This week! Books!
I have some really great links to share with you this week, but if you’ll indulge a promo, I’m headed back to Comic-Con in San Diego next week! In real life! If you’re attending, check out the panel I’m moderating on July 21: From Idea to Shelves: The Remix, where we’ll discuss how the pandemic has impacted the publishing and book-to-film industries. Come say hi!
A fascinating tidbit from Ron Charles’s excellent newsletter: the price of a typical literary hardcover book has only increased about 1.7% since 1981. Inflation is now hitting the publishing industry from every direction (paper, shipping, distribution, increased costs for bookstores), but publishers are slow to change the retail price of books because of their broader impacts on contracts and receipts from booksellers. (Although one struggles to weep for publishing conglomerates amid record profits, particularly the European ones benefiting from a strong dollar).
I’ve been hearing ideas for an “American Idol for Books” kicking around for twenty years now (Victoria Strauss has a great rundown), and it looks like someone is finally going to do a version called America’s Next Great Author. And, predictably, it sounds a bit bonkers. The whole problem with an “American Idol for Books” is that it would ideally depend on the audience, ya know, reading what the authors have written, which doesn’t make for scintillating TV. In lieu of judging writing, ANGA’s workaround sounds like high concept pitches, general zaniness (“live-wire challenges!”), and six finalists who have thirty days to complete a novel. The only thing that seems consistent with the real publishing industry is the hilariously stingy prize of $2,500. (FWIW they are hoping that if the show gets picked up there will be better prizes).
Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris at The New York Times had quite a trio of articles over the past few weeks that capture the discombobulated state of publishing and the country as a whole. The good: more than 300 bookstores have opened in the past few years and are becoming more diverse. The bad: being a librarian has become a total nightmare in some parts of the country. The, well, I wouldn’t say ugly but it’s different: TikTok has become a bestseller machine.
I always enjoy Dan Blank’s newsletter, but particularly this week about the interplay between anxiety and how it interferes with sharing. He cites Emma Chamberlain as an example of living sharing as a craft. She took the risk of deleting her TikTok account with 10 million followers because she was finding it distracting, and has been leaning into slower-paced content.
Author and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi solicited rejection stories from authors who were eventually published, and compiled some of the responses into a really fun blog post full of advice on how to survive rejections.
As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, many people have wondered how the technology can either augment or even supplant creative writing. Joanna Penn recently interviewed Andrew Mayne, an author who also works with Open AI, on some of the capabilities of GPT-3 to enhance different types of writing, why he thinks there will still be a place for human writers, and the transparency that needs to exist around what’s AI-generated and what’s not.
And Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware urges authors to be very, very wary of “handshake” agreements between authors and literary agencies.
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:
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
- Verity by Colleen Hoover
- Rising Tiger by Brad Thor
- Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
- Battle for the American Mind by Pete Hegseth with David Goodwin
- Finding Me by Viola Davis
- Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris
- Killing the Killers by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
Young adult hardcover:
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- Blade Breaker by Victoria Aveyard
- Family of Liars by E. Lockhart
- Loveless by Alice Oseman
- I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
Middle grade hardcover:
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Refugee by Alan Gratz
- Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman
- Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordon
- Ground Zero by Alan Gratz
This week on the blog
In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:
- What happens on and off the page in your novel?
- Don’t pre-summarize what’s about to happen (page 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, holy crap space.
Have a great weekend!
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my online classes (NEW!), my guide to writing a novel and my guide to publishing a book.
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