This Week in Publishing 8/22/08

by | Aug 22, 2008 | Uncategorized | 30 comments

This is a seriously linktastic This Week in Publishing, so let’s get right to it.

Let’s see… hmm… where to begin….. Wait, I know! Franz Kafka’s taste in porn! Oh, and you thought I was joking. Via Publishers Lunch, a controversy is brewing because a British scholar Went There and detailed Kafka’s penchant for prOn. Now some German scholars are in an uproar and saying “Oh no you di-in’t” in German. Clearly this is the most exciting thing to happen in the world of Kafka scholarship since… uh… ever.

Speaking of, Random House UK has begun inserting morality clauses in their children’s book contracts. Basically, if you accept this language and “act or behave in a way which damages your reputation as a person suitable to work with or be associated with children” they can either terminate or renegotiate the agreement. Boy, it sure is a good thing children’s authors of the past have always lived up to morality standards. That might have gotten awkward.

In the world of blogs, the good people at Book Roast are partnering this month with Reach Out and Read, a charity that gives books to kids as part of pediatric care. Definitely go over to Book Roast and check that out. And for you blog contest fans, Chuck Sambuchino at Guide to Literary Agents is hosting a Worst Storyline Ever contest, so if you can top my idea of a coming of age novel about a man, a pig and Heidi Montag as they find redemption by writing a scholarly article on Franz Kafka’s porn collection…. well, good luck to you.

Also via Publishers Lunch, slashing Book Review sections isn’t just for Americans anymore! Yes, the Canadians decided that the literary apocalypse looked like so much fun they didn’t dare miss out on the action. The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star have both reduced their book pages, proving that a quirky accent and Celine Dion are no defense (or should I say “defence”) against the decline of newspaper book coverage.

The indispensable Jessica Faust at BookEnds has put together an indispensable Publishing Dictionary, so if you’re ever wondering about what terms like sell-through and AAR mean…. that’s your source. Also in literary advice news, Adrienne Kress continued her awesome breakdown of the road to publication, this time detailing the path from agent to publisher.

Remember how we were wondering if the slumping economy was going to drag down book sales? Well, via Shelf Awareness, even as they cut their sales forecast, Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio reports that “Even in this soft retail environment across America, the book business is stubbornly holding up.” So there you have it.

And finally, if you’re drawn to bookish librarian types, Penguin UK just might be launching the dating service for you, in conjunction with A book publisher getting into an online dating service business? Why no, this doesn’t make me worried about the state of the book business at all. Not. At. All.

Have a great weekend!


  1. Anonymous

    I think the dating service idea is pretty good, honestly. Think of the reciprocal selling opportunities – and it’s a good way to classify people. They’ll probably fuck it up unless they pair up with an experienced provider – I’d say go for or something like that.

  2. Conduit

    I don’t know about Kafka’s taste in adult entertainment, but the collection James Joyce’s dirty letters to his wife makes some interesting reading…

  3. Andrew

    To clarify the Canadian newspapers and their book sections: The Star has slashed theirs, but the Grope & Flail's is just on hiatus … or so says the Grope & Flail, which has been sending out a form letter to all the people who have written to complain.

    Also, be advised that we've exported Celine Dion to you folks, so all we really have is maple syrup and an accent that actually isn't funny at all, thank you, and the word "eh" used as an empty marker.

    That, and no book section this week … it's poverty, I tell you. Maybe someone can organize a benefit concert?

  4. Elyssa Papa

    Thanks for the links. Adrienne’s articles were very helpful and informative.

    And wow on Random House. Thank Goodness Lewis Carroll wasn’t trying to get Alice published today.

  5. Scott

    Not sure if this is a reflection of the book market or not, but I discovered this week that the biggest mall in the town where I grew up has closed their book store after four decades and added more games and food places.

    By the time I got my sandwich, I’d lost my appetite.

    Maybe we should be thinking of game titles that incorporate more literary figures. Kafka as the lead character in Grand Theft Autobiography?

  6. jason evans

    Thank you for mentioning Book Roast and our partnership with Reach Out and Read! We should never rest in ensuring that future generations experience the wonders of reading (and the emotional rush of writing).

    Thanks again!!

  7. Bryan Russell

    And here I thought you might miss a post after your herculean answer session yesterday…

    But I should’ve known. Huzzah.

  8. Anonymous

    Thanks for yesterday’s insights. Cool blog.

  9. Lena Phoenix

    You crack me up, Nathan.

    Thanks for that.

  10. JohnO

    Yeehaw! Good round-up, Nathan.

    As a literati expatriate from Toronto, I’m disappointed that the Star and the Globe are trimming the books pages.

    To put it in Canadian: The horrour! The horrour!

  11. Lynne

    Moving to the concept of what is trendy. Mummies. Someone made a movie about them, and the hot seller in YA is mummies. An entire series of books about mummies. This is evidenced by a tag line available on Nameless Photos Inc. “You’re my best friend, but if the mummies get close, I’ll make you trip.” So. Stir-crazy monkeys, mummies and moolah rolls in. Let me know if I’ve missed something.


    That morality clause kind of creeps me out. I work with real actual live children in my day job and I don’t have anything like that in my contract. It’s so vague-that could mean just about anything.

  13. A Paperback Writer

    I like the dating service. Hey, why not? It might actually mean that some literate people will become available for online social contact — something definitely missing on other singles’ websites I’ve looked at.

    Good point! Lewis Carroll was a wee bit scary, despite his talent.

    Mummies in YA? Could you give us some titles? I haven’t run across any, so you surprise me. I’d love to hear your recommendations.

  14. grace


    you’re joining the Penguin Matchmaker club, right Nathan? 😉

    I think RH children’s authors should just publish under pen names. Then they can be as immoral as they like and nobody will notice.

  15. Furious D

    1. Let me guess, Kafka had a fetish for cheerleaders?

    2. That’s why Kafka wrote his children’s books under the name Dr. Seuss. He didn’t want anyone finding about his lusty adventures with cheerleaders. Which he wrote about in many letters to Penthouse.

    3. How a time travelling Franz Kafka chasing cheerleaders through history?

    4. Canadian book reviews are notorious, at least in Canada, because 90% of the reviewers, are also authors, and they usually know each other. So they try to avoid those awkward silences at Margie Atwood’s cocktail parties. I would have preferred a system of anonymous reviews over slashing them.

    5. I’m out of dictionary jokes.

    6. The economy isn’t wonderful, but it isn’t in a recession, despite the media coverage. People still gotta read, and with movies getting more expensive and theatre parking getting so damn costly, books are the cheaper choice.

    7. Here’s a posting from that dating service:

    SINGLE WHITE WRITER- Old World intellectual type seeks cheerleader type for literary and erotic metamorphosis.


  16. Nancy D'Inzillo

    First of all, quite glad to hear the horrendous economy isn’t hurting the book industry!

    Second, “act or behave in a way which damages your reputation as a person suitable to work with or be associated with children”? Excuse me, but what does THAT mean? Damages your reputation how? Depending on the judge of what “damaging reputations” mean this clause could cover any number of ridiculous things. Albeit, I don’t want to support the PeeWee Hermans of the world, but what sort of morality is being prescribed here?

  17. Kim Kasch

    Okay I thought nothing would surprise me but REALLY a book publisher starting an on-line dating biz on the side – what is this world coming to?

  18. Will Entrekin

    Man, between Jewel of Medina and this so-called “morality clause,” does anyone else think that Random House seems to have its collective head up its collective ass?

  19. Phoenix

    Porn. Morality clauses. Online dating. How can anything else compete with a lineup like that? :o)

    Thanks for the Book Roast/Reach Out and Read shout out, Nathan! You’re a good egg, despite the rumors/rumours I’m hearing from the Canadians.

  20. Caitlin

    I’ve been waiting for the Hills reference since they premiered the new season…thanks for not letting me down.

  21. putzjab

    Good Heavens, Nathan, you’ve been busy! About that silly Random House clause, have they read what’s been selling at the top of the charts in YA novels? After reading Melissa Marr’s Ink Exchange, I was able to breath a lot better. One chapter from that book cleared my nostrils.

    I work in a library system that only recently joined CIPA (something that blocks porno sites in the library). They joined because the libraries were short on cash. Up until then, the libraries had an anti-censorship policy. Proof positive that while money talks…well…you know how the rest of it goes.



  22. jwhit

    One of the favourite Australian children’s books is The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay. He’s also well-known for his — ahem — shall we say ‘attraction’ to create risque paintings, etchings and statues. Check out his wikipedia illustration:

    I doubt very much if RH would sign him today. [shaking head]

  23. Joel Sparks

    What about Roald Dahl? Do you suppose his brilliantly horrifying stories for adults would “violate the morality clause”?

    I suspect what RH really means is “if you start costing us money, we will drop you like a giant cockroach.”

    Thanks as always for the roundup Mr. B.

  24. JeanieW

    Book sales may be holding steady, but local governments are slashing public library budgets. Libraries can't afford to purchase new publications, so readers who might have borrowed now have to buy them for themselves.

    Public schools are cutting back on book purchases too, thereby narrowing the study options for families that can't afford to buy their kids their own copies. Editors at a recent SCBWI meeting advised attendees not to count on the educational market. You have a better chance of success if your work appeals to the B&N shopper.

  25. Adaora A.

    The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star have both reduced their book pages, proving that a quirky accent and Celine Dion are no defense (or should I say “defence”) against the decline of newspaper book coverage.

    I love this week in publishing. Hey, we Canucks love our quirky accents, and we know you lovely US residents love looking up to us, and hearing us too. I like how you’ve snuck in the spelling difference too. I did hear about the STAR and the GLOBE reducing their weight. I think I heard it briefly on the local T Dot (Toronto) news. They did make note of the expected rise in e-news in every section of the papers. And we all know bloggers can e-review any book whenever they want to. A very nice author (Alyson Noel, SAVING ZOE)commented my post where I blabbed about how much I loved herf book.

    Have a great weekend (if you can manage to be un-like me and not work 8-14 hour days and actually get some sleep!)

  26. Erik

    Someone should tell Penguin that dating sites don’t work if you seem really desperate.

    Assuming that what’s good for the client is good for the owner, that is.

    At least they’re dressed for a nice date.

  27. 150

    That morality clause is the worst thing I’ve ever heard.

  28. Zen of Writing

    Well, books are a reasonably priced form of entertainment.

    Even if I can’t afford to heat my house this winter, I’ll be reading…

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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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