This week! Books!
There has been a lot of angst in the literary Twittersphere these past few weeks around agents, alleged bad behavior even among reputable agents, “schmagents” (basically bad agents who sometimes don’t even know they’re bad agents), and quite a lot of author frustration.
I don’t want to get into too many specifics, except to say that I am extremely, extremely sympathetic to authors. If it feels like an opaque landscape that’s almost impossible to navigate with sufficient information at your disposal, at least be reassured that I feel that way too, and I have worked inside those walls. I find it hard to sort through too.
As agent Kate McKean points out, there’s only so much you can really know before you start working with someone. It’s the nature of the business.
I don’t know that I have particularly insightful thoughts beyond that at the moment, but it’s something I’m going to keep thinking about in the coming weeks. It’s just not an easy ecosystem to fix when anyone can build a website and call themselves an agent, and when individual agents largely operate without a great deal of day-to-day oversight apart from their bottom line.
Here are some resources to remember in the meantime:
- Know your rights as an author
- How to research a literary agent
- 8 ways to know if you have a good literary agent
Now then. Lots of links this week!
We Need Diverse Books and Penguin Random House are launching a Black Creatives Fund, an initiative that will include a mentorship program and a marketing symposia that will support Black authors. Exciting news.
In the wake of the Capitol insurrection, major publishers have been re-examining their publishing practices, and that coincided with Hachette’s termination of Kate Hartson, an editor who led the conservative Center Street imprint and who published books by Donald Trump Jr. and Corey Lewandowski. While they didn’t single out Hartson, Hachette leadership assured employees that they wouldn’t tolerate hate speech, incitements to violence, and false narratives.
Clint Smith looks back at the complicated oral histories of former slaves that were compiled by the government during the Great Depression, and argues that we need another Federal Writers’ Project, but one that avoids the last one’s mistakes.
Are you finding it hard to write? Well, you’re not alone. Alison Flood profiled writers in the UK who are struggling to write during strict lockdown.
And speaking of lockdown, one of Victorian England’s great writers, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, spent much of her life in isolation due to her poor health, and Fiona Sampson wrote a fascinating profile of how she dealt with it and created an early version of her own virtual world.
Viet Thanh Nguyen wrote about the greatness of Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb,” and the importance of libraries as incubators.
And Jay Cheses had an interesting profile of one of my favorite painters, Kehinde Wiley, who, I was fascinated to learn, listens to audiobooks as he paints.
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:
- The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
- Faithless in Death by J.D. Robb
- Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
- Reckless Road by Christine Feehan
- The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- Walk in My Combat Boots by James Patterson and Matt Eversmann with Chris Mooney
- Just as I Am by Cicely Tyson with Michelle Buford
- Think Again by Adam Grant
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama
- Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
Young adult hardcover:
- Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- Lore by Alexandra Bracken
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Middle grade hardcover:
- Little Leaders by Vashti Harrison
- The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling
- Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure by Jeff Kinney
- Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison with Kwesi Johnson
- Ground Zero by Alan Gratz
This week on the blog
In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:
Don’t forget that you can nominate your first page and query for a free critique on the blog:
And keep up with the discussion in all the places!
Comment! of! the! week! goes to Lady J, who has a nuanced comment about receiving and giving feedback:
You grow as you write. When you put the time and work in, you grow. You grow in the writing process, you grow in your voice, you’ll even grow in your use of whatever language you’re writing in – even if it’s your first language. I cringe when I look at stuff I wrote way back when. I smile too, because it was fun and I have fond memories. But I cringe, because I did not have the experience and skills then that I do now. I didn’t have the ability then that I do now. I’ve grown.
You have to be careful with feedback. It can be useful, but it can also be a disservice. Even positive feedback doesn’t always help. You have to use what’s useful, put aside what doesn’t work for you or this particular project, and try to look objectively at negative feedback. Is there something there that maybe can be useful if you don’t take it personally? Easier said than done, but still possible. If the negative feedback is too negative and it makes you feel uncomfortable, you know not to go to that person again.
And finally, I loved this ode to NYC by Molly Crabapple and what we need to do to keep the NYC we love.
Have a great weekend!
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