'd say Dorchester dropping the mm format is pretty big news--and a huge deal for the authors/editors/agents involved in the books scheduled for release next month and this fall. I can't even imagine...

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

My kids love the Oregon Trail game! All I can think about is the Donner Party taking a short cut. My husband would have taken that short cut, despite my protests, and I swear, he would be the first person I'd kill and eat!
Nice links! Might take a chance on that writer's conference.
Oh, go Iowa!

Tahlia said...

You just made my day with the Oregon Trail movie--I laughed so hard at all the inside jokes. Oh, and I'm 21, so it's not that old yet :-D

ryan field said...

At a glance, I think I like Copia the best.

And I agree with Jabez.

AstonWest said...

Go with a discussion of the internal combustion engine...all you need to know:



But if you want to fill more than 10 seconds, might be wise to go with the other...

T. Anne said...

Loved the post from Rachelle. I'll be picking through the links all weekend. Thank you!

I used to play Oregon Trail with my son. Ahh... good times. Video was too funny.

Jeff said...

Daaaang-a-laaang! My brother. Dang-a-lang! I ain't no never played dem dere Video thingys, ain't never been thingymarized by dem dere E-lectricty play thingies, but dang! You know it. Just when I thought it was the yellow brick road. Go figure. I, not too long ago, worked with an angry guy in a warehouse in O-re-gon who showed off his pistol to me after work. Literally, he had bullets rolling around on his floorboard. Dang-a-lang! My brother.

P.S. Nathan, you have lifted my spirits yet again. Man oh man. I can't even tell you in a short outburst.

Rebecca said...

I'm 23... and I loved Oregon Trail when I was young!

Ah... elementary school...

swampfox said...

I'm way over 25, but I never played video games. But it would be a trip to wake up one day and find out my whole life was just that. Has that story been written yet?

Anatole said...

I'm 16, and remember playing that game about 10 years ago, but still . . . yes, it's old.

I only once made it all the way without everybody dying. *sobs*

Megan Grimit said...

I remember playing that game in the fifth grade.

And this is completely random, but I was wondering if you've ever heard of The Institute of Children's Literature?

Ishta Mercurio said...

Re. Anon @3:38's comment:

Being a good storyteller and being able to plot out/outline your story well are not mutually exclusive; the latter is a crucial part of the former.

Therefore the query system doesn't favor people who can come up with good ideas over people who can tell a good story, because if your ideas and outline are poor, you've probably got a little of work to do on developing your storytelling craft.

What the query system does do help identify the people who are good writers and also good at crafting interesting ideas into a plot that is compelling. A writer who is truly a master of his craft is a writer who can effectively shape words to whatever purpose he needs. This means being able to write a good narrative, and then turn around and write an effective query.

Also: "No-one wants to be the carpenter!" HA-HAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA! Oregon Trail rocks. I can't wait to play it with my kids. (grin) How do you find these gems? (And is that trailer for real? Because if it is, I totally want to watch that movie.)

Ishta Mercurio said...

By the way, I had two wisdom teeth pulled yesterday, and that video made me laugh so hard it literally hurt my face. But it was worth it. Thank you.

maine character said...

Speaking of news, just saw this on Google Flip:

"The social shopping site Blippy made a big splash in the tech blogosphere earlier this week with an unlikely feature: the most amazing 404 error page anybody had seen in awhile."

Just click on the unicorn.

Sheila Cull said...

Nathan, your 'In drinking news' announcement was a big turn off. If a person can drink to enjoy then more power to them, have fun. But for a lot of people like me, a lot of writers too Nathan, alcohol is a poison with deadly consequences. Similar to saying, 'In crack cocaine news'.

They are fruitful writing events and your attention to them warranted but it really could've done without the 'In drinking news'.

I know a lot of people think I need to take a chill pill about this. Maybe I do. But alcohol is just another drug. A legal one.

Anonymous said...

People who are not addicted to alcohol are not responsible for maintaining the sobriety of those who are.

Sheila, as difficult as it is, please deal with your own addiction without imposing the politically correct police.

Anonymous said...

Ditto that.

Judith Van Alstyne said...

To really appreciate the Oregon Trail video, apparently the problem is not being under 25. How about over 35? I never played that game, although I'd heard of it, and now I wish I had played it. I was probably at a keg party at the time. Meh.

Cindy said...

If we're, er, the other side of 25, we might have kids that played it. Obsessively. I'm just sayin.

Judith Van Alstyne said...

Cindy, you are absolutely right. There are probably only a few of us in the Oregon Trail-less gap. And until today, we never knew what we were missing. *sigh*

J. T. Shea said...

129,864,877...129,864,878...129,864,879...Oh damn! I lost count again. And 58,364,974 of them are BEHIND OTHER BOOKS, so you can't see the titles. I hate that.

Anonymous said...

Ishta Mercurio-

You're right about the query system in that you need both a good idea and good writing to get noticed, but I meant to say that the good idea is usually what gets you noticed first. That is, if you have a great idea and decent-but-not-amazing prose it's quite easy to get picked up, but if you have great prose and a decent-but-not-amazing idea it's a bit more difficult.

I also think there are a lot of people who can come up with interesting ideas but can't necessarily deliver on the storytelling behind it. Coming up with ideas is a creative process involving imagination; coming up with plot is a mechanical process involving logic.

BTW, Anon 9:03AM: maybe it's just me but I thought Sheila was making the point that alcohol is as dangerous as any other drug (illegal or otherwise) and people should be a little more aware about it. The fact that alcohol and drinking is so openly encouraged whilst people get sent to jail for possessing a bit of marijuana is absolutely ludicrous, and really it is just another double standard.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:45, Anon 9:03 here. No argument that people can have serious alcohol problems. But still the addict is responsible for his or her self. For Sheila to come to this blog and ask the agent to walk on tiptoe because of her own personal problems is out of line.

Mira said...

Way cool links, Nathan. That's alot of work, linking all that, and it is appreciated!

First, the Conference!! I can't go, because it's the week before school starts, and I'll be spending that weekend shaking my fist at the sky, shouting "Why me?? Why must this upcoming nightmare of darkness and horror be visited upon me??" I'll be doing that for HOURS and it will be VERY SATISFYING.

But then I went to the site - and you're the KEYNOTE SPEAKER!! Arrgghhh. Two full days. Oh, so so tempting. Major fun. I was in your query game workshop last year and it was really fun. I didn't win because our group was robbed by another group that wrote a better query. I wish they wouldn't do that kind of thing. But I really can't go, it's a terrible weekend, but I wish I could!! Someday school will stop ruling my life. My hat is off to the organizers, though. They couldn't have picked a better keynote speaker! You'll be terrific.

So, I have to hurry or this post will be so long, I'll have to split it in two, which would just be embarrassing.

I thought long and hard, and I've decided to buy Barnes and Noble. I have $22.50. That might not be enough, so if someone, who is really rich, wants to partner with me, let me know. I'm up for it.

Did Google count the e-books? I'm just saying.

In terms of Shatzkin, I believe e-books devices will be like cell phones. Only a few will really dominate, so it doesn't matter how many players there are. Amazon has a built in on-line advantage that will probably not be successfully challenged, even by Apple.

I liked the Iago article alot. I especially liked that they pointed out that villians always have super-villany names. I agree with Eric that even self-published folks could benefit from agenting. I really, really liked Moonrat's article. Except she left out e-book publishing, which seemed alittle odd. (?) When I publish, I'd like a place that will help me brand my product. That was an inspiring article by Rachelle Gardner, although I do think sports and writing are somewhat different. Pushing in writing can backfire, sometimes. I would LOVE to get an MFA. That's because I love school.

Is there a word count on commenting? I don't know who Carolyn Kellog is, but I love that someone was discovered through blogging! Yay! That was funny about Clark Kent.

That was a very interesting comment of the week! Thought provoking. I really liked what she said about great writing crafts the prose to match the story and genre. Yes!

In terms of the alcohol stuff, I don't want to step on any toes, and I understand that Sheila has strong feelings about this, but.....I like Nathan's jokes - I thought his "in drinking news was funny" and so was the article about authors telling people how to drink. I hope he doesn't stop because alchohol and writing are funny together....As an addict myself, I think it's good to relax about this sort of thing.

Oh, and I've been enjoying the Rejectionist's blog lately.

Okay, I'm done. Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. :)

Mira said...

Oh, the video! So funny. I liked the part where he wanted to be a banker.

Rena Rossner said...

Well I am 31 so I guess I fall into the right age group because I totally grew up on that game and was obsessed with it!!! My parents only let me play "educational" games - so the Oregon trail and "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" were total obsessions. What I can't figure out is -is that movie for real? Is it meant to be as stupid and hysterical as it looks in that trailer? Man I haven't laughed like that in a long time. Thanks for sharing that Nathan!!!

- Rena

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:03/2:25: Yeah that's true. In context it was a bit uncalled for. My frustration about the issue is more about the lack of responsibility on the part of authorities and society in general rather than this blog specifically (I didn't really take any offense from the joke.) I just think alcohol is sometimes overly glorified and the way some people go on and on about it is vaguely tedious. Could you imagine if I wrote an essay about all the different ways you can drink coffee? YAWN.

Anyway I'm starting to rant here, but thanks-- I'm glad you acknowledge that drinking is not fun and games for everyone.

(Anon 12:45)

Steven Till said...

Even if Barnes & Noble sells, I would be surprised if whoever bought them changed the name of the company. To the average everyday store visitor, they wouldn't know the difference. The sign would still say Barnes & Noble, and that's all they would care about. It's an interesting story, and one I've been keeping an eye on since they made the announcement. For the fiscal year 2012, they are expected to make $1 billion less than they made in 2010.

Anonymous said...

I love how that video used one of my favorite songs. If you haven't seen the video yet, look for the music video "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It's a beautiful, happy song that never fails to brighten my day.

Dara said...

LOL, love that video! I remember playing that game and how all of my characters would die...I think I would be lucky to get one person to the end.

Now I want to play that game again...

Regina said...

Thanks for sharing all of your insight. It was enlightening as usual. I also liked the video. Have a great day.

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