The Catharsis of Dark YA

I’ve sometimes used books as an escape, as a way to explore something new, as a way to be someone else for a while. I’ve used them as entertainment, as inspiration, as a challenge to my writing.

But something has always not quite encapsulated it for me when people talk about the power of words and why we read and why we must keep reading. We say we use books to escape our lives, for entertainment, for learning empathy, for all those things I just mentioned. And that’s true. But as I’ve been sorting through why I write the stories I do, and what draws me to the books that I really, really love, something occurred to me.

Everyone is grieving something. Life leaves us with scars, and wounds that don’t heal properly, and it’s almost impossible to learn how to grieve when you’re in the middle of it. As a child, I didn’t even realize the things I was grieving. But the books I read pulled at it– the support I was missing, the friends I needed to have, the simple fact that life hurts. As an adult, I can see now that I was choosing books that helped me sort through and process all these things. And what I read now often does similar things. It pulls out a fragment of something, and helps me process it, and brings me back to a place where I can see more than the damage. Prejudice, loneliness, poverty, alienation, loss– we carry these things around with us, and they get heavy, and we often don’t know what to do with them. One piece at a time, books can help us grieve and process and show us how to put things back together.

This is why I read and write dark YA. “Dark” doesn’t mean “depressing.” It just means it’s a story that tackles serious issues, and most of them tilt the characters toward healing. Books bring us catharsis, and we all need that. In feeling for a character, and through watching their own struggle, in many ways we’re sorting through pain of our own. And it’s a hopeful, wonderful, positive thing.

Amazon: Not Cheaper or Faster For Buying Books?

Popular myth can be a beast. I’ve been hearing from my social circles a lot lately that Amazon is faster, cheaper, more convenient: “I love Barnes and Noble, but you know. Amazon has everything and it’s cheaper.” I thought that, too, if I stopped long enough to process it. But I haven’t bought books from Amazon for a while, so with chasing down buy links for my novel releasing this year, and stalking my critique partners’ books online, I started to notice something.

So, I tracked down all three of our upcoming releases to compare purchase price, shipping cost, and shipping times. Take a look:

From Powell’s

(same price for Joseph-Beth Booksellers and Books Inc. for all 3 titles.)

The Hit List: $9.95, paperback.Hit List

Anomaly: $9.99, paperback.

How We Fall: $17.99, hardcover.

Shipping is $3.99 for economy mail, no matter how many books you buy. $50 order total or more, and shipping is free. Arrives in 4-9 business days for economy mail or 2-7 for standard mail.

From Barnes and Noble:

The Hit List: $8.25, paperback.

Anomaly: $9.99, paperback.Anomaly

How We Fall: $13.31, hardcover.

Free shipping on orders over $25 for qualifying items (most new books). Arrives in 2-6 business days. Great membership program that’s free for 2 months, then $25 a year after that. Free shipping and arrivals in 1-3 business days, 40% off hardcover bestsellers.

Books-A-Million:

The Hit List: $8.25, paperback.

Anomaly: $9.99, paperback.HowWeFallCover

How We Fall: $13.31, hardcover.

Arrives in 3-7 business days. Free shipping for club members ($25 a year), or $3.00 plus $0.99 per item for non-members.

Book Depository:

The Hit List: $12.78, paperback.

Anomaly: $8.93, paperback.

How We Fall: $16.09, hardcover.

Free shipping worldwide, customer responsible for local shipping and taxes. Delivery times vary depending on country.

Amazon:

The Hit List: $8.42, paperback.

Anomaly: $8.99, paperback.

How We Fall: $13.31, hardcover.

Shipping is $4-5 for one book for non-members. Free shipping on orders over $35. Arrives in 4-5 days. Amazon Prime allows free 2-day shipping for eligible items, $99 a year.

Things to note:

THE HIT LIST is more expensive from Amazon than from B&N and BAM, and only about $1.50 more expensive from most indies. Varying shipping costs and a member program can easily make up that difference and even save you money, especially since Amazon’s prime membership is so much more expensive than B&N’s.

ANOMALY’s price varies by $1 no matter where you buy it. Amazon’s list price is $1 cheaper, but shipping is $4-5 if you aren’t a member. The cheapest option would be to have a B&N or BAM membership, or even cheaper, to bulk-order your books from Powell’s for 0 shipping costs and 0 membership costs.

HOW WE FALL’s price is more expensive from most indies, but B&N, BAM, and Amazon all have it for exactly the same price. Without memberships, the cheapest option is to buy it and another book or two in a $25 purchase from B&N. With memberships, the cheapest option is B&N. As a single-purchase item with no memberships, the cheapest option is Books-A-Million.

Amazon isn’t the cheapest option anymore. It isn’t the cheapest way to buy any of these books, once you count in shipping.

Amazon isn’t the fastest option, either, depending on your location. Barnes & Noble ships to nonmembers in 2-6 business days. Amazon’s nonmember shipping gets to me in 4-5 business days.

Amazon isn’t necessarily the most convenient, either. All these stores have fully functional websites and stock just about every book I could think to search. Amazon may not even have the book you want, given the issue with Hachette, and given that “shares are down sharply this year and analysts are cutting earnings forecasts” (see New York Times article linked before quote).

Even Amazon’s membership isn’t the best membership deal. B&N has a much cheaper per-year cost and greater discounts on books for members. Even for nonmembers, B&N’s “free shipping on $25” is a great deal. I almost never order one book and ship it by itself, so this is convenient, cheap, and quick for me. Powell’s offers a similar deal for $50 order total (just place bigger orders less frequently; same cost.) with similar shipping times. Amazon’s shipping times and “free shipping on $35” isn’t necessarily cheaper, faster, or more convenient.

No matter how you add it up, Amazon is operating within slim margins more or less expensive than any of these booksellers.

I didn’t calculate ebook costs, as ebooks for these 3 aren’t up yet at all of these locations and I don’t typically buy ebooks if it’s a book I really want to own.  Not having shipping and being able to click and have the ebook at a no-shipping price is great, and might tip the scales one way or the other, especially depending on what e-reader you have. (Though ANOMALY’s ebook is $5.99 at both B&N and Amazon.) And true, this is only based on three books.

I should also note that while you can buy writing/craft materials, games, books, music, and movies at many bookstores, especially the large ones, many more categories of products are available at Amazon. The wide variety available at Amazon does make their $99-a-year membership program more valuable overall, if you tend to order a lot of non-craft/media items online. I don’t. Clothes, food, furniture, gifts– I pick those out by hand. Even Christmas shopping, I tend to do in physical stores, because I make it a date with my husband and we get drinks and spend time discussing family members and what special item we could find for them while we browse. I wouldn’t give that up to buy most of my gifts online. So for me, Amazon’s membership is not cheaper, even given the variety of items available.

Basically, this boils down to Amazon not being a landslide better value. It just isn’t. The difference is small when it is a better value, and often it isn’t. And even when it does inch ahead in cost effectiveness, I’m going to vote with my dollars.

I have accounts at BAM, B&N, Books of Wonder, and Powells. I’m going to use them.

Look What Came Today!

Mondays are awesome when they start off with a box of books. Look what came! (If you read my post on the agony of waiting yesterday, you’ll recognize this as one of my coping strategies.)

2014-03-03 12.37.52

Three of these I’ve read. The Fault in Our Stars, The Fifth Wave, and What Alice Forgot are three of my all-time favorite novels, and if you haven’t read them yet, you must go do that as fast as you can. They’re sweeping, gripping stories that will change the way you see the world.

The Art of Wishing and The Infinite Moment of Us are next on my to-read list! I’ve heard fantastic things about both of them. Have you read either of them? Which one should I start with?

Book Review: ONE by Leigh Ann Kopans

One

by Leigh Ann Kopans

Review by Kimberly G. Giarratano

Set in the distant future in still-rural Nebraska where a subset of humans has developed supernatural abilities, One is a complex young adult narrative about identity, belonging and self-fulfillment.

The following is the Goodreads blurb:

When having two powers makes you a Super and having none makes you a Normal, having only one makes you a sad half-superpowered freak.

It makes you a One.

Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly – too bad all she can do is hover.

If she could just land an internship at the Biotech Hub, she might finally figure out how to fix herself. She busts her butt in AP Chem and salivates over the Hub’s research on the manifestation of superpowers, all in hopes of boosting her chances.

Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other.

Merrin’s mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub’s internship short list, but as she gets closer to the life she always wanted, she discovers that the Hub’s purpose is more sinister than it has always seemed. Now it’s up to her to decide if it’s more important to fly solo, or to save everything – and everyone – she loves.

Told in first-person present tense, One is a well-crafted and engaging story about what makes humans whole. For Merrin, being a One makes her feel like half a person. Although, she has ambition and drive, these traits are only advanced by her frustration at being denied opportunities automatically given to Supers. She believes all her hard work and laborious study will not grant her a second supernatural ability unless she can get a position at the Hub to fix herself. And that is Merrin’s biggest character flaw. It’s not enough that she’s the smartest kid in school, she won’t feel like she belongs until she can be as physically extraordinary as every other Super. Her struggles to accept her “oneness” are a metaphor for every teenager who feels inadequate and isolated.

The romance between Merrin and Elias is beautiful to watch unfold. Merrin’s feelings for Elias are as sincere and they are complicated. Despite loving him, Merrin wants to fly on her own. To be whole, Merrin needs to be able to fly alone. Whereas, Elias feels whole only when he flies with Merrin. It’s not worth flying at all if he can’t fly with her.

Billed as an X-Men meets Sky High, One is reminiscent of the popular (although, defunct) television show, Heroes. Leigh Ann Kopans doesn’t just portray romance and the inadequacies of half-powers, she tackles the political and unethical repercussions of using people with supernatural abilities for less-than-moral endeavors. Just like on Heroes people with incredible powers can be manipulated for unspeakable causes. In addition, sometimes bad people shouldn’t be Supers as Merrin discovered when a high school bully with super strength harmed her.

Kopans, who self-published this novel, describes her journey from concept to querying to submissions process on her blog and she’s certainly an inspiration for all authors.

Kopans wrote that she aimed for the traditional publishing route. She secured an agent after 127 query letters (89 rejections and 38 no responses). Her agent then submitted the manuscript to the usual suspects of publishing houses with no luck. As she wrote on her blog, “The publishers we submitted to don’t think they can sell ONE, but that’s okay. Because I think I can.”

Kopans didn’t just shelve her novel when there were no takers — she assembled a team of people to help her self-publish. Her cover art is beautiful and the editing is excellent. This is truly how a self-published book should look and read — as professional as if one of the big New York City publishers had churned it out themselves. And based on the positive feedback and reviews the novel has received, one imagines those publishers wish they had acquired this book after all.

So far Kopans has earned an average 4.1 star rating on Goodreads and 51 positive reviews on Amazon and a highly impressive sales rank of less than 10,000. If hype, marketing and solid writing are a writer’s superpowers, then Kopans is already a Super.

Her follow-up to One, titled Two, is slated for publication this October.

Kimberly G. Giarratano can be found on Twitter @KGGiarratano or at her blog: http://www.kimberlyggiarratano.com Her debut novel will be published by Red Adept Publishing in 2014.

A Writer’s Poison: Waiting for Success

Hello, friends– it’s Kate. I had a realization just now, and I’m wondering how many of you have had a similar one, because it just made me sit up a little straighter.

I have goals. I want to sign with a great agent and get a good book deal and be able to eventually live off my writing income alone (yes, I know that’s rare). I want to improve my writing craft and be not just good, but as good as I can be. I want people to remember my stories because they made them think or made them feel.

Those goals are so big, sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get there. And I might not– they wouldn’t be good goals if they were things I could easily do. I’m working toward those goals, and I’m learning. I’m an editor with Month9Books and a freelance editor. I teach half-time. Of course, I write and I blog here and over at YA Stands. I attempt to have a life off the computer, too. Each of these things gives me plenty to do for fifteen hours each day.

But I’m also doing a lot of waiting. I’m waiting for the day I reach one of those big goals, and I don’t really think that’s a good thing.

Developing skill takes time. The publishing world takes a lot of patience, sometimes. Writing definitely takes time. I went into this knowing it would be harder, take longer, and be more uncertain than I figured. But all this waiting? It’s the worst part. (Anyone with me there?) I’m not sitting around with idle hands, believe me. But I still feel the waiting. When my mind skips to my inbox and there’s nothing new, when I glance at the word count on my WIP and see it’s barely moved even though I’ve been working on it all afternoon, and even worse, when there is a new email and it’s not the news I want, I feel the waiting.

Being patient is a good thing. Having my expectations set in the right place and having to work for what I want is a good thing. But this kind of waiting is too much to handle along with the uncertainty, hard work, and stress of being a professional writer.

What prompted me to start writing this post was the realization that I shouldn’t be waiting.

And you shouldn’t be, either. I give you permission to stop waiting. In fact, I really think you should stop right now.

All this waiting is a result of my attention being set so far away. When everything I do is a stepping stone to such enormous, far-off goals, the here and now loses some of its shine.

My goals will still be my goals. If I don’t have a plan and somewhat impossible ambitions, I don’t feel like myself. If anything, I now have more goals, because instead of focusing so far off, I’m focusing on what’s right in front of me. My goals now include finishing editing an incredibly fun MS for a very talented author (almost there!), finishing the last half of John Green’s PAPER TOWNS, hitting 60,000 words in my WIP (just broke 50,000 today!), and enjoying a bachelorette party and wedding I have for a friend this weekend.

I don’t have to wait anymore. I can close my email (for an hour or so, anyway). I can stop Twitter-stalking people I want emails from. I may want big things to happen faster, but waiting on them every day wears me down too much.

When I have daily and weekly goals, and I focus on those, success happens. I don’t need to wait for my five-year plan to unfold in order for me to succeed. I meet a goal and I succeed and I improve when I turn in edits on time, when I finish reading a good book and come away with a sliver of something to use in my own writing, when I finish a page in my work in progress and like the words I put down. That’s success.

Don’t be content to wait on your goals. Break those five-year, big-dream goals down into smaller ones you can focus on and succeed at this week. Focus on those, and don’t get worn down by the immense task of becoming a professional writer– or whatever it is you want to be or do. Because if I keep succeeding at what I set out to do today and tomorrow and this week, I’m going to improve and I’m going to make progress toward those bigger goals.

Celebrate reaching those stepping stones. Give them the focus they deserve. Each one is it’s own success, and we shouldn’t be waiting so much for the next thing and the next day. If I turn my motivation and determination to what’s right in front of me, I’ll become a better writer.

And that, more than all those other things, is success.

What are your goals for this week? What success have you had lately?

Links for Learning: Kate’s Picks

Happy Friday! It’s Kate, and I’ve got something fun for you.

Every day, I read blog posts, articles, interviews, and releases from authors, editors, and agents. There’s so much to learn about this industry, I feel like I can’t ever absorb it all. Plus, it’s tough to get hooked in enough to find all the information to learn from, especially way out here in Iowa, when the center of the publishing universe is… well, nowhere close to Iowa.

So just in case some of you are feeling the same way, or are even just devoted and curious readers who want to know about the book world, I’m passing along some of my favorite links I learned from this week.

Definitely check out this link for Literary Dopplegangers; click the book cover and it will show you what to read next if you liked that book. Loved The Fault in Our Stars or The Night Circus? This will show you a similar title to read next, and it will help you get beyond those top 10 books everyone seems to be reading and support some other just-as-deserving titles.

If you haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars, by the way, it’s one of my top reads from last year. With over a million copies in print, lauded USA Today and Entertainment Weekly as one of the best books of the year, and named TIME’s best fiction book of 2012, the story is a hilarious, insightful, tragic look at love and youth. You’re missing out if you haven’t seen the author’s (John Green) explanation of why this book is so successful. I’m going to take this list and study it, by the way. Lots of great principles at work there.

Author talks and book signings can definitely be a part of making a book successful, but few of us know how to handle them. If you’re doing a reading or just preparing in advance, check out author Randy Susan Meyers’ 10 Tips for Writers Reading in Public.

Another great inside look at the author life is this conversation between Sarah Dessen and her editor, Regina Hayes. It’s definitely worth reading if you love Sarah Dessen’s work, wonder about the author-editor relationship, or want to get a peak into the industry.

What link list wouldn’t be complete without something from Chuck Wendig? Read his 25 Things to Know About Sexism and Misogyny in Writing and Publishing. Follow his advice, send it out on social media, make your friends read it, wrap it up as an early Christmas gift… You get the point.

And finally, sometimes learning is just realizing all over again something that you already knew. Read Where the Rubber Meets the Road from Rachelle Gardner for a quick, encouraging reminder that doing what you love takes patience and hard work.

But keep in mind: hard work, learning, patience… it can sound depressing. It’s not. It’s fun. Hard work doesn’t always equal not having a good time. So keep it up, read hard, work hard, and have a great time doing it.

Do what you love. See you next time!

Kate

Cover Reveal: PROJECT: BOY NEXT DOOR by L.K. Madigan

Readers, I’m honored to be sharing this post with you, because this cover reveal has a unique, special story behind it. PROJECT: BOY NEXT DOOR is a posthumous novel. Lisa passed away from cancer in February of 2011. More about her life and death, and how much she loved her work, can be found here. Lisa’s friends and fellow writers are pulling together to promote her last book, and I’m honored to be part of that effort.

What’s the story about?

Being the son of a mega-famous mogul isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, which is why super-smart but socially awkward teen Melvin Pepper wants to try something new: anonymity. To attend a regular high school, get a normal job, meet real people. A break from the pressure and facade that come with crazy wealth and a world-renowned last name.

But Mel quickly realizes that being Mike, his alter ego, isn’t as easy as he’d assumed. He gradually makes friends at work and school and becomes involved in the radio club, plus navigates the rocky waters of first crushes and first kisses. However, he discovers someone out there is on to his secret and is threatening to expose it. 

And that’s not all. One of Mel’s new work friends is hiding a dark secret of her own, and Mel feels helpless to make things better for her. He struggles with juggling two very different identities, balancing jealous old friends and nosy new ones. Yup, Mel’s in way over his head…and the only chance he has to make everything right is to be true to himself.

Where can I see more?

Goodreads

L.K. Madigan’s blog

Once released, BOY NEXT DOOR will be available on Amazon and B&N.

So let’s see this cover!

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