Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, April 8, 2011

This Week in Books 4/8/11

Books in this week!

First, big congratulations are in order to Bryce Daniels, who correctly picked UConn to win it all in the Bracket Challenge and came away the winner! Nicely done!

Next year will be my year. NO REALLY this time.

Also, thank you so much to everyone who weighed in this week on Virtual Witch Hunts. There were some other friends of the blog who weighed in on the subject of dealing with reviews, Internet mobs, and how we should conduct ourselves online, so be sure and check out the posts by Sommer Leigh, Matthew MacNish, and Livia Blackburne.

I'm a little late to this post, but writing for Salon, Laura Miller takes a look at the symmetry of Barry Eisler leaving St. Martin's and Amanda Hocking signing with St. Martin's and notes that the one thing they have in common is that they're great at promoting their own work. So, what about the authors who aren't?

ABC News is the latest news outlet to notice this whole self-publishing thing, and it leads with a quote from Zoe Winters, who you may know from this blog and others.

Is it fair for readers to leave one star reviews when they haven't read the book in order to protest high e-book prices? My colleague (and author) David Carnoy wrote an article about that happening to Michael Connelly. His article is very interesting, as is the wide spectrum of opinion in the comments section.

Meanwhile, an independent publisher in the UK discloses the steep terms they have with Amazon and how they actually lose money on every sale. Though her math doesn't actually add up, and it begs the question: If you're losing money on every copy selling through Amazon why sell through Amazon? Not sure I understand the business model.

Agent Jenny Bent, for one, is very happy that we're now seeing what readers really want, and celebrates that self-published books are bypassing the gatekeepers. Why does she feel that way as an agent? She sees herself as a conduit, not a gatekeeper, and herself sees the difference between "reader taste" and "publisher taste."

And a reader passed along some phenomenal book art cut from the pages of books.

This week in the Forums, your must-follow blogs, sci-fi book recommendations, and speaking of sci-fi, is that a poisonous label?, do you worry about word count, and, of course, where to go in the event of a zombie attack.

Comment! of! the! Week! goes to Mira, who managed to sync up my use of Oscar Wilde's not-real quote about haters with an actual quote that echoes our discussion on virtual witch hunts on Tuesday:
...Here's an Oscar Wilde quote for you:

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much".

Oscar Wilde
And finally, I think it's safe to say that most of us love print books. So please steel yourself for the the video in this post by Sweet Juniper, who filmed the inside of an abandoned book depository in Detroit. Never before have books looked this creepy.

Have a great weekend!


-shadowflame- said...

if you havent read it or tried it out why should you rate it?
people who do that are idiots and they need to get a life...
Anyway nathan whats your faveourite book?

Ted Fox said...

With respect to the book art and to quote Tracy Morgan as Brian Fellow:

"That's crazy!"

ShadowFlame said...

(and its more than a weekend for me!
rollon easter holidays!)

See Elle Oh said...

I really believe that content (which includes story, style, etc.) and, where applicable, format should be the only things people consider when rating books. There are better ways to protest price gouging, like not buying something, or buying it used. Libraries!

Ishta Mercurio said...

Am I dumb, or is there no video in this post?

Also: VERY interested to read Laura Miller's article.

Re: if you're losing money with Amazon, why stick with Amazon? Maybe it's a trade-off: get wider distribution and name recognition so people will be more likely to pick up your product when they come across it elsewhere. A marketing tactic. I can't say whether it's a good one, but it might be working for them.

And yay, Mira! She's been trying to win comment of the week for over a year now. :-)

Ishta Mercurio said...

Also: rating a book you haven' read based on its price alone is unethical. Why do sites like Amazon allow this kind of useless noise? Having to wade through the nonsense to get to the real reviews just makes me skip the reviews altogether, which makes me less likely to buy the book. It's losing them money.

Anna said...

10 points behind Bryce to come in at Number 2! At least I beat my husband's bracket :) Congratulations, Bryce!

Ishta Mercurio said...

Update: I'm dumb! I clicked the link to get to the video, which was haunting.

It makes me sad to think that some of my books will probably end up like this one day. I just wanted to gather up all those books and hug them. I'm maybe a little too attached to print books.

Thanks, as always, for the links, Nathan.

Dan said...

I don't think the Kindle sales lists show what readers in general as much as they demonstrate Amazon's success at courting a certain value-conscious market.

Amazon has been heavily invested in marketing Kindles as a way to save money on books, and on promoting free and very inexpensive content. Amazon's 70% self-publishing royalty was designed to encourage authors to list a bunch of content at the $3 price point. It's no surprise that the Kindle has attracted an audience that consumes this stuff almost exclusively.

In order to sell hundreds of thousands of books a year, even at low Amazon price points, authors like Konrath and Hocking have to be very prolific, because the audience for these very inexpensive e-books is still pretty small, even for self-published authors who are well-known.

Bestselling commercially published-books match or beat the bestselling Kindle titles unit for unit on the Kindle despite significantly higher pricing. These books simultaneously match or exceed their Kindle sales in hardcover sales through Amazon. And for most genres, bookstore sales are still 60-70% of total sales.

The idea that the market for these books is as large as the market for real books is an illusion that e-book vendors create by segregating e-book sales lists. The bestselling self-published e-books reach maybe 1/5 of the sales that bestselling hardcovers do.

Rick Daley said...

Mira is awesome ;-)

Anonymous said...

It's not fair to Michael Connelly, but it is fair to the publisher.

Making an e-book cost MORE than a hardcover is simply an attempt to prop up print books. People protest how they will.

If authors want to go with publishers who are propping up print books, that is their choice, but they will have to live or die with the publishers.

Anonymous said...

why you're repeating anything man hater & philistine Laura Miller says is beyond me. Her notion of feminism is both dated and one dimensional ie., women are "represented" in publishing, is a lie.

Look at most best seller lists, and you will see they are DOMINATED by women. Her take on anything - Hocking or Eisler - is suspect, and should be treated as such.

If you are going to put forth essays by her, could you make some effort to balance it out? Or question the integrity of her thesis (all men are published all the time, for example, is belied by the unspoken assumption that "all" men are heteronormative, and that "all" women are straight, denying the fact that people of color, queer people & anyone otherwise marginalized in this world have ever been fairly represented)?

Hocking & Eisler are fabulous examples of how well represented and empowered white, straight people are to go about their business so blithely. They will always have an audience, and people like Laura Miller will always be there, a la lap dogs, to celebrate and/or discuss their "groundbreaking" "accomplishments."

Anonymous said...

from anony @7:49 a.m., meant to write, "UNrepresented" in the publishing industry

Anonymous said...


Great post, as usual, but please see

Thanks for all the helpful content, and please forgive the stickler moment.

And I'm sure next year the bracket will be yours! (How I phrased that probably shows how little I know about basketball, doesn't it?)

Nathan Bransford said...


Ha, have you seen this article?

Anonymous said...

Nathan-- Haha, no! Thank you! It begs some interesting questions. I just really don't want to see words and phrases decimated, you know? ; )

Clueless said...

Nathan, do you have any posts on the term "upmarket fiction"?? Literary with a commercial bent? Commercial with a literary bent?

Is it ridiculous to use two terms? Can you say "multicultural upmarket"? Should you pick one? If so, which is more "desirable" from an agent/editor perspective?

Is there a forum? Anything? SOMETHING???


Nathan Bransford said...


Oh, I totally agree! To me "begs the question" is one of those that's right on the border between old and new usage -- it's actually in the chart at the bottom. But I'm a stickler for others like fatalistic. Maybe I should reconsider on begging the question.

Nathan Bransford said...


Why yes there is:

Nicole said...

I think the most alarming thing about David Carnoy's article is that the publisher's actions have become a liability to the author.

Readers are no longer reacting to the author and his work, but to what they percieve as problems with the distribution channel.

Considering that one of the major advantages of traditional publishing IS distribution, I'd say that bodes ill for the industry. When publishers start negatively affecting authors' ability to reach and keep readers, what incentive would authors have to stay? It would mean the model is broken.

I really hope publishing leaders are savvy enough to adapt, because this is kind of a scary thought and I love traditional books and publishing!

Anonymous said...

From the ABC article: "A lot of authors aren't looking at self-publishing as a last resort any more, but as the most sensible decision for them," said Sue Collier, co-author of "The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing."

And you can write the entire book in unattributed dialogue and get away with it, and no one will even know the difference :)

Bryce Daniels said...

A fun contest! Thanks for sponsoring it, Nathan. Anna, congrats to you as well. A close race indeed. Just noticed I typed in Bradley instead of Butler on the game thread....groan

Matthew MacNish said...

Man I miss the forums. I love it that you highlight the best threads for us Nathan.

Oh, and thanks for the shout out, and link, as always!

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, an independent publisher in the UK discloses the steep terms they have with Amazon and how they actually lose money on every sale.

Many vendors lose money on every sale at Wal-Mart. They have to be there, because their market channel is huge. They must have market exposure at Wal-mart, even if it costs them. Same thing goes for Amazon -- the online equivalent of Wal-Mart.

Anna Murray

Peace, Lena and Happiness said...

Nathan--thanks for the great post. Creepy bookstore video? Maybe the books will come alive and eat readers--or at least someone could write a sci-fi novel about it, cursed genre or not. Although maybe that's more of a horror idea. :)

Anon 8:55
"And you can write the entire book in unattributed dialogue and get away with it, and no one will even know the difference

Or a book with adverbs in every dialogue attribute. That's much more annoying.

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks for the shout out!

D.G. Hudson said...

Great posts by Sommer, Matt and Livia. Thanks for the links. A good rule of thumb - We must be aware of our presence online at all times.

No, e-book pricing should be a separate evaluation on an author's book. It's not a reason to diss an author. You can't judge all books by those at the top.

Hey, authors just want to eat like everyone else. (It's the personal appearance costs that some authors charge that bug me)

That BOOK ART is amazing. Like extreme attention to detail! Wow to the creator. I could look at those for hours if I could see them up close.

And thanks Mira for posting that great Oscar quote. It's a credo to live by. Oscar never seemed to be at a loss for words, did he?

Thanks Nathan for an interesting week of reading & vigorous discussion. Have a great weekend.

Sommer Leigh said...

The false Amazon review thing drives me bonkers. And not just people who give one star reviews because of price, but also people who give one star reviews because of things like shipping or wanting it in hardback when it comes only in paperback.

I wish Amazon would stop people who have never bought the item from being able to review it. It should be an Amazon review site, not an Everyone review site, so if you didn't buy the item, or the item wasn't bought as a gift for you, you shouldn't be able to review it. Or maybe allow two different rating systems, one for Amazon ratings (prices, shipping, availability, etc) and product review ratings.

Thank you for the shout out! It means so much to me. Also, Matthew and Livia are both awesome!!

ICQB said...

I took a look at the Salon article, because, omg, I'm self-published and TERRIBLE at self-promotion. I dont' sell many books because no one knows they're there - but now I don't feel so bad ; ) lol!

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

Thanks for the leads on blogs to follow.

Livia said...

So my friend won his company pool this year with a randomly generated bracket. Hehe. Great roundup as usual, and thanks for the shoutout :-)

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mira said...

Oh, shoot, I suppose I should post a comment that is a bit more mature.

Very exciting to have picked a good quote for this week. Thanks Nathan!

Rick D., I think you are awesome as well - I wish you posted more here, though!

Ishta - yes! Finally! I can relax now. :)

D.G., Wilde is so clever, but I think I have an even better Oscar Wilde credo to live by on the same topic:

"In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane."

— Oscar Wilde

I haven't read all the links yet, but it looks like a smorgesboard of information! Thank you, Nathan, what a wonderful blog you have! :)

wry wryter said...

Cut from the pages of books - like peeling back layers of someone's brain. Beyond amazing.

Marilyn Peake said...

I agree with Rick Daley - Mira is awesome. :)

A Paperback Writer said...

That book art was amazing. Thanks for sharing.

Other Lisa said...

@Anon 7:49 AM: Laura Miller is a "man-hater and a philistine"?

What in the world leads you to say this, other than some sort of personal agenda?

Where the 1 star review for pricing falls apart for me—well, it does in a bunch of places, but in particular, the same 1 star applies to the print as well as the Ebook.

J. T. Shea said...

Interesting that even tiny Linen Press' Lynn Michell (a woman BTW) is dreaming of bestsellerdom and Hollywood!

Jenny Bent is right, though her metaphorical distinction may not be necessary. Conduits often have valves, and a gatekeeper's job is as much to open gates as to close them.

Bravo to Mira! A great quote!

Anonymous said...

If you're losing money on every copy selling through Amazon why sell through Amazon? Not sure I understand the business model

It's apparent from the comments the publisher has made in reply to commenters that they don't have much of a head for business. Or appear to have done much in the way of marketing except putting their books on Amazon. They see it as advertising. The publisher says they applied for a grant with the Scottish Arts Council (I think) and got turned down because they lacked a proper marketing plan. If I was an author with that particular house I would be very worried about their long term viability.

Mira said...

Thanks Marilyn and J.T. Friendship is such a nice, heartwarming thing. Thank you! :)

So, I read the links, and have some quick comments, because they were so interesting.

First, cograts to Bryce Daniels! Yay! And I read Sommer, Mathew and Livia's blogs, and was impressed by how powerful each one was in a different way.

Laura Miller's article sort of annoyed me, because it took as fact that Amanda's book sold due to social networking and price, which I think is very much not true. The ABC news was very interesting - yay, Zoe Winters! - and David Carney wrote an interesting, well balanced article.

That's sad about Amazon squeezing small publishers. I can't help but wonder if that's intentional. Amazon has been the writer's biggest support so far, but not so much with the publishers.

Terrific article by Jenny Bent - loved it!! And that was amazing book art - very cool. I thought the book repository was very sad, actually, and wondered why those books aren't being recycled!

Thanks so much, Nathan. Very interesting links this week.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan,
I'm a high school senior trying to deciding between two colleges - one in Boston and one in Washington D.C. Both colleges offer strong programs in business, communications (the journalism aspect of it), and English. I would like to work in publishing and intern for a literary agency. (I didn't apply to any NYC colleges because I didn't like idea of being too close to home. I sort of regret this now, but at the time I felt that it was important for me to get out of NY.) But anyway, here's my question: Which location has more opportunities with literary agencies - Boston or Washington D.C.? I've done some research and looked up literary agencies in both cities, but I'd be interested in knowing your opinion. I know there are other cities (like NYC) that are much better for publishing, but these are the only two options I have, and the internship opportunites will definitely be an important factor in deciding which college to attend.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:57:
Nathan answers questions here:

Anonymous said...

After reading all these posts and articles about self-published people getting so much attention, I can't help thinking maybe this is comparable to reality TV.

Reality TV stars without background or training seemed to take over. And those with acting credits and training, just had to step aside because the public welcomed them.

Of course it was only a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

The Power of Words:

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