Nathan Bransford, Author


Friday, February 25, 2011

This Week in Books 2/25/11

Lots of news this week!! Get started, we will.

First up, last Wednesday I asked a question: Have blogs peaked? Well, from my lips to the NY Times' ears apparently because they tackled that very subject. Their conclusion: they're on the wane as The Youths move to Twitter and Facebook. Case closed, right? Well, not quite so fast. Poking some holes in the article is Matthew Ingram at GigaOM, who points out that many of the activities that the NY Times article cites as not-blogging, like Tumblr, looks a lot like, well, blogging. To Ingram it looks more like evolving than dying.

And meanwhile, if you're thinking of starting a blog, Sommer Leigh is starting a really great Blogging 101 series, and has a primer on different types of blogs to help you choose which one might be right for you.

In depressing industry news, GalleyCat takes a look at a Quora post on six reasons why Borders went bankrupt, Mike Shatzkin offers a sobering take on what will happen to publishers when print books decline and per-unit costs inevitably go up, and David Carnoy at CNET (where, disclosure, I work) had an article on accelerating piracy on the Kindle. How's that for a splash of cold water?

Back to the good stuff! B&N is opening the door further to self-published authors via its PubIt! program, creating a bestseller list for the platform and hosting in-store events.

Friend of the blog Stuart Neville, who very longtime readers of the blog will remember was a finalist in the First Line Challenge (as Conduit) way back in 2007 before he was agented/published, has been nominated for a LA Times Book Prize in mystery/suspense, an award he won back in 2009. Go Stuart!! And congrats to the other nominees as well.

In publishing news, author Natalie Whipple says don't knock the query as it tests your writing skills, there's a new short story contest hosted by the ABQ Writers Co-op, and Agency Gatekeeper has a seriously charming cartoon by the Agency Gatekeeper's intern on what it's like to work at an agency.

In social media news, Chris Brogan has a seriously terrific post on social media etiquette. Definitely check that out.

And very sad news as YA Author L.K. Madigan passed away from cancer at age 47. A lot of people knew her both personally and via the Internet in the writing blogosphere, and her post announcing her illness last month was moving and devastating. Her agent Jennifer Laughran, author Jennifer Hubbard, and agent Kristin Nelson were among those offering tributes.

This week in the Forums, first up, if you have tried to participate in the Forums and couldn't get past the weird squiggly numbers and letters otherwise known as Captcha, please try again!! There is a new, much easier system in place. You shall pass, I promise. And in other topics, what it takes to become invested in a character, fictional nonfiction, don't forget about our Critique Partner Connection Forum, and what have you learned from your characters?

Comment! of! the! Week! There were a lot of great comments on Tuesday's post about whether record stores could suggest the future of bookstores, I wanted to single out Gregory Pincus' comment on an important difference that will be the key to any future that includes bookstores:

The big difference, I think, is the social aspect: 10,000 of us will go to an arena to see our favorite band and share that experience, but authors don't tour at the same level. This social aspect carries over to the stores, too, in different ways: at music stores, there's music playing, whether it's Virgin's DJ or any of the people working there playing their favorite album. At a book store, there isn't (yet!) a mechanism for sharing like that.

The takeaway for me is the sense of community and anything a store can do to build it up. Being a part of something bigger than "simply" selling books seems like the best chance of survival. And there, I agree, it's not likely to be the big box store as we know it today.
And finally, via my former colleague Sarah LaPolla is this seriously, seriously incredible video on how a book is made. I know this was the absolute cutting edge of technology for its time, but I gotta say, the amount of time and labor and effort it took to create one page now seems almost crazy to me. Is that just me?



Have a great weekend!






30 comments:

D. U. Okonkwo said...

Another Friday Linkfest :) - thanks!

Sierra McConnell said...

I don't think I've ever said it before but thank you for being awesome, Nathan!

Ted Fox said...

Glad to know I'm not the only person who has struggled with Captcha. Failing to be able to confirm your personhood is unsettling, especially when it's a computer that's doubting you.

And I may or may not have told it to stop judging me.

L.G.Smith said...

Yay for Stuart Neville! I'm a big fan of The Ghosts of Belfast.

Mira said...

Ted - lol.

Nathan - wow. This is link heaven. You are so terrific, doing all this work, just to keep us educated.

Thank you!

Iliadfan said...

Natalie Whipple blogged about L.K. Madigan yesterday, which led me to finally read Flash Burnout. I loved it, and that makes me doubly sad.

Lisa Desrochers said...

Great post once again. So sad about Lisa Madigan. Flash Burnout is a great bk and she'll be missed.

Clicked through to the piracy post because, just this morning, I sent links to five more sites pirating my book to my editor. Everyday I get google alerts for at least that many. I find it appalling that people don't see anything wrong with stealing books. I find it even more appalling that some sites even charge for their illegal downloads.

Shelly Goodin said...

Seriously great post!

Jill Kemerer said...

Whew! Today's post is jam-packed with great information. Thanks for all the links and for your take on them!

Chuck H. said...

Thank you, sir. I always check out the contests as you may have noticed from my entries in nearly every one you've held in the last couple of years.

And the post about differnt kinds of blogs was extremely timely as I'm being urged by several friends to start one of my own.

Thanks again and have a great weekend.

Matthew Rush said...

It's not just you.

Sommer Leigh said...

Ted Fox- nicely put and thanks for making me laugh :-)

Nathan, I have to admit, when I saw my name and my blog series posted here I wasn't sure whether I wanted to laugh, cry, or throw up. It is weird to see my name there! Thank you for posting about it. I really want to support and encourage others to take up blogging. I don't think it is dead or dying, but I do think that the hype has calmed down. This is really the perfect time to stand out from the crowd and form lasting relationships with other bloggers in your area of interest as those bloggers who are more interested in Twitter and Facebook close up shop and move on. It's actually a great time to be a blogger!

Chuck H. - Glad you like it! I've got many more posts in the series coming soon, too. If you ever have any specific questions, I'm always willing to help.

Thanks for all the links Nathan, these were really helpful. I was especially interested in the piracy post. After author Saundra Mitchell's recent post about how book piracy is a problem for her, the subject has been weighing on my mind. I'm very disappointed that so many people think a digital book has no monetary value and that stealing it is not wrong.

Milo James Fowler said...

Re: the waning of blogs and rise of Twitter/FB - I think it's got a lot to do with our attention span. If I see a ginormous block of text on a blog, I cringe and run away. There's an immediacy in every sense of the word to tweeting and facebooking that is lost on many bloggers.

The Storylady said...

The book making "movie" was amazing! Sure makes you see why e-books are the future.

D.G. Hudson said...

Trend following isn't for me. Perhaps the serious bloggers and the ones that last are the cream that floats to the surface.

Naysayers abound, but isn't that how they keep themselves employed? (Trendsetters gotta have the latest thing - that's their purpose.)

At least Sommer Leigh takes a positive spin on blogging. Go Sommer!

Re-the print setting for the book -- a tedious job; I did print setting for a time at a campus educational TV station prepping still shots - it was called a hot press, since you could get burned if you weren't careful.

Well back to my blog before it peaks without me noticing.

Happy Weekend to all!

Beth said...

The first machine featured in the "How Books are Made" video (the one that creates lines of lead type) is called a "line-o-type" machine. Creative, I know. The Printing Museum in Provo, Utah, has one on display. Sometimes, if it's working, they'll type out your name on the machine and give it to you as a souvenir.

abc said...

I very much enjoyed Sommer's blog series (and Sommer has an awesome blog, period. Plus--love that masthead!).

I get way too excited about these Friday wrap-up posts. Just so you know.

Anonymous said...

This Quora thing looks interesting. I have to check it out.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Thanks for the links. I think blogging is on the decline as well, but I'd like to do it as well as I can with my limited time while I can. (I do feel I've at least gotten a bit more consistent in recent months, though! I'm still not blogging a lot but I am getting something up every week. Still lots of room for improvement, though.)

I'm on the reference desk right now at work (it's slow at the moment), but I can't wait to watch that video when I'm off work! It's amazing how much effort and time went into making books in the past.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I would love to see book trailers playing on a big screen at the bookstore, just like at the blockbuster. Librarians are in love with the book trailer phenomenon as a way to "sell" books to kids. Why not adults too?

J. T. Shea said...

Mike Shatzkin's article is interesting, as are the comments on it, though they do seem paradoxically concerned with the New York Times bestseller list, almost to the point of obsession. The paradox is that technology doomsayers have been predicting the death of all newspapers for a long time. So, why care about the NYT?

Mike Shatzkin's link to his own 2001 article is even more interesting. That decade-old article reinforces something I have long wondered about. Why now? Why did e-book sales not surge five or ten years ago? There has been no big new technological breakthrough. So-called E-ink, for example, is not enough to account for the recent e-book upsurge.

Meanwhile I continue writing my novels in the hope of making lots of money (and yes, I can imagine hordes of naysayers howling at THAT dream!) and also happily writing little online e-texts like this comment for free...

A Paperback Writer said...

I loved the making books video.
However, since my mother actually used to set type on a much older machine for use (in the early 1940s) in a small-town newspaper, that doesn't look too bad.
Also, in a living history museum where I used to volunteer, we'd set the type by hand with tweezers and press each page with a large screen. (Pioneer style).


Did anyone else notice that the men in the film were "men," but the women were always "girls"?

Mr. D said...

Well, that video confirms it. eBooks have a future.

jenniferkoliver said...

Thank you for the links, Nathan! I particularly found the social networking etiquette post by Chris Brogan interesting.

Very sad to hear about L.K. Madigan.

Nicole said...

I'd like to see a post about PubIt! and your thoughts, Nathan. :D

Paullina Petrova said...

Hi Nathan, I would like to offer you an interesting topic for discussion. I wonder if other writers talk to someone else about their idea (the plot of their story) while writing their novel or feel that when they do this they kill their muse.
I myself kill my muse talking about what I write...but at the same time I need to do it. So I need to find the gold middle...

Anonymous said...

having recently gone on a mini-book tour, I wanted to share my thoughts about the touring item in the round-up.

One, all the social & print media in the world is useless unless a) you're already an established author (I'm not; this is my first book), b) you have friends / fans in the area. I got a fair amount of coverage in a smaller market (print - my event was a pick in a M.S.M. outlet, & social media beyond Facebook ie., yelp, going.com, & all the others available) yet the people who turned up? They knew one person, who I'd friended vis Facebook on another (much better known & loved) author's page. She brought 8 people, or half the audience.

Two, there's a piece on Huff Po x Dan Agin, that reflects the publishing's-going-to-collapse prognostications that provide such popular fodder on blogs. Contrary to Mr. Agin's assertion - that publishers are know nothings, that it's all an afterthought & the reader suffers & that's why bookstores are collapsing - I found my team (editor, agent, publicist) & the people at the publishing house were actually quite smart.

Three, a lot of what people are predicting - basically, the end of publishing - is being mid-wifed along by negative, ill-informed blogs that put forth predictions, it seems, based either in jealousy or ignorance. I'm not saying this blog item is that. However, I question if the fantasy(ies) that people seem to harbor ie., free electronic books (because they cost "nothing" to produce), and author-rockstar appearances are anything but wishful thinking. The idea that books lend themselves to arenas, or that authors are constitutionally wired for that sort of performance, is the sort of "statement" made bravely, & with flourish from the safety of a laptop's keyboard.

Maybe publishing isn't what newbies or burnouts want it to be, but trying to social network an industry along is a strategy that's bound to fail. My experience was very tiny, granted, but I think the time-proven path to success is still one person telling another. All the "likes" and buttons, and hash tags aren't going to make people want to read your book.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Wait, I'm confused, the example is that your Facebook friend was an important part of your draw but you feel like social media doesn't work?

Anonymous said...

yes/no: the Facebook contact was the initial point of contact. However, she told her friends as friends, not as Facebook friends, but coworkers. At the other event, the friends-of-friends had nothing to do with Facebook.

What I'm saying, essentially, is as a sum total solution, Facebook is overrated. It's part of, but a much more minimal part of people coming to a reading. The reason I commented on the item was the idea that 10K person readings were the meta solution to the publishing industry: in my small yet very recent experience, having accessed every bit of social media I could think of, and seen relatively poor results, I think the idea of social media as a solution will prove to be a failure, at least for publishing. However, if you're looking for a good hair salon, yelp is definitely the place to go.

My comment was muddied by other thoughts (responding to something having nothing to do with 10K readers flocking to hear writers read), but the essence of it is that any solution, IMO, is personal. I am hyper aware of connecting with readers, and made efforts at the readings to do so. I don't think there's a substitute for that face-to-face contact, and I don't believe that "huge" is really better. The second reading was 20 people yet was, in my experience, hugely successful because I was able to speak to every person, sign every book, and connect. Maybe what I'm really commenting upon is the lack of connection - or the faux connection Facebook puts forth - as a "solution." There's no way to fake that connection, and facebook, and all that other crap seems to suggest faking it is, in essence, the way of the future. I think that strategy is bound to fail.

Sorry if my reply makes less sense than the first one. I'm trying to figure this out in real time, not as an aspiring writer, or as someone who was published ten years ago, but right now. Please read w/that in mind (i'm not trying to troll your comment board, but add to the discussion.)

Anonymous said...

yes/no: the Facebook contact was the initial point of contact. However, she told her friends as friends, not as Facebook friends, but coworkers. At the other event, the friends-of-friends had nothing to do with Facebook.

I am hyper aware of connecting with readers, and made efforts at the readings to do so. I don't think there's a substitute for that face-to-face contact, and I don't believe that "huge" is really better. The second reading was 20 people yet was, in my experience, v successful because I was able to speak to every person, sign every book, and connect.

Maybe what I'm really commenting upon is the lack of connection - or the faux connection Facebook puts forth - as a "solution." There's no way to fake that connection, and facebook, and all that other crap seems to suggest faking it is, in essence, the way of the future. I think that strategy is bound to fail.

Keep in mind, I'm trying to figure this out in real time, not as an aspiring writer, or as someone who was published ten years ago, but right now.

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