Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, August 5, 2011

This Week in Books 8/5/11

The Dog Days of Summer are here (or at least in San Francisco the Fog Days of Summer are here), so just a precious few links for your reading pleasure!

First up, I have an interview with Curiosity Quills, wherein I talk about my decidedly mixed feelings about JACOB WONDERBAR having a higher Goodreads rating than THE GREAT GATSBY and questions re: the Future of Publishing.

Meanwhile, writing at the Chicago Tribune, bookseller Aaron Gilbreath wonders why publishers aren't advertising about the awesomeness of paper books. I can hear published authors everywhere shouting "I wish they advertised my book period!" (via Lisa Brackmann)

And speaking of marketing, agent Rachelle Gardner has a fantastic roundup of posts around the Internet about how to market your book.

This week in the Forums (which are very easy to join! Join today!), your favorite distractions, some good podcasts, whether your reader will remember your protagonist's name in first person, and sharing the first 250 words of your WIP.

Comment! of! the! week! goes to Alana Roberts, who had a fascinating response to the post on Distractions:
Well yes - writing advice simply doesn't work in the same way for everyone! And it's so amusing - there is always someone out there (like Anonymous 8:23am) who assumes that everyone, deep down, is really just like himself. Apparently we just need to discover that fact and behave accordingly and we will find out what we are really fit for - because it can't be the same job that our exceedingly self-confident friend is so skilled at!

I'm interested in what others say about the writing process, but in 'The Magic Key To Successful Writing' Maxine Lewis treats writing as a psychological event. Well, if it's true, that changes things! It means that the writing process isn't the same process for you as it is for me - as Nathan implies in this post. Is it possible that a single method, system or attitude will fix the problems that such an event engenders, for everyone?

I don't think so. If each of us is encountering his own psyche whenever he writes then, for some, order, method, and calm will characterize the process and for others - such as myself - the encounter will always be turbulent, agonizing, and mysterious. For some there will simply be a job to do, while an epic inner journey confronts others.

But that opens up other possibilities. If each of us writes as he is meant to, the results will be as different as two souls. Those of us who have relinquished the easy dream of writing how and what we are expected to write, simply because that dream came into conflict with the psychological necessity of writing what we ourselves can write, are bound to face the fear that the market will never have room for what we have to offer.
And finally, it's beach time, and Mashable featured this seriously awesome giant stop-motion animation.

Have a great weekend!


The English Teacher said...

Have a happy fog day weekend, Nathan.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Is that the Montara beach... Montara, CA???

Haste yee back ;-)

Anonymous said...

I have my own opinions about goodreads in general.

One, I don't trust them completely. I know for a fact many are bogus. There are people with many goodreads accounts, not just one. And when there is an opportunity like this available, people will naturally take advantage of it to the fullest extent.

I also think the books with mixed ratings...people either loved them or hated as well in sales as the books that get all excellent ratings.

It's the books with mostly average ratings that usually sell the least copies.

As far as classics go, I doubt any of the authors would care one way or the other about goodreads.

Matthew MacNish said...

Ooh. I need to get into that thread about first person. Thanks, NB.

Darley said...

Jacob Wonderbar is your Great Gatsby? Now I have to read it.

Have a great weekend.

Christi Goddard said...

I'm with Aaron Gilbreath all the way. I'm not old school, I do love the advances in technology, but at the same time, I've got a thing about ownership. I don't download music. I still by CDs to own the cover art, lyrics, read little tidbits, have behind the scenes videos (which many have). Perhaps publishers could do something like that. Paper books have 'extras' that e-books don't.

I don't have any manner of e-reader. I buy paper. Again, it's to do with ownership. I see the convenience of having e-readers, but I like something solid in my hand that doesn't have an on/off button. Someday, when we run out of power and resources, it will look as though generations of humans produced nothing, as there will be no record of what was written, no copies of great works to share, and then won't books be the most priceless commodity of all? (aside from food, of course :-) )

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that with the millions who've read Gatsby, there are only a half million ratings on goodreads.

Carmen Webster said...

Do you think the guy who wants publishers to advertise the advantages of paper books understands the essential fact that the ebooks Amazon, B&N, and Apple sell all come FROM PUBLISHERS?

Anonymous said...

First, in terms of rating books, places, and products and reviewing everything, WIRED magazine has a good article this month. It's about how we may let other people's opinions prevent us from developing our own ideas and keep us from learning to recognize what we like and don't like.

Second, my 10 year old son said to me, "There is something wrong with this book." (holding a copy of Jacob Wonderbar)
I said, "What is it?"
He said, "I keep wanting to reread it."

Finally, hanging in limbo while an editor tries to decide whether or not to publish your story should be its own level of hell.


pezibc said...

I read that interview and didn't get why you, or anyone, would take a rating comparison between Wonderbar and Gatsby seriously. It doesn't even seem worthy of discussion. X number of stars for a kid's book and X number of stars for classic literature - what useful comparisons are there to be made?

Set aside Gatsby. Is it reasonable to compare 'ratings' of Wonderbar (as the example we are using here) to those for Romance, other pulp, SF, or books of any other unrelated genre or category?

I rarely find ratings to be of much value even when comparing apples to apples. A five star range is pretty narrow; so narrow that I only see 'Bad - Okay - Great', with no context, as what I can take from them.

Ratings suck. Give me reviews.

maine character said...

That video's good, but what dumbstruck me was the making of it. So much planning, and you're dealing with the shifting light and all the rest.

Matthew C Wood said...

Alana Roberts could not have put it better! In my own opinion I think the unique nature of every individual writer's style and experience 'on the job' is what allows the literary world to have the diversity that enjoys. Heck, it's part of what makes us human!
Imagine a world where everyone did exactly the same as one 'model' individual, perhaps today would see the release of "Harry Potter and the Breaking Dawn of Executive Orders and Da Vinci Codes." Written by 'The great hive mind of writers everywhere.'

What a horrid thought...

Mira said...

Great links, fun video. :)

Loved the comment of the week! Writing as a psychological event - very, very true. But I have a comment about her last part. Yes, the market may not always have a place for everyone's writing, but if writing is a psychological event, then more important things are happening. The real value of writing happens during the process itself, I think.

Great interview, Nathan, very interesting. Re. the Great Gatsby: I think classics fade in popularity depending on their relevance to the current culture, but your point that beautiful writing should be preserved and appreciated is well spoken. Art museums will never draw the crowds that a Justin Beiber concert will, but they are important!

I loved the article by Gilbreath, but I am sad to say that I think it's won't happen. The technology change is just too compelling, and I think print publishers really do understand that, which is why they aren't putting up too much of a fight. The bottom line is that paper is not really the most important thing to publishers. I think their energy is going into figuring out how to capitalize on the e-book market as it grows. I could be wrong, though.

Rachelle Gardners' marketing posts are an intelligent meta-example, since all of the posts are written by her clients and will draw readers to their blogs.

Highly recommend the forums to everyone! They are fun and interesting!!

Thanks so much, Nathan. Browsing and commenting on good quality links is a lovely way to spend a foggy Saturday morning. :)

Taylor Napolsky said...

Yeah I recently joined your forums and I like them. They're a great resource!

John Stanton said...

Jacob Wonderbar beats down Nick Carraway in the no-rules, mixed martial arts, UFC world championship!!!!

Nick sat dejectedly on the dirty floor outside the octagon, nursing the bleeding gash on his forehead. As his mind slowly cleared from the flurry of punches that laid him out and ended the fight, he asked himself what had ever possessed him to be involved in this competition.
It took him a minute but he came to understand that not everyone can compete in every field. Maybe Jacob ruled the octagon but could he even drive a car? Had he ever made love to a woman? Where would Jacob be in 80-90 years?
Nick gathered himself from the floor walked out triumphantly knowing that he had nothing to prove to anyone.

bcomet said...

I love the Gulp! I know just how this guy feels.

Anonymous said...

"Ratings suck. Give me reviews."

A lot of published authors only do ratings on goodreads because they don't do reviews of other authors. I'm one of them. It's a personal rule. I don't like reviewing other authors, good or bad. It often comes off looking like either favortism or vengence even when it's honest. But don't mind rating them after I've read their books. And the ratings are authentic in these cases.

Anonymous said...

"Well yes - writing advice simply doesn't work in the same way for everyone! And it's so amusing - there is always someone out there (like Anonymous 8:23am) who assumes that everyone, deep down, is really just like himself."

I was the Anon @ 8:23.

You're right, Alana. I couldn't agree more, even though I may or may not be a

It's just that it's hard for writers who've made huge sacrifices to listen to what often sounds like excuses. I know that's not always the case. But I'd bet in many cases it is.

Maya said...

Hey Nathan,
Don't feel sad about the Great Gatsby! Patrick, Goodreads Community Manager, theorizes that great works can get lower ratings because students are forced to read them in school. Clearly there are nuances to average ratings beyond the objective worth of a book.

Anonymous said...

About marketing: I love to write, but to promote myself shamelessly and openly is still distasteful to me. The art of self-promotion,no matter how eloquent, can still fall into the category of begging. (Sort of like grant writing.) How to put something out there, let people know it exists, and not look like I am begging/asking for donations like a semi refined tent-show snake oil salesman?

Ishta Mercurio said...

Good links this week!

I enjoyed your interview. And I agree that comparing THE GREAT GATSBY to JACOB WONDERBAR is like comparing apples to breakfast cereal. There is no comparison there. Additionally, and maybe even more importantly, the ratings on Goodreads aren't about quality. They don't even pretend to be about quality. They're about personal taste: I didn't like it, It was OK, I liked it, I really liked it, and It was amazing.

Does this mean that even though you have a near-four-star rating, your book is poo? Definitely not. (I'm reading it now, by the way, and I'm enjoying it immensely. And my son has been practically snatching it from my grip, he wants to read it so badly.) But it also doesn't mean that GATSBY is no longer considered to be a work of great literature. It's just about who likes what, and how much they like it.

Aaron Gilbreath's post was interesting, but I was left asking why publishers who can sell both electronic AND print copies would care about marketing paper versions over e-versions. If we get down to the business aspect of publishing, what matters is copies sold; do they really care what form those copies take? My own opinions notwithstanding (I'm in the "print" camp myself), I think probably not.

I think a more relevant question is, why are BOOKSELLERS not advertising the advantages of paper books over e-books? They're the ones who really have the most to lose by publishers going "e".

Alana Roberts said...

Thanks, Matthew!

Anon 11:23, sorry, I'm not much of a feminist. I still proudly use "himself" to refer to a person of unknown sex, because it's elegant, in the way a physicist would say 'elegant,' and I'm a logical person who admires the elegant use of language.

I appreciate your frustration. At the same time I tend not to be bothered by other people's excuse-making when what they excuse didn't materially damage someone else. I figure people have genuine reasons for the difficulties they encounter in life. Sometimes the difficulties are inside them.

All the best.

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