Nathan Bransford, Author

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This Week in Books 5/27/11

This week in Champions League Finals I mean books...

Whew! Lots and lots of links for you. First off, you still have a chance to win a copy of Jacob Wonderbar over at From the Mixed Up Files, where there is also an interview with me where I talk about favorite books and character name inspirations.

Also, this is reason #278,621,098 I love the Internet (from the Jacob Wonderbar Amazon page):

Oh, Gaga. Why must you steal 3% of my readers.

Meanwhile, BEA was this past week, and it sure seems like the biggest news is that Amazon is looking more and more like a traditional publisher. After previously announcing the formation of a romance and mysteries imprint, Amazon has hired former Warner Books CEO Larry Kirshbaum to start a general interest imprint  (Warner Books is now Hachette). Mike Shatzkin summed up what that means for publishers. While this isn't completely unprecedented as Barnes & Noble had previously entered the publishing fray, it's yet another challenge to publishers, especially given Amazon's ability to maximize online sales.

And remember how Barry Eisler announced he was self-publishing? Well, turns out he came away from BEA with a book deal from Amazon. With an advance. Posting in the Kindle message boards, Barry explains what led him to accept the deal with Amazon and what could lure him back to traditional publishers. Namely:

And what could lure me back is precisely what I've never been able to get from any legacy publisher -- not the two who have published me; none that I've negotiated with, either. Specifically:

1)  A *much* more equitable digital royalty split.
2)  Full creative control (packaging, pricing, timing).
3)  Immediate digital release, followed by paper release when the paper is ready (no more slaving the digital release to the paper release).
Is this the future of publishing deals?

In e-reader news, Barnes & Noble introduced a new touch screen Nook and claimed its batteries last two months. Then Amazon claimed the Kindle also lasts two months if you use B&N's metrics, but then B&N said no way, the Nook still lasts twice as long. So there you have it. (Also: links are to CNET, I work at CNET).

There has been a lot of talk in the comments section about what real self-publishing sales look like (as opposed to Hocking-esque success stories), and Megg Jansen pointed to a post that offers one of the more comprehensive views I've seen. It shows a couple dozen self-published books and charts their month-by-month sale over time. Pretty interesting.

In agent/publishing advice news, there's a relatively new agent blog on the scene, Courtney Miller-Callihan from Sanford J. Greenburger, Jessica Faust at BookEnds talks about what happens when an agent or publisher has an idea for a book and passes it on to an author, and Bloomsbury publisher Peter Ginna compares publishers to venture capitalists and considers the similar reasons they find themselves saying "no."

One Story listed their top ten favorite short stories of all time. What do you think of the list? I was a little scandalized Hemingway didn't even make the long list. (via Bookslut)

The Millions rounded up the best books about the Great Recession, and Amazon rounded up the Top 20 most well-read cities in America.

My former client K. Marie Criddle, whose blog you should be following for her incredible visual posts/art about the writing life, has an awesome guest drawing from her husband about how to offer support during revisions.

In social media news, TheNextWeb wonders if social media makes us nicer people, and Dave Pell has an awesome and hilarious post about how there's a lot more to life than your follow counts and social scores.

And it's Memorial Day weekend, which means many publishing employees across the land had their first summer Friday yesterday. GalleyCat lists the Top 6 reasons why the publishing industry needs this tradition.

This week in the Forums, Borders' losses are increasing, ten things you shouldn't say to an agent, can you have a viewpoint character die, current event fiction, and how do you find the time to do everything you do?

Comment! of! the! Week! goes to Alison Pensy who commented on Tracy Marchini's guest post on self-publishing. Alison shares her experience experimenting with free e-books:
This is a great post. I am still in the midst of a crazy 2 weeks, thanks to Amazon. I self-pubbed my YA urban fantasy in Fall 2009, after numerous rejections from agents. It did next to nothing until I released the 2nd book at the end of April this year, despite my best marketing efforts (which aren't great, I admit).

I decided to put the 1st one as a free promo 2 weeks ago and I was dumbstruck when overnight it went from around #80,000 to #22 on Kindle (free) Bestseller list. The next day it hit #1 on the Children's (free) bestseller list where it stayed for 3 days. It stayed in the Top 10 children's (free)bestseller list until yesterday both here and in the UK. So far in 2 weeks over 26,000 people have downloaded it.

Because of this, a week after the free promo, my 2nd book debuted at #25 on the Children's hot new releases list and has been in the top 100 children's bestseller list since. I am totally blown away at the power of Amazon.

In just over a week, the 2nd book has sold over 600 copies. That's more than the 1st book did in nearly 2 years. But I had to be willing to put the 1st for free and I'm so glad I did.
And finally, you probably know Tahereh Mafi from her awesome blog, and her debut novel, SHATTER ME, coming in November from HarperTeen, was one of the hot titles at BEA. Check out her new, very cool teaser book trailer:

Have a great weekend!


The English Teacher said...

I don't know, Nathan. I think it'd be quite an honor being that close to Lady Gaga...... :)
Of course, one generally doesn't think of middle grade readers and GaGa, but then, who knows?

The English Teacher said...

Oh, and about the short story list, I share your surprise at no Hemingway, but I'm also surprised there's no Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and no Sherwood Anderson.
At least Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" made the long list.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

Given the choice between a Nook ad a Kindle, I would choose the iPad. Hooray for summer Friday's.
I am thrilled for you and for Teherah
and Alison Pensy.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend.

Mark Terry said...

"... like the biggest news is that Amazon is looking more and more like a traditional publisher...."

Except, you know, um, they're solvent...

Anne R. Allen said...

LOVE the "Shatter Me" trailer!

I think the One Story list says a lot more about the editors of One Story than it does about good story writing. 3 Barthelme stories? No Ann Beattie, Kurt Vonnegut?

Elisabeth said...

No O. Henry? That's scandalous. :) Actually, the only story on their top ten list that I'd even heard of (yes, I've read it too) was "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" by Flannery O'Connor.

Bryce Daniels said...

Thanks as usual for all the links, Nathan!!!!!

I wouldn't worry about the 3% loss to Lady Gaga. Hey, just an idea for ya. Advertise that you are going to perform some of her songs, don your wildest outfit, and see if you can return the favor. I'll look for it on YouTube.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

I didn't like the look of that 3%anyway...

Jericho Ambrose said...

#3 on Eisler's reason's for accepting the deal is my favorite.

I have long felt that as a reader I preferred to have my electronic version to the paper.

I think a lot of publishers might be surprised to find people would be willing to buy an electronic version at the same price as a hard back if it meant getting it before the hard back release. I know I would do so to get immediate delivery of the final Wheel of Time series.

Perhaps this is just me, but that is a premium feature that I think is worth a premium price.

Neil Larkins said...

Where did they come up with that? Lady Gaga is as unlike Jacob Wonderbar as can be imagined. And hers is a MUSIC ALBUM, not a book (though the two are kinda similar in shape if you squint a little). Pure promotion.
Great post today, by the way. That Shatter Me vid! Thanks for all this stuff on self-pub, e-books, etc. I just put my little novella, Mouse Hole on Smashwords and so have entered the long, dark tunnel. Yipes!

Kevin Lynn Helmick said...

Wow, what a week, I've been saying for a while now it was only a matter of time before amazon built the whole boat, Signing Eilser is no surprise but signing Konrath is a real shocker, I follow his blog and that tell me their offering very sweet deals as well as lot of control to their authors.

Marilyn Peake said...

Wow, so many great links! I'm going to check them out. Just wanted to say ROFLOL about JACOB WONDERBAR and LADY GAGA as items people check out after viewing something else on Amazon - Geez, what is that other item? Of course, I'm sure there are parents who like Lady Gaga, and people with eclectic tastes.

MJR said...

I agree re Hemingway...what about Hills Like White Elephants?

Marilyn Peake said...

Great interview over at FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES, Nathan! Really enjoyed it! I’m trying to decide in which format to buy your book. Will you be selling signed copies? That would definitely be my preference. :)

Thank you so much for a link to the article about the month-to-month sales of self-published books. I’m both delighted and relieved to see that my sales are equal to and better than those listed. Priced at 99 cents each, I’m now selling 33 x the amount of my books than I sold at higher prices. Exciting stuff. :)

In regard to social media news, I definitely think that social media makes us nicer people – more humble, more instantaneously connected, more aware that so many people are doing the same things that we’re doing (e.g. writing), and are interested in the same things in which we’re interested.

Diana said...

I always love Friday's link-o-rama. Thanks, Nathan. :)

Diana said...

Having now looked at Amazon's top 20 well-read cities, I would be interested to see a list where textbooks aren't counted. Their data is skewed towards college towns. No. 1 Cambridge Mass has Harvard, Radcliffe and a few other colleges in the area.

Gainesville with a population of 250K has the University of Florida with 50,000 students purchasing at least five to ten textbooks a year, of course it's going to score high on per capita book purchases. The same can be said for a few other of the smaller towns which made the list.

G said...

Here's a general question for everyone.

Is the YA market starting to become over saturatated?

mmshaunakelley said...

There must have been an interesting undertone at BEA. I am curious to see how Amazon steers this division-- if they stick with straight up commercial fiction and non-fiction, or branch out into more niche areas as well.

D.G. Hudson said...

I wouldn't worry about Lady Gaga stealing your thunder, she's just the 'Madonna' of the day.

One Story's list of short stories (their subjective list of favorites) wouldn't be mine. And ignoring Hemingway - never a good idea. Taste is a personal choice. It can't be taught.

At least they didn't leave out all my favorites (Kafka somehow managed to make the cut, but lots of others are missing).

Really like the post by Dave Pell, a reminder that life supercedes the web. Blink and that moment in your life will be gone, but what hits the internet has a way of sticking.

Anonymous said...

"I have long felt that as a reader I preferred to have my electronic version to the paper."

I agree. And once you start reading digital books you don't want to go back to print books.

danielatorre said...

Totally didn't expect Miami to be in the list of well-read cities. Ha!

danielatorre said...

Ha! Didn't expect Miami to be in the list of the 20 well read cities. Made me proud.

J. T. Shea said...

JACOB WONDERBAR is awesome! Even better than I expected, and I expected a lot. No wonder you're stealing 97% of Lady Gaga's listeners!

Amazon looking more and more like a traditional publisher? Why am I not surprised? I've been calling it number 7 for some time, though it could claim to be number 1 of the Big 7 based on sales. And guess where their new imprint's office is located. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Speaking of battery life, my hardcover JACOB WONDERBAR didn't come with batteries. Oh wait, it doesn't need them...

Nathan Bransford said...

Haha, thanks JT!

Robert Michael said...

Loved the promo for Shatter Me. Very classy and understated. The promo felt like a REALLY good query letter. Hmm. Maybe that could be the future of queries: sort of a visual movie pitch.

Mira said...

Cool links, Nathan - thank you.

Yes, I think no one is surprised that Amazon is making their move. I suspect this is the start of a trend where the functions of bookseller and publisher become combined.

I wonder if this will give Amazon some clout with Apple. I'm mad at Apple, the big bully, for threatening my Kindle app from my I-phone. Maybe this will make them think twice, because Amazon could eventually mess with them over the books they publish.

It's going to be the fight of giants over authors, and it's very exciting.

The Shatter Me trailer was fantasic. Very low key, but compelling. Nice job.

In terms of the Lady Gaga thing, well, at least now you're aware there's a market segment you wouldn't have ever suspected in a million, zillion, trillion years. Maybe it's the word "Kapow" that pulls the Lady Gaga groupies in. Or the word "Wonderbar". Hard to say. It could be the word "and".
Who knows when it comes to Gaga?

Excellent comment of the week, and I totally appreciated Megg's table. That was pretty cool.

In terms of Eisler, publishing should take notice. If you want to lure authors back, that's the way to do it.

Okay, that's it for me. Thanks again, Nathan! Hope everyone is having a lovely day.

Gary Anderson said...

Nathan, you missed the essence of his post. You left out the preceeding sentence:

"And what could lure me back is precisely what I've never been able to get from any legacy publisher -- not the two who have published me; none that I've negotiated with, either. Specifically:

1) A *much* more equitable digital royalty split.
2) Full creative control (packaging, pricing, timing).
3) Immediate digital release, followed by paper release when the paper is ready (no more slaving the digital release to the paper release)."

Nathan, with all due respect, are you worried about the fact that Konrath and others won't need your services? I saw another inaccurate statement or at least an incomplete statement from your friend Tracy. She said that royalties for 800 ebooks were $280, but really they would be at a minimum on Smashwords of $480.

So just trying to grasp what is going on here.

Nathan Bransford said...


What services? I'm out of the game.

I thought the bullet points summed up Barry's philosophy and I didn't offer any judgement. I'm not sure where you're coming from on this.

Gary Anderson said...

I am just saying that that stretch of words does not imply that he accepted anything from a legacy publisher because they did not give him what he wanted. Do you see what I mean? I am not saying he didn't get a deal, I just don't see that in the words you quoted because there was that sentence before the words you quoted: "And what could lure me back is precisely what I've never been able to get from any legacy publisher -- not the two who have published me; none that I've negotiated with, either..."

I don't really know if you are going to lose certain business opportunities with Indie coming on strong or if you will embrace it. I was just curious about that!

Nathan Bransford said...


I updated the post with the full quote - I think the essence is the same, but I'm all for accuracy.

And no, I have no dog in the fight. When it comes to self- vs. traditional publishing I've consistently said it's up to authors to make that decision for themselves based on what's best for them. There are pros and cons with both routes, I don't judge people for pursuing one vs. the other.

Gary Anderson said...

Great. I know you have a popular blog here and you help a lot of authors, so best of luck to you. Go Giants!

Michael Traven said...

Isn't book retailers' expansion into publishing kind of like movie studios owning theater chains? Y'know, like, erm... illegal?

marion said...

Late post. Sorry. Getting over a computer nightmare.

LOL about Lady G.
Thought maybe you & she might have some kind of crazy deal going on!
Or maybe it's just some raw data about the demographics of your readers.

Agree with you about short story list. So few classics.
No E. A. POE!!!!
Not to mention Bret Harte (Poker Flat, anyone?), Mark Twain, O. Henry, Sake (Tobermory LOL), and (as in other comments) various Russians.

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