This week! Books!
Publishing Twitter was aflame this week about two new ideas for publishing.
The first to set tongues wagging was an interview in Forbes with author and entrepreneur Allison Twobridge, who started an app called Copper that she pitches as the LinkedIn of the book world. It allows authors to connect with readers, host events, and recommend books. I didn’t totally grasp from the interview or website what differentiates it from what already exists, and the interview was full of typical lofty tech sloganeering, particularly around the name Copper. But I wish her luck!
Next was an innovative idea from a collection of bestselling YA authors, who created a fictional world called Realm of Ruin. Here was the essential idea: The creators would create the origin stories and core characters, who would be available for purchase as NFT tokens. Fans would be able to make their own contributions to the world, which they would own as NFTs. The creating authors would engage with the community and select their favorite contributions to become canon. (If you need an explainer on NFTs, here’s a good one).
Because of intense backlash on social media, the authors pulled the plug after a few hours.
I found myself mystified by the reaction and didn’t understand why this was such a horrifying idea that it prompted a social media meltdown. (Full disclosure: I am friends with some of the authors, but I wasn’t involved and don’t have any more info on the project than what’s publicly available)
There weren’t many details released (or at least that I saw before things were taken down and have been able to piece together after), so it’s tricky to weigh in with too much specificity. Take my opinions with a resulting grain of salt, but here’s where I was confused by the backlash:
First, the blockchain powering the NFTs, Solana, is a “proof of stake” blockchain, which, to my understanding, is far better for the environment than blockchains that rely on “proof of work.” I saw a lot of “all NFTs are bad because even the good NFTs encourage the bad NFTs” arguments, but I struggled to wrap my head around that. Like… should we not drive electric cars because they encourage gas-guzzling cars? (And it’s not like an industry based on chopping down trees, making ink from hazardous chemicals, and shipping books halfway around the world is exemplary from an environmental perspective).
Second, some people are generally skeptical of NFTs and crypto and think they’re Ponzi schemes that have no real value and they’re a huge scam and etc. etc. etc. so therefore this is bad because it’s participating in the Bad Thing. I’d encourage you to listen to this epic Planet Money episode that talks about what money really is. Spoiler: It’s all mass psychology. If enough people believe something has value, it has value. The blockchain/crytpo world is new and there are plenty of kinks to be worked out, but it’s here to stay.
Third, there are already wildly profitable platforms that encourage writers to pen fan fiction that the writers don’t own, receive no compensation for, and which may get shut down at any time. Realm of Ruin seemed like an interesting way for authors to write within a pre-existing world, have confidence that their work wouldn’t be wiped out because of a copyright claim, and actually be able to profit from their creations (and in this case my understanding is that the intent was for the fan fiction writers to own copyright in their own work). Some writers like the community aspect of writing within an existing world and tons already do it for free. So why not formalize it in a way where the fan fiction writers have the potential to derive some personal benefit?
And if the authors who created the world profit from the resulting fan fiction as the universe gets built out… so what? Should we just ban all fan fiction then, or should the profits keep going to the third party platforms that encourage fan fiction rather than to the creators themselves?
I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing something (let me know in the comments!), but I found myself quite confused. One of my enduring frustrations with the publishing industry is its congenital lack of openness to even trying new ideas.
Now then, more links this week!
The NY Times has a bit of a meandering update/summary of the succession drama at Scholastic which, as Publishers Lunch pointed out, seems more timed to the launch of the new season of the HBO show Succession than driven by news.
Don’t know where to put a comma? Jeanette the Writer is here to help.
Esquire had an interesting interview with Mark McGurl, who has a new book about how Amazon is changing fiction. McGurl argues, among other things, that Amazon is bringing back the publishing world of Charles Dickens.
And I really loved this post (and the accompany chart) by Austin Kleon about the work of the late psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who studied creativity and flow.
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:
- State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny
- The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
- The Wish by Nicholas Sparks
- Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
- Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- Midnight in Washington by Adam Schiff
- To Rescue the Republic by Bret Baier with Catherine Whitney
- The Storyteller by Dave Grohl
- The Boys by Ron Howard and Clint Howard
- Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa
Young adult hardcover:
- Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco
- The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
- Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber
Middle grade hardcover:
- The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling. Illustrated by Jim Field
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Pony by R.J. Palacio
- Refugee by Alan Gratz
- The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo
This week on the blog
In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:
- How to raise the stakes in a novel
- Writing in the library is wonderful
- Memoirs still need a “quest” (query critique)
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!
And finally, Tad Friend at The New Yorker has a very very deep dive into Masterclass and tackles the idea of whether expertise can really be conveyed in brief classes.
Have a great weekend!
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