The article that set publishing Twitter ablaze (This week in books)

by | Sep 20, 2019 | This Week in Books | 7 comments

Brooklyn. Photo by me. Follow me on Instagram!

This week! Books!

Let’s get this one out of the way. Author Heather Demetrios was the talk of the publishing this week due to her long confession in a Medium post that she had no idea how book advances or typical literary careers worked when she got a big advance and proceeded to make many imprudent financial decisions.

There are really too many Hot Takes on social media about this article to even count, but let me just take this opportunity to re-up some key blog posts on the fundamentals of publishing economics and navigating the publishing journey:

And of course, when it comes to publishing, above all remember this: nothing, and I mean nothing, is guaranteed. Ultimately, I agree with author Justina Ireland on this one:

It’s award season! Congrats to the longlistees for the National Book Award in…



Translated literature:

And Young people’s literature:

Are you ready for books that are more than books? Michael D. Shaw takes an in-depth look at bringing augmented reality to space books. (via The Millions)

The New Yorker has a pretty hilarious look at the real publishing numbers.

Agent Jessica Faust has a great reminder that revisions are the secret to success. She also has some tips on writing a nonfiction query letter.

I had the chance to see the movie Ad Astra last weekend, and I highly recommend it! Emily Rome argues that we need more near future space movies like this.

This week in bestsellers

Here are the top five NY Times bestsellers in a few key categories:

Adult print and e-book fiction:

  1. The Institute by Stephen King
  2. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  3. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  5. The Titanic Secret by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul

Adult print and e-book nonfiction:

  1. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  2. Call Sign Chaos by James Mattis and Bing West
  3. Educated by Tara Westover
  4. The Only Plane in the Sky by Garett M. Graf
  5. She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

Young adult hardcover:

  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  2. Frankly in Love by David Yoon
  3. Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott with Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis
  4. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  5. American Royals by Katharine McGee

Middle grade hardcover:

  1. Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney
  2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  3. Refugee by Alan Gratz
  4. Max Einstein: Rebels With a Cause by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
  5. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

This week on the blog

Don’t forget that you can nominate your first page and query for a free critique on the blog:

In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:

Comment! of! the! week! goes to Wendy, with a great breakdown of precisely why Jane Austen’s dialogue works so well in Pride and Prejudice:

The dialogue between Elizabeth, Miss Bennett, and Mr Darcy is scintillating. On the one hand, it’s kept to the Victorian standard of etiquette, while on the other is skirting outright rudeness. However, we also see that while Elizabeth is getting more worked up – we can almost hear her voice becoming more high-pitched – Mr Darcy has kept his self-control. The one who has self-control is the one who controls the situation. His response is admirable. When she calms down, she’ll remember it.

This week in the Forums:

And finally, basketball player Shaun Livingston has had an incredibly inspiring career. After injuring his knee so severely doctors actually considered amputation, Livingston very gradually worked his way back into the NBA and eventually became a key contributor to several Golden State Warriors championship teams. He retired this month, a great lesson in resilience. This profile from The Ringer is worth a read.

Have a great weekend!

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  1. abc

    Heard that Ad Astra has space monkeys.

  2. David Dvorkin

    Quibble, or maybe more than a quibble. Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, six years before Victoria was born. It’s a Regency novel. While standards for dialog during Austen’s time were restrictive by our standards, they can’t be called Victorian.

  3. Wendy

    Hi, David, good point – thanks! Mr Google led me to an article saying that Pride and Prejudice was, indeed, a Regency novel. The key features of this period, according to the article, were witty conversation, a focus on marriage, and attention to fashion and manners. All very Pride and Prejudice. Although I did think the story was set in Victorian times, I was trying to describe the very formal and mannered interactions of the characters through comparison with a well-known era known for extreme politeness.. I’d always speculated that perhaps Queen Victoria, a very prim and proper lady, was the main influence behind her times: ‘We are not amused.’ How would people express such chagrin today? But it seems she was the one influenced by the attitudes and behaviour of the previous generation.
    It’s an interesting topic, isn’t it? I mean, the way the awareness of the times influences the culture, thinking and behaviour of society in general.

  4. Wendy

    How interesting was this article by Heather Demetrios? Makes a lot of sense. I’ve found the same regarding unexpected windfalls. Thanks for posting it and all the back up information, Nathan.


    My initial reaction to Heather Demetrios’ article was critical too. She obviously did not LOSE any money without trying. She SPENT it, with considerable effort. But she later elaborated on the matter in her newsletter etc. in a more nuance matter. She partly blames intergenerational poverty for her ignorance not only of useful professional information, but of how to access it. I do see her point, though poverty can give a person a certain perspective and even common sense.

    I don’t agree with Justina Ireland. We all have knowledge gaps, and sometimes the more we know about one thing the less we know about another.

    I second your suggestion that writers study your blog (and forums) to bone up on publishing. I know of no finer publishing resources and your writings might have saved Heather Demetrios a lot of grief!

    The New Yorker publishing numbers article made me hungry for pie. I don’t know why.

    Congrarulations to Wendy!

    Thanks Nathan!


    Thanks also, Nathan, for your excellent photo. Brownstones are fittingly autumnal buildings!


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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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