Links Galore

A few more links for today:

YA in Non-YA Media

I was visiting my parents this weekend, and I saw this poll in my mom’s copy of Women’s Day:

Two of the four books they suggest are YA, but they’re not called out as such. It’s not a poll about what books moms are stealing from their teens’ bookshelves, or what YA women would like to try. They’re just listed as books. Granted, they’re not at the top of this poll, but I’m glad to see The Hunger Games and The Book Thief listed here without being labelled as an “other.”

Modern Publishing Choices

On her blog, Shannon Hale shares some thoughts on traditional vs. self-publishing. Very much agree with her stance overall, especially:

“For those who are self-publishing because they’ve been rejected by professionals, I would ask, Why in such a hurry to be published? Someday you may wish you waited to put your very best work out there. And if this book is your very best work and it’s smokin’ awesome, then patience, it will find a home.

For those who prefer the control of self-publishing, I say, more power to you. It’s not the route for me, but I can see it would appeal to some.”

The control factor seems to be huge in self-publishing. If you want to be the #1 person behind your books in terms of content, marketing, and sales, go for it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s doable.

But if you’ve been rejected by lots of editors and agents already, maybe your book isn’t ready to meet its audience. There are a lot of stories I’ve worked on that haven’t come to fruition and I’m really glad they’re not out in the world for everyone to see. Does that mean writing them was a waste of time? Of course not.

Like Shannon says, this does not mean that there aren’t fantastic self-published books out there. Heck, I’ve read some pretty amazing fanfics in my day, which were certainly as well-written as any given trade fiction. But if you want to go down the self-publishing route, you need to think a lot more about how your audience will find your book and why this is the best way for you to connect with readers.

Side note: every time I type “self-publishing” I really want to type “elf-publishing,” mostly because I like the image of elves in curled-toe shoes and adorable hats making tiny books.

What You Can and Can’t Get From Blogging

There’s a lot of pressure now for writers to have an active social media life. You need to blog, tweet, pin, reblog, and “like” things. It’s necessary for your career as a writer, people say. You need to have an online presence.

Okay, maybe that’s true. You don’t want people to Google you and come up with nothing. You want people to be able to find information on your writing, maybe how to contact you, etc. But what does that mean for how much work you should be doing on your social media platform?

Roni Loren has a great post up about if blogging is worth the time/effort and what you can expect to get out of it. In very short, blogging generally won’t make you sell a gazillion books, but it’s a wonderful way to connect with other writers and/or readers who already like your work. One part I liked in particular:

“Having a blog just to have one is worse than not having one at all. If you’re not somewhat focused in your content and you aren’t giving the reader a takeaway, no one is going to stick around except your mom and a handful of others who are writing about Random Randomness…Do it because you enjoy connecting with people, don’t do it because you think it’s going to vault you up the bestseller list.”

Blogging is work. It requires upkeep and, even if you’re not blogging every day, you want to set up some kind of schedule for yourself. I hate seeing people’s blogs that only list a post every couple of months. And maybe part of that problem is not knowing who you’re trying to reach. Writing for a void can be disheartening.

If this isn’t your first time at my blog, you’re probably aware that I blog a lot. (If this is your first time, here, howdy!) Mostly it’s because I find things online that I like to share. It’s way easier than emailing each person I think might be interested in whatever I’ve found, and it has the potential to connect me with other people who like the same kind of things. I rarely post about my life because I don’t think that would be as interesting. It would end up feeling more like a chore.

So even if you need to have some kind of blog, don’t think that it has to be any one way. Find what works for you, and remember to keep it fun. If it’s not fun, it’s just something else to stress about that won’t necessarily get people to like your fiction. Blogging is its own thing, and can be really fun. Just don’t think of it as a make or break for your career.

(image: JISC)

Pulling Back the Covers

You need to check out Kate Hart’s post about YA covers from 2011. Awesome graphics and information.

She also takes a good look at minority representation on covers. Not surprisingly, there’s barely any. Also:

“But hey! Only about 6.6% of our girls appear to be dead this year! Which is… still more than our POC representation! But only 1% are actively drowning! So… that’s… kind of a win?”

Curious to see if dead girls still dominate in 2012 and 2013. And can filigree maintain its hold as hottest cover design element?

Thanks to Kate for such an awesome resource!

Royal Role Models in YA/MG Literature

In response to Disney Princess week, Bailey Shoemaker Richards at SPARK counters with her own list of awesome princesses from MG/YA literature. As Bailey says: “The main characters in these books are, become or interact with princesses, and all of them have to deal with the implications of femininity in their own worlds.”

I have to admit: I was crazy about Ariel, Belle, and the other Disney princesses when I was little, and I think these characters still have a lot to offer girls. But when the princess line is marketed as just focusing on the fact that these ladies are princesses and wear pretty dresses, that’s a problem.

Bailey’s list includes three of my favorite MG fantasy heroines: Ella from Ella Enchanted, Cimorene from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and Alanna from The Song of the Lioness. All such awesome choices and complex characters outside of being royalty or near royalty. Bailey talks about each character and what makes her compelling, so click through to read more.

A couple of other suggestions I’d add:

Ani (aka Isi) from The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
This is one of my favorite fairy tale adaptations. Ani has a hard time being a princess and manages to find her own strength when her position is challenged. I love seeing Ani’s progression from awkward and uncertain to a confident, sensitive leader. (Shannon Hale has a bunch of other strong female characters in fairy tale adaptations, so Ani stands in for them as well.)

Beauty from Beauty by Robin McKinley
I especially like Beauty’s relationship with her family in McKinley’s retelling. In the original tale, Beauty’s sisters are selfish and spoiled, but here the family gets along well. Leaving them behind means a lot for Beauty, and I like how McKinley reinforces Beauty’s quiet bravery.

Who are your favorite women from MG/YA fantasty?

Cover It Up

Love this post at the Hub about why YA novels deserve better book covers. Unlike much of adult fiction, there are a lot of strange model shots–pictures of girls that crop off their heads, pictures of just girls’ faces, lots of bright colors and big fonts. That doesn’t mean these kinds of covers can’t match a particular story or style. But much of the time, they don’t fully reflect the depth of the story inside. And perhaps even more than adult readers, teens can appreciate a cool design aesthetic. (Check out the stuff that’s posted on Tumblr.) Just because YA readers are younger doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate awesome cover art.

Capillya Uptergrove looks at some covers that work well, such as Winter Town by Steve Emond, which keeps things spare and lovely, or Insurgent by Veronica Roth, which can appeal to readers of any gender. A few other recent covers I’ve lived are The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, and Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. These tend toward the more minimal, which is my taste, but I think they’re good examples of how to design a cover without relying on a model shot.

Just like YA content has been expanding over the last few decades, I think we’re going to see more covers that push boundaries over the next several years. Again, teens are already very design-savvy. Why shouldn’t YA get more covers that reflect that?

More Info on JK Rowling’s Next Novel

A little treat for Thursday: Little Brown just released the title, release date, and synopsis of JK Rowling’s upcoming novel. The Casual Vacancy will be released on September 27, 2012. The plot:

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

I’m very confident that Rowling can capture darkly comic struggles beneath English idyllic life. (Although my first thought was “I really hope it’s the book version of Hot Fuzz!”) Very excited to hear more about The Casual Vacancy in the months to come.

Fund a Summer of Theater

Myths. Monsters. Secrets. Serial Killers. If any of that sounds interesting to you, you should check out Sideshow Theatre Company’s Summer of Theater, in which they will produce two fantastic shows: The Gacy Play and Idomeneus. But it takes a lot to produce one show, let alone two. Enter the Sideshow Summer of Theater Kickstarter Campaign!

I can personally vouch for Sideshow’s awesomeness. They’ve been putting on compelling shows for the last five years and helping young artists find their voice in the Chicago area. By pledging, you’re helping a vibrant arts organization. Plus the literary manager is pretty cute.

And if you’re in the Chicago area (or planning to be) make sure to check out these shows once they’re up and running. Going to see indie theater makes you feel like one of the cool kids.

Who You Are and How You Got Here

I find two things deceptively hard to write: thank you notes and author bios. The bio should be easy, right? You know who you are and what your accomplishments are. It’s only a few sentences. But striking the right tone while still getting across the necessary information is a challenge.

Recently I stumbled across Jami Gold’s post about author bios and getting the right tone. She shares a lot of helpful/fun links on the topic, and her hilarious post makes me feel a lot less stressed about the whole process. Still, Jami has some suggestions for the basics:

If we look at author bios from a reader’s perspective, the “what to include” recipe is:

  • Start with an indication of type of writer (genre, tone, etc.)
  • Stir in something to sound relatable (habits, where live, pets, family, etc.)
  • Sprinkle with contact information for blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. (this also helps with being relatable)
  • Add humor and/or voice
  • Prepare in a way to show we can tell a story

Additional things we can include when applicable:

  • If we’re agented, mention our agent information.
  • If we’re debuting, mention our book and release date.
  • If we’re multi-published, mention some of our books.

My bio on this site is pretty generic, so I might use these suggestions to craft a more fun version and add that to the bio page. I also have a reading coming up in a few weeks–more on that later!–and need to come up with a version for the reading organizers to use. I’ll share my results on the blog.

Anyone else have good author bio tips or examples?