Pub Rants

Just Like New York But Denver

 26 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: All my appointments are set for the weekend. It’s going to be busy.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FRIDAY I’M IN LOVE by The Cure

ALA officially began for me tonight as I had my first editor dinner with Susan Chang of Tor. I must say I love it when conferences are held in my home town. It’s like a trip to New York without the travel!

I’m very glad we met up though because most of you know that Macmillan has gone through a large restructuring over the last few months. The biggest change is in how the children’s divisions will operate. Before, each imprint was a separate entity with its own publisher, sales force, marketing dept. etc. Now all the children’s divisions are gathered under one umbrella and will be sharing things like the sales force, marketing and promotion people, reporting to one publisher head rather than six. Although, I’ve been told, each imprint will keep its own publishing vision and imprint identity even though they are now all one big family called Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

All except Tor, which was news to me. Tor is still considered a completely separate entity with Susan and her children’s imprint reporting directly to Tom Doherty.

To quote Frontier Airlines, Tor is still a whole other animal! Interesting. In general they have always been known to be less corporate (which can fabulous in some respects—such as creative vision and the embracing of new talent—and frustrating in other ways—such as long response times on submissions). But they’ve always been known to be independent, slightly quirky, and with smart editors.

So far, that hasn’t changed. Go Tor.

Susan and I also got into an interesting discussion about SF and young adult. Both of us agreed that SF in the young adult world works best when the novels aren’t labeled SF.

Seriously. One look at the Uglies series and The Hunger Games rather proves that out. Those books are basically SF but never called so. I can name a host of other examples as well.

We also talked briefly about the popularity of fantasy in the children’s realm and why they didn’t seem to translate to fantasy readers in the adult world. We didn’t play with any theories but it’s an interesting conundrum. What happens to those avid fantasy readers as they age?

There’s probably an essay waiting to be written there if it hasn’t been tackled already.


26 Responses

  1. L. Davis said:

    It’s sad to think it, but those avid fantasy readers in the children’s age group probably just grew out of fantasy. Which is slightly tragic when one considers that young adults beginning to encounter life’s difficulties really need good fantasy escapism.

  2. Sarah Jensen said:

    So what does that say for those of us who still love fantasy? I thrive off it.
    Living in other worlds. Being other people. How can you not love it?

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s nice to learn how the industry works.

    And I love your choice in music. Right now, listening to Fix You by Coldplay. 🙂

  3. Katy said:

    Sounds like the conference is off to a good start! I hope you will be able to let us know what projects the editors and publishers are looking for at this time. It’s always nice to know what is selling, what isn’t selling, and what projects they wish they could get their hands on to sell!

    Good luck for the rest of your weekend!

  4. Anonymous said:

    I went through a phase in junior high (1979-81) where I read a lot of sci-fi, fantasy, and comic books (although, I have to say, I focused on Spider-Man, as it was about the relationships as much as it was about the battles). Then I moved into an obsession with British cozies, then Austen and the Brontes, then the American Revolution and on and on….

    I know a lot of adults who love sf/f, including my husband, my cousin, some people at church, etc., but aside from Harry Potter, ghost stories and an occasional paranormal romance (all of which I am sure don’t count as actual sf/f), I have never felt the desire to go back and read it myself. For me, I think it goes back to the reason I chose History over English as a major in college. I realized that,when forced to choose, I was more interested in what really happened (eg, what Jane Austen’s day to day life was like) than in literary theory and criticism. In reading, now, if I am choosing between “middle-aged woman finds out husband is cheating with best friend,” and “dwarves help Hobbit destroy ring to rule them all,” I’m going with the former. My husband with go with the latter.

  5. Anonymous said:

    My old Webster’s defines fantasy as “the free play of creative imagination.”

    Think about it,folks–all fiction is fantasy.

  6. Ben said:

    I was never interested in fantasy as a child until grade seven or eight, when the Belgariad and A Song of Ice and Fire series caught my eye. Prior to that, I had been devouring mysteries, beginning with Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and ending at Agatha Christie’s entire oeuvre.

    I suppose the attraction to me of “adult” fantasy is the political aspect (as opposed to, say, the magic or the battlefield). It’s the same reason I love historical fiction: both genres can replicate political intrigue in a way that contemporary political thrillers, grounded in some sense “reality”, can’t always achieve.

    The difference between children’s and adult’s fantasy is that children’s fantasy isn’t marketed as fantasy. When you’re a child, the events in a fantasy book can seem very possible. These are adventure books, tales of strange worlds and strange ideas. To most children, the fervent wish that maybe we can actually fly, or turn invisible, or talk to animals, a wish we may still have as adults, even if we’ve buried it beneath layers of harsh realism–that wish is real. Fantasy isn’t an escape so much as a fulfilment of the wish.

  7. Shaun Hutchinson said:

    I was a HUGE reader of fantasy as a kid. The funny thing was that I read adult fantasy. I eventually left it because all my favorite authors had grown stale. Wonderful authors like Terry Brooks and David Eddings and Raymond E. Feist, all began returning to their respective worlds and mining them until there was nothing left. And still, those same authors keep returning to a dry well. There’s little originality anymore.

    Maybe that’s because readers want them to return to those worlds. Because they’re comforting. Personally though, I find that YA is where the originality is at right now. YA is taking chances and so I find it amusing that at 12 I was reading adult sf/f and at 30 I’m reading YA.

  8. Kimber An said:

    “Both of us agreed that SF in the young adult world works best when the novels aren’t labeled SF.”

    Except when teens who love Science Fiction actually go searching for YA SciFi and can’t find it because it’s not labeled YA SciFi. Then, they give up and go straight to the adult section. If they’re lucky, they might find a blog or site to help. It baffles me to no end, as a book reviewer, why the publishing industry makes it so hard for readers to find the books they’re looking for. You may snag some non-SF teens, but you alienate the core readership at the same time.

    For the record, Tor totally kicks butt in marketing SF to teens, the best I’ve seen thus far.

  9. Mim said:

    I’ve run into adults who are closet fantasy readers. Something about being too old to read fantasy or embarrassment over choosing something for pure pleasure. I personally love fantasy. It is my genre of choice, but as a child I never went for the fantasy novels–especially animal based ones. I still don’t like animal based fantasy (mostly kid books), but I adore YA fantasy, and I’m so glad that I’ve found the genre.

  10. ryan field said:

    I’ve seen and heard about a few other genres that aren’t being labeled. But I think it’s risky unless the book has real crossover potential.

  11. Christina said:

    I was one of those avid fantasy readers as a child who grew out of it as an adult, and I’ll tell you exactly why.
    A) All books that were considered the “best” fantasy books were part of a series that were already 500 books long. Not only was it impossible to find the first one in stores, but the idea of getting into a series that was so long brought tears to my bank book’s eyes.
    B)So many of the fantasy books I’ve attempted to read were so focused on making the world seem real and explaining the politics, they forgot about the adventure and developing interesting characters and relationships.
    C)The women in those books are almost always useless or always trying to one up the man. They’re very rarely real and even less often a strong main character.

    So those are my reasons, but I must say, Lisa Shearin’s books were exactly what I’ve been looking for, so perhaps there’s some hope for the genre yet.

  12. Dara said:

    I think I was one of the rare children who wasn’t an avid fantasy reader. When I was very young, I thrived off of fairy tales, but by age 10 I discovered historical fiction and have been hooked on that ever since.

    I’ve tried to get into fantasy but it’s just not my thing. But there’s a lot of good story premises out there (my entire critique group writes fantasy) and it seems like readers are hungry for it, as seen in suggestions on another blog. I think it’s also a different level of fantasy that captures the attention of adults.

  13. JJ said:

    There are some of us who were avid fantasy readers as children/young adults who grew up to read…

    …YA fantasy.

    I am slightly beyond the target age group, but I tend to stray back towards YA fantasy to read instead of browsing through the adult section. Perhaps it is because there is something intuitively parallel about the experience of growing up and being thrown into a fantastical situation: an adolescent must learn to navigate the weird and wacky world of adulthood and discover his/her “true destiny” (whatever). Adult fantasy, while a lot is quite good, is a bit harder for me to swallow the conceit. I still love fantasy of all ages (ones that aren’t derivative of Tolkien or Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but when it comes to adult fiction, I prefer historical fiction.

  14. Lapillus said:

    I grew up reading fantasy and still do. It’s also what I write. But then, I’m not sure my head ever came out of the clouds like so many do.

    Funny about SF though. I probably wouldn’t have read the Uglies series if I had known it was light SF. I did read them though and rather enjoyed them.

    As for why I wouldn’t have read them, I’ve never been a big fan of SF, so I generally avoid it as a collective.

  15. reader said:

    I’m with Dara — I never read it as a child and shudder at the thought of it now.

    For the commentors — is dystopian considered fantasy, then?

  16. LexiconLuvr said:

    Thanks for sharing this information about Tor. For me, they’re the gold standard of Fantasy/SF fiction. If I see their logo on the spine of a book, I’m usually guaranteed a great read.
    It’s wonderful to hear about their sound business sense and “quirky” ways. As a quirky person, I’m grateful to hear that a company I respect and admire has something in common with me.
    Tor is my aim. Only once I’ve exhausted all resources (hard work, blood, tears, favors, incantations, etc.) will I look elsewhere.
    My hat’s off to you, Tor and Kristen. You’re both exemplary!

  17. P. Smurf said:

    The purchasing trends in the publishing industry squelch any new growth in the fantasy genre, since the only business model that matters to them is “print what sells”. They buy the books that the young readers will read, never taking into consideration the fact that those children will most definitely grow out of those types of stories; why develop the new market when the market they’ve already spent the money on is constantly being replenished?

    The children grow out of the fairly tame fantasy stories they’ve cut their literary teeth on (anything that can be made into a movie by Disney or Nickelodeon), and find nothing on the shelves to meet their maturing tastes– things with some restrained sex (though not pornographic), more realistic language (kids cuss, deal with it), some consequential violence (not just a shoving match and a mildly bloody nose) and above all, some darker or at least more adult storylines.

    Unless they read those sexy vampire books. There are so many of them to choose from.

    There needs to be some sort of middle ground between CS Lewis and George RR Martin. This is why Harry Potter did so magnificently well– the storytelling matured with each book, and I’m sure there are a host of readers who went from 1-7 and emerged as people with almost-nearly adult tastes.

  18. P. Smurf said:

    By the by– now that I’ve seen it, it looks like the first paragraph I wrote smacks a little of ‘bitter writer syndrome’— it’s not. I understand the spot purchasing editors are in, and feel for them with all sincerity. The way things are in the business world today, they’ve got to earn their keep, and the suits are not concerned with anything but the bottom line.

    I’m bitter about Wall Street types is all. We bail ’em out and they pay each other bonuses. Go get ’em, Obama.

  19. HWP said:

    I’m an ex-child-fantasy lover who still reads child/YA fantasy for my fix. Why? Because nine times out of ten, Adult Fantasy just isn’t fun anymore.

    I grew up reading George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis, but when I tried to translate that into adult fantasy, I got bored. I’m speaking generally, of course, because there are glaring exceptions, but most of what I came across was either extremely formula or so dark and dreary that I just didn’t want to read anymore.

    The two main adult fantasy authors I read now are Patricia McKillip and Terry Pratchett. Both of those authors have written YA fiction, and both breathe real life into the worlds they create.

    I guess, just because I’m older now doesn’t mean I don’t want to be entertained or escape into another world. And I think that’s why YA has become such a crossover genre lately. We have to deal with so much garbage in real life. When I look to fiction, I want to get away from it all… not mire myself in the same garbage just in a different setting.

  20. magolla said:

    Many fantasy readers are still reading fantasy. I’m one of them, but I also read fantasy in various subgenres of fantasy that aren’t necessarily in the Sci/Fi section (YA, romance). Other fantasy readers (notice that many, many fantasy readers are also very computer technology savvy) have reverted to online gaming, namely WoW (World of Warcraft)–they’re LIVING their fantasy instead of reading it.

  21. Alissie said:

    I love reading and writing YA fantasy, but I hate labelling it as that. I feel like it’s going to be put into a category where it doesn’t belong, but I don’t know where it /does/ belong. =/

  22. Anonymous said:

    We never grow into Adult fantasy. Once a fan of Young Adult fantasy, always a fan of Young Adult fantasy.

  23. Deirdre Mundy said:

    I think the problem is that a lot of teens who read fantasy grow up to become adults with LESS TIME TO READ.

    Which means that large epic fantasy series are out. Not because we wouldn’t like to keep reading George RR Martin, and not because we don’t like fantasy, but because the time committment involved is SO HUGE and we have so little.

    So, at least for me and my circle, unless a book comes with great reccomendations, we’re not going to read it. (Well, except for Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, but their books are great AND short….)

    But finding the time to squeeze in a 1000 page novel that’s the first of 12? Not going to happen anymore. We don’t have the luxury of long lazy Saturdays in bed with a book!!!!

    (Though I still read YA fantasy and SciFi—-but my YA librarian is great at providing reccs, so….)

  24. Beth said:

    When I was a child, there was no fantasy genre. I loved stories of magic and the fantastic, but they were hard to find. Besides Tolkien (whom I didn’t discover until I was in college) and T.H. White (whose work I despised), there wasn’t much that could be termed fantasy excerpt fairy tales, which I devoured.

    As a teen I read historicals and romances (which are a kind of fantasy in themselves). It wasn’t until after I read Tolkien that a whole new world opened up.

    So here’s one adult who read what fantasy she could as a child and returned to her early love only after the official birth of fantasy as a genre.

    Now I not only read it (as well as a lot of other stuff), I also write it.

  25. Beth said:

    Oh, and it occurred to me that maybe the reason some (or even many) adults don’t read fantasy is because of the covers.

    Many adult fantasy novel covers look as if they’re marketed toward kids and teens. And some adults (including me and I’m a fantasy reader) kinda cringe at the thought of being seen reading them. They don’t look like serious, grown-up fiction.

    So if editors are wondering how to bring more adults into the fantasy genre, the covers might be one place to start.