Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Are you passionate? Or are you a bully?

I have a strong concept of right and wrong.  Perhaps that's why I write fiction.  That way I can ensure the bad guys get their comeuppance and that's where I prefer to keep my conflict.  It's reality that troubles me at times; I see no happy ending for this dilemma.

Recently, I listened to a public service announcement from a president of a teacher’s association talk about how bullying can/must be prevented in schools and that adults have the power to stop it.  While on the surface, this sounds wonderful and part of a perfect world, I find the statement disingenuous.  Why?  Because in my opinion adults are the culprits behind, and, in fact, are the ones responsible for bullying. 

I’m amazed when adults are shocked that a child has been bullied.  Really?  Have you turned on the television lately?  Have you been on Facebook and Twitter?   What some call passionate and their First Amendment right—a rose by any other name, folks—is actually bullying.

Maybe you’ve seen the Vonage commercial about bundling (TV, phone, Internet) where a Stepford-like couple approaches their new neighbors, and says, “But we all bundle.”  I submit in one form or another, “We all bully.”   

The political ads, the downright and dirty attacks on both sides of the political spectrum have little to do with passion.  This is all out war to get their candidate elected.  There’s money to be made in these attack ads, and the ugly truth is conflict and gossip sell.  Take a look at the reality shows.  For some reason, many are drawn to watching fellow human beings experience pain and suffering.  If they weren’t, the ratings wouldn’t be through the roof, and the shows would be cancelled.

If a child is bullied at home, chances are that child is going to bully at school.  If a child is treated with kindness and respect, chances are he will carry on that learned behavior at school.  There are leaders and followers in this world, and children who don't want to be bullied and haven't learned how to stand up for themselves--well, unfortunately, they get behind the bully.  I speak of generalities of course.  There are psychological components that muddy my argument. 

My point is please, don’t tell me that adults have the power to stop anything, when, number one, their actions prove they don’t want to, and, two, they propagate the problem.

Want to stop bullying? Don’t turn a blind eye to what your children are doing in school.  Like it or not, your child has more than one teacher— and you are number one in his social education. 

Teaching children that ganging up on others is unacceptable—that much of the public service announcement is correct.  But our society and our social media tell us bullying is acceptable.  Perhaps the best way to stop bullying is to look in the mirror.  And the next time you “like” a divisive message or retweet an ugly sentiment, consider the ramifications.  Are you passionate about the topic?  Or are you getting behind a bully.

“We all bully.”  What’s more, our children are watching. . . and learning. 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Sales Statistics & Current Trends

I found the following stats from Publisher's Marketplace very interesting.  Until recently, I never knew nonfiction was such a huge part of the marketplace.  Not surprisingly romance and women's fiction still dominate fiction sales, but general fiction is strong.  Hmm I wonder if general fiction is literary fiction? Debuts seem fairly steady.  Take a look.  Reprinted directly from September Publisher's Lunch Deluxe.

The Deal for Frankfurt: Fiction Surges On Romance Boom
With the Frankfurt Book Fair about a week away, it's time for our regular look at dealmaking patterns and trends in advance of the show. As usual, we try hard to let the data tell the meaningful stories.
If you had asked for our impressionistic view based on the recent deal report flow and community chatter, we would have said that the flow of newsmaking nonfiction deals has seemed higher and that fiction--at least for unexpected new properties--has seemed light, with few new properties driving a lot of talk and intense rights sales.
But the actual data tells a somewhat different story. (As a reminder, our data is our own US deal reports at Publishers Marketplace. They capture only a portion of the market, and a smaller portion of pricing data--but the reporting population and patterns have been pretty stable, we always analyze over time looking for general changes, and the data pool is certainly substantial. We use the month of September, to normalize over time for exactly when FBF and Labor Day fall. There is always substantial additional activity between the beginning of October and the beginning of FBF.)
What we see in the September data is:
- A busy marketplace that is a little softer than last year's peak (about 5 percent fewer deals overall, but the second-busiest year of the past 6)
- A surge in fiction, driven by romance & women's fiction (which doubled). September fiction was up 25 percent from last year, the highest total ever for this month. Similarly, domestic fiction sales are up 23 percent for the year-to-date
September 2012 US Fiction Sales, By Genre
- Overall nonfiction sales were back to their 2009 levels after two years of increases. That's consistent with the pattern for the first nine months of 2012, in which nonfiction is the only declining section, with 3.5 percent fewer deal reports.
- Children's sales dropped considerably, back closer to their historical pre-Frankfurt levels after a big surge last year. And reported six-figure children's sales were down significantly. For the year so far, children's deal reports are up 16 percent--but six-figure sales are down by 40 percent
As far as reported sizable advances, six-figure fiction deals have also bounced back--driven by that surge in romance. Five of the major deals were women's fiction (none were last year), in multi-books deals, as were three of the significant deals. So far we have logged only two six-figure debuts, which drives a lot of the talk and impressions. (This time last year it was M.L. Stedman's now-NYT bestseller THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS and Rachel Joyce's THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY leading the bid-for debuts).
September 2012 Six-Figure US Fiction Sales
There is still about a week of Frankfurt dealmaking to come, and we don't want to get locked into assumptions about what that will bring, particularly after recording 36 US transactions just since yesterday. But the historical data from the past four years for the first week of October is quite consistent with the September data samples shown above.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Five Scribes Ask an Editor explains tropes


WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, LET’S GET TO our first and this month's QUESTION. 

 q:  I recently brainstormed with an author who is submitting to Entangled. We had a blast, and the good news is Entangled loves her synopsis but she said Entangled adjusted one of her "tropes." I'm a little lost on the meaning of tropes. Could anyone clarify, please?  ~ Belinda

Hi, Belinda, you've come to the right place.  Here are responses from Entangled Editors KL Grady and Ann Kopchik:
 A:   K.L. Grady:  A trope is an elment of a genre that recurs enough to be considered part of that genre's cannon. E.g. mystery tropes would be an amateur sleuth, a protagonist who is also the suspect, a femme fatale, etc.

At Entangled, we use tropes in our short romance lines to define the central romantic conflicts (and because trope-heavy romances sell better). Here, you'd have things like marriage of convenience, fling, star-crossed lovers, across the tracks, reunion, relationship in trouble, jilted bride, etc. Each of these, as you can see, will have an inherent romantic conflict riding along with it. When you combine these tropes or play with different combinations of archetypes and external conflicts, you get a fresh story that will appeal to romance readers.

Think of how the Harlequin Presents titles used to be. The Sheikh and His Secretary Have a Fling and Then She Gets Pregnant. The titles were goofy as hell, but they used them because the readers knew right away what the tropes were in the story, and they sold books. In this one, you'd have a sheikh, fling, boss/employee, and either sekrit baby/accidental pregnancy tropes.

Tropes are often confused with cliches. But when you're talking genre, there's a point where the reader contract declares certain things are necessary, and tropes are the most common ways authors deliver on those reader contract promises.

Ann Kopchik: 
KL pretty much answered the trope question, with regard to Entangled. The category line is especially trope-based, to the point where the reader must know what kind of book it will be by page 50 or so (So, a marriage of convenience, reunited lovers, enemies to friends, etc.) and if the author can stick in more than one trope, that's even better.

READERS, Do you have a question you’d like to ask an editor? Send it to me at BELLSON@COMCAST.NET AND IT COULD BE USED IN AN UPCOMING COLUMN.

 Thanks for asking!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dare to Believe a book about second chances

Just finished "Dare to believe" by L.A. Sartor and wanted to talk about how much I enjoyed this debut author's storytelling. Catherine Hempstead Malloy seemingly has everything, when her husband is killed in a tragic fall. That's not all that plummets. Richard Malloy's business dealings have left an unsuspecting Cate with little security, and certainly no way to maintain the lifestyle she and her young daughter Haley once had.

Ever pragmatic, Cate makes arrangements to move and secures a new job.  When the movers come to load up furniture, however, she's preoccupied just enough not to realize her scamp of a daughter has wandered off. Soon Cate's worry turns to terror as Haley is no where to be found.

As every parent's worst nightmare surfaces, Cate scrambles to stop the moving van, thinking Haley is hiding inside.  Jason St. Pierre skids to a halt at the sight of the woman he once had a relationship with trying to flag down a fleeing moving van.

Jason shouldn't help Cate, she walked out on him, afterall, and ended up with his business partner. But help Cate Jason does, first for the sake of finding Haley, then because much to his dismay, he still has deep feelings for Cate.

Ms. Sartor takes the reader on an adventure not only in the beautiful state of Colorado, where secrets and the mystery unfolds as to who and why they kidnapped Haley. From there Ms. Sartor takes us to the great state of Hawaii. Here, the mystery further unravels as well as the author's indepth knowledge of the Aloha State.

Love, Mystery and Emotion, L.A. Sartor covers it all. A perfect romance with mystery elements, my recommendation is on a cold winter's day, readers will want to curl up with this book and get lost in an enjoyable mystery, a large part set in Hawaii. I look forward to more of this author's books.

Well done, L.A!  So proud of you ;)