Tag Archives: YA

Interview: P. J. Hoover Talks About E-Publishing SOLSTICE (Part 2)

P. J. Hoover answers more of my questions about her new YA e-book, SOLSTICE, which she e-published with the help of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Read Part 1 of this interview.) SOLSTICE blends teen romance with dystopian elements with Greek mythology.

Parker Peevyhouse: What about marketing–is that all up to you or will the agency help with that? We friended your book on Facebook, by the way. :)

P. J. Hoover: Thanks. I think they will do what they can to help market the book as far as advertising on their Facebook page, and Laura Rennert will be talking about it at a panel at BEA.

Parker:  I would guess it’ll get press just from the angle of “ABLA takes psuedo-publishing role.”

PJ: I hope so.

Parker: What specifically will you do to market SOLSTICE? You’ve got the book trailer, your blog, this interview…

PJ: I plan to really focus on the online. There is no book party at a store to plan, no postcards to mail. So I am going to focus on blog tours, twitter… I’m going to Dallas Comic Con. I made trading cards to hand out with secret content–each card has a special QR code.

Parker: Those weird boxes that you take pictures of with your phone?

PJ: Yes, with a barcode scanner app. It takes you to a hidden website link with maybe a secret vlog or a deleted scene or a chapter from another character’s POV. That sort of thing.

Parker: So I will get one of these cards, when?

PJ: I’ll mail you some! Teens are totally savvy about these things. I handed out cards last Saturday at an event and had hits on my hidden links before I got home.

Parker: Wow. So your marketing will target teens, not gatekeepers like booksellers, librarians and teachers.

PJ: Librarians are definitely in the mix because you can loan out e-books.

Parker: How will sales of your e-book affect future sales of other projects to publishers?

PJ: I think with as much as the market is changing, my options are wide open. I also think, for my career, marketing is very important. I don’t think it’s enough for an author to e-publish a book and put it on Amazon and expect it to just take off. I really think author marketing is huge. HUGE.

Parker: Did author marketing work well for your EMERALD TABLET books [which were published by a small press, CBAY Books]? Is there a difference here?

PJ: There are a few differences. First, those books were middle grade. MG readers are not online, so online marketing is very hard. So much depends on librarians and bookstores. Also, the CBAY books are hardcover and priced at $16.95. Some parents are reluctant to spend that on a book for their kid. SOLSTICE is priced at $2.99. So now I have a book aimed at teen readers who are online and moms who are online. And it is less expensive than a cup of coffee.

Parker: Are you going to aim any marketing specifically at older women?

PJ: Yes, I would like to. It has enough romance in it that I think older readers will enjoy it, too. There are lots of blogs for teens that readers of YA love, and then there are writers, and romance blogs.

Parker: What’s your next project?

PJ: Well, I do plan to write a sequel to SOLSTICE, and I’m also working on another standalone YA but I’m not going to talk too much about it except to say that it’s the first thing I’ve written without mythology in it.

Parker: I ask because with Hocking and others it seems like the strategy is to get as many e-books out there at one time as possible to up visibility and keep the hype going. That’s not your strategy?

PJ: I would love to be able to write that fast, but I can’t. :) I do see the genius behind doing that, though. I may work on some short stories in the same world.

Parker: What if a publisher sweeps in and wants to publish the sequel(s)? Would you do that or stick with e-books? Is getting a contract with a “Big 6″ publisher your end goal?

PJ: For SOLSTICE?

Parker: For any book at all.

PJ: I certainly wouldn’t say I’m sticking with e-books forever and never traditionally publishing, but I’m not in the mindset that I have to be at a traditional publisher either. I think so much is changing that even in a year, it will look different.

Parker: So SOLSTICE is not a stepping stone?

PJ: No! It’s just an awesome way to get the book in the hands of readers.

Parker: Before the mythology/dystopia trend dies.

PJ: I think with dystopia we see so much of the same type of thing–the government is bad or the world is destroyed. But what I love about SOLSTICE is that it is a totally new take on the subject.

Parker: I happen to know what that take is and it is pretty cool :)

PJ: Thanks!

SOLSTICE is available now on Amazon and Smashwords, and will be available soon on Barnes&Noble.com.

Parker Peevyhouse

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Interview: P. J. Hoover Talks About E-Publishing SOLSTICE

With the explosion of chatter online about authors who make their careers by self-publishing e-books, I was eager to talk with former Spectacle contributor P. J. Hoover about her new YA novel SOLSTICE, which has just been e-published with the help of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. This is a new model for literary agencies who are interested in finding a place in the e-publishing process, and P. J. explains here how that partnership worked in her case.

SOLSTICE is set in a future plauged by a Global Heating Crisis and is about a young woman who becomes entangled in a love triangle of Greek mythic proportions. It’s available now on Amazon and Smashwords, and will be available soon on Barnes&Noble.com.

Parker Peevyhouse:  It’s been a while since we’ve seen you here! Looks like a lot has been happening since then. Let’s hear about why you chose to self-publish. Why this book?

P. J. Hoover: This book is really timely for right now. It’s a mythology-based dystopian novel, and right now both of those elements are hot. I think the tipping point was really looking at the market and seeing the books that were coming out and knowing that even if we did sell to a traditional press it could take over a year to come out. Like even into 2013.

Parker: Which means you might miss the trend for dystopian or mythology-based novels.

PJ: And also, given how exciting all the e-book news is these days, it seemed like a really fun thing to do.

Parker: Had you previously submitted the manuscript to publishers?

PJ: My agent [Laura Rennert] and I had subbed a very different version earlier (about a year ago) with minimal dystopian elements. We got close to selling but never found the right fit.

Parker: How did you talk to your agent about self-pubbing?

PJ: I didn’t. I had a phone call scheduled with her to talk about what our submission strategy would be. We talked about that a bit and then she said, “Well, there is another option.” And she suggested the self-publishing route.

Parker: Was this before or after Amanda Hocking’s success with self-publishing?

PJ: This was two months ago–so after her news went viral.

Parker: Had the agency ever suggested self-publishing to their other authors or was this a new view they were taking?

PJ: I’m not sure if they had suggested this to any of their other clients or not. But once I decided I wanted to go the indie pub route, they took the ball and ran with it. We did another round of edits. And then a copy edit, and two proofreading edits.

Parker: Is that more editing than an e-book usually gets? I guess it probably varies.

PJ: We did many rounds back and forth. My agent and her reader are some of the most gifted people I can imagine when it comes to editing.

Parker: Were you always cool with the suggestions?

PJ: There are definitely some things I stood against changing. For example, the character of Piper’s mom–I really had an idea of how I wanted her to be, and though it was mentioned a few times, I didn’t change her (too much). I think in some ways, they imagined a happier world in the world of gods, and I viewed the world of gods as a bit of a cruel and deceitful one.

Parker: The agency did a lot more than editing, though, right?

PJ: They chose the cover picture and found a cover designer. (The POD book should come out a while after the e-book.) So, the agency arranged for cover design and layout and editing, and they are getting their regular 15% of royalties.

Parker: Did you get to approve the cover? How much say did you have? You like to think e-pubbing gives you more control…

PJ: They sent me the cover photo, which I loved, and then they sent me the actual cover and really, it was so gorgeous, I never would have even thought to say anything should change. I was in love with it the second I saw it.

Parker: That worked out well!

PJ: It really did.

Parker: It is a really great cover!

PJ: Thanks!

On Tuesday, I’ll talk with P. J. about marketing and more…

Parker Peevyhouse

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Put A Teen In It and Call It YA

The character is 13 to 19 – but is that enough to call the novel a YA book?
The dialogue is ridiculous with teen slang – does that make it YA?
Descriptions are smothered with brand names and trends = YA?

As if! No way! Not even! Kill me now, please!

As someone who has written over 35 books, mostly YA, I cringe when I read a book that’s supposed to be a YA but is actually an adult novel in disguise. If you’re read a lot of YA, you know what I mean:

  • The character is 16 but talks formally and spouts lectures like a parent.
  • A 17-year-old isn’t concerned with appearances, friends, music, school, fitting in, standing out, passing tests or getting into college.
  • Every other word is slang…but from two decades ago. Radical, huh?
  • The style and rhythm is wordy, heavy-handed, pages of description, etc.
  • The teen is a background shadow while the adults carry the story.
  • A teen isn’t aware of everything electronic: iPod, Phone, Xbox, etc.
  • The ending lacks hope. Even if everyone dies, there should be a glimmer of hope on the final pages.

As Ellen Hopkins, author of CRANKED and other bestselling YA novels said in a recent interview:

Teenagers want to see themselves reflected between the pages of a book. It isn’t enough to mimic the voice of a teenager; to hook the young adult crowd, you have to climb inside their skin and channel their unique energy.

That’s sooo true! And that’s why I really get annoyed when I read a book that has a teen character but is not a YA. I recently read a science fiction YA book with a character who was supposed to be 14. Okay, this was a futuristic society so slang and trends weren’t an issue. But as I kept reading, I realized the author who was known for brilliant science fiction novels just stuck in a teen for the sake of reaping teen readers in a hot YA market. When I finished, I realized you could have put in a 40 year old guy in the SAME role at the 14 year old girl, and the story would have read the same. This was not a character teens could identity with—even though the book was good. Teens and adults would enjoy the book, but teens won’t get that extra connection; a sense of seeing themselves in the main character.

One book that may at first seem like an adult novel more than a teen novel is THE BOOK THIEF, which has Death as the main character. But if you keep reading, the novel is about a young girl growing up in war-time who learns about herself through bravery and a love of books. The essence of this book is a coming of age novel. And it’s brilliant.

But I’ve read many books which make YA an “age” not an “experience.” Some books were still great and I finished reading, but others didn’t pass the 50 page test and were discarded. And I’ll admit that if I recognize the name of a writer who is known for adult books, I analyze the story more, testing to see if they sincerely get what YA is about or they’re just following a marketing trend. I won’t name names…but I’ll bet you can think of a few who have succeeded and failed.

So is there anything wrong with adult books that masquerade as YA’s? Kids won’t know the difference, right? And most will just enjoy the story. But what about the teens that close the book, sensing that something is off, not connecting with the characters? What if they decide YA books just don’t excite them anymore? What if they lose interest in reading?

Have you read any YA books that you felt were adult-novels-in-masquerade? What are you thoughts on this topic?? I’d love to hear from you!

Linda Joy Singleton (who has been reading over 100 YA novels a year for a very long time)

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Trapped Inside the Future

I love reading YA novels about what happens after the end of society because these are books of rebirth, survival, first-time experiences and hope.

With so many new dystopian novels coming out, it’s interesting to notice differences and similarities. Three YA novels I read recently have unique similarities yet are surprisingly different.

The novels are:
INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher
INSIDE OUT by Maria V. Snyder
BIRTHMARKED by Caraugh M. O’Brien

Some similarities in these 3 novels:

* Set in the distant future after world societies have failed.
* Main characters are trapped in a grim society with no obvious way out.
* Each heroine/hero seeks a way out despite horrific dangers.
* The main character(s) struggle to change society and break the rules.
* All have sequels, although not published yet (I ordered #2 INCARCERON, titled SAPPHIQUE, from England. It’s out in the US in December).
* Each of these novels has a theme involving childbirth/DNA. Very intriguing how each is worlds apart in differences and equally clever.

Some differences:

* INCARCERON is the most different from the other two since the heroine is raised in wealth, so it’s the hero who lives the grim existence trapped inside a mysterious prison. Part of the society is living as if in historical England with royalty; while another part of society barely survives in the prison “Incarceron.”
* INSIDE OUT turns out to be more science fiction. The heroine is poor and forced to work in grueling conditions, with no rights or privileges.
* BIRTHMARKED’s futuristic society feels historical but is closer to science fiction. The heroine is poor but happy until her family is threatened.
* Settings. Brilliant world-building skills for each book with detailed societies built on the past with original good intentions that twisted into brutal new societies.

Another thing each book had in common – they are all page-turners. I could NOT put them down. They intrigued me while hooking me emotionally, too. All had romance, although less-so for INCARCERON, but it could come in a later book.

INCARCERON and INSIDE OUT bear the most similarities at first glance. They are both closed “prison” societies. Both have a boy and girl who live in opposite worlds in their societies; but all are in a form of prison as the story progresses. Only INCARCERON is told from two points of view (Finn and Claudia) so you really get to know each of them and I personally found them both fascinating. In each story, suspense builds as the characters strive to find “a way out” of their confined world. Without revealing any spoilers, I’ll just say that both endings were shocking, unique and brilliant.

BIRTHMARKED has a feel of a historical novel, except for the storyline of DNA and other more modern technologies. The story kept me reading late­. I just had to know how (or if!) Gaia would escape. I went to the author’s website and found out there will be two more books, although she originally planned BIRTHMARKED as a single title. The ending left off in a way that screams for more books. I can’t wait to read them.

I also can’t wait to read OUTSIDE IN, the sequel to INSIDE OUT (not sure if there will be a 3rd book or if 2 books will tell the whole story). I’ve loved Maria V. Snyder’s books since POISON STUDY which is brilliant and thrilling.

I totally recommend all three of these authors and their books.

If you’ve read them jump in with your thoughts (no spoilers!).

What similarities and differences did you notice?
Are there other books that you feel are similar, too?

Linda Joy Singleton, who doesn’t write about the future but writes about psychic Sabine in THE SEER who can see into the future. Sabine’s story continues three years from the last book on October 1st when #6 THE SEER, MAGICIAN’S MUSE, comes out from Flux.

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Right Now in Speculative Fiction: Major Deals

For this edition of Right Now, I give you a tantalizing list of recent major deals ($500K+) in speculative fiction!

A 17-year-old girl, who’s spent her life waiting for a group dubbed “The Society” to tell her who her ideal mate is, has her world upended when she discovers she’s falling in love with someone other than her supposed soul mate.

Star-crossed love and overbearing societies… I love a good dystopian!

A teenager is cryogenically frozen only to thaw too soon, before arriving at the new planet that’s her destination.

I’m especially excited about this book for two reasons: 1) It’s set on a spaceship, a setting I always find intriguing, and 2) Beth is a frequent visitor to the The Spectacle. Congrats, Beth!

A shy Nantucket teenager named Helen Hamilton is destined to start a Trojan War-like battle by falling in love with heartthrob Lucas Delos.

Greek tragedy + high school = next big romance sensation. I think this one should be made into a musical.

  • FOREVER - Maggie Stiefvater Summer 2011

The final book in the trilogy that began with Shiver, about a girl’s romance with a boy who turns into a wolf during winter. Included in this deal were three other, unnamed YA fantasy novels.

Sam gets my vote for most lovable werewolf. Can’t wait to see where FOREVER takes him.

A 16-year-old falls for a French teen named Vincent, who just happens to be a zombie.

Even after all the vampires and werewolves and faeries, I did not see this coming. Zombie romance? Apparently in this book, zombies aren’t quite as disgusting as usual–they don’t eat brains, and they don’t look like corpses.

I can’t find a description of this novel, but it’s nice to have at least one male author represented on our list.

A supernatural fantasy series set in Manhattan during the 1920s.

Bray has a way with settings–the Victorian boarding school in her Gemma Doyle series had some serious atmosphere. I can’t wait to step into a speakeasy!

A teenage girl with psychic abilities runs away to Whidbey Island, Washington State to escape from her stepfather, who has been exploiting her abilities, only to also be abandoned by her mother.

George has previously published books only for adults, which are all set in the UK. Apparently, her recent move to Whidbey Island is shaking things up.

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POV Trends: Teens Love Being First

Pick up a YA novel written in the past couple of years and odds are it’s written in first person POV. And there’s a decent chance it’s written in present tense.

Having spied someone far more important than I, she is off without so much as another word, for which, I suppose, my ears should be grateful.

Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing

At the same time, many modern middle grade novels are written in third person, and most definitely in past tense.

Why is that?

We could do some psychological analysis and say that teens tend to be… quite self-focused, and thus relate most to first person POV. However, I think it’s really a matter of trends. Simply put, more authors are writing YA in first person present because that’s what they’re seeing on the shelves.

Modern young adult literature puts great emphasis on voice; an authentic yet stylistic portrayal of a teen’s inner monologue is the key feature of YA. And it’s easiest to achieve this type of narration with a first person POV. But as for the present tense trend that I like well enough but seems to aggravate some readers to no end–well, it’ll probably fall out of style eventually. I can’t see any real reason why it should be more popular with teen readers than past tense.

In fact, I’m not sure many YA authors even make a conscious choice to use present tense. They read it in other YA novels and get it stuck in their heads and that’s what comes out on paper (or computer screen, anyway). I once had the chance to chat with Libba Bray at a writing conference around the time A Great and Terrible Beauty had first been published and asked her what I thought was a question she must get a lot: Why did you write your novel in present tense? At the time, present tense wasn’t quite as prevalent as it is now.  She answered that first person present was just the POV that worked when she tried to write the story.

When I first started the YA manuscript that I’m currently working on, I tried writing it in past tense. Perhaps because the previous novel I’d written had been in past tense I felt like I was trying and failing to repeat a style I’d already written in. I switched to present tense and the story finally started to flow. So maybe this particular tense is popular because of the excitement that comes with experimentation, with writing in a voice you haven’t tried before. Or maybe it’s just a passing trend.

How do you account for the recent popularity of first person present POV in YA literature? Do you love it or hate it?

Parker Peevyhouse

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The Reverse Alex Awards

The Alex Awards are given to adult books that have special appeal to teens. Recent winners include Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and Meg Rosoff’s The Bride’s Farewell.

But the truth is, just as many books for teens can be said to have special appeal to adults. While I think that a good book is a good book no matter what age group it’s marketed for, there are those YA books that seem to go further toward convincing adults that YA books aren’t just for teens.

We’ve seen how adults have caught on to books like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games (which was even recommended by Steven King). The wild success of these books among teens gets the attention of adult readers. What about YA books that aren’t runaway bestsellers? Which YA books would you give to an adult friend to convince him or her to pay more attention to the genre? In short, which would you award a Reverse Alex?

Parker Peevyhouse

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Do You Hate YA?

Via James Preller’s blog, I found this blog post on why YA author Andrew Smith hates YA. One of the reasons Smith gives really hits home for me. He writes

I don’t write for an age group… The only target in my mind is a story, NOT a demographic.

When you’re supposed to be writing for a certain age group, you fall into this trap of what’s allowed, what’s expected. When Meg Rosoff was starting out as a writer, she was worried about what was off limits for YA. Once she accepted the idea that she could write about anything she wanted, she wrote the utterly beautiful How I Live Now (about an anorexic teen who falls in love with her telepathic cousin during a terrorist invasion of England!).

Smith also points out in his post

“YA” didn’t exist when Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or even when Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.

And while it’s true that those two classics are often required reading in high school, you won’t find adults looking down their noses at these books or feeling guilty for reading them. It’s not only okay for adults to read these “teen” books, it’s really expected that they’ve read them at some point in their lives. The same is often NOT true for books that are today labeled “YA.”

Of course, there are a lot of reasons to love YA, including the fact that it’s pretty lucrative at the moment and the fact that popular YA books have given reading a boost. In fact, Smith posts about why he loves YA here and here.

Read Smith’s blog post and then tell me: What aspects of the “YA” label frustrate you? What about the label do you think is a plus?

Parker Peevyhouse

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Mary Kole on Urban Fantasy

Mary Kole, an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, has given us some great insights into the popular genre of urban fantasy. Mary  has also worked in the children’s editorial department at Chronicle Books and is currently earning her MFA in creative writing at the University of San Francisco. Her own blog, kidlit.com, offers book reviews as well as advice for writers (and she’s running a writing contest through Jan 31st!). Here’s what she had to say about urban fantasy:

On what characterizes urban fantasy other than an inner-city setting…

The “urban” in the name isn’t just a setting clue, it’s a state of mind. I think the name evokes the dark and gritty nature of the genre, as well as a modern or near-future time setting. The biggest factors in urban fantasy, for me, are a paranormal bent and a romance in the plotline.

On how “voice” affects urban fantasy’s dark, gritty style…

Believe it or not, some of the most successful urban fantasy stories are also some of the funniest, and that has everything to do with voice. Without humor, personality and wit, “dark” and “gritty” will soon become “bleak” and “grating.” Snarky, funny, quirky… all kinds of voice can give the darker and edgier moments in an urban fantasy story the humor and balance necessary to keep a reader from getting too far off-kilter.

On the reason for the rising popularity of urban fantasy…

I honestly think that urban fantasy, with its host of paranormal bad guys, gives characters the opportunity to kick butt. Also, paranormal guys are usually hotties. And who doesn’t want to go around kicking butt with a hottie on their arm? (Or on each arm?) Good urban fantasy is empowering, adventurous and racy.

On whether the market has become glutted…

Agents are seeing a lot of urban fantasy submissions, as are editors. The only bummer is that the Twilight craze hasn’t helped our slush piles, and writers are getting stuck on the same paranormal plotlines. But I know a lot of editors and agents will make an exception for urban fantasy that is truly unique, that doesn’t follow the same rules. This usually comes from voice or a very unique twist on the usual paranormal story, executed very well. We all know you’re gonna meet a paranormal hottie, who is mysteriously new in town, by page 10, but it’s your voice and what you do with that hottie that can really set you apart.

On foreign rights and flim rights sales…

Generally, [foreign rights sales] are very good. Paranormal is doing well overseas, according to our jetsetting foreign co-agents, as is romance. A combination of the two is finding eager audiences in country after country. Film is hard to say. A lot of books have been optioned but the movies don’t actually get made, which is where the real money is. So I assume the rights are selling, especially with the success of the Twilight movie franchise, but we’re not seeing a lot of those movies actually coming out yet. That could all very well change in the next few years.

On whether romance is required for YA urban fantasy…

Romance is definitely the way people are taking urban fantasy stories. I don’t know if it’s necessary or not. If you don’t want to do romance, do something that has similar qualities… make the heart of your story a tumultuous relationship that’ll provide a lot of conflict. I don’t know if a really intense friendship or sibling relationship will be enough of a hook but it’s worth a try and could actually differentiate you from the pack.

On how middle-grade differs…

I think middle-grade is skewing heavily toward magical realism or traditional fantasy right now. I really think urban fantasy, because of the grittier and sexier nature of it, is finding an older audience. That’s not to say that you can’t have a good paranormal story set in an urban setting for a younger audience, but I don’t think the same label would apply.

Parker Peevyhouse

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Right Now in Speculative Fiction

Teens love vampires! Er… books about vampires. Why not get them interested in the original fang-fest by pointing them toward Bram Stoker’s Dracula blogged in real time. It started May 3rd, so they only have to catch up a little bit.dracula

Seven Star Productions already has the first draft of a screenplay in the works for Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth, “a zombie thriller set in colonial times.” Read Ryan’s reaction to the news about film rights here. Warning: much use of the word “squee” involved.

Should libraries stock graphic novels? Do these books promote the love of learning, or do they take interest away from more challenging literature? Krista McKenzie weighs in on YALSA’s site.the dark planet

The Dark Planet, the final book in Patrick Carman’s Atherton trilogy, is out now! A mad scientist’s puzzling plan is finally revealed, and Edgar finds out the true purpose of “the mysterious satellite world of Atherton.” Haven’t read the other books in the series? You can enter to win the entire trilogy here.

Writers: think your book got the worst review ever? Wallow in your misery by posting the review on this blog and inviting readers to decide if it really is the Worst. Review. Ever. Actually, you might feel better after reading all the scathing reviews of other people’s books.twitter

Odds are, you recently joined Twitter. (Am I right??) If you don’t know who to follow, check out this list of 100+ Best Authors on Twitter–sixteen of whom write for young readers and thrity-four of whom write specualtive fiction. These authors, including Laurel Snyder and Anne Mazer, “carry on a conversation with their followers and present information they might find valuable.”

cheryliconParker Peevyhouse never thought Dracula would buy into the blogging craze.

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