This Week In Publishing 4/25/08

by | Apr 25, 2008 | Uncategorized | 33 comments

THis wEek in PUBlIShINng

The shrinkage of the publishing industry seems to be continuing this week as Thomas Nelson laid off a little less than 10% of their workforce. CEO/blogger Michael Hyatt explained in a blog post that the change is not do to financial considerations, but rather is consistent with a readjustment of their business model toward publishing fewer titles that generate more sales. Condolences go out to the employees let go. From a broader perspective, this really seems to be the direction the industry is moving at the moment — fewer, bigger books.

Evil Editor’s prodigiously faithful minions threw him an online 2nd Anniversary party, complete with tributes, games and surprises. Happy Anniversary, EE!

On Monday you saw how one author made it to publication, Janet Reid linked to a Shelf Awareness story on another happily-ever-after story about Garth Stein and THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, which is poised for some big ole bestsellerdom.

Janet has also started up a new query critique blog called Query Shark, which you should definitely check out. Cue the Jaws soundtrack!!

Remember that Borders contest started way back when for its employees where they would publish one of their books and give it marketing and stuff? Well, we have a winner! Congrats to lucky and talented Borders employee Ralph Ashworth, who has worked for Borders since 1994, and whose novel THE KILLER OF ORCHIDS was chosen from among 200 employee submissions. 200! I thought there would at least be 7,000.

And finally, the always-entertaining Michael Cader had a riposte this morning to publishers in the US and the UK squabbling over e-book territories. Let’s listen in, shall we? “Speaking of UK tizzies, otherwise sensible executives continue to find new ways to go to war over miniscule and/or non-existent revenue streams. The latest thread is on territoriality for ebooks: Harper and Simon & Schuster in the US are said to be insistent on retaining global erights for books even when selling print rights to a UK publisher.”

Have a good weekend!


  1. whatever trevor.

    Maybe I’m biased, but I really think there should be more young writers, perhaps creating a literary “New Hollywood” or a “New New York,” to break away from the boredom of older writers and revive the publishing industry. Don’t get me wrong, older writers are good at what they do, but for the “young writer” to be assumed in his/her early-to-mid 30s to me, is a bit extreme when we constantly see youth succeeding in nearly every other creative field (film, music, dance, etc). I am one of those teenagers who are appalled at most novels pinned for young people written by older people who don’t know anything about modern adolescence, so I think that most of these “established” writers are typically repetitive and should give room for a more innovative and energetic group, that can bring something new and exciting back to writing.

  2. Adaora A.

    Trevor I’m biased and I’m going to agree. There are many great authors out there (who I hope I’ve learned from). The thing is, what’s learning if they get to continue to showcase when new authors continue to wait in the wings?

    All work and no play made Jack a dull boy. Play is getting my book published.

    When it’s finished that is.

  3. Furious D

    1. Isn’t changing your business model a financial consideration? This model of sticking to “established best-sellers” reminds me of the current model of the Hollywood star system where “big names” get all the big bucks whether they still sell well or not. Of course the practise also denies the publisher the next best-seller.

    2. Congrats to Evil Editor.

    3. Racing in the Rain is the sort of title that screams for some wag to declare that it’s “all wet.”

    4. Hope the Query Shark takes a bite out of blogs.

    5. Ralph Ashworth’s advance was an extra 5 minutes on his bathroom break. The reason there were only 200 entries was because Borders rules said that the novels couldn’t be about bookstore employees “losing it” in any way shape or form.

    6. Nothing like an executive territorial p*ssing contest to brighten one’s day. The funny thing is that the only one appearing to have any success with ebooks is Baen, and they give them away for free. These free ebooks end up generating more sales for their hardcover and paperbacks.

  4. Adaora A.

    6. Maybe they should listen to some nirvana. Their song territorial p*ssing (a great one), would really speak to them maybe?

  5. Ulysses

    “From a broader perspective, this really seems to be the direction the industry is moving at the moment — fewer, bigger books.”

    Argh. Another sign that the midlist is hemorrhaging. On the other hand, it may mean a general increase in the quality of the books we see: they’ve got to be extraordinarily good (yeah, I know: “define good.”) to get published.
    What does this mean for genre publishing, Nathan, where books are unlikely to sell in the Dan Brown/John Grisham numbers?

  6. Dave F.

    Just for information, Neil Gaiman posted two commentaries on the copyright fight between JK Rowling, Warner Brothers and the HP Lexicon.

    It is well worth the effort to read it. Basically, it says that it will all hinge on creativity.

  7. sylvia

    Re: the party – you should have popped in! It was quite a crowd, and we even saw Editorial Anonymous and Miss Snark there (briefly).

  8. Betty Atkins Dominguez

    Young writers — old writers? I wish it was decided more on merit, creativity, good story telling. What ever happened to those? Challenge the reader? Can’t we do this anymore?

  9. Sophie W.

    Query Shark is a great blog. I’ve been reading it for the past couple of days. Janet knows her stuff. 🙂

  10. Betty Atkins Dominguez

    What’s funny, is that I just noticed my avatar, me and my grand-daughter, both writers… old and young. Bet she’ll get published before I do! (of course, then, she can push my writing)

  11. Betty Atkins Dominguez

    Back when I was on a writers forum on Compuserve (1993-1999) the senior editor of Time Warner said that a book is determined as a best seller even before it is printed, as it is the number of books sold to the book-sellers that counted and the publishers determined that by cutting deals with the book sellers to buy the ones publishes were pushing.

    Is this still true?

  12. Lorelei

    Two hundred entries from all Borders employees everywhere? I’m with you, I’m surprised. There is always a certain percentage of folks working there who only seem to be there because American Outfitter wasn’t hiring, but I though there were more literary aspirants in the crowd.

  13. Kristin Laughtin

    At first I was inclined to agree with Trevor and adaora’s point, that there should be more young writers. (This was my bias speaking up immediately, as I am in my early/mid twenties.) But really, it should be about merit- whoever writes the best should get published, regardless of age. However, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing a greater volume of younger writers!
    (Or at least discovering the ones already out there.)

    Like ulysses, I’m also curious what this will mean for genre publishing.

  14. Ulysses

    Younger writers? Older writers?

    Personally, I don’t care. Give me something new. Take me somewhere I’ve never been in the company of people I’ve never met. Make me think or feel in a way I haven’t thought or felt before, and I’ll be hooked.

    I don’t want to see more young writers. I don’t want to see more old writers. I want to see more GOOD writers.

    I don’t need to know your age.

  15. T M


    Thanks for the link to Query Shark. Between Query Shark, you and some of the other blogs out there, there really isn’t any reason that your worst query letters shouldn’t at least be in the so-so range.

    For anybody that’s interested you can go to and scroll down to “Ask the Agent” and click on “On Queries and Agents: Information Sources”

    Nathan, from here on out you should change your rejection letter to only contain either a red dot or green dot. Green means yes. Red means no. Either you make the cut or you don’t. It’s that simple. Leave the whiners to their cheese.

  16. whatever trevor.

    When I said young writers, I meant that mostly younger writers (those in their teens and 20s) are often overlooked due to their age, usually because people believe that they aren’t capable of writing anything “meaningful.” I guess I SHOULD’VE said that all good writers should be given a chance regardless of their age.

  17. Adaora A.

    @dave – Steve Vander Ark (the man trying to publish the lexicon), is completely in the wrong.

    He’s taking a major liberty. Yes J.K loved the site because it was a great information resource to browse through for fun. The thing is though, it wasn’t his universe, and all of those words are hers. He can’t just go and put it into a book for publishing and make a profit out of it.

    To make matters worse, J.K planned to publish one herself; the proceeds going to charity. So you see, there is the rub. I hope she wins.

    @Trevor (second post)- Once again I completely agree. I wouldn’t want to be pushed aside just because I’m 21-years-old.

  18. Anonymous

    “What does this mean for genre publishing, Nathan, where books are unlikely to sell in the Dan Brown/John Grisham numbers?”

    Aren’t Grisham and Brown in the genre of “thriller”?

    Or does genre only refer to either mystery, sci-fi or fantasy?

  19. Anonymous

    “Nathan, from here on out you should change your rejection letter to only contain either a red dot or green dot. Green means yes.”

    HAHAHA I think that’s great!

  20. Katie Alender

    I hope fresh voices are appreciated regardless of age. Speaking as an, ahem, old author who has been writing since she was young. Happily, ages aren’t required on query letters, so ideally the quality of the work will get any deserving author recognized.

    Nathan, at first I thought you were saying, “Happy anniversary, eeeeeee!” like “Squee!”

  21. Adaora A.

    @annon 10:51 – John Grisham isn’t thriller, he writes legal drama hun. PLAYING FOR PIZZA is one of the exceptions where he ventured away from legal ( <3 him). I don't know what to class Dan Brown's book as I haven't read them, I've only heard of them!

  22. Anonymous

    “the change is not do to financial considerations”


    wasn’t that supposed to be “due?”

    (I am usually the one who does the wrong word!)

  23. Phoenix

    Thanks for the nod regarding the bash for EE, Nathan. It was, of course, THE social event of the season. A great place to see and be seen. Well-deserving of an honored post on your roundup of weekly events!

  24. Adaora A.

    @dave f – read the post! I forgot to say that here. I didn’t want to seem terribly rude or snippish with you. Thanks hunny. It was very informative.

  25. Dave F.

    Adora, as with most civil suits (such matters being courts in equity), there is no right or wrong. We may have opinions as to who is “right or wrong” but the decisions will be made on legal precedent and case law.

  26. Adaora A.

    @dave- Yea, I definetly understand what you’re saying. As with Row vs. Wade, Brown vs. Board of Educatioin (and many others), it’s based on that big ole’ ‘P.’ I know that’s the way it is, but it still irks me. I think her work is her work. In my mind (my very biased mind), that’s the way I believe it should be. Thanks again for the insight though. Nudging reminders of the law will never be balked at by me! After all I have many lawyers in my family. I just believe a lot is riding on this. The way writers will be, the way they will have to protect their own. I think it’s a matter of principle. Ark shouldn’t have attempted this in the first place. She was very hospitable with her fans. She’s part of the ‘No A hole’ generation. I just wish he would have respected that so these proceedings wouldn’t have be going on to begin with. People will be themselves though.

  27. HipWriterMama

    Thanks for the link to Query Shark. Very helpful.

  28. Wanda B. Ontheshelves

    Re: The Art of Racing in the Rain

    This sounds good to me:

    “In the end, the fine folks at HarperCollins won it for $1.2 million, English-only rights.”

    Yummy, where do I sign up for that?

  29. J-Mo

    Read your last post and this one. Faulkner does get trashed, constantly. Its heartbreaking, to see others calling his work unreadable garbage. My favorite novel is “The Sound and the Fury.”

    As far as the publishing industry goes, blech. It seems just as unwholesome as trying to break into show business or becoming a professional singer.

  30. Fertility Hollis

    Nathan (or any other agent or knowledgeable person for that matter):

    I’m sorry if this question has been answered already, but I’m wondering what procedure you’re normally following when, on behalf of a client, you’re sending an inquiry to a potential publisher?

    How do you word the first inquiry letter, etc.?


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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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