Posts Tagged ‘middle-grade’

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Self-publishing and ebooks

February 24, 2011

Going into the Austin SCBWI chapter’s annual conference this weekend — it was great, by the way — I was curious to find out how middle-grade novels are selling in ebooks, as that’s what I write. I’ve seen lots of articles in the Publishers Lunch enewsletter saying that ebook sales are rocketing in adult books and even taking off in young adult, but I suspected that middle-grade was behind. According to Egmont‘s Elizabeth Law, I was right. She said they’re not seeing noticeable ebook sales in middle grade.

Anathema book cover

Megg Jensen's self-published YA novel Anathema

Even though MG is slower to this technology, it’s great to see ebooks being embraced so quickly. As I wrote in January, sales of ereaders were stellar for the Christmas season, with many places selling out. Although I still love — LOVE — physical books, whether a book is printed on paper or eink, it’s still a story. And if this new technology is enticing more readers to stories, that can only be good.

The new technology also is changing the publishing landscape. With ebooks, it’s easier than ever — and less expensive — to self-publish books. Author J.A. Konrath has written about this extensively on his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog. He had gone the traditional route before he started publishing his books on his own as ebooks, but he gives good arguments of why that doesn’t matter. YA author Amanda Hocking is an example, selling more than 185,000 ebook copies of her self-published novels.

Now, I’m not saying all writers should stop submitting to agents and editors of traditional publishing houses and go it alone. There are definite advantages to being signed by an agent and getting your work published by someone else. Let’s face it, most writers are not so great at the business end. And throwing an ebook on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or wherever doesn’t automatically mean it will sell; there’s marketing, publicity … oh, and the book should be good (editors are invaluable) or repeat sales won’t be much.

But the advent of ebooks has made it easier for writers to take the publishing of their work into their own hands, and blogs and social networking make it easier to build publicity.

YA author Megg Jensen is trying just that with her novel Anathema. And so far, it looks like she’s off to a great start. The book launched on Tuesday, and as of Wednesday, she had already sold 50 copies. She’s hosting a contest right now where people can guess how many books she will have sold by March 11, and the main prize? An ereader. Now that’s what I call promoting future business.

What do you think? Would you be willing to read a book if it’s self-published, either in print or as an ebook?

Write On!

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The power of a fart

July 21, 2010

No writing update because … I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t been writing. My move has been taking it out of me. But my need to write has been tugging at me in the last week more than any other time this past month or so, and my novel’s character keeps knocking on my brain, so starting … tomorrow? … I’m going to start writing again.

But this post isn’t about my lack of keyboard time. And, it’s not actually about farting, either; well, not really.

The power of a fart is how it can, apparently, help middle-grade-age boys get interested in reading.

A story in yesterday’s Washington Post talks about how Ray Sabini, a fourth-grade teacher, wrote a book about farts to try to get boys to read. The Washington Post article says that boys are still trailing girls in reading and that the gap is widening. Sabini went the fart route to get boys into reading, and his book Sweet Farts tells the story of a 9-year-old boy whose science fair invention turns fart smells into whatever you’d like them to be, including summer rose, cotton candy, etc. Sabini self-published the novel under the name Raymond Bean, and it was at No. 3 on Amazon’s children’s humor book list in October thanks to mostly word of mouth. Sabini is publishing a sequel, Sweet Farts: Rippin’ It Old School, next month.

I haven’t read Sabini’s book, but it sounds like a great, fun idea. And that’s what I think books should be — fun.

Books tell stories, and we stories to be entertained. Sure, for some of us, that entertainment might be scary, or sad, or thought-provoking, but for middle-grade-age boys, it’s farts … or whatever else will keep their attention away from videogames for a few minutes.

So, whatever you’re writing…

1. know your audience – know what they’re interested in and write about that, even if it is bodily functions.

2. make it fun – funny, deliciously devilish, nice and spooky, tear-jerking sad, whatever emotion the story stirs, make it stir it well.

What are you writing?

Write On!

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New YA and MG agent: Ali McDonald

March 30, 2010

New agents trying to build their list are a great opportunity for writers seeking representation. The Rights Factory has announced that Ali McDonald is a new associate agent. She began at the agency in January 2009 in an editorial capacity.

Focusing on young adult and middle-grade, Ali says:

“The fantastic worlds of children’s literature transformed my life. The works of Beatrix Potter, Lewis Carroll, and C.S. Lewis helped define my character. Nothing could be more rewarding than now having the opportunity to bring talented new voices to today’s young readers.”

Three of my favorite authors growing up too.

She’s launching her list with three clients and hopes to have 25 by the end of the year. So, polish up those query letters.

Write On!

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Interview with agent Mandy Hubbard

March 26, 2010

Revision update: I’m done! Yay! Now I have to perfect my query letter.

Mandy Hubbard headshot

Mandy Hubbard

Today, I’ve got an interview with author and literary agent Mandy Hubbard. Mandy recently joined D4EO Literary, representing authors of middle-grade and teen fiction. She’s also the author Prada & Prejudice, You Wish and other novels that aren’t on shelves yet. Mandy’s submission guidelines are here.

Thanks for joining us, Mandy. First, congratulations on your young adult books. They’re such great, fun ideas. What do you like best about writing and why did you choose young adult books?

I didn’t really choose YA, not on purpose. I signed my first agent based on a project about four girls in their early 20s — I was 23 at the time, so it made sense. She told me my voice would work better for YA, so I switched it around. I’ve never looked back since!

My favorite part of writing constantly changes. I just did the very last proof read for YOU WISH, my August 5th release. So right now that’s my favorite part — the part where it’s done and sparkly and I love it. At other times, the idea/fast-drafting stage is the best. I guess I just love it all!

Before becoming a literary agent, you interned at The Bent Agency. What attracted you to agenting and what do you love about it?

Even as an author, I’ve always been fascinated by the industry/business side of things. I’ve been active in the submissions process of my own books for years, and my agent was the first to tell me that I’d make a good agent myself. The wheels started turning, and when an opportunity to intern for The Bent Agency fell into my lap, I jumped on it. Interning really confirmed for me that I wanted to become an agent.

I love that I get to work with truly talented authors. It’s really amazing to fall in love with a project and then be able to work with the person who created it. I’m very editorial and have done rather extensive revisions with a few people, but getting to the end product — something amazing and fast paced and exciting — is so worth it.

Having to write a query letter is one of those groan, oh no, moments for a writer. How did you deal with it as a writer and what do you look for in a query letter as an agent?

Don’t throw sticks at me, but I always liked writing query letters. In fact, I even wrote them for my projects after I had an agent. I love boiling down my projects into 3 paragraph pitches that hit on the most exciting parts of the book.

From an agent’s stand point, the most important part of your query is the story pitch. I need to love the concept above all else. If you have writing credentials or a compelling reason for querying me specifically, great, but if I don’t love the pitch than the rest doesn’t matter.

How do you think your writing background helps you as an agent?

It’s helped in more ways than I could have imagined. I’m familiar with a lot of editors — either becuase I’ve met them, worked with them, or my friends are edited by them — and it has helped immeasurably at making the connections I’ll need to sell my client’s works. Further, I’ve gone through revisions with my publishers many times now, and it has helped me hone my writing skills — skills I turn around and use when working with my clients. I’ve become more analytical in my approach to books and I feel like the projects I put into the world are going to be that much stronger.

What do you look for in potential clients and how do you expect to work with clients? Will you be an editorial agent? Do you email or call?

The story and the writing is absolutely #1. I think a lot of people get frustrated and think you need to “know someone” or have some secret handshake to get an agent. All of my clients came to me through the slush pile, and I’ve never met any of them in person (yet).

And yes, I’m certainly an editorial agent. I work with my clients both via email and on the phone. I always chat with them on the phone before offerering representation — it’s important we have the same vision for the project and will be happy working together.

On this blog, I discuss how to be an unpublished writer trying to balance writing between a day job, family and everyday life. How do you make time to write?

It’s hard, that’s for sure. I’m lucky to be prolific and a really fast typer, so the time I get is very productive. I’ve always said if you want something bad enough, you’ll make it happen. If that means staying up late or working while you’re eating your lunch, then that’s the sacrifice you make. No one said it was going to be easy — but boy is it worth it!

Other than your own books, what are your favorite book or books you have read recently that you couldn’t put down?

I have to say, there were so many debut authors in 2009 whose books really impressed me — A Match Made in High School, Hate List, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Season… I could go on and on. It’s a great time to be a debut YA author!

Any advice for writers wanting to query you or for people who want to become a literary agent?

It’s important to understand what goes into a good query and how to write one. Spend time on Google, if neccessary, to understand how it is written. I see a lot of queries that are so far off of the norm, I can tell they haven’t spent their time doing research.

In terms of becoming an agent, it’s all about experience, so find an internship.

Finally, I noticed you’re using a pen-name for your new books with Flux. Why is that?

I write highly commercial books for Razorbill/Penguin — lighter books with big concepts. But I also write darker, more literary work that is driven more by the voice and characters than the plot. My agent and I had a long talk about the best way to handle this. My career goal is to write/release two books per year. By doing a pen name and dividing the two brands, it allows me to build two careers at the same time and have a faster release schedule. Pen-names are something to be discussed with your agent, and I’ll work with my clients on deciding what works best for them.

Thanks, Mandy! Great advice.

One of my fabulous readers pointed me to a guest post Mandy did for the Bent Agency’s blog in December. In it, Mandy discusses the rejections she went through before she finally got her first book published. It’s a wonderful story, and very inspirational. Message: Don’t give up! I second that. Check it out.

Write On!

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Creating a book series

December 4, 2009

Day By Day Writer is thrilled to have debut author Fiona Ingram on the blog today. Fiona’s book The Secret of the Sacred Scarab tells the story of two boys who, during a trip to Egypt, stumble upon a 5,000-year-old mystery. The middle-grade novel was a finalist in the 2009 USA Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the USA National Best Books 2009 Awards. The book is the first in Ingram’s The Chronicles of Stone series.

Fiona has a competition on her website for fans to win a copy of the Sacred Scarab for their school or library. The first chapter of the book is available here, and there’s more about the Chronicles of Stone here.

Fiona’s here today to tell us about writing books for a series. Take it away, Fiona…

Fiona Ingram

Developing a children’s series is both rewarding and taxing for the author, and possibly gratefully welcomed by parents whose children suddenly discover a hero they can relate to and whose actions keep them riveted. Isn’t it wonderful when your child begs, nay, commands you to go out and buy the next in a favorite series because they ‘absolutely have to know’ what is going to happen next? There are many children’s series on the market currently and perhaps many adults are reading them as well as their children. Developing a children’s series is not an exact science and not a guaranteed road to writing success.

  • Sometimes an author will start out with an idea, and try to stretch the story over several books, but to no avail. They discover that when a story is done … it’s done! On the other hand, an author may find that the story takes off and grows into something that spills over the last two words (“The End”) and shapes itself into another and then another and then another book, before winding down to a great final climax. Yet another scenario is when the author creates a set of characters that have several adventures, each one clearly contained with a storyline. The characters have a particular history or set of circumstances to retain the familiarity for readers. Readers keep coming back for more action.
  • Can a writer tell if the story has the potential for a series? The plot will evolve naturally if the characters are appealing, and if their personal growth and development hold the readers’ attention. Again, appealing characters are not worth anything if the action and conflict are not compelling. There has to be a perfect marriage between plot and characters to sustain the strength of a series.
  • So why do children love an exciting series? A gifted author will be able to create characters that readers can relate to and either love or hate. The readers get to know the characters well as the action evolves and, as each book comes out, can explore something new about their heroes.
  • Characters become friends to the avid young reader, who shares in the hopes, dreams and choices the character makes. Readers are amazingly loyal to their favorite characters, even though they may often disagree with the character’s choices. A good writer can explore these further, enabling readers to begin to make their own choices, especially in a moral dilemma or emotional conflict. Parents who make the time to read with their children, or who are interested in their children’s book choices, will be able to discuss these issues further. It’s a great way of dealing with ‘sticky’ issues because the discussion is less focused on the child and more on a fictional character. It may be easier for a child to express an opinion if discussing a topic via a character’s choices.

Perhaps writers shouldn’t set out to ‘create’ a series but rather let an original good story develop, allowing the characters and plot potential to determine the end result.

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Book lists

November 20, 2009

Revision update: I think the first three chapters are in pretty good shape. Moving on…

It’s coming up to the holidays again, and no matter what holiday you celebrate — Christmas for me — presents are often involved.

Last year, I made a point of trying to find a book for everyone on my list before anything else. This year, I was pleased to see that I can do the same for lots of people.

For us writers, of course, books are a given as presents. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve always got a stack by your bedside or on your shelf waiting to be read, and another list floating around in your head of books you want to read. Most of the books are in the genre I write in, but a few are there because I’ve heard they’re really great books.

Today, I thought we could compare lists.

Here’s what’s currently on my to read shelf:

  • Savvy, by Ingrid Law (I read about this online and it sounds great)
  • The Sisters Grimm: The Unusual Suspects, number two in the series by Michael Buckley (I picked up the first book in this series a while ago because of the awesome name: Fairy Tale Detectives)
  • The Summoning, by Kelley Armstrong (I picked up this one as research for a future book idea)
  • Looking for Alaska, by John Green (I bought this at a conference last month, but I had been planning to read it since hearing a lot about it at the SCBWI summer conference in 2007)
  • and Diggers and Truckers, numbers one and two in the Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett (I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett’s, having read most of his adult books before I started reading only middle-grade and young adult; this series is YA)

What’s on my reading wish list?

  • Catching Fire, number two in the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins (I just finished the first book and, as usual, she ended the story with many questions unanswered, so I’m looking forward to this next one)
  • The Emerald Tablet and The Navel of the World, numbers one and two in the Forgotten Worlds series by P.J. Hoover (I’m getting a critique by her at a conference in January, so I definitely want to read her work before then)
  • The Last Olympian, the last book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (I loved the other books)
  • Wings, by Aprilynne Pike (I read about this one online and it sounds awesome; a debut author and a bestseller in its first week)
  • the other books in the Sisters Grimm series
  • Wings, book three in the Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Prachett (ditto above)
  • The Magician’s Elephant, by Kate DiCamillo (it always helps to read the award winners)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart (I heard about this on The Today Show a while ago and it sounded like a lot of fun)

What’s waiting on your shelf? And what would you like to be there?

Write On!