Monday, August 31, 2009

news smatterings and entertaining things

What do you guys think of this? A new Twilight-esque cover gets Emily Bronte onto the UK bestseller list. (via Sarah Weinman)

Click here to see a truly perfect photo Maud Newton took on her walk home. For any of those spoilsports who keep shouting that reading is dead.

Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden talks about ebooks and the future of publishing (focusing on sff). Much of what he says is stuff you guys have already read 1,500 times, since we're internet babies here. But I'd like to highlight a particular statement of his:
io9: Does it make a difference to you if an author has an online reputation? Does that go into your decisions to acquire books?

PNH: Obviously it makes a difference if an author has a public online profile of some sort, even just down to the level of having a moderately popular blog. Most books sell 5, 10, or 15 thousand copies. Most are midlist books. With those people, even a modest online presence can make a difference in sales.

So cheers to everybody here, since you're here because you're working on developing an online platform.

Here, MJ Rose presents her idea for revolutionizing how authors get paid, vis a vis how much (time and money) authors are expected to spend on their own promotion. Her major points are that authors not have to "earn out" the upfront money publishers pay as an advance but then which authors are expected to spend on their own promotion--wouldn't it be more honest if promotional money fell into a different category, something that didn't need to be earned out? (Back to my idea for marketing agreements instead of/alongside advances.) Also, she suggests that royalty percentages be higher if authors are expected to be their own advocates.

Yeah, I work in a house, and yeah, I don't imagine in the mainstream publishing industry much like this is going to change soon, but--yeah, I agree with you, MJ.

That's it for now. Thoughts?


Novice Writer Anonymous said...

I can't imagine that people are going to buy into the "greatest love story ever" line about Wuthering Heights once they start reading it. I disliked Twilight immensely but it at least had a more compelling story than Wuthering Heights.

But I can see why they'd market it toward the Twihards.

Excellent post. Must read the links.

David said...

Given how popular Patrick's blog is, with political types as well as literary ones, he might have a high standard for "moderately popular blog".

Michael Reynolds said...

The legacy publishers are in so much more trouble than they realize.

The Kindle is a gateway drug. Its purpose is not to sell Kindles but to wean us off paper and create a market for digital books which will reach a tipping point within a very few years.

Once the tipping point is reached -- once the e market is sufficiently large -- Amazon will move into publishing. They'll offer authors an easy way to produce enhanced ebooks -- ebooks with sidebar music, video, pix, links that don't pull you away from the text.

Publishers will be unnecessary. An author will be able to reach directly to the reader using Amazon for sales and promotion. Bye bye Random House, S&S, etc...

Amazon will go on a shopping spree, peeling off a dozen top writers for Amazon exclusives. Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyers, etc... Amazon can afford to pay huge royalties -- 50%, 60%, 70%. They don't have to split with bookstores, they don't have to buy paper.

Amazon (and iTunes) will decapitate the publishing industry by buying up top name talent which kills the legacy publishers' business model. They'll gut the legacy publishers and it will happen very fast and very soon.

Can't happen? See music industry. See newspaper business. See DVD business.

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, Twilight had a more compelling story than Wuthering Heights? That's a new take.

Alissa said...

Do the kids purchasing "Wuthering Heights" realize this isn't "Wuthering Heights and Vampires" (not to be confused with "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies")?

Anna Claire said...

Ok, this made me cringe: "Another reviewer wondered if the book was 'in old english or mordern understandable english?' 'if so i want it but it sounds like it's just the original version with a different cover.'" Argh.

Can't wait to read the MJ Rose link. And something commenter Michael Reynolds doesn't consider is that people still want to pay for quality. For instance, newspapers may be dying, but it's the medium, not the content. We still need sources of clear, well-researched journalism (trusted online news sources who employ competent reporters) just like we'll still need publishers who employ competent, talented editors who wade through all the slush to bring us the literary good stuff.

Michael Reynolds said...


. . .people still want to pay for quality.

With enhanced ebooks readers will actually be getting a higher quality product.

Nostalgia does not save industries. If it did we'd still have stores selling vinyl records.

SM Schmidt said...

Are the people behind the cover change seriously thinking Twilight fans are going to *understand* Wuthering Heights? It's a tough read but at least it has emotional complexity at times.

I doubt the fans are going to see past Heathcliff being a jerk all the time...wait maybe that's because its the plot for book two of Twilight!

JES said...

MJ Rose's editorial was great. But I'm not sure how the change could be expected to happen.

Is this a contract clause that a publisher would seriously entertain if pushed by a first-time novelist (and presumably his/her agent)? Is MJ preaching to the choir?

moonrat said...

JES--a bit. Maybe what is going to happen is there are going to be new publishing companies with these kinds of contracts. (Check out the theories over at Harper Studio.) I guess we'll see.

Keith Popely said...

Re: new "Wuthering Heights" cover

Love most definitely dies. In fact, many great stories are based on the death of love.

Gem said...

Re: the Wuthering Heights thing.

It also happens that an incredibly sexed up version of Wuthering Heights is currently being shown on Uk TV.

All I can say is that I hope that whoever came up with the idea of pitching Wuthering Heights to the Twilight crowd got a very, very big bonus.

Emily Cross said...

I saw this weeks ago and i couldn't believe. I was a twilight fan a couple of years ago but i still blanched when i saw it. In one way its great that new generation are reading it but i don't think they'll like it much.

If i remember rightly twilight was modeled (like most rom) on pride and prej - that would make a better choice in my mind, or maybe jane eyre rather than WH.

Laura said...

Re: The new "Wuthering Heights" book cover.

While I was reading the article, I couldn't help wondering if the Twilight fans buying Bronte's work were having a hard time understanding the book.

I mean, yay if they're having no problems and enjoying it and all. It just seems weird to go from Meyers to Bronte, though -- especially if you're most frequent foray into literature is Meyers. It's like trying to ride in the AMA when you've barely passed the MSF course.

Then I read the last paragraph of the article and broke out laughing. Classic. Thanks for that!

Hannah said...

The fact that a new TV adaptation of 'Wuthering Heights' is airing at the moment over here (and has been pretty heavily promoted over the last few months) may also have something to do with it.

Although that synopsis made me laugh - I can just imagine teenagers opening it eagerly, expecting a wonderful love story and finding all the depression and hatred and violence instead.

It's not my favourite classic, but oh I do love Wuthering Heights.

Natalie said...

I do not like the Wuthering Heights/Twilight book cover. I am, however, wild over the version with the Ruben Toledo cover. I'll end up buying it, as much as I drool over it, but I'll still keep my old copy too. My Wuthering Heights is really cheap looking, with a two for fifty cent sticker on the cover. My granny gave it to me when I was in 7th or 8th grade. I don't remember being as enamored by the love story (even though I did like it) as I was by the fact that the book was so weirdly demented (and still weirdly pretty). I love seeing different covers for it. Thanks for these great links!

Lydia Sharp said...

Twilight still influencing stuff. Check.

"Reading garbage" pic. Check.

E-books still a hot topic. Check.

Blogging helps sales. Check.

Authors deserve more if they do more. Check.

Thanks for the links. :)

BuffySquirrel said...

Eh, Wuthering Heights is not a love story, but I suppose nobody knows where else to file it.

And if Michael Reynolds is right, that's going to be the point at which I stop buying books. Fortunately I have a lot lying around the house I can still read.

Michael Reynolds said...


Carriages to automobiles, steamers to jets, vaudeville to radio to TV, typewriter to computer, vinyl to download, people always say they won't accept change. And then they do.

Kim said...

I so DIG the blurb about people getting all jacked up over the library's recycling! When our library has their annual sale of overstock and rarely checked out books (they always need to make room for the "good stuff"- are you kidding?!), I go nuts like a kid on Christmas morning. Fill a grocery bag for $2? You betcha! I'm all OVER that!

There's a guy in my neighborhood who walks while reading- it is the wildest thing. He walks for miles with just his walking stick and a book to his nose. I have no idea how he pulls this off, but I am fascinated every single time I see him (which is weekly).

I truly love all the little reminders that there are people in the world who get as juiced about reading as I do.

PaperbackWriter said...

Love the reading garbage article, reminds me of my Gram.

But really, have some people had their noses buried so deep in books that they haven't seen or heard of the new revitalization of vinyl as a medium?
Check out the nostalgic turntable players popping up in Target and other retailers, and the ever expanding NEW vinyl collections at little indie shops - there will always be a medium of choice for people and I say gimme bound sheafs of paper with words baby!

BuffySquirrel said...

Michael, I'll have no choice but to accept the change if/when it comes. But as I have great difficulty now finding something decent to read with the gatekeepers in place, I'm pretty sure that with them gone, the struggle will be hopeless.

JES said...

Moonie, granted that your perspective is gonna be skewed, but a question on the differences between mega-publishers and smaller houses...

I can see lots of reasons for the former to want to keep things As They Are, yet be better positioned to lay a bet on something different.

I can also see plenty of reasons for the smaller presses to aspire to mega-ness, which necessarily would entail toning down some of the more out-there impulses -- and yet the smaller houses, by definition, should be better able to turn on a dime (er, more or less)... to get the whole enterprise moving in a different direction.

So let's say you're at a small press. Where's the balance point?

Is a change in contract terms like the one MJ Rose suggests likely to start with small presses, and snowball? or to start at bigger ones, and trickle down?

Jenny said...

Not loving the Twilighty cover - but then, I am not loving Wuthering Heights either, so I guess it doesn't bother me that much how they want to market it.

...You'd be hearing something different out of me if this were Jane Eyre. :P

Karla Doyle said...

Books on paper may very well decrease in number as more people feel the love of e-readers. Environmentally, that is a good thing. Will it kill traditionally published books? I'd bet on never.

I buy e-books AND paperbacks. I play Wii AND board games.

Technology = good.
Old-school = good.

Michael Reynolds said...


The gatekeepers won't be gone, they'll just be democratized. The 25 year old Sarah Lawrence grads will be replaced by audience feedback.

I'm not an especially enthusiastic fan of democratization usually, but I do notice that when I book a hotel I pay a lot of attention to customer reviews at or Expedia.

And when I buy music on iTunes i do check the star ratings and reviews from regular fans. Also check Google reviews for places that cut hair, or deliver pizza.

In any event, this won't be the free-for-all some naive web prophets hoped for. Profit must always be served, money must be made, so there will be "publishers" just not all the same publishers we have right now. The smart and flexible and quick ones will survive, and the slow and rigid won't.

I think there are three paths to survival for legacy publishers:

1) Do a better job of making ebooks work than Amazon and iTunes will do (unlikely.)

2) The major media corps (NewsCorp, Viacom, Disney) can leverage the capacities of their corporate stablemates. (Unlikely since the divisions of major media corps are all-but incapable of working as a unit. But I'm working on it.)

3) move into a high end book-as-heirloom business.

Books are going digital. I don't think that's even in question anymore. I'm 55 years old, not a kid, but I don't read paper newspapers anymore (despite a lifelong habit) and I don't buy movies on DVD or music on CD's. I download. And this all happened in the last two years.

If I as an old fart can have my habits changed that radically in that short a time, how long do you think it will take the demo to jump ship?

This is going to happen with startling speed.

marlena said...





BuffySquirrel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BuffySquirrel said...

Yeah, cos audience feedback has worked so well in the music industry, what with all those Pop-Idol-type-show winners who've gone on to obscurity.

I don't relish the thought of being 'recommended' a series of Harry Potters and Twilights....

joelle said...

I keep seeing that headline that the new cover is selling WH, but I have to wonder. The BBC just did a BIG production, dark and beautiful, well-reviewed two part mini-series of the book that aired last Sun-Mon (or very soon, can't remember). They're doing a tonne of promotion for it. Isn't it possible that all their promotion has reminded people that they haven't read the book for a while and then when they go to get it, this is the version most available? Seems way more logical to me. But what do I know?

BuffySquirrel said...

That tonne of promotion has entirely failed to land on me. And I have a great fondness for the book.