This Week in Books 4/29/11

by | Apr 29, 2011 | Uncategorized | 26 comments

This week! Books!

Things are bananas for me at the moment as I gear up for WONDERBAR liftoff, but I did catch a few links this week, and I shall share them with you presently.

First up, Colson Whitehead had a characteristically brilliant and hilarious post on writerly distractions and the Internet. His conclusion: The Internet makes writing less lonely, and it’s not to blame for your unfininished novel. You are.

Publishing industry guru Mike Shatzkin has an interest post on how to figure out the best price for e-books. His conclusion: figuring out the right price is harder than it looks. Publishers aren’t crazy for resisting low prices, but downward price pressure is inevitable.

The latest celebrity to land a book deal is none other than Levi Johnston, who will be published by Touchstone Fireside. Full disclosure: I work at CNET, which is owned by CBS, which owns Simon & Schuster, which is the parent company of Touchstone Fireside. My opinion about Levi Johnston getting a book deal does not necessarily reflect the opinion of CBS. As you were!

Speaking of celebrity book deals, Jennifer Hubbard has an opinion I share: they don’t bother her. People are drawn to names they know and celebrity books sell. Can’t fault the publishers.

And in writing advice news, agent Jenn Laughran has a really great post on author-agency agreements.

Oh, and Meghan Ward posted a recent interview I did with the amazing San Francisco Writers’ Grotto where I talked about writing and social media.

This week in the Forums, proof of your writerly nerdiness, how much WIP feedback is too much feedback, whether to change the POV, and, of course, retroactive thievery: what happens when someone already had your idea.

Comment! of! the! Week! goes to Anonymous, who had an unfortunate encounter with a spaghetti agent:

This describes my former agent precisely. She offered to represent me after reading a partial of my manuscript at a conference, even though I told her I was still working on revisions. She assured me it was great, and that she would be able to sell it, and that I would have plenty of time to complete revisions before publication. She had good references, and answered all my questions, so I signed with her.

Soon I noticed that the publishing houses she was submitting to weren’t exactly a right fit for my manuscript. She would, for example, submit to a publisher that worked exclusively in romance, while my ms doesn’t even have romantic elements. Then I discovered from a critique partner who is also represented by this agent that our manuscripts were consistently being submitted to the same publishers at the same time, even though we also don’t write the same genre. It seemed like she just sent an editor every manuscript in her arsenal, whether it would be a fit for them or not, and hoped they might like one.

She did get my ms as far as pub board a couple of times, but eventually I decided to end our working relationship, get my ms in the best shape possible, and try again from square 1.

Sometimes when an offer for representation seems to good to be true…it is!

And finally, it’s the end of the era for those of us who were into the whole social media thing way back in 2003. Friendster as we know it will soon be no more. Here’s a hilarious Onion video to send it off into Internet ancient history:

Have a great weekend!


  1. Mr. D

    Oh, to be a celebrity. Instant book deal. Doesn't matter the content, the publishers come calling.

    More power to the no name writer who gets published for another reason: He wrote a great book!

  2. Sean

    Good luck with liftoff, Nathan! Don't forget to buckle up.

  3. Nancy Lauzon

    Nathan, first of all, contrats & all the best on the birth of Jacob Wonderbar.

    Re: Retroactive Idea Thievery. This was the first question out of my creative writing students' mouths: 'What do I do if someone steals my idea?'. My answer? Ideas can't be copyrighted. Chances are that many authors will come up with the same idea at the same time. It's called 'synchronicity of the universe'. And there's no such thing as a new idea in fiction. Every plot has already been done. It's up to you as the creative force behind the idea to make the story stand out in a unique and compelling way. To quote the judges of American Idol: 'Make it your own.'

  4. Anonymous

    I hope at least Levi shows and tells more in his book than he did in his centerfold. What a waste that was 🙂

  5. Mark Young

    I love this line:

    "His conclusion: The Internet makes writing less lonely, and it's not to blame for your unfininished novel. You are."

    Needed to be reminded of this as I try to balance writing, marketing, promotion and the biggest time cruncher of all, social networking.

    Have a great weekend, Nathan.

  6. Crosby Kenyon

    The best of luck with Wonderbar. It sounds like a great premise.

  7. Geoff

    LOVED Colson's article. Great read, funny and spot-on! My favorite combination.


  8. D.G. Hudson

    Nathan, the interview with Meghan Ward was great. It was encouraging to hear you say that you concentrate on this blog as the primary means of communication. This blog is consistently one of the best, now I know why. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. And. . . Go WONDERBAR! (ps – you look a little different now)

    And thanks Meghan for the interview/post – really enjoyed it.

    Celebrity book deals leave me cold, about the same as reading them. Sleaze sells, after all, and taste is a selective factor.

    Have a great weekend all! And best of luck to Prince William & Kate, although I didn't get up to watch the procession. . .

  9. Sheila JG

    Just got my indie bookstore newspaper in the mail and saw JW featured as a staff pick. They call the book, "very clever, chock full of zany characters, witty banter, and planets with inhabitants beyond our imagination. Sure to delight both parents and kids with its subtle humor!"

    Can't wait to pick it up!

  10. Rachael

    Congrats on Jacob Wonderbar! And I have to say, I always look forward to your Friday posts — your links are always timely and informative (and then I get lost in the Internet instead of working on my novel. Oops).

  11. Kevin Lynn Helmick

    I with ya Mark Young. My favorite quote here.

    I think I've blamed the internet, marketing, promotion on at least one to many blogs for the sluggish word count of my current project.

    Need to stay in word doc.
    stay in word doc.
    stay in word doc.

  12. Matthew MacNish

    I just had to come back to say: that series of videos of you being interviewed and discussing publishing and social media were incredible.

  13. The Pen and Ink Blog

    You spend up to one half hour reading blogs? Are you a speed reader? I want to know how you do this? Thanks for this weeks tips. Loking forward to reading Jacob

  14. Jericho Ambrose

    Loved the post by Jenn Laughran. Best of luck to you on the launch of Jacob Wonderbar! The excitement is palpable from your post!

  15. S. F. Roney

    Both links to the pricing and distractions articles were great, thanks for posting them!

    As far as celebrities go, I agree with first poster Mr. D. It just gives more reason for the little guy to fight harder!

  16. The English Teacher

    That video made me chuckle — and remember the old Motel Of Mysteries book by David Macaulay.

  17. marion

    I'm so impressed that you're able to come up with a blog post at lift-off time.
    I'd be an incoherent bundle of nerves!

  18. Liz Alexander

    Someone else having the same or similar idea for a book (shades of "collective consciousness?) is a concern I hear all the time. I agree with Nancy, it's about making an idea your own. Many first-time nonfiction authors focus solely on their subject-matter expertise and think that's enough to write a book that sells.

    What fascinates me is taking Frans Johansson's (author of The Medici Effect) concept of "life at the intersection" then writing at the intersection…penning a book on how business coaching is informed by beekeeping, or gardening the spiritual way LOL.

    Life is so rich…ideas might fall into similar categories, but no two are ever exactly the same.

  19. Mira

    So exciting about Jacob Wonderbar!

    That's a very good review that Sheila posted. But I've read your blog for a couple of years, so I already know that your writing is witty and clever. Can't wait to see all that in your book! 🙂

    The links look great, and the video was very funny. Thanks for posting, when you have so much going on!

    Exciting times up ahead.

  20. Anna Murray

    I worried someone else would use the hook I had for TAKEDOWN.

    So many ideas from my past lives, and not enough time to write them all . . .

    Anna Murray

  21. Anne R. Allen

    Your interview with Meghan was fantastic.

    Welcome to the world, Jacob Wonderbar!

    Friendster video: that's seriously hilarious.

  22. Mira

    I finally had a chance to watch your interviews, Nathan. Wow, that was terrific. I liked hearing what you had to say, very thoughtful and clear thinking. I also liked finally getting a sense of you as a real, live person who is very cool. Pretty awesome.

  23. Sierra McConnell

    No, the internet isn't to blame for my unfinished novels. But most of the world is. XD

    I have way too much stuff going on now and I suddenly realize why people find it hard to find time to write now that I live alone. There's all these neat things to do that are so distracting. Like cooking, dishes, laundry, and cleaning. They're /fun/ (I'm not being sarcastic, I enjoy being 'housewifey') and I haven't thought much about the book in the two weeks I've been in my apartment.

    This is bad. 😀


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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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