It was a pretty eventful week in publishing this, um, week so let’s get right to it.
The news that everyone is talking about is agent Andrew Wylie’s move to deal directly and exclusively with Amazon for e-book rights to many classic works by authors such as Vladimir Nabokov, Hunter S. Thompson, Philip Roth, and more. Basically, the original contracts for these books were signed before e-books were a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye, and Wylie is taking the stance that these rights belong to the authors and not the publishers.
This, as they say, is a pretty big deal for publishers. As author Jason Pinter writes in the Huffington Post, backlist sales represent a huge amount of money for publishers, and could drastically affect the publishers’ revenue in the future if they don’t have e-book rights to their backlist.
The publishers themselves have reacted strongly. Macmillan CEO John Sargent released a strongly worded statement, and Random House announced that they “would be taking appropriate action” and would not do any business with Wylie’s agency until the matter is resolved. For his part, Wylie told the Times that Random House’s response took him by surprise, and that he needed some time to think about the situation before responding.
For analysis of what this all means and the full ramifications, definitely check out Pinter’s HuffPo article, Kassia Krozser’s recent post on the matter, and Publishers Weekly’s new PWxyz blog has a good roundup of the reactions around the Internet.
And meanwhile, there was other big e-book news as Amazon announced that e-books have been outselling hardcovers on Amazon for several months. It’s not quite apples to apples considering the lower price of e-books, but still, another benchmark as e-books continue their rise.
And yet amid all of this e-book hullaballo, @OtherLisa linked to an article about how indie bookstore sales have risen this year. Go indies go!!!!
In life of a writer news, Tahereh has the five stages of querying, Susanna Daniel wrote an article on the quiet hell of taking ten years to write a novel, and oh yeah, now might be a good time to link to San Francisco legend Broke Ass Stuart’s guide to the best literary bars in San Francisco.
Oh, and if that doesn’t work you can cheer yourself up with the Times’ recent interview with author Ken Follet, who got started writing novels because he needed £200 to fix his car. And now he could probably buy General Motors!
Author Hannah Moskowitz tackled a topic that has been popping up around the publishosphere: the notion that boys read middle grade but not YA, either skipping YA to move straight to adult fiction or not reading altogether. Hannah’s take on the subject is definitely worth a read.
And in author promotion news, Donna Gephart has a terrific post by the great Cynthia Leitich Smith about coming up with a promotion plan for your book.
Oh, and speaking of which, JACOB WONDERBAR is available for pre-order! Which is a trip and a half! Maybe two trips!
This week in the Forums: video gamers reveal themselves and discuss the video games, one star reviews of the world’s great novels, people discuss their favorite fantasy novels, and of course, how do you celebrate when you finish a book?
Comment! Of! The! Week! goes to Scott, who I thought had an interesting and provocative take on the coming e-book era, and whose comment is great in whole. Some snippets:
Literature is following and will continue to follow the trend of the Information Age: we’re not going to take the seller’s word for it, we’re going to look at other consumers’ experiences and make an informed decision… Blogs, Amazon reviews, word of Twittermouth, aggregate sites that are not affiliated with the seller (RottenTomatoes, GameSpot, GoodReads)…
As you listen more, you find people and voices you trust– it might be Nathan’s blog, it might be your brother who reads lots of that genre, it might be a guy in Connecticut who lives in a treehouse and writes Amazon reviews on a lot of related products he’s tried…
Most of the conversation above has been about finding and protecting good writing, but I challenge the assumption that that’s even what anyone is looking for. It’s definitely a huge plus, but what people want is value, not quality…
And finally, I missed this last week, but the Old Spice Guy had a pretty hilarious take on libraries, or as he calls them, places that contain “written words, and written words are the non-pictures that convey anything to other minds.” But then! Only on the Internet in 2010, the Old Spice Guy was upstaged by a BYU library’s parody of… the Old Spice Guy… on libraries. It’s all so meta my brain hurts from my brain hurting from the metaness. Um. Anyway, here are both videos:
Have a great weekend!
Yay for Jacob Wonderbar. I pre-ordered it yesterday, actually.
Ted Cross says
My opinion matters litte, but to me if the contract doesn't say anything about eBooks, then the rights belong to the author.
The First Carol says
I'm on the same bandwagon as @OtherLisa, some of the best people in publishing are independent bookstore owners. They promote local authors heavily and expand into the community with events to draw our attention to what's hot on the local scene. I say, buy big and buy independent. Oh, and reading is good, too.
Natalie Whipple says
That video makes me really proud to have graduated from BYU. I was only marginally proud before.
Sheila Cull says
Nathan, yesterday I read your post about e books and change. More surprising information about e books today. "Change is good, embrace change because it's the only constant, change is good," I keep telling myself. Then why am I licking up salty tears that run down my face? Because I grew up with paper paged books and I happen to love them? Does anybody else feel the same way?
Kristi Helvig says
I just pre-ordered Jacob Wonderbar–woo hoo! 🙂
Nathan Bransford says
I think you might have missed #3 from yesterday's post
Stu Pitt says
Nice to see this agent sticking it to a major publisher. Hope more follow suit.
Doubtful any similar sort of power-play would happen with an indie publisher and an author or agent.
Go indies, indeed!
A Paperback Writer says
This University of Utah graduate is still wondering how anything this clever could come out of Provo, Utah and BYU. But, you know, I'd never admit to being biased or anything…..
Loved the Five Stages of Querying. Of course I have a completely reasonable and objective approach to queries.
Right up until I get the rejection…
E-books need pagination!
Everything else is fine.
Sheila Cull says
I'm worried about the abundance of paper books. I like abundance. And I feel safe and happy knowing that I have billions of paper books to choose from, now.
The battle with ebooks is clearly convienance vs. tradition. I, myself, don't take kindly to change. That being said my other concern, the same I have with my digital photo albums, is that technology is changing in a way that the new becomes old so fast, if we don't keep up some things dear to us may get lost. For example, I still get paper prints of photos that I want my grandkids to find decades from now when computers won't have disk drives and all my saved albums are boxed away with my old VHS tapes.
Tamara Hart Heiner says
ha ha! love this! As a previous BYU student, I can't help but laugh when I see them being funny in that library! Great post!
Chuck H. says
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-books! I'm a little confused. Libraries are good-no?
Amanda Sablan says
Great luck with Jacob Wonderbar!
jonas wunderman says
Who is this Jacob Wonderbar? Hmmm
Yay for my alma mater! We're funny too.
Jen P says
I think this is quite an interesting post to read alongside the e-books debate and in particular the fear of authors, even agents, about missing out on potential royalties by holding onto rights or wanting to see them as a subsidiary right. Evan Schnittman has just been appointed Managing Director Group Sales and Marketing, Print and Digital at Bloomsbury in the UK. https://www.blackplasticglasses.com/2010/07/15/ebook-royalties/
Go Jacob Wunderbar, go. Are you allowed to give us sneak previews of the cover as and when it becomes available, like a blog community bonus, ahead of amazon?
Ishta Mercurio says
LOL about the 5 stages of querying. I'll admit to the first two, although I did leave those things out of my actual query letter. 🙂 Soon after my first rejection, I discovered SCBWI and realized how naive I had been. Talk about a steep learning curve!
Congrats on Jacob Wonderbar being available for preorder! That must be so surreal. I dream of living a day like that.
Re: Andrew Wylie: WOW. Talk about balls. Especially after this article. I guess it really isn't feasible for publishing houses to go back over every contract they've ever signed and fix it to definitively include or exclude e-rights.
The film and television industries are going through a similar issue, with most of the profits from old movies that are now released on DVD bypassing actors altogether and going to the producers. There are also lots of issues around electronic media, like the replaying of episodes on network websites, etc. in terms of whether and how much actors get paid for that.
Speaking of actors and authors and publishers wrangling over rights and profits in the new e-dawn, my word verification for this post is "nosay". How prophetic.
Literary Cowgirl says
Conrgatulations Nathan! I can't wait to read your book. I started reading your blog around the time I began mine, and FATTY LEGS will officially be released Aug 01 (though it has been avail since June). It is a very exciting feeling. So, to go with your new published writer ego you need a voice mail to match.
i'll be the girl shoving your novel into the sticky hands of small children.
Carol Riggs says
Everyone's mentioning the ebook thingy, but I leaped on one of the OTHER links–that of Hannah Moskowitz's blog topic, why boys seem to skip reading YA. And, just as I suspected: mostly cuz there aren't many boy YAs out there! No wonder boys don't read; there's not much of a selection.
And yet, according to agent/author Mandy Hubbard's blog post re her recent trip to NY (7-20 post at https://mandyhubbard.livejournal.com/), editors are wary about selecting books SOLELY geared toward boys–because books for girls simply sell better. Sounds like a conundrum to me. How do we start to fill the gap if it doesn't initially make good marketing sense for editors and publishers?
Meanwhile, I'm still writing my sci fi WIP with a male MC…
Krista V. says
THAT WAS MY COLLEGE LIBRARY! I've actually been there! Woohoo!
T. Anne says
May of 2011!!! Yay you! Are you counting down the days? I'm really thrilled for you! I'm going to purchase a copy but greedy me wants an author signature as well. Will you have book plates available? Have a great weekend!
Macmillan CEO John Sargent spoke out this afternoon: " A basic tenet of publishing is that our function is to reach as many readers as we can. We disseminate our books and the ideas within them as broadly as possible."
And all this time I thought their function was to make money. Now I realize that what they truly want to become–are libraries.
“Therefore, regrettably, Random House on a worldwide basis will not be entering into any new English-language business agreements with the Wylie Agency until this situation is resolved.”
Where did they get their playbook–Amazon?
Governor Tarkin: Princess Leia, before your execution, you will join me at a ceremony that will make this battle station operational. No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now.
Princess Leia: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
Other Lisa says
The Amazon pre-order moment is one of those weird milestones on the road to publication, to be sure. At least it was for me.
I'm going to go with my optimistic take that eBooks might expand the market for books as a whole. And that the indie stores who are bucking trends and doing well are an example of the sort of community and connection that people increasingly crave in the virtually connected, physically disconnected world so many of us live in. Plus, with everything so speeded up in our lives, I predict that more people will turn to reading, and reading real books, because it's an experience that engages us in a unique way and slows us down.
Annd…the Old Spice Guy can do no wrong.
Happy weekend, all!
Nathan, maybe you can help us unravel the mystery of Amazon’s ranking system. You could plot Jacob Wonderbar’s bestseller rankings, and sales, over time as the book moves from #80,013 to #1.
I plan on pre-ordering everyone's debut novel. Keep 'em coming, people.
Scathach Publishing says
I read your take on e-books yesterday, Nathan, and just wanted to say kudos to you for being more on the ball than the rest of your profession. As to Random House, I've been following it all day. I blogged about it, too.
From an Indie Author POV I'm loving seeing Random House floundering around, but even better has been John Sargent. I popped over to his blog and read his post where he states he is worried about little companies like Bookswim. Tellingly, the CEO of Bookswim posted a comment saying he isn't worried.
In fact, the only people who do seem worried Random House and Macmillan. And as for why… at the end of the day, publishers are starting to scared. Who can blame them? If I had as little sense as they constantly prove themselves to have, I'd be terrified.
On a final note, as to Random House claiming they own those e-book rights, that's like me going to the cinema and claiming that means I own the DVD.
I signed many contracts long before digital rights were "a speck on the horizon" and I can tell you it's not a good feeling when you see these backlisted books released in digital format and you're not getting paid a cent.
ryan field says
Interesting post about backlisted books being released in digital format 🙂
Marilyn Peake says
I've been following the news about The Wylie Agency and Amazon all week. Interesting situation. Here’s a bit of humor on the subject from GalleyCat: Disguise Your Kindle as a Newspaper. Thanks for all the links on so many subjects. And congratulations on your book becoming available for pre-order! Have a great weekend! Also, LOL on the Old Spice Guy and the parody on the Old Spice Guy. Oh, the Interwebs.
Ishta Mercurio says
Scathach wrote: "On a final note, as to Random House claiming they own those e-book rights, that's like me going to the cinema and claiming that means I own the DVD."
No, it isn't. It just isn't that simple. An author may write a book and refine it and present that draft to a publisher, but when the publisher takes it on they walk the author through yet more edits, design a cover and choose a typeface and style that suit the tone of the book, market the book, and distribute the book. The story belongs to the author, but the presentation is the publisher's. It's a grey area, and if we're talking about a backlisted book, there are several ways to go. Ultimately, my feeling is that it isn't fair for the author not to get a cent for e-versions of their book. On the other hand, it isn't fair for the publisher to get nothing either, since the book would not exist in that form without their edit requests and copyediting expertise and what have you.
There has to be a balance somewhere.
February Grace says
Didn't PiedmontWriter do that 5 Stages of Querying thing first?
A slightly more serious version perhaps…I'm just sayin'.
February Grace says
Ack- sorry the link didn't show up properly try this one.
Ishta Mercurio says
That BYU parody was AWESOME!
Literary Cowgirl says
@The First Carrol, the funny thing is, in communities like mine bookstore owners don't care about local authors. I found in my own that they no longer know the difference between a self-published book and a traditionally published one. At first, all I got was offers to sell the book on commission. I explained that it was carried by Firefly and got nowhere. Then I said "It's published by the same publisher as Robert Munsch," very slowly and clearly. The independents said they'd order a few closer to the official launch and Coles said MAYBE they would see about a table in the mall some Saturday afternoon and MIGHT order up to twenty copies (Guess the Team Edward Backpacks just require too much room). The book is on the cover of the publisher's catalogue, concerns a very hot media topic right now, has garnered movie interest (just interest) and sold out or come to close to it several times since June on Amazon. It is also of Aboriginal interest and we are immediately surrounded by three reservations. The best I can get in my own town is twenty books and a table. I'm not holding my launch party at a local bookstore. None were interested. This brave new world of books has muddied the waters and in a small city all the bookstores want is Stephen King, Stephanie Meyers, Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling. Granted my small city is a semi-remote community, but even the bookstores no longer have a clue. I'll take my chances with bloggers, interest groups and community organisations like the Friendship Centre (lakin to an Aboriginal YMCA) where I will be holding my launch. Probably in big cities you can get some good independant bookstores behind you, but up in the middle of nowhere, my footwork was a massive waste of computer marketing time.
D.G. Hudson says
Susanna Daniel's post on the quiet hell of taking ten years to write a novel
was interesting. That's a lot of years out of one's life! (However, she sold the book so some of her investment was realized)
I liked San Francisco legend Broke Ass Stuart's guide to the best literary bars in San Francisco. I love the the City Lights Bookstore and think Kerouac Alley was a long time coming.
Regarding the Amazon one star reviews of the Best Books — the comments, the lack of objectivity — especially with Kerouac, Hemingway, Vonnegut or Kesey or many of the others is evidence of the poor reading education many of these reviewers exhibit. So why does anyone pay any attention to Amazon reviews??
Nathan, congrats on your book hitting the web for pre-order. That must make you feel great!
John Jack says
Here we go again. Ten years along since the digital publishing war began, and Andrew Wylie, owner of The Wylie Agency–doesn't accept unsolicited submissions–reopens an old battlefront. He's a top coyote in a coyote world.
Random House knows what it's up against. They lost the circa 2000 Random House v. RosettaBooks suit over digital copyrights, the first salvo in the e-book rights war. For the court papers, briefs, opinions, appeals, and decisions;
Interestingly, cofounder and CEO of RosettaBooks, Arthur Klebanoff is a literary agent, owner of Scott Meredith Literary Agency, lawyer, and one time author/e-book pubisher of an autobiographical book about agenting, The Agent: Personalities, Politics, and Publishing. Not surprisingly, RosettaBooks is the original digital publisher.
If these guys have their way, agents will co-opt publishing. Writers will trade one self-serving master for another. During the chaos of upheaveal, writers will once again lose out on the lion's share.
Will all this evolve to a system where the author sells all reproduction rights for a set period of time?
"All this" includes print on demand, electronic (including audio) translation, time limited copies for lending… Maybe publishers become promoters. They'll take some percentage for advertising and promotion.
What are the stages of "publishing" in an mostly electronic world: write the book, gate keeping, formatting, physical production (paper, electronic, audio), advertising/promotion, and delivery.
Who does what in this brave new world?
Absolutely fascinating doings in the world of books this week. But first, to the important thing:
Hellloooooo, Old Spice Guy. I don't believe we have had the pleasure of being introduced, good sir. And I say 'good sir' with the upmost respect bordering on reverence.
That boy will play James Bond someday. I'd put money on it.
So, I had to laugh when Wylie said he was surprised by Random House' response. Ha, ha, ha. I'm sure this is one move in a game, and that sharp cookie Wylie is enjoying it. It should be fascinating to watch.
As an aside, I had an absolutely lovely daydream where Andrew Wylie and Nathan Bransford were fighting over who got me as their client. It was a very long and complicated daydream, involving my frequent protests of: "What? Little ole me?" There was a thrilling car chase, a brilliant chess game and the denuoment would have made stone statues weep. I don't want to give away the ending, but I'll give you a hint: Nathan won. Of course. Was there ever any doubt?
So, prophetic daydreams aside, there were tons of other fun links this week – thank you, Nathan! I haven't read them all yet – so I shall return.
Hope everyone in having a lovely weekend.
I've been reading some of the other blogs/news stories about this and I got to wondering. The initial problem seemed to be whether the contract between the writers and the publishers covered e-publishing.
What did the contract between the writers and Wylie cover? Did that have to be negotiated with each author? Did all authors accept the same deal?
I love the title of the Ken Follet piece… Need money to fix your car? (Just) Write a best seller! Ahh that easy huh? 😛 But seriously, it was a good interview. Follet is simply incredible.
Very interesting posts this week Nathan.
How does it feel going to amazon where your book is being presold, and seeing (Author) after your name?
Other Lisa says
Okay, my laugh for the weekend:
Jane Austen's Fight Club.
where do we send our checks to support the Go Wylie, GO! fund?
Really great collection of links this week, Nathan. Thank you!
But first, one question about Wylie. I'm sure he must have talked to the author's estates…? Because there's nothing in his contract about digital rights either, right? Anyway, I suspect he'll negotiate. He's probably just using this for leverage. Too soon to alienate and hurt print publishers, imho.
So, I thought Tahereh's five stages of querying was funny. Re the poster above – maybe someone else took on the same theme – that's okay. Tahereh's take is original and smart.
Owwwwww. That quiet hell article was beautifully written and seared my very soul. She got it exactly – walking the line between accomplishment and failure. Owwwww. Extremely motivating, though!!
I had no idea such a thing as literary bars existed. And I need $750 to fix my car, so I guess that means my bestseller will go international. Hannah's article was very passionate. I want to add something. It's not just characterization that YA needs, but themes. YA is a helpful guide to teens about how to function in this crazy world, and books that address the themes boys stuggle with might be attractive to boys. And a promotion plan for authors is an excellent idea!
That was an terrific comment by Scott. I thought so at the time, and think so upon having re-read it.
And finally, the most important – Jacob Wonderbar! Awesome!! Very exciting. You know, I went to Phitz coffee a few weeks ago, and almost started pointing and squealing when I saw their coffee (not that I ever squeal). "That's Nathan's coffee! That's Nathan's coffee!" I resisted. Thank goodness. You can count on me for a few copies, Nathan. 🙂
And that Jane Austen Fight Club video is hilarious. Who makes these things???
Hope everyone is continuing to have a nice weekend!
Bryan Russell (Ink) says
Oh, dear God, that Jane Austen Fight Club video was funny.
Wow, BYU alumni are coming out of the woodwork on this blog. We must be a more literary breed than I ever thought while in school. Go Cougars!
Wanda B. Ontheshelves says
Re: "ten years to write a novel"
Yesterday, I was mowing the backyard. I was mowing diagonally, from the A/C unit near the house to a small tree in the other corner. So there I was, making pass #2 toward the small tree, when one of the neighbor's very tall and apparently very dead trees! fell…boom! right across my path, maybe 20 feet away, tearing away some of the branches of our small tree.
Now, I didn't hear the tree come down, because the lawn mower was going, and I had earplugs in, to preserve my medical transcriptionist's hearing. I just saw it in front of me, until it hit the ground with something of a lawn-mower and earplug-filtered thud.
But then again, how much noise is a leafless dead tree going to make, as it keels over from its base, I mean, there was no stump remaining, just a spot on the grass where it had been.
Anyway, I had the vision of my brain, which I think of as the source of my novel, something very interior, private, inexplicably imaginative; pictorial, not verbal…and therefore slow in unfolding (let me sing the praises of my brain)…I had the vision of my brain as this little bit of squishy matter in a skull smashable as an eggshell…
…it made me really appreciate how far I have come with my novel – I mean, I'm still here to finish my novel! I'm still here to read Stephanie Plum novels (a recent find, yes, I'm late to every party), and Russian poet prose, and Carl Sandburg's collected poems, very prosy…
I mean, to all the novelist laggards out there, crawling along out there…just think, another day has gone by, and a falling tree hasn't landed on you – you've still got time.