Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Movie

Happy Monday! I thought I'd ring in the new week with a book-related video (to which I may have linked before) that never fails to make me laugh:

Alas, just like your high school English teacher, I don't show movies without ulterior motives and/or quizzes. Those being: I find this a fair analogue to the baby boomers (and even older folks) who may now be dealing with the rise of e-books and e-publishing, but being the young whippersnapper that I am, I could be horribly wrong. What do you think? Is the technology difficult for older folks to adopt, will they be able but unwilling to make the switch, or are they secretly the perfect market for electronic publishing?

Tomorrow: the horrors of self-publishing!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday, Friday, Friday

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Lemonpeel-in-a-cup-of-hot-water-and-hope-for-the-best Man! Last week's diseased superhero contest champion was Helen, who came up with LiaCohWaHftB Man and his arch-nemesis, Scurvy Dog. Congratulations, Helen, you actually win a prize—I know, I know, I'm so giving. Please accept these sixteen e-Harlequin romances, that may or may not be free from Barnes & Nobles. Oh, what's that? More of you wish you had participated? Well, ok, you can click through to the romances, but only if you promise to participate in this week's contest below.

Those of you who love e-romance novels might want to keep an eye on Jane Friedman, former HarperCollins CEO, whose new media company is potentially acquiring a ton of backlist romances for e-books. Also check out these instructions for what you should do if you love a writer, and this terribly romantic love note to Borders. A very reputable blog has written that Borders is having some... issues. But, you know, book sales suck across the board and around the world. Canadian publishers were slapped in the face with the huge return rate from Indigo, and that's still better than Venezuela, where imported books require governmental certification (which not a lot get). Venezuelan book laws are so messed that the article mentions free copies of Les Miserables next to a single, $132 copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

That kind of price tag can be justified, though, because Harry Potter now bears the stamp of approval from American Christian academics. Seriously, ignore the rest of the links if you must, but break out your headphones and listen to that NPR clip—there's an extended analogy in which the wand represents the Father, the Sorcerer's Stone represents the Son, and the invisibility cloak represents the Holy Spirit. Plus, you get two Jesuses and two Judases, for the price of... well, seven books, which cost considerably more than a Bible. Sort of but not really more bang for your buck!

It wouldn't be a Friday if I didn't encourage blasphemous behavior at least once a post, so my contest for you: create a religion based around your favorite book. What do you worship? Let us know! Feel free to cast yourself in a position of leadership. No, you can't use one that already has a built-in belief system, and yes, victory is contingent on hilarity, as per always.

But you know what they say about Harry Potter (and, in fact, a lot of children's books): realism and grit don't necessarily make it better. They just make it more realistic. And perhaps reality is not for children! I know I struggle with it, and I am (theoretically) an adult. Some reply smarm cleans up children's classics—I especially liked this version of Peter Pan. Either way, keep your books away from that hungry, hungry caterpillar—not only is he a hungry paper eater, he now also has a crayon and will draw all over your pages.

Again I push the e-reader on you, to avoid paper destruction. Get the new Sony wireless e-reader, just in time for your non-denominational winter holiday. And you can load it up with everything from Google books (that is a lot of stuff). Sony is partnered with a ton of independent book stores. And you get the newest Dan Brown preloaded. Plus it also cures cancer, I hear.

Oh, wait, I won't be getting this reader, because this cancer curing machine isn't free. And I'm cheap. Also, I would miss book covers—they're what make the book an art object, more than just silly words. Something I can't get behind, though: books without jackets. The ability to remove the book jacket is half of the reason I buy hardcovers. How else am I supposed to read Eragon on the subway? Oh, I know, why don't I read something with a giant dragon face on it? Psh. No.

Yes, I know you're impressed by my reading habits. But I prefer it my way—I hear that all great literary authors are hypochondriacs. And would make terrible professors. And only some of them come with matching Ikea furniture, although my apartment is decked out in my own Ikea interpretation of China Mieville's The City and the City. I'm also investing in these literary wine pairings and this $1 million book on fine wines.

I only drink pure class, clearly, but what do I eat? Well, when I cook for myself I use the French cooking bible, now available in English (for those of you not cool enough to cook in French). You can also check out this book vending machine, for light, classy snacks.

Wtf, it seems like I'm out of space (what, I didn't say anything vulgar [Dad, email me and I'll explain what "wtf" means]. But I thought it. And would read this book about the f word. It's classy!). So contribute to my book inspired religion contest, or be deemed a classless boor. Horrors!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ask Not For Whom the Reorders Come

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like a lot of celebrities have died this summer (Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays, Michael Jackson, Walter Cronkite, Ed McMahon, Robert Novak, Don Hewitt, and now—R.I.P., friends—Ted Kennedy and Dominick Dunne), and I've been hearing from folks in the know that this has translated into one thing (well, one thing among many): reorders for their books.

Be they biographies, autobiographies, novels, or children's books, fiction or non-, celebrity books always see a bump in sales when that celebrity dies. And I mean immediately—I don't think some of these poor people are even cold before we start seeing reorder requests for their backlist from the major chains. This is, I think, for two reasons:

1.) News media are able to tell us about these sorts of things almost immediately these days, so there's very little delay between the death of a celebrity and the news of that death reaching the public;

2.) People become a lot more interested in something or someone once that something or someone is no longer available. Thus, once it's clear to people that a given celebrity's last book really is their last book, whether they've been meaning to read it or not, they're more likely to buy it, either for themselves or that friend they have who's totally obsessed with said celebrity.

Now, caveat: this really only works for celebrities (either people who are famous for being authors or people who are famous and happen to have written a book*). Unless you are already somewhat newsworthy, gentle readers, your demises (untimely or otherwise) will not really do anything for your book sales. Please consider this before faking your own deaths and moving to the Bahamas to sit back, relax, and watch the royalty checks roll in. (Also, turns out it's hard to collect royalties when you're, uh, dead.)

I know the chains have been reordering books by all sorts of recently deceased celebrities lately—the practice is not new—but I'm curious: are you more likely to buy a book by or about someone famous if they've recently died?

*Or, more likely, paid someone else to write their book for them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Borders in Trouble

If you've followed my advice and subscribed to Publishers Lunch, you probably saw their article yesterday titled "Borders Posts Larger-than-Expected Q2 Loss After After-Tax Charges." If not, no worries, as yours truly is about to quote it extensively.

The part(s) that worried me most is/are as follows:
...Borders [is] still losing money, even having more or less eliminated capital expenditures entirely this year.

Consolidated sales were $616.8 million, down 17.7% from a year ago. On an operating basis, Borders Group generated a second quarter loss of $12.7 million, compared to a loss of $10.5 million for the same period last year. On a GAAP basis, the second quarter loss was $45.6 million, compared to $11.3 million a year ago. The second quarter GAAP loss includes non-operating, after-tax charges—primarily non-cash—totaling $32.9 million.

Operating cash flow in the second quarter was $40.6 million compared to $71.1 million one year ago when the company first initiated a significant inventory reduction program.
Now, granted, a year ago we were only just cusping on this whole "recession" business, so it's likely Borders' Q3 numbers will look much better (simply because they'll be comparing themselves to one of their worst quarters ever), but these numbers do not look good at all: sales are down almost twenty percent and their operating cash flow's nearly been cut in half. If you listened to or read Borders' own Q2 report, the numbers look a little better, but this is because they're quoting numbers before accounting for interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (paying back of loans), and the PL numbers are post-tax, &c. If you missed the Q2 conference call, a transcript is available here.

True, Barnes & Noble isn't doing so hot either, but they're still making money and their gross figures are considerably larger. BGP (Borders) is currently trading at $3.48/share on the NYSE, compared to BKS (B&N)'s $20.77. Numbers, folks. They don't lie.

Couple this with the fact that has been trailing (though they're doing a little better this year than last) and Borders has been disrupting sales by stocking more toys rather than chasing the e-book market, and the future looks pretty grim indeed. They've reshuffled their management in recent months to try to address these issues, but frankly, I don't think it will make much of a difference.

As you can see, I'm a bit worried here, folks. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Read Any Good Books Lately?

It's Tuesday! Why aren't you in a book store?

A couple of responses/reminders for you before I get started today:

1.) A few of you mentioned in the comments section of yesterday's post that it's possible for a book to be profitable without its author earning out his/her advance. This is absolutely true. Depending on your advance, royalty structure, and the cost(s) of printing and distributing your book (cost of jacket, cost of (re)design, cost of marketing campaign in-house, &c), you may fail to earn out your advance and the house may still turn a profit on your book. (The reverse can also be true.)

2.) Don't forget to enter Laura's most recent contest! Disease(d) superheroes & nemeses, assemble!

Now, since I work in sales, I have to read a lot. (That is, ARCs and galleys of our titles.) Most people attracted to the industry are already pretty heavy readers, so between work and pleasure, I probably read about 200 books a year (possibly more if I'm reading more graphic novels or poetry than average). Below I'll list some of the books I've (re)read this summer, and in the comments, please feel free to list your top five/ten/twenty/or more! novels of the summer/year so far. You'll see what I'm reading, I'll see what you're reading, everybody learns something.

So! Since early June I've read (not including the ARCs/galleys for work):

The Odyssey (Fitzgerald translation), Homer
Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut
The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut
Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut
Best American Short Stories 2008, Salman Rushdie, ed.
Watchmen, Alan Moore
Embryoyo, Dean Young
That Old Cape Magic, Richard Russo
Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli
The Accidental Billionaires, Ben Mezrich
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith
When You Are Engulfed in Flames, David Sedaris
American Lion, Jon Meacham
Citizen Of, Christian Hawkey
Complete Works of William Shakespeare (a handful of plays—not the whole thing!), William Shakespeare
Batman: The Long Halloween, Jeph Loeb
The City & the City, China Miéville
Origins of the Specious, Patricia O'Conner & Stewart Kellerman
Natural History, Dan Chiasson
L'Être et le Néant: Essai D'Ontologie Phénoménologique, Jean-Paul Sartre

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Mailbag: Earning Out

Before I get going, Jenny mentioned in last week's post on romance novel sales that Brenda Hiatt has some great information on romance novel advances. I was remiss in not posting this the first time and now offer it up for your perusal. Thanks, Jenny!

Short post today, gentle readers. A few days ago, I received an e-mail to PMN that asked that age-old question: how many books earn out their advance? The answer is, in short: not a lot.

According to the New York Times, roughly 70% of titles do not earn out their advance. This number is more or less in line with my estimate (mine is slightly higher, 75%+).

However, some of you will be glad to learn that this is not necessarily the case for all books—just certain categories and genres. Justine notes in her posts that children's/YA books and romance novels are exempt more often than not, and while my experience in those areas is not nearly as extensive as hers, I'm inclined to agree.

Um... happy Monday?

Friday, August 21, 2009

End of the Week Round-Up

Happy Friday, geese and ganders! This is the part where Eric usually says something about how he doesn’t do the round-upsthe fabulous and stunning Laura does. But he’s asleep at the switch, as it were, so I have to introduce myself. So: Laura here, rounding up. And don’t miss this week’s contest, below!

If I ever need to defend my life from ruffians or hooligans or kids on my lawn, I will reference last week’s fantasy weapon contest for the best ways to dispose of my fellow man (and woman). From the classic crowbar to the eerily disturbing Orifice Relocator, you guys really outdid yourselves. But I have to say, my favorite entry was from Andrea Cremer, whose blesions have taken the cake. You know, blesions—lesions that erupt when demons bless you. Christ heals your leprosy, and the devil gives it right back.

Pimp My Novel: blaspheming since 2009.

Seriously though, fantasy books love them some violence: just look at this chart of fantasy covers from 2008. Swords and (potentially aggressive!) glowy magic are very popular. There’s a great round-up of the ramifications of this chart here. But don’t be fooled—fantasy is also dealing with the serious issues of LGBT rights and the representation of the disabled. So perhaps some of that glowy magic brings tolerance. The swords, probably not so much. Jason Sanford actually lumps this under “SciFi Strange”—society has accepted things that were once deemed sensational, and sci-fi is trucking on along to the next thing.

The next thing…which is steampunk! There’s a great post here defining steampunk, and reasoning through why it’s here to stay. The problem with writing steampunk is that it’s retro-futuristic, so it’s hard to pick characteristics that feel authentic, instead of like a hodgepodge of zaniness. And that’s where this timeline of historical foods comes in—never again will a character erroneously eat a turnover before 1798.

While we’re noshing, Frank Bruni talks about his book and life as a restaurant critic (although the interviewer’s first question, “Reviewing restaurants sounds like unadulterated fun. Is there a downside?” seems a rather callous thing to ask a former bulimic), and this cookbook about what we eat when we eat alone is on my list of presents-because-I-want-things-but-not-for-any-real-celebration.

How’s your literary diet, anyway? Check out the literary food pyramid to see how you stack up (I’m a carnivore in life, but a book vegetarian, it seems). Just don’t actually eat the books, like bed bugs apparently do.

You can avoid the bed bugs in your shelves by only having e-books, I guess. In fact, I hear that free e-books should always be part of the picture for writers—although some things, like the number of books you can choke down in a lifetime, probably won’t change that much when our robot e-book overlords settle in. And there’s something sad and stick figure-esque about collecting e-books, so maybe let’s not do that.

Unfortunately for our e-book overlords, I hear that digital skills are sorely lacking in publishing, and so they might not be in power as quickly as they had hoped. Um, hello, publishing? I have digital skills. Tons of them! And can tone down the smarm if I have to…hello? Publishing?

The rise of e-books also may mean the rise of the library. And those libraries are sneaky! They’re swiping expensive dust jackets and throwing offensive books in the clink—without letting them make their one phone call first. Our robot e-book overlords may have to fight off the library goons for control of our teeny, tiny reader brains.

But they won’t have to fight at all if we all die of swine flu. And that’s where the comic books enter this epic battle, educating us all about sneezing in our elbows and washing our hands. Honestly, I don’t think there will be enough “pow!” and “zap!” to this comic book, so my contest to you all this week: create a superhero that fights (or is) your favorite disease. Extra points for creating an arch-nemesis for your superhero, and extra extra points for designing a costume.

You get negative points if your hero resembles, in any way, Hannah Montana. I don't care if she wears a wig and has a secret identity. Discussion over! But do feel free to read this round up of books about Miley Cyrus, and feel bad when you realize you don't even have ONE book written about you, and you are of voting age. Also this list of must-read children's books is important to your happiness—an all-time favorite of mine, Daddy Long-Legs, is on there. And instead of doing work, I read the whole thing on Project Gutenberg when I found this link two days ago. And it's still good.

Now you can read these great children's books to your kiddies from afar, by recording yourself reading them for the younguns. And when they play it back, it shows the pages. Ah, the internet—a much better babysitter than that sassy TV, never watching its language. Or enroll your kid in an online book club, and trick them into reading with internets. Either way, you should probably keep minors away from William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies.

That's all for this week, ladies and gents. So submit your disease(d?) superheroes and nemeses in the comments, and we'll hang out again next week!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Genre-Specific Sales, Part 8 of 8: Romance

Uh, so, it seems I've also been nominated for "Best Publishing/Industry Blog" and "Most Eclectic Taste Blog" (I'm blaming that second one on Laura). A big thank you to everyone and anyone who nominated PMN, and remember to vote here between September 7th and September 12th!

And now, gentle readers, we come to the end (at least, of this genre-specific sales mini-series). Romance: you know it sells (don't you?). But what are the sales figures really like?

Well, there's a good rundown from 2007 here. You'll note that romance was 12.9% of the market at the time, and I can only surmise that this market share has increased, since the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Huffington Post all report that romance sales are up as a result of the recession. Some numbers:

• BookScan tracked romance sales as being up 2.4% against a down market in the first three months of this year;
• Harlequin has been doing particularly well with Q4 earnings up 32% ($3 million) over the same time last year, indicating both series and non-series romance are going strong;
• Romances generated $1.375 billion in sales in 2007 (according to RWA);
• Someone in the world buys a Harlequin romance novel every four seconds (also according to RWA);
• The U.S. News and World Report lists romance novels #3 on their list of recession winners.

Now, I chalk most of this up to three primary factors:

1.) Romance buyers typically buy more books, particularly more books at a time, and exhibit more brand (read: author) loyalty than readers of other genres.
2.) Romance novels are almost always released (either immediately or a year after their hardcover release) as mass market editions, the low price points of which ($4.99 - $7.99) are very attractive to consumers, especially during a recession.
3.) The recession drives consumers toward escapist fiction, and the reigning queen of escapist fiction is romance (followed closely, in my opinion, by fantasy). Thus, paranormal and historical romance are seeing exceptionally good sales right now.

Additionally, it seems you romance readers and writers are also on the cutting edge of the e-book market. From the New York Times article, above:
Romance novels have also captured a larger proportion of the electronic book market than other categories. Whereas most publishers say that about 1 percent of sales come from e-books, Harlequin says that digital editions make up about 3.4 percent of its sales.
So, not only are romance novel sales performing admirably in the physical book market, but they're doing well in the e-book arena as well. Bravo, romance. Bra-vo.

Now, let's say you're currently working on your bodice-ripping, time-travelling, vampire-and-werewolf-battling historical romance. What kind of advance can you expect?

Well, to be honest, this one is tricky (aren't they all?), but not for the reason you think. Rather than there being a paucity of data, there's just too much data that aren't easily distilled into a narrow range; the best I can come up with is RWA's figure of "$3,000 to several million." Accurate? Well, yes. Helpful? Not really. But I'm afraid it's the best I can give you. While my oft-cited "$5,000 - $7,500" range is probably more or less the case here, you really can make a killing in romance if you do it right (then again, that's pretty much true everywhere, except maybe for poetry).

So, in summary:

• Romance is beating the pants off the recession right now. If you write a killer one, you'll be in a very fine position indeed.
• Again, with all my usual caveats, I expect paranormal romance, historical romance, and romantic suspense to lead the pack, with contemporary romance trailing but by no means performing poorly.
• Average advance: hard to tell, but somewhere between $3,000 and... uh... millions. I'd err on the $3,000 side, though.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Genre-Specific Sales, Part 7 of 8: Women's Fiction

Once more, a quick note before I get started: it seems I've been nominated for a BBAW Award (Best New Blog), so if you've found PMN helpful to you, I'd be eternally grateful if you'd cast your vote for yours truly. Check out the awards timeline here and remember to cast your vote between September 7th and September 12th; I'll be sure to remind you come 9/7.

Now: Women's fiction!

I seem to recall that during my initial call for feedback, one or two of you wanted an explanation of the difference between women's fiction and chick lit. In my preferred format (i.e. bullets):

• Women's fiction is more of an umbrella term, encompassing chick lit, most romance, most erotica, and "mainstream" women's fiction (think Carol Goodman rather than Jennifer Weiner). Historical fiction often overlaps considerably (think Philippa Gregory).
• Women's fiction is as old as, well, women (or at least as old as women writers), whereas chick lit is a relatively more recent phenomenon (early to mid-1990s).
• Women's fiction is aimed at women in general, whereas chick lit is aimed at women in their 20s or early 30s, often unmarried, and often trying to juggle their careers, love lives, and social (mis)adventures as they learn to navigate their way in the world.

Still confused? Well, it turns out it's just kind of tricky to define women's fiction, and even Jessica over at BookEnds has said as much. I tend to subscribe to the Potter Stewart school of thought (i.e. I know it when I see it).

And speaking of bestselling author Jennifer Weiner—who, having graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, is no intellectual slouch—she has her own ideas on the subject, as well as the sales to back them up. As you may have noticed from Ms. Weiner's sales—and, indeed, the recent trends in major retailer co-op and various bestseller lists—both women's fiction and chick lit are selling well. (If you're curious, the BookScan numbers generally confirm this, with titles like Best Friends Forever, The Help, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society selling exceptionally well.) Recognize those last two from yesterday's post? Well, I'd classify them as women's fiction as well as historical fiction. After tomorrow's post, I'd wager you'll find the historical romance gets you the most bang for your buck, so stay tuned.

In the way of advances, I really don't have much for you; while I tend to think the average women's fiction/chick lit advance is slightly higher than the average advance for a novel nowadays (somewhere in the $5,000 - $7,500 range), I really couldn't tell you with any certainty. My advice? Ask your agent!

A summary for you, then:

• There are subtle differences between women's fiction and chick lit: in short, chick lit is a sub-genre of women's fiction.
• Both women's fiction and chick lit are selling well right now, particularly if they happen to also fall under the categories of historical fiction, fantasy, or romance. I sort of see the genre developing away from chick lit in the next year or two (that is, I agree with Jessica—or at least, what Jessica said a couple of years ago). I don't expect this to be a handicap for those currently writing chick lit, however.
• The average advance is likely in the same ballpark as the average advance for any debut novel today ($5,000 - $7,500), but I don't have much data in this area and really advise you to ask your agent about this one.
• Again, with all the usual caveats and disclaimers, my theory: historical romance (itself a manifestation of women's fiction, though certainly not chick lit), especially if there are steampunk/vampire/fantasy elements involved, is where it's going to be at in the next six to twelve months. Keep an eye out for tomorrow's post on romance.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Genre-Specific Sales, Part 6 of 8: Historical Fiction

Before I get started: I've talked before about hiring your own publicist, and as usual, Jessica over at BookEnds has written an excellent post on the subject. In short: a good publicist can work wonders when you do everything right, but they're by no means necessary and are often an extraneous expense. Make sure you know what you're getting into beforehand. As always, talk to your agent.

And now, Ye Olde Historicale Fictione—

Thanks to all of you for your comments on yesterday's post. As often as I'm guilty of it, I really do hate to be the bearer of bad news. Having dealt with literary fiction's soft sales as best I can—i.e. by reading some F. Scott and Papa Hemingway while drinking a Bombay Sapphire martini (dry, extra olives)—I'm ready to move on. Historical fiction: how is it selling?

As with literary fiction, clear-cut data on historical fiction are somewhat more difficult to come by simply because the boundaries of the genre are not as clearly defined as those of, say, sci-fi or fantasy. (For the purposes of this post, I'm shelving historical romances under "romance," to be discussed on Thursday. If you absolutely have to know, though, historical romance continues to sell well. More to come.) However, based on my own experience with the genre and some late-night BookScan investigation, it seems that historical fiction is alive and well. For instance, the New York Times Best-Seller List has consistently included historical fiction; for recent examples, see Kathryn Stockett's The Help, Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows' The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Philippa Gregory's The Other Queen. If you're writing historical fiction right now—particularly something steampunk or including vampires—you're probably okay. Then again, that's what's "in" now, not what will necessarily be "in" in two or more years when your current work-in-progress hits the shelves. So take my advice with a grain or two of salt.

Historical fiction had a strong showing in those novels shortlisted for this year's Booker Prize, but again, as we saw yesterday, literary prizes aren't the surest way of increasing sales. Suffice it to say that historical fiction is doing well across the board, both in terms of reviews and sales.

Once again, without making any guarantees, warranties, explicit or implicit contracts, &c, legal or otherwise, my advice is: if you're writing historical fiction, whether it ties in to the current "hot" categories/themes (e.g. fantasy, romance, vampires, steampunk, zombies, what have you) or is a straightforward historical novel about anyone from Abraham to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, you're probably on course for decent sales (again, assuming you've written a stellar book). Keep it up!

Last, but not least: what kind of advance can you expect?

Once again, it's difficult to pin down the exact range that's considered "average" for historical romance novels today, but I'd hazard a guess that $5,000 - $7,500 is about right (potentially more for a really good cross-genre title—see above for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter—or for a multi-book deal).

In summary, then:

• Historical fiction continues to do well, so if you're writing in that genre: hooray!
• If you've got some serious crossover action going on (e.g. fantasy, romance), so much the better.
• Average advance: probably $5,000 - $7,500, but it's hard to tell. Some of the above novels had advances way above that and should not be considered "typical results" (to borrow from the fine print on TV diet advertisements).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Genre-Specific Sales, Part 5 of 8: Literary Fiction

So, I almost didn't want to write this one, because it makes me a little, well, barfy, but I've been straight with you all thus far, and I don't intend to change that anytime soon.

Fortiter et fideliter

Things are not looking good for literary fiction. As the New York Times notes, the big-time booksellers (the national accounts like Barnes & Noble and the mass merchandisers like Costco) are driving sales, and due to a combination of the consumers' preference for brand name authors (rather than new voices) and the retailers' desire to see immediate large sales, literary fiction is forever playing second banana to its more popular and mainstream-attractive friend, genre fiction. (Think Velma and Daphne, respectively.) The big houses, of course, also want to optimize sales, and so they're in no hurry to alter this system of subsidizing a few literary titles with the sales of their Da Vinci Codes and Twilights. Yet more disturbing:
Indeed, in 2005, almost half of all sales in the literary fiction category came from the top 20 best-selling books, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks sales in 70 percent to 80 percent of the domestic retail market. The three top sellers in literary fiction were "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," by Mark Haddon (640,000 copies in Bookscan's sampling); "Memoirs of a Geisha," by Arthur Golden (560,000 copies, including the movie tie-in); and "The Known World," by Edward P. Jones (274,000 copies).
So even if your literary novel is picked up for publication—and, to be honest, it most likely won't be—it's got to compete well enough with the others to become one of those very rare literary bestsellers if you ever want a prayer of quitting your day job. Once again, sales are soft, and though certain genres (e.g. fantasy, romance) are up, literary fiction is not one of them. In order to get bestseller-level results:
"You need 15 things to happen in the right order on time," said Bill Thomas, the editor in chief of Doubleday-Broadway, whose recent successes include "The Curious Incident," as well as Jonathan Lethem's "Fortress of Solitude" and, yes, "The Da Vinci Code." Those things include drumming up enthusiasm inside the publishing house, spreading the word to booksellers and reviewers by sending out manuscripts months before publication, and securing a front-of-store display at Barnes & Noble and Borders and prominent placement on To show booksellers you're serious, Thomas said, you have to ship a minimum of 20,000 copies to stores at the time of publication.

But literary novels rarely sell that many copies in hardcover, and the need for a high print run sets up expectations that can be difficult to meet. Printing 20,000 copies off the bat also requires the commitment of the entire publishing apparatus. To get "in-house support" for a book, editors vie against one another to win over the marketing and art departments so the book gets advertising dollars and the best jacket possible.
That's no small order; it's not enough for you to win over a literary agent and for him or her to win over an editor. That editor has to win over... well, not me per se, but my bosses and other people in my department. And, in a few years, that will probably include me, as well.

In case you were curious, this phenomenon isn't confined to the here-and-now. Over in jolly old England (and roughly two years in the past), Blake Morrison bemoans the state of literary fiction. You should find this especially disconcerting, since England is clearly much more refined/proper/intelligent/&c than us Uh-MAY-ree-kans, and if they're not reading literary fiction, I'm confident in saying that nobody is. And this coming from yours truly, a major reader of literary fiction. Alack.

Morrison quotes 2,000 hardcover copies and 8,000 paperback copies as being a realistic estimate of the average literary novel's sales; I think that's a bit on the optimistic side, and it seems our friend Moonrat agrees (at least as recently as last September). She says that 1,500 copies sold or fewer will probably disappoint your publisher, 2,000 - 4,000 is strong, 4,000 - 7,000 is great, and 7,000+ is fan-friggin'-tastic (I may have paraphrased a little). These numbers are pretty small when you consider the larger publishing environment, in which the average agented book sells around 12,000 copies (according to the Book Industry Study Group and RR Bowker, both quite reputable).

So, is literary fiction dying? Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense that it constitutes a very small percentage of the market; no in the sense that this is anything new.

Finally, what kind of advance can you expect for your literary novel? This is somewhat tricky, since I don't think the data have been compiled yet (at least, not anywhere that I can find) and I don't have much experience with the average literary advance vs. the average advance for an author these days, but I'd be comfortable with this LA Times article from 2002. As I've said before, yes, a lot of these data are a few (or in this case, several) years old, but to be honest, the average advance hasn't crept up all that much in the past few years, and with publishing houses slashing costs wherever possible, advances for debut authors have been falling. You'll probably fall in the $5,000 - $7,000 range.

Now, you'll notice in that same article (as well as according to our One True God Wikipedia) that Michael Chabon got an advance of $155,000 for his debut novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. And this is true.

This is also true, and please say it with me: I am not Michael Chabon. You cannot, cannot, cannot pin your hopes on a six figure advance for your debut novel, because the chances are astronomically against you. You are not Michael Chabon. Unless, of course, you are, in which case: hey Mike! Loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

So, in summary:

• Literary fiction is not selling well. This is not news.
• The average sales and average advance(s) are lower than usual. You can probably expect an advance in the $5,000 - $7,500 range.
• If you're not a seriously brilliant writer and/or do not have an MFA from Columbia, Iowa, or the like, you might want to reconsider writing literary fiction. That is, if you plan on selling it.

I'm sorry, folks, it breaks my heart. I'm a poet and a consumer of/dabbler in literary fiction; how do you think I feel?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday: Day of Round-Up Dreams

Ladies & gentlemen: Laura! — E

Every day, dear readers, I come to appreciate you more and more. Why? Firstsies, you're all bad ass mothers, who don't take no crap off of nobody. Last week I got called out twice in the comments: once for making a content error (which was sloppy, I'm sorry!), and a few times for being filled with haterade (although I did try to justify myself). I honestly do appreciate you all pointing out when I've effed up—it's like an army of smart people keeping me honest. Plus, I like dialoguing. I'm chatty.

Secondsies, I like you guys because you're really, really fun to do contests with. And Lord knows I love me some contests. Last week's contest, to come up with an alternate title for a classic, was awesome. I couldn't cut down the winners to fewer than three, because all three of them made me laugh when I found out the answers. My contest, my rules—hurray fascism! The winners are "Fear and Loathing in Denmark" by CKHB, “The Year a Zombie Killed my Girlfriend” by cloudshaper2k, and Xiexie's "A Little Person's Quest for Jewelry."

And thank Thor for all you guessers! There was some mighty brainpower going on, but Terry rose up victorious on the guessing front, with 5 correct titles (as far as I know, at any rate). If I ever un-anonymize, you and I are headed out for some bar trivia. The rest of you can come too, but you all have to buy me and Terry drinks. Hey, I don't make the rules, I just enforce, wait, I make them too. Anyway. Check out the (slightly incomplete) list of contest answers posted, and let's get to rounding up the week. There's a new contest in the next paragraph—read on through or click here to skip the two sentences of chatting and get straight to the competition, American Gladiator style.

Oh, you like violence, do you? Then you’ll love this list of iconic fantasy weapons. That said, I think these weapons are kind of lackluster, and don’t have the heft of true violence. And no lightsabers? Um, hello, they cauterize wounds on contact. Which is awesome! So my contest for you this week: choose your own iconic literary or fantasy weapon, and leave it in the comments. Most inspired choice gets featured next week. And no stealing my choice, the Lobotomizer.

Also violent, Joss Whedon believes Angel could kick the sparkles right out of Edward Cullen. And I believe it—one headbutt from Angel’s ugly forehead thing and anyone would be out. If that doesn’t work, though, you can pass out by giving blood to Dracula, during Penguin Canada’s blood drives to promote a Dracula sequel. Yea, everyone wants to give blood now that vampires are popular. In an interview, Lev Grossman talks about how fantasy has become mainstream, and Philip Marchand accuses fantasy of taking over sci-fi. If you haven’t succumbed to the peer pressure, check out this fantasy starter kit for adults, and you’ll be jumping off bridges with the rest of us in no time.

Ok, the list in that last link is flawed, in part because the lady thinks Lord of the Rings is at a fourth-grade reading level (what kind of fourth graders does she know??), and because George R.R. Martin only got an honorable mention. In penance for her shenanigans, we must all listen to this interview with George R.R. Martin (my note to myself next to this link reads “squee!”). My secret boyfriend, Neil Gaiman, is a myth-making awesome machine. He (and some other people) won some Hugos. It was clearly all caused by the mysterious “quantum flux.”

Do you love Gaiman for his graphic novels more than his novel-novels? Well soon there will be an app to support proper comic reading on the iPhone. Which will be just in time for the graphic translation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and for Yale’s book The Cartoons that Shook the World. You know what they don’t think shook the world? The Danish cartoons of Muhammad (you know, the ones that prompted riots, embassy burnings, and an international discussion of free speech). According to Yale, that wouldn’t fall under the category of world-shaking. Nor do any pictures of the Prophet, actually. But I bet Garfield will be in there—he’s one sassy cat.

Not just Yale, but the world went a little overboard with political correctness this week. The Diary of Anne Frank will get Disney-fied, the cover of Liar got changed (although, after the hubbub about having a white girl on the cover, no one seems to care that Bloomsbury couldn’t have found a lighter black woman), and To Kill a Mockingbird might get banned in a Canadian school for naughty language. Malcolm Gladwell accuses Harper Lee of not supporting civil rights enough in said book, and Garth Risk Hallberg tells him to shut his pie hole until he actually understands the book (zing!). To top it all off, the contest inspiring copy of Mein Kampf sold for £21,000 to an anonymous buyer (he wants to own it, but not to admit to it). Actually, though, German Jews want Mein Kampf to be reprinted, to show future generations that Hitler really was a jerk.

Tim Burton believe that children’s books shouldn’t have to be politically correct, and so would probably support Harper Lee in a smackdown with the above overzealous Canadian parents. That said, he’s not the guy behind a “sexy” TV adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. This is probably contributing to the death of reading, aptly described by David Ulin in the LA Times. Kassia Krozer writes about reading's losing fight for eyeballs, and the existence of literary junk food is probably an argument for this too (wait, come on, chick-lit is serious, people are incorporating the heavy reality of the recession now. Respect them!). Alas, we may one day actually need these dos and don'ts of reading.

This has actually filtered down to the untouchables like Thomas Pynchon—the man, the legend, the mystery. Ever elusive, to promote his forthcoming novel he actually spoke. To the public. Well, sort of. He lent his voice to his book trailer and created a playlist to go with his new novel (although he is not an indie rock groupie). Even Pynchon can’t be “just an author.”

Thoroughly depressed, I think the only answer is contest literary violence (Go go, Gadget-Lobotomizer!) . So submit your violent accessories of mayhem to the contest below—no using them on each other—and see you all next week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Genre-Specific Sales, Part 4 of 8: Science Fiction

From Asimov to Zelazny, science fiction has seen some of the best authors and titles in recent trade publishing history. The question is: do the sales reflect this?

Well, yes and no. Science fiction is a tricky beast, and can more or less be broken down into the sub-genres of "hard" science fiction, cyberpunk science fiction, military science fiction, fantasy science fiction, and media tie-in science fiction (although there are some that don't quite fit in, e.g. Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is more or less humorous sci-fi).

Hard science fiction (think Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven) has been on the decline since the end of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, i.e. for about half a century at this point, so if you're writing in this area your sales will probably be modest at best. Cyberpunk, military, and fantasy are a different story, though; from what I can tell, those genres have been on the up and up in recent months. (A representative from Borders and the BookScan numbers agree.) This is especially the case for fantasy science fiction, which, in my opinion, enjoys the best of both worlds (think China Miéville's Perdido Street Station).

Now, there is some nay-saying going on, but it largely pertains to the state of the industry as a whole (hint: sales are soft), and insofar as it addresses science fiction sales, there's really no indication as to where the data are coming from, so I think it's safe to say that for now, science fiction is a modest oasis in the unrelenting desert that is book publishing. (+5 metaphor, +2 charisma, +3 constitution.)

Speaking of stats and, by association, D&D, media tie-in sci-fi/fantasy (sort of D&D, but mostly Star Trek and Star Wars) continues to do well. If you're one of the lucky few who's writing those official Lucas Books Star Wars tie-in novels, your sales are secure. But you already knew that.

Finally, what kind of advance can a sci-fi author expect these days?

Once again, it's Tobias Buckell to the rescue. According to him, you can expect a median advance of $5,000, an average of $7,000, and a range of $0 - $20,000. Once again, you'll notice the agented submissions do significantly better than the unagented ones. Agents, people. You need them.

So, in summary:

· Overall sales are still down, but science fiction sales are slightly up!
· Hard science fiction will be a hard sell for you, but everything else should be more or less okay. Your best bet is fantasy/sci fi, I think. (See all previous caveats concerning my advice.)
· According to our man Tobias, you can expect a median advance of $5,000, an average of $7,000, and a range of $0 - $20,000.

To my spaceship, and away!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Genre-Specific Sales, Part 3 of 8: Mystery/Thriller

Laura here—just a reminder that there’s an awesome contest still going strong over at last Friday’s post, in which readers have been contributing alternate titles to classics, and the rest of us have been trying to guess what the classics are (I have been failing miserably). Think you know what "Fear and Loathing in Denmark" is? Or "My Beautiful Ape"? Guess the most correctly by 11:59 p.m. Thursday night, and your genius will be recognized. And if you’ve submitted a title already, either post the right answer in the comments after the deadline Thursday night, or send the answer in an email to pimpmynovel (at) gmail (dot) com—I’m seriously stumped, and want to know the answers. And now: Eric with real information.

Mysteries. Thrillers. Suspense. What's the difference?

Well, Nathan has answered this before, but in short:

• Thrillers are action-oriented;
• Suspense novels are danger-oriented, but not necessarily action-oriented;
• Mysteries, are, well... mystery-oriented, regardless of whether there's any action or danger involved. Is there a riddle to be solved? A question to be answered? &c.

Hopefully all is clear now. Next piece of business: how is this genre selling?

If you're interested in the UK fiction market—which isn't really substantially different from the US market, at least in this category—things are looking up for mystery/thriller (at least, as of last year). As you can see here (scroll down), mystery sales account for almost a quarter of all adult sales (units), so as long as your writing is solid and you've got a more-or-less original idea, you should be okay. As I've already mentioned, escapist fiction is the ideal market right now, so mystery/thriller/suspense (including all its crossovers, such as sci-fi thriller and romantic suspense) is a great place to be in 2009. And honestly, from what I hear, it's also a great place to be over the next few years, so if you're writing in this genre: carry on.

So again, with all the usual disclaimers (not legal advice, no warranties, exchanges, refunds, substitutions, &c), my guess is that romantic suspense, police/procedural thriller, mystery/thriller/suspense with female protagonist/detective, sci-fi/military thriller, and historical mystery (mayhap steampunk?) will lead the pack, although I honestly expect the rest of the sub-genres to continue to do well. Anything with sci-fi/fantasy/romance crossover (to super capitalize on the escapist/happy ending fiction theory) is, I think, a good idea (provided your book is engaging and well-written).

Now: what's the average advance?

As we saw yesterday and the day before, it's difficult to pin this sort of thing down, but from what I've observed in national account adult sales, the average advance for mystery/thriller/suspense is roughly in line with the average adult novel advance, which is to say, around $10,000 or so (in my experience, closer to $8,000). You could make as little as $1,000 on your debut novel and as much as a couple million; it all depends. Again, if you have an agent, I'd certainly ask him or her about this.

Finally, one major caveat: if your mystery/suspense/thriller is coming out this September (particularly in the second half of the month), you might be a little overshadowed. Otherwise, though, you should be fine.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Genre-Specific Sales, Part 2 of 8: Children's

So, as always, some caveats:

#1: I work in adult sales. (I hate telling my friends this because they assume it means I only help sell erotica.) Children's books are not my specialty, but I've taken the liberty of talking to some of the children's sales folks at my house, so hopefully you'll still find some useful information here.

#2: When I say "children's," I generally mean "not adult" (i.e. everything from baby books through YA). I'll break things down further as I go.


Now, children's books are divided in number of different ways, so I'm going to summarize here (hopefully without glossing over anything too much). First, by age range. You can find a more specific breakdown here, but I'm going to use slightly broader strokes. Generally, you've got picture books (children younger than 6), chapter books (ages 6 - 9), middle grade/MG (ages 8 - 12), and young adult/YA (ages 12+). The distinction between MG and YA can be a little blurry, but here's a pretty good explanation. In a nutshell:

• MG protagonists are usually in the age range of 8 - 12. YA protagonists are usually 12 or older.
• The word count for MG is around 20,000 - 40,000, whereas it's 50,000 - 75,000 for YA (as Jessica Faust notes here, these numbers are a little fuzzy, so take this with a grain of salt).
• MG plots tend to center on the protagonist's internal world, whereas YA plots are more complex and are more concerned with the protagonist's effect on his or her external world.
• MG is chiefly read by late elementary/middle school students; YA is chiefly read by high school students and up.

Basically, the MG/YA question boils down to Ramona Quimby vs. Bella Swan (shudder). Which is your protagonist?

Yes, now, sales. Alack, sales are still soft (and are projected to remain so), but it looks like adults are still more willing to spend money on their kids than on themselves, so for now, children's sales are doing relatively well across the board. (Remember yesterday's discussion on paperbacks versus hardcovers? Well, right now children's paperbacks are doing particularly well.) I also encourage you to check out this article on sales by channel. What's a channel, you ask? Well, click and find out.

Yesterday, I also told you to check out the impact of e-books on sales (hint: e-books are the future). Well, it's true for children's books, too! My theory is that this will be especially pronounced among the younger kids as they grow up with this kind of technology and are more comfortable with it.

Now, genre. Based on my conversations with a couple of children's sales specialists, YA fantasy remains the hot market, although traditional MG/YA and MG mysteries continue to do well. I get the impression that picture books are really a tough market to gauge, so I'm not sure I can point to any significant trends there. As everyone knows, vampires are still "in," but I strongly caution you against trying to time the market. Have you ever tried that with stocks? If so, you know what I'm talking about. You end up buying high and selling low. If you're just starting your YA vampire novel now, it probably won't be on shelves for two years, minimum. A lot can happen in two years.

Next, disclaimer: I am not making any legal warranty, explicit or implicit, as to the accuracy of my research. If you end up writing a paranormal romance YA featuring steampunk zombies and it doesn't sell, don't waste your time suing me.

Now that that's over with: projected "hot" trends include zombies and steampunk, so if you're writing along those lines (MG or YA, most likely YA), you're probably in good shape. If you're not, no worries, so long as your book is good. I'm sure traditional epic fantasy YA will continue to do well, and I doubt vampires are going to (re)die in the immediate future.

Finally, average advances:

According to Writing World, the average picture book advance (a few years ago) was $1,000 - $3,000, and it's probably not much different now. In fact, these numbers are more or less comparable to the MG and YA numbers, although YA tends to be a little higher, according to my chat with the children's folks at my house, and the average children's book advance is around $7,500 (as of this time two years ago).

Lo, in summary:

• There is a difference between MG and YA, and it's slightly more complicated than the age of the protagonist.
• Children's books sales are soft, but doing relatively well now. They are projected to do relatively well for the next several years.
• Paperback YA is especially hot. Current trends include vampires and zombies; zombies and steampunk are believed to be next. Perhaps Christian vampires and Amish fiction, as well.
• I'm not sure there's a pattern to the advances, but the ballpark for picture books seems to be $1,000 - $3,000 and MG/YA around $7,500. My best guess: $0 - $8,000 if you're writing any kind of children's book, with a median around $4,000 or so.

Not bad for a non-children's sales guy, no?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Genre-Specific Sales, Part 1 of 8: Fantasy

The results of last week’s informal genre poll are in. By my count, the top four most-requested categories are:

1. Fantasy
2. Children’s/MG/YA
3. Mystery/Thriller
4. Science Fiction

Followed closely by literary fiction, historical fiction, women’s fiction/chick lit, and romance. So, here’s the deal: I’ll do all top eight—the top four this Monday through Thursday plus a Friday round-up, courtesy of Laura, and then the second set of four next Monday through Thursday. I know, I know. I spoil you.

Now: to business!

First, the bad news: book sales are down. Due to the recession and the fact that nobody reads anymore anyway, the industry has suffered "modest" (read: depressed) sales, affecting retailers, publishing houses, agents, and authors alike. Dark times, gentle readers.

The good news, however is this: fantasy is actually doing all right, and in many instances, sales of fantasy books are up over last year's sales. Without quoting you exact BookScan numbers, I can tell you that fantasy book sales are up at my house by roughly 10%, which is the number currently being quoted for most of the major trade publishers. As for the retailers themselves, they're seeing a 4-5% increase in general sales, as described in author Kameron M. Franklin's post on the subject.

It occurred to me to check the hardcover vs. trade paperback numbers in BookScan, and again, without quoting specifics, I can tell you that hardcover sales are particularly depressed across the board and trade paperback numbers (both frontlist and backlist) are up (which was my hunch). The AAP's recent release on book sales for May of this year more or less confirms this. Then again, I've always been more of a big-picture guy, so I encourage you to check out the numbers for January, February, March, and April, too.

(Fun exercise: pay special attention to the numbers for audio books and e-books in those AAP releases. Then consider whether you'd like your fantasy novel sold as an audio book and/or e-book, in addition to the print version.)

Now, obviously I don't know what the economic climate will be like by the time your book is ready to be published, but if it's still not so great and you have the option of publishing as a TPO (trade paperback original—that is, your books hits the market as a trade paperback, rather than coming out as a hardcover and then as a paperback a year later), you might want to go with that. In some cases, your book might go straight to mass market, which also might not be a bad thing, as mass market edition sales are up, too. (Remember that TPs have a price range of about $10 – $20 and MMs, around $4 – $7; this beats the pants off the $20 – $40 you're expected to pay for a hardcover.) Then again, the lower prices on TPs and MMs means less revenue for publishers and for you on each book sold, so you need to move a lot more units.

Now, one or two of you mentioned you might like to have an idea of the median/average advances on different types of novels. I'm happy to report author and blogger Tobias S. Buckell has crunched the SF/fantasy numbers for us, and if you're writing a fantasy novel, you can expect an advance in the $0 - $40,000 range, with a median of $5,000 and an average of $6,494. Now, this post is a few years old, but if I were to adjust everything for inflation and then adjust it back down due the "recession effect," I'm pretty sure it would come out even. Also note that it's based on one hundred or so self-reported advances, so there's a certain margin of error there (roughly 12%, if you're interested).

And oh, yeah—in case you didn't notice, Tobias' numbers indicate much higher advances for agented deals over unagented ones. This is not a coincidence. Get yourself an agent. Then ask him or her for more details on average/median advances, &c, since (to be honest) it's not technically my specialty.

For daily deal news (and weekly summaries that often list ballparks on advances), I highly recommend you subscribe to Publisher's Lunch. This version is free; you can also subscribe to the deluxe edition for a nominal fee.

So, in summary:

• Overall sales are down against last year.
• Fantasy sales are up against last year (~10% or so). People love their escapist fiction!
• Hardcovers are way down, trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks are up-ish.
• Median fantasy novel advance: $5,000; average: $6,494; range: $0 - $40,000.

Questions? Comments?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Round-Up

The number of comments on the last post is staggering. I'll have the top genres for you next week, I promise; in the meantime, Laura's back with another link-heavy round-up. Enjoy! — E

Last week I challenged you to write the greatest love story every told. Who knew that Hitler was such a closet romantic? You all did, it seems. I read your entries, laughed, cried, and groaned at some truly terrible puns (you know who you are), and selected a winner.

Brittany Hansen opened her Hitler romance novel with the following lines:
Holding his copy of Mein Kampf, Maurer opened the cover to read the inscription, "Herrn Johann Georg Maurer. In memory of our time together in prison in Landsberg. Cordially dedicated by Adolf Hitler. Christmas 1925." The message was subtle; Maurer closed his eyes, hugged the book to his chest and whispered, "Mein pookie."

This is destined to be a classic. I feel it in my bones. Hitler, I’m sure, would feel it in at least one bone. And now that our disturbing image of the week quota is filled, on to the round up—there’s also a new contest down the line (or just click here to go straight there and ignore my brilliant witticisms. Know that I’m silently judging you).

The Times put out a list of the best 60 books of the past 60 years. Although Ursula Le Guin says there’s no way to choose “bests,” the list covers some serious heavyweights that deserve the adjective “best,” including Nineteen Eighty-Four, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catch 22, The Bell Jar...Twilight? For serious? I'm sorry if there are sudden typos, I think I just burst a blood vessel in my eye.

This list prompted the following G-chat conversation with Eric (note: all vulgarity has been removed and punctuation added, for readability and out of regard for your tender sentiments):
Kill me.
I don't want to live anymore.
: I feel barfy now.
: Please put me out of my misery.
: But you have to put ME out of MY misery!
Are you ****ing kidding me
The Time Traveler's Wife

Are you ****ing kidding me
This planet is totally ****ed.
Kurt was right about everything.

Listen. I read The Time Traveler’s Wife, and I really enjoyed it. But top 60 from the past 60 years? Yikes. If you love time travel, check out this list of the top ten time travel novels (from which The Time Traveler’s Wife is suspiciously absent…).

As to Twilight, that book is the cut inside my mouth I can’t stop poking—I just can’t leave it alone. This is just a preface to say: next post, I swear, will be Twilight free. But not this one!

There's a new Twilight video game coming out, that will be World of Warcraft meets virgin vampires. In the words of the Geekologie writer, "Wow, can you say a bunch of creepy old guys trolling for teen girls in a video game? Because I can. It's pronounced Twilight: The MMORPG."

Luckily, vampires are going back to their catacombs soon, because Neil Gaiman said so, and as a rule I don't argue with Neil. I also don't argue with wizards. (If, as I suspect, Neil is a wizard, I could winnow it down to just one rule.) There has been a big debate about who wizards better (“to wizard” is a verb now): Gandalf or Dumbledore. Answer: false. Merlin. Although I have to say, Gandalf has been doing a wonderful job on Top Chef Masters.

Fabio from last season’s non-masters Top Chef has self-published a cook book (as did the Obama family). Last season’s Top Chef was rough for me, and I'm still pretty bitter about Stefan losing (to Hosea, with that stupid goatee and face, ugh). That painful memory makes me want to drown my sorrows alcoholically with Harry Potter, who is apparently a lush. Those books should really be printed on edible paper, to soak up some of that booze.

Another thing that makes me want to drink: handsome, charming, successful 25 year old novelists whose books are turned into movies. Unless he wants to be my boyfriend, in which case I would go out for drinks in a less binge-y way. Either or.

One more thing driving me to the bottle (what? It's Friday!): Green Apple Books’ videos comparing the Kindle with print books. I was thinking about embedding the best one here, but it turns out they’re all terrible, and I'm sorry, if I wanted to watch terrible acting I could stop by my local middle school musical. Green Apple Books: proving once again that hippies can’t do anything right.

A non-hippie started a company that comes up with titles for books, and I have to be honest here—I think this might just be the greatest racket ever. People. We can DO this. So this week’s contest: prove your title writing chops by renaming a classic (or just something popular) in the comments, without including the original title. The rest of us will try to guess what you renamed. The author of the funniest and most sales worthy title gets a hearty pat on the back, and can be my first employee at Titillating Titles, LLC (plus the feature in next week’s post). The person who guesses the most fake titles correctly earns a permanent spot on my bar trivia team. And I take bar trivia very seriously. Your deadline is next Thursday night—don’t miss it, or your publisher will drop you like you’re hot. Even if you’re famous and important.

If you like the contest, you’ll certainly like these fictional character pick-up lines, some of the best of which came through Twitter. Don’t be Twitter shy, guys—it can be great for book publicity! And Margaret Atwood is doing it. Only sheer laziness keeps PMN from Twitter (also, we tend to run on—140 characters isn’t a lot). But you guys go have fun. (NB: Twitter upsets my stomach. Sad, but true. But don't let it stop you from promoting yourselves—there's nothing better than free publicity. — E)

Speaking of technology helping book sales, there was an interesting post this week about why writers should consider e-publishing as a form of self-publishing, and then a post that will crush all your hopes of being successful after self-publishing. Wait, no, don’t be sad—look, a shiny new pink e-reader! With an old school iPod click wheel! Yea, you feel better. As always, Borders remains on the cutting edge of e-books, this week adding a toy section to their stores. Next: a ball pit and Happy Meals. And then they’ll get rid of those pesky “books.”

Also leaving books behind, Gotham dropped Screech’s tell-all about Saved by the Bell, because it was scandalous and unverifiable. And now he’s not invited to the reunion (neither is Mr. Belding—so clearly they’re just cutting out the cast from SbtB: The New Class). Bookstores are censoring scandalous readings, the British Library is seething with sexual tension, and people are hiding cocaine in the spines of books. All we need are some explosions and this could be a Nicholas Cage movie.

Well, tigers, that’s all for this week. Remember: submit contest entries in the comments to win eternal fame and fortune (minus the “eternal” part. And the “fortune” part. And maybe change the “fame” part to “some recognition on a blog”). Until next week!