Lots of heads were shaking about a story in the New York Times this week: Veteran author gets rejected by 13 publishers, then she adopts a pen name and the book sells in three days.
Now, it's easy to chalk this one up to the fickleness/stupidity of publishers, as lots of people have done in the past week, but it's not quite that simple. Yeah, publishers definitely look at the sales track of an author, but that's because booksellers are doing the exact same thing when they place orders. It's really, really hard to go to booksellers with a new book by an author with an established sales track and convince them to order drastically more copies. And reviewers and even readers can be lured in by the cachet of a hot new writer on the block. So chalk this one up instead to the modern bookselling culture.
A culture, incidentally, that's going to change very much as online bookselling and e-books continue their ascent.
Meanwhile, publishing industry sage Mike Shatzkin has some very helpful context on why publishers are so reluctant to let libraries lend e-books. This is definitely a tricky issue for publishers, and I don't envy them being on the wrong side of public sentiment on this one. Publishers are looking at a landscape where library patrons don't even have to go to the library to borrow an e-book - they can do it from home. Why would anyone buy an e-book once they figured out how to legally get tons of books for free just as easily?
People tend to act like the new e-book world should operate exactly like the print world when it's convenient - people should be able to give away their book when they're finished and there should be no DRM whatsoever, they should be able to borrow them from libraries. But I don't think you can ignore fundamental physical differences. With e-books you can give away a million copies all at once and download an e-book from the library in your pajamas. It drastically changes the economics of publishing, and I think the industry should be cut some slack as everyone works it all out.
And lots of agent advice this week: Mary Kole has a great post on questions you might be asked when offered representation, Rachelle Gardner has 13 ways to impress an agent, Writer Beware talks about why poets shouldn't seek literary agents, and Alan Rinzler talked to four great agents about why writers still need to have an agent.
This week in the Forums, when is the best time to start a blog, people are sharing their daily word count output in February, what to do when your hero is the bad guy, and advice for a nonfiction writer.
Comment! of! the! Week! Goes to Josin L. McQuein for her comment on writers as magicians:
Writing is the evolution of the tribal storyteller and the wandering bard, both skills that required movement and tone - the occasional flourish of hands or dance or tossing of sparking powder into a fire for effect. Writers don't have those luxuries, so they have to trap those breaths on the page.
Telling a tale is taking the reader's hand and dragging them behind you like an excited child who can't help but point out every unexpected delight as they run along. You're wanting to show them what happens, they want to explore, and intend to come back after their first read to see what wonders they missed.
It's a thread that connects the past to the future, and the voices of those long since dead who continue to live through the words they spoke into being. Their breath catches the next voice and the next until they're spoken out 2,000 years later.
And that, most definitely, is its own kind of magic.
Have a great weekend!