Share
Tweet
Forward
Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
April 2020
A Message from Kristin Nelson

Publishing—From a Social Distance

Kristin Nelson

As I type this, it’s a little hard to believe that we’ve been sheltering-in-place for over a month. 

In a sign of the times, I taught my 80-year old mother how to use FaceTime on her iPad while also playing Rummikub with me on her computer in a virtual game room (www.playingcards.io). She was definitely motivated. At any other time, I’m not sure I would have convinced her to tackle this level of tech. I imagine all of you have similar stories. 

As a company, we’ve been staying sane via virtual NLA happy hours and playing that old 90s party game Taboo, the one where there is a list of five words you’re not allowed to say, so, of course, the minute you read them, those words are all your brain can think about. 

Publishing Updates from Abroad

  • We are seeing delays in foreign advance payments, royalty statements, and royalties received. Although a lot of payments have come in on time.
  • Offers are still happening but mostly for bigger projects. I do think other offers will trickle in more after the peak of the crisis has passed.

Publishing Updates from the US

  • None of our contracts or offers have been canceled—although Penguin Random House did contact agents to restructure payouts for deals in process.
  • Publishers have moved to reduce their costs. Scholastic has implemented furloughs of two weeks on, two weeks off. Disney Publishing also announced furloughs this week. HMH implemented a 20% pay cut for editors and a four-day work week. (I’m finding that Fridays across the board have become an almost no-email day.) Macmillan executed a round of layoffs across all imprints, which has impacted NLA clients. I anticipate additional announcements from other publishers.

Sales 

  • Publishers are reporting ebook sales are up by 40%. This is helping to keep the publishing picture stable for now.
  • Print sales initially did a sharp drop (down by 25%), but they rebounded last week, and we have word that sales at Target and Walmart are especially healthy.

From the April 16 edition of Publishers Lunch:

NPD Bookscan reported print book sales for the week ending April 11 of 12.47 million units. While that is nicely higher than the previous week, the proper comparison is to the week just before Easter a year ago, since book sales always spike measurably right before the holiday. The comparable week a year ago — ending April 20 — saw sales of 13.97 million units, making this year’s holiday week down over 10.7 percent in comparison.

Per the trend during the pandemic, juvenile books continue to account for most of the week-over-week gains, registering sales of 6.385 million units (compared to 5.21 million units in the previous week). Board books in particular were up 47 percent week over week, at 1.27 million units.

What does it mean for the long view? Too soon to say. I heard on the news this week that the unemployment rate is estimated to reach 20%—the same level as the Great Depression. We are living in interesting times.

Stay safe, sane, healthy, and kind. 

Recent News

Liza Kaplan at Philomel has bought, in a preempt, in a two-book deal, The Memory House by debut author Stacy Stokes.

Think Like an Agent

Internal vs. External Conflict

By Danielle Burby

I think we could all use some Harry Potter in our lives right about now, so this month, I’m going to chat about what I personally consider the most important part of plotting, using Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as my example. 

No matter what stage your manuscript is in, there are three questions you need to be able to answer:

  1. What is your protagonist’s internal conflict?
  2. What is the manuscript’s major external conflict?
  3. How do those two conflicts work in harmony?

All too often, I see internal and external conflicts that don’t work together the way they need to. Here’s the secret: Your external conflict and internal conflict should be tightly woven together because the external conflict exists as a mechanism to force internal change and growth in your character.

For example, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry’s internal conflict is that he feels like an outsider. He is alienated from the muggle world, but doesn’t feel like he fits in to the wizarding world either. His interactions with the Dursleys make him feel as though he doesn’t have a family. His interactions with Malfoy and Snape make him feel ignorant about the wizarding world. Even the more positive starstruck reactions of people like Fred and George, Professor Quirrel, and Hermione all drive home the fact that Harry is an outsider from every angle. 

The external conflict in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (and in most of the individual HP books) concerns Voldemort trying to return. In this case, his plan is to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone and use it to gain immortality. This conflict with Voldemort is set up from the very first pages of Harry Potter and is repeatedly planted in an escalating fashion throughout until it culminates in the final battle.

If you analyze the plot of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, it is actually very tightly woven around these two conflicts, which are constantly in a dance with each other. For example, Voldemort’s history with Harry is the reason Harry was sent to live with the Dursleys, and it’s also the reason he is an outsider in the wizarding community. Voldemort is actually the cause of Harry’s internal conflict. 

By the end of Sorcerer’s Stone, you see Harry feeling more confident in the wizarding world and at Hogwarts. You see him overcoming his external conflict with Voldemort (for now) and becoming a hero of the school and, in doing so, winning the House Cup for Gryffindor, which symbolically cements his place as someone who belongs. If you analyze the plot, it is both a riveting adventure and a story that serves Harry’s internal conflict and ultimate growth from an orphan who doesn’t belong to a confident boy who has embraced his birthright as a wizard and discovered his found family in Ron and Hermione.

And that, my friends, is how Harry’s external conflict (Voldemort) both causes his internal conflict and ultimately forces his growth.

You should be able to do this with any manuscript you love—including your own! So as you turn back to your editing, writing, reading, etc., ask yourself how well the external conflict is dancing with the internal conflict.

Happy writing! 

Kristin's Book Club

Book Club Reading Done Early

As much as I hate to say it, sheltering-at-home is good for one thing—keeping up on my book-club reading. For the first time in probably twenty years, I’ve not only finished the audiobook of our next pick, the memoir INHERITANCE: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro, but I’m also almost finished listening to our next pick: CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori. From the jacket copy:

Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but in her convenience store, she is able to find peace and purpose with rules clearly delineated by the store’s manual, and copying her colleagues’ dress, mannerisms, and speech. She plays the part of a “normal person” excellently—more or less. Keiko is very happy, but those close to her pressure her to find a husband and a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action.

This will be the third work in translation tackled by our book club. Previously we read Haruki Murikami and Frederik Backman.

Our next book-club meeting is scheduled for early May, and my guess is it will be a virtual gathering. As we’ve done a couple of happy hours already, we are comfy in the virtual meeting space world. Have wine. Can talk books. Look for our review of INHERITANCE next month.

New Releases

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants (Paperback)

by Florence Gonsalves

The issue with the future
is you kind of have to plan for it before it’s already happening.

For years Danny and Sara hatched a plan to be best friends all the way to the happily-ever-after. But when Danny goes off to the Ivy League with- out Sara, they start to spiral apart. Danny can’t even admit that instead of acing pre-med, she’s been in treatment for an eating disorder—where she fell for an older, edgier girl who understands that the anxieties of life are hardly ever quelled by a deep breath.

When the unthinkable happens, and the plan is finally shattered, Danny’s compulsive behavior threatens to consume her—unless she can figure out how to be exactly, excruciatingly, exuberantly herself.

With an unfiltered, darkly funny voice that’s at turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Florence Gonsalves’s unforgettable debut brilliantly captures the painful turning point between an adolescence that’s slipping away and the overwhelming uncertainty of the future.

Buy It Here:

       

The Tiger at Midnight (Paperback)

by Swati Teerdhala

A broken bond. A dying land. A cat-and-mouse game that can only end in bloodshed.

Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has been growing only more volatile.

Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their and in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both rebel and soldier must make unforgivable choices.

Drawing inspiration from ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology, the first book in Swati Teerdhala’s debut fantasy trilogy captivates with electric romance, stunning action, and the fierce bonds that hold people together— and drive them apart.

Buy It Here:

       
Blog Posts from Pub Rants
Copyright © *|CURRENT_YEAR|* *|LIST:COMPANY|*, All rights reserved.
*|IFNOT:ARCHIVE_PAGE|* *|LIST:DESCRIPTION|*
Our mailing address is:
*|HTML:LIST_ADDRESS_HTML|**|END:IF|*
*|IF:REWARDS|* *|REWARDS|* *|END:IF|*