This Week in Publishing 9/17/10

by | Sep 17, 2010 | Uncategorized | 39 comments

This Week In… Yeah I’m not here.

At this very moment I am likely in the car driving down to the lovely town of San Luis Obispo for the Central Coast Writers Conference. I might even be eating an In ‘N Out Burger this very second. YOU DON’T KNOW. But as a result of my traveling, there will be no Page Critique Friday this week.

Also, I prepared this post to run in advance, so this news is all current as of 8pm Thursday night. Hopefully the industry is still there in the morning.

This week!

It is truly the end of the era as one of the great publishing blogs is closing shop. Moonrat gave us four great years at Editorial Ass but is moving on to other projects. Her blog will be missed!

Right now those purchasing e-readers have to choose between black and white e-Ink (which looks like ink on paper) and color LED (which is tough to read in the sun). Well, pretty soon color will be coming to e-Ink. The color in the current prototypes are a little drowned out, but the technology is evolving.

In publishing news, after the departure of publisher Jonathan Karp to Simon & Schuster, the imprint Twelve has hired Susan Lehman as their new publisher. And while it hasn’t been officially confirmed as of press time (ha! press time. As in the time I press the publish button time), rumor has it that none other than Jonathan Franzen’s FREEDOM will be the next pick in Oprah’s book club.

Is the present tense taking over literature? That is a concern of Philip Pullman, who took a look at the Booker shortlist, noticed that three are in present, and called the present tense a “silly affectation” which “does nothing but annoy.” Hate to hear what he’d think of second person future. “It will be a dark and stormy night. You will be very cold and wet.” UPDATE: this summary was originally a little garbled and I misspelled Pullman’s name. Whoops! Sorry! “You will regret rushing through putting together This Week in Publishing.” UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Pullman clarified his remarks here.

Contrary to the myth of the loner creative genius, there’s a terrific article in Slate that examines the incredible potency of creative partnerships, including not only the classic McCartney/Lennon combo, but some bookish examples as well, such as the influence of legendary editor Maxwell Perkins. Behind some of the most creative people in the world were hidden partners that influenced, challenged, and elevated their art.

Ever wondered what the differences are between middle grade and young adult literature? Well, it goes farther than just the age of the protagonists. Hannah Moskowitz has a really awesome post about some of the thematic differences and necessities of the different genres. Really worth a full read because a summary won’t do it justice.

In case you need any evidence about how the world is changing and bringing readers closer together, just check out this incredible post – a THE SECRET YEAR blog tour in Brazil! Now, bear in mind that this book hasn’t been released in Portuguese. These are readers who are reading the book in English and discussing. The Internet continues to blow my mind.

Lastly, extremely sad news this week as David Thompson, beloved co-owner of Houston’s indie store Murder By the Book, died suddenly at age 38.

This week in the Forums: the new Arcade Fire album, favorite activities to avoid writing, are there too many emotionally weak female characters in YA?, your favorite debut novel, and plot vs. character: which comes first?

Comment! of! the! Week! goes back to last Friday’s post. In response to the book help desk video, Doug Pardee thinks we should resist that newfangled book thing.

Just say “no” to the codex. It’s Big Religion attempting to save money by writing on both sides of the papyrus. A codex will never hold up like a scroll will.

And don’t get me started on parchment.

And finally, science fiction blog io9 had a really awesome post on the cultural history of Halley’s Comet, including its famed connection to Mark Twain. I have to say, this post really brought me back. When I saw Halley’s comet when I was six and my parents told me the next time I would see it would be when I was eighty-one, for some reason it made me suddenly realize my mortality and I was completely horrified. Oh, little Nathan. So serious.

Have a great weekend!


  1. D.G. Hudson

    Nathan, enjoy the writers conference in San Luis Obispo. Just watch out for the hordes to descend on you. (Hey, there's Nathan!) Hope you will share some of your insights from the conference.

    Will check out the links later. Enjoy the weekend everyone and keep writing.

  2. Julia Rachel Barrett

    Enjoy the conference – I would have been there with you, but you know…the San Francisco Giants need me!
    Your links are great, thanks – I'm especially interested in the whys of weak heroines – they annoy me.

  3. Sommer

    I was 7 when Hally's comet was here last and my grandpa took me to see it. When he told me how old I'd be when I could see it again, I told him, "Oh grandpa, people don't live that long."

    Wow, grim.

  4. adam.purple

    A maid will scream. A door will slam!

  5. Kristin Laughtin

    Future second-person will be the future. You will be told about it, man.

    SLO is beautiful, so I'm sure you'll enjoy it very much!

  6. Vinyl and Mono

    "Worth a full read because a summary won't do it justice."

    Expect to get a bunch of queries with no summaries.

  7. clp3333

    Forget McCartney and Lennon. My goal is to be George Harrison. That guy just had to sit there and get super famous. And I say, "It's alright."

  8. Anonymous

    second person future! bahahaha!

  9. vnrieker

    Oh! This is how you become un-anonymous? I never took the time to fickle around. Look at me! I have a name! Fantastic!

    Now I gotta watch what I say…

  10. Ted Cross

    Heh, you used 'farther' in a non-distance sense.

    I really agree about the current present tense fad — I can't stand it. I am not as die-hard against 1st person, but I am already tired of it.

  11. Maya

    Didn't Phillip Pullman mean the present tense WAS a silly affectation which DID nothing but annoy?

    Sorry ol' Phil, but I think it is here to stay. Writing styles have brought us closer and closer to the protagonist. (In the forums, polymath will be happy to discuss FREE INDIRECT DISCOURSE.) And what is closer than the present?

    Personally, I like it.

  12. Nancy

    I was seven when Haley's Comet last appeared, and I had the same experience you did, Nathan. Trying to imagine at age seven what my life would be like at 82 was mind-boggling. Of course, that lesson went hand-in-hand with another brush with mortality: the Challenger disaster.

    As for Freedom, my first thought when I read the news this morning was, "Really? As if this book needs any more publicity." Then I imagined the line of people wondering why the library doesn't have a copy checked in when "It's on Oprah's booklist!" and I admit I was less than enthused. However, neither of these thoughts detract from the fact that it is apparently a very good book and deserves the nod.

  13. Mike

    I waited nearly 35 years for Haley's Comet, my head filled with stories about how we were going to be able to read the paper by its light. I say "nearly" because I was probably six or seven before I knew about it, but from then on, I was really excited that I was going to be able to see this amazing thing. That's one heckuva long build-up for "Is it that one? No, over there. Up a little. That one?"

    Thank goodness for Halle-Bopp. Still couldn't read the paper by its light, but at least it looked like a comet.

    I still want to talk to somebody about those personal helicopters we were all supposed to have by now …

  14. Iliadfan

    Nancy said…
    Of course, that lesson went hand-in-hand with another brush with mortality: the Challenger disaster.

    I was six years old, too – couldn't wrap my mind around the number of years between Halley's comet sightings. Challenger had a much bigger impact on me as I wanted to be an aerospace engineer back then – before I slogged through my first physics class. 🙂

    Ted Cross said…
    I am not as die-hard against 1st person, but I am already tired of it.

    I never took notice of first person vs third until I started reading books about writing. I think more novels are in third person, but are there actually THAT many more? Or does it depend on the genre?

  15. Anna-Marie

    I was also six when I saw Halley's Comet and it really freaked me out. I guess it was about realizing my mortality, too.

  16. Steppe

    Funny how it took a comet to date all you folksy stargazers you. Break a leg at the conference N. Haven't read the previous two topics yet, but I'm on my way. Deep stuff and questions need patience. Pretty soon N. you have to update your Carrot Top picture on the masthead to the more urbane scholarly you in that little video promo you did at some other conference and leave the juvenile delinquency image behind forever. A satisfying weekend to all.

  17. Steppe

    Third person creates the illusion of sitting in a theater to watch a play with a confidant who answers your questions if asked but generally lets you enjoy figuring out the possibilities for yourself. Whenever the action is long past the characters can look back using dialogue and accuse or reward each others motives reinforcing and recapping old plot lines as the pace begins tightening and stepping up to the next dramatic showdown.

  18. Kelly Wittmann

    Gotta agree with Pullman about the present tense. No. Never.

  19. ryan field

    Have to admit Franzen and Oprah know how to play a great game (especially when Judge Judy is either beating or going neck to neck with Oprah in the ratings in most areas…lol)

    That's excellent for The Secret Year. The author will probably be getting requests for signed book plates from her readers.

  20. HeatherO

    I love this blog, it makes me laugh out loud. The kitten video you posted had my kids in belly laughs. You give good advice, too.

  21. Anonymous

    Rant Alert. Skip if you're not in the mood.

    Emotionally Weak YA Heroines

    News Flash!

    ALL teenage girls *start* out emotionally weak.

    It's called CHILDHOOD. It's normal, healthy, and wonderful. And we all go through it, though few of us remember it accurately enough to get behind the eyes of real teenagers living in the here and now.

    Then, there's the *process* of growing up. It doesn't happen overnight. There are many painful mistakes, most of which young people *need* to make in order to truly learn who they are and what path they want to take in life.

    Role Models? Yes. Oprah, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, Sally Ride. Notice they're all grown-ups.

    A YA Heroine, I believe, is not meant to be a role model, but a safe conduit to explore the often bewildering and sometimes terrifying mysteries of new adulthood.

  22. Cathi

    Second person future? That will be awsome!

    Have a good weekend everyone. Happy writing!

  23. Wise Bass

    It is truly the end of the era as one of the great publishing blogs is closing shop. Moonrat gave us four great years at Editorial Ass but is moving on to other projects. Her blog will be missed!

    I'm sorry to hear it.

    I don't get it, though – why do people burn bridges like that on blogging, instead of just saying "Well, I'll probably be posting a lot less from now on, if at all"?

    I've got some blogs in my Google Feed that have new posts maybe once very six months, but it's still worth it.

  24. David

    Three cheers for Pullman, who is sooooo right.

  25. Nathan Bransford


    Ha! My copyeditor will tell you that's my absolute worst habit.

    Also, in my haste I garbled the summary of the Pullman quote in addition to misspelling his name so please click through on that link.

  26. Other Lisa

    I've said this elsewhere but have to express my sadness about David Thompson's passing. I met him in June on my book tour. He and his wife McKenna were/are two of the most supportive people a new author would ever want to meet, and just a whole hell of a lot of fun. I had so looked forward to going back to Murder By The Book and spending more time with them.

    We've lost a wonderful person, a friend to books and writers, and my heartfelt condolences go out to his friends, family and loved ones.

  27. Ted Cross

    Nathan, I honestly never knew the further/farther words had any difference until I started this writing business. It was made even worse by my love of Tolkien, since he refuses to use 'farther' at all. I had similar issues with grey/gray and a couple of other similar pairings that I can't think of this early in the morning.

  28. Terin Tashi Miller

    I have to agree with Pullman, though it's nothing all that new in writing.

    What has amused me since it started becoming the near-norm maybe 20 years ago is that everyone doing it seemed convinced they were "cutting edge," present tense being, I guess, what it is to them.

    I recall actually reading something published around the 1920s-30s that used it. Can't recall right now the novel, but at that time, it WAS new.

    For me, reading novels in present tense reminds me greatly of "movies for the blind," or a series with a near equivalent name, which on occasion I had the opportunity to watch late at night in North Dakota.

    My favorite was "Penney Seranade," in which the narrator, for those with impaired vision, would note things such as: "She puts the record on the turntable. She moves the needle so the turntable begins to play. It begins to play "Penney Seranade"…"

    As for second person future, me thinks you may be on to something very new and very different, Mr. Agent Man…

    Except the astrologers might get on your case about your stealing their own "affectation."

    Have an "In-and-Out" burger for me on your way back…

  29. Terin Tashi Miller

    OH! Almost forgot. I think some of the affectation came from–yes–the movie industry, and the self-conscious writing of authors hoping to have their books made instantly into movies, or hoping they could be easily adapted for the same purpose.

    Because you gotta admit, it reads more like a script than a novel:

    "It is a dark and stormy night. Snoopy, lying on top of his house as is his habit, wakes. Lightning clatters in the distance…"


  30. T. Anne

    Love the comment of the week! Reminds me of my favorite version of rock, paper, scissors- boulder, parchment, shears.

    Have a great weekend Nathan!

  31. Augustina Peach

    Glad to see other people don't like the present tense trend. I thought I'm just too old-fashioned because I prefer my stories in past tense, thank you.

  32. J. T. Shea

    It will be a dark and stormy night. You will be very cold and wet. You will not be able to read any more of this stupid book because either A, the ink will be running down the sodden pages, B, your new-fangled E-reader will have shorted out, or C, it will be too dark to read anything anyway, EXCEPT maybe the waterproof backlit reader I will invent when I get a spare moment over the weekend.

    The Internet can’t blow my mind, because I blew it myself years ago.

    Doug Pardee and his fellow scroll lovers are wimps! STONE TABLETS are the only way for real writers!

    Nathan made spelling mistakes! Is this a harbinger of the end of the world? Will Halley’s comet arrive early, like tonight? Stay tuned for developments.

    Mike, personal helicopters? No, JET BACKPACKS!

  33. Mikki

    Nathan, your workshop was great, as was your keynote speech. Can't ( won't) say anything more about the conference, other than it was my fourth year, and I was extremely disappointed. I live in Paso Robles, and it is, indeed, beautiful country. Hope to see you here again some time.

    Mikki Sadil

  34. hannah

    Hugely, hugely pro-present tense. Also, just realized I was mentioned, and thanks again for the nod!

  35. Kristy

    Have fun at the conference and thanks for the heads up on the Oprah selection!

  36. Anonymous

    Nathan, Thanks so much for giving us aspiring writer's some of your precious time at the conference in SLO. I loved your query mad lib game. I hope you had fun too!


  37. Anonymous

    Re: Moonrat's blog ending — I think the last part of her post was the most telling (paraphrasing here) that she doesn't need her blog to vent anymore because now when she has an opinion she tells her boss, and he/she's always interested.

    Very telling. I think, in general, when people feel heard and appreciated, they can work instead of work + angst.

    It's my hope as a writer to find and agent who gets my work and an editor who wants it so all the writing + angst can simply turn into writing.

  38. Mira

    Nathan, you are so funny.

    So are you back from SLO? I hope you had a wonderful time there, and had some time for fun, too!

    So, fun links, Nathan. I know I'm really, really late, but that's not enough to stop me. I shall forage on. And that was really kind of you to set these up in advance.

    Best of luck to Moonrat! One thing that was cool about her was how she became friends with her regulars. I hope they all go on to some wonderful projects!

    Color e-readers!!! I can't wait. Truly. I love my e-reader, and to have it in color – it's like in the Wizard of Oz, when the house landed and she opened the door and it was soooo beautiful. Can't wait.

    Good luck to Susan Lehman. I hope she does a wonderful job. I did notice, however, that I wasn't informed of the job opening, which meant I wasn't hired for the position. I hope this is a lesson to all the other publishing houses. You can't hire me, if you don't let me know there's an opening. A hard lesson, but a true one. I think it's wonderful that Oprah is getting behind literary fiction. You go, Oprah!

    I'm afraid to say that I don't really have strong opinions about what tense the author uses, as long as I don't notice it when I'm reading.

    I thought the Slate article about creative partnerships was wonderful and rang true. And if someone is ever MY creative partner, I will give them full credit.

    That was an interesting article by Hannah. She's very thoughtful about the field and books. She might find the stages of Erikson's development interesting. I hadn't thought of it before I read her article, but I think MG tends to deal with industry vs. inferiority and YA tends to deal with identity vs. role confusion. Here's a link if anyone is interes4ted:

    That's really cool about the Secret Year! Awesome! 🙂

    Doug's comment of the week was not only hilarious, but very clever.

    I'm so sorry for the loss of David Thompson. My condolences to those who loved him.

    Thank you for the links, Nathan.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful week.


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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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