This Week in Publishing 3/19/10

by | Mar 19, 2010 | Uncategorized | 36 comments

This week in March Madn… I mean publishing.

The big news this week in publishing has, as usual, to do with Amazon and Apple and that whole iPad thing. Scrambling before the April 3rd release of the iCan’tWaitToGetOnePad, the so-called Agency Four major publishers (so-called because they’ve agreed to “agency model” deals with Apple) are hoping to adjust their deal with Amazon, who, according to reports, is making noise about removing buy buttons for both digital and print if the Agency don’t cave to a three year term and favored nation status. Let’s all just hope the Agency Four end up in better shape than the Oceanic Six.

In other big news, HarperStudio publisher Bob Miller will be leaving Harper to become the group publisher at Workman. Amid questions about the future of the experimental imprint, web marketing maven and HarperStudo Associate Publisher Debbie Stier showed they aren’t done experimenting yet, as she was extremely transparent about the future of the imprint via questions on Formspring.

The Rejectionist had a truly fantastic contest last week: query rejections in the form of re-written heavy metal songs. The grand prize winner, as announced by Wayne and Garth, was Pitch in an Elevator (sample: Pitch in an elevator/”It’s like Moby Dick meets My Two Dads”/Pitch in an elevator/”Like Sixth Sense crossed with the Iliad”) and the runners up were actual real live performances by Rick Daley and Tom, which are well worth a listen. Le R, all I have to say is: We’re not worthy!! We’re not worthy!!!

Mary Ulrich passed along a post by Seth Godin about a possible bookstore of the future: experience-driven over selection-driven.

Lapham’s Quarterly has a truly awesome chart: the day jobs of famous writers. The next time you lament not being a full-time writer it’s worth remembering that Charlotte Bronte made $1,838 a year as a governess….. and that’s in today’s dollars. (via JacketCopy)

In agent advice news, Jenny Bent, who is celebrating the first birthday of the Bent Agency, has a very helpful post on some very common rookie mistakes when querying. Well worth a look.

This week in the Forums, ljkuhnley started a great post on the difference between books with strong voices and invisible voices, bohemienne discusses the pros and cons of chasing the market, and Neil Vogler noticed an interesting article in the Guardian about an author being sued by a Parisian fabric store for the way the store is portrayed in a mystery novel, including being the site for the murder.

It’s been wayyyy too long since we started a new blog feature, and this one is long overdue. Comment of the week!!! This week’s comment of the week (on Tuesday’s post) goes to Ulysses:

“Angelina learns that her cats aren’t ordinary cats: they are actually hyper-intelligent feline assassins who can kill their enemies with a flick of a paw.”

… Um… but that IS an ordinary cat.

And I’ll take Ninja Cats by 5 points. Their point guard is a rebound genius, and I heard that the starting center for the Space Monkeys is out for five days with Hairballs-by-proxy (consequence of an all-feline diet).

And finally, reader Susan Quinn pointed me to a really cool video by DK about the future of publishing, which riffs off that one video by that student that my mom sent me that one time.

Have a great weekend!


  1. abc

    I'm finding that March Madness is making me constipated. I'm also drinking too much caffeine and eating too many peanut butter M&Ms. These are some intense games!

  2. Margaret Yang

    Jenny Bent's article on rookie mistakes was so cool. It's amazing to me that agents are pouring tons of such good advice all over the interwebs, yet people can still make those rookie mistakes. Information on how to query is a one-click google. How can people not find it?

    Do you ever get frustrated by that, Nathan?

  3. Nathan Bransford


    I guess I've kind of just accepted it at this point, and in some senses it makes it easier because it easily separates the type of people who come across professionally and those who come across as impatient and/or unready.

  4. Glen Akin

    Lol Jenny Bent's article is really good, but yeah, funny how people still make those mistakes despite that the info is so readily available on the web.

    The DK video was really sweet as well!

  5. Beth S

    Thanks for your Week In Publishing blog every Friday. It seems the publishing world moves quickly and it's nice to have someone do a good wrap up at the end of the week.
    As for as March Madness:
    GO ODU!!!!

  6. Ink

    If Georgetown sends a query letter you should give them a form rejection.

  7. Nathan Bransford


    I stopped trusting Georgetown after last year's mystifying collapse. I don't believe I'm the right agent for their work.

  8. Mira

    Cool – that's an AWESOME video that Susan passed on.

    A new feature(!!) A reader comment of the week!! Oh boy, oh boy. Now I'll have to have even BETTER comments. Every comment will be like a piece of art. Like this one. I'm not saying anything worth mentioning, and yet, still, it sparkles and glows, like a beautiful, glistening diamond in the bright sunshine. (Boy that was good. Too bad this comment is posted today, or it would probably win for next week. Maybe I'll post it again on Monday.)

    Just kidding. 🙂 Silliness aside, I think that's a good feature, Nathan – thanks for giving people credit. Blog posts are writing, too!

    So I'm off to read the rest of the links. They look interesting –

    Have a good weekend!

  9. Ink


    I hope they get bilked by a vanity publisher.

    Though Greg Monroe reminds me of Lamar Odom. I wouldn't be entirely disappointed if he ended up with the Raptors.

  10. Mira

    Oh, and congrats to Rick D for runner up. And Tom, although I don't know him. And the winners of course.

    Way to go, Rick. 🙂

  11. JDuncan

    Wow. I want that bookstore near my house. That place is awesome!

  12. Doug Pardee

    Having just gone over to the Dark Side—I bought a nook last week—I'm amazed at the short-sightedness of the publishers pushing the agency model.

    The e-book revolution for "stream of words" books like novels and pop non-fiction will happen. Not this year, but I'm pretty sure it'll be in this decade. Trying to hold it off at the expense of lower profits is silly.

    It's also making me notice that the Big Six do not have a lock on the good writers and novels (my interest).

  13. Ink


    They're not shortsighted, they're very longsighted. Whether they're right or not… we'll see. But they're looking very far in the future. Amazon selling books as loss leaders will only work for so long. Eventually the market will become fairly saturated for ereaders, while at the same time the book sales will be increasing and increasing… that means that somewhere down the road Amazon (if they changed nothing) would be losing a lot of money.

    Do you think Amazon is going to do that? Me neither. Option one is for Amazon to increase the price of books at that point… which goes against their massive efforts now to push a certain low price point on the market. That doesn't really make much sense for them. Option two is to take that profit back out of the skins of publishers and authors. If they dominate the market and that is simply the way to purchase books… then they can make huge demands on publishers. Which will ruin profits for publishers, and likely run many out of business. Margins are low as it is. And that money would be coming right out of the pocket of the authors. If the pie is squeezed, the authors are gonna get nothing more than a bit of crust and a few mushed up apples. Maybe with cinnamon. I like cinnamon. But I like a big piece of pie, too. I'm hungry. And so are my kids.

    That's my take, anyway.

  14. A Paperback Writer

    I've never seen an entire idea used as something of a palindrome before (like Chiasma rhyme ideas instead of words, this video clip uses ideas instead of letters to read backwards and forwards).

  15. T. Anne

    Cool links! The rejectionist rocks. Have a great weekend Nathan.

  16. Vacuum Queen

    I'm just happy my Huskies won. I have them in the Sweet 16. Go Dawgs!!!

  17. sex scenes at starbucks

    The songs and lyrics were incredible. Well done, contestees.

    Oh, and GO KANSAS!!

  18. Doug Pardee


    Okay, I did some of the math and I see what you're saying. Using the numbers from Money magazine repeated here, and throwing out the printer and wholesaler costs, we end up with a publisher's cost (including author royalties and agent commissions) of $9.74 for the example Grisham hardcover.

    Even if Amazon kept the $9.99 price as a zero-profit zero-loss promotional program and passed along the entire $9.99, the publisher would have virtually no profit unless it squeezes somewhere else.

    "Somewhere else" probably would bear a strong resemblance to the "author royalties" line, which includes agent commissions.

  19. Nathan Bransford


    The numbers in that post you linked to don't look right to me. Publishers are generally paid based on the list price printed on the book, not the actual price charged to consumers, among other errors.

    Also, something to keep in mind is that under Amazon's current model, publishers are not paid based on the price charged to consumers but rather on a list price. So the $9.99 is sometimes (but not always) a loss leader for Amazon. But publishers aren't actually suffering for that low price point except in value perception and in the perceived danger of Amazon wanting to change the deal.

    The irony being, as I describe in this post, publishers are actually receiving less money per copy for new books in the agency model in exchange for more control over pricing and to hopefully open up the market to Apple and other retailers. Whether that is a good idea will likely hinge on whether the market does indeed open up and whether publishers are able to make up volume as they receive less-per-copy sold.

  20. Nathan Bransford

    Oh — wait, I misread that post. They were talking about the retailer discounting off of the list price, not the publisher. Though those discounts the person guessed at don't look right to me.

  21. Susan Quinn

    I'm glad you liked the video!

    "it's just not true that my attention span is too small for big ideas"

    This neatly encapsulates my observations and hopes for our kids and the future. The uptick in YA sales is one of the most encouraging things I've seen in this anemic economy. Kids do read, and therein lies the hope for the publishing industry as well as the rest of us.

  22. D. G. Hudson

    Rick Daley – loved your song on the Rejectionist's site. Liked your style of singing, too. Thanks, Nathan, for the great links for this Friday.

    The video about publishing has been used too many times to have a lot of impact. (various versions)

    Hope the first day of Spring, March 21, is a nice relaxing one for all – to me it means baseball season is coming, which I prefer to watch. Major league, of course.

  23. 365beautifulife

    Nathan, sorry to ask an off topic question, but here goes:

    Must Memoirs be strong in plot? I've read some memoirs and I have definitely read at least one that seemed to have a definite plot- The Kiss- but I've also read some that I can't recall there being a "Plot." What is one way to compensate for this lack of tension?

  24. ryan field

    The video about the future of publishing was fantastic, even though I have to admit I care about what Lady Gaga is wearing, too.

  25. Nathan Bransford

    lol. Ryan, me too. I also loved the way she said Lady Gargar

  26. Ashley A.

    I loved this week's This Week in Publishing. Muchas gracias!

  27. Risa

    Apologies if you have already referenced this interview with the publisher of Baen and their ebook dynamics and her thoughts of the future.

    Telereader, a blog about e-books and other writing bits.

    I'm fascinated by her fanatic focus on getting more readers for her authors by making it as EASY AS POSSIBLE for readers to find, buy, and read her authors. This mono-focus leads to being very open-minded about future evolutions.

    Obviously more success for authors means more success and dollars for the company but I love how she pins ALL decisions (right down to typefaces) to enhancing the connection between reader and author via the novel.

    If this is representative of Baen after Jim Baen's passing…the house and science fiction is in good hands.

    It is going to be so interesting to see how this all plays out!

  28. Ishta Mercurio

    Seth Godin's blog post, with the link to the Montague Bookmill, was fabulous. I can see mainstream bookstores trending this way too, albeit in a much more cookie-cutter way, with the amalgamation of bookstore + cafe + childrens' store (with selected educational toys). This has been going on for a while.

    Thanks for the link – you are the Uber Blogger.

  29. Bron

    I loved that video! Thanks Susan and Nathan. I hadn't seen one like that before so it had a big impact on me.

    Incidentally, how do Americans pronounce Lady Gaga? I (Aussie) say Gargar too.

  30. Ishta Mercurio

    And that DK video was COOL! I like the way they used the text to convey their message by reading it as it was written, then reading it again backwards. Very clever – thanks!

  31. Liza Swift

    I love that DK video! I was getting all angry and defensive and then it switched and I got goosebumps! It was like she talking about me! No, it was like I was talking! lol, see how excited I am!
    I loved that it displayed a conscientious and multifarious youth culture, but I also loved that showed what an amazing thing language is and what we can do with it.

  32. 365beautifulife

    That was exactly my response, too. I loved the way she said "Lady Gar-Gar." I almost went to practice saying it in the mirror.

  33. Bron

    That's what I love about this blog, always learning new things! Even if it is the variation in pronounciation of Lady Gaga.

  34. Perry Robles

    Good save, Nathan. Madn…

    Two weeks ago I said, "this is crazy." An unbeknown appropriated it and told my advisor I said "she was crazy" Can you believe it? Words can really be tricky sometimes.


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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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