Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, September 23, 2011

This Week in Books 9/23/11

These past few weeks! In books!

As you may have been able to tell from my somewhat sporadic blogging I've had a rather bananas couple of weeks, so these links are somewhat spotty. But! I still aim to please with the link love.

First up, wow, some massive news out of Facebook yesterday, as they unveiled a whole slew of new changes that are going to seriously impact the way we live online. It's a lot to keep track of, and my friend Sharon Vaknin has a really helpful article on the five things you need to know about the changes (links are to CNET, I work at CNET).

Perhaps the biggest change is a complete overhaul of profiles. Facebook unveiled Timeline, which will basically be your entire life (photos, status updates, changes) on Facebook, scrollable. And the new Ticker (aka the Facebook within yo Facebook) is now rethought to basically share with your friends what you are reading/watching/doing. You'll even be able to share what you are listening to, and your friends can click on it, the song will sync, and you can listen to it together.

For someone who mused openly about the permanence about Facebook yesterday, I have to say I'm deeply impressed with the changes. Timeline is a whole new way of chronicling and visualizing your life. Not everyone is going to be comfortable with that and I'm sure it gives some people the willies, but I think a lot of people are really going to like seeing their whole life and their friends/family's life all in one place. I wish it had been around when my grandparents were alive.

As for the other changes, we'll see how much people really want everything they watch/read/listen/do sent to a Facebook Ticker and whether they really want to see everything their friends watch/read/listen/do on Facebook. I have my doubts.

What do you think of the new Facebook?

Book news!

I'm late to this controversy, but there has been a whole lot of discussion around the topic of LGBT subjects in YA literature, and some wildly intelligent responses. What kicked off the discussion was a post by two authors who said an agent urged them to de-gay their novel (UPDATE: some further background and counter-claims on this is summarized here). This kicked off what started out as a pretty anguished discussion in the YA book world, but there were two great responses I wanted to point out.

First, Malinda Lo brought some actual stats to the discussion, tracking LGBT books over time, broken out by publisher, and by gender. Some very helpful context. And agent Michael Bourret has a post with an inescapable conclusion: If you want to see more LGBT novels, the best way to ensure that there are more is to seek out and buy more LGBT novels.

Amazon has kicked off its library e-book lending program, joining B&N and Sony (and others) in offering access to e-books from over 11,000 local libraries, and GoodReads launched book recommendations.

In agent advice news, Call My Agent talks about what it takes to become a literary agent, and Rachelle Gardner gives some insight into agents as editors.

The great Tahereh Mafi (whose novel SHATTER ME is less than two months away from taking over the world), has some of the best possible advice for writers: Don't be afraid to write a bad book.

In other book news news, the Man Booker shortlist has been announced, Levar Burton revealed he's working on a followup to Reading Rainbow, Roni Loren writes that even if blogging is (supposedly) dead there are good reasons to do it anyway, and a new from-slush-to-publication website has launched called PUBSLUSH Press. I'd be curious to hear what you think.

Comment! of! the! Week! goes to John, who I thought had an interesting counterpoint to my post on how imprints could be important to consumers in the e-book era. He disputes whether it does or will matter:
On Amazon many of the large publishers are demolishing their street creds with the Agency model of pricing ebooks. Perusing the Kindle forums will show you that resentment runs deep and is growing deeper.

I'm pretty sure the big publishers are doing more now to make sure the public views them as money-grubbers more than bastions of quality control.

And as any new author knows, they really don't do much for you in terms of marketing. Much of that is left to the author--they have to make connections with readers and get the word out.

Once you've done that, it's your name that matters. The author will be the brand in the mind of most readers. Reviews on Goodreads and Amazon will either add or detract from that name brand.

Let's face it. The traditional model of printing and distribution is dying. Borders is the latest victim.

I'm an avid reader and I probably couldn't tell you who the publisher is on half my books. I use Goodreads reviews more than anything else to determine what's worth reading and what isn't.

I also download samples to my Kindle to see how I like it.

Otherwise, indie, traditiona, it really doesn't matter to me so long as I enjoy it. And then I'll be yet another grassroots link to boosting or lowering the quality of that author's brand.

And finally, the Andy Samberg/Mark Zuckerberg comedy routine at the f8 event. Yes, really:

Have a great weekend!


MT Nickerson said...

I still was having trouble learning the old Facebook and now...? Is there such a thing nowadays as overshare?

Josin L. McQuein said...

Bananas weeks are good for space monkeys, didn't'cha know?

And I loathe using Facebook for anything other than games; the idea of the timeline only makes it worse. said...

I haven't quite adjusted to the ticker. I dislike that FB has taken it upon themselvesvto decide which friends posts are relevant to me. Now I gotta search out my favs, cause the ticker has too much garble.

Heather Kelly said...

I am the first one to champion more LGBT YA, but my understanding of the incident was that the agents asked the authors if they would consider making their MCs MG-aged. Which would take the LGBT out of the equation. But I'm so happy that people are talking about it--I'm hoping to see more writers writing LGBT characters into all genres. Loved Malinda Lo's breakdown.

Thanks for the great round up. :)

Stephanie {Luxe Boulevard} said...

The only thing I really care about is their algorithm for what posts show and what don't. It is killing my business. It wouldn't be so bad if 90% of my business didn't come from Facebook, but it does. I have a lot of silent readers and do a lot of silent reading myself. But because I don't "like" every post that comes my way I just don't get them anymore, and others don't get mine. They miss out on a lot of my updates. I wish they would realize I wouldn't "like" a page if I didn't want updates from it.

Mr. D said...

I haven't even gone to Facebook yet to see what the changes have been. Maybe I'll have time today.

Anonymous said...

As an author, I started creating an online persona a while ago. On facebook, I've never posted of mentioned anything that wasn't related to my work...even the personal aspects. So I honestly don't care what they do. And I'm glad I never actually used my own name or identity. The lack of privacy is creepy. And I think it's important to treat facebook, or any other social network, with extreme care.

Matthew MacNish said...

I almost thought you'd given up on these, Nathan. Nice to have em back.

D.G. Hudson said...

Facebook - the twitches of a morphing social media platform - trying to be the Overmind. Hmmm.

All that data goes into the marketing machine to determine how further to entrap the user. That's how marketing works. (The phrase 'entangle the user' has been used in some situations)

Facebook Ticker sounds invasive and self-serving -- just how important do we consider ourselves? Is everyone a quasi-celebrity now?

The times they are a-changing, said Bob Dylan. But is it for better or worse? Depends on your POV.

Anonymous said...

Heather- but why is it that when we all think of, say, books for middle schoolers, we automatically exclude LGBT? I'm not demanding an answer, I'm just genuinely curious. LGBT kids go through puberty just like everyone else, right? When I was in 6th grade EVERYONE was talking about who had a crush on who, who was be "dating" who, etc., but nobody was actually having sex. I wonder why the market is such that an LGBT component to a story is considered inherently more adult; that a boy in 7th grade, for instance, can have an innocent crush on a girl in his class, but if it's a boy the story becomes an Issue Story or the boy is aged up.

On a more general note, I'm a huge advocate of the "buy the books you want to see" argument, but I think it's also important to consider that sometimes you literally *do not know* about the books, which is where publishers need to step up. When I was in middle school, I wanted to read more books like The Ear, the Eye and the Arm-- SF or fantasy with people who looked like me. But nobody ever seemed to know of very much, and the Internet had not yet developed to the point where it was easy to find such lists-- all I had to guide me were those little pamphlets in the teen section that said "If You Liked Harry Potter..." (don't know if anyone else had those) It's like a bizarre feedback loop where I don't buy a book because I've never heard of it, and the publisher is subsequently wary of publishing books like it, making it all the harder for me to find.


Roger Floyd said...

I don't need an outside agency to chronicle my life. I know what my life is and has been and I'm fine with it. All I want from FB, or any other social networking site is a way to communicate with others and promote my blog and (hopefully) book(s).

Anonymous said...

I like to write LBGT YA and I know there will be challenges for the agent to sell it but I think you have to write a darn good story that draw readers in and forget about the sexuality.
I'm not a faceook fan. They could make contact with the moon for I care.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I'm not really thrilled with the new Facebook, but like with every prior change, I'm sure I'll adapt. The first thing I did was go through my friends list and unsubscribe from the Comments & Likes and Games options--I don't need to see that my friend commented on the photo of someone I don't even know, thank you very much. Even with all the articles about the Timeline thing, I'll have to wait until they roll it out for me to make a sound judgment. We'll see.

If you want to see more LGBT novels, the best way to ensure that there are more is to seek out and buy more LGBT novels.
This is what I've been telling people, although mostly in regards to them wanting to see more characters of color. There are books with these things out there! But if we want to see more of them, the publishers will want to know that they'll sell, and they'll make that decision based on prior sales stats. So if there's ANY type of character or storyline you'd like to see, you have to do your part as a reader and go out and support the authors that are already writing them. They exist, I promise. There's nothing that hasn't been done at all.

One of my writing buddies and I wrote a bad book on purpose once. It was great in that it helped us break some bad habits. But I've also written books that were bad despite my attempts, and learned quite a bit from them as well--probably more than I did from the books I thought turned out well the first time through. You can't learn if you don't fail once in a while.

My word verification is "bookerth", which makes me think "Book Earth", which sounds like an awesome concept and is giving me ideas...

Roni Loren said...

Wow, thanks so much for linking to my post. You've made my day! :D

As for Facebook, the timeline thing could be cool, but I have a feeling I'm not going to be tempted back over there. We'll see.

pezibc said...

LGBT narrows the market. Many things do and choices are always made.

I can certainly understand an agent making suggestions that broaden appeal, even if they 'dilute' the product. They have to sell it. The publisher has to sell it. The bookseller has to sell it.

The "Is it art or is it product?" question, including if/how to strike a balance, is asked everyday.

It's a good discussion to have on a fairly regular basis. LGBT is the 'fill in the blank' trigger this go-round.

Peter Dudley said...

Not a fan of FB's changes. Facebook seems more and more designed for the most vain among us. It used to help strengthen connections between people; now it's stretching those connections, making them more shallow and fleeting. I will give it a chance, but I think it's moving in the wrong direction.

abc said...

LeVar Burton! New Reading Rainbow! Somebody tell Troy Barnes!

(sorry, I couldn't help the Community reference--that was my favorite Donald Glover moment.)

Whirlochre said...

So many willies! I look like a mop.

skipperhammond said...

What do I think of the new Facebook? I'm checking out Google +. Clean, straightforward, I control how I use it, I have direct contact through email addresses. And I'm sick of having to relearn Facebook every few months.

Mira said...

Wow, great links, Nathan. Really interesting!

In terms of the LGBT thing - I guess I have two comments.

First, I think publishers should have a yearly quota of publishing books that are representative of discriminated against populations. I'm really serious. There should be some attempt at anti-discrimination, just like other businesses. That won't solve the complicated problems involved, but it's a start.

Second, I hope that those who write LGBT consider the e-publishing option. The LGBT community is a powerful force to be reckoned with, and self-publishing could bring accessiblity to the forefront. More than anything, e-publishing offers protection against being silenced and the opportunity to record sales.

That's so cool about Amazon and the libraries! Yay!

Great article by Taherah. I loved her line:

"the words get easier the moment you stop fearing them."

Oh WOW THAT'S going on my bulletin board. Awesome.

Pubslush looks really interesting. I like the new experimentation models. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about what they are doing in terms of unfinished works.....need to think about that more....but I LOVE the outreach to readers!

I liked Loren's article about the death of blogging - thought-provoking. I sort of disagreed though - oversaturated is not the same as dead! Anyway, I hope it's not dead, because I'm thinking of starting one up soon. I just need to think of the name. I'm considering "We need more Adverbs!", but it's lacking something. For one thing, it's obviously lacking an adverb.

John's comment was great! And that was an cute exchange between Samburg and Zuckerman. Thanks for posting it!

Thanks Nathan - great stuff!

Jaimie said...

I really love this series -- glad to see it this week!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nathan Bransford said...

(deleted) Anon-

I don't allow controversial comments from people who can't put their names to their opinions.

Ann Elise said...

I don't like the new Facebook at all. They've made it too complicated, and I'm not exactly computer illiterate.

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