Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Do You Think About Authors Paying for Positive Reviews?


First off, thank you so much to everyone who shared Monday's post on the publishing process in GIF form. I seriously did not anticipate that response when I posted it, but it certainly made for an exciting Monday!

Meanwhile, publishing tongues were wagging this week in the wake of a NY Times article about the (apparently very lucrative) world of fake online book reviews:
In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a Web site, GettingBookReviews.com. At first, he advertised that he would review a book for $99. But some clients wanted a chorus proclaiming their excellence. So, for $499, Mr. Rutherford would do 20 online reviews. A few people needed a whole orchestra. For $999, he would do 50. 
There were immediate complaints in online forums that the service was violating the sacred arm’s-length relationship between reviewer and author. But there were also orders, a lot of them. Before he knew it, he was taking in $28,000 a month.
Some of the responses to this post, including Salon's, aligned this practice with self-publishing, likely because most of the authors featured in the article, including John Locke, were self-published authors.

I feel like this is unfair. There's no reason why a traditionally published author couldn't do the same thing, and in this day and age there's every incentive for everyone to try and generate as much attention as possible. (For the record, I've never used a service like this).

But what do you think? Do you trust reviews? Is this a practice that should be punished or does it go with the territory? How do you see this playing out?

Art: The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs by Georges de la Tour






Monday, August 27, 2012

The Publishing Process in GIF Form

At first you're thinking of writing a novel and you're all...


But then you have an idea!


And you go...


But then you hit page 50 and you're all....


And then you hit page 75 and you're all...


But you power through!!


And then you're finished!!! You have finished a novel!!


Only then find out you have to start querying agents.


So you write your query letter...


You obsess over it...


And then you send it out to agents and you're all...


Then a couple of days go by and you're all...


And...

And...


But then you hear from your first agent!! And you're all...


And...


And it's a rejection. But it's just your first one so you're all...


Then you get a few more and it's more like...


But then! An agent calls! And they love your work! They want to represent you! And inside you're like...


But you don't want your agent to think you're crazy so instead you're like...


And you love your agent! When you say "yes" you want to...


But instead you go...


And then it's time to submit to publishers. You are back on submission, and you're like...


Then the editors start saying....


And...


And your inbox starts looking like...



And you're all...


And...


And...


But then your phone says your agent is calling. And you want to be like...


But instead it's more like...


And it's an offer! You have an offer! And you feel like...


And...


And...


And...


And then you go celebrate with your friends and they're all...


And on the car ride home you're still like...


But it's time for revisions. And you pretend you know what you're doing...


And it's back to...


But then you're done! You're really really done! Only your book doesn't come out for another year. And so you're like...


And...


You get your cover and you're all...


But then publication day approaches! And your reviews start coming out and it kind of feels like...


But some of them are good! And you're like...


And then your book is out there! People are reading your book!


And it feels pretty good!


And there's only one thing to do. Start the whole thing over again.


Want to start your own publishing journey? Check out my guide to writing a novel, How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel That You Will Love Forever, on sale for just $4.99 at:

Amazon Kindle
Apple iBooks
B&N Nook
Kobo
Smashwords

The print edition is on sale for just $11.99 at:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
CreateSpace






Friday, August 24, 2012

These Past Few Weeks in Books 8/24/12

Whew! It's been a little while since our last link roundup and I have quite a few links to share.

But! First! I'm hoping to be on a rather fantastic social media panel at South By Southwest 2013 with such luminaries as Veronica Belmont, Brian Tong and Maya Grinberg but I need your help! Please vote for our panel, Social Media Shootout, at the SXSW Panel Picker site. Registering is easy, I promise.

Now then, on to the links.

So I don't know if you've noticed, but the Internet happens to be rather awesome. One side effect of Internet awesomeness is that literary agent scams are on the wane, but, as Author Beware points out, they still exist so please be vigilant.

Stephen Parrish, who you may know from around these parts, is hosting an awesome flash fiction contest, check it out!

Remember the whole Google Book Search scanning settlement thing? Yeah. Well, newly uncovered documents suggest that the book scanning was originally aimed at combatting Amazon.

In case you missed it (or, as the kids now say, #ICYMI), NPR released a list of the 100 best ever teen novels of all time, quite a few of which were not exactly teen novels.

Want to be challenged? Check out this list of the most difficult books of all time.

If you want to be challenged in a different way, you may wish to know that Fifty Shades of Grey is the UK's bestselling book of all time.

Fifty Shades author E.L. James may top this list next year, but for now, James Patterson is still the world's top earning earning authors, with a cool $94 million in the past year.

Signs are increasing that e-book sales are leveling off. Mike Shatzkin wonders if the revolution has moved to evolution.

An annual favorite, the winners of the Bulwer-Lytton bad writing fiction contest have been announced. The winner is definitely a doozy.

We have addressed "publishing time" on this here blog before, but editor Cheryl Klein had a great recent post that covers six reasons why everything in publishing takes so long.


And there was quite a bru-ha-ha over a site called Lendink, which used a legal mechanism for lending e-books, which many authors freaked out about. Writer Beware used it as a cautionary about the need for Internet restraint.

This week in the Forums, writers who run, is a low-selling self-published book "baggage?",  should writers self-censor on social media, in memory of the great authors who have died this year, what's your editing style, and most/least favorite characters.

Comment! Of! The! Week! A.C. Tidwell wrote a fantastically interesting response to the post about whether the publishing industry does or doesn't care about good writing. It's long, but I want to print it in full:
I think that the publishing industry has a rich history of setting the bar of what is considered posh and what is considered subpar. I also think there is something to be said for writing that qualifies as high quality (tight prose, language, requires something from readers, thought provoking, cerebral) and something that is low quality (uses tropes and not for satire, follows a paint-by-numbers structure, reuses character-types from pop culture or Mary Sue archetypes, poor prose, abundance of dead metaphors, plot heavy). One affects you long after you put it down. The other is easy. So, I actually think that the publishing industry is an excellent buffer against most subpar writing. With mass media, internet, and indie publishing, there is a large amount of mediocre to poor writers out there. The market is oversaturated. But this doesn’t reflect the industry, per se, it reflects our society. In America, in particular, we ask very little from our literature, television or film. Instead we want to be entertained in a non-thought provoking way. This is a symptom of our times and the stress of recession. Art generally falls by the wayside in terms making us thoughtful consumers. We want escapism and safety when we have to worry about unemployment and food. It’s why we’ll read the same type of romance or sci-fi story over and over, knowing exactly how it will end, the only difference being character names and slight alterations in plot. Our reading standards decrease, because, hey we’ve done this before…I know how it ends…and that is one less thing to worry about. 
I haven’t read Shades of Gray but I do remember when Twilight came out. I couldn’t simply dismiss it so I had to do research. So after reading the series I asked my students what appealed to them. It turns out it was a romance they’d heard before, written in the same type of wish-fulfillment fantasy that Hollywood makes large profits on. They were never really concerned with the outcome. Instead, the story gathered all the filmmaking and gothic romance tropes together in one place. It was icing. The sweet part without the cake.  
I think the publishing industry should keep their standards and perhaps make them even more rigorous. I know that is disappointing to hear but take it with a grain of salt because it’s all relative. Having said that, I think that indie publishing is the place for fanfiction to grow. Everyone wants to be a writer. I’ve seen an explosion in the amount of students queued for my classes. It’s good for the market as a whole as it brings in new readers. I also think that big publishing should be hesitant to jump into that pool completely. For one, it will delegitimize the industry, something that will only be realized in 20 years when they look back at the current trend and say, “Oh right. How could we have thought The Bachelor could win us an Emmy?” But don’t shun it either. Hold writing contests with submission fees and award small publishing prizes for amateur fan fiction writers. Recognize the group and make a profit too. But at the same time, publishers have to realize it’s a temporary niche market. Very few people will quote Shades of Gray in twenty years. Remember to leave room for the other writers who we will be talking about. When our society no longer just wants to sit down and let a low quality book just wash over them, I can only hope we don’t ignore the next Fitzgerald simply because he/she didn’t sell an extraordinary amount of books on Amazon. We just can’t let that dictate greatness. Sorry for the long post.
And finally, I've been loving Best Coast's new album lately. Summer is almost over but enjoy it while you can!


Have a great weekend!






Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Does the Publishing Industry Care Too Much About Writing Quality?



I'm reading Fifty Shades of Grey at the moment (oh yes I am), which has been widely derided for its subpar writing quality.

So far I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as I had heard people complain of it, but yeah, it's not, nor do I think it's supposed to be, Shakespeare. (I'll write a full Fifty Shades post when I'm done with it).

I've long held the belief that the publishing industry cares too much about a certain level of writing quality, and I'd include myself in the camp as well.

The publishing industry is full of people who can tell "good" writing from "bad" writing, the definitions of which contain a certain degree of subjectivity but not endless subjectivity. Most people can tell Fitzgerald from fan fiction, and people within the industry can get very granular.

Sure, you need to be a good, or even great, writer for literary fiction, but what about commercial fiction? The list of clunkily written bestsellers is long. I'm unconvinced the majority of the reading public cares about "good" writing. They care about stories and settings and characters. Prose? I'm not sure I buy it.

We're about to test this on a massive scale as the books that would never have made it through the publishing process in manuscript form due to subpar prose are out there ready to take off, sell a gajillion copies and prove the industry wrong.

But what do you think? Is the industry too wrapped up in "good" writing? What do you think about the public's appetites? Should the industry still try to maintain the same level of quality of writing even if the public doesn't care?

Art: Heinrich Heine on cover of Die Jugend






Tuesday, August 21, 2012

No, Agents and Published Authors Are Not "Working" For Publishers


There's a popular idea that regularly floats around the bookosphere that literary agents and some prominent published authors not only like publishers, they're actually working for publishers or are in bed with publishers (that's a popular one) or are hopelessly beholden to publishers or have been kidnapped and brainwashed into thinking that maybe publishers aren't insane conniving Monster McMonsterpants.

To be fair, there is a grain of truth that drives this myth: authors' and publishers' and agents' interests are often in alignment. Namely, agents and publishers and authors all want the same books to sell a bazillion copies and make everyone more money than a modest hedge fund.

Where grain of truth becomes myth is the idea that anyone, at any stage of the process, is going to set aside their own self-interest because they just love publishers so so so very irrationally much or are otherwise blinded by publisher sorcery. That's why authors have agents -- to fight on their behalf when their interests diverge from their publisher's.

Secondary myth: that agents like publishers more than their clients. 

Make no mistake: Agents have every incentive to do what's best for their clients, not what's best for publishers. Yes, lots of people have their own bad-agent story to tell, but since agents only earn money when their clients earn money and only serve their clients as long as their clients wish, an agent only succeeds inasmuch as their clients do. The structure of the author/agent relationship was created specifically to keep an author's and agent's interests aligned.

For the most part? Everything works relatively smoothly in publishingland. And yes, sometimes agent/author/publisher interests align to the extent that agents and authors even agree with publishers' vision for the bookselling marketplace.

Many agents agreed with publishers and wrote dissenting letters to the DOJ over the collusion lawsuit, an object of some Internet derision, at the same time that agents are also increasingly working directly with Amazon and selling books to them. How do those things go together? Because it's up to agents to look out for the clients both in the short term (selling books) and the long term (keeping an eye on the future publishing marketplace).

When author/agent interests diverge from publishers, as they do with onerous publisher contract clauses or with paltry royalty rates or if the publishing process doesn't unfold like it should, make no mistake: agents will fight publishers like hell. In bed.

(Just kidding.)

Art: De geldwisselaar en zijn vrouw by Marinus van Reymerswale






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