1. Be healthy.
6. Read more books.
My job is with young children, so I don't find myself as ingrained with YA and tween lit as I should be. I need to read more books this year, get back into the groove of 'what's in'.
Now, yes, I follow several authors on Facebook and their blogs and I do find out about their upcoming books from them. But those aren't the only places I use to check out about new books. Because, after all, my favorite authors can only write so fast and there are other authors out there to be discovered. And I do read very fast.
I guess I'm old-fashioned (and a former librarian). I'm used to finding out about new books via journals like Locus. I gave up on Analog and Asimov's because, while they have book review sections, somehow the reviewers either never reviewed books I was interested in or, if they did, it was always long after the book was out and I had already purchased it. Newsletters from bookstores I frequent, like the independent bookstore in my town (The Book Shelf) or Uncle Hugo’s in Minneapolis are also useful. Locus and Uncle Hugo’s paper newsletter always arrive about the same time each month, so that’s a good time for me to look for interesting titles to order.
Ebooks are usually more convoluted to find out about. Yes, I still use my previously mentioned sources and decide whether I want to order the paper version or go to Amazon and order the ebook version for my Kindle. But as an author who still has one book only available in paper at Amazon (complicated story: Talking to Trees is available electronically, and has been since 2006, but Amazon still hasn't listed the Kindle version, so I have to have a link on my webpage sending people to my publisher’s website for the mobi version for Kindle users. Nook users have no problem.), I’m aware that there might be some glitches here and there. Also, as a member of EPIC, an organization of electronically published authors, I know several authors who only have their books available in electronic format, which are often ignored by the usual methods of book announcements. Fortunately, I can get news of new releases through EPIC’s newsgroups, but I do wonder how others find out about new releases.
I will occasionally go to the Amazon Kindle store and look up favorite authors that I know only publish electronically, but that's only when I remember to or when I notice my Kindle is low on new things to read. I miss Fictionwise and the alerts I had set up there.
I do attend several conventions as an author and get to meet new authors. And there are several bookdealers I can count on to carry titles that will interest me (and they will carry my books on consignment at the convention, so it's win-win for both of us).
So, where do you find out about upcoming and newly released books?
Even I'm not sure. The internet moves quickly - with lightning speed. Things change rapidly. Places to go cease to exist. New places pop up, fade away. It seemed I could no longer keep up. I faded away. My energies were shifted, diverted, to other things to occupy my creative needs - editing, making jewelry, craft shows, etc.
But I think it's time to come back. I have been going through my Guardians of Glede series books - making up a family tree for the publisher, getting new covers, checking for errors. And it got me thinking about the books again. Ok, I'll just say it - I like reading my own books. The characters are like family to me after all of this time. And it has been a very long time.
I started writing the series when my second child was just a wee one. He is now 27. That's a long time. I didn't actually publish anything until the late 1990's though. That was when epublishing was in its infancy, just getting started. And all I heard was that no one wanted to read books on the computer. No one. Everyone wanted print. Now?
Well, no one seems to want print anymore. I have stacks of printed books in my closet that I can't give away. Now, everything is electronic.
I was also a little disillusioned by my own expectations. Of course, all artists have them - the expectations. We'll be famous. People will want to read our stuff. People will rave about it. We'll be in a warm, happy glow for years and years. And the money wouldn't hurt either.
But it soon became apparent that what I envisioned didn't happen. Sure, I had really nice reviews, I won a few awards for small press, I sold some books, my name is in a lot of places on the internet. But it didn't seem like I had envisioned it at all. I wanted more. But I didn't know what more I wanted.
Then came the piracy of my books. Lots of it. I was told I should be happy - people were reading my books, after all, and shouldn't that be enough? But, strangely, it wasn't really. I felt almost as if I was being mocked - yeah, we like your books - but only if they don't cost us anything. I became jaded. And sad.
I let that sadness eat at me. I quit.
I quit trying. I quit promoting. I quit writing. I haven't written anything new in over a year. It's not that I don't have creative juices still within me. I do. But every time I try to write, I think "why bother"? There are so many books out there, so many new authors, so much to read. How on earth will my little stories ever compete? Ever make it anywhere besides on my computer and in my dreams?
But now I'm back. I think it's time. Time to do something, time to move forward, time to start writing again. I hope so. Will anyone even read this?
I hope so. If anyone does, let me know.
And here's a picture just to end on a happy note:
The panel summary was "It seems that these days everybody and their dog are giving out awards on the basis of general popularity, being a member of a group, or decided by a panel of judges. But just how important is any award to a writer's career, and is it ever ethical to actively campaign for your own work?"
It was interesting to have a discussion of this topic at this convention, being that the convention had the meetings of two societies - The British Fantasy Society and the World Fantasy Board - and both societies' annual award ceremonies. What was odd, though, is that the panelists all mentioned that the awards they had won had not benefited them in any way that they had noticed (except for those awards that had money as part of the award). Awards to them were a matter of recognition of their work, that "someone is reading" as one panelist mentioned.
As someone who won awards as well (and granted, an EPPIE for Best Fantasy and a Dream Realm Award for Best Anthology is not in the same league as a Hugo or a Campbell or a Locus Award), I agree that the recognition is nice. But I do think the panel might have benefited from having either a small press author or a librarian to join in on the conversation. It struck me that someone from a traditional publishing house might be noticing only the short term and totally overlooking what those from small press have been encouraged to see as "Long Tail". One of the panelists did mention that there had been an small increase in sales of the book that had won the award, but it hadn't affected the sales of her other books. There was also a polling of the audience to see who among the audience paid attention to awards in regard to their book purchases (the answer, oddly enough at a convention where several awards were being given out, was very few. But this could be because people attending purchased books when they came out and not a year later when awards were announced).
As a librarian, one thing I've noticed over the years is that award winning books tend to stay in print. Of course, it depends on the award. Caldecott and Newbery Award winners and nominees are carried by public libraries, school libraries, and academic libraries (if the university in question has an education department and classes in children's literature). When I tried to replace books that had been damaged or stolen, I had problems replacing books that had been published more than a year ago. I never had any problems replacing Caldecott and Newbery award winners and nominees, however. Books published even fifty years ago are still in print, both because they were award winners and because people still wish to study them. When the English Department at my university developed a science fiction class (finally!), I found that Hugo Award winners are often still available, though the older ones are not republished as often as those which won awards for children's books. I have no information on how fantasy or horror award winners have done.
So, though some of these award winners are not noticing any benefits now, in the long run, they may. I only hope that some convention will re-examine that topic when they do. I've already noticed that some conventions ask in their participant questionnaires if the person has won any awards. But perhaps that's more for the benefit of the convention and their advertising.
What do you think about awards? Do you pay attention when purchasing a book? Do you nominate books for awards and root for particular authors?
I’ve done it myself. What if an alien decides to attend college on Earth? What if a wizard ended up in a garage sale? (that one went in a different direction than I had planned) What if a meteor shower hid something else? (Hmm, I tend to use that one a lot).
Science fiction tends to rely on a number of ‘what if’s as basic. What if faster than light travel existed? (And FTL communication is possible). What if psi powers do exist? (That ‘what if’ started off in science fiction when I first started reading it, but now it seems to have migrated into fantasy.) What if there are other lifeforms in the universe?
Not only is ‘what if’ a good way to start the idea behind a story, it’s also a good way to continue or add threats or twists. Lois McMaster Bujold, for example, has her "worst-possible-thing guideline" (Sidelines: Talks and Essays, 2013) - i.e., "what is the worst possible thing I could do to this character?" For some YA and children's stories, this could be rephrased as "what is the most embarrassing thing I could do to this character?"
What are some 'What if?' triggers that you have used as a writer or enjoyed as a reader?
I was so irritated that I simply left the meeting at that point. I've since learned that later in the meeting, someone more canny with Roberts Rules of Order managed to get a committee formed to discuss the notion of a YA Hugo. I hope this means that something will come of it (though my experience in a university usually translates "there will be a committee to discuss" something as "we'll talk it to death until people give up and go away"). Maybe the Roberts Rules sticklers will format the wording in a way more acceptable to the WSFS. One can only hope.
Since this is at least the third year in a row that the topic has come up, there's already been a good deal of discussion on it. Some claim that having a YA Hugo Award will bring more young adults to WorldCon. I'm not hopeful of that, but since there are many *adult* readers of YA, maybe more of those will show up in support of YA authors in attendance. LoneStarCon 3 had at least two YA panels ("Giving Science a Boost with YA SF" and "YA Fantasy - We'll Always be 13 at Heart") that were packed, so YA is popular with WorldCon attendees.
I don't really have a horse in this race. Although I'm a YA author, I'm with a small press, and it seems that only the bigger, traditional publishing houses have the distribution to bring their YA books and authors to the notice of those who will nominate and vote on the award.
That's a major factor in this discussion.
This isn't the Mythopoeic Award, the Newbery Award or the Printz. It's not the EPIC eBook Award or the Nebulas. All of these are juried awards, all looking for particular criteria which signifies the "best" for those awards. No, instead, the Hugo Award is what is considered to be a "popular" award. For the Hugo award, works are nominated and voted on by those attending and/or supporting the WorldCon for a particular year. Those people voting for the awards are readers, watchers, authors, editors - *anyone* attending or supporting that WorldCon. Yet the arguments I've heard against a YA Hugo suggests that any book nominated would supposedly (by some objectors) have to be held to a higher standard, something that would be on reading lists for schools for years to come. I would think that would have to be left to those librarians and teachers who compose the reading lists, not voters for the Hugos.
There are those who complain that a YA Award was "tried" years ago. According to the WSFS notes, it was "tried" back in 1989 and the "nominating response was too low" to make it to the final ballot. However, this was before the rise in popularity in YA, back before the first Harry Potter book was published. (The WSFS note is from 2000, when one Harry Potter book had been nominated). The image of YA by both the publishing industry and the reading public has changed since then.
Another argument has been that it's much more prestigious for a YA book to be judged as a "Best Novel" in competition with adult novels. Indeed, one of the Harry Potter books (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) won the Hugo for Best Novel in 2001, after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban made it into the nominations in 2000. In 2009, there were three books considered YA among the five nominations (The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, and Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi) and one of them(The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman) won. John Scalzi blogged about the uproar and grumbling back then.
So, if on one hand it's okay for YA books to be in competition with adult books, but on the other hand, people have a problem with a YA book being considered the "Best of" a particular year, why can't there be a YA/Middle Grade category? This is more an age division then, rather than a "subgenre" as some claim. Jane Yolen was interviewed back in 2012 about a YA Hugo and mentioned that YA authors would welcome another award category.
Here's what bears repeating. The Andre Norton awards (part of the Nebulas) are decided upon by SFWA members and a jury. The Golden Duck Awards (for Best Children and YA Science Fiction) are decided upon by a jury and the categories only cover through twelfth grade. The Hugo Awards, as a popular award, is one chance for YA readers (adult and younger) to vote on what they consider "The Best".
Peta Freestone posted similar points on her site, along with the points that the 2009 nominations weren't exactly considered "YA". Gaiman's book also won the Newbery Award, the Carnegie Award and the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel, so those three groups considered it YA/Children.
So, how will YA books be identified? One person who was working on the proposal suggested that what is listed on the copyright page, what division of the publisher would be a determining point. That would work for the traditional publishers, who are big enough to have a separate division for each category of publication. It wouldn't work for small press (if it ever happened that a small press would get enough exposure to be nominated). At that point, the publisher's page should be considered - what category on the publisher's page is the book listed under. Cheryl Morgan back in 2010 recommended letting those making the nomination decide, which also sounds like a good idea, but probably not to those wanting solid rules.
For more details on this year's attempt at the YA Hugo and some more arguments, here is a link.
Yet another complaint about a YA Hugo is that it would make the awards ceremony much longer than it already is. Sorry, but as someone who has attended both the Hugos and the EPIC eBook Awards (EPIC is an organization of *ebook* publishers and authors, so practically every category is included), the Hugo Awards ceremony was short. The biggest thing taking up time at the Hugos was all the picture taking and waiting for the nominees to come in from dinner. Has anyone considered having the formal dinner start earlier?
The Hugo Rules allow for a trial year for a category. Those categories that aren't renewed within three years get dropped. Perhaps the time has come for a trial year for the YA Hugo.
As a YA reader, there are many YA authors (small press and traditional) I would love to see recognized in the SF community.
What are your thoughts?