This Week in Publishing 6/25/10

by | Jun 25, 2010 | Uncategorized | 41 comments

Just a quick heads-up that I’m going to be in New York next week and thus posting may be a bit sporadic. If I don’t melt in the NYC summer heat I’ll try and put some thoughts together when I can.

Now then! It was a relatively quiet week in publishing this week, but I think I can rustle up some news for you.

Have the e-reader price wars begun? B&N announced that it would sell a WiFi-only Nook for $149, and Amazon dropped its Kindle price to $189. With many different devices coming soon, the price competition could get still more fierce.

Meanwhile, over at Salon, Laura Miller takes a look at the coming self-publishing landscape and wonders if the reading public is ready for its encounter with the slush pile.

And speaking of burnout, there’s been an unlikely confession from an author being “burned out on vampires.” Who was it? None other than Stephenie Meyer.

Bestselling author (and Twitter maven!) Susan Orlean wrote one of those only-in-publishing breakdowns of the many, many editors she has worked with due to personnel changes and people getting fired and leaving publishing and you name it.

Agent Michael Stearns at Upstart Crow had an interesting blog post about Bruce Coville and the “Rule of Twenty.” Basically: it’s only when you reach your twentieth idea that you’re getting original.

This week in the Forums: random facts about you, questions to think about when critiquing other writers’ works, and of course, World Cup Fever!! Go USA!!

Comment! Of! The! Week! goes to Dan, who cracked me up with his response to my post about vague rejections:

I got a response to a query which said, in its entirety:

“Why, God, Why?”

What, if anything, should I read into that?

And finally, I haven’t really been talking much about reality television lately even though this season of the Bachelorette has been some truly tremendous television. But seriously, was there anything on the Internet in the last week more hilarious than Bachelor Jake’s explanation for why he broke up with Vienna? (That would be the person, not the city in case you didn’t watch the show. Also shame on you for not watching the show). Take it away, People Magazine:

He was struggling to get into character for his role on Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva,, which he was filming in Atlanta while Vienna remained in Los Angeles.

“One of the keys to acting is you have to get out of your head,” Pavelka, 32, tells PEOPLE. “This [show] didn’t hire me to be Jake, they hired me to play Toby Davlin. I can’t be Jake and sell this character.”

There are few things in the world that have ever made me happier than the preceding paragraph. Oh, Jake. Thanks for that.

Have a great weekend! Go USA!!!


  1. Locusts and Wild Honey

    Jake Pevelka is kind of my reason for living at this point.

    It DOES NOT get funnier than that break-up excuse.

    And I think he's serious. That, or he's REALLY in character for some part wherein he plays a narcissist.

  2. SuzRocks

    There are few things in life that made me as happy as did hearing that Jake and Vienna broke up.

    I know, I'm mean and heartless. But if anything, it's her fault. She started it by ruining last season for me- I couldn't even watch the end of it because I was so annoyed.

  3. cheekychook

    If you think this season of The Bachelorette is tremendous just wait till Bachelor Pad airs in August! Trust me, it's gonna be a whole new world of crazy.

  4. Jen

    The Bachelorette is tattooed trainwreck central this season.

    Jake is a Tom Cruise clone straight out of Xenu.

  5. Jess

    Thanks again for a great lineup this week. Fridays are my favorite–I get to laugh and learn!

  6. A Paperback Writer

    Kudos to whomever had the guts to send you the "why, God, why?" comment. THAT'S funny! I send her/him praises for giving a voice to what so many of us have been thinking so often!

  7. Phyllis

    Thanks for the Rule of Twenty. I keep trying to go past the first ten ideas, but maybe I'm not pushing it hard enough.

  8. ElizaJane

    I saw the People cover, "Why Jake is Leaving Vienna." I thought, gosh, I had no idea that we are so concerned about which great European cultural city our stars inhabit! Maybe People is more interesting than I suspected. Does Jake prefer the Paris opera to the Viennese; are the joys of the Kunsthistorisches Museum less than those of, say, the Uffizi? I was so ready to be informed. I was so disappointed.

  9. Anonymous

    I can understand why Stephenie Meyer is over it… we are all so over it. However, it is her cash cow. She needs to ride that gravy train as far as it takes her. I wouldn't have read The Host if I hadn't gotten caught up in the Twilight infactuation.

    All eyes on USA tomorrow… can they do it?!


  10. Anonymous

    Every time I think about getting an eReader for my mom, they have some new and cheaper version for sale. It took a whopping 3 years for mp3 players to become affordable, and I was able to wait that out, so I'll sit back and see who wins this eReader thumb war, too.

  11. cheekychook

    As far as Jake goes, I'm just waiting to see if Chuck Norris will weigh in on Young Walker's latest escapades…

  12. Anonymous

    Enjoy your Trip, I'll be visiting family in Philly next week. Visiting and evacuating, since theres a tropical storm fixin' to drop millions of gallons of oil on my precious Texas coast.

  13. Anonymous

    I agree anon. I was anti-ereader but hey, if they become as affordable as most "new techonology" must haves then I'm in. The microwave hasn't given me brain cancer yet, so I'm learning to be more open-minded.

  14. ryan field

    Interesting about the e-reader prices dropping. I guess the people who waited to buy will get some nice deals.

    Interesting Susan Orlean piece. In twenty years, I've seen more than my share come and go.

  15. Terin Tashi Miller

    So, I read the piece.

    Being a recently self-published author, I can't really cry too hard about all the "slush" awaiting unsuspecting readers. Because, naturally, I believe my novel isn't slush. I guess it is, technically, because no one else has published it. But maybe that has nothing to do with its literary value?

    Is literature, really, determined by sales? The Great Gatsby didn't sell well. But most kids find they have to read it, because their teacher did.

    I wasn't around, but I'm pretty sure there was a similar reaction when paperbacks first came into being.

    And I'm not convinced that, just because he wrote it, everyone felt obligated to purchase or read a copy of "Poor Richard's Almanac." One reason we know the genius and writing of Benjamin Franklin: he owned a printing press.

    People will always look to others–sometimes fortunately, sometimes not–for recommendations or suggestions on what to read.

    I don't believe the fact people will have more to choose from–or get recommendations from people whose livelihoods perhaps aren't as closely tied to the recommendations as that of an editor, publisher, or even agent–means they should be forewarned or somehow pitied.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald's "This Side of Paradise" was rejected, by Scribner's, before they decided to publish it when he revised "The Romantic Egotist" and turned it into the still controversial (and somewhat contrived) fictional account of Amory Blaine's "formative" years. At a boarding school, and Princeton, no less.

    Would James Joyce's "Ulysses" have been published if it weren't for his friend, Sylvia Beach? Why does having a friend have faith in your writing and publish a few copies for you make you different than having friends tell you "you should be published"?

    Yes, there is a revolution coming. I'm glad and proud to be a part of it. It's about time the workers took control of the means of production, in my humble opinion…

    (Though agents will always have jobs, I'm certain, to help not only the general reading public, but also the "major" or "traditional" publishers wade through "the slush pile." Because apparently readers can't or shouldn't be trusted to find the "gems" for a few pennies on a Kindle…when they can buy the book after watching the movie…)

    Oh. And I saw the Jake thing in the check-out line too. Regardless of merit, you gotta admit–Jake and Vienna sell…well…

  16. Elizabeth

    There's irony in that Jake statement somewhere because the role he is playing for Drop Dead Diva is–a bachelor on a reality show!!! So his comments about getting out of his head for the part because he is Jake the bachelor just cracked me up…and no, I don't watch the show but I LOVE Drop Dead Diva.

  17. Justajo

    Well, boo-hoo for Ms. Meyer. Would that we all had that problem, eh?
    Have fun in the Big Apple…and stay cool. Do they still have traffic gridlock when the U.N. is in session? Bummer the year I got caught in it. Got a lot of help from a guy named Blue.
    Oh, and hey–thanks for turning me on to Absolute Write. Great place!

  18. Eliza

    "If I don't melt in the NYC summer heat I'll try and put some thoughts together when I can."

    I melted around noon.

  19. CFD Trade

    I read the Rule of Twenty…it's a good suggestion. This isn't my twentieth and beyond idea of a comment, so it may be generic.

  20. treeoflife

    Loved Laura Miller's article, and I think she's right that the infinite expansion of the slush pile is not a good thing. A well stocked book store is more than enough selection for me, even if I actually purchase the book on a kindle (which is getting to an enticing price point).

    That said, I really don't think there is an army of people eager to dance on the grave of the publishing industry and its gatekeepers. From what I've seen, most writers don't have a superiority complex and think they're geniuses that others can't appreciate. Quite the opposite.

  21. Ishta Mercurio

    The Salon article was very interesting. She brought up a point which I agree with, namely that:
    a) readership is ultimately a finite number, limited by population and demographics;
    b) time is limited by the hours available in a day and the fact that we have other needs like sleep and food;
    c) therefore, more books out there (because EVERYONE can self-publish now!) equals either fewer people reading each book, or more people reading the few best books while the vast majority of books go unread by the vast majority of people.

    And re: Dan's reply to his query: I feel for you! And while in the moment that might have been painful, looking back, it is pretty hilarious.

  22. Joe Konrath

    Since you're the only industry professional who has acknowledged me, I'll throw this up for discussion.

    Six days ago, I self-published a Kindle book called ENDURANCE. This book was under contract with Hachette. My editor liked it, but wanted some changes. I said no, pulled the book, and put it on Kindle for $2.99.

    In six days I've earned $4000.

    This story has been bopping around the internet, but not a single publishing professional has acknowledged it.

    If the publishing industry is going to survive, perhaps its time to stop ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the corner.

  23. Cheryl

    I'm sorry for posting this here but I didn't want to send this question to your work address.

    I was wondering if you would write a blog post on how you were able to write a book and perform all your agent duties a the same time. How did you balance it all?

  24. Portuguese cunt

    The price wars for the Kindle and other e-readers has just begun. The Ipad has already outsold the Kindle, and the battle for hardware dominance is just beginning. I wish Amazon had lowered the price sooner; as it is now, it may be too late. Seth Godin called for a cheaper Kindle months ago, and he was right.

    Have fun in New York, Nathan.

  25. Anonymous

    Mention of The Bachelor leads me to this burning question: does anyone but me think that "Frank" on The Bachelorette (with Ali) looks, sounds like, and acts EXACTLY like YA author John Green?

    Please tell me it's not just me.

    Same glasses, height, voice, and sort of goofiness. I've only seen the first episode, with them having a picnic under the Hollywood sign, so maybe it was just that episode? I've been trying to catch it again ever since.

  26. evilphilip

    "readership is ultimately a finite number, limited by population and demographics"

    I would argue that point. My area of expertese is video games and there are something like 130 Million Nintendo DS's sold with no sign of it slowing down any time soon. If it were true that 'video game players were ultmiately a finite number' as you have suggested with book readers, then sales of the Nintendo DS would have dropped off a long time ago instead of picking up steam every quarter.

    The same thing is true of readers. If your product is good enough then it will bring in readers even amoung people who were not normally readers. Look at the Twilight series. Do you think that the people reading and enjoying that series are 'readers'?

    They can't be. Real readers would have looked at what complete crap the first book was and never purchased another book from that author. Since the bulk of her readership was made up of non-readers they loved the first book and all the sequels.

    (With apologies to anyone who is a reader who loved the series.)

    I think that the sudden eBook explosion will encompass everyone who currently considers themselves a reader and tons of people who weren't readers before. I doubt most of the people purchasing an iPad (over 3 Million sold) purchased it as a dedicated eBook reader — yet in the first 30 days iPad owners purchased or downloaded over 600,000 books.

    The target market for eBooks is basically an unlimited number of peope.

  27. Marjorie

    In NYC… try to eat at Cafeteria, Le Zie, or Le Singe Vert. They are restaurants in my neighborhood (Chelsea) that are terrific.

  28. Kendall A.

    Have a good trip to New York! For summer time relaxing, I highly (*highly*) recommend the Astoria Beer Garden. There's nothing like it in all of New York, and it's my favorite place to impress out of town guests. Easy to get to–just take the N or W to Astoria Boulevard and walk up to 29th and 31st. Follow the sounds of Czech folk music.

  29. Mira

    Very cool links for a slow week. I have bunches to say.

    But first, Nathan, I hope you have a wonderful time in New York! I hope you have fun and time to relax and enjoy! I also hope you find lots of places with air conditioning. 🙂

    In terms of the Salon article, I really agree with evilphillip about readership. First, books have been hard to get traditionally. You have to get into the car, go to the store, look for things, etc. With e-books, you can download at the snap of your finger. More and easier access will bring in new readership.

    Also, readers read more than one book. I read 2-3 books weekly. That's conservatively 110 books a year. If you add e-books and accessiblity to that, my readership will go up as well.

    Sometimes I don't read because I can't find anything good to read. I like the idea of more to choose from.

    I think the gate-keeping aspect may have had an unfortunate bottle-neck function. Too few books for the potential readership. And in terms of cream rising to the top, there doesn't seem to be a problem with you-tube. There are thousands of videos on you-tube, and yet it's only the best ones that get passed around.

    I do think Laura Miller has a good point, though. New ways to weed out the chaff from the wheat will arise, for sure. I'm betting Amazon and Apple, etc. will hire professional raters after awhile.

    That was a sort of sad article from Susan Orlean. That's alot of movement. I wonder why.

    I'm taking a stand here. I don't personally follow the rule of 20. I get fairly original right out the gate. I know you don't believe me, Nathan, and we've argued about this before. We can keep arguing because I have a way of twisting things to look at them from a different perspective. It's one of my very few talents, and I'm latching onto it with both fists.

    I like seeing Joe Konrath here. It's great to see what's happening with his journey.

    Dan's comment of the week was hilarious. Ha! Ha!

    I don't watch reality T.V. because I have an addictive personality, and anytime I get near reality T.V., I almost quit my job just so I can stay home and obsess about it. Sounds like the Bachelorette is really good right now, so I'll especially stay away from that. 🙂

    Hope everyone is having a really nice weekend, and have a great trip, Nathan!

  30. evilphilip

    "I'm betting Amazon and Apple, etc. will hire professional raters after awhile."

    Amazon has a program in place where they send books to a dedicated group of readers to post early reviews. They call it the Amazon Vine program.

    I'm sure that will expand to eBooks in the future.

  31. Other Lisa

    Bachelor Jake's comment made my brain explode.

  32. Malia Sutton

    "In six days I've earned $4000."

    Joe…just take that a good sign and keep running with it. You're doing something right!!

  33. Malia Sutton

    Joe…I checked your amazon ranking. You're #1 in kindle, which is not easy to do. Congrats to you!!!

  34. Jill Elizabeth

    What bad luck–this is probably the worst week you could be here in NYC, in terms of weather. Almost as disappointing as the USA-Ghana outcome.

  35. Dara

    I'm happy that the eReaders are finally dropping to a more reasonable price range 🙂 By my birthday in November, maybe they will drop even more and I can get one.

  36. Jenn Kelly

    Stephanie Meyer: I wonder if she would be complaining of burn-out if her books hadn't done so well. Perhaps someone needs a dab of humility. She could have chosen her words a bit more carefully. Perhaps just saying that she needed some head space to think of new ideas.

  37. Terin Tashi Miller

    Nathan: hotest/most humid day yet here for some time. To cool off, I recommend Havana Central, airconditioned home of great Mojitos (including a piece of sugarcane), between 6th & 7th on 46th (incase, by any chance, you're near Simon & Schuster/Scribner's)

  38. clindsay

    Aw, dude, you picked the WORST time to visit NYC. It's ridiculously hot for some reason. Stay cool!!!

  39. Terin Tashi Miller

    OK. Saw the headline. Was in the check-out line getting milk. Really.

    In "The Star," Vienna apparently "tells all"…"Jake Was A Monster!"

    Look what you've done to people trying to get caught committing "literature"!

  40. Nona

    justin, the wrestler, walking away from (omg, i forgot her name . . . she has such a whiney nasal voice, and she mumbles) kind of reaffirmed my distrust of men. and then the voiceover of him obsessively calling his old girlfriend just the night beofore — with subtitles, no less. NIGHTMARE!


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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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