Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Spring Updates

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm hard at work on a new young adult novel right now, plus I'm getting ready for my whole family to arrive from out of state to celebrate my daughter's high school graduation next week. If you don't see me on social media much over the next month or two, it's because I'm either hurrying to meet my latest deadline or busy with loved ones. I'll also start traveling for appearances again in late June.

Before I duck away too much, I'll leave you with a few updates about my novels and upcoming events.

First of all, I'm excited to announce that The Steep and Thorny Way was selected for the 2017-18 Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB). If you're an Oregon student in grades 9-12 in a school that participates in OBOB, you'll get to read not only my book, but eleven other titles, including novels by Stacey Lee, Jason Reynolds, and Renée Ahdieh. I'm extremely honored that Steep will be part of this incredible program.

I also learned that The Steep and Thorny Way is the 2017 Jefferson Cup Award winner for Young Adult Readers. I'll be traveling to the Virginia Library Association's annual conference in October to accept the award and discuss the novel.

In Odd & True news, I now have a date and location for the launch party:

Thurs., September 14, 2017
7:00 pm
Powell's Books 
at Cedar Hills Crossing
3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd. 
Beaverton, OR

I'll also be promoting Odd & True at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago on Sunday, June 25. If you're a librarian who's planning to attend the conference, you'll be able to see me at the YALSA Coffee Klatch at 9:00 am. I'll post my signing schedule/ARC giveaway details as soon as I receive more info.

And if you're heading to BookCon in New York this weekend, you can grab an Odd & True ARC at Abrams Booth #2007. Follow @PiqueBeyond on Twitter for more details.

Check back here on June 12 for info about a special, limited-time Odd & True pre-order giveaway.

Odd & True is coming 
Sept. 12, 2017, from Abrams.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Let's talk for a moment about sequels

I'm in the middle of writing a new young adult novel that I'll refer to as the Secret Project, but long before any official announcements appear about the book, I want to get something out of the way:

The new novel is not a sequel to Odd & True. 

I know that the cover of Odd &True looks like it's the beginning of a series, and I know that people who read it might wonder if there will be either a sequel or a prequel (more on that topic in a sec). And I also know that the title of Secret Project might even have people questioning if it's a sequel to In the Shadow of Blackbirds (another bird is involved in the name). But, no, like all my other books, Secret Project is a standalone, and I'm extremely excited about it.

So, why don't I ever write sequels? 

There are two main reasons.

1. I really like standalone novels. As a reader, I prefer them.

2. My books aren't quite successful enough to merit sequels. They haven't yet made it onto a bestseller list. Moreover, I write historical fiction, which isn't necessarily associated with series in the world of YA publishing (unless you're a bestseller). To be able to convince a publisher to buy my historical series, even one that involves monsters or ghosts, my books would need a stellar debut.

My novels have sold well, largely because of library sales, awards, and word of mouth (thank you librarians, award committees, and readers!), but those types of sales, while wonderful, are more gradual, less flashy. The chances of my books "breaking out" and achieving bestseller status are much slimmer than the odds for novels with major publicity budgets supporting them.

I do often consider writing sequels. In fact, I've written the first chapter of a sequel for In the Shadow of Blackbirds, but I quickly tucked it away, realizing I'd put my protagonist through enough in the first book. I preferred to leave her story on a note of hope.

I've thought about writing a sequel to The Cure for Dreaming set ten years after that novel ends, but that particular book, despite gathering a strong feminist following, has been my least successful one financially. It would be a struggle to convince anyone to publish a second book.

I have proposed the idea of an Odd & True sequel to my agent, but again it all comes down to sales. I don't yet know how Odd & True will do. Right now it's safer if I write another standalone and put the idea of a sequel on the back burner.

I'm certainly not the only author in this situation. I've talked to novelists whose publishers originally asked for a three-book series, but sales for the first books were so low (there are many factors that contribute to both high and low book sales) that the series were cut after the first or second book, sometimes leaving readers with dangling cliffhangers.

Yes, self-publishing the second or third book is an option, but when writing is an author's full-time job that puts food on the table, taking a year off to write a book with no publisher backing it is equivalent to you working your job for free for a year, with the hope that someone might pay you eventually.

What can you as a reader do to help your favorite authors release their series? For starters, buy the authors' books. Pre-order sales are crucial to a book's success; they count for bestseller lists. If you can't afford to pre-order, then request the books from your local library.  Library orders do help immensely. And leave reviews for books on online ordering sites like Amazon.

Don't stock up on free ARCs (advance reading copies) if you don't have the means to promote your reviews to a wide audience (see this Twitter thread from bookseller Nicole Brinkley and this thread from Justina Ireland for more info on this subject). Most importantly, don't download free books from sites offering illegal copies. Every time you do so, you're decreasing your favorite authors' chances of being able to continue writing more books.

Publishers look carefully at sales, and if an author's books aren't selling well enough, even though the books are popular in the online community, the publisher may stop buying the author's books or at the very least lower their advances.

The bottom line: publishing is a challenging business, and competition is fierce. Becoming a published author does not guarantee that every book an author wants to write will get published.

If I do decide to create more Odd & True books, and if the first novel does find success, I will certainly share that news as soon as I can. Until then, rest assured Odd & True can stand on its own.

More info on the Secret Project to follow. I think fans of dark literature will be excited about the subject matter . . .

Odd & True is coming 
Sept. 12, 2017, from Abrams.