Advice from the top

I’m just back from a lovely week in Maine, followed by a not-so-lovely weekend of cleaning up a flooded basement. It should be a quiet catch-up week, but instead I seem to be closing one deal and negotiating another, a good thing, but it doesn’t feel like the end of August at all!

In my hustle and bustle, there was something I saw this week that caught my eye. Ann Patchett, whose work I’m a big fan of, and who I’ve blogged about before, has written a short electronic book (it’s really more like a long article) with advice to writers that she is selling through Amazon, who was advertising it through an e-mail to its customers (or at least to me since I recently downloaded State of Wonder on my Kindle).
From the description, it sounds like a memoir about Patchett’s writing life, beginning in childhood, and offers a glimpse into the path of a talented and ultimately bestselling novelist. It’s only 45 pages, but I suspect for the aspiring writer, there is a lot of great advice to be found here. I found this brief and charming excerpt from the book(let?) at Byliner.com. Judging from the reviews on Amazon, the insight she shares is very valuable. I’m curious to know if it will be successful, and if we’ll be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing. I think it’s pretty cool that writers are expanding their oeuvre in unique ways that make their work in different formats more accessible to a wider audience.

I’d love to know what you think. Is this the kind of thing you’d be interested in reading, and do you think $2.99 is a fair price for it? And if anyone out there has downloaded it already and read it, please share your thoughts. Is it worth it? Is it too short? Should she consider expanding it into a full-length memoir? Maybe this is a way to test the market and see what the reaction is before she embarks on a much longer journey. Personally, I’d be happy to read anything she writes.

8 Responses to Advice from the top

  1. D. A. Hosek says:

    I wonder how it compares with her (also brief), What Now?, which was adapted from a graduation speech and was also a bit of a memoir about a writers’ life. Since I’m a bit Ann Patchett-obsessed reader, I imagine I’ll go ahead and buy it.


  2. (sorry about your basement!)

    Just read it last night – really liked it. It’s part of the kindle singles, and actually I liked it at just the length it was. Of course I would have read more, but it felt right.

    Definitely good advice for writers in there. And some very funny parts as well. It reminded me a bit of flannery oconnors mystery and manners.

    Sorry abt typos, commenting via phone.

  3. Dave Sosnowski says:

    I second the condolences re: your basement. Back in 2000, my city was working on the storm drains and had half shut down during a torrential storm, with the result that half the homes downriver had sewers backing up into their basements, mine included. The city said their insurance would cover everything; the city’s insurance company begged to differ, after the city arranged a special trash pick-up to destroy the evidence, um, I mean, “to help its citizens.” A few years and a class action suit later, I got a few hundred bucks. Woo-hoo!

    Re: the Patchett, I bought it last night after reading this post. I haven’t read her before, but she’s on my list. I’m reading her now and enjoying it quite a bit. Of course, I’m a sucker for writers writing about writing.

    Re: Kindle singles — I love the idea. Having written at least one novella I’m especially fond of (although it still needs work) this strikes me as the perfect opportunity for these orphans of publishing (that is, too long for the lit mags, too short to warrant stand-alone publication). Cheers, Amazon. PS: Anything that costs less than your average magazine counts as an impulse buy.

  4. Tamara says:

    I read it and loved it! Like you, I love Ann Patchett, and I would have read it just for that, but I also love what she has to say. Very practical advice, but she also lets us in on her writing life. I love how she is charitable but honest. Because I’m such a big fan, I would have paid more, but I think $2.99 was about right. This is the perfect format for this because of its unusual size, though I wished she would have written a book-length piece about it (a la King’s On Writing). As everyone’s been saying for a long time, the flexibility of electronic format lets people publish more creatively – and also promote more creatively. My only (very small) wish is that these types of things are always available in all electronic formats, not just one, and there is the option to POD as well. (Kindle is what Apple was. It might be a smart business model, but it can suck for consumers.)

    • John says:

      Hi Tamara,

      I’m happy that (and the others on this blog) enjoyed Ann’s Byliner Original. We will be making it available in other digital forms — at B&N and Apple and Google — and also as POD. Generally, all of our Originals will be widely available in all digital storefronts. In this instance we gave Amazon an early exclusive, but once that exclusivity ends it will go to the other stores.

      By the way, if you join Byliner you can earn a free copy of one of our Originals. Just sign-up here:




      Founder & CEO

  5. Linda McLaren says:

    I love Ann Patchett, so I did download. I found nothing surprising, no advice not already realized, however I loved the personal moments – especially the relationship between her and her crit partner.
    That was lovely. It’s always interesting to hear about the journey of a writer, and at $2.99, you can’t lose!
    In regards to length, it was just right.

  6. Stacey says:

    Thanks to all of you for your great comments here, which I’m just catching up on after a long weekend, and lots more rain (thankfully, no more flooding). And great to hear from John at byliner.com about their plans for the product and making it more widely available. Thanks, John!

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