Wow, what a treat. This week the Curiosity Quills team had a chance to pitch ten questions to one Nathan Bransford. Whether you are a writer, a book fanatic, or just a normal internet user, chances are you’ve heard of Mr. Bransford.

Formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., Nathan saw first-hand what separated good books from awesome books.

His experience with the power of blogging, tweeting, and facebooking was fast recognized, and he traded his literary agent creds for a position on CNET‘s team as their social media manager.

Finally, when he took up the pen himself, and published his middle grade firecracker of a book, Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow (and soon – the sequel: Jacob Wonderbar for the President of the Universe), you better believe he took what he learned… and hit it outta the ballpark.

CQ: You are a social media hit and kind of a big deal. How have social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and, most recently, Google Plus helped your voice be heard over the throng? How have they helped with Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow?

NB: I think being out there in social media has helped give the book a starting place. There are a certain number of people (I honestly don’t know how many) who bought the book because they were either familiar with my blog or heard about it through social media channels, and it has definitely given me a boost.

But how much of a boost? I honestly don’t know. I think the jury is still out to some degree on how much blogging and being on Twitter and being active in social media really sells books. And it’s truly not my primary reason for being online. I derive way more benefit from the friendships I’ve made and the support of the online writing community than whatever nuts and bolts value I’ve gained by selling books.

CQ: Can you tell us about Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow? What spurred you to take this tangent in your life and write a kids’ book?

NB: It was really driven by the idea I had of a kid trapped on a planet full of substitute teachers, and I just went with it, to be honest. I sat down and started writing, and it just felt right. From there I fell in love with the characters and the wackiness of the world and I’ve really enjoyed being immersed in Jacob Wonderbar’s universe.

CQ: What is your perception of the significant and aggressive shift from printed media to electronic publishing, including e-books, blogs, and self-published novels? How does it serve young writers and affect the publishers’ community in general?

NB: It’s been both enormously disruptive and enormously beneficial. It’s absolutely a challenging time for publishers and booksellers as the way we consume books is shifting very very dramatically and quickly. The traditional tools at publishers’ disposal to promote books aren’t as effective as they used to be, print sales will continue to erode as we move toward a primarily digital world, and bookstores are going to have a very difficult time competing with e-books and online bookselling.

But it’s a fantastic time to be a reader and writer. There’s an enormous amount of choice for readers, and having instantaneous access to millions of books is such a fantastic and under-appreciated development for humankind. And writers have more choice than ever too. Manuscripts no longer have to disappear into drawers never to be heard from again, everyone can go out and try and find their readers directly. I think it’s extremely exciting.

CQ: Do you feel the role of the agent has changed in recent times? What about that of the author? What new “hats” did you have to wear while publishing and promoting your book?
Well, I think the day-to-day has changed somewhat, but the fundamentals are still the same. Agents now spend a lot more of their days thinking about e-books and self-publishing, but fundamentally they’re still going to work trying to get authors the best deal possible. That hasn’t changed.

NB: And authors have to wear new hats online and social media, but authors have always had to get out there and promote their books. That hasn’t changed either.

So yes – we all do have to wear different styles of hats than we used to, but they’re still hats, if that makes sense.

CQ: You recently tweeted: “Jacob wonderbar has a higher rating than the Great Gatsby on Goodreads. That makes me happy and sad at the same time”. Can you expand on that? What place do you envision for classic literature now that the floodgates to on-demand publishing are open?

NB: Ha – well, I’m of course completely flattered that JACOB WONDERBAR has a good rating on Goodreads, and I do hope that people will enjoy reading it no matter their age. But even I don’t think it’s as good as THE GREAT GATSBY, and I wrote the darn thing. In fact, I’d give up everything I’ve ever written for the last paragraph of THE GREAT GATSBY.

Everyone is obviously entitled to their own opinion, and if you think JACOB WONDERBAR is better than THE GREAT GATSBY I will absolutely shake your hand and suggest we go bowling. But I kind of feel like something is a bit askew when some of the greatest literature that has ever been written can be devalued like that, and it just goes to show that while it’s great that the Internet is allowing the aggregation of popular opinion like never before, we still really do need a culture of experts, who can keep the idea of THE GREAT GATSBY being great literature alive and well into the next era.

Challenging works of literature may never be wildly popular, but we badly need them, and we’re all better off because they exist to inspire us and give us meaning. Someone has to keep cultivating that ideal.

CQ: As someone with experience as an agent AND a writer, would you agree with one current school of thought preaching that MG (middle grade) is more boy-oriented while YA (young adult) is more geared towards female readers? What do you think separates the reading genders, and what do you feel can breach this divide?

NB: You know, I hadn’t really thought a whole lot about the boy-middle grade/girl-YA divide until this past weekend, when I moderated a YA panel with six women and I was the only male participant, and was on a middle grade panel with nine male writers and one woman. While overall I’d say the children’s publishing world still is a mainly female world, I honestly don’t know what to make of it. Maybe there’s something about 10-12 being a strongly formative time for boys and their interests, whereas high school is more formative time for girls? Not sure.

CQ: You once wrote: “Being a writer means researching the strangest things.” What’s the strangest thing you have ever come across in your research?

NB: Ha – well, one of the benefits of writing science fiction is that you can invent your worlds wholly from scratch rather than having to get overly accurate with your descriptions of places in the historical record. But the third book in the Jacob Wonderbar series involves time travel, so I’ve had to start researching the flora and fauna of a very particular time period. Can’t give away which one though because it would be a spoiler.

CQ: Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing: Do you perceive traditional publishers moving more in the direction of flexible e-publishing, while self-publishers get more organized and trending towards a unified agency model? Is this something you believe the future holds as the solution to this whole debate?

NB: I think you’ll see a great deal of experimentation on both sides. Traditional publishers could definitely experiment with e-book first publication and self-publishers will continue to organize in a way that provides authors with the package of services they need in order to reach their readers.

CQ: Now that Amazon is rumored to be coming out with an Android tablet, Pottermore using a lot of Google tech under the hood, and more and more cellphone users adopting smartphones that are more like handheld computers, are the humble e-reader’s days numbered? For that matter, what is your personal preference for reading mediums these days?

NB: I personally prefer reading on an iPad and iPhone combo – iPad when I have it handy and an iPhone when I’m out and about. I think multi-purpose devices will eventually win the day, but I think there will always be a place for devices that do one thing extremely well. The Kindle and Nook are fantastic devices if you like reading in the sun and don’t like backlit screens. I think there will be a place for them until a new generation of screens come along.

CQ: Do you have any tips or advice for bloggers and fledgling authors seeking to make it in this rapidly changing industry?

NB: Well, for authors, remember that the book comes first. All the blogging and social media in the world isn’t going to be of help unless there’s a book to back it up.

And for social media advice, remember that social media is social. It’s about the connection you make with your readers, finding people online who become your real-life friends, and about the support you can derive from people who know exactly what you’re going through. It’s not about what the Internet can do for you, it’s how you can become a part of the fabric of a fantastic community.

About the Author

Eugene Teplitsky
Running the acclaimed Curiosity Quills Press literary magazine and publishing house along with wife and writing partner, Lisa Gus, Eugene strives to give fellow authors a fighting chance in this tumultious age. With nearly two decades of work in the financial and entertainment sectors, Eugene's experience spans the gamut from web application development, to graphic design, to search engine optimization, and social media marketing.