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We’ve noticed a welcome trend lately: excellent graphic novel memoirs (or fiction that feels an awful lot like) written by women about their adolescence. Here are a few to enjoy. (Thanks, Marjane Satrapi, for breaking ground with Persepolis, and to the Tamaki cousins for Skim and This One Summer! Also Katie’s girl-crush Lucy Knisley, who has a new book out — An Age of License — described by the publisher as “an Eat, Pray, Love for the alternative comics fan.”
The November/December 2014 Horn Book Magazine
includes three graphic novel memoirs by women. At the age of four, in 1975, author Cece Bell contracted meningitis, leaving her severely to profoundly deaf. The wonderful El Deafo
is a characterful, vivid, often amusing graphic novel memoir that recaptures the experiences of her childhood — adapting to deafness, to others’ attitudes toward it, and to the technology of the Phonic Ear, a cumbersome assistive device. At the heart of her story is an experience relevant to most children: the finding of the “True Friend,” a falling out, and a reunion. Bell combines great humor and charm (her characters are all anthropomorphic bunnies) with emotional complexity and seriousness.
Fans of Raina Telgemeier’s 2010 Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Book Smile will be smiling all the way through this companion book — Sisters — an often bittersweet but amusingly told story about Raina’s relationship with her younger sister, Amara. The summer before Raina starts high school, she and Amara, their younger brother, and their mom take a road trip from California to Colorado for a family reunion. As in Smile, sepia-toned pages mark the frequent flashbacks, which fill readers in on the evolution of this battle of the sisters. The story ends with a solidly believable truce between the warring siblings, who, one suspects, will continue to both annoy and support each other.
I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached (companion to her 2012 book A Game for Swallows, is the author’s memories of the Lebanese civil war, in a loosely connected series of sobering vignettes and impressions, each beginning with the phrase “I remember.” Black-and-white geometric illustrations capture both the enormous scale of the war (with motifs of falling bombs, helicopters, and stranded cars) and its personal repercussions.
Two new ones that recently came into the office:
Tomboy by Liz Prince: “A memoir about friendship, gender, bullies, growth, punk rock, and the power of the perfect outfit” [from flap copy].
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (roller derby name “Winnie the Pow”), a graphic novel (fiction) about a teen derby grrl.
Have you noticed a trend? Do you have other books to recommend?
The post Mini-trend: Grrrl power grrraphic novels appeared first on The Horn Book.
Millennials tend to get a bum rap. Remember that Time magazine cover that painted them as “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents?”
They’re the ME ME ME generation, the cover reads, but then boldly proclaims “why they’ll save us all.”
Yes the cover girl may have been pictured with an iPhone in her hand, but chances are she had a library card in her back pocket.
Could libraries be among the first of the Millennials heroic conquests?
According to a new report from the Pew Research Center Internet Project the answer is a hopeful perhaps. (more…)
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Love this quote.
Roar roar ROAR! When it comes to destruction, dinosaurs win! Check out these two brand-new titles about dinosaurs on rampages:
The post Dinosaur versus… everything appeared first on The Horn Book.
…but is this cover
reminiscent of this cover?
In his March/April 2014 article “What Makes a Good Book Cover?” Thom Barthelmess praises the Grasshopper Jungle cover’s “iconic simplicity,” which “piques our curiosity” with its compelling minimalism. The same can certainly be said of Woman‘s cover art…but for a different reason!
The post Maybe it’s just me… appeared first on The Horn Book.
By: Leslie Ann Clark,
Blog: Leslie Ann Clark's Skye Blue Blog
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There is so much involved in designing. One must be up on the trends for color and pattern and more. I always have my eyes open to finding things I love to look at!
Here are the Pantone color trends for 2013.
I had to take a close look at them. . . some of them bore me unless they are paired with an “eye-catching” color. Color is so amazing! It can make your day! It can bring a smile to your face, and warm your heart. It can also bring you down. Why else do people get depressed when they experience too many gray rainy days? All that because of color? Yes! Think of the feeling you get when you take a walk and come upon a beautiful scene. Do you ever “OOOOoooh and Aaaaaahhhh?” Do colors grab you?
Colors can calm the soul. One of my favorite movies is Miss Potter. I like her spunk, I LOVE that she talks to her cartoons, and I also love the scenes of her beautiful English countryside. The colors speak peace and tranquility.
One might want calm and peaceful and serene colors for the baby nursery. So why did I decorate my first child’s nursery in bright sunshine yellow with brown and Kelly Green accents? ha! Because I crave bold colors! All I could think of was that my baby would wake up and want to be inspired by what she saw. The room had to be warm and happy and that is was!!
As the room progressed to fit two more daughters into it, we moved to pinks and browns. I loved it, but the girls were not really drawn to it. Interesting. In my house, you will find that colors change often. If I could, I would paint my house every year! My husband jokes about our bathroom being smaller because of the many times I have painted it! I am thinking of a new color as I type!!! I am leaning towards a beautiful blue with just the right amount of purple in it! Baby blue is okay, but I always want something with a little PUNCH in it! I like to walk into a room and hear my heart sing! La la! Wall colors can be muted but if that is the case, in my house, the paintings must sing! Oh how I love a noisy house filled with color.
So what am I to do? Follow the trends? Or start my own trends? Am I brave? These are the questions every designer must face. I always lean towards being a renegade trend setter! ha!
Filed under: All Things Artsy
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In recent years, young adult books have driven a surge in sales for publishers. Besides increasing the revenue streams of these companies, it also seems to have uplifted the popularity of short fiction. The YA authors who have contributed to this trend tend to set their short fiction pieces within the universe of a popular book series.
For instance, Beth Revis recently concluded the Across the Universe trilogy and celebrated by inviting her fans to download a free novella called “As They Slip Away.” Ally Carter incorporated characters from two teen series, Heist Society and the Gallagher Girls, for “Double-Crossed: A Spies and Thieves Novella.”
As we previously reported, HarperCollins established HarperTeen Impulse as a digital imprint dedicated to solely publishing short fiction. But, even before this venture came along, Divergent series author Veronica Roth penned a short story called “Free Four” and Delirium trilogy author Lauren Oliver wrote a piece called “Hana.” What do you think?
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Some time last year, Erica Wagner, Publisher at Allen and Unwin, is reported as having said that there was a lot to be gained by having a text already illustrated [not that Allen & Unwin published picture books]. This is seemingly a change in direction.
Some writers/illustrators I know have recently signed contracts for ‘print ready’ books. This is not self-publishing, but submission to a royalty paying publisher of a book that is ‘ready to go’ in publishing terms.
What constitutes a ‘print ready’ book? It is a book that has been -
- professionally edited,
- proofread, has been
- designed to industry standards,
- professionally designed cover and,
- if illustrated, has all images appropriately set.
This is a great way to go for authors who are able to pay illustrators and book designers up front. Most authors are not able to do this. This then means all creators involved in a book project agreeing to royalty share and working between paid projects to collaborate on their book.
What have I gleaned about such ‘print ready’ deals? One company, smaller and reasonably new, offered a small advance and a good contract, by industry standards, with higher than regular royalty share for creators. An offer of help with promotion was also part of the deal. Another company, medium sized and established, offered no advance but better than average royalty shares for creators and help with promotion and marketing of the book.
How does this stack up against what is generally on offer now?
- Small and middle range publishers, in general, do not offer advances.
- Larger publishers offer advances depending on the book, depending on the author, and depending on the agent involved.
- Smaller and middle range publishers often [there are exceptions] expect the author to do it all in relation to promotion, even requiring the submission of a marketing plan.
- Larger publishers vary greatly as to how much promotion they will give a book.
- Generally, publishers will submit copies of their publishing output for major awards, such as the CBCA, and to a selection of leading review outlets.
What’s the down side for author, illustrator, book designer, [often the illustrator], to go down the ‘print ready’ publishing path?
- It IS a lot of extra work for all creators involved to ensure the book is ‘professional’ standard even before it is submitted.
- There is no money upfront.
Are the rewards worth the effort?
- If you love collaborative work, it is a big plus.
- Creators have much more project control to create the book they have collaboratively envisaged.
- A quality product, ‘print ready’, is a major bargaining point for creators/agents. ‘Print ready’ saves the publisher heaps!
The first company mentioned does small print runs, sells out their print runs, reprints and even sells out reprints and so it seems to be gradually snowballing.
It is too early to know in the second instance. [I’ll keep you posted!]
My feeling is that, if Erica Wagner was sensing a ‘trend’ and if these companies make a success of it, we will see more such deals. It’s something to think about!
To be launched end of June – “Toofs!” a collaboration between J.R. and Estelle A.Poulter an illustrators Monica Rondino and Andrea Pucci. More to come on what was a ‘print ready’ deal.
TOOFS by J.R.Poulter & Estelle A. Poulter, illustrated by Monica Rondino & Andrea Pucci
I’ve been writing a lot lately about craft and bravery in writing. If you’re in that head space and need to stay there, skip this post, this one is gonna be about…
*cue dramatic music*
I recently listened to Publisher’s Weekly’s webinar Building the Next Generation of YA Stars. It was moderated by John A. Sellers, the children’s review editor at Publisher’s Weekly, and featured guests Emily Meehan (Disney-Hyperion Editorial Director) and Natashya Wilson (Harlequin Teen Executive Editor). They discussed trends, how they market their authors, and what new and established authors can do to get in the game and stay on top.
These are my notes on the topics they discussed:
How are you working to keep established authors on top?
- Every book is unique and evaluated on how it will best reach an author’s established audience and a new audience.
- We partner with an author to reach out to fans, help them build a brand, stress the importance of a website, and keep audiences aware of what is coming out.
- We do a lot of social networking – cover reveals, trailers, etc.
- We start to create buzz 6-9 months before a book comes out.
- The best established brands have a very interactive approach with their audience.
- We also have been using short stories and novellas to keep readers in contact with an author’s work when they reader is waiting for the next book.
- Cover reveals, trailers, chapter teasers!
- Group bookstore and festival events have also been a great way to draw readers together and introduce them to authors they may not know.
How do you market a debut author who doesn’t have an established audience?
- Because they don’t have an established audience you focus on the content and the book itself.
- Blog tours work well.
- We’ve also done some creative marketing with Q&A’s from the book’s editor, author, and even the characters in the book.
- It’s all about the content and teasing out what the book is about.
- This process is about establishing the author’s brand.
- We try to connect authors with reviewers in traditional publications and the YA blog-o-sphere.
- We try to create multi-forum events with new and established authors, and use the draw of the established author to introduce the readership to the debut author.
What is it about the YA readership that allows you to be more adventurous in your marketing?
Emily & Natashya:
- Teens are young and creative and we need to be creative so they respond to it.
- Teens are looking for the exciting next thing. They give us the freedom to experiment and they are receptive to what we try.
- Get the teens invested and they will drive the campaign themselves. For example: We had teens vote on what cities they wanted an author tour to stop in.
- We like to try crowd-sourced initiatives and throw the marketing back to the fans. The more interactive it can be the more they like it. For example: Unlocking content with “Likes.” (i.e. X-number of “Likes” unlocks the new cover of the book, etc.)
- We also like to do cross-publisher events if an author is published with another house. Then both houses benefit.
- Word of mouth is always your best marketing tool.
Are in-person library or bookstore events still relevant?
Emily & Natashya:
- Festivals are really important.
- Traditional events still have their place. Booksellers and librarians are big readers and have direct contact to the market. They will help promote your book and create buzz.
- We can’t send all our authors on book tours, but we’ve found that Skype visits have been another great way to contact an audience when on a budget.
How has technology changed the marketing game?
- “Sometimes I feel like Twitter is my second job.”
- Online marketing is really important!
- We’ve been doing a lotof chat initiatives.
- The internet is pervasive!
- It’s a great way to test out new ideas.
- The internet gives you a huge reach without a huge investment.
- It causes readers to look for you, and it lets the reader take charge of the content they want to be exposed to.
Tell us about some of the books you’ve got coming out this year that you’re excited about:
Emily & Natashya:
- Contemporary YA is on the rise!
- There’s a hot trend of “tough stuff” and issue-driven romance.
- Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland.
- Dare To You by Katie McGarry (the companion novel to Pushing the Limits).
- Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott.
Costume Dramas & Historical Fiction:
- Costume Dramas are all the rage (thanks to Downton Abby).
- Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed .
- Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (the companion novel to Code Name Verity).
- All Are Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill.
- Project Paper Doll by Stacey Kade.
Fantasy & Paranormal:
- Ink by Amanda Sun (urban dark fantasy set in Japan).
- Iron Traitor by Julie Kagawa.
What do you think about this “New Adult” Trend?
- It points to a huge hole in the market.
- People love it and it’s here. We are definitely acquiring it.
- It’s about the transition from high school to becoming independent.
- Lots of edgy authentic stories.
- There are several definitions out there of what “new adult” is. We tend to label books in a way that a reader doesn’t.
- Older YA has naturally fallen into what might be considered “new adult,” and it’s been doing it all along. Only now we are labeling it.
- It’s about concentrating on a good story and not salacious content.
Is the market overloaded with Dystopian and Paranormal books?
Emily & Natashya:
- There’s a lot to choose from in these catagories. Both publishers and readers are becoming more selective of what they want in this area.
- There’s more competition in this part of the market.
- Dystopian is still selling well and people are still talking about it.
Are there taboo topics in YA?
Emily & Natashya:
- No. It’s all about how a story is executed. It’s got to be authentic.
- The question is about how the story is presented or handled. Is the taboo topic important to the story?
- Authors are showing us what the “rules” are. They’re blending genres and themes all the time.
How do you find new authors?
- I can’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. Agent submissions only.
- We also only accept agent submissions. This is because of the sheer volume of submissions.
- However, we are looking actively online for authors and may contact you.
- We’ve found some authors through Yahoo Chats or meetings at conferences.
Do you have anything to say about diversity in YA?
- There’s no limits.
- We are open to anything, but it has to be a great story. What’s in the market now reflects the best written work. We want a great story from the POV of someone we care about.
- We try for diversity, always.
- We want content to represent many points of view and stories that resonate with as many readers as possible.
What is on your submissions wish list?
- Something that feels unique and makes me sit up and read the whole thing.
- Something that’s not too similar to what we’ve already published.
An archive of this webinar is available at: Publisher’s Weekly Webcasts
Emily Meehan is the Editorial Director at Disney-Hyperion. She has worked in almost every aspect of trade publishing for children: picture books, middle grade, young adult, original paperback series, and in most every genre, from general interest fiction to nonfiction, to fantasy, romance, religious, and historical.
Natashya Wilson is the Executive Editor at Harlequin TEEN. She began working at Harlequin Books in 1996, when she became an editorial assistant for the Harlequin American Romance and Intrigue series. She worked as an associate editor for McGraw-Hill and Rosen Publishing Group, where she edited children’s nonfiction books. She returned to Harlequin in 2004 and later became the senior editor for Harlequin TEEN.
Photos by Andrew Rich and Vanessa Paxton.
In a survey, 64 percent of teens confessed that they used “techspeak” from texting or online communication in writing assignments at school.
Will text messaging and social networking harm our writing skills? Social Times has more in a detailed infographic:
A recent study suggests that the more kids text, the less they learn about proper grammar. Widespread use of social media sites and text messaging tools has given rise to a hybrid language called “techspeak” that’s riddled with acronyms and abbreviations instead of words and numbers instead of letters. This, we knew. But because students between the ages of 13 and 17 send twice as many messages as people in any other age group, “techspeak” is more likely to creep into their school assignments and give others the wrong impression about their communication skills.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Scholastic editors said:
- Bullying is THE Timely Topic in Kids’ Books.
- True Sci-fi.
- Intriguing Nonfiction.
- Kid Lit on the Screen.
- Tough Girls.
- Survival Stories.
- Spotlight on Diversity.
- Nature Runs Amok.
I've got number 7 covered, and maybe 8 with the next book. Read more here
STATUS: It's BEA time! Oh crazy schedule
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.
Obviously I'm not just talking to children's editors while in New York. So here's a little snippet of what editors have been buying in the adult realm:
1) Literary novels with some sort of magical element (i.e The Night Circus)
2) Multi-cultural literary novels by non-American writers
3) Voice-driven literary novels that shed light on the contemporary modern landscape for protagonists in their 20s or 30s.
In women's fiction and romance
1) contemporary stories with small town settings
2) southern contemporary women's fix
3) looking or romantic comedies in romance (haven't heard that desire in a while!)
Off to the Javits Center!
STATUS: I have often said on this blog, Thank God It's Friday. Today, I really really mean it. What a crazy week. But all good stuff.
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? IF YOU DON'T KNOW ME BY NOW by Simply Red
So editors have been seeing a lot of crap but they've also been buying stuff. So instead of answering the question: What is an editor looking for? I thought I'd delve into what they've bought recently.
Here you go!
1) A young adult thriller
2) Gothic retelling of a classic--in this case, The Island of Dr. Moreau
3 young adult straight fantasy (as opposed to a bent one! *grin* In other words, a traditional not contemporary fantasy)
4) a time travel young adult novel
5) realistic contemporary young adult
6) animal character middle grade fantasy
Editors have not seen a lot in middle grade (it's the hardest content to find) but what they have seen included science fiction for the younger reader and Aliens in space or similar that target boy readers.
I'm out. Literally. Like I'm now going to sleep….
STATUS: From the blog silence, you can imagine how hectic this trip as been. Meetings all day. Catching up on emails in the evening, and you have to fit a little bit of fun in there too!
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CALL ME MAYBE by Carly Rae Jepsen
I've been in New York for the past 3 weeks doing meetings with a lot of different editors at all the different houses. I started off with the editors who acquire young adult and middle grade.
Of course I ask, "What have you been seeing lately?"
Imagine my surprise when no less than three editors (all from different houses) responded with, "crap."
At first, I wasn't quite certain how to reply. That wasn't exactly the answer I was expecting! I opted for, "would you care to define 'crap.'
And they did. They mentioned recently that they've seen a whole slew of submissions that weren't really ready for an editor to see. By the way, these were submissions from agents.
I asked why they thought that was so. I got three main reasons:
1) They were seeing hot genre stuff, such as dystopian, that they felt like the agents were not vetting as thoroughly as they should.
In other words, in any hot genre, the market gets crowded yet those submitting hope that because the genre is hot, it will sell.
2) There were some agents submitting young adult projects that don't traditionally rep it and to be blunt, it's different than repping fiction in the adult realm.
3) A lot of submissions could have benefited from a solid edit and revision before submitting. In other words, they were not in strong shape even if the concept or idea was solid.
Some agents don't edit before submitting. Some do.
So interesting. I'm definitely looking to avoid submitting crap.
I think I can do that!
STATUS: The appointment schedule is firming up! Get ready for some posts on what editors will be looking for in 2012.
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THIS IS IT by Kenny Loggins
It's pretty simple. We agents go to conferences and really drive home the fact that writers need to master their craft. Wow us with masterfully written opening pages. Stop butchering the English language.
Then a work comes along and blows that advice out of the water.
Readers have called 50 Shades of Grey any number of things: campy, fun, spirited, hilarious, worth the money, a fast read.
But well written has not been one of them.
So what do we say when a novel inexplicably becomes wildly popular, sells like crazy, and part of the cultural lexicon?
You got me. Maybe I can say this is a one-in-a-million happenstance of all stars aligning.
But I can say it does make our jobs harder. There will be any number of writers who will be convinced they can do same. Gosh I hope my query inbox doesn't become inundated. No matter what 50 Shades is, I would not have been the agent to spot its "genius."
Plain and simple.
STATUS: Started out the week with 354 emails in the inbox after being out for RT. Only 203 to go. Progress!
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TUFF ENUF by Fabulous Thunderbirds
Does it say anything about trends? Probably not but just in case you are curious, here are the types of projects I requested.
2 paranormal adult romances
1 contemporary adult romance
3 women's fiction projects
1 SF romance (haven't seen one of these in a while--kind of excited!)
1 SF (but not a romance)
2 contemporary YA
2 paranormal romance YA (I have to be honest, this genre is getting to be a tough sell to editors who have seen nothing but this for the last two years.)
And my sincere apologies to anyone that I had to turned down during the Palooza. When it's a speed dating format like that, I do have to say no to projects that don't grab me immediately to reduce the amount of material we receive and have to review. We requested 12 projects but I had over 25 pitches that day. That's a lot in 90 minutes.
School LIbrary Journal interviewed the editorial director of the Junior Library Guild (JLG) (which just picked The Night She Disappeared for their spring list - yay!) about what she’s seeing in new releases of books for kids and teens.
”Dystopian novels are a continuing trend. After the Snow (Feiwel & Friends) by S. D. Crockett stands out. Paranormal books are everywhere. There are lots of protagonists who are half-mermaid, half-angel, or half-fairy. Memory loss and mistaken identity are big. Another popular theme that I'm seeing is someone, somehow, occupying a body other than his or her original one. The Alchemy of Forever (S & S) by Avery Williams is highly enjoyable.
I’ve heard good things about After the Snow. It’s been a while since I read a paranormal, although I loved Ashes by Ilsa Bick, and there are some aspects that could be considered paranormal, right? Mermaids makes me think of Lisa Madigan’s book, The Mermaid’s Mirror. And for memory loss, there’s my 2013 book, Finish Her Off. As for people in someone else’s body, you’ve got to read Martyn Bedford’s Flip.
Read about trends in books for kids and teens.
We hear a lot about what’s trending in YA lit (can you say DYSTOPIA?) but what’s trending when it comes to books with POC as main characters or books written by authors of color? What are you seeing that you haven’t read before? What seems to be repeating?
This is what I’m noticing, please feel free to add to the discussing because I know there are things going on that I’m not seeing.
- Authors of color are no longer focusing on race as the main issue in books which feature characters of color. This really started a few years ago but people now seem to be noticing.
- It seems there are fewer YA books
written published this year that were written by Native American, Asian or Middle Eastern authors.
- Books by authors of color are being published in a wider variety of genre. While more authors of color are publishing speculative fiction, I can’t say I’ve seen any write publish dystopian books. They’re left out of this loop.
- I’m not seeing an increase in the numbers of books written by authors of color. In fact, the numbers are pretty much the same as the previous year’s, as if the quota gets met every year.
- More books are being written with multicultural casts. I’ve even considered writing a post on this. From Drama High to Divergent and yes, even the Hunger Games we’re seeing books written that reflect the real world. While some authors are just painting color on a face, others write to reflect what they experience in real life.
- While I see more YA books getting trailers and graphic novels based on the original, I see this happening to very few books by authors of color. And movies??
I have a few questions with regards to trends that I think really address the literacy skills we want to develop in our YAs.
- I’d like to know how likely YAs are to read books with main characters outside their own ethnic group. I’m in a 96% Black school, so I don’t know what others are doing. I know my students read a wide variety of books.
- Are YAs of color engaging with ereaders? book apps? audiobooks? Or, or they mainly reading print?
- Are YAs of color encouraged to write and publish their own stories, poems or graphic novels?
- Are YAs of color picking up non-fiction? The new common core standards are shifting reading materials to a heavy reliance on non-fiction. Are our students willing to read these sources for enjoyment as well as for information?
- Do YAs of color request books they want from libraries and bookstores or do they just pick up what’s on the shelf?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this including anecdotal evidence or more questions.
Filed under: Diversity Issues
3 Comments on Trending in Color, last added: 3/31/2012
STATUS: Just finished our first Pub Rants Video Webinar. I had a blast. We definitely need to tweak some things for next one though. If you were there, thank you for being our first guinea pigs!
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SHOW ME THE MEANING OF BEING LONELY by Backstreet Boys
While on the train to Venice (and boy do I like saying a statement like that--makes me sound so cosmopolitan) Simone Elkeles's friend Nanci had a copy of 50 Shades of Grey.
You'd have to be living under a rock not to have heard about this title. But just in case you have been, here is a link to get you up to speed. It's been in all the publishing news as of late. It's an erotica novel that started life as Twilight fan fiction and then went viral a couple of weeks ago. So there was a big publishing deal and then the movie rights sold just this week.
If something is getting that much attention, it's probably worth an hour of my time to give it a look so I asked Nanci if I could borrow her copy. I read several chapters and I have to admit, I'm not getting it. To be honest, if it had come in via our slush pile, I would have passed on it without requesting a full. I didn't connect with the characters or find myself enmeshed in the writing. Now granted, this genre is not my bailiwick so that's going to be a factor.
Still, it's obviously tapping into some cultural zeitgeist and on that point, I'm curious. It obviously works for a lot of other people so I'd like to know why.
So blog readers, if you read and liked it, share with me because I'm genuinely curious to know.
STATUS: Popped in on a Saturday to finish up a few things. This afternoon Chutney and I are heading into the mountains for a nice long hike.
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE MORE I SEE YOU by Michael Buble
Kudos to blog reader and commenter Elizabeth who manned up and explained the appeal of 50 Shades of Grey. Just in case you didn't catch her comment in that section, I'm including Elizabeth's post in its entirety.
I'll man up. I read the hell out of it. All three installments in two and a half days. 800,000 words. BOOM. Just like that. I think I gave it four stars on Goodreads or something.
And here's why:
I couldn't put it down.
True, it's technically a mess. It's randomly punctuated. The dialogue is all over the place. The characters are bipolar. The sex is vanilla. Typos abound (at one point Christian stared at Ana like "a bacon in the night" which made a weird sort of sense, actually). Ana has this really weird habit of doing figure skating jumps off gymnastics apparatuses. And it started out as fanfic, which I get the impression I'm supposed to be all up in arms about. But holy cow. Do you know the last time I read that many words in such a short period of time? Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Here's what I think people don't understand: Good hardly ever factors into popular or entertaining. People aren't going to youtube, for example, to watch someone do something meaningful or profound. They're going to watch some guy stick a lit firecracker up his bum. I would rather see Sharktopus than The English Patient. That's just how I roll.
So there's something to be said for things that are a little bit campy. I'm a little bit campy. So are my friends. When I got to the point in the book where I realized it was going to be one THOSE stories (I didn't see a lot of Twilight in 50 Shades, but it totally read like "crack-fic" fan-fiction), the first thing I did was go on Facebook and tell two of my friends, "Hey, you have to read this." Because it was absolutely the kind of book they would love. And they did love it.
Nine copies sold between the three of us. We all felt like we got our money's worth. Not because it was good, remember, but because it spoke that little spot in our hearts that loves those kinds of stories. The fact that it was kind of poorly written just made it that much better.
And I can't explain why that is. I don't know why this book, with its myriad of flaws, the least of which being its word count, held me captive in a way that other, arguably "better" books didn't.
I loved that she was willing to simply be honest and put her reaction to the book out there. For me, I'm thinking this book is kind of like trends that happen in other mediums. There's no easy or clear explanation. It just happens and something becomes wildly popular. For example, the phenom of Ugg Boots (which are not particularly attractive) or croc shoes for that matter. The youtube phenom for Randall's narration of National Geographic footage: The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger.
There's a spark. It taps into some zeitgeist. There's no explaining it and quite frankly, I don't think we have to. It is what it is.
For me, I'm not sure I would recognize it under all the flaws. I couldn't get past the writing and a lot of groan worthy dialogue. But in the end, who cares what I think. The public has spoken and in the end, that's the opinion that matters.
Here at the Horn Book we’ve gotten used to publishers sending us off-the-wall books. But this week even we were taken aback when we lifted the flap of a box and found this volume sitting on top of the stack:
As Bertha Mahony Miller might have said: WTF?
Was this a sequel to our newly-crowned Newbery? If so, how come we’d never heard any advance word about it? The confusion continued when we lifted out the next book:
Fortunately, we then found the paperwork that accompanied these books, sent by a new publisher, Hexwood Books. According to their press release:
Critics, librarians, and teachers love them.
Kids? Not so much.
As demonstrated by the popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilght” series, kids today want to read stories about sexy vampires…stories about fangs poised above the neck of a young innocent…stories about blood slowly seeping into the bodice of a white ruffled nightgown. Our new series, “Vamped-up Newberys” will satisfy both young people and their teachers – featuring the plots and characters of your favorite award-winning novels, slightly altered to include today’s most popular subject matter among young people: vampires!
The first five volumes in the series are based on the 2012 winner DEAD END IN NORVELT, last year’s winner MOON OVER MANIFEST, 2007’s THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY, JACOB HAVE I LOVED (1981) and that classic from 1945, JOHNNY TREMAIN.
Take a look at this series. Share the novels with a kid you love. Then tell us what you think. We’d love to hear from you!
Passing the volumes around the office, we began to compare the “Vamped-up” editions with the original books. Although a good 80% of the content – prose, characters, dialogue – is virtually identical between original and “altered” versions, each of the Hexwood Books has been modified to somehow include vampires.
Remember the sibling rivalry between Sara Louise and Caroline in Jacob Have I Loved? It’s still there, but now the sisters are feuding vampires:
Johnny Tremain is now a Revolutionary War lad with iron-enriched blood being fought over by two covens of beautiful and sexy vampires:
STATUS: I feel like I'm being pulled in 10 different directions. I'm here at the RT Convention. On Tuesday, I offered rep to a potential new client. Wednesday I did an hour phone conference with a film producer for another client. Yesterday, I reviewed 5 different offers for a UK auction going down. Today let's talk about romance. It's almost time for Pitch-a-Palooza!
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? IF IT'S LOVE by Train
But writers can't help themselves. They still ask this question anyway.
At best, this question is unhelpful. If you start writing for the "next hot trend" by the time you finish your project, that particularly trend is on the way out.
Not to mention, if you ask me the question, "What are you looking for?" I can ramble on about something I'd love to see (such as a completely charming, witty, and fun historical romance a la Julia Quinn) but what I offered rep for just this week would never have landed on my "This is what I'm looking for" list.
I'm constantly taken by surprise by what I fall in love with.
After being here at RT, certainly I can tell you that editors are weary of paranormal romance. That everyone is talking about erotica because of 50 Shades (by the way, I don't rep erotica so please don't query me for that.)
That "hook-y" women's fiction novels (i.e. hooks like a knitting club or cupcake club) are still on editors' wish lists (which by the way, are topics that don't ring my bell much).
I can tell you that a lot of the romance editors also rep YA and they might be moved to violence if just one more YA paranormal romance lands in their submission inbox.
I can tell you all these things and then I can also tell you that the minute the "right" project lands in that same inbox--even if it contains any of the above--but it blows them away, they'll offer for it.
So I can't tell you what I'm looking for as an agent. I can only say that I'm going to know it when I see it and this: I haven't taken on a romance author in over the year. I'm opening my universe up to that possibility as I'd love to read an awesome romance right now.
I've been in my "dark" phase for the last 7 months by taking on dark and gritty SF.
First there was The Queen of Kentucky (by Alecia Whitaker, Little/Poppy, January). Look what popped up yesterday at our offices: The Princesses of Iowa (by M. Molly Backes, Candlewick, May).
Could this be a new trend? Regal YA? I hope the royals aren’t limited to the Midwest though—I, for one, wouldn’t mind The Prince of Boston, starring Prince Harry of Wales, to come into the offices…