I just purchased a book I was pretty excited about. So excited in fact, that as soon as I was out of the book store I took a picture of the book and put it on Twitter:
Shortly after my return home with my purchase, I was reading on line and discovered an article on The Slate Book Review called AGAINST YA,
with a tag line that reads,
Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.
Oh…. dem’s fighting words.
According to Ruth Graham, author of this *set my soul on fire* article, states that as adults we are better than this.
Errr… excuse me?
Ms. Graham, also feels that by not becoming emotion over books such as Fault In Our Stars is not because she is heartless, but because she is grown up.
Well… here is my response to that.
I love YA. I am not ashamed. There are times throughout my reading where I am devouring YA book after YA book. Yes, I read many different genres, but YES, YA is among them. When I was growing up we did not have the wonderful YA choices of today. I remember I had Judy Blume (YAY Judy! *knuckle bump*) and that is about all I recall. I mean, Judy did a great job, but honestly most of her titles are more middle grade than YA.
Today’s YA is full on ENGAGING. It is PASSIONATE. And honestly, when I really think about it… I think that is what sells me. YA character’s are emotionally amplified. They are out… saving the world, dealing with bullies, family members, and harder topics than honestly I ever dealt with. They are teens so their emotions run HIGH and God Bless them…. I LOVE it.
YA character’s are emotionally amplified. ~ Sheila-age 40 something 😉
If reading YA means I am not “grown up”, and/or “emotionally immature” then so be it. Because if being a grown up means that I am segregated in what I read… well to heck with that. I will put on my pouty face, slam the front door, made annoying large bubbles with my gum, and sit on the step and read what I want to read.
Over to you. Do you read YA books? Why or why not? If you do, what do you think draws you to them? How do you think YA compares today to previous generations?
Today I was at an author event where the author was discussing his book covers. He actually had some fascinating thoughts on them (more on that in tomorrow’s post) but one thing he mentioned stood out to me. He has a cover with a little girl on a tricycle peddling away so you do not see her face, he said he had her riding away as when you see the face on a cover it gives you an image of what the character looks like and he feels that should be part of the reading experience; to create the character in your mind.
Part of the reading experience should be to create the character in your mind.
Ooh…. I like that.
I have always had a sort of dislike for covers that have a picture of the characters on them. Why? Because that image is now in my head as I read the book. The girl (or boy) on the cover is now who is running through the pages which is fine if it is a move cover as we already have the character defined for us by the big box… but not for the original pre-movie (or no-movie) book.
Ok so above – is my example. To the left, is the book I mentioned from the author today. It is an engaging cover and I like it… I want to know where she is going, or where she has went, or who has taken her…. the only thing that would bother me here is if the girl in the book has long flowing BLOND hair, or if her hair is short, unlike the cover. To the right, is Vampire Academy. Nothing against the book… but this girl on the cover makes me think of an older girl than the protagonist in the book.
There have been books I have read that the character inside the book is NOTHING like the cover picture and I can not even tell you how bat sh** crazy that makes me. I seriously flip from the cover to the page I am reading to the cover again… if the girl (or boy) on the cover is not the one described in the book, then who is she or he?
There is one instance that comes to mind from a few years back where the cover actually caused an all out battle. Seriously… anyone remember LIAR?
LIAR is the story of Micah who is well… a liar. And I will say she is! Or at least the people who made the cover are, because Micah, is an African-American girl… not at all the one in the cover. There is a HUGE story behind this cover and there was a refusal by bloggers to review the book as they were all so upset that the publishing company went with a white girl on the cover. Seriously…. this is a whole other story so Google it someday, but the ending result of this battle was:
Yup. Seriously amazing… and all of this could have been avoided.
I really prefer non-face covers. Give me a lake setting, a boat, abandoned car, a road, a house, even people way in the background so you can not really make them out… you name it… I can pretty much work with it… all of these lead me into the story…
“Who lives there?”
“Where are they going?”
What is going to happen?
What are your thoughts on book covers? Preferences? Do you mind faces on book covers? How do you feel when the cover does not match the story?
Recently while reading a review, the writer had mentioned a surprising twist towards the end of the read that changed their thoughts on the book. I am certain that in my review of this same book, I too mentioned a twist towards the end that really threw me for a loop. It had been a discussion on Twitter that saying there is a “twist”, is sort of a spoiler to the reader of the review who has not yet read the book.
I am reminded of Season Two Downton Abby. For those who may not know, this is a British tv show on PBS that has caught the attention of many… addicting for sure… and that is not a spoiler… I don’t think. 😉 Anyway, a friend of mine who had finished the second season before I had, eluded to a big SHOCK that would be devastating once I knew it. I remember from that point on each episode I watched I was waiting for it…. wondering, is that the big shock? Is that? When will it happen? Who will it involve? It may be safe to say that knowing something big was coming did take a way a bit of the experience as I was waiting for the BIG THING.
I can see how saying there is a shock, or a twist can lead to the reader waiting for that moment to happen – but I think it also builds up the read. When I mention that a book shocked me or a twist really impressed me as I had no clue, to me, that builds value in the read. If a reviewer I enjoy says something like this, it draws me closer to the book… the mention of a surprise makes me want to know… “Wow, what happens?”
So the question before us is… is it? Is it a spoiler to a book if we discuss that there is a twist at the end, or a change that happens that totally changed the way we felt about the book.
Also… how do you define what a SPOILER is? As Grace from Books Without Any Pictures recently (and brilliantly) said in a historical fiction review, “is it a spoiler if it actually happened?”
You know the books… the ones you are drawn to but even you are not always exactly sure why. It may be a long-term addiction… or it could be fairly new… but either a genre, a topic, or certain type of book draws you to it time and again.
We may not even care to admit that we like to read them. In fact… we may overreact if caught reading them or if someone speaks against them…
Relax. Sheila says relax. 😉 I have them too. Mine fall under the category of books that may be defined as dorky…. but I really have found that I like reading about companies…. corporations… and the people behind them. I mean I loved the move Social Network (about Facebook). And I loved reading about Steve Jobs, The Makers of the game Doom, Straight Flush (about the college kids who brought the online poker industry to an all time high, and most recently Creativity Inc about the success of Pixar.
I think I am drawn to the creative thinking process. I am so amazed at the brilliant people who come up with things like the IPOD, creating video games, developing winning strategies. I guess what they all have in common is success. And if I am honest… I am drawn to it.
On the darker side… I also like to read the occasional true crime.
What does that say about me? I am not sure I want to know….
What is your guilty pleasure read? Craft books, how to books, vampires, dystopian, harlequin romances, books about animals….. Oh my! Share 🙂
For fun…. (I like fun!) leave a comment with your answer and I will enter you into a giveaway for a $15 Amazon gift card to purchase one of your guilty pleasure books of your choice. I will email the winner the gift card on Friday of this week.
I can not wait to hear what your guilty pleasure reads are 🙂
For new book reviewers, this can be a big draw…. a chance to receive books (Glorious books!) in the mail not only before they are released to the public (insert squueeee here) but also at no cost to you.
When I first discovered that publishing houses and authors would offer you their books to read in exchange for hopefully a review on your blog… that was so exciting. And for the record…
I totally blew it.
By blew it I mean…. when offers started coming in for books I said Yes. I said Yes to just about everything – books I may or may not be interested in, self published books because I wanted to help the author… and when the books arrived… I knew I had agreed to read them and now it felt like work. A few of those books… I never did review and I still feel bad about that.
For the record – you do not want your love of reading and enjoying books to feel like work.
So – with that little trip down memory lane, let’s get back on track here and let me share with you a few tips to bringing books to you for review. 😀
First and foremost, I am not an expert. I am not the first person to write about this topic and I am more than likely not the best source for this topic. I am mainly writing this post because I am often asked through email and through posts, how does a newer book blogger connect to the authors and publishers, and for those who are asking for the right reasons – to be able to read a book prior to publication and post reviews on these books, I am more than happy to offer what little knowledge I have gathered through the years. I hope something here is helpful.
Before you start looking for publishing houses to start pounding down your blogs door… ESTABLISH your blog and its name. How do you do that? Do what your blog was set up to do… write reviews. Write reviews on books you have read, write reviews on new books you have purchased, write reviews on books you check out from your library. Basically write reviews. A publishing house usually likes to see several months of reviews happening. They like to see what you are reviewing and how you review. It’s your blog… do it proud. *insert chest bump here*
Write a review policy. That may seem premature. Maybe it is – but I know once I started looking at the blogs that I admired, they all had one. And you will find out it is a life saver at times to spell out exactly what your policy is. Here is mine, tweaked and re-tweaked through the years but it is a necessity for those interested in you reviewing to know what you are able to do and what you are not.
Have a way for people to email you that is not hidden. A contact me area on your blog is essential. If a publishing house likes what you are reviewing, they need to be able to connect with you. Make it easy to find your “contact me” area. Most people will not work for it.
As a side note here – I created a new email for all of my bookish/bloggish emails to go to. I personally would recommend that. It is nice to have one email to go to for all my blog conversations and book review requests. It is also nice not to have the book emails mixed into my personal emails.
Post frequently. It does not have to be every day, but 3 -5 times a week is a good standard to set. If a blog sits idle, it is hard to increase readership. It is hard to establish good connections with publishing houses if you do not have a readership. During your start up period this is a great time to work on your readership as well. How? Write interesting reviews and bookish topics. AND – read other blogs AND comment. Your interest in other blogs does bring readers to you – it is how I established this blog… I set a guideline of visiting and commenting on twenty blogs a day and I did it. Most of those bloggers, visited me in return. I believe it works. Put yourself on social network sites – Facebook, Twitter… it is hard to make your blog grow if you write a post and then sit back and wait for people to notice. Keep up these practices – your blog will grow.
Now you may be thinking, “Wow Sheila… all I wanted to know is how to start receiving books for review in the mail and I get all this extra stuff to do!” Well, that extra stuff is important and should help you to start building relationships in the publishing world to start receiving the books you wish to read and review.
Ok…. so you have done all of the above. You are excited…. in fact, you may have already had contact from an author or publisher and you about wet yourself. Been there… I get it. But remember what happened to me…. proceed with caution.
Remember you are a professional. Maybe you didn’t think you were… you are just writing a fun blog about books… but once you are making contact with the publishing houses and authors- surprise…. you just upgraded to professional. This basically means…. act it. Do not approach a publishing house with your long list of book requests – ESPECIALLY when you are new. Introduce yourself. Link to your blog. Tell them a little bit about what you review, how often you review and your readership. You may be thinking, “Really Sheila? Isn’t that a bit TMI?” In which I look at you dead pan and say, “It is not.” This is information many may ask from you anyway. After introductions, request an advanced copy of a book (yes one). If they send it…. READ IT. REVIEW IT. Then – email the person who sent it to you thanking them for the opportunity to read the book and link your review. Relationship established… or at least the beginning of one.
Always ALWAYS be professional when inquiring about books for review. At the Book Expo one year publishing houses told horror stories of how some bloggers have made requests for books – practically demanding books, or as I mentioned before, requesting long lists of reads and even to the point of becoming angry with the publishing house when their request was refused. You would think common courtesy would be a no-brainer but as a book blogger; this sort of poor behavior gives us a bad name. So – I say it out loud. Introduce yourself – inquire nicely – if you are turned down – do what has been asked (establish blog more, have more reviews, work on readership…) and politely try again at a later date.
Do not make promises you can not keep. Sure things come up occasional that were unanticipated, however if you are telling an author or publishing house that you can review within a certain amount of time or on a certain date – you should do your best to do so. This is an important piece of my review policy – with my busy schedule I no longer can give a time frame when I will be able to review a book. As an established blogger, I suspect I have a bit more leeway because most of the publishing houses know me. When I started blogging however, my policy said I would read and review within 6 weeks.
As I mentioned – it is easy to get in over your head and as book lovers it is not hard to act like a kid in a candy store and want and want and want. Start slow…. receive a few books, review them… repeat. As you do this – you may be surprised how the publishing houses start to find you. Remember – you never know who is looking at your blog…. maybe they found it by searching for a particular book title…. so keep it professional. I dont mean don’t have fun… of course have fun…. just remember if you want to grow the blog – your reviews need to be something that publishing houses want their books on.
Here are a few suggestions of places other than the publishing houses to possibly pick up a review or two:
TLC Book Tours – A great group to work with that connects to book reviews to books to review on specific dates
Netgalley – books to download to your phone or e reader.
Blogging For Books – the more established you become – the more book choices will be offered.
Receiving great reads and reviewing them can be a lot of fun. I really enjoy it and I have been doing this since 2009. I still am not as organized as some with their contacts list and knowing which books I want to pursue months in advance. Some day… I hope to get there 😀
Fellow book reviewers – please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments – I am sure there are vital steps I should have mentioned and neglected to 🙂 Newer bloggers, if I didn’t answer something – please inquire about it in the comments and I will answer it then. 🙂
Fellow readers… we can talk right? We have that “love for books thing” in common, and if I may be so bold… we do enjoy hunkering down to a really good read. Now while traditions and props may differ almost like a set up for a game of Clue….
In the recliner, favorite blanket, bowl of popcorn
on the deck, in the sun, large glass of iced tea
at the library, in a sunny window, feet propped at a 30 degree angle
in the living room, on the couch, surrounded by cheese,crackers,grapes and a glass of wine…
we can probably all agree that not much compares to digging into that book that fully takes you inside the story line… blood, sweat and tears… you are ALL IN.
Which brings me to my point….
If a book is not clear about where it is locally centered, is that a bump in the read for you? If you do not know if you are reading about a smoldering California summer or a wintry bout in Alaska… does the book miss something?
I ask because I fall into the I want to know category. I like to know where I am reading, it is a part of my level of involvement with the book, placing me into a deeper sense of knowing where I am and what that might feel like. In some books, location is such a large part of the book, it almost becomes a character in itself…
Even dystopian reads can give you a feel for where you are, even if the world is no longer as know it… take Hunger Games for instance.
And even though I do prefer knowing States or countries, I am even ok with an area being described as, “in the south” or “way up North”, at least that gives me something. Although I do love the brave authors that put us right into a city and state 😉 )
For todays bookish topic of discussion I am curious if this love of knowing where I am at geographically is more of a “yeah that’s just you Sheila”, or is it a “I agree, I like to know where I am in a book”.
And since this is the topic at hand (or at keyboard)….
Recently I was asked if I would be interested in being a part of a new group of readers in the area that would preview books to see that they are appropriate for middle grade and teenage children. I liked the thought of that, I have done some of this proofing for friends in the past. As the information unfolded I discovered that this group would work at having books that they decided were deemed unsatisfactory for young eyes to be removed from the schools.
Visions of book burning swam before my eyes. This is when I realized there is a difference between book lovers, lovers of the written word – and readers.
There was a particular book that was already being sought out for removal I was told. A book filled with inappropriate language. I started to think what YA book could have caused such a stir… was it Hunger Games, Twilight, certainly we have moved beyond Harry Potter by now….
and then I was told the book’s title,
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
At this point my heart fell. Steinbeck. A Classic. Banned Books. Censorship.
I called a friend, a fellow book lover and someone I know who takes great care with what she has her children read (ages 7 – 14) to ask her thoughts on this and she was shocked. She said what I needed to hear at that moment, that it is up to us as parents of our younger children to help them choose books and to help them understand when a book may not be a fit for them due to language, sexual content… or EVEN why a book was written that way – perhaps it was the time period…. The answer is not to take the books away…
the answer is not censorship.
Of course, Of Mice and Men is not new to this battle. Published in 1937, this book is one of the most challenged books of the 21st century due to the vulgarity,offensive, and racist language within its pages. And while I am not a fan of the language – the story does cover such topics as friendship and bullying – BULLYING. A topic that is huge today.
Please chime in on this one. I would love to know your thoughts.