Would you believe that there wasn’t any earth-shattering publishing news this week in publishing? WalMart didn’t slash the price of hardcovers to 99 cents, a new e-reader didn’t debut, and we’re all still here. Thank goodness there are still links:
GalleyCat asked the provocative question Do Authors Really Need Agents? For the most part the answer was, “Um… yes. They do.”
In e-book news, Amazon announced that they created a PC Kindle app (link via Greg Peisert), so you can now read your Kindle books on Kindles, iPhones, and your computer. I’m told you can also still read books on paper, but I haven’t been able to confirm that rumor.
Editorial Anonymous has a great response to a reader who wonders if editors (and presumably agents) know they are dream crushers. EA makes a crucial distinction: we hold your work in our hands, not your dreams. No one should be able to crush your dreams with a rejection. She writes, “dreams are achieved through your hard work, and not through the miraculous intervention of others.” Word.
A former vice-presidential candidate has a new book out, and the Associated Press got their hands on an early leaked copy (Palin reportedly is none too happy about the leak and the review). Sarah Weinman, writing for Daily Finance, took a look at the economics of the book advance and calculates that Harper would have to sell around 400,000 copies in hardcover to break even. Is that a safe bet? The Millions’ guess (and mine as well): you betcha.
In The Rejectionist news, Le R. announced the winners of her form rejection contest, which had such hysterical entries I don’t know how she even picked winners. She also took note of this week’s query trend: angels. Particularly angels tempting girls with their “smoking hot bods and snowy snowy wings.” Wow. Heaven help us all. (get it??? get it???)
@lilliamr noted a PW article about a new query service making the rounds that would pre-screen queries for agents to make sure that they conform to their guidelines and genres of interest before the agent sees them. Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware sums up the mixed history of these types of ventures. I won’t be signing up, but all you have to do is take a look at Jessica Faust’s rapturous post about her query holiday to get a sense of how much of a strain it is these days to keep up with the query pile. Yes, aspiring authors are busy too and all that, but the time it takes to read them all (let alone respond) may be approaching a point of unsustainability.
Twitter lists are fast becoming the hot new thing in the Twittersphere, and thanks very much to GalleyCat for including me in their Best Agent Twitter feeds list. I’ve created some nascent lists of my own that will continue to grow, including my clients, editors, writers, publishers, agents, and other non-editor publishing types.
In self-publishing news, Andrew Sullivan announced that he is working with Blurb.com to create a self-published coffee table book version of his View From Your Window posts, and is crowd-sourcing an estimate of what the initial print run should be. An interesting experiment indeed.
HTMLGIANT notes a Cormac McCarthy interview wherein he suggests that the days of the 700 page MOBY DICK-style literary doorstopper are completely over: “Nobody will read it. I don’t care how good it is, or how smart the readers are. Their intentions, their brains are different.”
And finally, can I get a NaNoWriMo status update? How are all the Word Marathoners doing out there?
Have a great weekend!
Loved the interview with Cormac McCarthy! Thanks for the link. 🙂
Uh oh. That was funny, Chuck. Maybe I'll start calling myself "This Mira. Not the other Mira, that's a different Mira, I'm this Mira." That should clear it up. For now, I'll keep drinking a glass of milk.
Gordon, Gordon, Gordon. Must you be insulting? I thought you were going to stop that.
Please don't be disrespectful to Nathan on his thread. That's just uncalled for, frankly, while he's giving you a forum. Also, I adore Nathan, and I'll just stop talking to you. You might see that as a perk, but if not, please don't be use an insulting tone.
In terms of your points, I agree with what Ink said. Also, I think the agents who are good at mentoring will rise to the top. Those that aren't will hire someone who is.
But the most important thing is that no publishers, indie or otherwise, will want to deal with the slushpile.
Also, I think what will happen eventually in e-books is this: publishers and booksellers will merge as a function.
You'll no longer go to any on-line bookstore to get any book. If you want to buy the e-book of Dan Brown, you'll need to go to his publisher's website and buy it to download, for example.
This will make authors hot properties. Advances may stay, percentages may become more negotiable, rights more confusing, contracts more complicated: in a sea of all this, agents will be more in demand than ever.
My predictions could be completely wrong, of course. Maybe things will centralize. But that would be my prediction right now: agents will become more important to publishers as the 'finder of talent.' Authors will want agents as mentors and tour guides, and rely on them to get the best deals.
I love long books. Just give me a world I can lose myself in,a never-ending adventure.
And kids LOVE long books.
Matilda McCloud says
I'm at about 24,000 words, but I've trashed a lot of it already (can't turn off my internal editor). But doing NaNo has been great because after I trash the lousy parts, I have a clearer idea of how I should write it. Also, it's good for writing discipline. I know I have to write every day.
Jourdan Alexandra says
"I'm told you can also still read books on paper, but I haven't been able to confirm that rumor."
Hilarious. I'll be quoting that one for awhile.
Malia Sutton says
"I'm told you can also still read books on paper, but I haven't been able to confirm that rumor."
Yes, you can still read hard copy books on paper…lol I still read them while I'm on the treadmill 🙂
Well, thanks for your response in that it felt thoughtful – but: It didn't take?
That's how you shrug off making a verbal commitment and then breaking it, Gordon?
Well, I guess that's your choice. I feel disappointed hearing that though.
So, not much more to say here. I think we'll just go around in circles at this point.
I will say, though, that GLBT vampire erotica for grade schoolers is pretty darn funny. I'd read that. Heck, I sort of want to go write it. Almost as funny as angels trying to tempt young girls with their hot bods….to do what? Follow the path of righteousness?
I'd read that too.
Wendy Oliver says
I'm at 30,386 on a series romance. (Not your type.) I'm really close to finishing another round of revisions on my last NaNoWriMo. (juvenile adventure – also not your type. Sigh.)
Harlequin's new e-press is Carina Press dot com
Matilda McCloud says
Without one of those "lounge lizards," I NEVER EVER would have been published–no how, no way. Period, end of story (as my father used to say).
Cardiff Sparrow says
I am glad I resisted strong temptation to sign up properly. I just don't have the time and shouldn't be able to find it with the commitments I have. Really enjoying watching other peoples' progress however and using the month to push revision.
You're conflating editing with writing. They might be related but they're not the same. Not at all. Many brilliant editors don't write themselves. And many writers couldn't edit others worth a spit. So to base an agent's editing and agenting abilities on a novel they might write is illogical and, frankly, seems rather pointless.
And, come on, no one's changing David Foster Wallace into Stephanie Meyer. A good editor helps a writer achieve what the writer is attempting… not what the publisher wants. And the market is too fickle, anyway, to just say "Hey, throw some vampires in and we can sell this!" I simply don't see that happening. That's coming from writers following trends (or at least following the cultural zeitgeist), not agents… who probably get sick of it in the slushpile.
And in either case, if you don't like an agent's editorial advice, don't take it. No one's forcing you. Agents aren't china dolls who are going to break if you don't take every single suggestion. That should all be part of the ongoing editorial discussion that occurs around each book. And if that editorial discussion isn't working for your stories in the way you want, then maybe the agent/author match isn't the right one. Or maybe you simply want to write something that isn't marketable and has no audience. Which is the writer's prerogative… but the writer shouldn't feel entitled to an audience and sales if that's the case.
Cormac McCarthy's comment is interesting in light of Stephen King's latest release, weighing in at a hefty 1088 pages. Yikes!
I'm only part through it, but I don't think Oscar Wao has a gay vampire in it. The Namesake didn't. The Emperor's Children definitely does not, although Julius is gay, and Murray does prey on young women…White Teeth didn't. I don't think the Shipping News did. Hmmm, aren't these all agented works of true art AND bestsellers?
I don't think it's naive, as I was using "editor" to describe anyone doing editorial work, not just people working for major publishers. And lots of editors, even at the big publishers, still love great stories. If all they're doing is peddling commercial interests without thoughts to individual stories than they're not good editors. And there are probably a few of these, but I certainly haven't come across to many.
And it's hard to completely change a story without the writer's consent. I'm sure they sometimes make suggestions in light of trying to find a work a larger audience… but the writer still doesn't have to accept this. It's their choice to accept an editorial suggestion or not. And it's their responsibility to evaluate that suggestion and its ramifications.
And it's also faulty to assume that a suggestion looking to increase audience is necessarily artistically inferior. It might make a better artistic work as well as a more commercial one. You can't lump individual artistic projects into grand generalizations such as "commercial" and "artistic". Most writers want their work to mean something. Most also wouldn't mind being compensated for their efforts. I don't see any conflict in writing the story you want, and then seeking to sell it afterward. It seems reductive to think that just because writers want to get paid they're necessarily compromising their artistic integrity. Do some do this? Certainly. Does one necessarily lead to the other? Certainly not.
And I think it's important for writers to remember this when dealing with editorial comments. Editing is subjective, and it's always going to be up to the writer to control their manuscript and keep their own aims in mind.
Other Lisa says
My experience with the agent "editorial" process and then the publishing house editorial process was, well, very different from what Gordon describes. No one tried to make me do anything I didn't want to do. Both parties were concerned with making my book better within the framework of what it already was.
In dealing with publishing houses, there was only one instance where there was interest but only if the book was rewritten to be something very different from my intentions. That wasn't something I wanted to do, so I didn't. When everyone says, "this is a very subjective business," they do not kid.
I totally agree that there is a really unfortunate risk aversion going on in the major publishing houses these days — I can't remember who it was (probably Nathan) who said that they are willing to take huge risks on big names but not small risks on debut authors, which to me is not a very sustainable business model.
So all hail to indy presses! Maybe they will be the ones to take the risks in the future.
But given that practically everyone who reads books is also writing them…I don't see how you eliminate the need for a filtering process. I've read a lot of aspiring writers' stuff. Some very good (and the people I know who are very good are all finding agents and/or making sales) but most…not so much.
Publishers rely on agents because they don't have the time or the money to do all the filtering themselves.
As a writer, I also know that I never would have been able to sell my book on my own. It simply would not have happened. The complexities of the contract, the potential for foreign/ancillary sales — though I could educate myself up to a point on all that, I don't particularly want to make it my job to be the expert, and I don't have the access to the people who make those decisions. In an agentless world, how does that all happen?
I guess if you don't care about getting paid for your work, that's not a problem. But I personally do care about that.
Just over 26k but slowing as I hit that tricky middle. Keep it up fellow Nanoers. Even if you don't hit the 50k target, every word you've written is a step closer to completing that novel!
Gordon said, "Which means, you go in with "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and you end up with GLBT Vampire erotica for grade schoolers."
Huh? On what planet does this happen? Someone please tell me what I've been missing all these years while I've been working in the publishing industry and Gordon has been doing whatever it is he's been doing.
They made a suggestion… she said no. Got published anyway with the story she wanted. Not exactly like the publishing industry taking a tire iron to her legs…
Other Lisa says
Gordon, talk about misreading what I said. Try reading my comment again.
Frankly, you'd be a lousy lawyer if this is an example of your ability to examine evidence.
"It's called hyperbole."
It's called unwarranted arrogance.
Getting attention on comment threads is one good way to promote yourself as an unknown wannabe writer. But it has to be done with care. If it's negative and abrasive, you only get a bad reputation and come off looking like a loon.
Anything posted on the web lasts forever. Even comments on blog threads.
NaNo…my story is kind of slowly and painfully dying. I can't decide what to name my HQ and I don't know if it should be an old church or what.
Jonathan Stephens says
See chapter 94 of Moby Dick, "A Squeeze of the Hand," to get a seldom-mentioned theme of the novel. I couldn't believe it and couldn't hardly see the other themes because of the shock to my collegiate-washed brain.
And gold stars for your excellent use of "nascent" in a blog.
Steve & Sarah says
Just stumbled across your blog, love to get the insider perspective on the publishing industry.
Feels like I've stumbled into a roomful of people! Wonderful blog, as always, Nathan.
I too can't believe you asked for NaNo stats. That's like offering a sardine to a starving cat.
I'm at 36K of a novel that is treading dangerously close to chick-lit waters.
As for Chris, wondering what the point of it is, well, this is my second go round, and both times I only did it because I moderate an online writers group and THEY all wanted to do it. And, you know what? I'm truly grateful. Stories I didn't know I had in me came out, and I had, am having, a hoot. As Anne said, the camraderie is wonderful.
And, it certainly helps towards the million words thing.
Daniel Allen says
I'm a little embarassed to admit that I've written less this month than any month in the last two years! *blush*
Genella deGrey says
LOL – I left my comment with The Rejectionist about angels: It was man (artists) who decided Angels had wings.
Not in any biblical account are there descriptions of wings.
My first book depicted such hotties – sans the white feathers. 😉
It's all about where you take your research from.
Bryan D says
As Josin mentioned, The Historian (just shy of 700 pp.) certainly drew a large audience. And Ken Follet's World Without End (at a whopping 1015 pages) also did very well.
The former is an example of how even a newcomer can still succeed with a mammoth tome, and the latter is an example of how a successful author can command a large audience for ridiculously long books–and leave the reader clamoring for more.
If JK Rowling wrote a 2,000 page book, the bookstores would still have lines out the door waiting to buy it at midnight.
People are definitely changing how they read, and I think it's going to affect the type of writing that appeals to a broad audience, but it's not necessarily the death of the long book. I think authors with broad appeal will likely be the ones who learn or intrinsically know how to package a suspense-building mini-story into each chapter so that readers are propelled forward in short bursts of satisfaction. That's not so different from the formula used by Grisham, Rowling, and other list-smashing authors.
I was inspired by NaNoWriMo, but I started early – June 19, I think. And it's probably going to be closer to 95,000 words. But I'm trying to wrap up the first draft by the 30th.
R. D. Allen says
I'm at 40k right now in NaNoWriMo. ^_^ I don't think it'll be over at 50k, though… probably closer to 60k-70k.