Publishers Shelling Out for Debut Novels Again, Lev Grossman Wins a Hugo Award and More Book News

Summer is on the wane, the book publishers have vacated the city, and New York magazine can only look forward, towards fall, when we can all get excited again about big advances for debut novels and another article about debut novelist and big advance recipient Chad Harbach! Jonathan Burnham of HarperCollins on big advances: “It creates a sort of sense of destiny, and in most cases, that’s a huge advantage. It becomes a source of gossip and excitement in the trade. Everyone’s twittering away about it—in the old-fashioned sense of twitter.” Lots of fun until the novel does not sell, and then it becomes that other kind of twitter. And then there’s Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp, a great proponent of literary innovation. “I wish more writers wrote in a major key,” he tells New York. “Why anyone would write a novel and not want everyone to read it is a mystery to me.”

(When Herman Melville was writing Moby-Dick, he wrote a letter to his publisher. “So far as I am individually concerned, & independent of my pocket,” he wrote, “it is my earnest desire to write those sort of books which are said to ‘fail.’”)

The Hugo Awards for Science Fiction were this weekend! Hurray. And the winner for best novel is… Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Ballantine Spectra). Best editor goes to Lou Anders at Prometheus Books imprint Pyr and best new writer to Brooklyn’s own Lev Grossman. The great thing about the Hugo Awards is that not only do they award best novel and best novella, but also “best novelette”, as well as a category called “best semipro zine.” Is Girl Crush semipro?

Mike Shatzkin went on NPR’s On the Media this weekend to tell us all “What Amazon is Up To.” It’s a good background on what Amazon is up to.

And Publisher’s Weekly looks into the “shady history” of print-on-demand service PublishAmerica, which recently got in trouble with J.K. Rowling for offering to drop authors’ books off at her house for her perusal for $49. It turned out Ms. Rowling did not feel like reading all those books.