Last Week in Books 3/5/12

by | Mar 5, 2012 | Uncategorized | 14 comments

Last week! Books!

Hello from a plane leaving Las Vegas, where I had a fantastic time at the kickoff of the Bransforumfest 2012 writing retreat! Some of the great people who met in the Forums are in Vegas talking writing, drinking caffeinated beverages, occupying Starbucks, sampling some of Vegas’ fine cuisine, and generally being rather awesome. I already can’t wait until next year!

Meanwhile, yes, this be big book news: Apple is hosting an iPad event on Wednesday in San Francisco (disclosure: link is to CNET I work at CNET). Will the number of people with tablets continue to grow? And will they read on them or play Angry Birds?

Adding to the growing canon of “Do Authors Still Ned Publishers” posts, Alex Rider author Anthony Horowitz wrote a wide-ranging article for the Guardian. His conclusion: Yes, they do. Well, sort of.

So you want to work in the publishing publishing? Jessica Faust at BookEnds has suggestions for someone thinking of packing up and moving to NYC to pursue the publishing dream.

Over at the Dystel & Goderich blog is an awesome conversation between agent Michael Bourrett and editor Molly O’Neill. The topic: Everything you ever wanted to know about middle grade… and were willing to ask.

In life of the author news, Natalie Whipple has a really great post on the 10 things she wishes she would have done differently on her way to publication.

And in quite intriguing news that combines two of my favorite things, Downton Abbey director Brian Percival may adapt The Book Thief.

This week in the Forums: Which characters did you wish dead, RIP Jan Berenstein, do love interest characters need to be sexy, and how you deal with the am-I-crazies.

Comment! of! the! Week! There were lots of thoughtful and interesting posts on whether publishers have a perception problem, but for some counterbalance I thought I’d go with Jo Eberhardt:

Are they plagued by a public perception problem? Amongst writers,
certainly. But the average non-writer (whether they read or not) has no
idea who or what the “Big Six” even is, let alone how the publishing
industry actually works.

The entire debate reminds me of my days
at university (about a billion years ago) where I spent a lot of time
with IT geeks. Oh, the heated debates about the evils of Microsoft vs
the integrity of Apple and the stability and geek-chic coolness of Linux
as an operating system. Start an IT geek talking about reverse
engineered operating systems and you’d be treated to a veritble diatribe
proclaiming the inevitable end of draconian companies in the light of
open-source alternatives.

But fast-forward to today and Microsoft
is still around. Why? Because all the general public wants is an
inexpensive, user-friendly computer system that allows them to check
Facebook and watch videos of cats.

As long as traditional
publishers provide a quality product at a reasonable price, through
expected distribution systems, the “public perception problem” is going
to remain largely confined to writers.

And finally, you know you’re sad you didn’t get Bransforumfest swag:

Have a great week!


  1. Ishta Mercurio

    Great links! The link about Middle Grade is especially enlightening – I am among those who find it a tough genre to get exactly right. I enjoyed the discussion of MG as being for readers who want to both understand and escape.

    And how could you dangle that Bransforumfest swag in front of us like that? HOW COULD YOU? It's not MY fault that Las Vegas is completely outside my budget right now…

  2. Mr. D

    That Las Vegas event sounds like a lot of fun. I'd like to go one day since it's only a hop, skip, and a jump away from San Jose.

  3. Andrew

    As a reader of fiction I truly hope that traditional publishers stick around. The thought of having to wade through mountains of self-published rubbish to find a decent book makes me shudder.

    I'm sure over time there will be more and more authors that instead of reworking or abandoning their manuscript upon rejection will just publish a Nook and/or Kindle ebook themselves. The way I see it these people, in aggregate, will only serve to reinforce the value traditional publisher brands have with the reading public.

  4. wendy

    Thanks for these interesting and valuable links, Nathan.

    I think both options of self-publishing and mainstream publishing will remain for the long haul. Both have become necessary, I think, for readers and writers.

    "But fast-forward to today and Microsoft is still around. Why? Because all the general public wants is an inexpensive, user-friendly computer system that allows them to check Facebook and watch videos of cats."

    Ne'er were truer and pithier words written. If I couldn't get my Twitter and Maru fixations satisfied. . .Bless you, Bill.

  5. Mira

    Thanks for the interesting links, Nathan!

    I am very envious of the Bransforumers, and I think it's really awesome that you went, Nathan. There's a thread in the forums where people are posting updates, and it's really fun to read about the trip.

    I thought Jo's comment was very clever and on point. I do think it's important to note some key words here:

    "AS LONG AS traditional publishers provide a quality product at a reasonable price, through expected distribution systems… "

    If that changes, ie. prices increase, e-books aren't available, publishers may lose their current invisibility.

    I thought Anthony Horowitz' article was very funny at times, and overall quite sweet (although I didn't exactly agree with his conclusion.), and I loved Natalie's article. She's always vulnerable and smart, and I love to read her posts. And that is very cool news about the Book Thief!

    Thanks, Nathan!

  6. L. Shanna

    Loved Natalie Whipple's post– thanks a lot for the link!

  7. Heather M Bryant

    Damn I wish that Bransforum retreat was in Australia; that swag looks awesome!

    I really enjoyed what Anthony Horowitz had to say and think his view on what an ebook could be is interesting. I still think paper books will be around for a while, and that publishing will revolutionize itself, but with Horowitz's ebook example even I'd be tempted to make the change.

  8. Rick Daley

    I got 3 stars on all levels of Angry Birds on my iTouch. Now I'm trying to beat my son's 2 million+ score on Temple Run.

    I have a Kindle for reading, it's less distracting.

  9. John Stanton

    The dinosaur analogy works quite well for the big publishers. The earth's ecosystem was extremely stable for millions of years so large hulking beasts got very specialized to the environment. They became very good at their jobs and ruled the planet. A slight change in the environment wiped them out.
    But, in the case of big six publishers, a few will still be around in a very specific role. That is to handle the jobs that are too big for small presses. We need these massive hulking beasts to handle massive hulking beasts. The big six have a physical infrastructure that I can't match. They can put more books on more shelves in a few weeks than I can in a year. So if Jennifer Aniston wanted me to publish her explicit sex memoir in hard back, I couldn't come close to meeting the demand. By the time I arranged enough printed books to supply the customers, pop culture would have moved its attention on to the next shiny object.
    So yes, the big six do have a role in the future. It will require them to streamline and adapt to their new role and they may not all survive. Years from now there may only be a big 3 or 4 but they will be there.
    While these giant monsters deal with giant monsters, it will be up to the indies to find the flowers and jewels being trampled under their reptilian feet.

    Oh.. by the way, as far as the big six being the guardians of quality, they need to print out a list of indie published books that have won awards, became loved and affected people. Once they print that comprehensive list of these titles, they can roll it up into a tube and suck it.

  10. Matthew MacNish

    There was a Bransforumfest, and I have no idea? Man, I've really been neglecting the forums, where everything started. Now I feel terrible.

  11. Kim G.

    Most likely they will play angry birds.

  12. Steven J. Wangsness

    As long as they buy my book for their iPad, they can play Angry Birds all they want.

  13. Anonymous

    Grammar Grouch here. The correct wording is "she wished she had done differently," not "she wished she would have done differently." Even if it were grammatically, correct, it doesn't make sense to use "would have" in place of the shorter "had."


  14. Anonymous

    Bransforumfest sounds like great fun!

    The Microsoft analogy doesn't really work. Microsoft invented tech products. The traditional publishing companies don't own a revolutionary invention. They don't own a patent on books. On the other hand, they're so far behind in the technology they should be utilizing in order to keep up with the rest of the world, it's kind of sad. It would be like owning a board game company, refusing to lower the prices while constantly yelling, "Darn those upstart whippersnapper young'uns and their 99-cent phone app games. How can anyone ever find the good ones with all the bad ones out there? I tell you, apps are gonna disappear one day and the board game companies will survive…just like Microsoft."


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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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