It’s hard to be a first-time novelists these days. “Once upon a time, a first novel could afford to be a dress rehearsal, a proving ground. That is no longer true.”
Here’s a report on books, libraries, and the Interweb from Bryan Appleyard (by way of Frank Wilson): The final chapter in the life of the book? He makes a good point about teacher, which Frank quotes, but let me point out something else. Mr. Appleyard writes:
Intellectual property is the big difference between the developing and developed worlds. But intellectual property rights and the internet are uneasy bedfellows. Google’s stated mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. The words “universally accessible” carry the implicit threat that nobody can actually own or earn revenue from any information since it will all be just out there.
This is one reason an Interweb library search, like Google Book, won’t take over the literary world. Publishers and writers, who can’t afford to work for free, won’t allow it. At the same time, I won’t be surprised if users won’t allow it either when they realize the Interweb can’t offer everything for free (it doesn’t even today) and what they want to read or know won’t be online.
In case you don’t see this in the lists of last year’s news, here’s a reminder of the good ol’ days.
Some writers spend decades trying to break into the biz, and even then, they often can’t make ends meet. For legitimate writers, an unproven teenager landing a $500,000 deal to write two books adds insult to the obvious injury of plagiarism.
This comes from industry news that young writer Kaavya Viswanathan received a $500,000 two-book deal from Little, Brown. Still just as heart-warming now as it was then. The writer asks, “Given how the Internet and digital content have highlighted the limitations of old-school media, stories like this one suggest that the publishing industry should take a long, hard look at where it’s directing its financial resources, and why.”
Maybe we should let illegal immigrants do the work in publishing houses that otherwise decent citizens don’t want to do–fact-checking, editing, maybe marketing.
From our Shameless Profit Desk comes this report that some publishers are looking into fan fiction. “A librarian in Idaho recently received a $150,000 advance from Simon & Schuster to publish a three-novel trilogy about a character from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In Brooklyn, a fan fiction writer known for turning out Lord of the Rings imitations landed the same fee for a similarly inclined fantasy series.”
Can’t see it happening. Fan blogging on the otherhand . . .
Faith*in*fiction notes that Westbow will be history in its parent company’s reorganization. Thomas Nelson has 18 imprints and plans to consolidate all of them under one name over several months. President and CEO of Thomas Nelson, Michael Hyatt, said imprints are “an inside-out way of looking at the market, self-focused rather than customer-focused. The only ones who care about imprints are publishers, and they are expensive to maintain.” No jobs will be cut and some added, according to the report.
Here’s an old post from Sarah Weinman about statements by Thriller Author Greg Iles on writing a book in a year’s time. He said, “So many thrillers today are formulaic and one-dimensional. I feel like there used to be a higher standard. . . . if I’m completely honest, three of my first four books are the best I ever wrote because I spent two years apiece on them.”
As a bit of balance, here’s a writing technique article by Sci-fi Author William Dietz, called “How To Write A Book A Year While Holding Down A Full-time Job, Maintaining Key Relationships, Staying In Shape, And Maintaining Your Sanity.“
The rumor was true. Random House announced it has purchased Multnomah Publishers and will merge it with WaterBrook Press in Colorado Springs, CO. WaterBrook and Multnomah with remain separate imprints of Doubleday Broadway, a division of Random House, and in control of their respective editorial destinies though the WaterBrook president with preside over Multnomah. Random House is the world’s largest English-language trade book publisher.
Bloomberg reports on the sale of two Christian publishers to large publishing corporations. The more recent deal, the sale of Multnomah, is still anonymous. Publishers Weekly believes the buyer is Random House, though they already own WaterBrook Press so why would they buy another Christian publisher.
On June 8, Thomas Nelson was sold to InterMedia Partners, a private equity firm.
The article concludes with this interesting note:
Thomas Nelson has even invested in its own form of the mega- church. In 2000, the company bought the Women of Faith franchise. Based in Plano, Texas, this self-described “spiritual spa” offers music and a roster of speakers — often Thomas Nelson authors — over two days in an arena setting. Last year, an average of 15,000 people attended each event, and 422,000 people in all bought tickets.
These events have plenty of well-stocked book tables. Thomas Nelson President Michael Hyatt said exposure like this is better than anything he can get in a bookstore.
Five-time Christy Award Judge Jana Riess talks about this year’s batch of first novels. After praising some specific books, she writes:
As a judge, every year I’ve been able to say quite honestly that despite generally uneven quality and a few total dogs in each batch, the overall picture for Christian fiction continues to improve. This year, however, gave me pause. What was interesting was that my main criticism in the past — that the novels tended to be overly didactic and preachy — was not a common problem among the 25 novels I read. There were only a few that hammered readers over the head with A Message. Instead, this year’s problems were technical: characters who were important in the first half of the book who entirely disappear in the second. Plot threads that go absolutely nowhere. Stock characters and plots that are almost entirely predictable. Overuse of sentence fragments. And excessive conjunctions at the beginning of sentences.
Congratulations to Nicole Mazzarella for her debut novel, This Heavy Silence.
I made my memorial to Jim Baen tonight. The family and staff had asked that in lieu of memorials, people purchase copies of the story collection, The World Turned Upside Down and give them either to young people or to libraries. I got my copy today, took it to my nearest branch library, inscribed it as given by Lars Walker in memory of Jim Baen (in the fashion of the Pharisee in the temple with the trumpet) and made the donation.
Speaking of Baen Books, my best author friend is Mike Williamson, author of Freehold, which is a very good science fiction book in the Robert E. Heinlein/Libertarian/Lots of Sex style. Mike told me recently about a book called Atlanta Nights, by “Travis Tea.”
There’s a story behind this book, and you can get the details by checking out the site. But the short version (as I understand it) is this—there’s a company called PublishAmerica (sort of a cross between a vanity publisher and a publish-on-demand house, I’m told) which is not popular with Science Fiction/Fantasy writers. Representatives of the company took a swipe at SF and Fantasy writers as a group, so a devious cabal of SF/F authors got together and decided to write the worst novel they could possibly come up with, to see how PublishAmerica would handle it.
As you’ve probably guessed, it was accepted for publication immediately.
Hilarious story, and a warning to all aspiring authors.
The man who gave me my chance as a published author, Jim Baen, passed away yesterday. Author David Drake provides an eloquent eulogy here.
In the ups and downs of our working relationship, I never lost my deep respect for the man they used to call the “GE” (officially General Editor, though many fans preferred God-Emperor, begging your pardon).
You’ll read now and then about the great old days of publishing, when Mighty Editors roamed the earth (or at least the hallways) wielding their red pencils and showing callow authors who showed some promise how to tell a real story.
Those days are mostly gone now. Today the industry is run by bean counters who sell books by the yard. Editors flit from house to house, perpetually frustrated that they can’t get approval for books and authors they believe in.
Jim Baen was a throwback to the glory days. He ran his own shop, and he ran it his own way. He published the kind of books he wanted to read himself, and he showed the world that you could make a nice living doing just that.
He was fiercely, even frighteningly, honest. When he said he’d do a thing, he did it.
He believed in freedom of speech and, unlike many in the publishing business, he practiced it. He published me (a Christian) and Eric Flint (a Communist). He himself was an agnostic.
I doubt I’ll ever see another editor/publisher like him.
We can never know for certain the fate of any soul. I pray Jim will have found grace at the end.