Monday, August 23, 2010

Books we love

by Jim

Are we all excited about the release of Mockingjay tomorrow? I’m sure there must be other fans of the Hunger Games trilogy out there. I can’t wait!! Right now I’m trying to talk myself out of going to a midnight release event tonight that author Suzanne Collins will be at. Because if I go, I probably won’t get home until 2, and then I’ll want to stay up and read, and then, well…I’d probably feel not so fresh tomorrow.

In any case, I’m nerding out pretty hard over this book. Watch me segway to the topic of my post here: I love the first two books in the trilogy. And we always talk about how we have to love something to sign it on. Is that actually true?

Lance Parkin, in the comments on Jessica’s most recent entry, had some interesting thoughts on this and came out pretty pro-agent! He sees us as an uncynical bunch who push products that we love versus giving a cold and calculating push to things we just think will earn money.

Oh, Lance. You may give some of us too much credit. I’m not going to lie—there were two times in the past that I can think of signing something on just because I thought I could make some money off of it. I just sucked at selling out. Neither book placed with a publisher. And I just walked away feeling a little bit bad about myself.

I think the biggest reason we have to only sign on things we love is that there’s so much investment of time and energy into each project. And it’s so much easier to stay motivated and really fight for something that you believe in. Besides which, if something you don’t love doesn’t place, you think, “See, I knew I should have trusted my gut.” Whereas if something you do love doesn’t sell, you can spend the next five or ten years talking about how you can’t believe no editors were perceptive enough to share your appreciation of genius. And that’s so much more satisfying!

13 comments:

  1. I would love to believe that agents only sign projects they love. Budding authors such as myself would like to believe that we have put our life's blood project into the hands of someone who will treat it with great respect and care.

    Now, having said that, I believe that a "Segway" is a mode of transportation, where as a smooth transition to another topic is actually spelled "segue." I'd love a job as a reader/proofreader!

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  2. That's what I get for being a smartass. There is no space in whereas!

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  3. Nina, maybe he took a literal Segway over to the topic of the day. :)

    I am way excited about Mockingjay. I've never read much YA, but everyone kept talking about Hunger Games and they were right. But... midnight?!

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  4. I find it hard to get excited about a bad ripoff of Battle Royale. Suck it up and read the original, not the dumbed down version for children.

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  5. I found the first two hunger games brilliant but painful, I alsmost couldn't bear to read them ( I did though). I was tossing up whether to get the next one or not, but the cover looks so much more hopeful. I'll read the reviews carefully.

    I just found your blog and wanted to contact you, but couldn’t see where, so I’m putting this here. I hope that’s okay.

    I'm not grovelleing for an agent - I have one, I just wanted to let you know that
    I've written a YA fantasy novel, Lethal Inheritance and like all new authors I need some help getting the word out.
    You can read ch 1 at http://publishersearch.wordpress.com/lethal-inheritance/
    If you like it, I'd appreciate it if you could mention it to your readers.

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  6. This is Jim--commenting from his home computer and unable to remember the Blogger password for our account at the moment. D'oh!

    But a) Grrr. Stupid typo. Good catch Nina. I present: my shame.

    And b) Other anonymous, I haven't read Battle Royale yet (though I have it!), but the history of authors using the same plot points to different effect is pretty much as long as the history of literature. And arguing that it's "dumbed down" for children seems a little reductive. It's suitable for children, yes, but it's an incredibly savvy, thoughtful, and moving series that is among the best books published to the teen market that I've ever read. Admittedly: just my opinion. Have you given it a shot?

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  7. I've been looking forward to this book for AGES. I left the U.S. a couple of months ago to spend a year in Australia, and for some reason, the Hunger Games trilogy doesn't seem to be a big deal here. Most people I've talked to (who are avid SFF fans) haven't even heard of it! At least, they hadn't until I got to them. Now there's a whole horde of us, gnawing our fingernails and waiting for Mockingjay...

    I love how many people in the biz are geeking out about this book. It really adds to the feeling of community. I'm gonna wrap me in my warmfuzzies, and go read about kids forced to battle to the death...

    (PS: I would SO be at a midnight release if such an animal existed here. I'll be there in spirit...)

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  8. " the history of authors using the same plot points to different effect is pretty much as long as the history of literature"

    There is a big difference between covering some of the same plot points and the way that Hunger Games steals from Battle Royale and both of the Battle Royale movies.

    It is kind of hard for me to be analytical if you haven't read Battle Royale and seen Battle Royale and Battle Royale II.

    I'll say that if you enjoyed Hunger Games then you owe it to yourself to read Battle Royale. If you enjoy Battle Royale, then you owe it to yourself to dive further into the BR universe and read the BR Manga where you get...

    ...the rest of the story.

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  9. "Budding authors such as myself would like to believe that we have put our life's blood project into the hands of someone who will treat it with great respect and care."

    Of course. When I take my car into the mechanic, I want them to treat it with respect and care. I don't need the guy to *love* my car, though, and if he refused to fix it because, while he liked my car, it didn't have that wow factor he always looks for ... well, I'd probably back away trying not to make eye contact.

    I appreciate that this is not a perfect analogy.

    My point is that an author needs an agent with expertise. For me, at least, enthusiasm is a bonus. My accountant seemed bored to see me last year, he did save me a lot of money when he pointed out I had a home office and it was deductible.

    I was cynical. I always thought when an agent said 'I didn't love it', it was a euphemism, or a standard brush off. The agent equivalent of 'it's not you, it's me'. But it's not, they take on projects they love.

    So the moral for budding authors is 'do your homework and find out as much as you can about the agents you're submitting stuff to'.

    (I should probably note at this point that Jessica's my agent. Just in the last few weeks she's taken a great deal of time to deal with three separate things for me, shown expertise, seen me right, done it all very quickly *and* been enthusiastic).

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  10. Might I join the discussion with a point or two? First, as an established author of mainly adult mysteries, a few years ago I was inspired to write my own children's middle-grade adventure. So, for purposes of research, I went to the bookstore and began gobbling up all the popular authors. Suzanne Collins was one of those that made it into my stack, and might I say that her Gregor the Overlander series was AH-mazing! It was sophisticated, complicated, intriguing, dark and suspenseful, and had me completely rethinking my approach to writing for children.

    Like Anonymous, at the time, I assumed far too much about what was being printed between the pages of children's books - before exploring the genre, I too mistakenly assumed this was rather unsophisticated writing. My friends, nothing could be further from the truth! Which is part of the reason I am now a devoted follower of all things YA & middle-grade. I think some of the very best storytelling is being done in these two genres, and I will never assume that my intellect needs to be brought down a peg to either read it or write it in the future. And I also agree with Jim in that The Hunger Games is beyond genius. It's breathtaking, and fabulous. I do not need to compare it to anything else, as I love it just on its own as a beautiful and masterful piece of work.

    Point two:
    To Lance's point, I heartily agree with his very sage advice to do your homework before signing with an agent, and learn as much as you can about them, but I will also point out that a car and your taxes are not expressions of your own individual creativity...well, perhaps there are some tax returns that are in fact quite creative!! But, for the most part, good stories are like good works of at; they should inspire and connect with an individual on a deeper level than just, "Here is my car, please fix it."

    That's why I think it's SO important to find an agent who feels as you do about your writing. You want them to "get" you, and feel a sense of connectivity to your characters and your story because they are going to be the face of that manuscript as it's being shopped. After all, you're not going to go along with your agent to a lunch meeting with a prospective editor and tell them all about how wonderful your novel or proposal is - so you need the person that is going to represent you to do that for you. Passion and enthusiasm do sell books. They always have, and they always will. Inspiring such emotions in others will guarantee you some success in this business. I know that first hand, in fact.

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  11. " I also agree with Jim in that The Hunger Games is beyond genius. It's breathtaking, and fabulous. I do not need to compare it to anything else, as I love it just on its own as a beautiful and masterful piece of work."

    Have you read Battle Royale? Battle Royale is genius. The Hunger Games is a version of Battle Royale without teeth, depth or emotion. It is most certainly not genius.

    To put it in perspective: Battle Royale is The Beatles. The Hunger Games is the Monkeys.

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  12. Anon above, I haven't read either The Hunger Games or Battle Royale, but your post prompted me to research both. Seems that the premise is the same, but a lot of books have the same premise.

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  13. Tor has posted a list of novels you might consider reading after Mockingjay.

    Battle Royale is at the top of the list (and they point out that The Hunger Games is an Americanized version of Battle Royale) and so is The Inferior by Peadar O’Guilin which I can't recommend enough.

    More people need to discover The Inferior. It is a hidden gem.

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