This Week in Publishing 1/25/08

by | Jan 25, 2008 | Contests | 54 comments

Well, the votes for what-contest-we-should-have are in, and it’s official: you all want me dead. Er. You want to have a first page content. I was never good at math, but let’s see… 1 page x 500+ entries = hmm… carry the one… equals… well, multiple organ failure if I’ve calculated correctly. So tune in next week for that! Just to recap, we’ve had a title contest, then a first line contest, then first paragraph, now first page. At this rate we’ll have a “first three finished manuscripts” contest before the year is out. Rules, regulations, and hyperbolic title will be posted on Monday. It’s gonna be fun!

Meanwhile, in publishing:

OMG, my bff reader Diana Williams sent me dis article from da Times re cell phone novels n Japan. Thr ttly kool. LMAO! N e body like em? TTYL

The Wall Street Journal went on a hunt across the globe for DA VINCI CODE AUTHOR Dan Brown’s next novel. The verdict: unknown. Also no albinos. But they did interview the grand master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia. How’s THAT for thorough?

Reader Christina Parker sent me a link to an article on the website, in which people drop books off in random places and then track them on the website to see where they’ve been. Apparently 625,000 people in 145 countries have signed on, and there are all kinds of maps and things like that. The techie part of me thinks: cool! The agent part of me thinks: the poor authors don’t get royalties when the same book is read 20 times. And that’s kind of a shame.

Via GalleyCat, author A.L. Kennedy has won the Costa Award (formerly known as the Whitbread). Given the number of awards that are being announced this month I’m sure I’m missing some, so if I haven’t mentioned it: congratulations!

And finally, Sacramento Kings fans know Bob Delaney as one of the three referees on the court during Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals in 2002, when the Kings were SO COMPLETELY OBVIOUSLY JOBBED by the refs that Ralph Nader of all people sent a letter to the NBA urging them to review their refereeing policies. Think I’m kidding? Click here . Hmph. Where was I? Oh, Bob Delaney has a book coming out! You see, way before he was a ref, Bob Delaney was an undercover informant who infiltrated the mob. Crazy, right? I guess I’ll forgive him. Someday.

Have a great weekend!


  1. R.C.

    Rats, I hope this doesn’t put you off contests in the future. At least it’s not one of those freakishly nice weather weeks we get in the middle of winter where it’s 75 degrees and everyone flocks outside (but not to the zoo).

    Rest up!

  2. Josephine Damian

    Just to recap, we’ve had a title contest, then a first line contest, then first paragraph, now first page. At this rate we’ll have a “first three finished manuscripts” contest before the year is out.

    Sooooo, next time, it’ll be a first chapter contest? Cause that has to come after the firt page contest and before the first three finished manuscripts contest. 🙂

    Nathan, I know you’re up to these tasks, but how much content can your blog handle? Guess we’ll find out.

  3. Erik

    The Absolutely Essential Nathan Must Die Contest.

    For the record, I won’t submit anything that I’m working on for myself. I say that in case it really sucks and I’ll need an excuse.

  4. Adaora A.

    Yippee Nathan! It’s going to be like having another full request…or two. Yay it should be exciting!

    You had to see the book coming Nathan. I’m waiting for a Kobe Bryant tell all if you ask me. It’s a bonafied, guarenteed cash cow.

    OMG ur bff is ttly awsm bc she ttly nos gd bks! Gr8 wknd 2 u 2 TTYL Nth

  5. Sue Eves

    Good luck – you could have a maximum number of entries – stop at 500 or first 30 if you prefer!

  6. Precie

    Oooh, I think sue’s idea about a cap is excellent…maybe cap it at 250 or 300 entries. Nathan, someone needs to reactivate your self-preservation instinct.

  7. Diana

    The bookcrossing web site reminds me of “Where’s George?”, the site where you follow dollar bills around.

    I can see myself hiding behind a tree, waiting to see who will pick up my book…and then it starts to rain, or maintenance picks it up and tosses it, or a bird targets it from the sky…

  8. Nadine

    I’m excited for the contest! I agree with Sue, a cap the number of entries is a great idea.

  9. John Arkwright

    Mr. B’s got a subscription to the WSJ! Impersonating an economics professor is a crime in the state of Californication, so he better watch it.

  10. Nathan Bransford

    The only cap will be a reasonable time cutoff — I don’t want people scrambling to get something posted before everyone else, since in writing, the hasty never prosper.

  11. Josephine Damian

    One entry per person! At the very least! This’ll force people to pick their absolute best WIP/MS.

  12. Nadine

    Very very true. Time cutoff works well too! Just didn’t want to overwhelm you.

  13. Nathan Bransford


    Oooooh yes, you can bet that I’ll limit it to one entry per person this time. Learned my lesson.

  14. Josephine Damian

    Glad to hear it. One per should make for better quality entries… hopefully?

  15. Roxan

    I was hoping for one that would force the contestants to do a bit of work to win, but oh well.

  16. Ryan Field

    I was out jogging in central park one morning when I actually came across one of these books that are being passed all around the world. It had been left on a bench, and there was a note attched that read something like this…”Please read this and pass it on”…with instructions on how to do so. I read it, and then I left it for someone else in another part of town. It’s a nice concept, but the book was awful. I could see that it was self-published before I even looked to see who the publisher was, and not a book I’d ever want to buy. But it is a nice way to get a book that’s close to your heart out to other people. I even logged onto the site and kept the trail moving along, too. But I never went back to see where it went after I’d read it.

  17. Jessica

    I haven’t entered one of your contests before, Nathan, and am looking forward to giving this a try!

  18. the_glow_worm

    Hey, just so you know, I voted for the prompt fiction.

    How is anyone supposed to turn in their first pages? I mean, that would clog up your comments something terrible.

  19. Nathan Bransford

    glow worm-

    It will work! It’s going to be a long thread but I’m confident blogger can handle it.

  20. Mary Paddock

    Wow. Merciless bunch.

    Is this to be a first page of existing work or something written specifically for the contest? Either one?

  21. Adaora A.

    Nathan I thought you might have opened a contest email like someone suggested (unless presumably you want to avoid my problem of having too many to juggle).

    So how will it work in format? Is it just a sort of really really long post that is slim? Double spaced? I’ve never entered you’re blog contest before.

  22. Nathan Bransford

    I’ll post formatting suggestions in the contest post, but basically I’m going to suggest single spaced paragraphs with double spaces between paragraphs (just like we all do naturally when posting and replying). It’s going to be a long thread, but that never hurt anyone.

    The fun of these contests is reading the entries, so I don’t want to do a hidden submission system. It’s gonna be fine!

  23. words_in_words_out


    You’re either very brave or very insane. Being as this is not the first contest, and you KNOW the barrage of entries coming over the horizon…well, there’s pills for your condition. And padded rooms. Rest assured I still plan on entering. 🙂 Good luck!

  24. Merry Monteleone

    Okie dokie, Nathan, though I think you may need a vacation after this…

    So, are we offering our actual first page (as in roughly about 1/2 a page due to ms. formatting) or our first 250 words?

  25. Other Lisa

    Where should I send the rum?

  26. burgy61


    I thought the article about cellphone novels was interesting. But when it comes to reading text lingo I’m lost.

    I really enjoy your contest and am looking forward to entering this one.

  27. Nathan Bransford

    other lisa-

    Actually I’m a bourbon drinker, that rum picture was just a sign of how dark things had become during the last contest.


    I’ll definitely post a word count limit. All that stuff will be in the post on Monday.

  28. Adaora A.

    True. A hidden submission system does sort of spoil the excitement. Personally, I have no problem letting it all hang out.

    Single spaced sounds good, I’ll wait for the suggestions on monday.It sounds good. Thank you!

  29. original bran fan

    I love bookcrossing! It’s the most fun you can have with your books.

    I pass along maybe one a month, and it makes my day when someone logs onto the site to say that they’ve found the book.

    As a writer, I know about the loss of royalties thing, but books have always been passed hand to hand. How many times have I loved a library book and then went out and bought all that author’s novels brand new? Lots.

  30. Steph Leite

    Nathan, will you have someone to help you sort out with the entries? We get that you’re monkey man and all, but even so, it’s a hell of a task to take on yourself 😛

  31. de_scribes

    On a This Week in Publishing note, have you seen this?

    It smacks of Megan McCafferty’s retro blog and looks like a total hoot.

    It’s in San Fran right nows!

    (And there’s no way it’s ever coming to my po-dunk town, so I beg of you GO! and reports back.)

  32. Polenth

    roxan said:
    I was hoping for one that would force the contestants to do a bit of work to win, but oh well.

    You never know, it might be won by someone who writes a page specially for the contest.

    Or blogger might crash.

    Either way, it isn’t guarenteed that the person who spent ten years working on their novel will win.

  33. Precie

    When you post the instructions, don’t forget to list your office mailing address (for the bourbon), along with your preferred eating schedule and favorite Chinese delivery place.

  34. Susan Helene Gottfried

    Flip side to the BookCrossing royalty thing…

    I’ve discovered so many new authors via BookCrossing that I now buy more brand-new books than I ever did before.

    And I love to BookCross my favorite reads, too (usually through online trading). I pick the extra copies up at used sales and HPB’s clearance section.

    It’s about building buzz and awareness, and that ultimately winds up as royalties.

  35. Pickles

    Nathan, you’ll probably say this will be in your post on Monday, but I have to ask: Can we submit a first page from a book that isn’t yet completed (i.e. one that’s undergoing its final draft)? Then again, I can’t see why we wouldn’t be allowed…


    And keep up the great work, by the way! I get your newsfeed, and your comments always make me laugh, as well as giving us aspiring authors great advice.

    Although I have to say… being from across the Great Pond, I have no idea what The Hills is.

    *ducks and quickly leaves*

  36. Scott

    Sorry to use the comments for this, but I don’t know another way.

    Val. L., if you’re out there, drop me a note. I have a question for you.

  37. Tom Burchfield

    OK! Cool! I’m workin’ on mine already!

    When it’s over, you’ll have more than a couple of shots of bourbon coming your way, Nathan.

    A quick bit of ruthless self-promotion: a book I copyedited last year “Oceans” by Dana Desonie (Chelsea House, NY)was recently named one of Booklist’s “Ten Best Environmental Books for Young People.”

  38. Nathan Bransford


    No reason it would have to be a finished draft. It could be part of a WIP or something someone just wrote up for the contest.

  39. Janet

    You do realize you don’t have to go along with the vote, don’t you? This is your blog, not a democracy. We don’t really want to see you dead.

    Word verification: nfsszle, or what you’re going to do by the end of this contest.

  40. Luc2

    Good luck, Nathan.

    I read a piece about Delaney in the SI. It was pretty interesting.

    And now I can ask, sort of on-topic: how about the Kings? Now everybody is healthy and getting into shape, they look pretty impressive. This year seems wasted, but can they go deep next year?

  41. Nathan Bransford


    Naw. They’re nowhere near good enough to compete. It’s going to be a while.

  42. Mary

    My congratulations to A.L. Kennedy! And it’s genuinely funny that her bleak work won a prize supposedly awarded to the most enjoyable books by writers in the UK and Ireland. Crikey!!!

  43. ORION

    I’m waiting for the whole novel contest. The explosion will be heard all the way to…Hawaii…

  44. Anonymous

    “The techie part of me thinks: cool! The agent part of me thinks: the poor authors don’t get royalties when the same book is read 20 times. And that’s kind of a shame.”

    Of course, that 20 reads can also turn into 10 or 15 new readers who go out and buy the author’s other 4 books. Not such a shame when you look at it that way.

  45. KingM

    I’m frightened for you. I remember seeing Miss Snark’s blog go nuts when she did her contests and you’ve got so many readers now…well, I’m scared.

    Having said that, I bet in all those dozens and dozens of pages you will find a few that are really, really good and you might even score a new client.

  46. Robin LaFevers

    Clearly you are competing with Jessica at Bookends for sainthood!

    Our local SCBWI Writer’s Day has had a first page feature where a panel of editors reads and critiques 1st pages in front of the participants. It’s been hugely popular.

    However, one thing they quickly learned was to specify “properly formatted” 1st pages as people were starting their first pages at the very top and single spacing, whereas a properly formatted 1st page starts a good 1/3 of the way down and is double spaced. It’s about 150 words vs 300 words, so you might specify something to that effect. Just to, you know, keep your sanity.

    Good luck!

  47. Moose

    The WSJ may have interviewed the grand master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia but did they interview Funkmaster Flex?

    I bet he’s mixed up in this somehow.

  48. ink wench

    Just de-lurking to ponder…. Nathan, are you trying to out-saint Miss Snark? Is there a way to send virtual bourbon? My DH has some good stuff in the cabinet….

  49. Taylor

    Great article on Dan Brown’s new book. My wife is a huge fan of his, and has been forced to satisfy herself with Stephanie Meyers as she’s been waiting for Brown’s next novel. Not that she’s complaining. Those crazy in love almost impossible to kill vampires keep her more then entertained.

  50. Heidi the Hick

    OH MY GOSH!!!!

    I just read over my first page. The one I thought was reeeeeally good, a little bit funny, great voice… that one. The one I sent out to a few agents last fall.

    Sure it’s got a great voice, but I just realized something.

    It’s a whole page of disgruntled teenage whining.

    OH NO! Less whining, more action! I’ve got an hour to do a rewrite!

    Wow. Just so you know, I’m totally serious- I’m not being sarcastic.

    Sometimes it takes a jolt like this upcoming contest to make me realize that I have more work to do.


  51. Travis Erwin

    You better stock up at he liquor store now. You’re going to need it.

  52. Lee

    Here’s my first 500 of my first page.

    By Lee P. Mandel

    The small puddle on the indigo Italian tile floor reflected the motionless swan etched on the glass shower door. Her long alabaster arm reached out to grab the large towel from the sink’s edge. Wrapping the plush blue terrycloth around her wet body, she extended her foot to mop the floor with the bathmat. The steam from the shower dissipated into the air, allowing the adjacent room to become visible through the partially open door. The sheer bedroom curtains danced about wildly in the summer breeze. Funny, I don’t remember leaving the window open, she thought..

    Passing it off to her own insecurity and shrugging the feeling off, she returned to her post-bath ritual. The soft cotton of her nightgown clung to her newly moisturized body. The long strands of her chestnut hair moved with the motion of the brush. Finally, she approved her reflection and headed for the bedroom. Once again her eyes were drawn to the movement of the curtains.

    Carefully walking toward the window, she scanned the room. The curtains momentarily fluttered to a slow halt. Walking over to the opened window, she placed her hand on the sill and peered out into the night. Only the pink and white flowered Azaela bushes napped quietly against the house, waiting for the next morning’s sun to wake them. It’s just my imagination.
    She turned and noticed a change in the room. The telephone was missing from her bedside table. She looked around to locate it but instead felt a sharp pain in her neck. Her hands reacted and reached for her throat. Her fingers clutched at a wire pulling from behind. Pawing at her neck, she tried to release the noose. Shifting and wriggling her body, she fought to break free. She gasped for air as a scene from her childhood entered her mind. She was playing in the snow, and then…she was still.

    The silver, two-door Toyota hugged the road as it climbed up the private road leaving the main boulevard behind. The trees lined up and guarding either side of the road were in full bloom. At the top of the hill, it appeared that the parking area was directly in front of the large house. It was crowded with police vehicles. The only space available was at the far end.
    Rachel shifted the car into park. She checked her makeup in the rear view mirror, making sure her lipstick was presentable, and ran her fingers through her hair in an attempt to be less disheveled. As she extended her left leg from the car, she took a quick visual inventory of the grounds.
    The deep green grass matched the perfectly manicured shrubs. The house was painted a pure white stucco with wrought iron cages on the lower windows. Rachel decided it was more for aesthetics than protection. A slight breeze caused the trees to sway, allowing the sunlight to pass through the flickering leaves, making it appear as if there was a screen of lace…

    Hope you liked it enough to get me to the next round.

    Lee Mandel


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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