UtopYA Thought Crumbs

7/1/2013 10:44 Edit: Holy alien babies. How did I forget to mention this? Inception won debut novel of the year. Wowzers! So many congratulations to my dear friend, Teal. Working with you on this book has been so fun. Now, onward!

When talking to fellow writers, I often find myself saying, “Oh, there’s this great blog/blog post that you should read…” and this weekend at UtopYA* was no exception. I’m generally able to direct people to this blog and say, “Look at my links page,” because I list most of the things I regularly push people at there. But here is a list of the thought crumbs I want to expand on a bit.

First off, RSS Readers. If you are a writer and don’t know what an RSS feed is, I have no idea how you keep abreast of the industry. Not that you can’t, just that I would be completely lost without my reader. I currently follow 115 blogs. That number fluctuates as I add and remove sources, but it’s probably about what I normally have. (I’m clueless as to how to explain a blog if you’re not sure what that is, so let me Google that for you. I’m sorry. It’s a limitation of my generation that we’ve grown up with things that are so ingrained into us that trying to describe it to someone with out a frame of reference is just mind twisting.) Now, only about 70 of them are writing/publishing related. But that’s still a lot of websites that I would have to check every day if I wanted to see if they had any new information up. Some post less than once a month. Some post multiple times a day. I don’t have time to check every website.

That’s where RSS Readers come in. I’m not going to describe exactly what it is because I would get way too nerdy and technical to be helpful. In plain English, an RSS reader is a website or an application that checks your blogs for you and then delivers new posts to you. Kind of like email, but for websites. I currently use Feedly as my RSS reader. It has an Android and an iPhone app, so you can get your feeds (blogs) on all of your devices. I’m not a super huge fan of it, but as of today, Google Reader has been shut down (RIP), and I’ve gotten used to it, so I’ll probably stick with it.

Next, two blogs I think are fabulous.

The Passive Voice is an aggregator (reads a lot of blogs and websites and re-posts excerpts from the most interesting posts, he also adds a little commentary), so if you only ever pay attention to one blog, this is the one I recommend. BUT, the most important thing about this blog is that the fellow who runs it is actually a lawyer, and every now and then he’ll dig into actual publishing contract clauses and talk about things you should look for. This is huge, especially if you’re planning on working with a publisher at any point in your career. You’ll have to dig a bit into the contracts category, but they’re there. Ever heard of a basket clause and what it means to your contract? You should. Dig in.

Kris Writes is written by Kristine Katherine Rusch, author and editor. She came up through the 90’s and and 00’s as a traditionally published author and has transitioned over to self-publishing as well. She writes very insightful articles on publishing as a business, both traditional and self-publish. I’ve had many friends tell me they want to be traditionally published because they don’t want to worry about the business stuff and Kris makes it very clear that that mindset is setting yourself up for failure. Not that you shouldn’t go the traditionally published route, but that you need to be owning your career and not just handing it off to your agent and editor and hoping they make something good of it while you focus only on writing. She also has a series she’s writing right now on estate planning, outlining the questions you need to ask yourself: what happens to my published works when I die? How do I make sure everything goes to my heirs as planned? What if they have no interest in running the business end of things? How do I set it all up so that they’re still taken care of and have access to my legacy? And she offers some solutions, or at the very minimum arms you with the questions you need to ask your lawyer or financial advisor.

Another link you can throw into your RSS Reader is Writing Excuses. This isn’t actually a blog, but a podcast. They publish a new 15 minute episode every Sunday, and it’s always a great discussion on some writing or publishing career advice. Seriously. I love these people. You should be listening to every episode. And then buy their books. Because they’re wonderful. Both the people and the books, that is.

A specific blog post I recommended to some friends was Why YA Sex Scenes Matter. The article starts off very strongly (and has some trigger warnings at the top), but please read all the way to the end. The author isn’t saying every YA needs to have sex in it, but that we need to portray positive role models for sexuality in YA (Wicked Lovely — this particular example has no sex, but awesome representation of assertive sexuality) and not bad ones (Hush Hush).

Another is Should Writers Write Reviews? Shana Mlawski’s answer is one I wholeheartedly agree with.

I attended one panel on the difference between YA (Young Adult) and NA (New Adult). If you haven’t heard about NA, don’t worry; it didn’t exist a year ago. The panelists spent some time discussing the definitions of the two, and while some fabulous things were said, the lines were blurry. And honestly, they should be. The thing to understand about genre or category classifications in publishing is that they are marketing tools. YA developed out of the need to describe the kinds of books that were becoming popular that tended to feature a teenage protagonist with a fast engaging reading pace, but not all books featuring a teenage protagonist are YA. NA is developing out of a need of those YA readers growing up and wanting: 1. Characters who are growing up with them; 2. Edgier events and topics.

One of the things said about the difference between YA and NA was the age of the characters, with YA generally being teens and NA being college-age, though not confined to college attendees. And generally, I think most books marketed will match up with these definitions, but it will all come down to the readers you’re wanting to market to. Not that YA will only be marketed to teens and NA to twenty and ups, but if your book is similar to what is currently marketed as YA, you’re probably going to want to market it as YA. NA is new, and Chelsea Fine noted that right now, NA is being defined. NA has more sex, more consequences, older characters, darker stories; but not every book defined as NA has every one of these elements. Right now, NA is pretty much what the author or publisher isn’t willing to market as YA, but will engage many of the same readers.

Genre marketing isn’t a hard and fast rule. Someone told me that Ready Player One had issues selling initially because it was marketed as literary fiction, not science fiction. I couldn’t find a source to back this up, but it wouldn’t be the first time something with very genre elements has not been marketed as such. For instance, Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove is absolutely speculative fiction and absolutely literary fiction, and I’ve only seen it marketed as literary. And that’s okay. It seems to be doing quite well, as far as sales go. Genre classification is all about who you think is going to buy your book.

* UtopYA is a con focused on YA, writers, and publishing. I’m not sure what my expectations were, as I am generally not a fan of large groups of squealing women (squealing may be redundant — I don’t know if you can have a large group of women NOT squealing** unless there’s some kind of tragedy, and that’s just depressing), but the squealing calmed down after Friday and I had an absolutely lovely time. You should join me next year!

** I’ve actually sworn off all baby showers because of this, and should and when I get around to having children, I don’t know if I will have a baby shower of my own, other than with family.***

*** That’s a lot of commas for one sentence.

3 Comments on “UtopYA Thought Crumbs”

  1. 1klmercer

    I was forced into a baby shower with my first. Only five, maybe six women, and STILL there was squealing. Though since I was pregnant and the size of a whale, perhaps I could call it whale song?

    1. Crystal


      If only squealing were as low pitched as whale song. But I guess that would destroy the definition of squealing.

      1. Mom

        I have often had people say to me, “I am so glad I have boys. I could never have managed to put up with girls (due to the high pitched squealing, shrieking and what not that a group of girls produce). I never had a problem with it (attitudes on the other hand are a whole different issues, lol). However, a bunch of rowdy, rough housing boys is guaranteed to send my stress levels through the roof. We will remember to limit the squealing to a minimum if and when you reach the point where in we feel the need to have a baby shower for you. 🙂

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