Curious Rat



Kindle Unlimited: Key Questions →

Author David Gaughran tries to answer some questions about Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited subscription service:

How much will we be paid for borrows?

There’s actually no way of knowing right now. Authors had the same questions when KDP Select launched in December 2011, and I remember estimates ranging from $0.30 to $2. In the time since, borrow payouts have averaged $2.19. It seemed like Amazon was always keen to keep the rate around $2, adding and subtracting money from the fixed pool each month to keep things at that level.

It looks as though we have more questions than answers right now. We won’t know a lot about what this means for authors until it’s been in use for at least 3-6 months. I’m skeptical, however, of its longterm success. Binge watching a season of Breaking Bad on Netflix is a lot different than binge reading a slew of books.

For argument’s sake, one could theoretically watch an entire season of a popular TV show in 12-13 hours if there were no breaks, but reading speeds vary from person to person and people don’t always find or make the time to read. Ten bucks a month is a lot of money to spend on a service where the customer may only read one or two books in that timeframe.

It’s scary for authors because it’s new (and it’s Amazon, so there’s little information on it), but I don’t anticipate this being a problem for most authors. Since the service lacks cooperation from the Big 5 publishers (except for certain titles/series, like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, and a few others), and many indie books fall within the $.99-$2.99 price range, my guess is readers will just spend the few dollars at a time for the books they want to read than $9.99 on an entire library of books they might never get around to reading at all1.


  1. Or want to read if the publishers don’t release more namebrand titles. 


Listen to This: Gilbert Gottfried Interviews Robert Osborne →

TCM’s Robert Osborne sits down with comedian Gilbert Gottfried for an enthralling discussion about being mentored by Lucille Ball, seeing the Rat Pack live at the Sands, and escorting Olivia de Havilland to a party for Bette Davis.

I’m a huge classic film fan (and cite TCM as the main reason I still pay for cable) and Osborne, a font of knowledge, is an absolute pleasure to listen to. I hope he writes a memoir soon. I can’t imagine all the stories he has to tell.


New on the Books Page: ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt

I’ve finally finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and I keep wavering between a 4-star and a 5-star review on Goodreads. On the whole, the book was brilliantly written. As a writer, I learned so much from Tartt’s Dickensian plot turns and her ability to describe a setting or a feeling so vividly, I couldn’t help but see, or smell, or feel the same things the characters were seeing, smelling, and feeling. Tartt is a terrific writer. Without a doubt.

However, this book needed an editor’s hand—a hatchet in some spots, a scalpel in others. Some passages rambled for paragraphs and pages, repeating the same words and phrases throughout to drill a scene into the reader’s skull until he was able to draw it from false memory. I’m pretty sure I have a clearer image of Amsterdam’s many glimmering canals than I’d get from actually traveling there. Minute details were described so thoroughly and frequently, it was hard not to skim over them just to get to the point.

Other times, Tartt left plot points wide open—times when she should have gone into more detail and perhaps reduced her descriptions of rain-soaked streets and the smell of the furniture repair shop where he semi-apprenticed. There’s also the matter of nearly every non-white in the book holding a servient role and working for free or coming in on a day off just to see the main character, Theo (a white male). I don’t know if that was a specific choice on the author’s part, but it did feel awkward and pulled me out of the story.

I don’t mind a long book (The Goldfinch clocks in at 771 pages), but only if the length is warranted. A good editor could’ve knocked out a hundred or so pages and tightened things up significantly. What’s unclear is why an editor didn’t do more. Was it because of Tartt’s reputation and past critical/commercial successes? An “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality? Or was it because of the Margaret Mitchell-ian length of time it took to finish the book in the first place. “She took 10 years to write this. It must be perfect!”

I’m not sure, but what I am sure of is The Goldfinch is definitely worth a read. Tartt’s a true talent and she has weaved a magical, if depressing modern fairytale that should be a lesson to novelists everywhere on several levels. They should study her writing—what she leaves in, what she leaves out, and how they can hone their own manuscripts to be as tight and well-paced as possible.

It was a long, sometimes tedious journey, but one that left me feeling satisfied after I’d turned the final page.


Writers and Their Margin Notes →

A collection of notes written by authors in the margins of other authors’ books. I wish the pictures were bigger, or at least the notes transcribed below each photo, but it’s fascinating to see how intense some writers got with their notations.


Opening Lines →

Jonathan Russell Clark:

I probably fetishize opening lines because, well, I’m a reader and a writer. As a reader, a really wonderful opening line makes me giddy with excitement. I nestle myself as deeply into my couch as I can go, and I accept the deal the novel has offered me. Yes, I will read the rest of you. You’ve earned it. As a writer, the opening line is the purest, most unadulterated part of a work. Before it, the blank page. After it, the whole of a story, a novel, a book. It is the division between nothing and something, the bridge between emptiness and fullness, between something in your head and something on the page. The opening sentence is the first utterance of life, the initial gasp of air that birth forces out.