This week! Books!
Hoo boy we have a lot of links this week and before I get to your weekly dose of publishing controversies, let’s start with some good publishing industry news. Thanks to a generous donation by the wonderful Celeste Ng, We Need Diverse Books is launching a publishing industry intern program that will support interns from diverse backgrounds working in adult publishing. Kudos to WNDB and Celeste!
Now for the controversies. Let’s start with Hachette, which embroiled itself in our first controversy by deciding to move forward publishing Woody Allen’s memoir, which other publishers had largely shunned. Ronan Farrow, whose expose Catch and Kill was also published by Hachette, announced he would cut ties with them. And yesterday, Hachette employees staged a walkout in solidarity with Farrow.
UPDATE: Hachette canceled Allen’s memoir.
I can’t recall a similar protest in the publishing industry, which regularly publishes books by quite a litany of unsavory characters. The Times writeup quotes the free speech organization PEN America as supporting both Hachette’s decision to publish the memoir as well as the employee’s rights to protest it.
Personally, I applaud the employees for standing by their convictions. While I believe in free speech, publishers don’t have to lend their weighty platforms to every person whose book they can peddle, and employees are an important constituency in the gears of capitalism as companies weigh those decisions (as the tech industry has recently discovered).
In other publishing controversy news, a “rage baking” cookbook inspired, well, rage, as well as claims of appropriation.
And in further publishing controversy news, in the wake of Oprah’s controversial decision to make American Dirt a book club selection, Kate Elizabeth Russell’s debut novel My Dark Vanessa was abruptly removed from Oprah’s Book Club for March. As LitHub notes, the decision appears to be “Peak 2020:” Someone who hadn’t read My Dark Vanessa claimed she’d heard from someone who had read it that it had similarities to her memoir. (The claims appear unsubstantiated). But the Twitter drama was enough for Oprah to steer clear.
Oh and the London Book Fair was canceled because of coronavirus. AWP is, controversially, still moving forward as of right now, prompting one board member to resign.
Okay that’s enough controversy for one week.
I was extremely psyched to see the scrumdiddlyumptious news that director Taika Waititi is going to be writing and directing a new adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as an animated series.
And I have lots of great writing advice links this week!
I really really liked this post by Jess Walton on an important element of building complex character: assess their fears. And make sure you show these to the reader!
Dan Blank has a great newsletter, and I especially loved today’s edition, which talks about the importance of surrounding yourself with writers. I’d almost forgotten why I moved to New York in the first place until I cracked open his newsletter this morning! His description of what it’s like to be surrounded by creative people is totally true.
Florence Osmond looked at some different ways you can make the reader feel connected to the protagonist.
Agent Jessica Faust assesses the importance of a previously self-published book when you’re querying.
And happy 100th anniversary to the word “robot,” which came to us via the Czech play RUR, or Rossum’s Universal Robots.
This week in bestsellers
Here are the top five NY Times bestsellers in a few key categories. (All links are affiliate links):
Adult print and e-book fiction:
- Blindside by James Patterson and James O. Born
- The Warsaw Protocol by Steve Berry
- American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
- The Mamba Mentality by Kobe Bryant
- Unknown Valor by Martha MacCallum
- The Hope of Glory by Jon Meachum
- Open Book by Jessica Simpson with Kevin Carr O’Leary
Young adult hardcover:
- A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
- One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus
- Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Middle grade hardcover:
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Refugee by Alan Gratz
- Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney
- The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids
- Little Leaders by Vashti Harrison
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:
- You gotta tell the story
- Avoid these generic reactions
- ViacomCBS to sell off Simon & Schuster
- Remove the word “shattered” from your query letter (query critique)
Comment! of! the! week! goes to SJ, who has some helpful additions to the list of generic gestures to avoid:
Gonna use the word doc search feature on these. My scores will not be good. Others…maybe: blinking, gagging, snorting, shifting his weight, clenching his jaw, shaking his head, furrowing his brows, mouth twitching, squinting, hiding a smile.
And finally, this article completely blew my mind. Scientists are hoping to create two mini-black holes and pass information between them instantaneously via a wormhole.
Have a great weekend!
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Dan Blank says
Thanks for the mention Nathan!
Neil Larkins says
From the Joy of Cooking to Rage Baking. You’ve come a long way…
My Dark Vanessa. Not the first time a book made Oprah’s list and nobody had read it.
Neil Larkins says
Correction: Someone who hadn’t read it complained to someone who had and Oprah tossed it to avoid controversy. Somewhat the same thing, only different. (Why is there no emoji when you need one?)
Meanwhile, thanks, Nathan for a weekend’s worth of reading.
JOHN T. SHEA says
Interesting as always, Nathan!
I must say I’m disappointed that no report I’ve yet seen questions whether Mr. Farrow can really sever all his ties to Hachetter. It would be a very peculiar publishing contract indeed that allowed such a break.
Also, I’ve seen no report yet that reveals how many NYC Hachette employees did NOT join that protest. Obviously, a significant number must be involved in the publication of Mr. Allen’s book.
Controversies aside, congrats to SJ!
Nathan Bransford says
It depends on the contract (how many books it was for and whether there’s an option), but if that prominent of an author wants to walk away from future books I don’t know that Hachette would really be in a position to stand in his way.
JOHN T. SHEA says
Good points, Nathan. I was actually thinking about the current book, which will presumably continue to be published by Hachette until 75 years after young Mr. Farrow’s death.
Incidentally, speaking of Twitter drama, today I learned the most recent Pew social media survey found 78% of US adults NEVER use Twitter. The survey was in April of last year but Twitter use was trending DOWNWARD at that time. Perhaps it is time to tell the little birdies to take a hike!
JOHN T. SHEA says
No doubt the matter will soon move from the court of public opinion to the actual courts. Hachette’s cancellation seems like a rerun of Amazon’s cancellation of several Woody Allen movies. Woody Allen won $68m when that was settled.
Two of Mr. Farrow’s siblings, Soon-Yi Previn/Allen and Moses Farrow, still express a very different view of things, insisting Woody Allen is innocent and Mia Farrow abused them. Personally, I marvel at the speed and ease with which so many people adjudicate such controversies and take sides, guessing at the unknowable and jumping to conclusions.
Similar is how Roxane Gay dropped her publisher after they picked up Milo Yiannopoulos’s book.
The whole Farrow/Hachette episode is utterly fascinating as is Farrow’s part in exposing the history of serial predators. I’ve been following Ronan’s blog for awhile–and listened to pods based on Catch and Kill and his research for it and am impressed and amazed by his courage and conviction.
He seems a little other-wordly, in fact, and looks so, too. While people over here are becoming hysterical for lack of toilet paper on supermarket shelves, Ronan walked through the valley of death, seemingly unperturbed, in his quest to create a better future for those who were in danger of become another victim of #metoo#.
However, the latest news just in–from online news outlet, npr–is that Hatchette has dropped the idea of publishing the Woody Allen.