If you’re on your way to the SCBWI Conference in LA, you might want to pencil in this opportunity into your schedule. Mira Reisberg founder of The Children’s Book Academy is having a me…
Every good novel needs a character with a compelling voice. Someone to sing a Siren song of love or loss, a Siren song of suspense or mystery, a Siren song of snarky cynicism, coming of age, middle school antics, musicians, or murder. There are a million stories (or a mere handful told a million different ways depending on who you’re talking to) and these stories must be told in a voice that matters. Authors, agents, editors, readers — everyone agrees. A strong voice is the most essential element of any story.
But something that not everyone agrees on, especially since the publishing industry is changing so rapidly, is the best way to sell books, although by now everyone has heard the word ‘platform’.
Platform is just another word for voice. Not the voice of the story, but the voice of the author. These days everyone seems to be saying that it takes more than a book to captivate and keep a reader’s attention. It takes a vibrant personality, someone who has A Story Behind Their Story, or at least, someone who is skillful enough to draw a crowd on facebook and twitter.
So do these things work? Does social networking sell books?
I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the YA books I read in 2011 and tell you how I came to buy them.
Shift is a YA dystopian by author/artist Charlotte Agell. I fell in love with Agell’s picture books, which she illustrates with gorgeous watercolors, so decided to read just about everything she wrote. I wrote about her here and here and after she told me about The Crosswalk Kings, her son’s band, I wrote about them here.
I connected with Tara Kelly on twitter. At the time she was posting music recommendations and I liked the music she suggested. I checked out her site and saw that she offered editing services. I liked her site and thought well, if I’m going to hire her, I need to check out her writing. I’d already learned that she was a musician and her book Harmonic Feedback was about musicians so of course, I was interested. I bought the book and hired Tara to do a Big Picture Evaluation of the manuscript I was working on. I liked Harmonic Feedback so much I ordered her latest book, Amplified from my local bookstore. I couldn’t put it down. If you’re a musician you MUST read Amplified.
Joëlle Anthony is another author I connected with on twitter. I’m not sure how I started following her, I think I may have found her link in an article about twitter in the SCBWI bulletin. In any case, when Kidlit4Japan was auctioning off baskets of books to help raise money to benefit the victims of the earthquake and devastating tsunami, I bid on Joëlle’s basket because I knew the main character of her book Restoring Harmony was a musician, and at the time, everyone on twitter was talking about Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Joëlle’s basket had both, as well as an arc of Where She Went by Gayle Forman. Where She Went is the follow-up to If I Stay, so I ran out and bought If I Stay from my local bookstore. I wrote about Restoring Harmony here.
More tweets! Although my twitter account seemed to have a problem with me following Jay Asher (I swear I had to follow him three times before he remained permanently on my follow list!) no one else seemed to have that problem and his name and face seemed to pop up everywhere. Everyone I was talking to on twitter was talking about Thirteen Reasons Why and finally, after I connected with Jay on facebook and saw a gazillion copies of his book in Barnes and Noble, I bought a copy. And couldn’t put it down. Although I’d like to talk about it with him over a cup of coffee. There’s probably a club I can join.
Divergent by Veronica Roth was another book that everyone I chatted with on twitter was talking about. Another unputdownable book.
Twitter. Again. If you don’t follow @thunderchikin on twitter you must, if only to see his laughably gorgeous avatar show up in your twitter stream. But laugh is the key word here and it was David Macinnis Gill‘s sense of humor that made me go out and buy his book Black Hole Sun. He was kind enough to send me an ARC of Invisible Sun (Could it be because one of his characters is named Mimi?) and I will buy book III in this sci-fi grunge series as soon as it’s available. In this case, the author’s personality is what made me interested in his writing.
That plus his hot avatar.
One of the local bookstore owners (who by this time, as you might imagine, has become a close friend) recommended Shiver and it still surprises me that I did not originally hear about Maggie Stiefvater online from #YAlitchat since that’s where I’ve learned about so many fantastic YA authors and their books and Stiefvater is actually a member of the group. I must have missed the chat that night!
I think Maggie Stiefvater is one of the best YA writers out there and if I could . . . I would eat her books.
A whole rack of books by a YA writer? Yes please, I’ll take one. And go back for more.
Thank you SCBWI! For all you do for me, including introducing me to authors and people who work with authors. I met the author Natalie Zaman in a crit group at an NJ SCBWI conference and after reading 30 pages of one of her WIP became a fan.
Ally Condie‘s book, Matched was recommended by an editor I met at the same conference. Love.
And from Natalie Zaman, author of Sirenz, I learned about Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Good old fashioned word of mouth via NJ SCBWI. Love, love, love this book. Gorgeous writing, killer cover.
Jo Treggiari and I have friends in common, so again, word of mouth. I couldn’t put this book down, it made me think of the summers I spent in the Canadian wilderness as a teen. More on that in another post. I was surprised at the amount of time spent in the main character’s head at the beginning of Ashes, Ashes, as well as the many descriptions at the start of the story. I loved the way this writing technique enabled me to get to know the mc and her surroundings so very well.
I know, I know, I can’t believe I didn’t read this book sooner. The brevity in the writing, in the voice, made me think of a song. Beautiful, dark, perfect, I loved Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.
And so I end my first annual blog post on books. I hope you enjoyed my totally unscientific fan-girl based conclusions. Maybe by next year at this time I’ll have something completely different to say about what sells books. Until then, I hope you continue to tune in to Sirenstories for new music.
Happy New Year!
The Question is, what is the obsession with Syllable Count in the Publishing World?
I really like this phrase, “Publishing World”. I’m not ready to admit that publishing is an “industry”. I know that’s a little crazy, but I still have an idealized view of the “Publishing World” compared to say, the Music Industry. Or shall I say the music industry. There. That’s better.
But okay, I found the following at http://www.kidmagwriters.com/tekneek/poets.htm and I was very reassured, but I want to know what you think.
“In general, rhyming poetry tends to be metrical (regulated counts), although it needn’t be because the focus should be on the number of stressed syllables per line.
Metrical with regulated syllable count:
Roses are red (4)
Violets are blue (4) *Note: violets here has two syllables (VI-lets), and not three (VI-o-lets). More on that in a moment
Sugar is sweet (4)
And so are you (4)
Metrical with stressed feet (but not syllable count):
Down by the seashore (2 beats, 5 syllables)
Bess and I (2 beats, 3 syllables)
stood on the sand (2 beats, 4 syllables)
and looked at the sky (2 beats, 5 syllables).
(from Once Upon a Tide by Tony Mitton)
If you clap to the second one, you clap twice per line (down, seashore, Bess, I, stood, sand, looked, sky).
In most cases, one of the above ways of counting and/or clapping should work as you go along. If at any point the clapping part goes awry, there’s a problem, and you should alert the poet.
And there you have it folks, How to Critique Rhyming Children’s Poems by Kelly R. Fineman.”
So why have so many people (writers, editors, agents – well really not so many – about a dozen writers, one agent and one editor) been making such a big deal about the number of syllables per line in one my stories that I have been working on? No, I’m not going to post the story, I’m currently revising it. (-; And I think that this question can easily be answered without reading the story. The story is a favorite and I’d like to get it right, so please, post your answers to this one! Thanks!