Nathan Bransford, Author

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This Week in Books 8/13/11

This! Week! Books! Saturday!

First up, something I neglected to mention last week is that my former client C.Y. Gopinath's truly fantastic novel THE BOOK OF ANSWERS has been published by HarperIndia, and it immediately shot into the Indian Top 10 bestseller list. TBOA is available as an e-book in the US and I can't recommend it highly enough.

It's about a man, Patros, who comes into possession of one of the most coveted items in the world, a book that contains all the answers to all of mankind's problems. Patros wants absolutely nothing to do with it. He ditches it at a junk shop, only to see an Indian politician use the book for his own nefarious gain. Patros has to decide whether he's going to turn a blind eye to the world's problems or regain his youthful idealism.

It's available in all e-book formats via Smashwords check it out!

Meanwhile, you hear often that the "legacy," "dinosaur," "archaic" publishing industry is going down in flames... so you may be surprised to know that the traditional publishing industry has grown since 2008, even amid a recession. Be still my doomsayers.

The Apple e-book app wars continue. First, in compliance with new app guidelines, e-book apps like the Kindle and Nook disabled the Buy Now links within the apps. However there were two counterattacks. First, Apple and the "agency model" publishers were named in an e-book price fixing lawsuit, and Amazon launched a new HTML 5 Cloud Reader App that enables purchasing within the app and bypasses Apple's App Store ecosystem. You can bet this isn't over. (Disclosure: Links are to CNET, where I am happily employed).

And speaking of disruption, GigaOM had two great articles on disruptors in publishing, first profiling Morgan Rice, Cindy Pon and Tahereh Mafi, and second on their hopes for the future of publishing.

Eric from Pimp My Novel has a somewhat hilarious open letter to the industry: He requests that people stop asking him to fax things.

Slate had two interesting book-related links this week. Michael Agger wrote a column on becoming a faster writer, and there's a roundup of notable book people discussing which canonical books they feel should perhaps be dropped from the canon.

In literary agent news, my former colleague Ginger Clark wrote a column for Publishers Weekly on boilerplate contract negotiations and the clauses that are of particular concern, and Rachelle Gardner rounds up some questionable practices by shady agents.

And Jennifer Hubbard has another post analyzing first lines in books (including one about a certain kid who blasts off into space).

This week in the Forums, praising your family, scene length and pacing, do characters need last names, and how may drafts does it take until it's done?

Comment! of! the! Week! I have to say I was really surprised by the number of people arguing that TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD isn't a children's book. Before I make my own case for why it should be considered such, let me first give Comment of the Week to Brittany, who has a terrific argument for why it isn't a children's book:
I side with the opinion that TKAM, as I fondly call it, is not a children's book.

I am a young adult. This book was my required reading for junior year. I am sure I can safely say that no one in my class has read it before, for more than one reason. One, it's a "classic." I have read a lot of classics and consider myself well-educated and well-read, more so than others my age, and I would not have picked up TKAM if it had not been required and I had not heard so many good things about it. No teenager or child reads "classics" because they think they're going to be just like Dickens (which, I confess, I haven't had the courage to pick up again.)

Secondly, this book has some adult themes-rape being among them. I don't know about you, but I don't want my seven year-old reading about rape. (Yeah, I know Scout's seven or eight.) It's good for kids to learn about prejudice and death and life, and if you'll excuse the mild languge that's going on, it's a great book for middle grade-age and YA. But there are some things I don't think are for kids, and besides, isn't one of the best points of the book that we're looking at this from a child's eyes but we understand the bigger things that are going on? A child looking through a child's eyes isn't the same.

I enjoyed TKAM but I don't think it's a children's book.
 For me personally, I think some of this comes down to definitions, so let me first say that I think of a "children's book" as a catch-all that spans from picture books to YA. Basically anything for children under 18. I also don't believe authorial intent should be a consideration. I might intend to sit down and write a science fiction novel, but if it comes out fantasy it's fantasy.

I've outlined my own argument for the difference between YA and adult, and to me it comes down to the sensibility of the novel, not the subject matter. Is it told with a child's perspective and sensibility or is it told from an adult's perspective and sensibility? There are books with child protagonists that are firmly adult because they have an adult's perspective and sensibility.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD definitely deals with weighty issues, but the perspective and sensibility is Scout's, and Scout is a child. Yes, we gain a huge amount of insight no matter what our age, but this is a book that's read by nearly everyone before they're 18, it's told from a child's perspective, and just because it deals with some weighty subjects doesn't make it any less a children's book.

But that's just me!

And finally........  I have ARCs!

Have a great weekend!


Christi Goddard said...

Just the covers of your books make me smile. It all looks so whimsical.

Terry Odell said...

I asked the question in the original post: Define "children's book." I think of a children's book as something for the under 10 set. I can't see someone that age comprehending much of TKAM. Now, YA is a totally different game. As I recall, we read TKAM in high school. (And perhaps I shouldn't admit that the one thing I remember as I read it was wondering what the heck a chiffarobe was). Saw the original movie as well. Still wouldn't think about bringing a child under 10 to that one.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Jenny Maloney said...

Quick note: link to the "disruptors" leads to "get outta the canon"

Anonymous said...

I also thought "children's book" as more innocent.

I have a working inner definition of:

-children's books: under 10/innocent

-middle grade: 10-14

-YA: 14-18

-Older YA (or new adult): 15-28 (with adult readers too)

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks Jenny, fixed.

Ann M said...

Congrats on your ARC's!
They look fantastic.

-Cath said...

I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that a book being "told with a child's perspective and sensibility" as opposed to an adult's perspective makes it a children's book.
Many authors have used a child's perspective to convey adult themes to an adult audience. Room by Emma Donaghue would be one of these. The narrator is a 5 year old boy...but this is no child's book. To Kill a Mockingbird is similar. Just because it is told from a child's perspective does not mean it is a child's book. In both of these two novels, the narrator is a child not to appeal to children, but to have the horrors explored in the books come alive for the audience that much more, given that they're seen through innocent eyes.
To Kill a Mockingbird deals with issues such as rape, racism, violence and victimization. That Scout is a witness to this world and struggling to understand it is what makes the novel so powerful. We as the adult audience can see what she cannot and her child's sensibility is what underscores the adult themes and makes the book resonate with us.

Kathryn Elliott said...

Major ARC envy! Looks great.

Matt Larkin said...

Nathan you write: "I might intend to sit down and write a science fiction novel, but if it comes out fantasy it's fantasy."

I'm not sure I buy this logic, since the subject on hand was whether intent can determine genre or category. You say "if it comes out fantasy" which presupposes already that the distinction between SF and Fantasy is totally objective and not related to author's vision.

Does that mean that Star Trek, with often little real science behind it, should be filed under Fantasy?

Nathan Bransford said...


Not sure I follow. All I'm saying is that the genre is determined by what's in the actual book, not what the author intended going in.. So no, I don't think an author's vision matters, except as it manifests itself in the actual book.

Yeah, there are books that blur genres, but that's outside of the point I'm making.

Matt Larkin said...

Nathan - I think clarified that way I can get behind the argument (i.e. that content and the feel it creates determines genre).

My first point was mostly semantic. In discussing what determines genre, saying "it comes out fantasy" raised my eyebrows, since we were (in your analogy) discussing what makes something fantasy in the first place. If we had not yet decided whether intent could determine genre, then an author could say it came out SF (even if you or I don't think so) simply because he intended SF.

I think those blurred genres are relevant here, since it seems to be blurred whether TKAM is children's or not. An appeal to the intent of the author could be one to classify.

Hanny said...

It's incredible how quickly companies began fighting over e-books.

As for children's books or adult's books: I think that only really matters to bookstores trying to place a book on the shelf. I read adult books as a child and I read children's book's as an alleged adult.
It seems that children's books just let the imagination take over more, and adult books have to describe everything to an adult who knows what they hear and see.

Taylor Napolsky said...

I can't believe this is even a debate. Mockingbird is clearly for teens and adults. But going by Nathans definition of childrens books being classified as anything for kids under eighteen, then sure, Mockingbird is a childrens book. I think the big distinction everyone has is most of us don't consider YA books as children's books. They just aren't the same. So do you consider anyone under 18 a child? I just don't get it. (shrugs)

Just Another Day in Paradise said...

I would love to see a discussion on the specific genre and intentions of Harper Lee along with her thoughts on the feasibility of traditional publishing versus self publishing digitally. Sheesh. Are you kidding me? Are the cows coming home yet? Let the man have his own opinions.

Brittany said...

Thank you for the Comment of the Week!

If you classify "children's books" as under-eighteen books, then yes, I guess TKAM is a children's book. But with all the labels we have for books today, YA and MG and all, "children's" seems to limit itself to 10 and under or so, as other commenters have said, and TKAM does not fit into that category.

Thanks once again!

Nathan Bransford said...

Yeah, I guess this may be influenced by having worked in publishing, where you have a name for every single age group. Picture book to early reader to chapter book to middle grade to young adult. To me the catchall term is children's books, just as the Harper Children's Books division includes everything from picture books to HarperTeen. I wouldn't go around calling a teenager a child or anything, "children's books" just encompasses more to me than, say, ten and under.

Anonymous said...

Great links. And thank you to Brittany. I think To Kill a Mockingbird was a story told through Scout's eyes when Scout wasn't being supervised, her mother having died when she was two years old, her father too busy with the trial to really take care of her. This was a novel. It wasn't meant as a novel for children.

D.G. Hudson said...

Rachelle Gardner's post about questionable practices of shady agents is something that we need to be reminded of, on occasion.

Not everything or everyone is as they seem to be. Informing yourself is essential.

As for canonical books - why do people feel they have to edit everything so it fits their perspective? A list of books called "classics or must-read books for writing" is only that -- a list. The fact that some find these books are difficult to read or outdated doesn't make them any less suitable for observing/studying writing or life in a different time when MEDIA didn't control the world. If some don't appeal, don't read them.

How many of today's one-shot wonders (books) will survive with the masses? It will be interesting to watch, to see what rises amid the clutter. Subjectivity never goes out of style.

Anonymous said...

I do think most kid's books target a specific audience: kids. Not all, some crossover. But most are strictly for kids and adults simply wouldn't be interested in them the same way kids would be interested in them. A lot of adults don't like "cute," which is what kid's books tend to be. And it's why they are written for kids.

I doubt Harper intended her book to be classified as a children's book, not to mention her infamous gay BFF, Truman Capote, who may or may not have helped her out a great deal while writing the book. (Evidence leads in both directions, but nothing can be proven.) Only a few left, like Joanne Carson, Johnny Carson's ex-wife, where Capote died in LA, might know for certain. But I'd bet sharp-tongued Mr. Capote would get a laugh or two if he saw that people were considering To Kill a Mockingbird as a children's book, simply because it's told from a child's POV.

Taylor Napolsky said...

regarding your explanation about how working in the publishing industry may have changed your perspective, that makes perfect sense to me, and kind of clears it all up

Anonymous said...

Harper Lee didn't write the book for kids. It's just one of those books that ended up on summer reading lists soon after it was published. I read it when I was about 12. Because it wasn't written specifically for children or young adults, I don't consider it as such, even though it is often assigned to teens. I think an author's intentions do matter. A SEPARATE PEACE is similar. I wouldn't consider that a "YA book," although mostly teenagers read it at this point.

Mira said...

Oh, don't those ARCs look purty!!!

Purty, but cruel. Oh, those ARCs are just sitting there, taunting me. Come, read me, they say. Come, we'll tell you more of the story. Arrgghhh. I can't wait until April!!! April!!!!???

So, I'll have to distract myself with this plethora of links. Wow. I don't even know where to start. Your client's book looks terrific, and I think I'll read it. Right after I've read To Kill a Mockingbird. Obviously, my education was lacking because I've never read it. From the discussion, I'm getting the impression that it's a good book.

In terms of the growth of the publishing industry, I could be wrong about this, but I suspect it has to do with the growth of the e-book market, which has brought readers in. So, I'm not sure that it means much more than that...but time will tell!

I am proud to say that in the Kindle app wars, I, Mira, have emerged the winner. I refuse to update my Kindle for I-phone, thereby keeping my little "to buy" button. Ha! Take that Apple, you big bully. You couldn't get the best of me!

Erics' article was pretty funny. And sadly I haven't had time to read the rest of the links yet, but they look great. Thanks for taking the time every week to do this, Nathan!

Hope everyone is having a lovely summer weekend!

Lisa L. Regan said...

I would not normally do this but there is a Hook for Your Book Contest going on over at my blog for unagented mystery/thriller writers in case anyone is interested. Nathan, I have followed your blog for many years even though I'm not a YA author. I met one of my best friends and a fabulous critique partner through your forums. So it stands to reason maybe some unagented mystery/thriller writers do as well. It's a great opportunity for writers looking for an agent.

Ishta Mercurio said...


And great links. I look forward to reading them.

It's been a long time since I've read TKAM, so I stayed out of the discussion of whether it is a children's book. But after reading some of the comments here, I just want to jump in and say that as a writer of picture books, chapter books, short stories, and YA novels, it drives me bananas when someone comes along and says that they've written a "children's book" in reference to their picture book or chapter book.

First, because 13-year-olds are children, too. I remember being one, and even though I was allowed to babysit and look after myself and all those things, I was still a kid. I wasn't allowed to have a "real" job, I wasn't asked to pay taxes on my income, and I wasn't allowed to vote. The same applies to when I was 15, 16, and 17. Teens are big kids, but in my mind, they're still kids.

But also, "children's book" is, as Nathan says, a catch-all. It's a vague phrase like "heart's desire" and "the end of the world" that needs to be purged from our description of our work. There are huge differences between picture books and chapter books, and to refer to them indiscriminately as "children's books", to me, shows a level of ignorance. The industry has specific terms for the different categories, and as professionals, we should learn them and use them.

Just my opinion, of course.

aspiring_x said...

i must have missed your TKAM post. i first read it when i was eight, and i understood it and appreciated it at that age. but i don't think my eight-year-old would. but, i'll probably give it to him to read when he's about eleven or so... still though, i agree that it makes sense as a children's book- even though it can be appreciated at all ages. i think most older kids can (and should) read tough subject matter. it develops empathy, while keeping a child in a safe environment.

the arc's look fantastic! whoo hoo!

Related Posts with Thumbnails