Sunday, May 31, 2009

BEA: Book Bloggers

The second program I went to was about bloggers and publishers. The event was organized by Jennifer Hart of HarperCollins and

The bloggers: Stephanie's Written Word; Beth Fish Reads; Maw Books Blog; Booking Mama; She Is Too Fond Of Books; My Friend Amy.

The thing with blogging and bloggers is that there are so many of us; with such different aims; that it's really hard to say here is one blogger or one panel that gives the "answer" for everyone. So for everytime I agreed with something (wishing that people who pitch a book to my website would read the website to know beforehand whether or not it fits), there was something I didn't agree with (the nature of the relationship between publishers and bloggers.)

There was also a bit about blog tours; I think that could have been it's own panel, what with the difference between tours like the one ChasingRay has organized since 2007, where bloggers decide who to interview and there is a variety of authors, and ones that are focused on one author at multiple blogs which are generated by authors/publicists.

There was a nice turn out; and I think it would be interesting to have a joint panel with those featured in the Book Review 2010 panel. For example, I kept wondering if the morning panelists would say that the afternoon people were writing reviews, or recommendations.

For another opinion, see Publishers Weekly report.

EDITED TO ADD: Especially since the question of publisher/blogger/author relationships came up in the comments here, I want to add a link to what Mrs Giggles (Everything Romantic) had to say about this aspect of blogging. She says at the end of her post: "I am going to be frank here and say that I personally do not appreciate the idea of blogs being sold as promotional vehicles for authors."

EDITED TO ADD: And another take on the panel from Babbling About Books and More. Good discussion in comments.

EDITED TO ADD: Colleen continues the conversation at Chasing Ray, noting "the publishing industry (organizers of BEA) want to get a handle on the lit blogosphere." The conversation continues in the comments, with some misunderstandings cleared up (or perhaps understandings muddied?) I also find out that Ed Champion was the tall guy at the back of the room. Ed says in the comments, "So when there's talk about being publishers' pawns and the first wave isn't invited to the table, and the second wave isn't willing to check history, then, yeah, there's a problem."

My scattered notes:

* online marketing & influence of bloggers, especially with shrinking mainstream media

* blogs cover every genre

* "more perfect union between publishers, booksellers, and blogs"

* blogs are "more than just a review to give exposure to your products"

* independent bookstores: about featuring bookstores, visiting them, working with them re interviews/tours

* to publishers, "we don't know your expectations", "when do you want a review"

* it's our pleasure to review books for you

* please actually read our blogs if you are going to send up pitches/books

* communication issues: publishers not always clear about who to contact for books/to send reviews

* this is an unpaid hobby, publishers/authors don't always seem to understand that

* bloggers don't get paid

* there are varying degrees of seriousness of bloggers

* what do/should publishers/booksellers "give back" (for the reviews? coverage?) on blogs; some want publishers to link/blog/tweet about review/interview/coverage

* some publishers give no response "not even thank you" for coverage

* publisher sponsored giveaways should be promoted by publisher

* various blogger directories mentioned (all either created by individual or people submit themselves)

* discussion on "what publishers look for" at blog re statistics, comments, etc.

* discussion on advertising

* question about age/race/ethnicity of bloggers as panel was white women

* "personal relationships with publicists" (some past wank about a disrespectful letter?)

* "encourage authors to comment positively"

* finding the right blog, blog tours, mixed feelings about Amazon linkage, traffic, times to post

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

BEA: Book Reviews 2010

You all know my interest in book reviews, so of course I attended the BEA Panel, Book Reviews 2010.

The room was full to over-flowing; and the only seat I could get was in the back, so sadly wasn't able to be close enough to always see who was answering what question. Overall, I thought they had a good mix of people talking.


Interesting points made about the differences between reviews and recommendations; the need for a reviewer to have knowledge and context for a review; and the risks of corruption from/influence of publishers, editors, agents. For a different perspective, here is a report from

EDITED TO ADD: Melissa Wiley & Gail Gauthier are having an amazing discussion in the comments about what reviews. After the 48 Hour Book Challenge, I'm going to do a post about reviews, recommendations, good, bad, worst. And I'm bumping this up after the 48HBC so that others can join in.

Here are my notes if you are interested:

* the importance of word of mouth; and also of advance buzz

* what is a review? a good review? a bad review? pointing out the difference between a book review and a book recommendation. what is and isn't a review

* GoodReads was described as a "book discovery channel for readers" * what is "authority" and how that has changed, from a gated community to one that is constantly changing

* people are creating themselves as a brand

* it's not your tweet that gives you authority, it's what you are linking to or retweeting, twitter is
a tool, not an endpoint

* very important: how well does the reviewer know the body of work so that it is an informed review? what is the context, i.e., does the reviewer have the knowledge to put the work in a broader context?

* again, book reviews versus book recommendations with a note that both are needed

* people are still looking for information about books

* there is a whole spectrum of reviews

* reviewers are about what another person will think about the book ("I love this book because..." versus "You will love this book because...")

* for book reviews, newness is everything, so online is valuable because it's not about "new", it's writing about "older" books (i.e., nine months, eighteen months old)

* how do you get readers to different sites? different readers have different needs, and it is difficult navigating user created content

* there is still value in starred reviews

* Amazon reviews are "corrupted by the publishing companies"

* difference between assigned books and acquired books, with assigned books you have no choice

* book reviews are a profession

* danger of corporate influence in book reviews (from publishers, editors, authors)

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Just a quick welcome to new readers, who may have found their way here from BEA or the Day of Dialog. I'll be posting more later when I'm home, not on the Great ARC Search aka BEA, and have Internet access.

In the meanwhile, I'll be around BEA later today, and hope to go to the Book Reviewers panel at 11 and the Book Bloggers panel at 2.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Life On Mars

Life On Mars: Series 1 (U.K.)

The Plot: Present day DCI Sam Tyler gets hit by a car and comes to in 1973. He's still in Manchester...but it's not the Manchester he knows.

Is he in a coma? Going crazy? Or did he really go back in time?

The Good: Everything.

Tyler winds up working in the 1973 Manchester Police Department. Doing the same work; except it's all changed. No DNA, no fancy CSI-style forensics. And the rights of accused criminals? You're kidding, right? Tyler repeatedly comes into conflict with his boss, Gene Hunt. OMG is there any better character on TV than Gene Hunt? Swagger, sexist, loud, rude. But just as dedicated a cop as Tyler.

So basically this is a terrifical cop show set in the 1970s. From the POV of a modern day detective, who is often frustrated by his 1970s counterparts. With the twist of what the hell is going on that Sam is in the past and meeting his own mom?

Sam has to adjust to the different way of being a police officer; not to mention the clothes and music of the 70s. I really, really want to get Life on Mars (UK Soundtrack) for the music. Life On Mars also did a great job with the editing; I may not know the UK 70's era police shows they were alluding to, but I got that it was being done. Same for the history; I probably didn't appreciate all of the historical things Sam was living through, but I did get that he was living through what was, to him, history.

Last point: after two seasons (UK seasons, so short for us), the show ended with a resolution and explanation of what was going on with Sam and why he was in 1973.

And as sometimes happens, the UK show is brought to the US: Life on Mars: The Complete Series (USA)

Main differences? Some names were different (I'm not quite sure why). The actors are prettier (the UK cast, as often happens, look more like people you know from next door, while the US cast look more like people you know from magazines.) It's set in NYC (and yeah, I got as emotional as Sam did seeing the Twin Towers.)

Some episodes are similar, not just the dialogue, but actual shots and staging and editing. Either you're the type of person who doesn't like that; or you're the type of person who does. I like it; I like seeing how something is reimagined and rethought. I like how the UK version is made new, fresh, different.

Part of the changes included giving Sam Tyler a different reason for being blasted into the past. Which is GREAT. And, frankly, I thought the US version was a bit tighter when it came to the reason and I thought it was less rushed than the UK version. Which is odd, because the US version was cancelled mid-season, so they had less time to wrap it up than the UK.

What else is great? Dean Winters. It's a TV fact: Any show is made better by Dean Winters.

The US show used some different songs than the UK version, and I do hope they come out with a US CD for the show. With, hopefully, the song I am still humming: She Was the Last Planet I Kissed:

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Interview Extras! Sarah Prineas

As I have said before, I interviewed several people for my two-part ARC series at ForeWord's ShelfSpace Blog. I could not use all the wonderful things from the interviews.

This is my final full, uncut, unedited interviews here as an "Extra."

This time author Sarah Prineas, author of The Magic Thief and The Magic Thief: Lost shares her experience with changes in ARCs. I am very, very grateful that Sarah was willing to share this with readers.

Liz B: I think that it's a common assumption that an ARC is identical to the final book; at most, there may be some copyediting or a dedication that has to be filled in.

Sarah Prineas: It's a wrong assumption. The ARC--as a physical object--often looks very different from the final book, which is usually more aesthetically pleasing. The ARC is usually a paperback, cheaply bound, with cheaper paper, and often without even any cover art. The glue must be cheap, too, because ARC pages seem to come loose and fall out of the book easily.

On the back of the ARC is information relevant to booksellers, but not to readers--things about publicity and marketing plans, for example. Apart from that, the ARC quite often is an earlier iteration of the book, so might contain a lot of sentence level and continuity errors and infelicities of prose that will be caught in a later copy edit.

Another difference is that if a book has internal illustrations, these will often be either missing from the ARC or present only as rough sketches.

Liz B: At what point in the publication timeline for your book did the ARC get created and sent out?

Sarah Prineas: My situation with The Magic Thief: Lost was a little different than usual. I'd originally turned in the LOST manuscript much earlier and my editor and I finished our edits on the book over the summer. But then, sadly, my editor was laid off in June and I was assigned to a new editor, for whom I offered to do a new round of edits.

I turned the book in again for her in September, and the ARC went out during the third week of October. That's a pretty quick turnaround, and as it happens, my new editor and I were not finished with our edits yet. Still, the ARC had to go out then because the book itself comes out in May, and the booksellers and librarians need that much lead time to place their pre-orders for the book.

Liz B: What are some of the things that changed from the ARC of your second book (The Magic Thief: Lost) to the final version?

Sarah Prineas: My book is a middle grade fantasy, and after some thoughts and second-thoughts, my new editor realized that she was uncomfortable with the fact that some things in my book resembled things in the Harry Potter books (which I have not read!). The resemblances were common fantasy tropes, but my editor felt we couldn't take any chances (in the end, I realized that she was right about this). In addition, we both decided the last third of the book needed to be tightened and some of the plot points clarified.

An example of something we changed is the snakes. I used snakes in LOST for the sorcerer-king's magical familiars and spies, and his name, Aspeling, sounded snake-like to show that connection. I also had the protagonist, Conn, marked by a snake-bite so the bad magic could find him later. Apparently snakes play a big role in the Harry Potter books, so I changed the snakes to something else entirely, and changed the sorcerer-king's name.

Liz B: At what point did you realize that the ARC and final version would be different?

Sarah Prineas: Even before it came out. My editor and I were making further changes to the manuscript as the ARC was going to press.

Liz B: While ARCs commonly have language such as "check all quotations against final bound book," that's a bit different from saying "the final book is different." Were you able to let ARC readers know that the final version was going to be different?

Sarah Prineas: I've tried to offer caveats when I see that friends have gotten copies of the ARC--"beware, the final version of the book is very different!" Also, my editor wrote a letter that was included with the copies of the ARC that went out to reviewers and booksellers. The letter basically said that the ARC and the final book would be more different than usual.

Liz B: Often, people who get a copy of an ARC from BEA, ALA, or other conference don't like to throw out the ARC after they have finished reading it. It feels wasteful. So, many share them with colleagues or readers, being sure to let them know what an ARC is -- and isn't. Sometimes, though, we hear of people who have taken the extra step of adding the ARC to the library collection, classroom collection, or bookstores selling ARCs. What are your thoughts about that? Is the reader being cheated?

Sarah Prineas: I think it's great when teachers and librarians share ARC's with their most enthusiastic kid readers, and with each other. They're the ones who fall in love with books, and their excited comments after reading an ARC can, in turn, get others excited. That's what "buzz" is all about!

However, I do think adding the ARC to a permanent collection isn't a great idea, mainly for the reasons I point out above: the ARC just isn't as nice a book as the final version. Most ARC's are going to fall apart after just a couple of reads, and this isn't a great way to promote love of books.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Day of Dialog & BEA

I will be at the SLJ Day of Dialog tomorrow; and BEA thereafter.

I'm hoping to hear interesting panels and not overload on books.

Please say "hi" if you're there!

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Teaser: We Were Here

We Were Here by Matt De La Pena. Delacorte Press (Random House). October 2009. Reviewed from ARC supplied by publisher.

Miguel Castenada has been sentenced to a year in a group home. He was worried that he'd be put away "for a grip of years because of what I did." We Were Here starts with Miguel's time in the group home, adjusting, not talking about what he did; but after he, Rondell Law ("got two Ls at the end of the first part") and Mongo run away, this becomes a road trip book. Except instead of teens in a car, careening towards adventure with the safety net of parents, it's three teenage boys with stolen money heading to Mexico.

Miguel tells their story; and you will fall in love with him, with his voice, with his way of seeing things, by the second page. And you'll wonder, as he tells about where he is now and where he was, what happened that Miguel ended up where he did.

Teaser: A mini post about a book I've read that won't be published for several months. The full review will be posted closer to the publication date.

Twitter Review

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Monday, May 25, 2009

Being Bindy

Being Bindy by Alyssa Brugman. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. 2006. Library Copy.

Bindy and Janey have been best friends forever; and as far as Bindy is concerned, it's going to stay that way forever. Why should eighth grade change anything? But it does.

Bindy cannot understand why Janey suddenly wants to sit with Hannah during lunch. She thinks it's boring. And when Bindy visits Janey's house for their weekly sleepover, she's surprised (and not in a good way) that Janey has invited Hannah over, and the three girls are going to the movies. What Bindy has on just won't do, so before she knows it she's got makeup layered on her face and is wearing a skirt that is way too short. The night ends in a disaster, with Bindy calling her father to pick her up and Janey furious. Bindy thinks that losing her best friend is as bad as it can get; but it gets worse. Bindy farts in gym class and becomes the school laughing stock and to top it all off, Bindy's father has begun dating Janey's mother.

Bindy is experiencing the worst. year. ever. Yet she manages to get by. For one thing, while Bindy may not be as "grown up" as Janey and her new group of friends, Bindy doesn't care. When things began going bad at the movies, she had no qualms about calling her father to take her home. She's not going to change her looks or her clothes; she's not going to pretend to like different TV shows. She doesn't think that Janey's new behavior, which includes making out with boys and drinking, is cool. Bindy thinks she's alone; but she's not. Her brother, who she thought of as the guy who disappears into his room to play computer games, turns out to be an ally. And she discovers that not everyone at school sees Janey and her new friends as the A List.

Being Bindy has a refreshing family dynamic that is neither too perfect nor overly dramatic. Bindy and her brother Kyle don't have a perfect relationship; but they do have a realistic one, and both grow up just enough to appreciate each other. Bindy's parents are divorced, and she lives with her Dad. Her mother is self involved and selfish. Mom is annoying; and Bindy gets annoyed at her; but Mom is refreshingly honest in knowing her own flaws and doing the best that she knows how. There is a wonderful scene when Bindy realizes that not only is Mom paying child support; she is also paying alimony; and that without that money, her father wouldn’t be able to pay the bills. The realization hits her that her father, who is living his dream job but isn't financially responsible for himself or for his children, is in this way just as selfish as her mother, who prefers parenting on weekends.

Bindy is young; but eighth graders are young. As she faces all the things that can make school horrible, she grows stronger but is not forced to grow older. This is not a book where Bindy discovers that makeup is fun and wow, Janey's right; it is fun to date boys. Rather, Bindy grows up, by seeing the flaws in others and accepting them and loving them despite the flaws. She finds a place for herself by being herself – by being Bindy.

This book is by an Australian writer, so contains some words that readers may not understand at first. The Australian slang is part of the charm of the book, and it's easy to figure out that "bagging out Dad" meant saying mean things about Dad. And while I'm saying "eighth grade" and the book jacket says eighth grade, rest assured that Bindy and company refer to it as Grade 8.

Originally appeared in the May 2006 issue of The Edge of the Forest.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's The Emily the Strange Lawsuit...Strange

So, remember the whole Emily the Strange/Nate the Great identity similarities blog posts from a while back? In case you don't, here are the posts about it at Boing Boing, Bookshelves of Doom, the LA Times Blog, and InkyGirl.

Guess what? Lawsuit time. But instead of Nate the Great (the documented first use of a strange Goth girl) suing Emily, Emily is suing Nate to prevent Nate from saying "FIRST." (Hat tip to Sam Riddleburger).

It actually makes sense, law wise. It's like, if something is hanging over your head? And you're waiting for it to drop? Do something to stop it from dropping. You're going to hit me? Defensively, I hit you first. You're going around saying or doing something that is damaging me? I'll sue you to stop you.

Keep in mind: I'm about to start babysitting in 23 minutes, so this is a quick recap of the Complaint. Apologies if I've misread/mistaken something. Please add your thoughts/knowledge in the comments.

Add I'll stop being cute: the lawsuit itself is between copyright holders of Nate (Marjorie Sharmat and Marc Simon) (Defendants) and Emily (Cosmic Debris) (Plaintiff).

The complaint says that Sharmat and Simon have claimed infringement; I'm guessing this means letters have been going back and forth amongst the parties, nothing was resolved, so Cosmic Debris decided to get something telling Sharmat and Simon to stop with the claim.

Note at this point they are NOT asking for money; they are asking that Sharmat and Simon not claim that their rights are violated, and that Sharmat and Simon don't have a right to any monies made off of Emily. There's the usual wanting to recover costs of suit, etc. but Sharmat/Simon are not being sued for money.

Other points of interest in the complaint: a lot of facts about "goth" girls in literature and film going back to the 70s and earlier is mentioned, but it's silent as to the specifics of Sharmat/Simon's Rosamund (namely, does not mention dates). It also confirms 1991 as the start date for Emily.

Now I'm giggling, as I just found the mention of "various websites" speculating about Emily/Rosamund.

Sharmat/Simon began this past year to make allegations of infringement. I'm assuming the blogosphere brought this to their attention.

Cosmic Debris has two strong arguments: one, that Goth girls are such a part of the culture that Emily is not based on Rosamund. Problem with that, of course, it can backfire in the future if Cosmic Debris over goes against a Goth-type character for being too much like Emily.

The second is more fun, in my humble opinion; arguing that the statute of limitations has expired on Sharmat/Simon's right to do anything. I haven't looked up the law, but I think this gets into known/should have known issues. When should Sharmat/Simon have been aware of the infringement?

If you have any other knowledge/input into what's going on, please leave a comment. This will either settle out of court; or be a lot of fun for us law geeks.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Hey! That's My Blog Name There!

Yep, I'm a runner up in the Best Reviewer Category for the YA Book Blog Awards. Which I find especially flattering because, as you all know, my Year of Printz Reading meant I had to cut down the volume of reviews. So thanks guys!

Why I like things like this: it's a good way to find out about new blogs. So now that I've shared the news, I'm off to see if I need to add any blogs to my bloglines account. The full list is over at Hey, Teenager of the Year; and this was organized by Steph Bowe.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend!

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Saturday, May 23, 2009

When Is An Original Character A Mary Sue?

At Kelly's new blog, Crossover, Twilight was being discussed and someone mentioned how Bella is a Mary Sue. Gail Gauthier at Original Content takes up the question, How Do I Avoid Writing Mary Sue?

So my question is, how do you identify a Mary Sue in an original book, when he or she is not in a fanfic context?

Wesley Crusher is often pointed to as a Mary Sue. And this is probably why, to put it mildly, there are fans who don't like him. From Wikipedia, "A "canon Sue" may also refer to a character whose canon portrayal itself is seen as a "Mary Sue", rather than a character who has been altered in fan fiction. Typically, this refers to a character accused of being overly idealized or having other traits traditionally associated with fan fiction "Mary Sues", such as being "special" by having a gratuitously tragic past, unrealistic skills, or a seeming inability for the character to do wrong." The Urban Dictionary has an amusing list of the various ways Mary Sue can manifest.

JL Bell, in comments to Gail's post, cautions,"I'm seeing some Mary Sue witch-hunting out there. People have learned so strongly that Mary Sues are a sign of bad writing that they stamp the label on characters too quickly. Any sympathetic, capable character might be labeled a Mary Sue, which would leave out a lot of the heroes of literature. And suggesting that an author who expresses a sympathy of feeling or outlook for a character is inserting a Mary Sue is to miss a major point of storytelling: authors are supposed to be able to understand all their characters."

I don't think a "sympathetic" character is a bad thing; but thinking the way to create a sympathetic character is via a tragic backstory? Is bad writing. You know what I mean -- "she's an orphan! so now she's sympathetic, right?" Um. No.

Keep in mind, "overly idealized" does not necessarily mean perfect; often the way the character is kept from being perfect is to be given a negative trait. However, if that trait is turned into another reason to lurv the character? It doesn't stop the overly-idealized. Yes, I'm talking Bella's clumsiness.

Gratuitously tragic past means the past tragedy has nada to do with the present situation, except to make the reader/other characters feel sorry for that character and "feeling sorry" translates immediately into "liking them and being friends." Bina in Madonna's English Roses series (her Mom's dead? Oh, now we're her friends!).

Unrealistic skills. This is why Ally Carter's Cami is NOT a Mary Sue. Within the context of the Gallagher Academy, Cami's skills are not unrealistic; plus, she's surrounded by people who share the same skill set, sometimes doing it better than she does.

Inability for the character to do wrong.

OK, so that's Wikipedia for you.

When you're reading an original story, what about it sets off your Mary Sue Radar? What book?

For me, a big thing is usually when a "plain Jane" girl has a "too cool for school" boy instantly fall for her for no apparent reason. But, frankly, it comes down to poor characterization. The Mary Sue never becomes a real, breathing character; rather, she or he is a list of characteristics and back story. The "inability to do wrong" means not that the character always makes the right choices; but, rather, her choices are never questioned and always championed by the author and the other characters.

EDITED TO ADD: I had no idea there was a Mary Sue discussion over at TOR. I'm linking to it now and off to read it myself. Also, the conversation continues at Gail's blog, link above.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Friday, May 22, 2009


Booklights is a new blog over at PBS, to "inspire a love of reading in your child with help from these children’s book experts ."

And who are these children's book experts?

Gina Montefusco, who works on the PBS KIDS Raising Readers initiative.

Jen Robinson, of Jen Robinson's Book Page.

Pam Coughlan, of MotherReader.

Susan Kusel, of Wizards Wireless.

You know what I like about Booklights? Of course, that it involves bloggers whose blogs I love. But also, when you read more about them, the contributors are a mix of library people and non-library people, parents and people who aren't parents. It's a nice, varied list of people, all who have the important things in common: books, reading, promoting literacy. And, the bloggers are each continuing their own blogs.

So far, most of the books discussed have been picture books, easy readers, and chapter books, but I imagine that books for teens will be included, also.

Yes, they are on Twitter.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Teaser: Candor

Candor by Pam Bachorz. Egmont USA. September 2009. Reviewed from ARC supplied by publisher.

First: Great cover. I love how it conveys something about the book and also entices a person to pick it up.

Second: The back of the ARC says "Stepford makes the perfect wife, but Candor teens are changed for life." Oscar Banks' father has created the picture perfect town of Candor. It's not just the buildings and the landscaping that is perfect -- the people have been made perfect, also. Especially the teens. A little brainwashing to "help" a teen be the best son or daughter they can be. Best and perfect as defined not only by their parents, but also by Oscar's dad. And Oscar is the poster boy for just how successful Candor is with fixing teens. What Dad doesn't know is that Oscar knows what is going on... and has been helping kids escape.

Third: The author has a book playlist up at her website. I listened to it as I was writing this up. Great songs that convey the tone and feeling of the book.

Teaser: A mini post about a book I've read that won't be published for several months. The full review will be posted closer to the publication date.

Twitter Review

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Interview Extras! Brian Farrey

As I mentioned earlier, I interviewed several people for my two-part ARC series at ForeWord's ShelfSpace Blog. I could not use all the wonderful things from the interviews.

Today, I share the full interview with Brian Farrey, a Flux Acquisitions Editor. Brian provides a great history of ARCs and galleys.

Liz B: What, exactly is an "ARC"?

Brian Farrey: ARC stands for Advanced Reader (Reading) Copy. It's primarily a marketing/publicity tool aimed at generating advance interest and excitement for a forthcoming title. They are typically uncorrected (meaning there will be typos and other errors) and are primarily meant to give a feel for the final book, although sometimes there are significant changes between the ARC and the final copy (which is why reviewers are urged to check any quoted material against the final copy).

In a broader sense, it may be helpful to discuss the "history and hierarchies" of ARCs. A warning: this is more or less how things were explained to me when I got into publishing so you may hear variations of this from other people. Essentially, there are three different types of marketing/publicity tools that involve sending advance copies of a forthcoming manuscript out.

They are:

BLAD: stands for Book Layout And Design. Depending on the publisher, the quality/look of these will vary. For the most part, they are VERY basic. Sometimes, they are just printed manuscripts, occasionally bound (most likely spiral bound) that give a rough idea for how a book feels. There might be a bit of basic formatting so it looks more like a book (margins, page size, etc.) but at this early stage, there is no cover or much of anything. A BLAD might be made by a big publisher who has what they feel is a really hot title (maybe it's high concept and would make a great movie/TV show/etc.). They'll throw together a BLAD to send to producers/agents/what have you who might be interested in acquiring special rights for production purposes. To that end, BLADs (when used) tend to go out VERY EARLY in the process. A BLAD might not even be the complete book.

Last summer at BEA, Jonathan Stroud was signing a thin BLAD that contained a few chapters from his recent HEROES OF THE VALLEY. In this instance, a BLAD was used to generate excitement for an established author's upcoming title, several months before it would be available in true galley form. (I never saw a galley for HEROES so I don't know what treatment it got). BLADs are almost never used with reviewers in mind.

Galley: Technically speaking, a galley is more advanced than a BLAD but not as great as an ARC. (Although, to be perfectly honest, most people I know use the terms galley and ARC interchangeably. If you get down to the nitty gritty, there is a difference. But most people who say either "galley" or "ARC" mean the same thing.)

A galley is more like a book. It's bound in roughly the same size as the final product, it may or may not have cover art (a few years ago, when the latest Fudge book came out, I got a book with a white cover with the title of the book and "Judy Blume" printed on the front and nothing else), and will usually be sent to a select group.

In the old days, galleys were a lot less fancy and very generic looking. Given advances in technology, galleys these days can be a little fancier. If the publisher's on their game, they most likely have some semblance of the cover art on the front. Sometimes, if they don't have cover art, a publisher might do something funky with the binding to generate interest. (Did you see the galley for THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND a few years ago? It was done up to look like a magician's newspaper, with all the stories on the front and back cover relating to the content of the book. I thought it was really clever and a fun way to make people interested in the book. I kept my copy and I trot it out every now and then when I want to encourage one of our
committees to think outside the box when it comes to pre-pub buzz.)

A galley will go out earlier than an ARC (anywhere from 6-12 months before the book's release); again, these are for hot, hot, hot books where the publisher wants to generate buzz. They're meant to get people talking about the book itself, not necessarily to generate reviews (although that does happen too).

Flux doesn't do galleys in this sense. As a smaller publisher, we can only afford to produce one type of advance book (the ARC). With all the recent cutbacks in publishing, I think we'll see a lot more ARCs than galleys in the future. (Actually, I think a lot more will be done digitally, via PDF, for those willing to accept a digital copy.) Sales people might use galleys for their clients but most buyers will want to see the cover too. Sometimes, galleys won't be the complete book either (most often, this is done to maintain some element of surprise, like the advance copies of 39 CLUES, but I'd call those ARCs more than galleys).

ARC: Advanced Reader (Reading) Copy. ARCs tend to be fancier than galleys. They're closer to being "the real" book. There's cover art (it might even be fancy with spot gloss or other bells and whistles to make it stand-out; the most fancy ARCs I've ever seen were the ARCs for the first 39 CLUES book, which had the same sliding window and trading cards that the final books had). Depending on the publisher's schedule, they might be edited (emphasis on MIGHT; most smart reviewers know that the advance materials they get are uncorrected and they don't waste their time hunting down typos.)

An ARC is meant to capture the experience of the book as closely as possible. It will be formatted almost exactly like the final book, might have interior artwork, and will sometimes even have back cover copy (BCC). Here is where you'll see a variance between publishers. Some imprints don't use BCC until the final book, but most will have it on at least the ARC (not always so with the BLAD or galley). These are the ones more likely to be used to solicit reviews. To that end, they are sent to long lead publications anywhere from 4-6 months prior to the book's

All of these are typically printed on low quality paper and materials (they're not meant to last; they're meant to be read once and tossed). Most will typically have some sort of marketing info (intended print run, ISBN, marketing plan occasionally, etc.) included.

Liz B: Why do publishers print ARCs? Who is the audience?

Brian Farrey: I answered this a little in my previous response but here's some more.

Advance materials (be it BLADs, galleys, or ARCs) are printed to 1) generate buzz within a community (might be book lovers, could be librarians, might be chain buyers), 2) promote interest, 3) solicit pre-publication reviews used to influence buyers. To that end, accompanying materials are often targeted at journalists and buyers, playing up the most favorable aspects of the book that will interest readers or promote sales.

At Flux, we'll sometimes craft different BCC for an ARC than that which will appear on the final book. Because our ARCs are targeting journalists, we try to speak their language and give them a "hook" that will make them want to write about the book. The BCC for a final book will be aimed more at consumers and readers.

Liz B: How many ARCs does a publisher print for each book?

Brian Farrey: This, obviously, varies. As a smaller publisher, we print a very small number of ARCs because of their high cost (compared to a final book; more on that later). We typically do around 30 copies per title. Some bigger houses will do hundreds (or even thousands) of copies of a book (however, there are also some titles for which they won't print ANY ARCs; Flux, at least, does ARCs for every title we publish). To that end, our publicity team works to craft a very targeted list of media contacts who will receive ARCs.

Liz B: Compared to the final hardcover (or paperback), how much does an ARC cost?

Brian Farrey: The main reason that ARCs are so much more expensive to produce is that they're done in much smaller volumes than the final book. At Flux, for instance, we might print 30 ARCs of a book but 5,000 of an initial print run. Those 30 galleys, because they're so few, will cost us around $5-7 per copy. Because of volume discounts, the final print run might be between $1-2 a book.

Liz B: What types of changes do you usually see between an ARC and the final version of the book?

Brian Farrey: In theory, there aren't many substantial changes between ARC and final copy. Most changes are to correct typos, clarify text (eliminate confusing or inconsistent plot points/character traits). It's rare when an author radically changes something that significantly alters a text's point or meaning between the two versions. (At least, in my experience, it's been rare. I did have one author who, between the time she turned in the first and second drafts, changed the sex of a major character and COMPLETELY altered everything that happened in the book after that. But that all happened before it went to ARC. It would have been verrrry
interesting to see the online discussions if people compared an ARC where the female protagonist was crushing on a boy to the final version where the boy was changed to a girl. In some ways, I'm sorry that got changed before the ARCs went out....)

Liz B: If there is anything else you'd like to say that isn't covered by these questions, please let me know!

Brian Farrey: To go back to your question about the audience for ARCs... This will, again, depend on the publisher. Someone who recognizes that their book has great library potential might embark on a strong library campaign. They might have the galleys tailored specifically to this market. Most publishers recognize the value of pre-pub buzz and they also recognize that most of it comes from librarians (and, to a smaller extent, booksellers). BUT, for smaller publishers on a budget, their primary audience will always be journalists of printed materials. It's not meant to slight bloggers or people who write for other alternative venues, but, in the end, it's about who has the most reach and can get the message to the most people.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Feeling Sad

Feeling Sad by Sarah Verroken. Enchanted Lion. Enchanted Lion Books. 2009. Copy supplied by Publisher. Publisher's Fall 2009 Catalog.

The Plot:

Poor Duck. "Everything around her seems so gloomy." The only color in her world comes from her toy, Cuddly. Everything else is black and white. She is "grumpy and sad," and so is her world. Slowly, as her mood lifts, color returns to her world.

The Good:

I love the drawings; woodcuts, that slowly, slowly introduce color. I love that the text doesn't point out the gradual introduction of color; it's for the reader to notice. When I first picked up on it, sure enough, I was actually a few pages behind.

On one level, it's about a gloomy Duck. And Duck sees only a gloomy world. And of course it's about what the title says: Feeling Sad. When we feel sad, we see things one way; as our mood changes and brightens, how we see thing change, and it can be a slow process.

On another level, it's not just sadness -- it's also depression. And kids can be extreme in their emotions; high highs and low lows. And they see it in others. So a book that shows that -- that reflects that reality? Especially that sometimes people (and Ducks) just feel sad for no reason? And does it without being all obviously bibliotherapy about it? Good.

Plus, I really really like the illustrations.

Enchanted Lions is a small publisher; and I'm consistently impressed with the artistry of their picture books. Seriously, sometimes I just want to cut pictures out of their books and frame them.

Links: Author's blog. Which is in English and Dutch. Because the author is bilingual. How cool is that?

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer Blog Blast Tour

I'm not involved this year, but here is the list of this week's interviews, from Chasing Ray. Chasing Ray will also have daily posts, highlighting a choice quote from the interview.

Monday, May 18th

Andrew Mueller at Chasing Ray
Kekla Magoon at Fuse Number 8
Carrie Jones at Writing & Ruminating
Amber Benson at Little Willow
Greg van Eekhout at Shaken & Stirred

Tuesday, May 19th

Maya Ganesan at Miss Erin
Sherri Winston at Finding Wonderland
Amber Benson at lectitans
Carolyn Hennesy at Little Willow
Jo Knowles at Hip Writer Mama

Wednesday, May 20th

Barbara O'Conner at Mother Reader
James Kennedy at Fuse Number 8
Maggie Stiefvater at Writing & Ruminating
Rosemary Clement-Moore at Little Willow
Jo Knowles at lectitans
Melissa Wyatt at Chasing Ray

Thursday, May 21st

Siobhan Vivian at Miss Erin
Alma Alexander at Finding Wonderland
Laurel Snyder at Shaken & Stirred
Cindy Pon at The Ya Ya Yas
Thalia Chaltas at Little Willow

Friday May 22nd

Jenny Davidson at Chasing Ray
Rebecca Stead at Fuse Number 8
Ryan Mecum at Writing and Ruminating
Lauren Myracle at Little Willow
Kristin Cashore at Hip Writer Mama

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

What Is That Thing You Do?

Or, are blog posts "reviews"?

The lawyer in me says, it's all how we define the words we use. We just have to make sure that we define them the same way. When you say "review" does it mean the same thing as when I say "review"?

So, randomly and in no particular order, the various ways that a blog post can talk about a book. Please note (at least in terms of myself!) that one blog can incorporate all of these; heck, one blog post about a book can be a little of everything.

-- Opinions. Usually highly personal.

-- Discussions. Invites feedback from other readers.

-- Recommendations for readers. Usually avoids spoilers. Usually aimed at those who haven't read the book.

-- Recommendations for "gatekeepers" -- usually librarians, booksellers, teachers, parents. Gatekeepers can work in two ways: as the buyers of the book or the recommenders of the books to teens. And, often, they won't read the book themselves. So, these tend to highly spoilerific.

-- Analysis. Due to analyzing the book, tends to be spoilerific. Audience is usually people who have read the book.

-- Snark. Fun when done well, boring and strident went done poorly. I think snark works best with an audience who has read the book. But, not always. I've only read the first Twilight book, but greatly enjoy all the snark about the books.

Then there is the "personal" versus "objective", also known as, "when I say it, it's objective; when you do, it's personal." Seriously, though, to me this is the difference between saying "this book isn't good because the teen was a goody two shoes who skipped class, as a (former/current) goody two shoes I never would have skipped class" (personal: about the reviewer's personality, not the book) and "I didn't find it believable when the teen in the book skipped class, because she was described as a goody two shoes and the author didn't sufficiently explain why suddenly on this day she had to skip class" (objective, arguing the author didn't convince for plot and/or character).

Is personal bad? Hell to the no, especially for "what to read next". If I can find a blogger/reviewer who I know has "my taste", then I know I'll agree with their recommendations. The opposite can be true; if someone doesn't have my reading tastes, and they don't like a book, I may be inspired to read it myself or check out other reviews. A good example of this is genre fiction, such as science fiction/ fantasy. Someone may review The Hunger Games negatively because they don't think all the world-building issues were addressed. They then review Flora Segunda with the same complaint. I liked Hunger Games and liked the world building; chances are, I know enough, due to knowing that bloggers's personality, to decide I wouldn't agree with them about Flora. (For the record? Love Flora.)

I like personality with a review. Which brings me to another question: the content of what is written. Sometimes, I'm sold on a one-line description -- "High schooler Mia discovers she is actually a princess." On the other hand, I get a bit bored when I see over and over again things that are just a plot synopsis. That tells me exactly what I'd get from the publisher or the jacket copy of the book. So why do I need to read it elsewhere? Instead, tell me something the publisher won't tell me, about style or structure or characters.

Why does any of this matter? Especially when, if you're like me, a person may do a bit of everything? I'm sure you can search my blog and find postings that contain all these things.

It matters to the intended reader, mainly. A parent looking for books to recommend to kids is going to be looking to read different 'reviews' than the reader looking for 'what to read next.' And since personal can vary ("hey, I was also a goody two shoes and I always skipped class!"), that can be good or bad for the new blog reader. So who is your intended reader? Speaking personally -- my intended reader varies. Sometimes I want to be "wowza" about a book (drop everything and read this NOW.) Other times, I may know this book would fit a particular reader and write that way.

So what about you? How do you write posts? Who is your audience? What kinds of things do you see and don't see on blog posts about books? What would you like to see more or less of? In terms of your writing, what did you read about writing reviews that helped you? The two things I recommend are From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books (which was written in 1997, and is excellent but I would love if it were updated to include blogs and online reviewing); and Anne Boles Levy on the different types of reviews.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything

Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything by Lenore Look. Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. Simon & Schuster. 2006. Sequel to Ruby Lu, Brave and True. Personal copy.

The Plot:

Ruby Lu is in second grade. And the best. thing. ever. has happened: "The best thing about having a cousin come from another country to live with you is everything." Flying Duck is full of wonders, from signing Chinese Sign Language to using chopsticks to pick up peas. What happens when having an immigrant cousin gets old?

The Good:

A great chapter book for the younger set. Ruby's concerns revolve around what is important to an almost-8 year old: school, learning to swim, alternating between fighting with her neighbor Emma and being friends.

The immigration story of Flying Duck is in the background; there are some challenges for Ruby's family, but the problems are really in the background. Flying Duck's parents have trouble finding work, but Ruby is more concerned with learning how to swim (or, rather, avoiding learning).

Ruby's family is Chinese-American. It's woven into the story; it's not the point of the story. The point of the story is a second grader figuring out how to be a friend to her cousin, and thinking getting glasses is cool, and seeing if it is hot enough outside to fry an egg. Or a pot sticker. Or a hamburger.

Ruby is a great kid -- real, funny, adventurous except when she doesn't want to be (like swimming). Perfect for elementary schools and early readers; and also a great family read aloud.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Friday, May 15, 2009

Alvin Ho

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House. 2008. Personal Copy.

The Plot: Alvin Ho, second grader, is scared of a lot of things. Girls. School. Stuff. He does his best to handle them; for example, school? With the help of his older brother, Calvin, and younger sister, Anibelly, he prepares a PDK (personal disaster kit), complete with emergency plans. And, of course, there is the whole "not talking in school" thing.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters
by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House. 2009. ARC.

The Plot:
Alvin's back; still not talking in school. Still sitting next to Flea. Still sort of hanging with the gang. Except now his father has decided camping is what Alvin needs. Camping!! That's a whole lot of things for Alvin to be afraid of, er, allergic to, from thunderstorms to running out of food to no TV to a "pit toilet."

The Good:

Alvin is such a great seven year old! And Look does a masterful job of showing the complexities, humor, and politics of the elementary school world. Kids will be laughing and enjoying the typical things Alvin encounters: a friend with chicken pox, playing Houdini, breaking something he shouldn't have borrowed and dealing with the consequences.

Alvin doesn't talk in school; outside of school, he does. He is digging holes in the backyard, he is "Firecracker Man," he is playing with his friends and striving to "be a gentleman" like his father.

Alvin's not-talking is not part of the plot. Nope, it's just part of who he is. Flea (aka Sophie), his friend from school, wears an eye patch and has one leg longer than the other. There is no drama about that; no "life lessons". It's just who she is. Period. Which is great, and much better than turning Alvin or Flea (or their friend Jules who is just Jules, maybe a boy, maybe a girl, no one cares) into an "after school special" lesson.

These books are not "and then Alvin found his voice"; they are not "and here is the traumatic reason he cannot talk in school." These are books for younger kids; they don't need a found-voice moment. They don't need a reason. They all know - -school is scary. The idea of someone not talking in school? Scary ... but oddly, reassuring, to know that other kids are that scared. And to know that however scared they are, they are not as scared as Alvin.

Alvin cries. And never, ever, not even by his siblings, is he mocked or called cry-baby. Matter of factly he tells us, "crying is great. You always feel better afterward." And isn't that true?

For the grown-ups reading along with children, this also offers something deeper. Alvin lives in Concord, Mass. The first book touches on the kids recreating Revolutionary War battles on the schoolyard: "The best thing about history, as everyone knows, is that you can play at recess." The second, Henry David Thoreau. There is a great dream sequence with HDT.

Kids may not pick up on Alvin being Asian American. If they don't consciously notice, they will still pick up, even if they don't know it, that books (like life) contains people of all sorts of backgrounds, with different foods, and different nicknames for grandparents. Or, they may notice -- because they or a friend or family member is Asian American, and they have noticed not being reflected in the books they read. Either way, it's a win.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Review, review, to you and you and you

If you're looking forward to fall books, here are some of my recommendations (with reviews!) at Librarilly Blonde

Hate List by Jennifer Brown (Little, Brown 09-2009)
Candor by Pam Bachorz (Egmont USA, 09-2009)
The September Sisters by Jillian Cantor (HarperCollins, 05-2009...this one's spring)
Liar by Justine Larbalestier (Bloomsbury USA, 10-2009)
and two books I reviewed jointly because they cover similar topics: Fat Cat by Robin Brande and Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff (Random House, 9-2009 and Egmont USA, 9-2009)

Happy reading!

© Carlisle Webber of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Be My Friend!

The Story Siren has a post up about author/reviewer relationships; and since it took seven tries to write a comment that wasn't the length of This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn, I knew I would be writing something up here.

Story Siren's question: Are author/reviewer relationships a good thing or a bad thing? And she goes on to ponder things like a reader being a fan, and how being friends influences reviews, etc. Reviewer X continues the conversation, concentrating on the idea of 'negative' reviews. Both blogs have some interesting comments, with a variety of perspectives.

To back up a little, I've written before about reviews and reviewers and bloggers: We Don't Need No Stinking Book Reviews; Another Article About Those Darn Bloggers; bloggers represent a dead end; and you may remember when Critical Mass's Ethics in Book Reviewing post, which I thought I wrote about, but apparently not. I think a few years back there was something about reviewers and friends reviewing books? Anyone remember? I'm just finding stuff like this.


And for the record? It is different when we're talking "professional reviews." Among other things, those reviews are for journals where the reviewer does not select the book(s) they review; an editor is involved in the process; and the review is written for journal requirements and guidelines (i.e., it's not about whether the reviewer likes the book, it's whether the book is being recommended for purchase or is a good work of literature, etc.) See Carlie Webber's recent post at Shelf Space).

Topic. And I mean it this time.

Authors and bloggers are part of today's book community; as such, they will be friends and friendly. The level may vary -- a Twitter friend versus a real life friend. Sometimes someone may be both. It's a bit ridiculous to say there should be an iron curtain, especially as some people start as bloggers and then may become published authors; or authors may also blog about books.

I'm a big fan of transparency and awareness. So, if you're friends with an author whose book you review or discuss on your blog, mention it. It doesn't have to be anything huge; and of course there is a difference between being friendly -- some tweets back and forth over favorite TV show and the like -- and going over to someone's house for dinner.

Is it necessary to disclose who you follow on Twitter? Friend on Facebook? Comment back and forth on blogs? No. It depends on the level of the relationship. When I review my friend Christine Marciniak's book, I'll mention that we've been friend since fifth grade. If I review a book by Coe Booth, I'm not going to say "BTW, we follow each other on Twitter and sometimes send tweets back and forth." I'm not going to say, "this author left a comment on my blog three months ago and now I'm posting about her book."

Use your judgment (and for the most part, bloggers do use their judgment and think about these things). As always, the good rules of thumb: "If I was reading this blog post, would I want to know this about the author/blogger relationship?" and "Do I think I may be influenced by that relationship?"

Which brings us to awareness: being aware of how that relationship affects how you're blogging. If the authors you know are ones that you're reviewing, make sure you review some books by authors you don't know, for instance. A much harder issue is when the book isn't good. Some bloggers don't post reviews of books they don't like because, since blogging is voluntary, they don't have to finish the book. So that's an easy answer.

But.... but you finish the book. And you think there are flaws. And you know, if the author were anyone else, you'd post a critical review. That is the real issue.... and that's up to the individual blogger how to handle. It's a tough one; it's a real issue. But c'mon... we are still all part of one community. So we can still be friendly and friends.

While I tend to be a "I didn't finish it so I'm not going to snark about it" blogger, I do like snark. And I appreciate accurate, critical reviews. Because -- sometimes, the book isn't good. I'm not saying "oh, I didn't like the book", which is a different post. I'm not talking reviews that tell me more about the reviewer than the book. I'm talking when characters are weak; plotholes abound; writing is choppy. And guess what? I want to know that! I don't want to waste time and money on a book that isn't all that.

Which brings me to the authors in the relationship. Yes, I understand that the book is your baby. Yes, I know it was a lot of hard work. Yes, I know the dread of "omg what if someone hates my book." I'm right with you, sweating over reviews, waiting for royalty statements. (Remember, I cowrote Pop Goes the Library). Don't respond to reviews you don't like. Don't pressure bloggers for reviews or feedback (and yes, even a status email can be seen as pressure). Don't get angry at the idea of reviews being anything other than positive and rainbows.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Interview Extras! Andrew Karre

As I mentioned earlier, I interviewed several people for my two-part ARC series at ForeWord's ShelfSpace Blog. EDITED TO ADD: These two posts are now on my blog, here and here (link to be added 12/28/09).

So, I am sharing the full, uncut, unedited interviews here as an "Extra." Not only are ARCs made available to librarians; they are also being provided to many bloggers. Blog readers aren't always familiar with what is -- or isn't -- being reviewed. So, more information is always good!

Today, read the full interview with Andrew Karre, Editorial Director for Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group.

Andrew Karre: Thanks for letting me chime in. I hadn't heard of [the] practice [of adding ARCs to a library collection] ,and I'm a little shocked. It's not an exaggeration to say that shelving ARCs is an existential threat to the whole practice of distributing ARCs widely.

Liz B: What is an ARC?

Andrew Karre: An ARC ("advance reading copy," also called a "galley" or a "bound galley") is a promotional piece and a sales tool. It's a book bound using a similar process to regular trade paperbacks, often with cheaper paper and cover stock. The text can be at various stages of editorial development, but ideally it's a close-to-final manuscript that's only lacking proofreading. It often has a final cover. Instead of reader-focused backcover and flap copy, it probably has details of release date and promotional plans as well as copy more akin to catalog copy, where the audience is librarians and buyers, rather than readers (for example, I don't throw a fit when ARC copy gives away too much detail, but I do on the actual book).

All ARCs have some variation on a banner that says "Not for Sale: Advance Uncorrected Proof."

Liz B: Why do publishers create ARCs? Who is the audience?

Andrew Karre: ARCs serve several purposes for several audiences. Least known, in my experience, is that book designers like to use them to fine tune their designs. Farther down the line, these are the books that often go to pre-pub trade review venues like Kirkus, PW, SLJ, etc. Awards committees get ARCs. Authors and publishers send them out for blurbs. Sales people like to have them to show and perhaps leave with bookstore buyers. Foreign and subsidiary rights sales people use ARCs. And, of course, we give them away at tradeshows to librarians, buyers, other book industry types (from a cynical POV, BEA is basically a giant redistribution of ARCs among publishing professionals). In YA, publishers also participate in YALSA's excellent galley program, which puts ARCs into the hands of teens.

The purpose for any of these audiences is to create buzz and eventually sales. Ideally, every ARC will earn its keep by creating a book sale or two (a librarian reads an ARC, digs it, talks about it to her teen reading group, buys copies of the real book for her collection, etc.) Let me repeat: ARCs must create sales of actual books.

Liz B: How many ARCs do publishers create for each book?

Andrew Karre: Publishers print between a dozen and thousands, depending on their plans and expectations for the book. It varies hugely.

Liz B: How much do they cost compared to the final book?

Andrew Karre: It depends on the sizes of the print runs for each. The basic thing to know is that, the larger the print run, the cheaper any single book in that run will be to produce. It could easily cost a lot more per book if the run of ARCs is very short (in which case they might be done POD, where you pay for speed and the ability to do short runs). If the ARC order is large, they might be printed like regular books, in which case the per book cost would be lower than POD per book (but there would be setup costs, etc.). In any case, the ARC is probably going to cost more and maybe several times more.

Liz B: What kind of changes happen between ARC and final books?

Andrew Karre: Ideally, very few changes are made--mostly proofreading and adding details like bios, art, design tweaks, dedications, etc. In practice, a lot can change. I've seen covers change, major plot points change, and even titles. Making these kinds of changes compromises an ARCs ability to represent the book, so it's almost always undesirable to make big changes. Book publishing can be a bit like that famous I Love Lucy episode in the candy factory( The conveyor belt generally does not stop for anything.

If I can add done thing, I'd like to say that there is almost nothing a librarian can do that's more damaging than shelving an ARC. Like I said, an ARC is expected to make a sale. If you shelve an ARC, then that ARC has the opposite effect. I think the relationship that's developing between publishers and libraries in YA trade publishing is very exciting, but misusing ARCs will kill it. I know budgets are tight, but shelving ARCs is stealing.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Prophecy of the Sisters

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink. Little, Brown. August 2009. Reviewed from ARC; ARC supplied by publisher. Publisher website for book. Author's MySpace (with theme music).

The Plot:

November, 1890. Lia Milthorpe has just buried her father. Her mother died years ago. They may have a big house and family money, but sixteen year old Lia, her twin sister, Alice, and their ten year old brother, Henry, are alone except for their mother's sister, Aunt Virginia.

Lia think she knows all about her family. She's about to discover secrets, deadly secrets, that go back generations. It begins with a strange marking that appears on her wrist...

The Good:

A book about the supernatural without fairies spelled in weird ways. Yay!

And is this an awesome cover? Zink must have cast a spell or two to be so lucky.

Lia discovers that she and her twin sister, Alice, are part of a Prophecy; as were her mother and Aunt Virginia; and their mother and aunt; and so on, and so on. "One the Guardian, One the Gate/ One keeper of peace/ The other bartering sorcery for devotion."

Lia and Alice have never been exactly close. Lia's discovery of the Prophecy -- of one twin good, one twin bad -- explains much of Alice's recent behavior, especially after she discovers Alice late at night, alone in a room, murmuring, conducting a strange ceremony.

But things aren't what they appear to be. There is more to the Prophecy, much more. And more to the life Lia knows; she discovers friends and foes and asks questions that, for the first time, have no answers. And she learns that no matter what a Prophecy says, or the role Fate says one must play in a Prophecy, there is still choice. A person always has a choice.

Zink is skillful at building suspense, slowly revealing things to Lia and the reader. Lia begins in a rational world, and just as Lia slowly becomes convinced of the Prophecy, lost souls, and Otherworlds, so, to, is the reader convinced.

I'd forgotten how much I love a good Gothic novel. I began reading with the oddest of questions (why is this set in 1890?)* and the answer is easy -- because Zink uses and plays with so many Gothic motifs, including the Victorian era. Orphaned girls in old houses, white nightgowns, a love interest, books and libraries, faithful servants, seances, old-world myths, etc. If I were to bet (or to start looking for author interviews), I'd say that Zink did some extensive reading and research into the Gothic genre before writing this book. And I'd further bet that the things that don't appear in this book will appear in others in the series.

While Gothic novels don't have to be set in Victorian times, it adds to the creepy, vaguely disturbing feel of the book. Picturing Lia and Alice in Victorian garb makes this so much more mysterious; I'm not sure I would have been quite so concerned about Lia if she were running around in jeans and a hoodie.

Sisters of the Prophecy is clearly the first book in a series, which means that I have many, many unanswered questions. But my curiosity is not important for this book; what is important is does Zink answer the questions necessary for this book? Does this book have closure for it's primary story? Yes to both; the unanswered questions are reasons I look forward to the next book. And there is nothing more annoying than the reader who demands a book that explain everything all at once, all at up front.

My Twitter Review.

*One of my odd reading quirks is questioning WHY an author sets a book in the past, whether it's 1991 or 1891.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Monday, May 11, 2009

Teaser: Liar

Liar by Justine Larbalestier. Bloomsbury USA. October 2009. Reviewed from ARC. Copy from publisher.

Micah is a liar. She tells you so right on page one: "My father is a liar and so am I." And on the same page, she says: "I will tell you my story and I will tell it straight. No lies, no omissions." Micah is a senior. Zach, another senior, has gone missing. Micah may (or may not) have been dating him. Micah may (or may not) have been the last person to see him. Micah is a liar...and you're never sure when she's telling the truth. Does Micah even know what is true? What is a lie? And what has happened to Zach?

Without giving anything away (and leaving my full review for closer to the publication date), I will also add: this is a wonderful tale of suspense, with multiple mysteries, and a sense of foreboding and doom in the first half of the book that you can practically taste. It is not only being added to my Favorite Books Read in 2009 list; it's also going on my list of books I think are potential award winners.

Post that made me read this book: from Librarilly Blonde.

Teaser: A mini post about a book I've read that won't be published for several months. The full review will be posted closer to the publication date.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy