Why I Gave Up on Kierra Cass and Why I Almost Did on Sarah J. Maas

I bought the newest Selection novel and A Court of Mist and Fury (review to come soon), and I have a confession: I am done with Kierra Cass, and I almost threw in the towel on Sarah J. Maas. Don’t get me wrong, I do love their books and I follow them on Twitter, but I have had it up to here.

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When I started reading The Crown, I just couldn’t bring myself to want to read it. With my job, I spend a lot of time reading books and make judgments on many factors. And when I tried reading this new Cass book, I just snapped back to my annoyance with the previous book. The writing was too commercial, and the character drove me nuts. When there are only so few hours I can dedicate to fun reading, I find myself getting pickier. I like The Selection series, but the quality has really gone downhill. While they remain the same size, quality is not the same.

When I got A Court of Mist and Fury, I almost cried. It was the same size of Queen of Shadows and I had strong feelings about that book. I love Maas’ writing and I love her stories and strong characters, but I am getting really frustrated by how big those books are getting! Queen of Shadows did not need to be that big. Someone needs to help trim those books down. But I was pleasantly surprised by A Court of Mist and Fury. I think there are some areas that could have been cut, but on the whole, I wouldn’t have cut that much of that book down.  I’m not throwing in the towel yet. But seriously, please don’t get any bigger and please be more critical about what needs to go in!

If I had unlimited time, I’d probably be on board with it all, but really, who has that kind of time anymore?

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.

Don’t Change The Cover: An Examination of the Power of Readers

Where were you when the cover of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss was revealed? If you were like me, you were angrily venting at Fierce Reads, the social media arm of Macmillan.

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Old Cover
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Proposed New Cover

Why do publishers do this? Why do they change book covers of a series when the cover is something all the fans love? I’ve gone over this before from a professional stance so I won’t go over here.

What I will talk about is the backlash that happened. Yes, I angrily vented. I did not however, threaten to not buy the book or slam the author. The author has NO control over the cover unless it is in their contract, and it rarely is. And if (hypothetically) a seller tells the house to change the cover or they won’t take, the publishing house changes the cover.

I have had so many series that changed the look of a series mid way through. And it SUCKS when you were a fan from day one and the publisher does this. It can feel like the publisher is devaluing you, the first readers who helped spread the word, in order to make money on those that haven’t picked up the series.

But the fans had a win with their outrage. Fierce Reads announced that the hardcover would be the old covers, in order to match the rest of the trilogy and the paperbacks would be repackaged with the new cover.

So YAY for the YA community for the win, but BOO on those that made Marie feel so bad about this whole thing.

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Worth noting: if publishers had tons of money, I would have suggested printing the original cover on the back of the new redesign and then the reader could pick which cover you wanted to showcase. But publishers don’t have that kind of money.

Untitled IP Work I Wish I Could Make YA

I went home recently. It was a trip well worth the wait. But while at home, I had the best IP idea while sleeping. As usual, it happened while I was dreaming. To say I was annoyed to wake up is an understatement.

Unfortunately, it also was an ADULT IP idea instead of a YA one. What does this mean (I know people out there are thinking dirty things)? Basically, my idea would be a better fit for an adult book than a children’s book. So since I can’t develop it for my market, here it is (please keep in mind, this is really rough since I wrote it down during the early hours of the morning, aka 7 am (what? I am not a morning person)):

In her last year of college, a young woman befriends the new British exchange student, Henry, and they begin a romance. Picture Henry Cavil (who I dreamed about) or Sam Heughan (just because I needed a picture of him in this post).

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outlander-ep4Their first conversation over the phone and that is what really attracts Henry. They are together for years, with the girl not knowing that Henry is really a duke. Eventually, he reveals it. They get into a fight, and patch it up, though the girl lets him know she is with him for him and not the title. To her, it doesn’t matter. As his birthday approaches, the girl has decided to surprise Henry for his birthday by knowing how to conduct herself in the aristocracy. She hires a tutor at the recommendations of one of her close friends and the girlfriend of one of the other lords.

A few days before Henry’s birthday, his mother arrives to tell Henry that his father is dying. The girl is preparing to leave with them when she hears the call pull away. She races down the stairs and outside to find Henry only to find him by the door clutching a magazine.

They have an explosive fight. Henry shows her the magazine, a royalty one, and points to a picture of the girl;s mother holding a shopping bag filled with nothing but shampoo. He tells her that he knows she never wanted him, pointing to the other aristo in the magazine and noting that she can’t name that person (she can’t. her lessons haven’t covered them yet); he tells her that she changed and only wants the trappings of privilege. During their arguments, his mother and sister return. The sister, Chloe, likes the girl, but their mother never liked her.

Henry shows the girl a photo in a different magazine, saying if the girl really cared, she would recognize his mother and the girl’s work. The girl looks, and is enraged. She points and says “That’s not my work.” In a very small shot is picture of Henry with his ex. The girls says he is the one who never loved her.

The girl is getting ready to storm out, but stops. She won’t be the villain. She turns back to the room where Henry is sitting, clutching his head, surrounded by his mother and sister. The girl lays a card down on the table, and tells him about the surprise lessons. As for the picture, she gives him pregnancy stick. He blanches. Her mother bought it for her, and was trying to hide it from the photographers.

The girl leaves. Chloe follows her down the steps and reminds her that the baby would be the heir. The girl angrily replies as she gets into a taxi that she would sooner claim she didn’t know who the father was then let her child be raised in Henry’s family.

A few days later, it is confirmed the girl is pregnant. She is hiding out in her mother’s apartment. Henry has been calling nonstop, but she just can’t deal with him. She points out to her mother that she is homeless, no boyfriend (I don’t know if they are married or not), and jobless, living with her mother. Her mother urges her to talk to her friends.

She rings up her friend, Katie, a good friend from college. Katie has moved so Henry hasn’t been calling her to find the girl. The girl and Katie make plans to hang out that day.

And that is all I have.

It is told in the third person point of view (or POV for my mom’s edification). And rest easy, there is a happy ending.

My 2016 Most Anticipated Books, Part 1

Hi, everyone! It’s been a long time, but I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth…yet.  Life is going well, but it is time to start thing about the future! The 2016 reading future!  So without further ado: my anticipated reads for 2016.

The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright

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You know I am gaga for anything with princes in contemporary fiction. Look at my review of The Royal We if you need a reminder. This book is right up my ally. From Amazon: “Going all the way to England for college–to Oxford, no less–for college would be exciting enough. But no sooner does Evie set foot on English soil than she falls for a boy who turns out to be a real prince–in fact, second in line to the throne of England. Edmund is wonderful, even though loving him can be a royal pain, from the demands of his family to the stuck-up aristocrat who thinks she should be the one to win Edmund’s heart. All that is swept aside, however, when the riddle of Evie’s past surfaces, and the new couple becomes obsessed with figuring out who the real Evie is, with the growing suspicion that the truth will be a shocker.”

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

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This book can go one of two ways: really great or really bad. I am curious how the author will handle such a sensitive subject. From Amazon:

“10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03
The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05
Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.”

Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers

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Assassins! Need I say more? From Amazon:

“Seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana is a trained assassin. She was born into one of the nine clipper Families in the kingdom of Lovero who lawfully take lives for a price. As a member of the highest-ranking clan, loyalty to Family is valued above all, but that doesn’t stop Lea from getting into a secret relationship with Val Da Via, a boy from a rival clan. Despite her better judgment, Lea has fallen in love with him; but she’s confident she can anticipate any threat a mile away.

Then she awakens one night to a house full of smoke. Although she narrowly escapes, she isn’t able to save her Family as their home is consumed by flames. With horror, she realizes that Val and his Family are the only ones who could be responsible. Devastated over his betrayal and the loss of her clan, there’s just one thing on her mind: making the Da Vias pay. The heart of this assassin craves revenge.”

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

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AHHHHHHH!!! You know how I feel. You KNOW how I feel! This is my one of my most highly anticipated books. From Amazon:

“War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it, with the East as his ally and the empire as his enemy. He’s finally managed to dismiss the memory of Kestrel, even if he can’t quite forget her. Kestrel turned into someone he could no longer recognize: someone who cared more for the empire than for the lives of innocent people-and certainly more than she cared for him. At least, that’s what he thinks.

But far north lies a work camp where Kestrel is a prisoner. Can she manage to escape before she loses herself? As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover unexpected roles in battle, terrible secrets, and a fragile hope. The world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and Kestrel and Arin are caught between. In a game like this, can anybody really win?”

The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

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The first book was beautiful. I am ready to revisit this word. It was complex and compelling. From Amazon: “In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.”

There are many others, but that would make for a giant post. Just know that 2016 is going to be awesome!