Book reviews, new books, publishing news, book giveaways, and author interviews

Bookish thoughts 24 July: de-branding YA, cheap ebooks, finding the next big thing & more!

book news Bookish thoughts 24 July: de branding YA, cheap ebooks, finding the next big thing & more!

RIASS stuff:

In addition to the lost subscribers business, which Im'still trying to sort out, it also turns out that RIASS has been hacked. Those of you attempting to search the site or search for the site may have problems with content not showing up, or with content being peppered with all sorts of stuff related to certain performance enhancing medications. Im working on getting this cleaned up, but apologies in the meantime.

Interview: Shirley Marr on being the 'David Bowie of YA'

Book Review: The Gastronomy of Marriage by Michelle Maisto'Rating: star Bookish thoughts 24 July: de branding YA, cheap ebooks, finding the next big thing & more!star Bookish thoughts 24 July: de branding YA, cheap ebooks, finding the next big thing & more!star Bookish thoughts 24 July: de branding YA, cheap ebooks, finding the next big thing & more!halfstar Bookish thoughts 24 July: de branding YA, cheap ebooks, finding the next big thing & more!blankstar Bookish thoughts 24 July: de branding YA, cheap ebooks, finding the next big thing & more!

Giveaway: The Glamour by Christopher Priest'(open to Aussie readers only)

Other bookish stuff:

What would happen if we removed the YA label from books?'And certainly the YA label doesn't tell us much of anything about the story we're about to encounter, or about its relative artistry. 'YA' tells us only that a teen or teens is involved. But so what, really, because at the end of the day, that's the case for many an adult novel, too.'Perhaps banishing the YA label would change the way we evaluated books, or even celebrated them.

My quick thoughts:'Some interesting points here, but I think the author is missing the point that the (perceived) market is so very key to how books are written, positioned, and marketed. Young adult books, at least those were familiar with today, are not simply books that feature young adults. They have a particular sensibility that differs from novels marketed to adults. And while some may have crossover appeal, I think its more the transcendent nature of these select books rather than the fact that they involve a character of a particular age that will appeal to both adults and teens alike. For example, classics featuring young adult characters have been able to transcend genre not so much of some sort of inherent age-eschewing appeal, but rather because people see them as a reminder of their own childhoods. Id argue that theyre a nostalgic read more than they are a crossover read.

And indeed, many of the books that Ive seen marketed as crossover novelsarent. Not really.'The Radleys, for example, though an excellent book, and one featuring teenagers as main characters, is firmly not YA. Its an adult book. It just doesnt have a YA sensibility, though it may well appeal to some teenagers. However, and I think this is what the author of the article is trying to get at, its entirely possible that the YA were seeing today is so readily distinguished from mainstream adult fiction'because of the need to distinguish it in order to reach particular predetermined market niches.

I do agree with the author of this article that categorisation can offer just as many problem as it can benefits, but while were still dealing with print books, there are going to be issues with where to shelve things, and market categories need to be fairly stringent as a result. In an ebook world, however, these issues become rather less concerningcompare using Yahoos old site categorisation engine with Googles search-based one, for example. A book can readily be tagged with multiple categories without having to worry about whether to divvy up copies or chainsaw a single copy into two. Perhaps as we move towards an ebook only world, these categorisations will loosen up a good deal, and perhaps the YA were used to seeing may indeed subside into something a little less clearly defined.

Are you afraid of the big bad semicolon?'So the semicolon is exactly what it looks like: a subtle hybrid of colon and comma. Actually, in ancient Greek, the same symbol was used to indicate a question

My thoughts: Oh, the wonderful semicolon. Theres a reason that Ive received comments such as your sentences are too long! on my writing in the past. I love the lengthy rapturousness a semicolon allows a sentence. I frequently use them to fuse together my buzzy little thoughts into a vaguely sonorous medley. In fact, I am trying very hard not to use one right now. I do wonder whether its fear of the semicolon that leads authors to do their dash. And by that, I mean pepper their prose with endless em dashes. Which, admittedly, I do love, as theyre so much more welcome than the telegram-like staccato of short sentences beset by full-stops, but theyre not necessarily as sexy as the semicolon.

Cheap ebooks a threat to authors, publishers alike

My quick thoughts:'Another interesting discussion of the devaluation of books and how much books should indeed cost the end user. Traditional publishers argue that the slew of Amazon titles being sold for $.99 are creating an untenable and unsustainable market that may draw readers in the short term, but in the longer term will only result in readers having increasingly unrealistic expectations about what is a reasonable price for the book. Self-publishers, on the other hand, argue that without the middleman involvement of a publishing house, the royalties on a $.99 ebook provide reasonable compensation for their work.

Im a mix of both, to be honest. As a consumer, I do feel that books, particularly those here in Australia, are a very expensive product, but having worked on the other side of the fence, I do understand the costs involved in book production and distribution. I think that theres a lot that can be done to streamline book production and especially distribution, but I also understand that publishers fear that slashing ebook prices will also undermine their print book sales and costings.

I think this is something thats going to have to happen, thoughpublishers need to accept that ebooks are here to stay, and that the public has vastly different expectations regarding what theyll pay for a physical product vs a digital one. In order to justify costs being higher than expected by the public, publishers cant just go about explaining the expenses involved in book production and expect that people will listen. Rather, they need to provide additional perceived value for those prices. Beautiful design, extras such as book club material, links to interviews, excellent customer service support and so forthall of those are a must. Publishers messed up by treating ebooks as the poor cousin of proper print books and releasing some seriously crappy products on to the market at inflated prices, and its going to take time to atone for that.

Book publishers hunt online for the new EL James'There is still no easy ride into print as, John Makinson, Penguins chief executive, has pointed out. Titles that sell well as ebooks are not always appropriate for putting between hard covers.

My quick thoughts:'This actually ties in with my thoughts about ebooks above, and its something Ive covered to some extent in my post Are ebook readers stingy or just wary? When products are sold at a huge discount, naturally theyre going to encourage buyers. Ive downloaded plenty of ebooks to my Kindle purely by virtue of the fact that they were free. Ive only read a 'handful of them, however. And those that I have read werent of a standard that Id be willing to shell out $25 for a paperback version. Something that sells well in el cheapo ebook format may well be fabulous, but its also possible that its selling well because its cheap.

To be honest, I wish that publishers would stop with this incessant chasing after the next big blockbuster. Its a mark of desperation, and seems to point to an industry whose business model is built on little more than a gambling instinct. (See also my commentary on this post.)

Wondering how to master the art of reviewing?'A thoughtful post sent to me by Elizabeth Lheude after the lengthy discussion we had in the comments of this post.

And speaking of punctuation, the New Yorker is looking for readers to come up with their own punctuation marks. Any suggestions? Personally, I think a breath mark like in music would work quite nicely. Something to say Just wait! Im not finished yet!

How cool are these free mini libraries?'Im not sure how or why the concerns about people erecting their own mini libraries outside of the original companys remit have arisen, though. Isnt it in their interests to disseminate books as widely as possible? As someone who leaves books about the place for people to pick up, and who is always looking for places to donate books, Im of the opinion that its the more the merrier. (For what its worth, the article points out that by not being a formal member of the organisation, youll miss being placed on their social networking maps and so forth)

How John Scalzi came to be where he is'As a child, many of the books I read and loved came from the local libraries where I lived. I can still remember going into a library for the first time and being amazed ' utterly amazed ' that I could read any book I wanted and that I could even take some of them home, as long as I promised to give each of them back in time.

Japan finally embraces e-reader revolution'Much has been made of Japans disinclination to embrace ebooks. But, to be honest, have you ever bought a book in Japan? Do you have any idea how amazingly, astonishingly cheap they are? Not only that, but the Japanese market doesnt balk at buying skinny books like they do hereshort stories, novellettes and novellas are all highly sought after. Ebooks have been used here to help give back appeal to these overlooked slim formats, but in Japan theres none of that skinny discrimination going on.

Jennifer Weiner on the best summer reads. Although, frankly, Im a bit peeved by the number of so-called beach or summer reads that seem to be lacking both beaches or summer. Its cold over here, and Im surviving vicariously through your USian beach reads, damnit!

On writers being married to writers and the borrowing of material

Its not easy reading Joyce'The takeaway point of this article is that James Joyce is best enjoyed like Vegemite: a little bit like a time.

New free novella by Nicole Murphy!

Tor/Forge ebooks now DRM free

Harry Potter gets fired (via Galleycat):


  1. I looooove semi-colons. So much so that I check my prose to make sure I havent written two lengthy sentences featuring semi-colons in a row; otherwise I think it gets a bit much. (Yes, the semi-colon use was deliberate. ;)

    • Stephanie /

      I was working on some line edits recently and had to go through and excise all the semicolons and colons. Just about every sentence had one! I just love the feel of a sentence that goes on forever. :)