Posts Tagged ‘young adult’

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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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Book recommendation

February 22, 2011

I don’t write book reviews — I’m not a fast reader — but when I find a book that I really love, I like to write it. Today’s book recommendation is for Gayle Forman‘s young adult novel If I Stay.

If I Stay book coverI discovered this book when Gayle was a speaker at the Teen Book Con in Houston last year. When I go to writers’ events, I try to support the industry by buying a few of the speakers’ books, and If I Stay was one of the novels I picked up that day.

The book’s premise intrigued me immediately: After being in a car accident with her parents and young brother, a teenager falls into a coma. But her spirit stands outside her body, and as she watches her family, friends, doctors and nurses try to keep her alive, she considers if it’s worth it.

You could say I’m drawn to the dark, and this book was no exception.

But what also touched me was the way Gayle talked about it. She said that when we’re writing, we shouldn’t worry about the market or whether a book will sell when we’re done. We should follow our heart and write the story we want to tell. That’s what she did with this novel, putting her whole heart into the writing, and that’s what made me want to read it.

If I Stay pulled me in from the first few pages, and I couldn’t put it down. I finished the book in less than a week, which is fast for me — the only time I get to read is while I’m brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed.

It’s a touching and beautifully written novel that has a lot of heart.

I highly recommend it.

What book did you read recently that you’d like to recommend?

Write On!

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Interview with new agent Bree Ogden

April 23, 2010

Manuscript update: Terrible! Yesterday was the first day I have worked on my new book in two weeks. I’ve been busy with http://www.discdish.com. But, who am I kidding, I’ve also been just a little — ok a lot — intimidated by this story. My first two novels are plot-driven adventures, but this is a quiet tale, character-driven. I wrote 3,000 words and felt great, like the book was flying out of my, until I realized that I was just rushing toward the major plot points and missing all the character. So, I jumped into Disc Dish, made an excuse that I was too busy to write, and got miserable. So, Tuesday night, I stayed up late and did research. I found the character, or more of him. And, as I really am busy with Disc Dish, on Wednesday night, I set my alarm for 4am and dragged myself out of bed at 5 to write. I did that this morning too, and I feel better. Still intimidated, but better that at least I’m moving forward.

More on that next week, when I resolve to also get back to reading all the blogs in my Google Reader and posting regularly to DayByDayWriter.

Today, though, we have a special treat.

Literary agent Bree Ogden

Bree Ogden

In my last post, I wrote that Martin Literary Management has a new associate agent, Bree Ogden. I emailed Bree and asked if she’d like to answer a few questions so we could get to know her a little better, and she graciously said yes. Here are her answers:

Please tell us a little about your background with books and publishing.

Actually my trained background is in journalism. I have a lot of experience in publishing from a journalism angle. I was very involved in the publication of my university’s newspaper, and later, I was involved in the publication of the magazine and newspapers I worked on during my masters. But for the past 7 months, I have been immersed in the books and publishing world while training under Sharlene Martin at MLM.

In your bio on the Martin Literary Management website, you say your 16 nieces and nephews inspired you to represent children books. First, wow, you must have a big family. 🙂 Second, what about them made you want to handle children’s books?

I feel like I should send you a picture of them, or an audio clip of their cute little voices. I’m telling you, these are the most perfect children on this earth. I want them to become wise, intelligent, independent, imaginative, creative free thinkers as they grow up. It’s my belief that books have a strong influence on those characteristics. So I represent children’s books because I want to be a small part of what inspires children.

What were your favorite books when you were growing up?

The Berenstain Bears. Loved those! I loved LOVED books about dinosaurs. Any dinosaur book I could get my hands on was a favorite. A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban…such a great one. Also, The Big Friendly Giant by Roald Dahl. Oh! And those books about the weird crazy school…Sideways Stories From Wayside School. (This is a nice trip down memory lane.) As I got a little bit older, I really enjoyed dystopian books. I loved The Giver by Lois Lowry and Anthem by Ayn Rand.

And what are some of the books you have read recently?

I just finished Wuthering Heights for the third time. I’ve been reading Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman (best pop culture journalist ever). And I am continually making my way through The Walking Dead graphic novel series. Next up on my reading list is Sterling’s Illustrated Classics. Check them out. They have turned classics like Dorian Gray, The Trial, and Crime and Punishment into graphic novels. That’s epic in my mind.

On to agenting, what do you like best about the job so far? And what do you dislike the most?

My job is pretty awesome. What I like best about it is being surrounded by talent every second of the day. Of course, I can’t take on every writer that queries me, but I am profoundly stunned at the amazing queries I get. I love working with my clients. I have a great set of clients who are so dedicated to what they do. It’s incredible. I dislike having to turn down a query. That’s no fun at all. But I love the fact that every day I wake up, and I have no idea what awesome possibilities are waiting for me.

What kind of an agent are you? Do you work with your clients on an editorial basis?

I would say that I am a very involved agent. Of course, I make editorial suggestions, but mostly, I won’t take something on unless I love it. Which means there isn’t much editorial work for me to be doing. But I am the agent that my client needs me to be. Agenting is different with every client.

Communication-wise, do you prefer phone or email, and how often do you like to be in touch with clients?

Email is so great. But I do love a good phone conversation. Sometimes you just need to hash stuff out on the phone and not deal with the back and forth waiting of email. I have a client in Ireland currently, and it has been a different experience working solely through email. I like to be in touch with my clients pretty often when we first get the ball rolling. It is very important to always be on the same page.

What do you look for in a query letter and what turns you off?

I like a good creative query letter. I work with creative genres, so show me that you are creative through your letter…without trying too hard. That’s never good for anyone. I hate when the writer will tell me everything BUT the plot of the book. Sometimes they beat around that bush like it’s on fire…and I’m left wondering what the heck the premise is?

And same for a manuscript? What are your pet peeves, what do you love and what would make you stop reading?

Well…obviously bad writing would make me stop reading. If I can tell that the story is moving too slowly or isn’t going anywhere, I’ll stop. Also, character development is very important. I’ll stop reading if there is poor character development. And just like any book, I love a manuscript that won’t let me put it down. I love it when I can tell that the writer knows exactly what the premise or agenda of the book is, and I can see it in the writing.

Are there any particular styles (commercial or more literary) or genres you prefer?

Well, I rep Graphic Novels, Children’s and YA novels. So those are the genres I prefer. As far as styles…I like darker plots…think Dexter. Especially in graphic novels. I am quite obsessed with Grimm’s Fairy Tales, so if a writer could pull that sort of style off, I would love that too. I love highly unique books. Books like the Fancy Nancy series. My 3-year-old niece actually used the word “posh” because of a Fancy Nancy book. And, of course, supernatural elements always make for a fun read. Caveat: I do not like vampires and I do not like werewolves.

And finally, what advice would you have for a writer who’s trying to find an agent?

Do your due diligence. Make sure you are sending your query to an agent who reps your genre. Learn about the agency. Know their policies. And make sure your project is ready to be read. Sharlene Martin, owner of Martin Literary Management, co-wrote a fantastic book with author Anthony Flacco entitled ‘Publish Your Nonfiction Book.’ Granted, it is geared toward nonfiction writers, but it gives fabulous tips on how to score an agent and fabulous stories of horrifying faux pas.

Thanks so much, Bree. Great answers.

You can find out more about Bree at her blog, This Literary Life (love the title), and on Twitter.

So, Day By Day Writers, if you think Bree will be a good fit for you and your book, polish up your query letter, get creative, and send it her way.

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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Editor Alexandra Cooper on submitting to an editor

February 25, 2010

Revision update: On chapter 18 of 30. Getting a little behind my goal, so tomorrow, I’ve got to step up my game.

Alexander Cooper headshot

Alexandra Cooper

In my third report from the Houston SCBWI conference, Simon & Schuster editor Alexandra Cooper talks about submitting to an editor, including herself.

If you missed my earlier reports, Scholastic editor and author Lisa Ann Sandell talked about making your query letter package stand out, and Balzer & Bray editor Ruta Rimas talked about what makes a great book.

Alexandra said she works with picture books, middle-grade and young adult fiction, but not easy readers or non-fiction. The exceptions are a few non-fiction picture books that came out of an idea she had and she assigned to a writer and illustrator.

When considering manuscripts, she takes into account the balance of her list as well as the list of her imprint. She said editors are responsible for bringing in books to add to the company’s bottom line, so they can’t always publish everything they’re passionate about. They will turn down good books if the imprint already has similar books, for example. However, she said, outstanding books won’t be turned down.

Editors want a balance between backlist authors and new authors (looking for writers she can work with again), as well as a balance between commercial and literary books.

Right now, she’s signing more novels than picture books, but it’s cyclical, she said. One of the reasons publishing companies are more cautious on picture books right now is the cost and economy. Color picture books are printed in China, and the weak dollar is making printing costs rise.

Finding an editor is like dating, she said, and as such, writers should want someone as committed to the book as the writer is.

The Internet and conferences such as the SCBWI ones are good places to find out about editors, she said. (And I fully agree. These conferences are great!)

As for the issue of most publishing houses not accepting unsolicited manuscripts except through conferences, Alexandra said a lot of the time it’s because of legal reasons. The company doesn’t want to open itself to a lawsuit if they turn down a book that’s similar to one they’re already working on.

However, she said the first book she acquired was from a query, so they do work.

Check back tomorrow for notes from National Geographic‘s Nancy Feresten.

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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!