This YEAR in publishing….
But first, a brief programming note: Next week I will be posting as normal (or at least as normal as things ever get around here) through Wednesday December 23rd, and I will be working my little elf fingers to the bone tap tap tapping at the computer until then. Also making toys. Then I will take a break for SANTAAAAAAAAAA OH MY GODDDDD!!!! Then during the week of the 28th I shall run some posts from Christmases past (or Junes past, Augusts past, etc.).
And then, THEN, the first week in January we will have quite the fun and new and never-seen-before contest (contest! CONTEST!!!!), which may or may not coincide with the publication of Jennifer Hubbard’s heart-wrenching, gripping, unforgettable debut YA novel THE SECRET YEAR, which Booklist recently said is “a fine addition to the PANTHEON of YA literature,” (bolding, capitalizing, and italicizing mine, though I’m sure they meant it to read that way), and which happens to be available for pre-order.
Then, the second week of January there will be another contest, which will mainly be held in the Forums. But we’ll talk about that later because right now the thought of two contests in two weeks is blowing my elf brain.
And now we shall recap 2009.
When I was recapping 2008, I called it the year the future caught up with publishing. Well, if things began to change in 2008, they done really changed in 2009.
The impact of e-books on the book industry remains more theory than fact at this point as they comprise only 5-10% of sales, but they’re booming, and the massive earthquake that they represent is beginning to rumble. Publishers are attempting naked rights grabs (well, the rights grabs are naked, hopefully the publishers aren’t), they’re worried about the elephant in the Amazon, and after a century where they enjoyed near complete control over which books the world reads, publishers are suddenly confronting a future where they may or may not be necessary.
In part because there’s so much free content out there competing for attention, the entire pricing model of the industry is under tremendous pressure, even as publishers continue to pay huge advances for the hottest titles. Because the advertising and promotion tools at their disposal have not yet sufficiently changed with the times, publishers are often relying on authors to generate their own buzz precisely at a time when the alternative publishing options at authors’ disposal (particularly when they can generate their own buzz) are becoming and will become all the more enticing.
2009 is an apt year for all of these events because we’re embarking on a new decade just as publishers are staring in the face of a new era in which they will hopefully continue to ask themselves not what authors can do for them but what they can do for authors and bring their unmatched package of services to bear to remain relevant and vital in the e-book era. If e-books eventually comprise 50% or 75% or 90% of sales and e-book vendors take all comers, publishers are going to have to make themselves appealing to authors rather than the other way around, while still confronting the perennial challenge of how to stay profitable.
Will the polarization of publishing continue, with publishers focusing on a few huge blockbusters on top and a vast sea of small- or self-published books below? Will publishers be able to stay above the sea and help consumers navigate to the books they really want? Will publishers find a way to command eyeballs in the Internet era?
These are challenging times for publishers. And yet I think it’s a great time for authors. We’re in an era when anyone can be a star overnight. In the digital world, something can instantaneously catch on. All that’s standing in the way of an author and bestsellerdom is that magic word of mouth, which moves faster than ever. People who can command an audience are suddenly hugely valuable in a time when there’s an infinite array of content but a premium on those who have a following.
In the new publishing world: Everyone’s got a shot. For better or worse.
Now then! There was still a week in publishing, and lots of news to get to:
Still more reaction to last week’s news that some publishers are delaying e-book releases. Matt Stewart wonders why, in his words, publishers are screwing their best customers, John Gapper in the Financial Times argues that book publishers are right to stand up to Amazon, and an analysis by Rory Maher and Henry Blodget argues that over time wholesale prices will have to come down and it is likely authors who will feel the squeeze.
The new e-book news this week is that Random House CEO Markus Dohle sent a letter to agents suggesting that Random House has e-book rights for backlist titles even when the e-book rights are not actually stated in the contract. The irony here is that Random House tried this in 2001 and lost in court. The Author’s Guild is having none of it, and Pimp My Novel has some helpful perspective.
Meanwhile, a French Court found Google guilty of copyright infringement for scanning and listing books as part of Google Book Search. In the US, of course, we have the pending Google Book Search settlement, which is still being revised and will be subject to court approval.
Reader Sarah Pinneo passed along an interesting post by David Pogue in which he pondered whether DRM should be applied to e-books. Interestingly enough, while he supported the removal of DRM for music and used a free e-book to boost his print sales and is about as pro-new technology a person as you’ll ever find, he’s just a tad nervous as an author about non-DRM e-books in an e-reader era.
There were a couple of really fascinating articles on the global publishing scene by Publishing Perspectives this week. First, an informative look into the buzz generating, information swapping, always hustling world of book scouts (via John Ochwat in the Forums). And from France comes news that literary agents are quietly making inroads into what had previously been a relatively literary agency-free publishing landscape (via Book Bench).
You know how I coined the term “male ennui” to classify all those books I receive queries for about disaffected male protagonists who go on a crazy road trip/meet an irrepressible and slightly insane but loveable hot chick who is the only person in the world who sees The Real Him/engage in CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES style lunacy? (Which, by the way, can definitely work very well and I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t write it). Well, the Rejectionist just destroyed “male ennui” in a single stroke with a ten quadrillion times better term: mangst. You heard it there first. Also Le R. has query stats.
In writerly news, Kate Schafer Testerman asks an interesting question about how best to describe race in novels, Jeff Abbott examines 2010 planners in his Organized Writer series, and Jessica Faust writes about what to do when authors suggest writing advice that conflicts with agents/editors.
Almost finally, if you want to preview some books by some bestselling authors, JC Hutchins is spreading cheer by offering a free holiday sampler PDF.
And finally, finally… well, Elf again:
Have a great weekend!
Bane of Anubis says
Mangst — almost as good a moobs, but not quite 😉
d minus says
smiling's my favorite.
Have to agree: mangst put a smile on my face!! Thanks for the review of the year.
Matilda McCloud says
Would the book/movie SIDEWAYS be considered mangst? That's one of my favorites…
Kimberly Kincaid says
First of all, I just about choked on my tea at the whole naked publishers thing. For a romance writer, perhaps I am having a naive day, because my little brain didn't even GO THERE until I read that. And then I had to laugh til I almost cried. Which is awesome in and of itself.
Secondly, *squeee* for THE SECRET YEAR. Going on the should-I-buy-groceries-or-should-I-buy-books list, stat. Oh, PS. I pretty much always buy books 🙂
The recap makes my head swim when you do it weekly, so the thought of a whole year like this is enough that I have to digest it like Thanksgiving dinner. But I love that I now have something to mull over after I get my Zen on in "happy hour yoga" class tonight. 'Cause margaritas go with Zen reeeeeeally well, as it turns out. Namaste, indeed!
Mangst. Oh. Em. Gee. That is simply made of awesome.
Great post, Nathan 🙂 Is it wrong that I'm drooling a little over the contest thing?
Terry Towery says
Great post! I've been known to experience a little mangst every now and then, myself.
Congrats to you and your client on THE SECRET YEAR. Can't wait to read it.
And the paragraph about how it's a great time to be an author literally gave me goosebumps! It seems like it's the first really positive thing I've read on being an aspiring author in, like, forever.
Thanks for sending a little shiver down my leg.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
I always just called them whiney white boys. But "mangst?" Work of genius!
The "naked rights grab" link was better in my mind than the page it took me to.
Mark Terry says
Two things after the "I've enjoyed the hell out of your blog this year" thing. Okay, that's out of the way.
1. I gave a talk to a high school writing club yesterday and I drew a castle on their white board complete with moat, but no draw bridge, then a dragon (sort of representing the agent, I guess, but really, the agent is the person who knows how to get past the dragon and get the drawbridge down) and I talked about agents and what publishers wants, and money, blah, blah, blah (did I say I brought pizza? I did, so they listened to me, or at least pretended to in case I might take the pizza away). Then I asked if anyone had heard of a Kindle. A few hand. Then I pointed out that they were all 14-18 years of age, then I started erasing the entire white board and said, "And this is the publishing industry I just told you about being destroyed, boom, a bomb landed on it, bye-bye." 'cause it's changing and nobody really knows what's going to happen, but it'll be different.
2. Becuz you kept claiming the iPod Kindle app was so wunderfuller, and becuz, y'know, I think you're soooooo persuasive, I made a second stab at reading a book on mine (rather than just my own Kindle book, Dancing In The Dark, oy veh, vhat a deal!), so I downloaded The Audacity To Win by David Plouffe and I must admit, it's great. Do I want to read all my books on an iPhone? Uh, no. Not at all. It's, to me, not a curl-up-on-the-couch kind of application. But it's a definite waiting-in-the-car-for-the-kids or waiting-for-the-swim-meet-to-start kind of thing and it could be a game changer for the general reading public that's too cheap to buy a Kindle or the World's Most Persistent Rumored Apple iPad (iSlate/iPhantom Device).
Anita Saxena says
That youtube video with the robots was CRAZY! And the article said it was made with $300?!? Am I reading that right?
Marsha Sigman says
SANTA'S COMING…I know him.
I'm a visual person and did not need the naked publisher thing put out there. Also, I can totally see you making toys – you're cool like that! Thanks for a wonderful year of posts and have a fantastic holiday. May 2010 rock for everyone 🙂
Ah, the coining of the phrase male ennui explained. Eric mentioned it once on Pimp My Novel. Now I know. Catchy.
Good links, some funny ones and even some heartening news. Thanks.
Mangst, hmm, I think that might be sexist.
Marilyn Peake says
To Nathan and everyone here on this Blog –
Hope you have a wonderful holiday season!! Today, I'm knee-deep in crazy-whirlwind-of-Christmas-preparation, while also frantically-getting-ready-for-the-worst-(I mean BEST!! YIPPEE!)- snowstorm we've had in years!! I actually put up my outdoor Christmas lights in the freezing cold until late last night, in the hope they'll have time to thaw and dry out in time for Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
L.T. Elliot says
I hate to say it but Mangst actually came from author James Dashner's blog where his fans create funny languages from his word verifiers. Mangst was cited as early as last March. =[
Excellent post, great learnings.
Emily White says
SAAAAAANNNNTAAAAAAAAAAA! Sorry. I couldn't help it. I love Will Ferrell.
Now that I look back at the past year, it does seem like a lot has happened. It's kind of overwhelming. By the way, I'm looking forward to the debut of THE SECRET YEAR and of course a certain space KAPOW!!! Yeah, I couldn't help that either. 🙂
Dana Fredsti says
I think you've officially just broken the 'links' record for one blog post.
Rebecca Knight says
Thank you for this fabulous round up! 😀 I read "mangst" on Le R's blog this morning, and it's still just as hilarious.
By the way, I'm so excited about THE SECRET YEAR now! Your pimpage has successfully intrigued me :). Thanks for the recommendation, and happy holidays!
also making toys. i like that…
Nathan Bransford says
I would engage you on that if I thought it would come to anything fruitful, but I doubt it will and thus I won't. You have an axe to grind that is not going to be blunted by anything I have to say.
Other Lisa says
Set phaser to ignore!
Congratulations to Jennifer — just about any time the descriptor "Pantheon" is used, it's got to be a really good thing!
…necktie man is making a naked grab at eyeballs for his own blog.
T. Anne says
Hey didn't you just warn us to stay away from people hosting contests? Don't worry, I'll be back.
Nathan Bransford says
Haha, I should have added a big disclaimer: EXCEPT FOR MINE!!! No rights given up, fun prizes, free!
Thanks for this info, Nathan. Looking forward to so many good things, especially CONTESTS!
I'm looking forward to reading The Secret Year – I visited this author's website, and she seems like an interesting person (she says that she's been writing stories 'most of her life').
The only problem is that I'm not a young adult. Do I have to wait to become a young adult before I can read this novel?
Terry Towery says
Gordon, I hesitate to engage you on this — but what the hell, it's Friday …
I think the term "sexy" in the year 2010 (almost. Wow!) doesn't mean what it did, say, a decade ago. I took nothing from Nathan's description other than the book will be another "Twilight-esque" hit with the lucrative 14-17 year old girl market. And they like "sexy" as it's used in today's parlance.
Sexy is good when it comes to YA that's being positioned for young women of that age group. I doubt we're going to see "pornography" in the book, which you seem to be impying.
Anyway. My two cents. Happy Holidays.
A contest? Oooo no, I used up my most recent book first para on the last contest!
I wonder if I have time to come up with a new concept and write/rewite/polish a first page, or sentence, or query, or, or, or…. Ack!!
An early Happy Holidays to you Nathan, thank you for all you do.
Susan Quinn says
You can track Santa on NORAD.
What's all this business about sex?
Are you guys talking about The Secret Year? – I thought this book was about two high school students who are experiencing love for the first time? Those emotions, at that age, can be overpowering. The wonderful thing is that you're not jaded at that age – the emotions are raw and can touch you at the core.
Man, I am really looking forward to reading this story.
As far as the sex thing is concerned I can only say that by the time I graduated from high school a good 90% of my friends had lost their virginities… virginity.
Sex is a part of being a teenager. Why are we objecting to this? Relations are beautiful. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with that at all.
(Wait a minute. The person objecting to the sex… is he from The Bible Belt region? I had heard about these Bible thumping individuals, but I had never met one… until today. Wow, if you live long enough you end up meeting all kinds.)
Dude, Harry Potter isn't YA, it's MG. Different ballgame. And I hate to blow your fantasy world, but sex and teens are joined at the hips.
Charlee Vale says
Nathan, will The Secret Year be available in e-book form in the near future? If I receive a Kindle for Christmas I might choose to wait for that. If not I may just pre-order. 🙂
Charlee Vale says
Oh, and the Elf clip TOTALLY made my night! Thanks!
Goodness! Deep breath. Too much in this post! The year – the week -the wild. Good thing I follow your blog so a post like this makes sense.
Two points I'd like to share: 1. Amazon's secret is in their software – and I know what that means. 🙂
2. sexy is the word now used for the potent wordsmith talent for sexual tension.
There's a whole flurry of books published as Inspirational romances that are wild with sexual tension – sexy from the neck up – even though nothing more than a kiss is allowed. Twilight is bursting out all over with sexual tension – and the denial of it – or so I've heard.
Sexual tension is what makes most of Harlequin's lines "sexy". Any sex in the pages is because the tension has reached levels where consenting adults behave like teens. It's part of the fantasy.
Just wanted to share that insight for future Gordon's on your blog.
Agent, author, blogger, AND toymaker?! When are you going to tackle world peace?
I love ELf.
Gawd, I'm having a difficult time even following this argument.
What's the debate about?
The literary agent wrote the word 'sexy' in his blog – I think what he meant was that The Sexy Year… excuse me, The Secret Year… is a great read… that's it's, you know, modern… sexy… it's something that you might want to pick up… not because there's sex in it, but because the story is… ya know… well written.
I mean, I'm the last person who's going to defend this literary agent guy, but really, too much is being read into the one word that he wrote. Bransford didn't mean that one should buy the book because it's got sex in it.
I mean, jeepers, man.
I'll bet I know what the real problem is here – the cat recently rejected your stuff, didn't he? That shouldn't bother you at all – he rejected my stuff too. I mean obviously he has no idea what he's doing.
Words can have mmore than one meaning. Sexy, for example. You know, "Generally appealing and attractive." Rather a long way between that and child pornography, or so it seems to me.
It's in the dictionary, even. Of course that probably doesn't matter, since your intent seems (at least to me) to pick a fight by jumping on the worst possible interpretation of something and ignoring all others (as usual). It seems like you have a point you want to make to an audience and that's all that really matters. Or am I wrong about that? I fully admit I might be, but that's how it seems. That's how it comes across to readers, I'm pretty sure. What I can't always tell is whether you intend that or not.
The Not Quite Writer says
"People who can command an audience are suddenly hugely valuable in a time when there's an infinite array of content but a premium on those who have a following."
Uh-oh. Does this mean I have post an insanely popular video of, say, my cat sneezing on YouTube in order to get a book deal? Maybe that'll be my New Year's resolution for 2010. It has about the same odds as me exercising and eating right.
Nathan Bransford says
People might actually be willing to discuss this with you if they thought it was going to be a reasonable discussion rather than a hysterical argument to further your own personal agenda. You seem intent on the latter, so "debating" this with you isn't particularly appealing to me or anyone else (though some who are better people than me have nonetheless tried to reason with you). You're not going to listen to what I or anyone else has to say, so why engage you on this?
Frankly you've been extremely rude to everyone and I've let it slide, but I'm not inclined to let you keep attacking everyone.
All I want to say is I enjoy your posts so much! The first paragraph of this post alone was well worth the price of admission.
Which is free, but still. 🙂
And oh. Disclaimer. I didn't read any of the other comments before posting mine so if mine seems outta left field, that's why. Reading backwards now, yikes.
Didn't President Obama just say insulation was sexy? I think people do use the word to mean exciting or interesting. I don't know how Nathan meant it, but there are other uses in conversation.
LOL. Mangst. That's bound to be a new favorite word 😛
Other Lisa says
And did I mention that I saw part of ELF on the plane? I'd never seen it before.
I'm almost tempted to go over to Gordon's blog. But I won't. I have a feeling he only does these things to get attention, and I'd rather not help him in his quest.
For me, personally, it's disconcerting (and also maybe a bit fascinating?) to see how a person can twist the meaning of just one word – let alone an entire novel.
At one point the Germans actually banned 'All Quiet on The Western Front', because they felt it was a betrayal to their country – what a twisted interpretation of a great novel.
I remember reading a quotation on the back of the book's jacket: "This novel should be distributed to all schoolchildren everywhere." – I find it almost impossible to believe that an entire nation of people could've disagreed with that recommendation. Remarque's novel was actually burned by the hundreds at book burning ceremonies. It's a good thing I wasn't around at the time, because I might've… in fact, I probably would've… stood up and said something – and then they would've burned me!
E.M. Forster once wrote: "One grows accustomed to being praised, or blamed, but it is rare to be understood."
Jesus, amen to that.
Anyway, merry Christmas to all of you cats out there, and a special thanks to Mr. Brentford – I've learned a lot from visiting this blog of yours (although, unfortunately, not all of it has been good… but oh well… I'm learning).
You're right, M Youffner, some people should just leave well enough alone.
Josin L. McQuein says
Aha! Nathan is an elf!!! That explains the insane number of things he can do at the same time while sever sleeping. (So should we thank Santa for lending him out?)
A new contest sounds cool (2 sounds even better 😀 )
In the new publishing world: Everyone's got a shot. For better or worse. But hasn't everyone always had a shot? Everyone's always had the option of self-publishing and trying to market their own books. Just because the format is easier, doesn't change that. It doesn't make the books edited or non-derivative. It doesn't make the writer talented. All it does is flood the market so full of garbage, most people will by-pass browsing titles in favor of familiar authors or brands (publishing houses) because they have some assurance of quality control… kind of like it is now.
Nathan, I think you need to get one of those "Don't Feed the Trolls" banners to pull out when certain people hi-jack a thread because they want attention.
(Dear Troll: If the only time someone will engage you in conversation is when you poke at them, take a hint. Of course your attitude is nothing but mangst run amok.)
And dear troll… Harry Potter was not a Young Adult novel. It was a Middle Grade novel (just a long and detailed one) The characters were 12 when it started, not teenagers. Which is not to say 12 year-olds are oblivious about sex, and if you think they are, you're oblivious about 12 year-olds.