Nathan Bransford, Author


Friday, November 12, 2010

This Week in Books 11/12/10

Surprise!

It's our new Friday feature, This Week in Books. Which will look a lot like This Week in Publishing! Only, since I'm not working in publishing I thought it should have a new name. Thus: This Week in Books. Stay tuned on Friday for your linkage goodness.

FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANTLY! It's still HARRY POTTER week, so please please don't miss the bottom of this post, where you'll have your chance to end HARRY POTTER week with a contribution of your own.

We're also bringing back Page Critique Fridays. Page Critique Fridays may not be complete until Page Critique Saturday or Page Critique Sunday, but the page up for critique is posted in the Forums. UPDATE: My critique and the importance of specificity posted here.

Meanwhile, I've been storing up lots of links over the past few weeks, and off we go!

How are the NaNoWriMo-ers doing?? There was actually a bit of controversy around NaNoWriMo as Laura Miller posted an article calling NaNoWriMo a waste of time and energy, while Carolyn Kellogg riposted point by point with a post called 12 Reasons to Ignore the Naysayers. Where do you stand?

Lots and lots of e-book news this week. The NY Times announced that they will have an e-book bestseller list in 2011 that will divide e-books into fiction and nonfiction, Engadget has a preview of a color e-ink reader arriving in China in March, Eric from Pimp My Novel notes that e-books are closing in on the $1 billion a year benchmark, and CNET (where, disclosure, I am employed), has a comprehensive post on how to self-publish an e-book as well as a breakdown of Kindle vs. Nook vs. iPad.

And in less than rosy news, GalleyCat picked up on a report that adult hardcover sales were down 40% in September, and overall sales were down 12%. Yikes. But speaking of those e-books, they were up 158%.

In really creepy and weird news, there was a significant controversy at Amazon this week around a guide to pedophilia that was self-published as an e-book. Amazon initially defended its decision to sell the book, stating to TechCrunch, "Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable," but by this afternoon the book had been de-listed without further statement by Amazon.

The Wall Street Journal confirmed a rumor that was making the rounds while I was in New York: Random House is significantly reducing its office space and will be leasing out the rest. Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum states that this is not a sign that the company is planning layoffs.

In honor of the new fictional Roger Sterling memoir, the Onion AV Club surveyed 30-plus books written by fictional characters (via BookSlut). Which fictional character do you want to see write a memoir? I'm going with Omar from The Wire.

There were two separate posts on the benefits and consequences of the Internet and social networking. Veronica Roth talked about how sometimes not writing is as important as writing, and Sarah LaPolla wonders if social networking is making us dumb (hint: her conclusion is rosier than that).

And the great Tahereh has a great and accurate list of 7 Things Your Characters Do Too Much.

This week in the Forums, talking about my decision to leave agenting and what it's like being an agent, debating the Kindle vs. Nook, your daily NaNoWriMo encouragement courtesy of Somner Leigh, do you have to be serious?, and what to do when you're losing the spark.

Comment! Of! The! Week! goes to Lindsey, who put a great image together with the concept of J.K. Rowling, clutch writer:
Here's my image of Rowling's final clutch touchdown: My daughter and I are standing in the parking lot of BookPeople in Austin, Texas. It is the midnight release of the seventh book. Thousands of people up and waiting. The Austin Symphony is playing Hedwig's Theme. Bookstore employees and fans are dressed as HP characters. All manner of games, mazes and foods related to the world of HP are tucked into different areas of the parking lot. My daughter looks around at some of the fans and says, "They're so old." (She was ten, 'they' were 20-somethings.) And that's when I got Rowling's amazing play: She reached generations of readers with this story. She created a world and we all entered in. Parents, grandparents, children, teens...we all know what a muggle is.
What a run, what a marathon.
And finally, a massive, huge, endless thank you to all of your kind words this week as I made my transition from the publishing world to the tech world. I can't say enough how thankful I am for the kindness of the Internet and this community! I never knew when I started this blog that it would lead to so many great friendships (and if I had, I would have started it in like 1992). Thank you thank you. I really, truly appreciate it.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST. It's been a blast hosting HARRY POTTER week, but now it's your turn!! If you'd like to write your own HARRY POTTER/J.K. Rowling post, add it to the list below. And be sure and stop back by to see what everyone else posted!



Have a great weekend!






58 comments:

Joseph L. Selby said...

I clicked to Laura Miller's post with alacrity. Finally someone else who...

wait, writing is narcissistic?

And we don't read?

Yeah, okay, let's just close that article now.

Sierra McConnell said...

I haven't said anything this week because I have mixed feelings about Harry Potter.

I liked the first five books. I snuck them into the house to read (even though I was an adult, shh) because my parents thought they were evil. But after the fifth they suddenly changed style. It became this vast, dark thing that wasn't fun anymore.

If I wanted that, I would have lived my own life. I just...didn't like it. It wasn't Harry Potter. It was everybody's-emo-teen.

Oh, sorry, I've been there, seen that, don't want to go there again. They were bad the first time. It was why I was glad to go to college!

Onto tech stuff-since I'm currently in the throws of Network + study and curious-do you have any certs? :3 They are evil, and if you don't test this year, you'll have to retest EVERY THREE YEARS.

Rick Daley said...

I was wondering what you would post today. Nice transition.

WORD VERIFICATION: cureds. Those who are no longer sick.

Neil Vogler said...

Hey Nathan! Let me add my good luck wishes to the list. Agenting will be all the poorer for losing you, methinks. Oh and I agree with that article: sometimes not writing is as important as writing. The trick is balance. Writing is all about spinning plates; the trick is knowing when to let one drop.

Oh and if I may shamelessly plug just this one time, I'd love to hear from and interact with other writers and readers over at my new fledgling blog: A WRITER, HE MUTTERED Plug over, I swear. I feel so grimy.

veela-valoom said...

I chose not to read Laura Miller's post. This is my 3rd year doing NanoWriMo and I've enjoyed it. The first year I liked how my story came out, the second I tried something different and hated it, and this year so far I'm enjoying the story.

Sometimes it's good to do things for fun. If you come up with a good story at the end it's a bonus. It's helped me learn to write more consistently, got me reading these blogs, and there are some other bonuses as well. Writing is normally so solitary and the beauty in NanoWriMo is that it's a community.

Tahereh said...

YES! This Week in Books is almost better than This Week in Publishing!

hehe!

Claire M. Caterer said...

Laura Miller was slammed mightily on the Salon site, but frankly, she made some good points. I encourage all writers and think NaNoWriMo is a great exercise. I also think Laura's right in that editing is the real deal. Everyone likes to party, but no one wants to do the dishes afterward. But the better point that got lost in the shuffle is that readers need celebrating too. The resurgence of book clubs and book blogs needs to be shouted to the rafters. It's JK Rowling's biggest triumph that she created a generation of readers. (How's that for tying it all together?) Read on, writers! And write on, readers.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Yay for the linky list! And you continue to rock the links. I cut and pasted Tahareh's list as soon as I saw it, and finally took the plunge to enter the page critique lotto.

And THANK YOU for the link about e-readers. I need to have something to direct my holiday-e-reader-buying family members to! ;)

Happy Weekend!

Florence said...

Thanks for doing a great week on Harry Potter. It is awesome that three gen. of readers can enjoy and share the same series. Her gift to the reading world is beyond "words," but then you did find some, didn't you?

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

First, I didn't read Laura Miller's post, neither have I ever participated in NaNoWriMo (not yet anyway), but why would anyone say that is a bad idea? Unless you are in the middle of a critical deadline. I you have nothing you are working on at the moment I think beginning a new novel/speed writing would be a great exercise for any staged author. And I'm sure you could come up with a great idea for an idea later one, even if you can't finish it. I say, 'Way to go!' to all the writers out there participating.

As for Harry Potter posts. I will have to work on that. Great idea. (check my site later) I think the series is brilliant and deserves praise.

Silicon Valley Diva said...

The weekly publishing/book updates are one of my favorite features of your blog. It will take me FOREVER to read through all your links.

I can't wait to read all the Harry Potter entries.

I just hope I can find the time to read it all :-)

hannah said...

Re NaNo--haters gotta hate. I'm at 31K.

Re. 7 things your characters do too much--if anyone knows HOW to cut out all that looking, please let me know. God, it's hard. I'm intentionally trying to limit while I'm writing but it always seems necessary...

Khanada said...

For me, reading Laura Miller's article was a waste of time and energy.

NaNo either works for you or it doesn't. If I go on a shopping spree and buy all new size 12 clothes, that would be a waste of my time and energy. Because I'm not a size 12. But if you are a size 12, that could be a great thing.

NaNo worked for me last year. I was writing a chapter book, so I didn't "win", but you know, I FINISHED the rough draft in December. And I'm still revising it now, but if I hadn't written "the crap", there would be no revising, and it would all be still in my head, waiting for the perfect words to appear. Yeah.

I'm sorry so many people rush those drafts out to agents in December, but I wonder if it wouldn't be such a problem if it wasn't happening all year long. There are so many people out there without a clue, contacting agents with their "masterpiece". That's not NaNo's fault, that's just people being stupid.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I love Tahereh's list, because I was realizing with great frustration last night that a lot of my characters are glancing or looking ALL the time and, on occasion, even staring. Augh, I've got to give them other things to do.

I'm glad the pedophile guide is down. Guides to illegal activity, especially something that horrible that involves children, are one of the few instances in which I feel it's OK to not sell something. The author is free to write it, but I don't think it's censorship to make him find his own way to sell it.

Hope your CNET gig is going well!

Liz said...

I didn't read Laura Miller's article, but I have to say, I have mixed feelings about NaNo. If you need motivation to get out that first draft, then it could be a good thing, but it's not for everybody. The one time I participated, I ended up deleting all but about 5,000 words and completely changing my story. So I guess, in a way, it was a good thing because I learned something about myself. I am not meant to be a fast writer. It's much better for me to take my time drafting.

Chuck H. said...

The fictional character I would most like to see write a memoir is Ms. Hettie Lang of NCIS Los Angeles.

WV: derimm - What happens to your car if you park it on the street in the wrong neighborhood.

Mira said...

The introduction and some other parts of this post were so adorable, I think they killed me. Yep. I'm about 98% certain that I up and croaked from the sheer adorableness of it all.

I'll be back to comment on the links once I manage to ressurrect myself.

I'm so glad you kept the linkage goodness, Nathan. :)

T. Anne said...

I'm so glad you're still around Nathan! And I love the idea of book Friday. Have a great weekend!

Josin L. McQuein said...

Ugh. Amazon's statement is cringe-worthy for several reasons.

1 - it's not censorship if the book is illegal. It's illegal to profit from a crime, and a how-to on the mechanics of a committing a crime is profiting from the crime. (Pedophilia, and the distribution of it is illegal itself on top of that.)

2 - these are the same "censor -consious" people who jerked every LGBT title from their rankings without regard for content.

If you're going to make a stand against censorship, at least choose the battle that doesn't back those whose actions hurt children by the definition of their being.

hannah --

Have them go through the book blindfolded?

:-P

Sommer Leigh said...

This was such a great post! I loved the links and have saved the list of 7 things our characters do too much. Spot on and awesome.

Also, seeing my name in this post made me blush like a school girl. I'm glad everyone has enjoyed the thread so much! I'm having a wonderful time encouraging other writers. I must have been a cheerleader in a former life.

It feels like the naysayers of NaNoWriMo are those who take 50,000 word goal too seriously. Honestly, I love the companionship and conversation that comes up with other writers over this month. The joy of participating is why I do it.

lotusgirl said...

I worry for agents. It's a difficult row to hoe. It was nice to read your thoughts about agenting on the forum. I'm excited for your new opportunities and glad that you will still be around spreading news and info about books.

LorieinTexas said...

*****
Nathan, I've read your site for the past year and only commented three times. Each day at my regular job I take a break, read the local news, the national new and your blog. You've educated me and entertained me and never let me down. I'm happy you found a new direction, but sad that you're leaving the publishing world. I never sent you my MS because I had sent it to your colleague - and she never bothered with a response (AW). Now I wish I'd tried before you left.

Keep up the good info as you've educated me more than you know. And on HP, I'm ashamed to say that I got so busy with my kids/life/work that I never read them, but loved the movies. Maybe now that my life has slowed down, I'll take some time and read them.

Good luck, Mr. Nathan.
******

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Whether Nano is a waste of time or not, it would be a waste of my time. I have my own works to worry about and I have a life. My life can't stop for a month so I can write 50,000 words.
When I think of the ebook market China portends...yum!
After the first couple books, I lost interest in Harry. Sorry. Too wordy and depressing.

D.G. Hudson said...

Laura Miller's article was interesting, but her presentation of her reasons seem to emphasize literary discrimination. I'm not a fan of NaNo but her article raised my hackles. Most writers do read a lot, but they might not attend the same parties to complain.

Carolyn's opposite view seem to say "lighten up literary mavens" and I had to agree with some of her points.

As for Amazon - I was appalled that a book written about pedophiles was actually offered on such a public site. If nothing else kills Amazon, having garbage like that for sale will eventually bring them down. That's assuming most of us have certain levels of morality.

Thanks for keeping up the links on Fridays. I've still got a few to check.

hannah said...

Josin: ooooh

Wild Runner said...

Re: NaNoWriMo

Disclaimer: I have participated in NaNoWriMo since 2008 and have 2 full first drafts from it.

I think the upshot of the posts about NaNoWriMo is that you have to see it for what it is intended to be: a way to forcibly disgorge a literary idea that might never otherwise see the (relative) light of day. It is NOT meant to be a month-long ego-fest, where you demand people read your first-draft drivel as you write it. It is not meant to be the only work you do on a novel. If you pay attention to the guidelines, and view this as the roughest of rough first drafts (and also pay attention to the fact that there is also NaNoFiMo -- novel FINISHING month, where you write an additional 30k words towards your draft), then it shouldn't cause anyone undue pain.

And again, NaNoWriMo doesn't pretend that the reason to write a novel is to get published and make a gajillion dollars -- it's simply that you have an idea and would like to share it with... well, at least a word-processor.

@Sierra McConnell, the fifth Harry Potter book is my absolute least-favorite. I feel like Rowling focused too narrowly on the least defensible aspect of Harry's character, AND it was full of typos and poor phrasing. I would strongly suggest you try to read the sixth book. That said, yes, the series does get very dark, starting around the end of book four. But she does tone down the rampant emo-ness of the fifth book.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Laura Miller - wow! Such vitriol over something that she could so easily just ignore.

I'm doing NaNo, because I've never written more than a couple thousand words - I do picture books and poetry. I want to show myself that I can write a novel, that I have it in me. Everyone who does it does it for different reasons, but we all have a reason. And if some people choose to submit without major editing and revision, then shame on them, but how is this the fault of the people who organize NaNo?

Writing a novel is hard. Most people never manage it. NaNo offers up one way to achieve that goal. It's not for everyone, but some of us need it.

And the rest of the links were awesome, too, of course. I love this blog.

The Red Angel said...

So glad Page Critique Friday is returning! =) I rather enjoyed that feature of this blog.

Laura Miller's anti-NaNo article made me literally tremble with anger. I
disagreed with 100% of everything that she wrote in the article. I had the courage to do and actually win NaNoWriMo in 2008, which led to my first self-published book. And there tons of books that were written by participants who wrote them during NaNo. Needless to say, this yearly event has changed many lives.

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Theresa Milstein said...

I love comment of the week because it reminds me of going to my own midnight Harry Potter book event with my son. Harvard Square had fun activities going on earlier in the evening. Then we returned home for a couple of hours before heading to Porter Square Books. People dressed in costume. We saw Luna Lovegood, Mad-Eye Moody, and a family of Malfoys (who were booed), along with many Harry Potters. We had butter beer, pumpkin juice (not recommended) and treacle tarts. It was a great time.

How many authors can boast of their books causing that kind of anticipation and fun? In our wildest dreams.

treeoflife said...

I'm very glad that this friday feature is sticking around... Always one of my favourite reads.

Re Laura Miller vs Carolyn Kellogg, Kellogg wins hands down. Writing is a form of art, and just because no one buys it, doesn't mean it shouldn't be encouraged. Some people simply want to express themselves artistically.

treeoflife said...

Oh, I should add... because of Nano, I've written 2 50k+ novels, and I have submitted neither of them because I won't waste a publisher/agent/my time.

Thankfully, I do read a lot to be able to identify good writing. And mine isn't there yet. Maybe it will be one day. Maybe not. Regardless, I've enjoyed the writing, and the process really helped me clarify my own thoughts on the topics I wrote about.

Cora said...

Hi Nathan, have just found your blog. Loving it loving it loving it!

Will now spend copious hours trawling through FAQ and other interesting posts....

Best of luck with the new venture - hopefully not a sign of my lousy timing that I find you just AFTER you leave the agenting business!!!

M. M. Justus said...

Miles Vorkosigan. Definitely.

Jeanie W said...

Amazon should create a searchable registry -- including names and aliases, recent photos, and last known addresses -- using their list of purchasers of the pedophilia book.

The Editor Devil said...

My critique group was laughing at NaNoWriMo last night. Wouldn't it be nice to only be a "seasonal" writer.

Of course, we're all "professional" writers and editors, so are writing year-round and still just as frustrated financially (hee hee).

thanks for keeping your blog going, Nathan, and congrats on the new gig. Hope you find happiness wherever you work!

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Finally posted my own Harry Potter themed post.

http://kathrynpackerroberts.blogspot.com/

Sandra said...

What a great week of Harry Potter themed posts!

As for NaNoWriMo, I am not taking part but I am cheering for all the writers who have chosen to become temporarily insane this month - Go Writers Go!

And yes, the creepy/weird news is just that. How on earth did this book get put on a list ANYWHERE?? I suspect there will be concurrent police investigations covering the listing of the book, the contents of the book and the author.

Now...e-books. Love em or hate em, they are obviously here to stay, but I get the distinct feeling one reason behind the inflated sales figures is our society's inability to resist buying and collecting whatever the item-of-the-moment happens to be. And right now, the item is the e-book.

I'd like to see the results of a poll where e-book owners are questioned on how many of the purchased books on their gadgets have been read. It is far easier to place ten/fifty/one hundred books on an electronic 'to read' list than it is to store the same amount of paper books.

And besides, I do believe there is some pride involved when one e-reader shows another the awesome titles on ones list. Even if you have never read them, you can stack your list with notables and classics and make yourself appear literary...at least until someone 'in the know' questions you on them!

J. T. Shea said...

Overall US book sales are up 3.8% for the year to date. Whether the glass is half-full or half-empty tells us more about the drinker than about the drink.

I hear Random House is planning to employ smaller people so as to fit the same number into less office space.

I agree with Veronica Roth. I'm very good at not writing.

Anonymous said...

Wow, just amazing.

This is how far publishing has fallen, that a children's series as derivative and unimaginative as Harry Potter is being praised by a former literary agent.

When I read the first book in the Potter series I was shocked at how juvenile these books were. Okay, granted, maybe kids did like these books when they were in vogue - but that's the point, the writing IS aimed at children.

It's like going to the park with a young kid. You might brush up against the slide, or momentarily sit down on one of the swings, and momentarily you might even feel like sliding or swinging again - but hopefully you've advanced beyond that stage.

I saw a grown woman on the Charlie Rose show praising Rowling's work. She was particularly praiseworthy of Rowling for the sheer number of characters she creates.

Not true - here, Rowling is playing an old writers' trick, which might work on eight year old kids, but shouldn't work on grown adults. Rowling is expert at defining characters by creating cute little names - but most of us here know that to create a real character can sometimes take a writer years. Rowling doesn't know how to develop, so to circumvent the problem she defines the character with a cute little name, and then dispenses with it, since if she kept the character around then she would have to build it.

Mr. Tophat will come in, and then little Mr. Tophat will leave just as rapidly.

In fact, Rowling  hasn't created hundreds of secondary characters, she's created one secondary character, and taught herself how to rename it. 

It's not even a character. It's a plot device.

And no I don't think that Harry Potter is much of a gift to the world. Just the opposite. Rowling's writing has programmed young people (who aren't so young anymore) that words must be easy, and that we're not supposed to think when we read.

Is it a coincidence that Twilight was so popular - and so poorly written? What's next? A boy wizard who becomes a vampire detective? Never could I have imagined that stupidity would reign supreme the way it presently is.

It's a Harry Potter world, everyone!    
 

Maya said...

Just read through the forums piece about your leaving. It's all surprisingly emotional for some of us -- considering we've never met you in person, and our only communication has been through the blog and the forums.

Thanks again for everything you've put into this bit of cyberspace. You're incredibly nice and you rock! Speaking of fantasies (to continue with the forums line of thought), I still I hope I will just run into you on MUNI one day :) And welcome to the tech world -- a world I know well via my dayjob!

Maya said...

Oh, and c'mon, Nathan. I was disappointed when you wrote you lived near AT&T Park. You haven't experienced SF until you've lived in a neighborhoody neighborhood! Something to think about ;)

Other Lisa said...

I have to disagree with @Anon 8:16.

Look, I read grown-up books, by and large. I like "literary" fiction. I rarely read YA. But I really enjoyed the Harry Potter books. I read them all. I own them all. I think Rowling did something pretty special, even if I'm not sure that I can define exactly what that was.

No offense to the Twi-hards out there, but from what I've read of those, there's just no comparison. Part of what makes Twilight work (for those for whom it works) is that it's operating on a level that the author might not even be aware of. It plugs into some strange atavistic emotions and it has power, but I'd argue that it's not particularly well-crafted or deliberate. It just works, for the people it works for, because she somehow plugged into something powerful, without exactly meaning to (there are some interesting and hilarious analyses that look at Twilight and how it relates to Mormonism. Very revealing).

The HP series, no matter what else you want to say about it, Rowling knew exactly what she was doing with it. Yeah, there are places where the books feel bloated (to me), but overall she was in control of her material. And I think she did a really good job.

The adjective I'd use to describe them, overall, is "delightful."

Anonymous said...

Delightful?

How about derivative?

I was really surprised that there were ghosts in Rowling's books - just plain old ghosts of the variety we've seen maybe ten thousand times before. Yes, if you're seven years old, maybe that might work for you - but wow, if you're an adult then that should be where you stop reading.

It's hardly a fair comparison, but Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' really does put Rowling's work to shame. And yes 'The Hobbit' was a children's story - sorry, but it was.

Also, are you aware that when Rowling wrote these books she was aiming for a much older audience? She and her publisher believed that their readership would be teenagers. When the Harry Potter series became a runaway train, it was mostly ten, eleven, and twelve year olds who were reading the books. So she wasn't nearly as in control as you're making it out.

Luck, more than anything, is the reason Rowling is where she is. Anybody who thinks she made millions of dollars because she has talent knows nothing about life or publishing.

Blind luck is the single most important element for a writer in publishing today.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

That's quite a trick, convincing millions of people around the world to love your books without any talent. She even had people waiting in line when the new books were coming out. Now that's sorcery!

Josin L. McQuein said...

Wow, Anon.

Sour grapes doth a bitter whine make.

Sangu said...

I followed the Laura Miller thing for a while, but eventually stopped getting worked up about it. I don't do NaNo (haven't yet, anyway) but I see no reason why people shouldn't write and enjoy writing, even if they DO end up producing "crap". It's NOT a waste of time to do what you enjoy!

I totally had to chip in on the Harry Potter posts/thoughts, but I ended up linking to an older post I wrote about the series, which I hope was okay! Thanks for the great themed week, ah, I am dying for November 19th!

M.A.Leslie said...

To Anon:
First let me start by saying, I was either nineteen or twenty when I read the first Harry Potter book only a couple years after it came out. It was recommended to me by my future mother-in-law who had already read it. I too am a fan of the Hobbit, but I think you are putting a fruit basket together and arranging it with sour grapes. There was some luck involved for JKR but I would like to think that it was pure determination, drive, work ethic, and heart that bore the world of Harry Potter.
Oh and by the way, when the last book came out my wife and I couldn’t decide who was going to read it first, so to settle that we both bought a copy. That is the only book and will probably be the only book that I have or will ever do that with, unless she writes another book.

Julie Hedlund said...

I wrote a post in honor of your Harry Potter series. The Top Ten things I'd most want from Harry's world: http://wp.me/pIkHt-Vk

Great week of posts - thanks!

J. T. Shea said...

'Blind luck is the single most important element for a writer in publishing today.' Anonymous 10:18 am, as with so many things, if you really believe that, it will be true for you. But do you really believe it? Does your inclusion of the word 'today' imply there was a time when that was not true?

So blind luck has favored J. K. Rowling dozens of times over a decade and a half? Seven books, seven movies (so far) dozens of translations, merchandise, a theme park, all foisted on hundreds of millions of people by sheer accident? You don't think Rowling and her agent and publishers etc. just might be doing SOMETHING right? You may not approve of what they are doing, but do you really believe lightning has struck dozens of times in the same place?

Nathan is right. Sorcery indeed! Rowling would have a sonorous Latin phrase to describe it but I'll just have to call it the 'Wait In Line All Night In Your Millions For A BOOK!' spell.

M.A.Leslie said...

That is great. If you figure out what the single word spell is and give me directions to Ollivader's wand shop then I'll be all set. Rowlings faced all of the same rejection that we all do and she made it through because she kept going. If luck was part of it then we will say it was 5%.

We all really need to figure out that spell.

Anonymous said...

I love the sour grapes comment - thanks for making my day - what you're really doing is suggesting that I'm not supposed to be critical of Harry Potter, or that I should I keep quiet and not say that the books are obviously derivative and that Rowling plays lots of cheap tricks as a writer - and I mean REALLY cheap tricks. If you'll re-read my post, then you'll see that I foresaw this happening.

Sour grapes on my part? For not liking Harry Potter?

That is laughable, and makes me want to give up on the internet entirely.

But since you didn't actually comment on my two chief criticisms of Rowling's work, there's not much else I can say.

Attempting to attribute Rowling's outrageous good fortune to talent, however, is just plain silly, and makes me want to quit the internet for the second time in as many minutes. At the height of Titanic's success at the box office, George Lucas was asked: how do you explain what's happening with this movie?

But you can't explain it, he said.

Great, great answer. 

And I'm afraid that the same applies to the magnitude of Rowling's success with Harry Potter. The same can be said for the success of the ridiculously popular 'Bridges of Madison County'. The same can be said about Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time', which everyone bought, and nobody read. The same can be said about the runaway train that was 'The Davinci Code'. The same can be said now for Twilight.

The same can be said for a hundred thousand success stories in which the success ballooned to a dizzying height and entered the stratosphere. You can't explain it.

Tom Westman, winner of Survivor Palau, said of winning Survivor that it takes one third endurance, one third social networking, and one third blind luck. I suspect that Mr. Westman has just summed up Life as well. 

Jeannie said...

Quote: Random House is significantly reducing its office space and will be leasing out the rest. Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum states that this is not a sign that the company is planning layoffs.

Uh-huh. Six feet of snow in Boston ain't a sign of winter, either.

Sommer Leigh said...

I just finished reading the two NaNoWriMo articles and the thing I took away from Laura Miller's article was...why does she care how we're spending our free time?

I mean, does she care about how much time knitters are spending knitting, or painters are spending painting, or web comic artists are spending in photoshop, or video game players are spending on various Halo games?

I'm uncomfortable with how disgusted she is with November writers. There's so much hate and anger and meanness in those paragraphs and I don't understand why. Why put that kind of energy out into the world? I mean, I know her rant isn't personally directed at me, but I'm part of the group she considers to be wasting their time (and hers? somehow?)and I know she doesn't know me as a reader or as a writer.

A general rule of thumb we can all take away from her article is this: When we don't understand something or we are not part of something, we probably have no business judging it.

Anonymous said...

Hey, there's something wrong with the math at Random House.

They have more office space now, but they have the same number of employees? Huh? That doesn't add up at all.

Did somebody with a big ego quit to work someplace else?

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Apparently they have a lot of extra space right now on the floors they occupy and are thinking of consolidating into fewer floors.

Mira said...

Great page critique Nathan. Thanks for continuing to do those - you are so good at clearly stating what I feel vaguely about a piece.

So, first, I am very grateful to Laura Miller for addressing the Nanowritemo menace. Thank goodness. Finally, someone is taking on the important issues. I just hope she takes on the even more threatening problem coming up in December - Christmas carolers.

All those amateur singers - who insist on forming groups for some weird reason - roaming around, all willy nilly, SINGING! And do you realize that while the carolers are singing, they aren't LISTENING?! Really. I met a caroler on the street once, and they said they sing carols, but don't listen to carols, so that just proves it. And even though there are only one or two songs in this world worth listening to, listening is so much more important than singing. So no more singing should be added to the world until all the songs already sung have been listened to. Thoroughly.

If none of that makes sense, I'll refer you to Laura's article on Nano where she lays out exactly the same arguments just as clearly.

And because I know the internet, I would like to state truthfully that I love Christmas caroling and the above was just to make a point.

Which took up all my space, which is terrible because there are so many great links here. I'm forging ahead regardless.

So, the NY Times news about e-books is awesome and exciting. I'm also not surprised hardcovers in particular are down, since both the convienence and price factors favoring e-books will hit hardcovers the hardest.

That's a very interesting story about Amazon - I'm confused, though, about why this is seen as a censorship issue? Isn't a private corporation allowed to both publish and sell what it chooses? Maybe there is something I'm missing here....

Sorry to hear about Random House. I think technology changes - as welcome as they may be - still are very hard on those in the aging industry.

What fictional character would I like to write a book? Harry Potter. Maybe Rowling would be willing to help him edit a bit.

I really agree with Roth's article! I think time to let your mind rest is extremely important to every writer. So much true writing happens beneath the conscious mind.

Good list by Tarereh, too.

I really liked Lindsey's comment. Very sweet. And I had so much fun at the midnight Harry Potter parties. :)

Thanks so much for Harry Potter week, Nathan - you're awesome! :)

J. T. Shea said...

Christmas carolers, Mira? You were right the first time. If I hear one more verse of 'Round John Virgin' I'll explode! Bah! Humbug!

Matthew Rush said...

Yes I am extremely late to the party, but I did finally add a post to your blogfest/linky list.

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