Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Past Few Weeks in Books 4/11/14

Downtown Brooklyn. I'm on Instagram here
It's been an interesting past few weeks! I had a fantastic time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writers' Institute, great meeting all of the writers there, including longtime reader Alison Coffey, who you may know as commenter ABC. Though I was sorry to watch the Badgers lose in the Final Four.

Speaking of the Final Four, propelled his successful choice of UConn to win it all, longtime friend-o-the-blog Peter Dudley won the 2014 Blog Bracket Challenge! Peter, you know where to find me for the prize.

Meanwhile, some interesting links caught my eye in the past few weeks. Here they are.

There continues to be a great deal of discussion in the book world about the state of diversity in the publishing industry, especially following in the wake of Christopher Myers' New York Times article "The Apartheid of Children’s Literature." Sarah McCarry, aka the Rejectionist posted about how the industry can publish more writers of color. Jennifer Pan has an interesting article that argues focusing on diversity numbers alone misses the point. I also participated in an interview with Maya Prasad about the issue.

Independent bookstores have offered the industry a glimmer of hope of late as they have hung on even as chains struggle, but in a further sign of the times, Manhattan bookstores may soon be an endangered species.

Holt Uncensored compares the movie tie-in book editions vs. their originals.

David Gaughran has a terrific post on the ins and outs of e-book pricing. Lots of nuanced discussion.

Reader Tiffany Roger wrote about the ways in which the writing process can sometimes resemble a burning log in the fireplace.

How do editors in different countries edit? Interesting interview with Emma Donahue, Judy Clain and Iris Tupholme.

And Game of Thrones is back!! I can't get enough of this goat mashup:

Have a great weekend!


Matthew MacNish said...

What did you think of Two Swords? I was a little disappointed by Oberyn's introduction (not the actor's performance, just the way it was re-written), but found the final scene so wonderful, it made up for everything.

Nathan Bransford said...


So far so good, seemed like a promising star.

abc said...


It was great meeting you (finally) after so many years of reading your blog! And your speech was great and funny and very Nathan! And I am really mad at myself for not bring one of the Wonderbar books to have you sign for my kiddo. And I'm really bummed about the Badgers losing, as well!

Stephsco said...

The Diversity in Lit discussion is always good to see crop up. Talking about it matters.

The recent CNN article about similar matters was decent ... until the comments section. Another blog I saw linked this week was written in response to that very thing; you read a well-written, "hey let's look at this" take on which voices we most often see in kid lit and which we don't, and you feel pretty good, like someone is paying attention.

And then the first comment is someone saying why do we need to see color, a hero can be any color. And it just gets worse from there. If a reader can't see past Harry Potter's skin color, maybe the story isn't for them. The conversatin is so much bigger.

I have a family member who is educated and well read. He refuses to believe that privledge exists, racial, gender, class. People get defensive because they think it means THEY personally did not work hard or had life handed to them. It's difficult for people to be objective when they are not "other" (meaning in this case, white, most likely male).

I have privledge being white, but I've had struggles due to gender and class. We all have stories. I think what's lost is that those other voices want to be heard. We all want to be heard and represented.

Stephsco said...

Or, you know privilege spelled correctly. ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm trying not to think this way, but I find posts like the one about "writers of color" to be riding the thin line of passive aggressive racism (and misguided anger). In other words, just to bring up race as an issue tends to make one wonder about intent. One of my own personal literary heroes is Toni Morrison. I have read her books...all of them...more than three times each and I have NEVER once considered her race to be an important factor. She's just a gifted, spectacular author.

But even more important. To make race an issue...which I hate's important to know and understand certain facts. The African American community in the US makes up about 14% of the general public. And when comparing from a statistical POV, taking both readers and writers into consideration, it's actually balanced.

I think the goal should be to have more books, especially fiction, that incorporate all races, sexes, and all smaller groups into the mainstream in a more cohesive manner, and to do this without ranting and screaming foul. And without calling it to attention in a blatant or angry way. But to just call out race just doesn't work for me anymore, and I think it is racist in a very subtle way because it's almost always coming from a place of privilege.

Nathan Bransford said...

"The African American community in the US makes up about 14% of the general public. And when comparing from a statistical POV, taking both readers and writers into consideration, it's actually balanced."

I don't think the statistics bear that out.

Anonymous said...

Maybe so. But I was wrong about 14%. According to the US census, 2008, it's more like 12% population. So If 12% of the population are people of African Descent it stands to reason that there will be less writers and authors. And I don't think racism has much to do with it. Yes, there is still a great deal of racism all over. However, I don't know one single person in publishing who is a racist. Not one. And if there is he or she is not in the majority.

Nathan Bransford said...


I don't know that anyone is accusing any individual in publishing of racism, the discussions I've seen are more nuanced than that. There's no one explanation that is going to suffice, but some of the hypotheses I've seen include the publishing industry employing disproportionately fewer minorities than the population at large, institutional beliefs that books featuring minorities prominently won't sell, and a "quota-ization" -- editors reportedly saying things like, "I already have one of those on my list" when referring to a book featuring a minority. And besides, overt racism is kind of beside the point - when you're operating in an industry based on gut feelings, who knows what biases are coming into play.

Whatever the reasons, the numbers speak for themselves: there is a significant discrepancy between the actual population and what the industry is publishing. I think it's an issue that bears examination.

Anonymous said...

If you can show me the numbers I'll be more than happy to agree with you.

I have my own published books with characters of African descent and I would love to write more, but the sales don't compare to other books. I don't know why. But that's been my experience. So I'm talking more about what readers buy than what publishers publish.

Nathan Bransford said...


Anonymous said...

That's an op-ed with hugely patronizing rhetoric that's going for emotion with a spin :) It's flawed because the 3,200 books in the study were "received" not just published as the slanted NYT opinion piece inaccuratly suggests. This information is all there. If the author of that op-ed piece had bothered to read it in full and spent less time being so self-indulgent he would have seen it makes a difference. He actually hurt his own argument because according to this study there were five thousand published, not just 3,200. Of that 5,000 according to the study 93 were about African Americans. The a fairly simple fact to get right.

The statisic link was interesting, but flawed because it doesn't take into consideration everything available now. Also, it only focuses on the children's market. A simple search on Amazon or GR shows more books about and by African Americans in both digital and print than ever before in US history. I know many African Americans working in digital first publishing ....and readers.

It's basically a moot point for white people to discuss it because African American authors seem the be growing in numbers and looking for less segmentation and more marketing to everyone than only that small percentage. In other words they want to sell books just like everyone else and a small niche market is not going to do that for them.

"Smith: I have a few African-American authors, and we no longer do the “We are just targeting the African-American market” thing. We’ve been looking at branding, marketing, and cover treatment to get it into everyone’s hands. For instance, we have three books now with Rochelle Alers, in the same vein as Debbie Macomber, Jill Shalvis, Robyn Carr, Kristin Higgins. In the past, no matter what subcategory a book was in, you’d get a stock photo of a black couple and slap it on the cover. This time, we said, “No! We are marketing it as a smalltown romance.” It’s doing phenomenally well; the accounts are eating this series up, and the book was reviewed by all the major publications. In January, we’re publishing Carl Weber’s The Man in 3B, but we are trying to target the markets that do not know who he is. We’ve learned that readers are interested in stories, not segmenting."

We are now living in times when everyone has a chance. It might be harder for some, but it's doable. I also think we're all getting tired of labels.

Please feel free to have the last word. It's your blog and I've hijacked it enough. :)

Nathan Bransford said...


I don't know why you're focused so much on African Americans? This is a much broader issue than that.

Anonymous said...

You're right about that. No argument there.

Caroline Bliss Larsen said...

I really liked the blog post about e-book pricing. Even though I'm more of an editor type and don't anticipate publishing my own work yet in the near future, I bookmarked the post for future reference. :) Thanks for your posts—I love these industry updates. :)

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