This Week in Publishing 4/16/10

by | Apr 16, 2010 | Uncategorized | 56 comments

This week… the publishing…

I’m very pleased to announce that my wonderful and brilliant colleague Sarah LaPolla is now officially taking on clients! Check out her bio on the Curtis Brown website, and her genres of interest include literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction, literary horror, and young adult fiction

In volcano news, yes, the publishing industry has been affected by the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano (Eyjafjallajokull for those keeping score), and much travel has been disrupted for the upcoming London Book Fair. The people running the book fair are gamely saying the show will go on, but many a travel plan is in doubt.

Meanwhile, you remember how the NY Times Ethcisist said that it was okay to pirate e-books if you bought the hardcover? Well, @KatieAlender was kind enough to point me to a very curious decision in which the Ethicist rendered nearly an exact opposite opinion when it came to hotel minibars.

The ALA released its list of most-challenged books, and in addition to the usual suspects are some head-scratchers (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD? Really??).

Veteran editor Ann Patty wrote a provocative article wondering if editors should receive royalties, and wonders about the role of editors in the future as the publishing industry changes. Bloomsbury publisher Peter Ginna notes that there are many different arrangements out there, from freelance editors receiving royalties to publishing employees receiving profit sharing considerations.

In book publicity news, Simon Owens looks at the way book publicity is changing in the iPad era, Penny Sansevieri looks at what makes some authors fail, and Joe Berkowitz looks at the curious recent history of books with CONFESSIONS in the title.

Rachelle Gardner has a great reminder about two things every published author should keep track of: your income and your book sales. Don’t get caught by the tax man! Or by the future editor who might want to know your sales numbers.

Reader Leon Sterling pointed me to this interesting article about how some sites are re-thinking and prohibiting anonymous commenting. This is always a topic that I’m evaluating, and sentiment seems to be building against anons.

Who is the richest fictional character of them all? Forbes has a pretty hilarious ranking, and coming in at first place with a net worth of $34.1 billion is Carlisle Cullen. Scrooge McDuck is just behind, with his Number One Dime failing to propel him to the top of the list. (via Haley Walter)

This week in the Forums: which celebrities have you met (and one member’s incredible chess game with a grand master), all your Twitter are belong to the Library of Congress, what to do when new book ideas disrupt your work in progress, how reading habits influence writing, and yes, still trying to figure out what’s happening on Lost.

Comment! of! the! Week! goes to….. Alma, in Monday’s post on handling the query deluge. She has a sure-fire way of filtering out the queries I definitely want to read:

You could run an automated process that would dump them into a database and then run a query against it with the keywords of the SPECIFIC things you’re looking for “(monkey + dinosaur) + protagonist”, say, and a stoplist of the things are you don’t want (“on lithium”, “the next stephanie meyer/jk rowling”). Then you only read the queries with the desired keywords and don’t hit against the stoplist. (And, uhm, yes, repeat offenders’ names could be on the stoplist.)

Monkeys and dinosaurs? Yes, please!!

And finally, yesterday I linked to a video on a cat loving the iPad. Now….. the iPad dog has his own review. Will this Corgi like the iPad as much as the cat? (via GalleyCat)

Have a great weekend!


  1. Alice Anderson

    Actually, as far as the wealthiest characters go, Rebecca Winters wrote a hero who's worth more than 70 billion.

  2. Jenn

    Eyafjallajokull = "A-ya-fyad-la-yo-kull" (rough phonetic translation). Only reason I know this is because I set a novel in Iceland (making me probably the only person in the world to actually *wish* her flight were re-routed to Keflavik airport).

    Love the geek Corgi.

  3. Kayeleen Hamblin

    All your twitter are belong to the Library of Congress. ROFL Thanks, Nathan.

  4. Tracy Hahn-Burkett

    I'm not at all surprised about To Kill a Mockingbird, because it makes you, you know, think. That sort of activity can make the book-banning crowd uncomfortable.

    There are a number of titles on the ALA list I hadn't planned to read at all. Now I'm going to have to add them to my ever-growing list… (I never had any interest in Harry Potter until I saw how many people were going out of their way to ban it. Then I had to buy the whole series.)

  5. Other Lisa

    This is very odd, but am I the only one for whom this post is not showing up on the main page of the blog? The direct link (via Twitter) works but when I go to the main page, it ain't there.

    Word verification: trryin

  6. Nathan Bransford

    other lisa-

    Whoops! Had it publish to the wrong date. Fixed now.

  7. Indigo

    The Ipad has gone to the dogs. Honestly, I'm betting the corgi will master it before I do.

  8. Marilyn Peake

    Thank you for so many wonderful links. I’m looking forward to checking them out this weekend. I’m delighted that Sarah LaPolla is now a literary agent. I love when good things happen to wonderful people. I enjoyed working with her when she published one of my short stories on her GLASS CASES blog. She’s both very nice and very talented.

    Thanks so much for all the hours and hard work you put into your blog and forums. You’ve created a dynamic, informative community here. Have a great weekend!

  9. John Baron

    Iggy the cat wins over the Corgi paws down.

  10. Ishta Mercurio

    Wow – thanks for the avalanche of links! No wonder you decided to make yesterday video day.

    Re: TO KILL A MICKINGBIRD. The school board where I live (in the GTA, Ontario) has fielded a number of complaints that it isn't relevant in the racial climate that exists today, and are consequently dropping it in favor of more recently written books that both cover a broader racial/cultural spectrum and address current issues of race relations. Whatever. It's still a damn good book. I think the quality of the writing is enough reason to keep it in the list. In fact, I think I'll go and re-read it this weekend.

    And in Volcano news: my mother, who lives in England, was supposed to leave last night. My kids are thrilled. Bring on the volcanic ash, they say.

  11. Ishta Mercurio

    Oops. Make that, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Serves me right for typing in a hurry. And if there is such a thing as a mickingbird, I'd like to meet one.

  12. Jana Oliver

    TWILIGHT series for sexual content? I admit I only read the first book but I was under the impression that the sex was after marriage. So is this for real or was there a whole lot more naughtiness in those later books than I was led to believe?

  13. Tracy Hahn-Burkett

    Wow, Ishta, "not relevant" today? I suppose that's true in the sense that history isnt' relevant–especially the recent history of race relations and civil rights.

    Sorry everybody, I don't mean to get preachy, but this kind of stuff drives me nuts. In fact, I think I feel a blog post coming on . . .

  14. Marilyn Peake

    I just now watched the videos of the cat and dog inspecting the iPad. That is awesome how they each responded so differently, but both tried to move the iPad to see what might be under it. We have a bearded dragon lizard. Beardies love to watch TV, so we bought her an inexpensive portable movie player. So far, her favorite movies and TV shows are the STAR WARS movies and animations, including AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, KUNG FU PANDA, SHREK, and the amazing animated movies directed by Hayao Miyazaki. (We assume they're her favorites because she watches them for extended periods of time.) I’ve taken lots of photos of her doing this. Animals are fascinating, and often so much smarter than we might expect.

  15. T. Anne

    Carli$le Cullen? Looks like every day is a great day to be Stephenie Meyers.

    I'm curious about this whole Library of congress thing. When I read it earlier this week I thought it was a joke. I've always wanted to get my writing in the L of C, but not this way. Since I'm published now can I claim this on my query's?

  16. J. T. Shea

    Woof! Woof! Woof! The I-PAD's main drawback for dogs is that it isn't edible. And they prefer paperbacks anyway. British corgis used to have their own publishing company called Corgi Books, and they are the Queen's favorite pets. Now I must change my protagonist's name to MATSUTAKE EYJAFJALLAJOKULL.

  17. D. G. Hudson

    Read the article on anonymous commenters — there were quite a few good points as to why they should not be allowed. Perhaps you should take a vote with all the readers/commenters on your blog.

    Haven't we discussed this anon problem before on this blog? (prior to the forums being added)

    Read the Ethicist article as well, and although I don't agree with his take on downloading ebooks, I really hate those mini-bars. They play on all our weaknesses (hunger, thirst, tired, etc.)

    Wishing a great weekend for all the blog readers!

  18. abc

    Mini bars are evil. So is room service. I'm an ethicist today. You're welcome.

  19. Christi Goddard

    Pft. They've removed Lucius Malfoy from the Rich and Fabulous. Heresy, I say.

  20. Sarah

    Thanks for the plug, Nathan! And for bringing that corgi video into my life. How did I miss that this week?!?

  21. Mira

    Thanks Other Lisa – I was wondering what happened to the site!

    Nathan, thanks again for a plethora of wonderful links. All the time and effort you put into this is sooo appreciated!

    I haven't read the links yet, but one thing stood out for me – in terms of the anonymous, I totally get it – they drive me nuts sometimes. But the last time we had a discussion I remember you decided to allow them because so many people can't access their google accounts at work, etc. Also you'd have to turn off the name/URL function.

    As an addition, for me anyway, the anonymous add spice to the conversation. When there are none, the conversation can become exceedingly polite and even boring. On an agent's blog that usually means everyone just says nice things, can be pleasant, but can get old, too.

    And then there is the part about writers being afraid to talk honestly, which means that allowing anonymous on an agent's blog is a different matter than, say, a newspaper.

    But if I were you, I'd be tempted to turn them off – they can be such a pain. Hmmm, maybe you could make your policy even more stringent…..?

    Okay, I'll be back to comment once I've read the links – thanks again. Hope everyone a wonderful weekend!

  22. Matthew Rush

    BTW Sarah's got a pretty cool blog too. It's called glass … shoot, glass somthing, just click on her name in her comment.

    Also, does Bruce Wayne not count as a fiction character because he's not in novels?

  23. Ted Cross

    I wrote most of my novel while living in Hafnarfjordur, about 11 km outside of Reykjkavik, so I incorporate quite a lot of Icelandic names and themes in my story. I visited the area of Eyafjallajokull a couple of years ago; I kept hoping a volcano would go off while I was in Iceland, but they held out until after I left.

    It feels weird to be referenced in Nathan's blog…

  24. Mayowa

    There's a huge grin on my face picturing the horde of query letters streaming across "the internets" towards Ms. LaPolla's inbox.

    Barbarian's streaming across the plains towards a genteel homestead is an apt comparison methinks.

  25. Marjorie

    I am getting an iPad. I need to be connected 24/7.

  26. Anonymous

    Re: Anon comments: Sometimes I have a comment that makes me sound like a suck-up. That's when I opt for the anon option.

  27. Joseph L. Selby

    HA! @KatieAlender's is a wonderful example! Well played, clerks.

    And books like TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD and HUCKLEBERRY FINN get caught in a weird pincer action. There are the people that don't like it because it shows racial tolerance (and yes, there are still plenty of those people in America). AND there are people that don't like it because it shows racial intolerance. They think it would be better to just keep their kids away from the intolerance all together. Between them, they get seminal works of our culture removed from schools. It's heartbreaking.

  28. Simon Hay Soul Healer

    I'm not a fan of anonymous commenting. I've stopped reading blogs because of the tone and frequency of anon comments. I think if you have something to say, use your name. I've noticed some writers remain anonymous. Their reasoning is not to harm their chances for representation, or to strain a relationship with an editor or publishing house. Have you noticed this? In what situation would you allow one of your clients to comment anonymously? Comments should always be respectful, but also honest.

    Cheers, Simon.

  29. Kate Evangelista

    I was scratching my head while reading the ALA list as well.

  30. JDuncan

    Nathan, the book publicity link is goofed, at least on my version of the post it is.

  31. G

    Interesting thing about anonymous comments, is that quit a few media companies have withdrawn from the websites that don't really enforce their own Terms of Service against some of the more vile and hateful anonymous commenters out there ( is one such notorious example)

    My local paper, The Hartford Courant, withdrew their website from Topix for those very reasons, and now if you comment on their stories, you have to register in order to do it.

    And they have no qualms in going after people who do threatening things like those mentioned in the article (one example was that someone made a threatening comment about a lawyer defending someone in a death penalty trial going on here, and they were able to track that person down and have the state police arrest them).

    While I'm normally against censorship issues like this, having been on the receiving end of this type of stalking and harassment for about a year and a half has changed my mind about people making anonymous comments.

  32. reader

    re: the most challenged list — The Catcher in th Rye is listed as sexually explicit?

    Where? How? The prostitue Holden hires but does nothing with?

  33. reader

    Also, I think it's only really popular novels that are banned — I read a lots of YA and have read books with TONS more drug use/sex/possibly inappropriate for age group books, and no one pays any attention to them, much less protests them.

    Maybe because they aren't on best seller list no one bothers to notice?

  34. Katie Alender

    Thanks for the shout-out!

    Anonymity is a good tool for people who wouldn't have the liberty to be quite so honest otherwise. But with the good comes the bad.

    I hate to put more work on you, but you could have a "be nice" rule. Too bad blogger hasn't yet instituted general rating of comments, where enough negative feedback will hide a comment.

    Highly apropos to this is my word verf: "noman."

  35. Anonymous

    What's wrong with anons who mind their manners?

    Not everyone can remember things like passwords. Beware of age discrimination.

  36. Author Guy

    One thing that confuses me about some of these advice columns, is that they seem to think that the author chooses to write their book based on a marketing strategy and the latest demographic trends. I suppose there are books like that out there, but they aren't books I'd be likely to read and never something I'd write. I write the story that comes to me, I f it's behind the curve, ahead of it, or (more likely), way out to the left somewhere over there, that's just the way it is.

  37. Alyssa

    I love corgis.

    Also @Jenn re the pronunciation of Eyafjallajokull–you're correct (I'm Icelandic) but I'll add that the first syllable of every Icelandic word, with very few exceptions, is emphasized, which is one of the many reasons people are having a hard time pronouncing it. A friend who lives in Keflavik was visiting me this past week (I now live in the US) and she isn't sure if she'll be making it home on her scheduled flight tomorrow.

    Who knew something like this, which is so routine to we who are Icelanders, would plunge the world into such a panic? I'd giggle if it weren't actually such a dire situation. No. I'll giggle anyway.

  38. Jil

    Have they not condemned "Dick and Jane" yet? Some people can find evil in anything – and they do in everything. Grrr!

    Ah well, 'tis a lovely weekend – if you're not flying anywhere. Doesn't that volcano know it's a no burn day?

  39. Emily White

    Hmm…I would think that the emperor from Dune would be wealthier than Carlisle Cullen. I mean, honestly, being the emperor of the known universe has GOT to make you more than $34 billion. Otherwise, what's the point?

  40. Anonymous

    I post as anonymous because when I use my google account I'm flooded with spam. Please don't remove the anonymous option!

    I'm happy to let you know my name, just not happy to be spammed.


  41. Donna

    There's always some interesting things in the Week in Publishing. Thanks, Nathan!


    I read Penny Sansevieri's piece on how some authors fail, and I have to admit I was totally puzzled by one:

    *** Not Doing Their Research — What would you think of a store owner who opened a yogurt shop in downtown San Diego only to find that five other stores were opening within months of his, one of them a very successful franchise with a huge following? Wouldn't this make you sort of wonder why on earth this store owner would do that, I mean open a store without doing the proper research? Then why on earth would you launch head first into publishing without knowing your market — I mean the publishing market? So many authors learn the ropes after their book is out, and by then it's too late. Well, not too late really because you still have a book, but late in the sense that you can't really do anything about mistakes made and the money it's gonna cost you. There are a ton of online resources out there. Get to know them, I've listed a number of them in this article and there are more, many more. The Internet is abundant with free content. Use it. ***

    What is her point here, in a PUBLISHING example, instead of yogurt? An author has successfully written and published a book, and what lack of research is the problem here? What are the "mistakes made"? And money lost?

    I was going to put the question on her blog, but when I started, I realized I was going to have to create yet another account with another site and I was never going to go back to revisit it anyway.


  42. Ashley A.

    Thanks for all the great links, Nathan. I'd been trying to explain the whole notion of challenged books to my 12-year-old daughter. (We recently watched Footloose and none of my kids could believe that people would really burn books.) I printed out the ALA piece and gave it to her at breakfast yesterday. She's read all the Twilight, ttyl, Clique, etc., but she immediately went over and plucked The Chocolate War off the bookshelf to read next.

  43. goldchevy

    I thought I might address your comment about To Kill A Mockingbird. I had taught this book to high school freshmen for 20years with no problem. Last year, for some inexplicable reason, while we were reading To Kill a Mockingbird, there was a run on the use of the word "nigger" during lunchtime. One of the vice-principals approached the English department and questioned our teaching a book with this term, that the book was teaching them to use this word. But in the book Atticus forbids Scout to use the term at all. And certainly the heart of the book is against racism.
    Anyway, I used it as a teaching moment and spoke to them about why they shouldn't use it. And, well, they stopped using it (at least at school).
    So should we ban the book because this occurred? Hell no. The best books I teach are the ones that contain violence, bad language, even sex (yes–I teach The Canterbury Tales)and teenagers need to read them–it's so much better for them to live these things vicariously–that way when they encounter them in real life, they have an idea of how to deal with them in a moral, fair, and compassionate manner. That's the beauty of books.

  44. Ishta Mercurio

    Tracy: I hope you didn't misinterpret my post to mean that I don't think TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is relevant today. I certainly think that it is very relevant! Both in the sense that our history is relevant, and in the sense that books that address racial discrimination don't necessarily apply only to people of the race depicted in the book. It is possible to extrapolate and find broader meaning, and we should teach that skill to young readers.

    Goldchevy: great point! I have often said of books or films that they are "too violent" or "too explicit" or "too mature" for my kids (I have two: one in first grade and one who will start preschool in the fall), but I also acknowledge that books and movies provide an opportunity for kids to think about the things that scare them about the world in a way that frees them from their anxiety about those things, and helps them to think of positive ways to deal with those things. For me, it's all about finding that balance between showing them what they need and are ready for, and showing them too much too soon. Sometimes I succeed at striking that balance, but sometimes I fail, too. It's a process.

  45. Ishta Mercurio

    Re: the Harry Potter series topping the ALA list of the 100 most-challenged books of the decade. Well, now I HAVE to read them!

  46. Anonymous

    Hey our founding fathers used to post anonymously, e.g., the Federalist Papers, but there are many other examples. It serves a purpose and we should just put up with the vileness the way we do with free speech.

    FYI, the quote at the end of that article from Huffington regarding young people devaluing privacy is in dispute now according to a recent study released this month by UC Berkeley and UPENN.

  47. G

    Reading everyone's comments about ALA made me remember why I don't respect them anymore.

    Apparently back in the 90's (and I'm sure someone will correct me), there were some issues about journalists or librarians being thrown into jain in Cuba and the ALA was remarkably silent on this issue, instead choosing to flex their collective muscle on having filters put in on their public computers or some such nonsense.

    So with the ALA coming out with a "list" on books that are banned/targeted, should be taken with a grain of salt and a large dose of cynicism.

  48. Bookgal

    Hey Donna,

    What I mean is 2-fold. The first is understanding how publishing works. So the metrics of getting into bookstores, understanding distribution, when and how NY publishers push titles to market, etc. The second is knowing what's being published. You can glean this from places like and Publishers Weekly (also their online site) – knowing what other competitive titles are being released in your market is important and could affect your success. For example, some years ago we had a client looking to release a dating book – when he found out that Dr Phil was going to release a book on dating the same month he was he decided to pull back and hold off his release date. You might not like Dr Phil or wonder why he's handing out dating advice but he's a big enough "brand" that the author felt it was prudent to hold off. Not just for bookstore shelf space, but because he knew that if he pitched to mags or blogs the space would be pretty cluttered and if Dr Phil's publisher had already contacted them they'd take Dr Phil over him every time. Let me know if that helps! Thanks, Penny

  49. India Drummond

    About anon commenting.. I can see not allowing it on news sites. Politics creates trolls just by its nature: for every opinion or stance there is an opposition, no matter how reasonable it may be.

    On a blog like mine, and perhaps yours, comments are not usually so divisive and readers not as likely to go after each other like cats in a sack. Usually.

    I always advise my blogging friends to accept anon comments, especially if they use a service like or . Yes, people can use OpenID. OpenID sucks. By allowing anon comments, you also allow people to enter in their name and web address rather than just a link to a blog service profile. A definite plus for people who want to subtly invite your readers perhaps become their readers as well.

    All of that said, I have noticed that many sites are now using Facebook Connect and Twitter Connect to allow people to log in. That's at least somewhat of a plus, since that would mean one less site at which I needed a password, and being able to send people to my Twitter stream is one small step above sending them to my pitiful bloggerID account.

  50. Haverford

    Nathan, Is your new editor based in NYC or like yourself, in San Francisco?

    Thanks, and thanks for all you do for us!

  51. Anonymous

    Duh, I meant "agent" not editor.

  52. Mira

    I'm late to comment on the links, and given the post today, I won't comment at length. But I did want to say that first, this is an extremely interesting assortment of information, and second, I thought your point about the ethicist was very well said.

  53. Donna

    Thanks for your reply, Penny. Yes, the explanation helps. I was wondering from your yogurt example if you were saying that an informed writer should have been able to anticipate the competition from similar books. And I was wondering how an author can know, when he (to use your publishing example) starts writing a book on dating, that when it's finished, and an agent takes it on, and it's sold to a publisher, and goes through the editing and typesetting and design process, etc., that 3 to 5 years down the line another book on dating by Dr. Phil would be competing with it. Even using the resources that you list, it seems hard to predict that far ahead.

    Having the good judgment to delay publication when facing an overwhelming competitor does seem like something that can be gained from being well informed in publishing, but it also seems like something that the publisher would decide, rather than giving the decision to the author.



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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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