Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Will You Ever Buy Mostly E-Books: The Results!

The results!

At least in this little poll, our e-book overlords seem to have already won.

The percentage of people who said you'd have to pry paper books out of their cold dead hands:

2007: 49%
2008: 45%
2009: 37%
2010: 30%
2011: 25%

The percentage of people who welcome their coming e-book overlords:

2007: 7% (!)
2008: 11%
2009: 19%
2010: 32%
2011: 47%

I believe that's what's called a trend.

Here are some other fun links and comments sections to check out. E-book prognostications from 2007! When the Kindle had just come out and cost $400. Can you believe the original Kindle cost $400?! Wow. My how things change.

When Will E-Books Take Over?
Kindle Kindle Burning Bright

And of course...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Will You Ever Buy Mostly E-books?

The leaves are changing, Christmas music is in the air, and it's time for our annual e-book poll, which I have held every year since 2007.

Which means this is the FIFTH ANNUAL e-book poll. Wow.  Thanks to everyone who has been around for all five.

Let's get the disclaimers out of the way: Yes, I'm aware this isn't the most scientific of polls. Yes, the sample has changed from year to year. Yes, there are two polls from 2009 because I forgot one at the end of '08. Entertainment purposes only!

Here are the past polls:

2008 (technically beginning of '09)

And here is this year's poll. Do you think there will come a time when you buy mostly e-books? Do you already? Click through for the poll if you're reading via e-mail or in a feed reader:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Turkey Day to all my fellow Americans out there! Hope you are having a safe, restful, and lovely holiday.

Let's make this Thanksgiving a thoughtful one.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do You Suffer From One of These Writing Maladies? (Part II)

The fall season of writing viruses is here. Watch out for these dangerous diseases!

(After Part I)

Catching the Rye:
Well you probably first want to have read this book by J.D. Salinger with an immediately catchy voice that kind of spoke to a generation or some nonsense, and after you do that you may be corrupted with that voice in your head for some time if you want to know the truth of the matter. If you really want to think about it it’s already been done and anyway the guy who wrote it didn’t end up wanting to talk to anyone anymore and holed up in a house somewhere so that can’t have been good and you probably want to try and go and write your own voice so you’re not a phony.

Adverb Central:
“What do you mean I can’t use adverbs with dialogue tags?” Lucia asked questioningly.
“Just don’t do it,” Nathan replied testily.
“But why not?” Lucia asked quizzically.
“It’s kind of a rule,” Nathan said resignedly.
“I kind of like them,” Lucia said poutingly.
“If you keep using adverbs,” Nathan said patiently, “Pretty soon your reader will only notice the adverbs and not the dialogue because the adverbs are doing all the work for the reader.”
“Oh,” Lucia said understandingly.
“Yeah,” Nathan nodded knowingly.

Gee Whiz That’s a Lot of Exposition:
“But what is it?” Captain Spaceman asked.
“I’m glad you asked,” his crack scientist said. “It’s a ‘What’s It.’ It is a device that requires me to explain to you precisely how the technology in this world works so the writer can get some exposition out of the way.”
“But why wouldn’t I already know how the technology works?” Captain Spaceman asked. “I am the captain, aren’t I?”
“That’s the beauty of it,” the scientist said. “You will impatiently prod me along while I tell the reader exactly what they need to know even though there is no good reason for us to be having this conversation. You might even say ‘Yes yes, go on.’”
“Yes yes, go on,” Captain Spaceman said.
“And I’ll be sure to include some foreshadowing. I mean, sir, just think of what would happen if the ‘What’s It’ fell into the wrong hands... You might even be moved to weigh in on the gravity of the situation.”
Captain Spaceman scratched his chin. “My gods, that would be catastrophic.”

Olympic Head Jumping:
Jackie saw the problem approach from a mile away. She turned to Richard, who was wondering about the weather that day and thought nothing of Susan, who was sitting quietly and wasn’t expecting the problem at all. Jackie wondered at that moment how everything had gone wrong, while Richard’s eyes widened as he saw another person approaching, Derrick, who gave a wave as he approached, happy to see his friends. Susan began to notice something was amiss and gave a start, which Richard noticed and looked in Derrick’s direction while Jackie had already been onto the problem from the start, ignoring the quizzical expression on Derrick’s face as he tried to understand. No one had any idea what was really happening.

Fantasy Overload:
“We are hearty warriors! Let us share a hearty chuckle! Ha ha ha!” Pentrarch said.
There was a glint in Lentwendon’s eye as he took a swill from a mighty cistern of ale. He bellowed a deep laugh and clapped his friend on the back.
“I say,” Pentrarch said, “What is it about fantasy novels that lends itself to such stilted, manly camaraderie? Do we not have normal interactions?”
“We do not,” Lentwendon said, his voice suddenly grave. “We do not. We prefer to express our friendship with great noise and clapping of shoulders and brood quietly but stoically when matters turn serious. It is the same with our women.”
“Oh yes,” Pentrarch said “Our women are quietly supportive that we must do battle in far off lands, and they always have weary, knowing eyes. In truth they are the strong ones.”
Lentwendon nodded as he stared quietly at his cistern. “And ale, always ale.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

This Week in Books 11/18/11

This week! Books!

Whew. I'm back in San Francsico again after being gone three out of the last four weeks, and there's nothing quite like being back at home. But as I'm in pseudo-NaNoWriMo mode on Wonderbar #3, time for blogging is limited.

So! Here are my favorite links from the last few weeks, in link-only form.

Has China Found the Future of Publishing? (The Guardian)

Amazon's New Kindle Lending Program Causes Publishing Stir (LA Times)

How to Write a Person (Alchemy of Writing)

So You're Thinking of Self-Publishing... (Wicked & Tricksy)

Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet Review (CNET - disclosure I work at CNET)

Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet Review (CNET)

Book Cover of the Future? (GalleyCat)

What Not to Blog About (Rachelle Gardner)

Query Personalization (KidLit)

Author Advances Survey Results (Meghan Ward)

Jonathan Lethem Responds to James Wood Review (GalleyCat)

The Disappointment Author: Lethem vs. Wood (The Millions)

Does Age Matter for Writers (Rachelle Gardner)

The Authors Guild on Amazon's Kindle Lending Library (Writer Beware)

Smashwords Launches E-book Publishing Service for Literary Agents (Smashwords)

2011 National Book Award Winners Announced (The Millions)

The No Response = No Debate (Adventures in Agent Land)

Shatter Me Author Tahereh Mafi on Why Teens Dig the Supernatural (Tahereh Mafi)

And finally, this video needs no further description (via io9)


Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Do You Plan to Bypass the Traditional Publishing Industry Entirely?

In a recent guest post at J.A. Konrath’s blog, Barry Eisler laid out numerous reasons why he no longer foresees pursuing traditional publication.

And in the comments section on this blog, I’ve noticed a definite uptick in the number of people who are questioning the wisdom of querying agents and trying for traditional publication at all, whether because of the length of time it takes, the fear of losing control, e-book royalties, and many other factors.

So. For all you writers out there: Do you plan to pursue traditional publication or are you going self-publishing all the way?

Poll below, please click through if you’re reading via e-mail or a feed reader.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shatter Me Release Day!

If you don't already know Tahereh Mafi from her innovative blog or witty Twitter stream or Tumblr or other locales where she has taken over the Internet, you probably will soon hear about 'Shatter Me,' her awesome dystopian YA novel that's publishing today.

'Shatter Me' is about Juliette, whose touch is fatal, and who is being held captive by the Reestablishment in a dystopian world. After a long stretch in solitary confinement she suddenly has a visitor, and this kicks in motion a plot where Juliette has to come to terms with her power and try to escape. It's exciting, gripping, suspenseful, mesmerizing, and all those other adjectives that go along with a great adventure.

But what really sets 'Shatter Me' apart is the writing. True to form, Tahereh didn't just go and write a novel, there's an incredibly clever use of strikethrough and some of the most unique turns of phrase and descriptions you'll ever see in a YA novel. 'Shatter Me' is proof that you can have innovative language in a commercial YA novel.

But don't take my word for it. Publishers Weekly says:

“Mafi combines a psychological opener with an action-adventure denouement in her YA debut. This is a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.”

Congrats to Tahereh on a great achievement, and please do yourself a favor and read 'Shatter Me'!

Barnes & Noble

Friday, November 11, 2011

CNET Gotham!

I've been a little negligent in my blogging because I've been hard at work promoting (and ahem enjoying) CNET's pop-up store experience in New York City!

Through the weekend CNET is hosting a pop-up holiday gift experience at 201 Mulberry St. in Nolita - all the gadgets you could want to play with, TVs, a car, photo booths, parties and all kinds of tech goodness.

If you're in the area stop on by and say hello! I'll be the one with the computer posting tweets and Facebook posts.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What Genre Is Your Work in Progress?

Every now and then I like to check in to see what genre people are working on. The last time I asked was wayyyy back in 2009.

Now that it’s NaNoWriMo I’m guessing that there are many a new work in progress, so let’s see:

What’s Your Genre?

You’ll need to click through to see the poll if you’re reading via e-mail or a feed reader.

Friday, November 4, 2011

This Week in Books 11/4/11

This week! Books!

Actually it's a few weeks of links so be prepared for a full-on link deluge.

Remember back in January when I said the tablets were coming? Well, they definitely are coming fast. Not only does Amazon have the Kindle Fire tablet coming soon, rumors say B&N will debut a new Nook tablet in just a few weeks (disclosure: link is to CNET, I work at CNET). The e-book options, they abound.

And, um, not exactly a coincidence that adult hardcover and paperback sales are down 18% this year. Perhaps even more noteworthy, e-book revenue has surpassed hardcover revenue so far this year.

Speaking of which, CNET next door neighbors GigaOM had a really interesting post about the perils faced by middlemen in publishing. As Amazon executive Russell Grandinetti said, "[T]he only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader. Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity." What do publishers need to do per GigaOM? Give authors what they want and need.

And along those lines, as you may have heard, a while back Amazon gave authors access to Bookscan sales data, one small step to open up some real-time transparency. Now some traditional publishers are finally starting to follow suit.

Meanwhile, do people want interactive e-books? Dueling posts about that topic. Australian author and agent Xavier Waterkeyn talks about transmedia and the interactive project THE CHIMERA VECTOR, while Melville House ripostes that the old fashioned way of reading a book isn't in need of revision.

Oh, and the Wall Street Journal is starting an e-book bestseller list.

Agent Jane Dystel (aka President Obama's agent) had a fantastic post lamenting the publishing industry's fixation on only publishing "sure things." There is, of course, nothing sure about a "sure thing" in publishing, and when publishers do have a sure thing they often end up overypaying and not making a profit anyway.

On the other hand, Salon has a feature on imprint Harper Perennial and wonders aloud whether it can reinvent publishing. How? Cool writers, low advances, smart design. Sounds kind of like the old days of publishing. What's new is old, what's old is new.

A few months back I had a post on writing and striving and THE GREAT GATSBY, and writer Gretchen Brugman used it as a jumping off point for an awesome post about running, literally and figuratively, and hoping and dreaming and the process of becoming. Really great stuff.

In serious Nathan Bransford bait, Nathaniel Philbrick has written a book called WHY READ MOBY-DICK? Yes, you heard right. A book about why you should read MOBY-DICK. Oh hell yes.

Congrats to Julian Barnes, who won the very prestigious Man Booker Prize.

And in other award news, columnist Laura Miller at Salon had some harsh words for the National Book Awards, saying they're like the Newbery - books someone thinks is good for you whether or not you particularly them very much. One of this year's NBA judges, Victor LaValle, fired back at Miller, arguing that judges nominate the books they fall in love with. (via John Ochwat)

Oh, and you may heard something about a certain National Book Award debacle in the young adult category.

In Life of the Writer news, From the Write Angle has an awesome survey of writing superstitions, agent Jane Dystel notes that author promotion ain't what it used to be, agent Rachelle Gardner discusses when to leave your agent, agent Kristin Nelson writes about contract clauses that should scare you, and the New Yorker's book blog The Book Bench has a really fascinating post on the limits of self-knowledge and the tenuousness of rationality.

Alvina Ling, Executive Editor of Little Brown Children's Books, wrote a fantastic post on how she edits.

Agent Rachelle Gardner had a contest based on the starting prompt "How many agents does it take to screw in a lightbulb," and the winning responses were pretty hilarious.

HarperCollins is buying Christian publishing Thomas Nelson.

John Corwin has two posts on how authors can utilize GoodReads (first, second).

And many writers have lent their support to the Occupy movement, adding to the tally at OccupyWriters.

This week in the Forums, a self-published author finds himself on the wrong side of Amazon, seeking advice on the all-important launch party, the notion of a "dream" agent, how do you interact with your favorite writers online?, discussing GAME OF THRONES (which I am now reading), the most efficient way of outlining, and, of course, NaNoWriMo! And specifically amazing daily encouragement from Sommer Leigh.

And finally, as I mentioned I just got back from some travels and along the way I discovered a really cool web series called Sonia's Travels by Sonia Gil. If you love traveling you'll be jealous of all the amazing places she's been. The latest episode is on Valladolid, Mexico. I want to go to there!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Success and Motivation

Guest post by Shawn Thomas Odyssey, the author of THE WIZARD OF DARK STREET: An Oona Crate Mystery.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find it helpful to take a moment to sort of realign myself with my deeper reasons for wanting to tell a story. Let’s face it, writing is hard work. It is demanding, and challenging, sometimes frustrating, and at other times exhilarating. So I ask the question: what is it that calls us to the keyboard or the pen and paper time and time again?

I can’t answer that for anyone else, but I do know that sometimes our core reason for writing can get a bit obscured by all of the traps of “succeeding.” Whether it’s seeking an agent, landing a publishing deal, promoting and selling a book, or whatever place we writers are at in our careers, I feel that it’s important to take a moment every so often to remind ourselves what we are doing all of this for. Why this, of all of the thousands of other activities available? And by the way, if your answer is “to get a six-figure advance on a publishing contract,” that’s fine, and perhaps true on one level, but I’m going to challenge you a bit and ask you to look a little deeper. Seems to me that there are FAR easier ways to make money than writing.

No doubt the answer you find will be answers (plural). There is certainly more than one thing that motivates us to do anything—we are complex human beings after all, and the answer is never quite so simple. But in simply asking the question, you might be surprised to discover that one or two reasons may stand out above the rest—answers that resonate TRUTH like a neon sign. Maybe those motivations have changed over time and are different from when you inked your first story, and then again, maybe not. It’s interesting to explore.

The reason I bring it up is because those core truths that speak to us—or perhaps more aptly, speak through us—can be the sweetest, most inspiring motivators in our lives. And all of the other compulsions and pressures to be successful can often obscure even the most core motivations.

Don’t get me wrong; the drive to succeed is a fine thing, and perhaps even necessary to achieve our eventual goals…just so long as it does not obscure our basic truths.

Presently, I am reminded that one of my own personal motivations for writing is, on one level, a desire to uniquely do for others what has been done for me by other authors. And on an even more fundamental level, it is to connect—not only with my readers, but also with that mysterious source within where the stories themselves seem to come from. To experience the magic firsthand!

What’s your motivation?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Five Ways to Stay Motivated While Writing a Novel

"Gelee Blanche" - Camille Pissarro
Believe it or not, there are many writers out there, real writers, who don’t particularly like writing very much.

It’s true! Some find the process tedious, even torturous, and find it difficult to stay focused for the length of time it takes to finish.

Like many writers out there, I’m someone who finds writing really difficult. I ultimately derive great pleasure from the writing process and feel incredibly fortunate to have the time to devote to it, but that doesn’t mean I find every moment riveting.

What burns in the heart of writers varies from person to person, so you’ll have to find what works for you. But here are some ideas that might help keep you in the writer’s chair.

- Cultivate Your Fear of Failure. Despite what Yoda might have you believe, fear does not always lead to anger, hate, and suffering. Fear is one of the best motivators you have. Invest in the idea of your novel. Develop the idea that you’re letting yourself down if you don’t finish it. Put pressure on yourself. Be afraid the regret you’ll feel the rest of your life if you don’t accomplish your dream. Fear is a feeling that can keep you going.

- Set Deadlines With Teeth. Deadlines don’t actually work that well for me personally (they tend to just stress me out), but I know people who swear by them. The trick is setting a deadline with teeth. If you secretly know that the deadline you’re setting for yourself is a soft one, it’s not going to have its hair-raising, stress-inducing maximum effect. So either you have to learn to be scared of yourself and your own punishments or you may need a partner in crime who can help you keep to them.

- Daydream a Little. It’s okay to imagine what would happen if your book blew up and you were on the cover of fifty magazines (do those still exist?) and you were the toast of the literati and a gazillionaire. Don’t let those dreams become expectations to the point that not getting those things gets you down, but give yourself the freedom to imagine those best case scenarios.

- Befriend Writers Who Have Finished a Novel. Before I knew real writers, the idea of writing a novel seemed so impossibly vast it seemed almost magical. But then you get to know the people behind the books, and there’s not as much of a secret to it: They are people who sat in place for as long as it took to write a novel. Get to know them. Lean on them. They may give you a blank, pitying, horrified stare when you start fretting you’re never going to finish, but that blank stare will get you back to the keyboard in no time.

- Write Something You Love. It may be tempting to try and chase the flavor of the moment or what the industry says is selling or the novel you think you should write, but that doesn’t work. You need to love your novel unconditionally if you’re going to finish.

What about you? What motivates you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How to Start Writing a Novel

"A Lady Drinking and a Gentleman (detail)" - Johannes Vermeer
How do you begin a novel? Start writing!

Kidding. Kind of.

This is a question I’m asked a lot by people who have always wanted to write a novel but aren’t sure where to start: Where do you start? How do you even get going?

It’s not quite as difficult as you might think!

A mistake people make that deters them from even writing the novel or memoir they have always wanted to write is that they’re intimidated by how big the task can loom. And no doubt, it’s big and intimidating.

But the real trick is to avoid trying to imagine the whole novel all at once. That’s impossible.

J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien did not, contrary to belief, wake up one day having magically conceived of every spade of grass and glass of butterbeer in Middle Earth and Hogwarts. You don’t have to have everything figured out before you start. Don’t be intimidated. There’s plenty of time for detail work later.

When you’re starting a novel there are only two things you’re looking to find: Voice and Plot.

That’s it! Just two things that you can totally wrap your head around.

So. How do you find your voice and plot?

Well, as you may know, there are two kinds of people in the world. The outliners, and the pantsers.  The outliners plan ahead and have a fairly good sense of where their plot is going to go. They map out the opening incident and the major plot points, with varying levels of detail. The pantsters just get words on paper and revise revise revise later.

Outlining can help you figure out your plot (and please read this post to make sure you have a plot), but there’s only one way to find a voice: Start writing, and keep writing until you find it.

Don’t worry about polish, don’t fret if the first chapter comes out horribly. Get words on page. Keep going. It may come to you instantly, it may take fifty pages, it may take a hundred and fifty pages. Just keep at it.

Check out this post on what makes a good voice, but the thing about voice is that you’ll know it when you find it. All of a sudden you’ll have it, and it will just feel right. It will feel like it’s coming from you, and not from those other novels you’ve read in the past.

Once you find your voice and plot you can always go back and revise to make everything is consistent and trim the parts where you were on a hunting expedition for your voice and plot.

But again, what does this boil down to? Start writing. You have nothing to lose and a whole world to gain.

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