This Week in Publishing 8/27/10

by | Aug 27, 2010 | Uncategorized | 54 comments

Thissssssssss Weeeeeeek… InPublishing

Page Critique Friday is alive and well!! It’s happening over in the Forums. You do not need to register in the Forums to check out the Page Critique thread, but you will have to register if you’d like to leave a comment. To register, just click here and it should be quite self-explanatory. Other than that it’s the same as before, so stop on by. UPDATE: My critique is posted here.

Lots and lots of news this week, so let’s get started.

First up, the most comprehensive review I have ever seen about the relative environmental benefits of e-books vs. paper books was published by Slate’s The Green Lantern. The winner? E-books on every count, provided you read more than 18 books on an iPad and 23 books on a Kindle. Even on chemicals/metals, often cited as a problem with e-readers, the Green Lantern judged the side-effects of producing ink more harmful than the metals that go into e-readers. Worth a read.

Random House and agent Andrew Wylie have settled their standoff over the rights to backlist e-book titles that Wylie had announced would be exclusively published by Amazon. In the end, Random House and Wylie came to terms, and the e-books will be published by Random House after all. Word this morning is that Wylie and Penguin are negotiating as well. Bloomsbury publisher Peter Ginna has a great analysis of some of the implications. While early reports tended to characterize this as a “win” for Random House, Ginna points out that it really depends on the deal that was struck (and the ones yet to be struck).

In further e-book news, PWxyz spotted a good explanation from Wired about the economics of e-book pricing, another e-book domino has fallen as Laura Lippman’s brand new bestseller is selling more e-books than hardcovers, there’s a color e-reader called the Literati coming, the Wall Street Journal took a look at the reading habits of e-book readers (hint: they read more), Seth Godin made some publishing waves as he said in an interview that he will no longer publish the traditional way (citing the frustration of the long wait and filters of traditional publishing), and oh yeah, the NY Times had an article about digital devices and learning and attention spans but I’ve already ohmigod how awesome was Project Runway last night????

And yeah yeah news news, what about e-books and author revenue? Well, Mike Shatzkin has a really great post explaining how the royalty math breaks down (with helpful charts!) based on different formats and models.

And finally in e-book news, the NYTimes’ David Pogue reviewed the new Kindle and came away a fan, calling it “ingeniously designed to be everything the iPad will never be: small, light and inexpensive.”

The Franzen/Picoult/Weiner, um, well, not sure what to call it, but anyway, that discussion has kept right on going this week. Writing on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog, new Paris Review editor Lorin Stein defended literary fiction against “fake populism,” and argues that formulas are death in literary fiction. In an interview in the Huffington Post, Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner continued their broadside against what they see as a culture of snobbery and favoritism toward white male Brooklynites, and attacked Stein as well. Laura Lippman also tackled the question, bringing some facts to the table and noting that considering how much more women read fiction than men, “All fiction is women’s fiction.” And there you have it.

Meanwhile, Salon profiled author Tao Lin and wonders if he is the future of literary fiction, or at least whether he embodies the future role of the literary author. He trespasses in bookstores, is featured in Gawker, sells shares in his books, holds experimental contests, and writes books as well. Is this marketing, a side-effect of the Internet age, crass commercialism, literary performance art, all of the above? (via The Millions)

Eric at Pimp My Novel had some great posts this week, one that delves into the situation at Barnes & Noble, and another that gives some insight into some reasons why the practice of returnable books still persists in the modern book world.

With NaNoWriMo just a few months away, Ian T. Healy has some ideas on expanding it: agents should take on ten clients in November, (NaNoSignMo), publishers should acquire ten books in November (NaNoBuyMo), and readers should buy and read five books in November (NaNoReadMo). Great ideas, but I think I’m going to be taking a break during my Thanksgiving weekend and participating in NaNoSleepMo.

This week in the Forums, did I mention Page Critique Friday?, is “the call” really a call, how you choose a book, discussing MOCKINGJAY (with spoilers), teenagers writing, and don’t forget about the feedback forums if you’d like some help with a query, synopsis, or excerpt. Just remember to give some feedback before you take some feedback.

Comment! of! the! Week! There were lots of really great and thoughtful comments this week, but I thought I’d choose two from the post about children’s literature and violence. What’s interesting about these comments is that they are both by people living in South African, and yet it illustrates how differently we humans cope with and react to violence. Fiona Ingram worries about the effects violent stories have on young people, while Misha notes that it’s almost always hatred, not stories, that breed the worst violence and puts the onus on parents.

And finally, my client Lisa Brackmann, (who by the way had a really great post on how life-changing and disorienting it is to have a book come out coupled with the pressure of the second book), sent me this utterly mesmerizing video that I most definitely had to share.

I give you….. Bunny Show Jumping:

Have a great weekend!


  1. Sheila Cull

    Great. You had to throw in the environmental benefits of e-books. Now I'll have to get used to reading them.

    Nathan, you don't have a cat do you?

  2. K. M. Walton

    That ereader with color has piqued my interest. I am solid with my physical book love but my interest has been piqued nonetheless.

  3. Kathryn

    Dude, you can train bunnies? Sorry, I was going to say something about your post, but now my life has changed. I love that guy's "YES!" reaction after that black bunny made it over that tall obstacle! Go bunny go!

  4. Sheila Cull

    Even though people waste trees and paper in a million other ways.

    But since you brought it up, I've gotta re think it.

  5. swampfox

    Hatred breeds violence.
    Where's that hardcopy of my synopsis? Don't want to wreck my computer!

  6. Emily White


    There was an article on Yahoo this morning that I think might have gotten a rise out of you. I wish I had kept the link, but I was a tad too disgusted at the time to think of it.

    The article included the top ten reasons people should not buy ereaders. One of the reasons being that ebooks are severely overpriced considering how much cheaper they are to produce as opposed to paperbacks. Another reason was because you can download classics for free without an ereader, and classics are better than most of the stuff coming out today anyway.

    Let's just say the article did not convince me to not go out and buy that kindle I've been wanting.

  7. Kristan

    I think both Comment of the Week links currently go to Fiona…

  8. Anita Saxena

    I like seeing all these positive links about e-books. Back in the day, I was against e-readers and e-books because I couldn't conceive of giving up paper. I don't know what it is exactly, but ever since I've gotten my e-reader, I've been reading more than ever.

  9. Anonymous

    I wonder if the people buying ereaders also drive gas-guzzling SUVs–a bigger threat to the environment than books. Books can be recycled, passed on to friends, sold in church or library book sales, sent to other countries where people need books etc etc. So, sorry, I'm not convinced–and yes, I'm a tree hugger.

  10. gbeaverson

    Although you blogged about so many important things, it's the bunny-jumping that I'm responding to. Bunnies are a whole lot smarter than most people think and are skilled at more than simple jumping. My mini-lop, Madison, could jump straight into the air about three feet from a dead halt, turn 180 degrees midair, and take off like a cheetah. And yes, Project Runway was great last night. You may now resume your regular program.

  11. Nina

    I never really liked rabbits untill now. That was cute!

    I still haven't got round to even purcasing an ipod/touch/pad – but I just might consider it now.

  12. Ishta Mercurio

    Holy WOW, Nathan! There are, like, a bajillion links here! How do you have time to read all this stuff, on top of your job, your life, and reading for fun?

    I'll probably look at the links about e-readers, but I kind of feel done with the conversation. They're happening; my books will probably one day be available on them; I'll avoid them for as long as humanly possible, because it's just not my chosen format; all of this is fine.

    I'm very interested in the articles about Wylie, and in Shatzkin's post. I'll check in later with my opinions on Tao Lin once I've read the articles.

    Thanks for this post!

  13. tnt-tek

    Not sure why the Franzen stuff has novelists trying to eat their own. Why bust on the guy for doing something no novelist has done in a decade. The author in general is becoming slighted, the hate's not just reserved for commercial writers. Be glad for the guy, when a book is in the news, it brings people to the bookstore…

  14. Sierra McConnell

    I'm sure I had something intelligent to say but I must sum it up in one word:


  15. Dave F.


    New Thriller Sells More E-Books Than Hardcovers
    By Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, August 26, 2010

    Weeks after said that it is now selling more electronic books than hardcovers, a leading book publisher said one of its prominent new titles is generating greater e-book unit sales than hardcover unit sales during its first week on sale.

    Laura Lippman’s thriller, “I’d Know You Anywhere,” went on sale Aug. 17, and in its first five days sold 4,739 e-books and 4,000 physical hardcovers, said News Corp.’s HarperCollins Publishers.

    “This is the first book of ours of any consequence that has sold more e-books than hardcovers in the first week,” said Frank Albanese, a senior vice president at HarperCollins. “What we’re seeing now is that if a book gets a good review, it gets a faster lift on the digital side than it does on the physical side because people who have e-readers can buy and read it immediately.”

    Ms. Lippman, who has written more than a dozen books, is well-known in mystery circles and has authored four novels that have hit the national best-seller lists.

    In recent weeks, a number of leading publishers have indicated that e-books today account for about 8% of total revenue, up from 3% to 5% in the same period a year ago. Some expect that e-books will account for as much as 20-25% by the end of 2012.

    Ms. Lippman’s novel was published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.

  16. A Paperback Writer

    I had no clue that such a thing as a rabbit leash existed. Thank you, Nathan, for expanding my bank of knowledge today.
    Now I'm wondering how much bunny poop is on the floor of that place, as rabbits generally leave little pellets behind when they bounce…..

  17. Kristin Laughtin

    I'm so glad finally someone did a comprehensive environmental impact review of ebooks vs. paper! I'd seen speculation before, so this is nice to have (even if I was a bit scared to read it at first because I didn't want to see how much either process probably wrecks the environment…) Post over, I'm happy since I'll probably get an e-reader as soon as I can afford one.

    (And to address Anonymous, gas-guzzlers disgust me and I don't plan to every purchase or drive one. And print won't go extinct for a long time, so all the things you described will still be doable, and I'm fairly sure e-books will eventually be loanable. We library-types are arguing constantly for that, anyway…)

    Just kidding, I read the rest of the post. I loved the royalty breakdowns and am also intrigued by the Literati. (Oooh, comes with 150 e-books?)

  18. Anonymous

    I've nothing against e-readers or e-books (though don't use them, yet). But I have the wishful hope that children's books will always be books.

    Watching my young baby learn to turn the pages of the hard cardboard, seeing his delight when we pull out oversized books (sometimes bigger than him!) with colorful illustrations that he can touch and lift-the-flap books he can manipulate. Pure joy to watch and he learns so much from the tactile experience as well as from looking at the pictures and helping 'read' the words.

    I hope all generations can experience that. Pictures on a screen, while neat, just don't seem the same in this case.

  19. Dave F.

    Sorry, I missed the link.
    I was juggling plumbers, landscapers and tree removal people. It's all their fault. Blame it on them.

  20. Marilyn Peake

    It's wonderful that you'll be doing Page Critique Fridays! And lots of great links to check out. I’ve been following many of those stories online – interesting stuff. Have a great weekend!

  21. Other Lisa

    So does anyone know if the Literati is e-Ink, or…?

    Not that I still don't have me some major iPad lust, but I'm liking the idea of a single-purpose, really light and portable eReader, and the backlighting, like on my iPhone, yeah, not easy on my eyes.

  22. Dan

    I do not dig Tao Lin at all. He is one of those authors who tries to appear to be exploring big themes by writing about nothing (and writing poorly).

    If you ask me, a vast emptiness is not primarily vast; it is primarily empty.

    This dude is a virtuoso of self-promotion, but he hasn't got the goods to back it up. I'd bet the people who bought shares of his book won't get their money back

  23. Nathan Bransford


    Pretty sure it's LED. There are also some rumors that Apple could announce a smaller iPad in September.

  24. Other Lisa

    Good thing I'm not ready to buy yet!

  25. ryan field

    Great piece on e-books.

    First time I've ever seen a rabbit on a leash.

  26. Candy

    My daughter wants a Kindle, I'm too technology challenged to want one or an ereader. Somehow I don't think they would be good for reading in the bathtub.

  27. Nathan Bransford

    And holy cow, Amazon needs to do some serious bathtub outreach. That is one persistent misconception.

  28. Jeff S Fischer

    Batteries in the bathtub, man, let me tell ya, that don't work. I'm about to give up.

  29. Nathan Bransford


    Wait – how does that not work if the Kindle (and battery) stays completely dry in a bag?

  30. Mira

    nanosleepmo – ha, ha, ha. You're funny.

    So, the discussion this week has tuckered me out (a discussion you handled so beautifully, imho, Nathan.) And here I see you have out-done the out-doing of the out-diding of yourself on links this week. Uh oh.

    I can see I'll need to prepare to comment on the links. Some finger push-ups. Nutritious meals and plenty of sleep. Manicure and pedicure. Deep muscle massage. Weekend trip to a full appointment spa. It will be a rigorous training routine, but anything for the team.

    Before I go though, I have something extremely important to say: I want a bunny!!!! OMG, so cute, cute, cute, cute, cute.

    Btw, Nathan, this was the week you were on the panel, right? I was so distracted by the topic on Wed., I forgot to ask! I hope it went really well, and I hope you blog about it, if you want.

    Back to comment on the links – have a fun weekend, everyone!

  31. Dan

    At one of the trade shows, Amazon had an aquarium, and they were dropping Kindles in waterproof cases into the water.

    I think the possibility of losing or breaking a device that still costs a lot more than a book and can access your credit card information is problematic, but the beach/bathtub issue is not a huge issue for dedicated e-readers, though the poor performance of the iPad's backlit LCD in sunlight is a serious drawback.

  32. Jeff S Fischer

    Nathan, I'm sorry, that was a Friday about three sheets to the wind joke about writer suicide. I'm old, and I have a bad sense of humor. E-book? You can't even kill yourself with it. I guess that's one for those guys they have locked in a room figuring the safety angle of e-books. And an example of a writer thinking everyone can see the interior of his mind and therefore not making writer-sense, and other such things. Love ya! Read ya next week!

  33. Sheila Cull

    I like what Jeff Fischer said about him being old and not having a sense of humor. Like aging and a dwindling sense of humor go hand in hand. Hey! We're all getting older everyday! That's not true, is it?

    Your post made me smile Jeff Fischer.

  34. katelacy

    The debate over e-books seems to have run out of steam. They came, we saw, they may conquer. So? Like TV their accessibility and convenience is irrefutable; why keep hammering on the subject? When TV became popular, especially with good news reports (once upon a time) newspapers were supposed to die and somehow they survived. Our times are achanging, that's all. Something's got to go now and then or we'd still be buttoning our shoes.

    Surely debating the production of ink is beyond time and energy. What's next? What's new? What's going on with cross readers and cross genre books? Let's get back to enjoying our stories and not be doomsday naysayers about the efforts of getting them written and read. If one wants to post and let it be downloaded, go ahead.

    I'll hang onto paper copies awhile, awhile.

  35. Anonymous

    What I want to know, is this:

    If I buy four e-readers (a personal one for every member of my family and one for the family "library.")

    If I buy an e-book, can I download it on all of my family e-readers or do I have to buy it four times?

    (I know, we could trade e-readers, but I like the idea of having my own and my kid wouldn't take as good of care of hers and my husband's would smell like his peanut butter sandwiches…)

  36. Nathan Bransford


    It depends on which e-reader you go with, but Amazon allows you to share across (I think) six devices with one account. I share one with my wife and we have no problem reading each other's books – she reads on her iPhone and I read on either my iPhone or iPad (and used to read on my Kindle).

    I think with Apple it's five but I'm not positive, and B&N has a lend-me feature where you can lend one of your books so someone else with a nook.

  37. Anonymous

    Wow, that's sooo cool.
    I am thinking how my daughter and I often want to read the same book at the same time and one of us has to wait.
    And for being out of town, how cool.
    I have been pretty possessive about books leaving my library (and getting lost or mistreated).
    My husband wouldn't have to wait for me to come back from Argentina (as an example) to read the book I took with me. Cool.
    I am starting to think Christmas.
    The Kindle 3 sounds like it's about to sell itself.
    Thanks for answering.
    (The e-reader people should pay you a commission, Nathan.)

  38. Anonymous

    Can you tell me how you can write or take notes on a Kindle 3 too?

  39. Nathan Bransford


    There was note-taking on the old Kindle, so I assume that's been carried through.

  40. Sheila Cull

    I agree that you shoud get a commission Nathan. For the environment, anybody with a heart will make the switch. But, one thing. We readers, that like paper books, are the ones that read instead of, say, going shopping and wasting bags which is worse for the environment. We readers are filling are minds, not wasting away in front of the television, which could ultimately be worse for the environment.

    There have always been books; the health of the environment has been compromised in far worse damaging ways. So we readers have to adapt. Hmmm. Well, okay. If it's for the environment.

  41. Claire Dawn

    WEll, if I wasn't always so busy with Nanowrimo, I'd love to take part in Nanoreadmo. Well, I read 6 books this month, so I guess I'm golden.

  42. Mira

    So, I meditated in an ashram in India. I hiked the mountains of Tibet. I walked on hot coals in the place where you walk on hot coals. All in perparation to respond to Nathan's awesome assortment of links.

    I am ready.

    (I am also lying. I did none of those things, but I did take an extra long nap on Sunday, which I figure is in the same ballpark.)

    First up, Page Critique Friday. Cool. I noticed that people are getting into it on the Forums. Maybe it feels safer or more intimate. And your critique was terrific, as it always is, Nathan.

    So, e-books. Yay! I have had the Kindle app for about 3 weeks, and in that time, I've bought twelve books. I'll probably have bought eighteen by tonight, which means two things:
    a. I will have saved the enviroment, and
    b. I'm going to be broke by the end of August.

    I love e-books.

    I KNEW Wylie wasn't ready to put Random House under such a strain, at least not yet. I figured he was just holding out for more money. But….I think the key phrase here is….not yet. He's a sharp cookie. I liked Ginna's article alot.

    I also like the article about digital devices. That was interesting that looking at funny cat videos wouldn't really rest your mind. But did we really rest our minds that before digital devices anyway? I think we just looked at real cats.

    I have no clue what Mike S.'s royalty graph means. What's a trade? What's a wholesale? Why all the complicated jargon? I can't figure it out, so I'm still going on the assumption that if I make 70% royalties on e-books, I make more money that way.

    You know, in the article defending literary fiction, it seems like she is giving some authors a hard time for 'selling out.' Why is the idea that authors want to make money too ignored and/or discounted as not important?

    Woo hoo! Finally. I'm so glad some women are challenging the male bias in publishing. Yes! I have no actual statistics that it's happening, but OF COURSE IT'S HAPPENING.

    Saying all fiction is women's fiction, however….well….maybe there's a way to get more men to read. I wonder if e-books will work better for men.

    I don't know. This Barnes and Noble thing seems all distracted by the power struggle, but I sort of feel like the main point is that the bookstore is in trouble.

    I can't get the link for Tao Lin to work, but that would be a great discussion.

    I definitely think that agents should take on 10 clients each November. Soon, we'll all be represented. I see absolutely no downside to that scenario. I also like the idea of NaNoReadMo.

    Good comments of the week – that was a really interesting discussion on Thursday. I found the article by Lisa to be rather touching, actually.

    Okay, I'm done. Once again, I have foiled you, Nathan, in your attempt to out-link me. Ha! I am triumphant! I am the Victor! I am the friday-long-post King! I am also going to take a nap.

    Hope everyone is having a happy Monday! Thanks for the great links, Nathan.

  43. Juice in LA

    "environmental benefits of e-books vs. paper books was published by Slate's The Green Lantern. The winner? E-books on every count, provided you read more than 18 books on an iPad and 23 books on a Kindle."

    Wow- this is great info, but it makes me sad. I like my paper books. I don't think I can ever give them up.

  44. lena-writes

    I don't think it's either paper or ebook… I like to think it's simply more books with more options. I love my paperbacks. I love hardcovers. I also am coming to love my ebooks.

    Side note: reading on an iPad is a wonderful experience. Very cool! I hear tell there are rumors of a 7-inch version of the iPad due to come out perhaps by year's end?

    And, finally, after a bit of snooping around online, I'm going to predict an upswing in the popularity of tablet devices like the Cruz. I'm already thinking it would make a great gift for my mom. She can read ebooks on it. She can also check her email & FB, and browse the internet, in color, and the price point is right in line with a dedicated ereader. Granted there's a backlit screen, which means glare and eye-irradiation, like any computer screen, and that is a downside, but I think multifunctionality may eventually win out.

  45. Tamara Narayan

    My four-year-old goes bonkers over bunnies. She will love this video. Thanks!

  46. Anonymous

    Hi, I want to ask a question…and have no idea where to ask it (forgive me).
    Started writing a novel. Not sure if it is absolute crap…about 25,000 words in. What is your take on getting someone to read it "so far"? Some people say no, keep writing, having someone read it will catch you off your "track". But then I wonder if these hours are a waste, I don't want to be foolish. i know it is ulitmately practice, and that is good. But, still..thoughts?

  47. Kate Mack

    I might never got a book published but I may just get into bunny show jumping. Thanks.

    @ Anon- I am no expert but from the people I have talked to regarding feedback- it's all up to you. Some writers like to get feedback from the beginning via a critique group and others write the entire first draft before asking someone else to read it. So it's up to you! (I personally am in the latter group except for two v. close friends) You may want to also post this question in the forums in order to get more opinions.

  48. Gretchen

    Well, another enlightening post that will take me a week to get through all the links. Thanks for taking the time to assemble it all.

    And here I was ready to be all snarky about the bunny video, but you really know your bunny videos. I have to say I'm impressed. That was some spectacular bunny show jumping.

    And btw in case you were wondering I'm not her.


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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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