Up to This Pointe Review

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Title: Up to This Pointe

Author: Jennifer Longo

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (Random House)

Flap:

“Harper Scott is a dancer. She and her best friend, Kate, have one goal: becoming professional ballerinas. And Harper won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of The Plan, not even the boy she and Kate are both drawn to.

Harper is a Scott. She’s related to Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who died racing Amundsen and Shackleton to the South Pole. Amundsen won because he had a plan, and Harper has always followed his model. So when Harper’s life takes an unexpected turn, she finagles (read: lies) her way to the icy dark of McMurdo Station . . . in Antarctica. Extreme, but somehow fitting—apparently she has always been in the dark, dancing on ice this whole time. And no one warned her. Not her family, not her best friend, not even the boy who has somehow found a way into her heart. It will take a visit from Shackleton’s ghost–the explorer who didn’t make it to the South Pole, but who got all of his men out alive–to teach Harper that success isn’t always what’s important, sometimes it’s more important to learn how to fail successfully.”

So the publisher also says this, “Hand this utterly unique contemporary YA to anyone a who loves ballet or is a little too wrapped up in their Plan A.” To say that this sums me up perfectly is an understatement. Y’all know how much I love a good ballet book or want one.

This book was amazing!!! It was the perfect balance of ballet and regular person. It hit me right in the feels.

All I can say is if you are looking for a fun read that also will punch you right in your emotions, I recommend this.

Would I have acquired this? So this is a bit of an interesting question: I would have loved to acquire this, but I am not sure it would be right for the imprints I work for. I would certainly have taking it to our editorial staff meeting.

The Reason behind Non-Compete Clauses, Lower Advances, and “Rights Grab”

Recently, I read a blog  against non-compete clauses. In the blog, the author argues that non-compete clauses are basically stupid and that “We’re seeing many publishers turn their backs on nurturing mid-list authors to champion quick-hit books.” It is really an interesting article, but also very short sighted in its argument.

FYI, non-compete clauses usually say that authors cannot have any other novel-length work come out for a full year before and after the book is published by that house from another publisher.

I understand that publishers look like big bullies to people, but there is a really good reason for this non-compete clauses: you don’t want to hurt your sales.

Hypothetically, say author A is publishing a YA book with publisher 1. That YA book is set to publish in June 2017. Now the author A wants to sell a second YA book, but publisher 1 passed on it and Publisher B is going to publish it in May 2017. Now if author A is a debut, guess what just happened: there are two books on the market and it causes problems across the board: awards, marketing, publicity, and for the author’s own sales.

Now, let’s change the situation: author A is publishing a YA book with publisher 1. That YA book is set to publish in June 2017. Now the author A wants to sell a second YA book, but publisher 1 passed on it and Publisher B is going to publish it in June 2018. Actually, that is fine. Publisher 1 passed on it, and the author and agent worked with Publisher 2 so that the books don’t interfere with each other’s sales.

Now let’s start again: author A is publishing a YA book with publisher 1, but also has a book at publisher 2. The editors work with the agents as much as they can to space the books  out so they are not directly competing against each other in the same season (spring, summer, or fall).

Non-compete clauses are not meant to stop authors from publishing books. They are meant to keep over-eager authors from hurting the sales of the book by flooding and over saturating the market. This is especially important with authors who are building their brand. When an author is not known, then having too many books on the market and not released in a controlled way does not help build your brand awareness.

Now let’s talk about these lower advances. Let me tell you something: you want the lower advance. Guess what, an advance is AGAINST your royalties. Which means that until you earn the amount of your advance in royalties, you don’t get your royalties. And if you don’t earn out, when you try to sell your next project, editors look at that and say, well you are not worth the super high advance.

But with a lower advance, you can a better chance of earning out and then it strengthens your position when you ask for a higher advance on your next book. Especially for mid-list author whose sales are steady, this is a much more practical and logical approach.

And for “rights grab”: yes, publishers will try to get the rights, mostly because we have the resources to sell those rights. But if your agent is good, they have some resources. Publishers are open to negotiation. Now here’s a tip: the higher your advance, the more the publisher wants to get certain rights, because they want to guarantee they can maximize a return on investment. YET another reason asking for a lower advance works in an author’s favor.

Overall, the best advice I could offer: ignore that other blogger, find a good agent, and ask smart questions: should I get an higher advance (pros and cons), what rights can you reasonable sell and what should I keep, etc.

And if you are a self-published author, don’t over saturate the market without building up your brand first.

*I do not speak for my publishing house, but as a logical, educated human who studied the publishing industry for grad school*

Alternating POV: What’s up with that?

I have to get something off my chest: I am really not into with alternating points of view (POV) and it seems to be EVERYWHERE!

Hello all the books with multiple POVS.

Unless it is done well, and I will admit there are times it is done well (The Winner’s Curse, An Ember in the Ashes, etc.), I just cringe when I see that a book is going to do an alternating POV.

I am finally coming out of my series fatigue, and now I think I am starting to have POV whiplash (I’m coining that phrase).

POV whiplash can be avoided three ways:

  1. Just don’t read books that have multiple POVS
  2. Only read single POV books
  3. Only read authors would write multiple POV well.

So why do author’s do multiple POVs?

Honestly, I have no clue. When it works, it works really well. And when it doesn’t, I feel like you wasted all these pages that could have been put to better use.

Looking at my NYC bookshelves (for those of you wondering, I have the majority of my library still in Texas), I notice that I favor single POV books. There is something so intimate with only having one POV. You are right there with that character and feel their emotions and confusion that much more powerful.

And some stories really require only one POV. I recently tweeted that I would love to see a YA from a villain’s perspective. That is one area that the POV should just focus on the villain and no one else.

When did alternating POV or multiple POV become so popular? My brain is saying with Breaking Dawn though I am sure authors have been doing it much longer.

I am just over the POV whiplash.

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SCBWI Art Show

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) was having their annual conference this past weekend. As an industry professional, I was invited to attend an event that showcased some of the art from the society and mix with other industry professionals.

At first it was daunting. I am still relatively new to the children’s book industry. I know some people from previous events or internships, but not so always so well that it doesn’t feel awkward trying to talk to them. Although I did run into Kass Morgan (author of The 100) and promptly fangirled.

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Me inside. I am a professional on the outside.

What I really went for was to look at the art and the portfolios on display. I found several artists whose illustration style I really loved, and will keep tabs on for future projects. But I do have one piece of advice for people who might included in the future of this event and here it is:

Include in your portfolio your take on a designing a cover for some YA or middle grade covers.

Editors are looking for artists for those projects just as much as they are looking for illustrators for picture books.

The artists I whose contact information I picked up all appealed to my sensibilities but I picked up a few who I thought might be worth considering for covers. Teen books are moving away from the “girl in ball gown” look on covers and are becoming illustrated or design focused. I want to see not only your illustrations for a children’s book, but also what you would do for a cover for a teen book.

Anyways, that’s my two cents. Oh, and juggling contact cards with a drink in hand while trying to turn pages is hard.

An Ember in the Ashes Review

**WARNING: Minor Spoilers**

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Title: An Ember in the Ashes 

Author: Sabaa Thair

Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)

Flap:

“Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.”

So I will admit, I didn’t think I was going to like this. I had heard from that it wasn’t that good, and when I looked at the sample pages, I will admit I was not excited to see alternating points of view (POV).

But HOT DAMN!

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I started reading this on a cold weekend when I was in the mood to just sit in bed, under heating blankets, and read. And I DEVOURED it. I could not stop! I legit texted my mom that I wasn’t going to the gym, she was like “the book will still be there if I went to the gym”, and I was like “nope, too good to stop.”

I love the complexity of both Laia and Elias. Laia is a character I can relate to you from the first page. She is not Katniss or Hermonine. She shows a healthy dose of fear when trained killers come for her family. But then she spends the rest of the novel trying to atone for her cowardice (or as I see it, as reasonably healthy dose of self-preservation).

Elias is awesome! One of my favorite childhood books is Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. Elias reminds me of one of the characters in that series (I am not telling which one just so you can go and read the books and then guess who he reminds me of).

I could go on and on about this book. But seriously, this was a book I didn’t think I would love and then it was so beautiful, I couldn’t NOT love it.

Would I have tried to acquire? YES, I would have tried my hardest.

Blog Shout Out: The Uncanny Valley

So this is a first: I am going to call out one of my favorite blogs to read: The Uncanny Valley.

I love following her recaps of The 100! If I could recap some of my favorite television shows like this, y’all would see more YA TV on this blog. Sadly, I am not that talented.

So everyone should head to her blog to check out these amazing recaps. Seriously, go!

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Now that I have said that…I’m just gonna go hide.