The Bob Delusion Update

I completed my novel, THE BOB DELUSION, earlier this year and more or less haven’t touched it since. That’s because “completed” and “finished” are two different things. I’m utterly convinced that it’s a good and in some ways inventive novel (if I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t have spent six years working on it.) Right now, it’s the best that I can make it on my own. I’ve got it out on submission to about 15 agents (although I’m not even totally certain that I am going to need one) and one publisher (the real point of this post), and though it’s been a while, I have heard from only two. Given that it’s still out there, you can guess what the response was.

It’s remarkable to me how much the publishing industry has changed in the years that have intervened between the time when I worked at Berkley Publishing, The Ellen Levine Agency, and later, Viking Penguin—this was the late eighties and early nineties, before you were born, probably. Before Putnam Berkley and Viking Penguin made nice-nice and merged, or whatever the deal was. Of course, a lot of this change has to do with computers, but mostly with the Web. When I was at Berkley, David Shanks was the only one who had a computer in his office. At Viking, I don’t remember seeing very many, except on the desk of people who set the type. But the biggest change for me is the submission process.  Continue reading

A Very Special One-Time Offer

In honor of the really fun reading at KGB Bar, I’ve got a special promotion going today and tomorrow on Amazon. You can get Second Son for free. Give it a shot. If you don’t have a kindle, you can still read it with the Kindle app for your mac, pc, iPhone, android device or iPad.

And while you’re there, why not go on and pick up a copy of The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door.


Also, check out Carter Sickels‘s work. He read with me last night. Really good, finely observed stuff. Can’t wait to read the whole novel.

[amazon-product alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″]160819597X[/amazon-product]

Thanks @PENamerican

Stephen Stark reading in Jack Dowling's apartment

Stephen Stark (i.e., me) reading in Jack Dowling's apartment for the Pen American Fall Literary Tasting

I want to thank the great folks from the Pen American Center for their Fall Literary Tasting event last Thursday, and Jack Dowling, in whose apartment I read. What a great idea, and what a great setting for a reading, or series of readings. In a lot of ways, I wish I could have been a spectator as well. My daughter saw Lev Grossman read in her pair of “tastings” and really enjoyed it. Wish I could have seen that. Think I would have liked it, too.

First time I’ve ever read from my work on my iPad, which worked out pretty well.

Got the Advance Reading Copies

Of TFAOAFGND, and I think they look pretty good. But so I’m reading the first page, and thinking this is a killer first page, and then get down a few grafs and see, crap, a freaking typo. But this is what advance copies are for, or one of the things.

It’s a curious thing, a physical copy of a book that is going to be an ebook — all the heft you’d expect from a book that will, when it is finally published have no heft.

a stack of Final Appearance advance reading copies

If you’re a reviewer or tastemaker, thought-leader, or just a general bon vivant (you must have evidence of status as bon vivant), shoot Margaret an email at and request a copy. You might get lucky.

Is Big Publishing on the Borders of Collapse?

Okay, it’s a bit of a hyperbolic headline, but still, if you’re in Big Six publishing, you have to be a bit concerned about your business model.

When you look at the numbers, it seems pretty clear that Big Six publishing seems to be headed to a place it does not necessarily want to be. Publisher’s Lunch has a fascinating piece on Amazon’s effort (subscription required) to come up with a subscription service. In describing the plan, which would give Amazon exclusive rights to “to offer free access to wide swaths of backlist ebooks to Amazon Prime members,” Michael Cader writes that, for most publishers, it’s a nonstarter:

Publishers who have already declined told us the exclusive was one of the easy reasons to not even consider the plan, with one person suggesting that the scheme is directly targeted at taking customers and share away from Barnes & Noble.

The thing that really struck me was, however, this:

…most traditional publishers are trying to uphold the value of selling authors’ work at a price that supports a professional process and allows for broad investment in the funding of new work.

And then this:

For standard trade publishers who license individual works from authors (and through agents), the structural, rights and relationship obstacles are manifold.

Later, there’s a quote (unattributed) about how disruptive the scheme is “to the economics that we know are working.” Which seems to me the real problem facing Big Six publishing these days. The economics may be working at this moment, but how long this moment will last is anybody’s guess. Especially when you consider how fast sales of ebooks are overtaking trade books. In March, Hachette Livre reported that nearly a quarter of US sales were from ebooks. According to Publishers Weekly, ebook sales jumped “167% in June” and:

The major trade segments took big hits in June due in part to the closing of more Borders stores. Trade paperback sales had the largest decline, down 64%, while children’s hardcover sales were off 31%. Adult hardcover sales fell 25%, mass market sales were down 22% and children’s paperback was off 13%. Sales in all the trade segments were also off by more than 10% for the first half of the year.

This concerns me for obvious reasons — I’m a writer and my novel is about to be published by Shelf Media Group only as an ebook. How this came to be so has as much to do with serendipity as it does with any actual design. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this works out. We know that publishing is going through a major, major shift and, like global warming, that shift would seem to be happening at a faster pace than anyone anticipated.

I used to work in publishing many, many years ago. I keep saying, “I used to know how publishing worked, but I don’t anymore.” I’m guessing that’s true of a lot of people these days. Even those who do.

More to come.

The New Issue of Shelf Unbound Is Out, and Free, and I Will Be in the Next One

And you can get it here. The folks at Shelf Media Group are fixing to publish my novel, The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door in October as an ebook. I’m going to try to get a little more diligent about posting on the progress. This is a huge experiment for them and for me.

The novel was, of course, rejected by all of the finest old world publishing houses in New York, but the weird thing about the rejections was there was essentially no common theme. I’ve been sending out stuff for centuries and my experience had always been that there was a common theme — peripheral characters were a bit thin. Main character too whatever. 

But with this novel, the comments were all over the board. One editor admired the subtlety and depth of the prose. Another felt that the prose wasn’t sufficiently subtle to carry the story. Continue reading

A totally sensible way of looking at reading on a tablet

On A List Apart, Craig Mod has a totally spot-on inquiry into the different ways of looking at content on an iPad, and the different metaphors for book, magazine, newspaper, and so forth. This is something that I’ve always found fascinating, and it’s not just electronic publishing.

This may sound like it’s out of left field, but the first time I ever saw vinyl siding, I sort of looked at it and wondered why on earth it had to look like wood. Continue reading

It is fiction that an ebook purchase is in any way similar to buying a print book

Another interesting post from the pretty much always interesting Mike Shatzkin. In an earlier post of my own, I wondered what the point was in using a old-dead-tree-type-publisher to publish your book electronically, given that they have essentially no idea how to do it.

In Shatzkin’s latest post, From where I sit, you can’t actually “sell” an ebook (I “sit” in the same place), he makes the important point that in selling an ebook, neither the author nor the publisher is actually selling the book in the same way a physical book is sold. Shatzkin: Continue reading