The Last Few Weeks in Books 1/10/11

by | Jan 10, 2011 | Uncategorized | 20 comments

All the best stories and links for your reading perusal! These go back a few weeks since the holidays and CES put a wrench in my normal blogging schedule.

First up, I often receive questions about who I’d recommend for book publicity and marketing, and you’re in luck. One of my friends, and a wildly talented PR and marketing expert, Maria Menenses Gutierrez, has started up a marketing company called Milesmaria (Facebook page here). In their words, “Buzz around a new book, a media plan for your new indie film, helping to build and brand your company, our plan of action will work towards making sure your audience knows about your story.” So if you have a book and need some help with buzz, check them out.

Also this week in plugs, Will Entrekin is one of the very first people I knew who really mastered social media and was a large help when I was building my Myspace blog (oh, 2006!). He and Australian co-author Simon Smithson have made waves with their short story collection SPARKS. So please do check that out as well.

The links!

One of the major news stories of the last month has been the ongoing Wikileaks saga, and it’s something I’ve watched with complete fascination because it so starkly illustrates the effect the Internet is having on society. In one of the best and most fascinating blog posts I’ve ever read, science fiction author and futurist Bruce Sterling tackles his thoughts on Wikileaks, which he actually feels quite ambivalent about despite his long fascination with hackers and his sense of Wikileaks’ inevitability. Definitely worth a read in full despite the post’s length. (via io9)

And speaking of the future, on Friday I mentioned just how many tablets were debuted at CES, and wondered about the implications the tablet explosion would have on the world of books. Well, PWxyz is wondering the same thing. In a post called, Where Are All the Publishers?, Calvin Reid tracked down a few of the publishing types at CES, but was left wondering why publishers weren’t more fully engaging with the show.

Borders could very well be on the ropes as they have suspended some payments to publishers, and at least one of the Big Six publishers have stopped sending them books. Yikes.

2011 marks the sesquicentennial of the start of the Civil War, and there’s surely going to be quite a lot of attention and renewed interest in it. Salon rounded up their picks for the Top 12 books about the Civil War, including my favorite, BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM.

Mashable had a post by the president of McGraw-Hill Professional about five e-book trends to watch in 2011, including that prices will have to stay above $9.99 and that publishers will be more important than ever. On the flipside you have Smashwords CEO Mark Coker, who offered up his own five predictions for 2011, which include agents writing the new chapter in the digital revolution by bypassing publishers and e-book prices will have to come down. Here’s my prediction: one of them will be right.

Author Natalie Whipple has a terrific post about a common trap that can prevent writers from being sympathetic with people farther along in the publishing process than they are: the “at least you have” game. (At least you have a finished manuscript… at least you have an agent… at least you’re published…) The thing is, there are difficulties and frustrations and doubt no matter how far you are along in the process, and we can all be there for each other.

And in writing advice news, Editorial Anonymous discusses the thorny topic of how to leave your agent, and Anthony Bourdain offered up some good advice to bloggers.

These past few weeks in the Forums, the best forum posts of 2010, whether author websites should reflect the author, the genre, or the book, discussing the controversial Huck Finn news, your favorite character names, (un)realistic young character dialogue, and how to know where your story should begin.

Comment! of! the! weeks! goes to Anonymous, who had a great response to the post about blogging agents and about polarized responses on the Internet in general, which I thought I’d post in full:

The discussion here in which there appears to be primarily two sides (“Yay, online socializing for literary agents” vs. “Boo Hiss, online socializing for literary agents”), rather than a more nuanced consideration of how best to offer debut authors lucrative careers, reminds me of a book published last year by Knopf, YOU ARE NOT A GADGET: A MANIFESTO by tech expert Jaron Lanier. This book is an Amazon Best Book of the Month, January 2010, and the author is described by Amazon as a “longtime tech guru/visionary/dreadlocked genius (and progenitor of virtual reality)”. Here’s a quote from a Q & A with Lanier on Amazon:

Question: You say that we’ve devalued intellectual achievement. How?

Jaron Lanier: On one level, the Internet has become anti-intellectual because Web 2.0 collectivism has killed the individual voice. It is increasingly disheartening to write about any topic in depth these days, because people will only read what the first link from a search engine directs them to, and that will typically be the collective expression of the Wikipedia. Or, if the issue is contentious, people will congregate into partisan online bubbles in which their views are reinforced. I don’t think a collective voice can be effective for many topics, such as history–and neither can a partisan mob. Collectives have a power to distort history in a way that damages minority viewpoints and calcifies the art of interpretation. Only the quirkiness of considered individual expression can cut through the nonsense of mob–and that is the reason intellectual activity is important.

And finally, CNET (where, disclosure, I work) named the Motrola Xoom tablet the Best of Show at CES, one of the approximately 50 different tablets (seriously) that were debuted at the trade show. Devices like these are coming very very soon, they’re going to be very common, and I think they’ll have huge implications on the world of books:

Have a great weekend!


  1. Neil Vogler

    That "predictions for 2011" article by Mark Coker is veeery intriguing. Not sure I can fully get behind every point, but it'll be interesting to see how his predictions shake out. Oh, and read the comments section on that article too — a good debate is going on.

  2. Jayme Stryker

    I'm excited to look into a few of the books on the Civil War list. One of my most vivid memories is of being made to climb Little Round Top because I was part of the "Confederacy" during fifth grade camp. There is nothing little about Little Round Top's sheer rock surfaces. It surprises me to this day that anyone survived that attack.

    Still the Civil War gave us some interesting real life characters! 🙂

  3. Istvan Szabo, Ifj.

    That Motrola Xoom seems very good. Thanks for the video, Nathan. The dual touchscreen also seems interesting which is presented after this video. But it's virtual keyboard maybe not the best idea.

  4. Will Entrekin

    Thanks for the mention, Nathan! Nice round-up, too. I'd missed a few of your hattips. Also? You work for CNET? I love CNET.

  5. Chuck H.

    @Jayme Stryker who said "Still the Civil War gave us some interesting real life characters!"

    My favorite is Gen. Dan Sickles who, when he had to have his leg amputated, gave it a full military funeral.

  6. Pen and Ink

    I was interested in the "best comment" and the Tablet winner. The Motorola looks great. I love the ipad as a reader tool and am wondering if the Motorola will have the same features, (ie taking the reader to a dictionary if the reader wishes to look up a word.) As an author, I have a preference for the pad over Kindle since it is a better medium for children's picture books. They work beautifully with apps such as BeThereForBedtime

  7. D.G. Hudson

    Anthony Bourdain is a natural at writing pithy entertaining books, and he offers humorous commentary regarding society on occasion. But I can't understand why someone would ask him about blogging. (??)

    It will be interesting to see how the Civil War sesquicentennial pans out. Civil war is never a happy memory, and the American one is no exception. Honour those who died, rejoice in those who were freed, but war itself sucks.

    I dislike Mondays, but a Friday post by Nathan B. makes it a little better.

  8. Susan Kaye Quinn

    The CNES tablet explosion is one of those entirely predictable things that still takes you by surprise. Sort of like a good plot twist! 😉

  9. JohnO

    Bruce Sterling was missing the point. Badly, in my opinion Glenn Greenwald in Salon does a much better job:

    To wit: US forces killing Reuters journalists and US helicopters gunning down Iraqi civilians; logs of unlisted civilian deaths; US govt working to kill the Bush torture probe, and pressuring Germany not to prosecute CIA officials for torture; how the US underreports civilian deaths in Afghanistan, Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, and how Nato commanders fear that Pakistan and Iraq are fueling the insurgency; the US role in a Honduran coup — in 2009.

    The issue is not the wikileaks organization, as they're merely providing a bit of back-channel intelligence. The larger issue is transparency.

    If our government is indeed of, by and for the people, the people have a right to know what its government is doing, and what it's trying to keep secret.

  10. T. Anne

    I hope you get your share of sample products from your cool new job! Thanks for links! Have a great day.

  11. Mira

    Monday's my toughest day in terms of my schedule, but I'll enjoy reading through the links during my breaks. They look really interesting. I have a few quick thoughts that I'll share.

    I did read the comment of the week, and I found that interesting as well. I'd like to discuss it more. It's true that the individual is very important for free thinking. But the group is also important – in other ways. Be really interesting to discuss the impact of both within the internet sphere on our society.

    I think it's sad that Borders is struggling, and frankly wonder why any publisher would pull their support. I'm sure I don't know the whole story, though.

    Finally, your argument, Nathan, that either the guy from Mashable or the guy from Smashwords is right – well, I find that argument to be highly compelling. You've pursuaded me; I find myself in complete agreement.


    Thanks so much for everything you do here, Nathan!

  12. Ishta Mercurio

    JohnO, I have to respectfully disagree. Should the government be torturing people behind our backs? No. But what do they do with terrorists who have information that they would rather die than hand over?

    Should the government be underreporting deaths in war zones? Not in the long term, but in the moment, possibly. I think we need to bear in mind that if American citizens can access the information, so can the people we're fighting against. Do you really want your enemy in a war to know exactly how many people your side has killed, exactly how many deaths you have suffered, and exactly what you're planning next? I'm not a war analyst, nor have I ever served, but my guess is, probably not.

    These are very thorny, very complicated issues. The average American will never, ever have to face these issues personally, and it is neither the job nor the place of the average American to make decisions about these things.

    In my opinion, transparency is important when it comes to matters of funding, of finance, of government officials breaking the laws of our country. I don't think it should apply to matters of military strategy, or to matters of national security, or to matters of personal relations (in the sense of friendships, co-operativeness or lack thereof, etc.) between diplomats, or to matters of opinion in relation to foreign diplomats and leaders.

    In other words: we elected these people to do a job that we can't. I think we should leave them alone and let them get on with it.

  13. Anonymous

    It's turning out Wikileaks is a gossip monger spreading confindential correspondence between State Department gossipers.

    Who cares if some Russian is considered a drunk by another drunk? Who cares if some Saudi prince is a stick in the mud for some other stick in the mud? People who care already know, people who have to know that and more. People who want others to do their thinking for them couldn't care less and don't want to be bothered.

    There may be intelligence nuggets in the morass, but they're methods and sources nuggets for how gossip propagates from disgruntled sources. No surprises there.

    Julian Assange is a shrill spectacle of an underloved son churlishly substituting public approval for motherly love any way he can. Damn the metaphorical torpedoes, reckless full speed ahead into 'em.

    Pitiable at least, a pitiful waste. One that will lead to ever more restrictions on free speech for the greater good's sake. And ever more imaginative ways to circumvent prohibitions and restrictions. And an ever progressing cycle of technologically innovative cops and robbers and cowboys and indians games at the public's expense.

  14. Anonymous

    I don't get it…you also work at CNET? How do you have the time for another job? Even if it's very part time.
    I hope you and your gene pool spawn someday soon. We need more of that gene type around this world.

  15. Stephanie Faris

    I didn't know you were a MySpace blogger. That was around the time I was blogging on there…I probably read your blog. I was reading quite a few of them from 2006-2008. I was a top ten blogger over there from 2007-2008, which means absolutely nothing except (I think) it strengthened my writing and gave me an outlet during a time I needed it.

  16. Dawn Maria

    I would have loved a historian's pick for both non-fiction and fiction Civil War titles. How could he not put Geraldine Brooks' MARCH on a list?

    Or even Abraham Lincoln-Vampire Hunter? ; )

    Seriously, a great and varied post, I look forward to your recap every week.

  17. Anonymous

    So cool! I made Comment of the Weeks! I'm kind of bummed, though, that I posted as Anonymous for that one. 🙁

    I love Anthony Bourdain's travel show, No Reservations. I find it ironic that even though he recommends not expressing anger on blogs, he definitely doesn't refrain from criticizing people in his field, often angering his colleagues. Interesting article about him on Book Beast, America's Bad Boy Chef – the stories about the people he's criticized are incredible. Bourdain's not overly polite, that's for sure. Here's a brief excerpt from the article:

    And yet here he is—one of the brashest, most incisive commentators in the food business—sitting in the outdoor garden of Esca on West 43d Street, promoting a piece of work that comes with a chapter called “Alan Richman Is a Douche Bag,” about GQ’s well-known food critic. Elsewhere in the book, Bourdain, 53 years old, disses almost all of his former colleagues from the Food Network, and hurls enough insults toward the various stars of his profession to keep gossip columnists busy for weeks. (And indeed, they have been.)

    His problem with Sandra Lee, the Food Network star who makes barbecue pizza from Pillsbury dough, and chicken potpie with frozen mixed vegetables, is that she has helped dumb down the entire profession of being a chef. Not to mention that Bourdain finds her personally terrifying.

  18. Simon

    Hi Nathan,

    Like Will, I also wanted to say thank you for the mention – a great round-up, as well. I was especially interested in the concept of the voice of the crowd; those are thought I had had but had been unable to express to myself so well.

    Best for 2011


  19. Miles

    Nathan, thank you for the mention of milesmaria, and also for citing Bruce Sterling's measured response to Wikileaks. I caught this a few weeks ago and thought he did a fine job of giving the debate some much-needed texture.


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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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