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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The 'Is YA Too Dark & Edgy' Controversy

By Jenny Ramaley

Since we’re focusing on Hot, Hot, Hot topics this month, how about the brouhaha a couple of weeks ago when Meghan Cox Gurdon posted her thoughts about violence and depravity in YA novels? If you missed it, here are a few select paragraphs from her article, followed by responses from author Sherman Alexie and editor Cheryl Klein from Arthur A. Levine Books:

Darkness Too Visible

Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?

By Meghan Cox Gurdon

Wall Street Journal (WSJ.com Bookshelf), June 4, 2011

 “The argument in favor of such novels is that they validate the teen experience, giving voice to tortured adolescents who would otherwise be voiceless. If a teen has been abused, the logic follows, reading about another teen in the same straits will be comforting. If a girl cuts her flesh with a razor to relieve surging feelings of self-loathing, she will find succor in reading about another girl who cuts, mops up the blood with towels and eventually learns to manage her emotional turbulence without a knife.
Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care. . . Every year the American Library Association delights in releasing a list of the most frequently challenged books. A number of young-adult books made the Top 10 in 2010, including Suzanne Collins's hyper-violent, best-selling "Hunger Games" trilogy and Sherman Alexie's prize-winning novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. "It almost makes me happy to hear books still have that kind of power," Mr. Alexie was quoted saying; "There's nothing in my book that even compares to what kids can find on the Internet." . . .
Oh, well, that's all right then. Except that it isn't. It is no comment on Mr. Alexie's work to say that one depravity does not justify another. If young people are encountering ghastly things on the Internet, that's a failure of the adults around them, not an excuse for more envelope-pushing.”

Author Sherman Alexie took issue with her thoughts. Here’s part of his response, and the corresponding link to his entire article:

Why the Best Kids Books Are Written in Blood
By Sherman Alexi
The Wall Street Journal (wsj.com Speakeasy), June 9, 2011

“As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.
And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”

Sherman Alexie is the author of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” winner of the 2007 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature. He is currently at work on a sequel. His website is here.
Here’s part of what Cheryl Klein thinks about the “is YA Too Dark” controversy, posted on her blog at http://chavelaque.blogspot.com/ from Monday, June 13, 2011.

“And then with #YASaves itself . . . Is there dark stuff in YA, all about sex and death? Sure. But there is also I Now Pronounce You Someone Else and StarCrossed and Eighth-Grade Superzero and July’s The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills, to name four books off my own list that are terrific and smart and not at all about angst; and I feel a little bit frustrated that YA is being tarred as a dark genre when there is such an incredible diversity that people just aren’t educated to see. (Or they can’t find the books in stores, because the darkness is what sells and therefore what gets on shelves.) If you’re scared about the darkness, by goodness, do more to celebrate the light. Read review magazines or YA blogs to find titles you approve of. Tell your local bookstore (whether a chain or an independent) that you’re looking for those kinds of books. Request specific titles, if you need to, and then buy them. Give those as gifts to friends whom you’re trying to educate about the genre and to teenagers. . . .
          Finally, the hard fact I always come back to whenever discussions like this come up: We (meaning writers, editors, publishers, even booksellers and librarians) cannot control readers’ reactions to the books they find through us. There may be readers who read books about cutting or bulimia or feeling suicidal (to pick three forms of darkness at random) and use them to start or continue those practices themselves. This is horrifying and sad but true. There will also be readers who already practice cutting or bulimia or who feel suicidal, who will truly benefit from seeing their experience reflected on the page and given that recognition by someone else; who will connect with that character, and be helped by seeing that character start to move back toward hope and out of the sickness, and may start to take that step themselves. This is inspiring and brave and also true.”

Here’s Jenny’s Two Cents:
I certainly enjoyed reading all kinds of books when I was a teen. Reading Go Ask Alice did not make me want to go out and experiment with drugs, but it did help me understand what was going on when an older girl I knew ran away from home with a drug dealer. The Outsiders didn’t make me want to stab any rich kids, but it gave me comfort growing up in an area where clear class lines existed between the haves and the have-nots.
Picking what YA books to read (and encouraging young readers to check out) is like my thoughts on drinking alcohol or eating rich foods – all things in moderation.  Just as devouring four Godiva chocolates at one sitting will make my stomach churn, reading four dark, heavy YA novels in a row will make me depressed.
Mix it up.
i.e. after reading 13 Reasons Why, try Twilight.

Monday, June 27, 2011


 By Judy Press

O.K., I admit I’m not a fashionista nor do I care to be one. My wardrobe consists of comfortable outfits pulled from the clearance rack of a discount clothing store. Hey, it may be last year’s style but I can’t resist a bargain. In the Sunday Style section of the New York Times Bill Cunningham trolls the streets of Manhattan photographing people on the go wearing the latest fashion trends. Two Sunday’s ago fashion forward New Yorkers were all dressed in black. Hey, that could have been me! Today I’m wearing black slacks, a black hoodie and black flip-flops. Next time I visit NYC I’ll be sure to put my best foot forward and wear all black. Of course with my luck the “hot” color will probably be purple! And take a look at four of my blogger friends who showed up for a recent meeting coincidently dressed in the same shade of green!

Trends come and go and the same can be said for children’s books. Does the adage, “write what you know” still apply when you write picture books and some agents and publishers won’t touch them with a ten foot pole? And what if you loved to write YA and your main character was a vampire? Yesterday your manuscript would have been hot, not so in today’s vampire-saturated market. So how do agents and publishers figure out what will be “in” two or three years from now? I’m not sure they can. Yes, the trend lately has been for shorter picture books aimed at two to five year olds, along with fewer words, strong characters and potential for a series. As far as YA, it’s anyone’s guess which cult figure looms on the horizon, waiting to make the leap from a novel to the big screen. So, my advice is the following: be true to yourself and focus on what really matters to you, incorporate timeless themes into your writing and most importantly write from your heart. If it touches you in some shape or form it will strike a chord in your readers, and maybe even a publisher or two.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


by Fran McDowell

I attended a Taylor Swift concert this weekend with my sister-in-law and her eight year old daughter. I offered my ticket to my husband. It was his sister, after all. And I really needed to visit my father in the hospital.

"Oh, no. Please. " he said. "Let me do the hospital visit. Please."

"What kind of music does she sing?"

"Not a clue."

It was a lovely night, and a nice long walk would be involved from the city, along the river, to the stadium. So I adjusted my attitude and went happily along. People were arriving in throngs. Luckily our plan to walk from the city garage saved us an hour waiting in traffic. The throngs were made of up of girls, primarily. Girls in cowgirl boots. Girls in cowgirl hats. Girls from four to twenty-four. There was, without a doubt, major universal appeal in the air.

Our seats were only a few rows from the moon. The concert was to begin at 7:00. It did, with various other performers. But at 8:15 we were still waiting to see Taylor. At 8:30 I realized why. There were now 10s of thousands of new Taylor Swift tee-shirts adorning the bodies of her fans. My curiosity grew about this person for whom fifty-two thousand people of all ages had bought tickets to see.

When Taylor-time finally arrived, seats filled, lights dimmed, and the audience screamed, incessantly. Two large video screens flanked the stage. We could see her, up close and personal, though she appeared two inches tall to the naked eye. For two hours she performed, skipping while she sang, running from one end of the runway to the other, a veritable bundle of energy. The camera never left her face. All she had to do was shift her eyes and smile. The crowd went wild.

What was it about this singular twenty-one year old individual that effected everyone so profoundly? Yes, she is lovely. But lots of singers are. Yes, she is energetic. "But is that what attracts female fans?" I asked a young lady sitting next to me. She shrugged her shoulders.

"Everyone relates to her," she said.

The girl sitting with her added, "She's real. We get her lyrics."

Really? I thought. It made me think about Harry Potter. I had spent some time asking kids what it was that captured them so completely. The magic put me off. I didn't get it.

"He seems real," they would say.

I heard it over and over. So maybe it isn't the beauty, it isn't the energy, or the voice, or the magic, or the plot. Maybe it's the evasive, undefinable, ever changing quality of relate-ability. It's a hard one to see. It's a hard one to create, intentionally. It just seems to happen. If you hit it perfectly square you can create a phenomenon. And even if all you do shag it, you'll maybe get an audience who will read you or listen to you. And that, after all, is what most of us want who are giving something of ourselves.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bombs, Bullets and Arrows

by Carol Herder

My favorite part of officer training was the hand grenade range.
Our trainers didn’t allow us to watch – we had to duck behind a sturdy wall – but just hearing the bang was a huge high. My kids think I’m weird. But from my youth I fondly recall black and white WWII movies where beautiful film stars with sexy European accents blew up Nazi munitions dumps. I can’t help feeling I’m in good company. Did I enjoy tossing grenades because of childhood memories of aggressive war movies? Did watching those movies turn me into a destructive, sociopathic freak?

In keeping with our blog’s “hot topic” theme, I’m writing about violence in media. I can honestly say I don’t mind a bit of violence, but like everyone else I’m selective. I abhor scary movies, but in a good action flick, when the bad guy is about to get his comeuppance, I’m right there. I recently watched “The Mechanic” a movie about a hit man.
Bishop’s assignments were to take out some really bad guys. This was okay with me until he blew up Steve, his sidekick. Here I got a little squeamish. Steve’s character wasn’t stellar. Although behaving badly he WAS avenging his father.

My son is a big time gamer. He plays stuff like “Bioshock” and “Mass Effect" both chock full of violence.

Happily, he is now 20 so I don’t have to monitor him anymore. Even so, I was pretty lucky in the parent department, Michael is peace-loving; his last thought is to participate in any real-life violence. But like most guys he loves action, violence and guns. So, what is too much? What comes first – a kid prone to violence or media violence pushing a kid over the edge? Is it both? Is it neither?

“The Hunger Games” novels are a huge hit.
Honestly, though, when I first heard the premise of the story, I delayed reading the books. I thought it would involve a lot of long fight scenes. Is it the female side of me that just doesn’t enjoy endless action? Happily I was mistaken! Suzanne Collins did an excellent job of balancing action and drama, all the while keeping me totally spellbound throughout the novel. I’ve come to love Katniss, and have added her to my “hero” list right up there with Alice from “Resident Evil.”

"The Hunger Games" and, even "Harry Potter" make me think there is a place for violence in media. Tastefully done violence can enhance and enrich a story. Often it is necessary to balance a story for entertainment purposes, give a satisfactory ending, or emphasis an admirable character. Sometimes violence is loud and colorful such as a bloody, bone crunching fist fight. At other times it’s mean and insidious like a group of teen girls posting ugly rumors about a classmate. Even our daily news programs are peppered with brutality and carnage.

Do violent scenes open the door to excess? At what point should the decision of media violence be taken out of the viewer’s hands? Who decides violence levels in movies or games? And most important of all –what we read? Remember when book burnings were prevalent? The obvious answer is moderation. But who decides the degree of moderation?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Of Filters, Risks, and Torrents

by Cynthia Light Brown

Susan (see post below) got me to thinking about filters. You can filter data in Excel, parents can filter out objectionable material on TVs and computers, your body filters in and out all sorts of things.

One of the oldest types of filtering is in water.

Water filtration has a couple of similarities with the quality filtration in traditional publishing. For the maximum—best—filtration, you have the following:

  • It normally passes through the filter at a very slow speed. (There are two speeds in publishing: Slow, and VERY SLOOOOOOW.)
  • It passes through several stages of filtration. (Can you say agent, acquiring editor, executive editor, marketing personnel, acquisition committee, copy editor?)
  • You have to have good quality filters to get good quality filtration. (aka you get what you pay for, or a good editor is worth her weight in signed, first edition Harry Potter books.)
  • Filtering can remove beneficial constituents (in water, stuff like fluoride; in books—read on.)

I fully believe that traditional publishing will still play a big role in how we choose our books. I love my physical books, plus I’m a traditional gal at heart.

But traditional publishing also filters OUT a lot of good stuff. If you’re a writer who’s been seriously writing for any length of time—even if you’re well published—you know what I’m talking about. I wrote a picture book a few years ago that I still love; it landed me an agent, an editor who loved it, and it went to acquisitions at a major publisher. The marketers on the committee just couldn’t quite picture the illustrations. The manuscript is now in a drawer, keeping company with lots of other manuscripts. How many authors have heard that the editor loves, loves, loves the story, but it’s not quite edgy enough or is in between middle grade and YA or is too literary or too quiet or is a little too close to another book on their list or is just too too too?

Please don’t think I harbor any ill feelings towards the industry because my story isn’t in full color in Barnes and Noble. They’re a business like any business and very good at what they do. But they respond to the market, and a big part of their decisions is about risk, not about quality. The risk of new authors, the risk of a book that doesn’t quite know which shelf it should be on, the risk of something that would have a following, but maybe not a big enough following. In other words, yes they filter out a lot-lot-lot of stuff based on quality, but they also filter out a lot of stuff based on other factors.

Here’s the thing: the risk for publishers is not fully aligned with the risk for authors, or even for readers. Partly aligned, yes, but not fully. And authors need to figure out where we differ.

If you’re a writer with a quirky book, or a book that needs to sit on an in-between shelf, or may have a limited following, then your book represents a high risk for publishers, but not for you.

And if you’re a reader, when traditional publishing filters out books for reasons other than quality, your risk of not finding a book you want is higher than it is in the e-publishing world.

Except for the fact that earthquakes cause tsunamis. E-publishing is at least a 9.0 on the Richter scale of upset in the publishing world, and we now have torrents of books (and yes, I mean torrents in both the flooding sense and the internet sites for downloading illegal books sense). So even though a reader might be able to find the perfect book in the e-world that wasn’t available in the traditional world, how do they find it?

Forgive me for continuing with the water metaphor, but I think what is needed is perhaps more channeling than filtering. Getting the right book to the right reader. And the more finely divided those channels can be, the better. Part of that can be a filter for quality—sorting out the real dreck—but even more it’s style, genre, sub-genre. Not just a “it’s high quality” but what about the book makes it great. Then, as a reader, I can decide if those criteria are important to me. Because things that are important to me may not be important to other people. That’s always been tough to figure out, and with the sheer number of books coming out now, it’s even more daunting. I have some thoughts on specifics, that I’ll post in Part 2, sometime in the next week.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hot Potato: E-Quality

by Susan Chapek

E-publishing, particularly e-self-publishing, is a burning hot topic this summer. Blogs and discussion boards are fired up for and against (Verla Kay's Blue Board thread "all the buzz about e-books" stretches 14 pages and claims 6050 hits as of this writing.)

I'm not here to persuade writers to e-s-p, nor to argue that they shouldn't. I want to focus on one powerful argument against it. How will readers be able to find the best—or even the good—e-s-p books among hundreds of thousands on offer? Popularity filters already exist. But where's the Quality Filter?

Replies to this argument tend to express merely a general optimism about how these things tend to evolve and sort themselves out naturally on the Web.

Cold comfort.

Because the objection is valid. Customers (especially for Kidlit) want Quality, and they want to find it quickly and easily. Quality Filters for e-pubbing in general, and e-self-pubbing in particular, won't work until they're at least as efficient and reliable as the filters we have in traditional publishing.

So—what Quality Filters exit in traditional Kidlit Publishing?

  • Agents. (Because most slush stops here nowadays.)
  • Publishers
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Teachers and librarians
  • Bookstores, real or virtual
  • Word of Internet and Word of Mouth

(As I listed these, I realized that most of these filters are weakening these days. Bookstores are closing; review publications faltering; educators and libraries struggle with tighter budgets; marketing departments wield a powerful veto over editorial choices. Even the prize committees are under attack in recent years, from those who object to their criteria or its application.)

Do any of the same Quality Filters operate for e-s-p books?

  • On-line publishers? The ones I've seen seem geared to adult genres.
  • On-line bookstores? Neither reliable (provide only favorable professional reviews) nor efficient.
  • Teachers and librarians? Huge potential, once they figure out a system to share ratings.
  • Internet word-of-mouth (blogs, clubs, ads, social networks, etc.)? Need their own Quality Filter!

So I'd like to propose several possible E-Quality Filter models that can be created quickly, by the existing Kidlit community itself.

1) Pay a visit to the writers' cooperative e-bookstore at http://www.bookviewcafe.com/ Here the Quality Filter is the presence of some well-known, distinguished authors. Their names suggest a level of quality for all the authors in the co-op. The big names also serve as a magnet for search engines, exposing the less-known authors to potential readers.

Kidlit writer cooperatives could provide one kind of Quality Filter.

2) The Andrea Brown Agency turned publisher this spring. See http://www.austinscbwi.com/2011/04/28/hoover-announces-debut-ya-release/ Agents are established Quality Filters, many even assuming some editorial functions. In fact, as publishing houses cut staff, it's become common for ex-editors to become Agents.

Both of those models are already up and working. Meanwhile, how about all those ex-Editors? Many are willing, apparently, to work for royalties instead of a salary. A few have truly distinguished track records, discovering and nurturing Kidlit authors. Wouldn't these patron saints of Kidlit make ideal E-Quality Filters?

3) So where's the star Editor bold enough to establish her own e-publishing imprint? I'll bet teachers, librarians, and parents would flock to that Editor's web site, assured that every book on it meets a standard of quality in writing and editing.

An Editor's online imprint could operate several different ways. In one model, the Editor only reads submissions and selects works that are ready to go. (Here's where writers find a home for those books that have been shopped to tatters but never quite sold—"orphaned" books, "niche" books, "quiet" books, experiments in new genres that don't fit a writer's previous image, novellas, short stories, or any books that—horror of horrors!—are good, but neither potential blockbusters nor prize-winners.) All that might be needed is for the Editor to connect the writer with a free-lance line-editor, formatter, and cover designer. In weeks, the book is published and listed.

In this model, the Editor would earn no advance. The (barely) delayed gratification of pay by royalties would allay suspicions that the Editor accepts every book that comes her way. The Editor's fortunes would rise or sink with her line.

In another model, the Editor might read only already e-self-published books, offer to list the ones she wants to recommend, and negotiate a commission on future royalties.

Or an e-book Editor could choose to list only books she actually edits herself.

In any model, the Editor would strive for volume, but she'd have to be choosy, or her whole line would suffer.

I'd be willing to contribute to a Kickstarter account (www.kickstarter.com/) for the Editor with a good track record who is willing to start up a business along those, or similar, lines. Oh, Distinguished Editor! O Pioneer! You who wielded such benevolent power in the market before! There are many worthy mss—some of them written by the same authors you used to publish in the traditional way—waiting for you to connect them with e-readers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bully Free Zones

Posted by Andrea Perry

A very hot topic as of late, at least in (elementary) academic circles, is bullying prevention.  I work in a middle school with fifth and sixth graders, and this week am attending a Bullying Prevention Training Program which our school district hopes to implement come fall.  The specific Bullying Prevention Program we are being trained to implement was developed by Dan Olweus, a Norwegian researcher who has been doing research on bullying since the early 1970s.  At first I was intrigued that one of the main proponents of the training is in fact "training" the bystanders of bullying to become empowered and have a clue what to do.  Studies have shown that bystanders often feel helpless and guilty for not acting.  They feel that they should be involved but just don't know how.  Secondly, I had thought the training would involve policing 'hotspots' known for bullying incidents located in our school and tactics for handling bullying situations.  Though these issues were addressed as well, imagine my surprise when the presenter started pulling out children's literature to be used in conjunction with some of the components of the training!
On a related note, I have long held that there is a picture book that can somehow be used in teaching just about any subject there is. But bullying? Though there are bullies in many of the novels that our studetnts read, including Bridge to Terabithia, Bud, Not Buddy, and Because of Winn Dixie, to name a few, I had never heard of  Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie De Paola.  I had a chance to read it today and ran out to order a copy right after the training.  There are also a few picture books about bullying by Trudy Ludwig, including My Secret Bully, but Oliver Button really resonated with me.  It also made me prouder than I sometimes feel about some of the children's picture books out there that often do much  more than entertain.  Good children's books sometimes show up in the unlikeliest of places.  Today I was thankful for that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Marcy & Kitty's Excellent Adventure - Part 2

by Marcy Collier & Kitty Griffin

If you’ve ever been to New York City, you’ve learned NEVER to cross the walk if the red hand of death is flashing. A tour bus came inches from hitting Miss Kitty, but I pulled her to safety.

We visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral and thanked St. Christopher for our safe travels. We were greeted by the Naked Cowboy in Times Square.

Then we met Kitty’s author friend, Mingmei Yip for lunch in China Town. She shared her new book, Song of the Silk Road with us. She’ll be doing another book about Chinese folk tales and told us about her fascinating plot for a work in progress.

After lunch we headed uptown to Simon and Schuster and met with Vice President and Publisher Justin Chanda. We talked about the conference and market trends. Justin confirmed that there is editorial interest in middle grade fiction, an upturn in picture books but was slightly skeptical about Sci-Fi being the next big thing in YA, unless it’s light Sci-Fi. He believes that both commercial and literary fiction have a place and that authors shouldn’t necessarily think one is better than the other. He is excited about the release of many new S&S books, including Kenneth Oppee’s, This Dark Endeavor.

Marcy, Emma & Kitty
We had a lovely dinner with Emma Dryden. She is doing well with her consulting business (http://www.drydenbks.com/). We talked technology with Emma. She stated that the money is not there yet for apps and not all publishers are embracing this new technology. She also stressed the importance of going to go to conferences. Emma agreed that honing your craft and learning to take criticism will make you a better writer.

We are headed home tomorrow. Kitty’s dogs are fine. My older son broke his finger in a school kickball game, but other than that, all is well. And I will make sure we only cross streets when the man appears.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hot Hot Hot

Marcy & Kitty's Most Excellent Adventure - part I
SCBWI New Jersey

by Marcy Collier & Kitty Griffin
This month at Route 19 Writers, we are blogging about hot topics in our industry. The timing couldn't have been better.

Back in February, Cynthia in our Route 19 Writers group emailed all of us about the New Jersey SCBWI conference. After seeing the awesome lineup of agents and editors, Kitty and I decided to attend. Kitty is a world traveler and networking guru, I on the other hand am not. I haven’t left home for more than two consecutive nights since before my kids were born and would never approach an editor or agent unless I had a scheduled critique with them.

After assuring my children that Daddy wouldn’t forget to feed them or read bedtime stories, we drove to Princeton, New Jersey.

Ame Dyckman
We were greeted by volunteer coordinator, fushia-haired Ame Dyckman, who was so energetic and spirited, we felt both welcome and at ease. BTW, Fushia is my absolute favorite color. Ame helps Kathy Temean and Laurie Wallmark coordinate 162 volunteers to make their conference happen each year. Wow!

Alvina Ling

Kitty and I listened to Newberry honor recipient author/illustrator Grace Linn give the keynote. Grace explained her inspirational career path. She said, “You should become an artist because you have something you want to share with the world, not because you want compliments. No one can tell your stories except you.” I was lucky enough to sit with Grace’s editor, Alvina Ling, (Sr. Editor of Little Brown & Co) during lunch on Saturday and with  Dial, Dutton, & Celebra Associate Publisher/ Executive Managing Editor, Steve Meltzer on Sunday for lunch.

Steve Meltzer & Kitty Griffin

We each sat in on educational sessions and listened to lively discussions. I attended an awesome peer review with these terrific writers.

Front: Nicole & Marcy
Back: Gayle, Suzi, Christine & Suzi
This morning David Caruba gave a fascinating power point presentation on the state of market survey. David polls 30 industry professionals and compiles their answers. We thought it was important to share some of his findings:

Young Adult

Young adult novels are staying strong. Editors want character-driven manuscripts that have franchising potential. Consumers are hungry for series, not one-offs. As a new author, your debut novel has to come off strong or your career may die after that first book. The market is saturated with fantasy, dystopia, vampire, and paranormal stories. Science fiction is the next big thing. Any YA that crosses into adult is hot.

Middle Grade
Since the popularity of Rick Riordan’s books, editors are actively seeking the next big middle-grade novel, but it must capture a distinctive MG voice. Those types of books have great success as school library and backlist books. MG is shifting to younger characters. Many editors have also requested to see manuscripts with a humorous slant with series potential.

Picture Books

No. Picture books are not dead. Many editors have said that they would like to see a well-done picture book come across their desk. There is a slight upturn since last year. Word count is now 300-500 words.

With the emergence of the popularity of E-readers, E-books were a hot topic. David doesn’t believe that the overnight success of Amanda Hawking will be repeated. Although the royalties are far better for self-published E-books (60-80%) compared to traditional hardcover (17.5%), those books are not getting the marketing, legal contracting or editing that the traditional presses give. Although E-books have been known to create opportunities for authors, David believes that these self-published E-books will only sustain for short periods of time. Hard cover royalties are better for authors than E-books.

General News

Publishing houses will turn more into media houses. We will see a shift from traditional publication to mixed media (apps, etc.). The market is becoming much more agent-driven. Quiet is now the killer word. If a manuscript is quiet (too literary), it’s dead. We are dealing with sanitized houses where editors are reluctant to take something unique that doesn’t fit in to a specific genre. 

Part-one of our adventure is over. We took the train into New York City this afternoon to begin part-two of our adventure. Both mine and Kitty’s families are making the best of it without us at home. My kids have eaten and have read bedtime stories (at least for tonight). Kitty’s dogs are taking her spot in bed.

As I finish this post, Kitty is fast asleep. But we're in New York - the city that never sleeps. I'll leave you with the song in my head that prompted the blog title.

Stay tuned for part two of Marcy & Kitty's Most Excellent Adventure.