The Premier August Essential Digest
The August Book Blog
The Stack of YA Fantasy Books
Yet another neighbor is moving from the San Francisco Bay area, saying goodbye to California, and establishing a new residence in the State of Texas. The high cost of living in the Golden State, the high taxes, the crime, and other issues—well. I have no further comment.
She, the neighbor, gave me this stack of eight books (she added two more since this photo was taken, so that makes ten), as well as a dozen movie DVDs. I don’t know why people are always giving me books and movies. (Not that I’m complaining.) Husband Tom Robinson and I must own 20,000 books.
I don’t really need more books! Or do I?
As a Philip K. Dick Award Judge in 2015, I received hundreds of books from publishers hoping to win the award for their book. I’ve only just begun to clear out those stacks. I gave a big bag of books to another neighbor who is staying in California and reads and likes science fiction. Actually, two bags to two other neighbors. And I still have dozens of books left. Some (a very few) I’ll keep for my collection, of course. At some point, though (when I get off my lazy butt), I’ll take the rest up to our wonderful little local library and donate them.
So my neighbor left me this stack of books, plus two more, and moved away before I could ask questions. Are you a reviewer? Are you an aspiring YA fantasy author? Did you go to a convention? The books are pristine, unread. But she was gone. I’ll never know. It’s a mystery.
They are all beautifully produced hardcover books, with slip jackets, the author’s photograph on the back flap, mostly nice front covers (some I’m not crazy about), some with nicely done maps, all with excellent graphics and embellishments on the inside. All with “handwritten” notes from the author explaining why she wrote the book, all autographed (some with printed autographs), some with postcards of the book cover and a place on the back for a postage stamp and address lines. All were published in either 2017 or 2018 and all were priced at just under twenty dollars.
Eighteen dollars for a quality hardcover? Wow.
All by women. And all Young Adult Fantasy or borderline Science Fiction.
Three books are from the same Big Publisher, the rest from other Big Publishers. So that makes seven Big Publishers, altogether. And they’re all copying each other in terms production values and the extras. I’m sure the publishers—and especially the authors!—are hoping for another Twilight or The Hunger Games.
There must a big market for YA fantasy written from a teenage girl’s perspective, aimed at that audience, even given the overall declining market for fiction, especially print fiction. Especially hardcover fiction. A big, big market.
My novel dissecting the Sixties, Summer of Love, is told partly from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old girl. Bantam, the first publisher, tried to market the book as YA (briefly), with disclaimers about adult situations, drugs, and violence. But I was ahead of my time, book-marketing wise, by about twenty years. Now I hear that Netflix has a controversial teen-life series with many explicit issues. Okay. So you won’t be shocked by Summer of Love by Lisa Mason.
I did what I usually do when confronted with a stack of books. Read the book description on the jacket. Surprise! To be honest, I don’t care so much about the author’s credentials, where she lives, where she went to school, what she does for a living, whether she has a husband or a wife, a dog or a cat. I myself have sweated blood over my author’s bio to go on a book jacket. I surprised myself, this time, with my indifference to the author’s bio. I did read, though, the acknowledgements for purely selfish reasons: to see if there is someone I know mentioned.
But most of all, I read the first paragraph or the first page or a few first pages. They’re all well-written. Otherwise, the books wouldn’t be published by Big Publishers. But those first words don’t always appeal (to me, anyway) or don’t always make sense.
You, as the writer, are supposed to raise story questions in your first line, your first paragraph, your first page that compel the reader to read the rest of your story or book.
That seems obvious, but this is a subtle art. Who is the character who starts the book? What challenges does she face? Will she overcome those challenges and how?
You, the writer, do not want to raise questions of credulity. What do I mean? How and why the character would do such a stupid or unlikely action? Questions that stop the reader dead on the first page.
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