This Week in Publishing 8/20/10

by | Aug 20, 2010 | Uncategorized | 78 comments

Lots of links! Let’s get to them.

There were a few controversies this week in publishing. Firstly, if you have ever attended a conference with the fabulous YA Author Ellen Hopkins, you know that in addition to being a brilliant writer and storyteller she’s also a terrific, honest, and inspiring speaker and devotes a huge amount of time to mentoring up-and-coming writers. So it was very distressing to hear that she was dis-invited from the Teen Lit Fest in Humble, Texas, due to a librarian’s complaint. In the wake of the news about Hopkins, several additional writers subsequently withdrew from the event in protest.

Secondly, bestselling author Jody Picoult made some waves this week when she accused the NY Times Book Review of a white male literary fiction bias in the wake of Michiko Kakutani’s rave about Jonathan Franzen’s upcoming novel FREEDOM. While I leave it to you the reader to agree or disagree with this characterization of the NYTBR, PWxyz’s Jonathan Segura recalled the Kakutani/Franzen spat of 2008: After Kakutani slammed Franzen’s memoir THE DISCOMFORT ZONE, calling it, “an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass: petulant, pompous, obsessive, selfish and overwhelmingly self-absorbed,” Franzen shot back, calling Kakutani “The stupidest person in New York City.”

And in further controversy (or is it?), industry sage Mike Shatzkin wrote a post that characterized print books, as “On a path to oblivion.” The crucial takeaway: “Indeed, the insistence by some people that they will “never” give up the printed book — which leads to rather ludicrous glorification of the smell of the paper, ink, and glue and the nonsensical objections that the screen would be unsuitable for the beach (depends on the screen) or the bathtub (I can’t even imagine what the presumed advantage of the printed book is there) — must ignore the fundamental dynamic. Print books aren’t getting better. Ebooks are.” No doubt there will be lots of reactions to this article, and we have already been discussing this in the Forums.

In further e-book news, Saundra Mitchell has a thoughtful take on a WSJ Journal article that speculates that ads and product placement could soon come to the e-book world, Apartment Therapy Unplggd surveyed the different e-reader apps on the iPad, and two new iPad-esque tablets seem to be on the horizon: one from Google (link via PubLunch) and one from HP.

Ever wonder if editors (or agents) have second thoughts after passing on projects? Well, of course we do. This week veteran editor Reagan Arthur wrote a very candid post about how she passed on Alexa Stevenson’s memoir HALF BAKED, which was recently published by Running Press, but ultimately trusts that it found the right home. (via Dystel & Goderich)

In financial book news, Forbes released its list of the Top 10 Author Earnings in the last year (James Patterson coming in first with a cool $70 million), a new academic paper claims to be able to predict box office revenue through an analysis of the script (most important variables: the genre, how conflict builds, whether conflict is multidimensional), the Millions surveys Time Magazine’s choice of authors on the covers from way back when, and B&N CEO Len Riggio bought a million more shares of the company.

And in writing advice news, my client Natalie Whipple has an awesome and inspiring post that uses the Japanese snack umeboshi as a metaphor, my client Jennifer Hubbard has a terrific take on the author/agent relationship, Tahereh has a hilarious interview with Eric from Pimp My Novel, and guest posting on PMN, Henriette Lazaridis Power surveys some great first lines and the different approaches the authors took.

This week in the Forums, the care and feeding of an introvert, does agenting need to evolve?, unagented author websites, just a few more days until MOCKINGJAY, and do you like or dislike thinking of titles?

Comment! Of! The! Week! Goes! To…. There were some really great ideas and responses to the post on what you would do if you were King/Queen of the publishing industry (some more practical than others), but I especially enjoyed Mark Terry’s suggestion of publishers creating a rival to Amazon called His comment is definitely worth reading in full because he has some very interesting ideas.

And finally, this is one of the most hilarious and effective political ads I’ve ever seen, in support of a bill in the California state legislature that would do as San Francisco has already done and eliminate plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies. I give you: a nature video on the life cycle of a plastic bag, narrated by Jeremy Irons (via @TravelForGood):

Have a great weekend!


  1. Nathan Bransford

    Apologies for the typos if your feed reader caught them. I hit publish instead of preview and then had to quickly try to to correct all my typos!

  2. Emily White

    Ahahaha! "One of nature's most deadly creatures: the teacup yorkie."

    That is really such a shame about Ellen Hopkins. It's a sad thing when people make decisions (especially censorship) without even taking the time to gather information themselves. I'm glad she's being so supported by other authors.

  3. T. Anne

    I'm glad that plastic bag found its way home safely. I plan on releasing a couple into the wild later today. Just doing my part.

  4. Claudia Putnam

    AWESOME on the slugfest between Franzen et al! 😀 I do think the elevation of him as "most important" is a little white-male-y, though. ALso a little Franzen-y. Someone tell me the diff bet Franzen and Rick Moody. (I like them both; just wondering.)

  5. Claudia Putnam

    I should add to my white-male-y comment that I don't mean the NYT so much as TIME's profile and also the Guardian referring to Franzen as the most important writer of his generation and then listing out his peers as Lethem, Chabon, Foster Wallace, and one other male, I forget who… it might have been Diaz… if so, then I retract the white part. 😀

  6. Kate

    On the print book issue: I recently bought the Kindle version of a new book, read it, loved it. LOVED IT. Now, I really, really wish I'd bought the print version. I want to carry it around with me wherever I go and have people say ooh, what's that about and I tell them and then they go buy it. However, I cannot bring myself to shell out another $25 on top of the $12 I already paid for the e-version.

    I wonder how the ereader situation will change this kind of organic book marketing, you know? If people will be less inclined to engage strangers about books if everyone's carrying an electronic device? Maybe that will change over time, but for the present, at least, it seems like people want to talk about the device itself and not the content. I've met so many great people with conversations that started with: Is that a good book? What's it about? Or, I love that book…have you read X? And, discovered so many great books that way.

  7. Mark Terry

    Ooooh! Another line item for my resume!!!

    Oh. And damn. Missed the top 10 author money list yet another. Well, maybe next year.

  8. Fawn Neun

    @Mark Terry – you've got some fantastic ideas, maybe you should find a way to facilitate this venture. 😉

  9. SB

    Your quote from the Shatzkin article (the "rather ludicrous glorification of the smell of the paper, ink, and glue") struck me as even more ludicrous given something that occurred to me earlier this week.

    I was driving up the east coast from Florida to D.C. and passed at least three paper mills — I know this because I could smell them through the car's closed windows. It is a scent reminiscent of burning tires, nail polish remover and rotten eggs. This scent plagues entire communities that are downwind of such plants, not to mention the sickening effects of living near the particulate air pollution caused by the milling process.

    As a writer, I was saddened. I asked myself, "Do I really want to write books when the publishing process requires the existence of plants like these?"

    As a technologist and scientist, I know that other products can cause just as much pollution, and that environmentally-informed consumption really just requires choosing the lesser of many evils.

    But as a serious e-book devotee, I was comforted by the fact that I am able to buy e-books, supporting the book industry without supporting the paper industry.

    In the future, I will suggest to anyone who tells me that "real" books are better simply because of their scent to spend a day next to a paper mill. After that, the scent of all that paper might just make them ill.

  10. Nathan Bransford


    That's true, I'd never thought about that. It's amazing how paper can smell good and paper mills so unbelievably badly.

  11. Mark Terry

    On the other hand, we mine a lot of heavy metals (or rather, miserable people in even more miserable third-world hellholes do) or strip the metals from garbage heaps for the metals used in the batteries of e-readers and other devices. It's not clear at all if e-readers are "greener" than books. Probably not.

  12. Nathan Bransford


    I definitely would not say the case for e-readers is overwhelmingly clear cut, but there are quite a few problems with that article. The transportation section doesn't taken into account that books are often printed overseas in Asia, shipped to distribution centers in the US, shipped to bookstores, then a good chunk shipped back to bookstores, then pulped. That article treats transportation as if the book is printed in the bookstore.

  13. Anonymous

    Ellen Hopkins joins Tom Green in being too controversial. Pretty good company.

    I've read John Green. He's amazing (a-man-zing).
    I haven't read Ellen Hopkins. What are the controversies?

  14. Mark Terry

    I think it's an incredibly complicated issue, whether books are greener than e-readers. Well, like most issues when it comes to the environment. But I think there are plenty of reasons (I think) to get an e-reader–I've got a Kindle and my wife has an iPad, and I've got an iPhone and probably will buy an iPad in the next year, although not necessarily as an e-reader–but because it's "greener" than books probably isn't one of them.

  15. A Paperback Writer

    About agents and companies who passed on projects that later became successful…. it's all very well for them to be supportive and such, but I betcha that the other, still unidentified agent and the 11 publishing companies who turned down the then-unknown JK Rowling have been kicking themselves for years.

    It took a couple of decades, but the record company that declined on the Beatles because "guitar groups are on their way out" finally admitted it was the dumbest thing they'd ever done.

  16. Maggie

    I really don't understand why print book lovers are made fun of so viciously, like we're crazed glue-sniffers obsessed with the smell of books. Why can't we like print books? What's the big deal? Ebooks have their place and no one's trying to get rid of them. I'm all about adapting, but I don't think print books should just disappear. I personally NEED to have a book in my hand and carry it around with me and lend it to friends and relatives to read. I've tried reading on a Kindle and it was a frustrating experience for me. If people prefer ebooks, that's great! But some of us don't and never will. Why can't there be room for both?

  17. Other Lisa

    I'm still where I've been on this whole issue for a while. I don't think that Books/eBooks = CDs/MP3s. There is a difference in the actual experience of reading in the former, while there's no difference in how you listen in the latter (well, okay, not totally, because audio quality is worse than it used to be with the latter).

    I think eBooks will grow to become a substantial portion of the book market but that there will still be a greater number of paper books sold, at least for the next couple of decades.

    And I still don't know what eReader I'd like to buy.

  18. SB

    Mark –
    I completely agree that it's hard to decide which is greener. Like I said, trying to consume more eco-consciously is really just trying to pick the lesser evil — not consuming at all is better for the environment, but that's not going to sell us any books.

    But I also don't know anyone who is sticking their nose in an e-reader and telling me that it's better because of its delightful, plasticky scent. 🙂 Arguments like the one you pointed to are much better arguments in support of the whole e-book vs. "real" book debate — I'd be very interested to see a comprehensive review of such studies.

    Maggie –
    Yes, this whole glue-sniffer thing is rather ridiculous. My comment is just that the scent of paper-making makes this argument even more ridiculous. I am totally open to other arguments — the comfort of a real book is definitely one of them — and I agree that even arguing is a tad pointless. Of course there is room for paper and digital books. As long as books are being bought, we should all be happy, right? 🙂

  19. MJR

    I agree with you, Maggie. I find comfort reading printed books–so easy, no hassle, and I do like sharing them with people after I'm read them. I don't understand why e-enthusiasts are so quick to put down people who aren't embracing the eworld wholeheartedly. I use my ereader and sorta like it, esp when I'm stuck in a motel room and need something to read. But I prefer books–just love the whole experience of reading printed books.

  20. Nathan Bransford

    mark and sb-

    No doubt. I do wish there were some more comprehensive studies, because it's an important issue.


    I actually think there's hostility on both sides (inasmuch as there even ARE sides). I mean, look at this post from the Seattle Post Intelligencer in response to Shatzkin's article. This person says Shatzkin doesn't know what he's talking about, then goes on to say a bunch of wildly inaccurate things, like if you lose an e-reader you lose every e-book you've ever bought (not true at all – every e-book company I've bought from has stored my purchases and with Amazon and iBooks you can download them across devices.)

    I can't speak for Shatzkin, but every time I post about e-books the same arguments keep coming up: smell, bathtub, I'll go blind. At some point I do start feeling a little frustrated, like, look, reading in the bathtub isn't going to stop this change! We need to be ready!

    Of course on the individual level it's totally fine for people to prefer paper books and there's no reason anyone should be rude to one another. I want bookstores to succeed, I don't think it has to be either/or, I like paper books too. It's not that I look down on people who read print books, but if I had a nickle for every person who told me they would never read an e-book and now has an e-reader I'd already be a rich man. I know it's not for everyone, but to a certain extent I don't think people yet realize the extent to which their own habits will inevitably (yes inevitably) change.

  21. Sarah W

    Not to bring down the seriousness of the debates in this comment thread, but I feel the need to applaud this line from the vid:

    " . . .one of nature's most deadly killers, the teacup Yorkie."

    Thank you. That is all.

  22. Melanie

    Just a small point to add to the e-book/paper book discussion:

    Have you ever gone on vacation and stayed a hotel or inn and they had an available library where you could basically take a book and leave a book? I like those. Sure, e-readers can store enough books that you wouldn't NEED to do this just because you finished a novel early, but it's fun to see what people leave behind. Sometimes there are notes and other weird items in them, too.

    Speaking of which, do e-readers have a way of annotating margins?

  23. Nathan Bransford


    Most do, but there are a few that don't (iBooks still doesn't have a notes feature, I'm pretty sure).

  24. Mark Terry

    I personally think the glue-sniffing, feel-of-paper thing is a bit overrated, but I confess to liking books as "objects." That is to say, I like the covers, I like the feelings of the heft, the layout of the print on the page (not so much on the Kindle, that's for sure). I like bookshelves and the look and appeal of books on those shelves. Each book casts a memory and an experience and I don't have that same sort of thing with an e-book.

    So far with the Kindle I buy some e-books and some paper books. Of course, if market pressures push up the price of paper books (I don't see how they can't, actually), I suspect I'll be buying more and more e-books. I still like music CDs and I still like DVDs over just having a video file, too, because they seem more tangible and are even more portable, but the handwriting's probably on the wall (hey!, a new format) for them, too.

  25. Kelly Wittmann

    Thanks for the links, as always. I don't agree with Picoult, but even if her assertion were true, I don't know why she'd care. If you've chosen to be a commercial writer– well, then, success is measured by sales and by what the public thinks, not by what the critics write. So, clearly she has succeeded. Why even bother herself with this?

  26. Mira

    Oh boy! Look at all the wonderful links. You outdid yourself outdoing yourself last week, Nathan.

    Fun, fun, fun.

    I'll come back and comment after I've READ them. But I did want to weigh in on the conservation issue. Although I suspect neither is good for the environment, I do think e-books win. One reason for that is sheer volume. I will only buy one I-phone, probably every five years or so. I've bought….what hundreds? A thousand? books over my lifetime.

    On another note, I couldn't help bu notice that Mark Terry got Comment of the Week and not me. I totally agree he made a great comment and he said tons of things I agree with.

    But it made me ponder. Why? Why didn't one of my ten comments on Wednesday alone win? (Epecially the one about my profile picture). What am I missing here? I scratched my head and then it came to me! I realized that, like with most things of this nature, winning comment of the week is a numbers game. If I post often enough, I'm bound to hit on a good comment through sheer statistical probability.

    So, I'm thinking of 25 as a good round starting amount of comments to any post. If I do that daily, that's 150 comments a week. (I'll give Nathan Saturdays off.) Surely, with 150 posts, something in there will be coherent.

    I'll be back to comment more later on the links (was there ever any doubt?)

    Hope everyone has a truly great weekend!

  27. SB

    Mark –
    It's funny — I feel the exact opposite about books. I think we are a good case study for the two sides of this debate. Call me lazy and wimpy, but I seriously dislike the heft of a real book. I love the fact that my Kindle takes up almost no room on the bookshelf (I've gotten rid of most of my bookshelves and those that I have, I simply consider to be "shelves" as there are hardly any books on there). I love that I can read in bed without getting fatigued from holding it open, that I hardly have to move to turn the page, and that, when it's lights-out time, I can read on my iPhone without needing a booklight. I do get attached to my e-books, in that I have my favorite parts of favorite books bookmarked so I can flip to them easily whenever I want. If I want to see the cover, it's either already in the e-book book (in full color on the iPhone), or I look it up online. When I get tired of the layout on Kindle or iPhone, I change the colors or type size. I am seriously in love with e-books. I feel the same way with other file types — hand me a CD or a DVD and I'm already looking for someone to pawn it off on. I'll keep a digital file forever (or as long as the DRM lets me, but that's a whole other issue).

    I HAVE been accused of being a little too much of a techie.

    I appreciate your openness to changing formats because, like Nathan, I think it's an inevitable shift.

    Nathan –
    I hadn't realized how many people who said they'd never read an e-book are now reading e-books — excellent point. I think your take on this is very optimistic: Just because you say you won't change doesn't mean it's true. Why not prepare?

    And, incidentally, I stopped reading in the bathtub when I dozed off and saturated the bottom half of Harry Potter 5. Nothing is safe in there! 🙂

  28. Jeff

    I'm in the Kate and Mark Terry camp. The books I really love I consider objects of art. I love the art work on the cover and often consider this part of the book. Call me old-fashioned. And as Kate mentioned, when I see someone reading a book I try to look at the art work on the cover and figure out what sort of story they are reading. After all the hub-bub of the transition is over, and both are alive and well, it seems the marketing of e-books will be the interesting game.

  29. Mira

    p.s. Nathan, I hope you know that I'm just playing. I don't really care. I just thought for a moment you might get worried I was serious. I promise I won't post 25 times in any particular post.

    24 is my absolute limit.

  30. J. T. Shea

    Jody Picoult vs Michiko Kakutani re Jonathan Frantzen etc.!? And we Bransforumites were complaining recently about unpublished writers being nasty to each other! It seems publishing success does not mellow some people.

    Relating the Ellen Hopkins and Mike Shatzkin links presents another powerful argument against E-books. You can't burn them! You could burn the aptly-named Kindle, and I-Pads and Nooks, but somehow it's not the same. Not to mention 'Smell, bathtub, I'll go blind'.

    In Ireland, you pay extra for plastic bags. That has solved all the country's problems, and Jeremy Irons lives here in a pink castle.

  31. Jeanne

    On the subject of e-Books versus printed paper books: reading large volumes of text on screen makes my eyes hurt; reading a paper-printed book does not.

    Consider the flicker factor–the monitor refreshes itself several times a moment as you look at it, meaning your eyes are refocusing refocusing refocusing refocusing refocusing refocusing refocusing refocusing to keep up with it. It's a tiny movement, but too much of it causes eye strain.

    Since we spend much of our time during work days at a computer terminal, then in front of the TV at night, isn't it nice to know there is at least one form of quiet entertainment that doesn't require yet another monitor?

  32. SB

    I think I am commenting too much on this post, but…

    You are right about staring at LCD monitors, but this is precisely why e-readers such as Kindle and Nook use e-ink. The e-ink displays do not constantly refresh like an LCD monitor and therefore do not cause flicker-related eyestrain (see blog post).

    Like I said before, I'm not anti-paper books. I'm just a big e-book fan trying to stick to the facts. 🙂

  33. Ami

    Hilarious video! You know what else should be eliminated?


    They waste TONS of water, give us unnecessary work on the weekends, and are completely useless.

    Rock lawns ftw!!!

  34. reader

    Re: Franzen's newest novel FREEDOM — NYT book reviewer Michiko Katutani says this:

    "…While “The Corrections” attested to Mr. Franzen’s discovery of his own limber voice and tamed his penchant for sociological pontification, the novel was something of a hybrid in which the author’s satiric instincts and misanthropic view of the world sometimes seemed at odds with his new drive to create fully three-dimensional people. It felt, at times, as if he were self-importantly inflating the symbolic meaning of his characters’ experiences, even as he condescendingly attributed to them every venal quality from hypocrisy and vanity to paranoia and Machiavellian conniving…"

    I've read it three times and still have no clue what it means. I like my reviews in English, please.

    Also, and not that I have to worry about it, but if TIME magazine called me the greatest anything, much less writer, I'd think I'd suffer a nervous breakdown from the expectation. Come to think of it, I wouldn't want to READ anyone who thought he was the greatest writer. I like humble writers. Their books are much more authentic, I think.

  35. Jeff

    Speaking of the plastic bag and human ingenuity, someone recently drew my attention to one of the greatest obstacles to the modern city, if not the biggest obstacle to the modern city. Come-on Manhattans, kick-in! One of the biggest obstacles to the modern city was…Poop! The modern city almost didn't exist for this reason. But humans are very ingenious when their life is on the line. So, now we can brag about the our chic skylines, but what is going on under the ground made it all possible. You gotta love it!

  36. D.G. Hudson

    Read the Ellen Hopkins' posts and I sympathize with her comments and attitude. Small-town censorship is alive and well in the USA — and always has been. Some states are worse than others. It's more an affliction of the small-town protective mentality, than indicative of the USA or any other country. Small minds can proliferate anywhere.

    Also read the Jodi Picoult incident. Interesting but not surprising. Reviews are the OPINIONs of the person writing them. They may or may not be FACT. I can't see that it's to Picoult's benefit to challenge them. But, it's her choice.

    Eric's interview by Tahereh was great. I like his attitude, and he remains respectful of his following. A good blog check out.

    Thanks for the links,Nathan, and the interesting reading. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

  37. Bryan Russell (Ink)

    Well, I'm for paper, but it's the books that matter. I want paper, but if the books I want end up (at some point) only coming out as ebooks, I'll probably get a reader and be happy enough reading. But I still prefer paper.

    And I'm not entirely sure about the inevitability, still. Certainly ebooks will get bigger. But in the near future how much bigger will they get? Yes, I hear stories of people who said they will never take up ebooks and now love them. But for every one of those stories I also hear one about how someone bought an ereader and no longer uses it. They've gone back to paper books, and their ereader is one more gadget sitting on a shelf.

    I hear a lot of both, and it makes me think this really is a shifting demographic. People are adopting and leaving, adopting and keeping, not adopting at all… it's pretty early in the game, really, and so much is speculation and curiosity. People are trying to feel out what's best for them. It's gonna be interesting to see where it all goes. I'm hoping for multiple reading platforms myself — a nice balance where everything is available to everybody in whatever format best suits them.

    I don't ask for much, I know.

  38. Bryan Russell (Ink)

    And the plastic bag video was awesome. Jeremy Irons nailed that.

  39. Anonymous

    I agree, Byran. I have friends who were incredibly excited about reading books on their iphones, but they've mostly gone back to reading printed books. My ereader gathers dust most of the time…I do think there's a lot of hype out there generated by Amazon (for the Kindle), Apple (for the ipad, iphone). Not everyone is going to drink the Kool-Aid…nor should they be compelled to do so.

  40. Ishta Mercurio

    I <3 Jeremy Irons. That video was fabulous.

    Ami: With the exception of a narrow strip of grass between my house and my neighbor's driveway (a concession because we share use of that strip of land), my husband and I have eliminated our front lawn. I spent all of May stripping off the grass, laying landscaping fabric, putting in native plants, and spreading soil and mulch. We have had nothing but compliments from the neighbors. And I didn't have to work out at the gym.

    D.G. Hudson: "It's more an affliction of the small-town protective mentality, than indicative of the USA or any other country."


    Regarding the e-book vs print book debate, I think that there should be room for both. And I hope that the shift toward e-books isn't inevitable; thinking of it as such makes me sad.

    I look at it this way. When an artist paints a picture, they are not just thinking about color and composition and content, which are the two-dimensional elements of a painting. They are also thinking about brush strokes, thickness of the paint, layering, texture… These are three-dimensional elements, and they are lost when a painting is translated to an electronic medium.

    I think of books in a similar way – each book is set in a certain type, printed on specially selected paper, and bound in a certain way, with a cover that may be flat and smooth or have raised lettering or other three-dimensional elements. The cover is designed to look a certain way when positioned spine-outward on a shelf, and to look another way when positioned facing out. A lot of careful thought goes into all of these elements, and they are all lost when a book is translated onto an e-reader.

    We wouldn't malign an art lover for refusing to give up all of his paintings in exchange for bare walls and an e-reader full of flat images. Why denigrate book lovers for feeling similarly about their carefully arranged shelves of beautiful, colorful books?

    Also: I disagree with the idea that e-readers will be a wonderful thing for picture books. I give my children actual physical toy cars and trucks and sticks and blocks and dolls to play with, and I do not think that artificial interactions with an electronic interface is healthy play. Books afford the opportunity to utilize the imagination to picture whatever the words conjure up, and giving children e-picture books that move and dance and do the imagining for them is akin to sticking them in front of the television with subtitles running along the bottom. So in that regard, I hope that the shift to e-books is NOT inevitable.

  41. Matthew Rush

    I have no idea what these controversies are all about, but hate is weak.

  42. Terri Coop

    And then there is this complicating things:

    The Feds, in very heavy-handed fashion, have made it clear that colleges cannot use e-readers for textbooks and cannot distribute any ereader to students that is not completely accessible to the blind.

    The motto is that if blind students can't have Kindles then no one can . . .

  43. Bamboo Grovers

    On the other side of the plastic bags issue…an Australian show, The Gruen Transfer, each week challenges 2 advertising companies to come up with an ad for something really "unsellable." Here is one of the ads created to sell plastic bags.

  44. flibgibbet

    Getting rid of heavy text books sounds like a good thing to me. Kids can now excuse themselves from homework assignments by complaining about battery failure, etc. The dog will no longer have to take the blame.

    I personally have no need for an ereader, but I can see why others love them. For me, reading paper books (fiction mostly) is a non-problem, something I don't need to spend $ to solve. In fact, I want the actual object, one that I can loan out without someone else's permission, one that I can add to my library and enjoy regardless of the newer, better, must-have tech toy.

    I completely understand Picoult's rant. We live in a patriarachy where men still make up most of the rules. And the minority of women who get to participate are still working off of those same male standards as if there's no other paradigm. So good for her.

    Really sad to read about the censorship in Houston, but not surprised. People tend to hide behind "the children" when they have a personal beef with public content.

    Thanks for the links Nathan. Very informative.

  45. Emily Cross

    In ireland they reduced plastic bag usage – not through banning but by charging 22c government levy on each bag! Government makes money and reduces usage 🙂

    seems quite effective!

  46. Lovelyn

    When I lived in Korea they started charging for plastic bags in the stores there too. I think it's a great idea. I think charging for bags may be less controversial than banning them completely. It works for reducing usage.

  47. Chris Eldin

    Thank you for posting the video. One of the best I've ever seen.

  48. Elle Strauss

    Okay, about the plastic bag…do non plastic grocery bag users buy plastic kitchen garbage bags?

    I use my plastic grocery bags for the kitchen garbage, so the way I see it, I'm recycling.

  49. wry wryter

    Okay Nathan so a couple of things I am going to take from your post today are:
    Ellen Hopkins should publish on ecologically sound stone tablets therefore she can pitch them at the superintendent's thick skull,
    regarding the plastic bag issue, how about shopping with the always reuseable shopping tote made form Shatzkin Butt Hide.

    It's a shame I just missed the author top ten earnings list but then again who would want little old self-absorbed, pompous me… oh wait that was last year.
    This year I'm into screenplays, ever heard of Oscar?

  50. Sheila Cull

    I'm busted. What you said about people deciding to never read E books because they're not paper, makes sense.

    Gotta keep my mind open.

  51. Melanie

    Okay, if there's an e-reader with intuitive note-taking capabilities to replicate my margin scrawling… I would bite. Especially if you could keep it all one place on a computer.

  52. Marjorie

    I noticed, at an agent's contest, that there was an entry from a "Marjorie" at 2:38 PM. My entry was from me, Marjorie, at 9:43 PM.

    If you click on the first "Marjorie" to view her profile, you are are taken to a page that shows the name was created this month and the blog has under 10 visits and no listed personal blogs.

    I want to state that I am not that person and I did not create that profile. My comments will always take you to my profile which lists my blogs and over 6,000 visits.

    I do not know if this was coincidence or deliberate… but I do not appreciate it because the same name, Marjorie, makes it appear as if I am the author of the comments or contest entries posted.

    I wanted to post this so in some way I can disassociate from a name that may have been created to impersonate me and may be leaving comments on blogs that appear to have been written by me.

    This is what happens on the internet I suppose, but with this post I have taken some proactive step to clarify what does concern me and make others aware.

  53. Anonymous


  54. Marjorie

    Anon, why the ?

    What don't you understand? There are two "Marjories" out there now posting on the same agents' blogs.

    I am this Marjorie, and when you click on this name you always will be taken to my profile page where my blogs are listed.

    I do not want anybody to think I am the other "Marjorie" with the newly created account, no listed personal blogs, and less than 10 blog visits.

  55. Anonymous


  56. Marjorie

    Anonymous, if this is so difficult for you to understand… E-mail me for the Cliff Notes version.

    I am done explaining it here. I have a cartoon to pump out.

  57. Anonymous


  58. Ishta Mercurio

    Elle: At our house, we use the emptied bags/packaging that we end up with when we buy loaves of bread, apples, potatoes, onions, toilet paper… You'd be surprised how much plastic the average family disposes of when you really stop to look at it.

  59. Nancy

    Anyone who cannot see the value of a paper book over an e-book when reading in the bathtub has clearly never dropped their book in the water. Likewise with beach reading, frankly. Even though I have switched to e-books, I will still buy and check out paperbacks from the library for reading in those "high risk" places. I can afford $5.00 to replace a mass market paperback; I cannot afford $150 to replace my Kindle or $300 to replace my iPhone.

  60. Nancy

    I want to clarify my comments on e-readers. For practical reasons, I have actually made the switch to e-books. I believe most of my book purchases in the future will be done through the Kindle store. However, I still find there are times when only print will do, and it frustrates me when that is completely blown off.

    I know it must get old to hear the same arguments over and over, but that doesn't mean they are invalid. Perhaps if those arguments were acknowledged, we wouldn't feel the need to repeat ourselves. Perhaps if members of the e-book revolution spent as much energy finding an answer to the Bathtub Dilemma as they do mocking those who mention it, the problem would soon be resolved.

    I do believe in e-books; I read them and love them. That doesn't make me blind to their limitations, however.

  61. sooper

    re: e-books vs. print books:

    I'm an orthodox jew and I do most of my reading on saturday when I can't operate any sort of machinery or appliance or what have you. Maybe there aren't many of us but there are certainly people out there who prefer print books for more than just aesthetic/nostolgic reasons. Plus, until I can afford to quit the library,there's no way I'm getting an e-reader.

  62. Nathan Bransford


    What's frustrating is that the bathtub thong has been solved long ago – put a Kindle in a plastic bag. Done. And it still comes up again and again.

  63. Nathan Bransford

    Whoops! Should have read bathtub THING. Pretty funny typo though.

  64. Nancy

    Excellent typo, Nathan. Very apropos.

    That's a solution I hadn't considered. It amuses me that you recommend plastic bags two days after you posted that fantastic video, but I assume you mean a Ziploc bag–something that could be sealed. In that case, vive la'revolution!

  65. J. T. Shea

    Don't mind the Bathtub Thong Dilemma, what about EMP? Electromagnetic pulse. Your new-fangled E-readers and E-books won't survive World War Three! Us paper fans, on the other hand, will still be able to enjoy reading (in between hunting and eating each other and dying of radioactive suppurating sores and the usual post-apocalyptic stuff).

  66. Liz

    LOVE the Plastic Bag mockumentary! I have watched Planet Earth and Blue Planet so many times with my kids that I have a special appreciation of the genre.

  67. JaimeLoren

    Man, the whole 'ridding the world of plastic bags' thing sounds good in theory, but we've been banned from using them here in South Australia, and let me tell you it sucks. Not only do you have to add a new room onto your house to store the new 'environmentally friendly' bags, but you also have to remember to TAKE them with you to the shops so that you don't have to keep buying MORE 'environmentally friendly' bags (hence the addition of the new room).

    Also, the new 'environmentally friendly' bags are not so environmentally friendly. It takes longer for them to break down than plastic bags.

    As someone who owns two dogs, plastic bags are sorely missed in our household.

  68. Nathan Bransford


    Here in San Francisco stores just use paper bags, which we then re-use to hold the recycling. They're also compostable. So if you forget the re-usable bags you don't have to buy more. It's really not that big of an inconvenience, if at all, considering that collectively San Francisco is saving 180 million plastic bags a year from landfills/ocean.

  69. Mira

    I am quite aware, Mr. Bransford, that you are trying to out-link me. You believe that if you place oodles and oodles of wonderful links within one post, I shall fail in my ablility to comment on them all. It is a diabolical plan – but ha! Ha, I say. You gravely underestimate my ability to ramble, Mr. Bransford.

    It may have taken me until today to READ all the links, but I shall now commence to comment upon each and every one of them.

    First up: Censorship. Censorship is bad. Seriously. You may have the right to guide the reading of your own children, but you do not have the right to control the reading of mine. So good for those who boycotted the conference that banned Ellen Hopkins.

    I haven't studied the printing habits of the NYTBR, but I did notice she accused them not only of giving favorable reviews to white males, but giving them more review space in general. My educated opinion is this – of course there's a white male bias. Where isn't there? Besides, like all ethical issues within publishing, publishing is notable for having almost no accountability and/or sanctions when it comes to both covert and overt discrimination. I also noticed that the Time Magazine covers were – (wait for it) – almost all white men.

    Mike Sh. is right on the money about how e-readers are getting better and paperbooks are standing still. I loved what Saundra Mitchell said about ad placement: that integrated product placement should be extremely expensive and acceptable to the author. Yes!

    So, I have this new idea about helping agents not overlook bestsellers. I think literary agencies should get organized. They should find out what agent has an eye for what type of writing, and that agent only represents that genre. All YA queries get sent to Carol, who represents YA, and all Literary queries get sent to Tom, etc. Doesn't that sound organized and efficient? I thought so, too.

    James Patterson makes alot of money. Know what else James Patterson does? Advertise on T.V.

    Oooo. Research. I get to critique research!! Here we go: The movie research looks interesting, but it appears to leave out some important variables like cultural context and economic factors.

    I'd better hurry if I'm going to buy Barnes and Noble. I still only have 44 dollars. I wonder if they'd accept barter? I'd be willing to critique some research for them – I'm good at that.

    Cute article by Natalie Whipple. Tahareh asks the BEST interview questions I've ever seen. Eric is charming and funny, even if he is wrong about the self-publishing thing; I disagree with him every time on that! Good article by Jennifer Hubbard, except I don't agree. I think agents should be at their writer's beck and call night and day to meet every little whim that passes through their client's mind. I think the reasons for that speak for themselves. Every book I write will have the same first line: "If you don't keep reading this book, your hair will fall out." That should keep them reading.

    Funny and quite pointed video. I like the English accent. Adds just the right touch.

    Ha! I'm done. It may be too late – you might have posted Monday's post as I write – no one may read this – but it's the principle of the thing. I shall not be out-linked!

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

  70. J. T. Shea

    Mira, don't read all Nathan's links. Just PRETEND you did.

    White men on Time covers? Like Hitler and Stalin? Not necessarily an honor. And I'm a white man, but I've never been on the cover of Time(yet)!

    $44? Does that include my $22.50? In which case, what did you spend the other dollar on? As for B & N accepting barter, I have a great collection of plastic bags.

    'If you don't keep reading this, your hair will fall out.' Brilliant! 'But if you're already bald, reading this book will make your hair regrow.'

  71. SB

    Nancy and Nathan –

    Re: The bathroom thong. The first time I tried the plastic bag thing, I was using a box of cheapo plastic bags (who can afford Ziplock brand?). When I dropped my Kindle in there, the bottom of the bag broke open and my Kindle fell to the floor. Insert trombone sound effect — lolarious.

    The baggie totally works, but proceed with caution. 🙂

    I usually forget to baggie it, though, and bring it to the beach anyway. I've done this at least a dozen times and it's remained in pretty good shape. I even checked my email on for free from the beach in France using the 3G. That was pretty sweet.

    And also, I live in a nice metro area where I can check out e-books from the library. Any regular library users should check to see if this awesome feature is available for them. Some of the books are also available as audiobooks to download to my iPod. Libraries rock.

  72. SB

    Ha! I meant "bathtub thong", as in, the derivation from "bathtub thing". If anyone else refers to the "bathroom thong", though, I suggest changing it to "bedroom throng" or "bathroom throne" or some other happy alternative 😉

  73. JaimeLoren

    Nathan –

    Your Mayor's people should call my Premier's people and do lunch 🙂


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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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