Ballad of a Thin Man: David Denby Doesn’t Get It

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Category: The Industry

DenbyJonesAt the New Yorker, tetchy old fogey and mediocre former film critic David Denby has published a lament about how few teens are reading books these days. He has one great overheard line—a student saying “Books smell like old people”; and a few careful caveats (“It’s very likely that teen-agers, attached to screens of one sort or another, read more words than they ever have in the past”); but mostly he is describing a decline of western civilization via smartphone. “If teachers can make books important to kids … those kids may turn off the screens,” he wraps up, making clear his real issue here: a favored primacy of one form of technology (ink on paper) over another (e-ink or pixels on screens).… [more]

There have been some great posts this week about the diverse books movement. Jacqueline Woodson’s 1998 article in the Horn Book, titled Who Can Tell My Story has been revived. Ellen Oh’s salient post Dear White Writer takes on diverse books and white privilege. There are numerous other articles and posts I could point you to; the discussion about diverse books is wide, intense, difficult, eye-opening, enraging, encouraging, and exciting.

In the last year, as the conversation about diverse books has picked up steam, a noticeable shift has taken place in my query box. It’s a shift that happens each time the trends change in publishing. Paranormal gave way to dystopian, which gave way to horror, which gave way to contemporary, which has recently given way to…diverse books?

The We Need Diverse Books campaign … [more]

It’s a grand day for books, and we’d like to extend our warmest congratulations to the extremely talented 2016 ALA award winners! 37801-2[more]

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[Winners in boldface, but it was a particularly strong field of nominees this year.]

FICTION
Karen E. Bender, Refund
Angela Flournoy, The Turner House
Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies
Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles
Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

NONFICTION
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Sally Mann, Hold Still
Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus
Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran
Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light

POETRY
Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
Terrance Hayes, How to Be Drawn
Robin Coste Lewis, Voyage of the Sable Venus
Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things
Patrick Phillips, Elegy for a Broken Machine

YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE
Ali Benjamin, The Thing About Jellyfish
Laura Ruby, Bone Gap
Steve Sheinkin, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and … [more]

goodreads Unlike a lot of people in the publishing industry, I regularly review the books I read on Goodreads, and it has sometimes gotten me into trouble. I’ve been a Goodreads member since shortly after it was founded, and I have a lot of friends there whose opinions I follow. And who follow me. Some people in publishing feel no one in our industry should be on Goodreads at all; one editor noted that he won’t buy books from people who have given a negative review to one of his books. Others see it as a betrayal of our small community, that we should all be cheerleaders all the time, and to ever be otherwise is to be an Enemy of Books.

Well, I think that’s a lot of malarky, as Joe Biden might say. Goodreads … [more]

So. The new Amazon publishing program.

Lots of folks are taking about this article in the New York Times.

I can see why it’s a very exciting prospect for new writers, or for writers with a lot of talent who have had trouble getting their work noticed under the more traditional model. Heck, it’s obviously exciting for the established–and bestselling–authors who are now publishing with Amazon.

I can’t see why this would make the need for an agent any less important. But obviously I’m quite biased in favor of agents.

I want to write more about it, but in the meantime, I’d like to hear from you.

Writers, both published and unpublished: How do you feel about the new publishing venture from Amazon? Does it change your view of what it means to “get published”? … [more]

A great article to add to your weekend reading pile: An interview in Poets & Writers, in which Gabriel Cohen talks to John B. Thompson about this book (titled Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century) and his views of the publishing industry today.

The article touches on everything from technology to chain stores to the roles of the key players in the industry, but my favorite part was probably the one in which Thompson discusses the technological fallacy, or the assertion that technology—not people—is the driving source of change in the publishing industry. Here’s what Thompson had to say about it:

“What they miss is that publishing is a complex field of actors and players and agents who are human beings actively involved in content—and that readers are human beings [more]

I have to be honest: I always breathe a huge sigh of relief when we close our query lines in December. Finally, I think, a chance to catch up! But after a couple of weeks in a query-less world, I get twitchy with anticipation and anxious to dig in once again. Thus, I always approach the re-opening of our query lines with a sense of hope and a certain amount of nervousness. Not unlike, I suppose, many writers who are about to submit their work to agents feel as they pause, scanning their query letter one last time before clicking “send.”pgi0128

As you probably know, we re-opened our query lines last week. Perhaps you’ve just sent out your first-ever round of queries to agents. Or perhaps you’re on your second or third round of … [more]

I have at last come around to the beauty of the e-reader.

Nook Ipad 400Back in the long ago of 2008, I bought the first Kindle to use as an aid to reading manuscripts. It was nearly four hundred dollars, which boggles the mind even now. Why? Because Kindle 1 had serious problems: it was a poorly designed, clumsy device with page flip buttons in all sorts of weird places; it had problems with poor contrast and refresh rates on page flips; and it broke just after its year-long warranty expired. The latest iterations look pretty spiffy, but Kindle 1 was so awful and the customer service so terrible that Amazon forever lost my business.

After it broke down, I bought an iPad, but I never really used it for reading books. Wasn’t keen on the … [more]

Looking for a little light reading/book chat/way to procrastinate whatever tasks are on your to-do list today? Head on over to the excellent Mother.Write. (Repeat.) blog, where I’ll be answering reader questions about all things books until 5pm. today.… [more]