Books, Glorious (and Not So Glorious) Books

pexels-photo-264635Chances are pretty good that if you’re a writer, you’re also a reader. Books are glorious! But chances are also good that you’ve read a not-so-glorious book, one that left you scratching your head. As in “how did an agent, then an editor, THEN a whole acquisitions team at a major publishing house think this was good enough to publish?”

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. I just finished a middle grade novel like this, and yes, I did finish it. I kept reading even though the protagonist was whiny and unlikable. I kept reading even though the plot was something I’d seen a hundred times before. I kept reading even though the other characters were mostly undeveloped and/or stereotypical. I kept reading to the whiny, predictable end.

There was a time when I would let a book like this get the better of me. I’d stew and sulk and possibly–I’m not saying I did this, I’m just saying maybe–throw the book across the room. But not any more. Now, I read those books from start to finish. Because I want to know the why. What did an agent, an editor, and a whole acquisitions team see that I’m not seeing? Why did a book get published?

And while I’m pondering, why are kids reading this book? Because this particular book had a ton of reviews–great reviews! (Except for one which funnily, listed just about everything that had annoyed me.)

Publishing is a subjective business in some ways, but more importantly, it’s a money-making business. So if a publisher sees dollar signs, it’s a book they’ll acquire, in spite of cardboard characters, tired plots, or a boring protagonist. My mission, when I’m reading so-so books, is to see why it sold.

And here’s what I’ve found again and again: concept trumps everything. There are some subjects ( plots) that middle schoolers are always going to read. And there are emotional concepts that are highly relatable to the middle schooler. If I can find that relatable concept in a tried-and-true yet fresh plot, I’m halfway to the shelf.

You can be, too, in whatever you write. But first, you gotta read a lot of books.

(P.S. You might want to check out the Great American Read for more glorious but also head-scratching books. I mean, Fifty Shades of Grey? Seriously? On the other hand, look how much money that book has made…so yeah. I rest my case. Feel free to share your strong opinions.)

 

 

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Tuesday Tips on Writing and Publishing a Book

ImageIt’s finally here: Children’s Book Week

I don’t have a horse in this race, as the expression goes, but I’m still excited to hear about the Children’s Choice Book Awards, 2013. Any minute today, they’ll post those titles, and I’ll take a few minutes to dream about my books and the what ifs that might follow…

Of course, first I have to deal with a little sticky wicket I call “publishing.” So, Tip One:

Book Publishers Accepting Submissions by Location

I can’t say for sure if a regional publisher is an easier sell. But I can say that this list of publishers are accepting submissions (unlike bigger publishers who only accept agented submissions). A local publisher may be a perfect fit for your proposal or manuscript, particularly if your book has a regional bent.

And Tip Two comes from one of my very favorite authors, Margaret Atwood. She shared her Ten Rules of Writing Fiction. Because before I can get my book published, I have to write the best book my brain can bust out. So I particularly liked Rule Ten:

10. Prayer might work. Or reading ­something else. Or a constant visual­isation of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book.

So, yeah. We’re back to publishing. And if I’m going to write and pray and visualize, I might as well dream big.

Like the Children’s Choice Book Awards. (You get a trophy, right?)