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September 2019
A Message from Kristin Nelson

How the US-China Trade War Is Impacting Authors

Kristin Nelson

Last month, we looked at how paper and printer shortages have affected the publishing industry. Now let’s talk about how the current US-China trade war is also impacting American authors. 

We recently learned that Chinese publishers are having trouble securing ISBNs for titles by American authors. Why? It’s hard to say for sure since there is no definitive documentation. Chinese publishers simply aren’t receiving the requested and required ISBNs, and no explanation has been given. Is it to discourage Chinese publishers from buying American titles as the trade war unfolds? Chinese publishers have not had issues attaining requested ISBNs in previous years, so we know this slow-down in assignment is a recent development. 

What does it mean when ISBNs aren’t made available to foreign publishers, and how does that impact American authors? Here’s how:

  • Fewer and slower foreign deals for US titles in those territories
  • Publication delays for books already under contract in those territories
  • Possible cancellation of existing deals for US titles in those territories

That last one is our worst-case scenario. In general, China doesn’t license as many titles as we wish they would. Interestingly, Indonesia and Taiwan are more robust territories for us than China is, and in recent years, we’ve enjoyed a growing number of deals in Vietnam.

So far, we at NLA have not yet seen any cancellations of our authors’ existing deals with Chinese publishers, but we have definitely noticed fewer offers from those publishers. 

On the bright side, just in the last six weeks, NLA closed a solid five-figure deal in China. Fingers crossed that the ISBN situation resolves quickly and smoothly, as China is definitely not a territory we want to lose as we place our authors’ subsidiary rights around the world.

Recent News

In a Starred review, Ausma Zehanat Khan declared "a master of the genre" for THE BLUE EYE

Think Like an Agent

The Thing That Makes You Special

By Danielle Burby

I’ve been preparing for a conference where I’ll be presenting on plot structure and voice, among other things, and, in getting ready, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes an author a cut above the rest. What is that special X-factor? The je ne sais quoi that can elevate someone with good technical skills to an expert writer?

We all know writing is a difficult craft to master and that publishing is a hard business to break into. We all know how impossible it can seem to write something totally fresh and new when stories have existed from the beginning and have been told and retold and retold again. And yet. There is nothing more exciting than discovering a story that surprises and delights you. Despite the fact that it seems every story has been told, new novels are published every year that prove otherwise. (Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing? That book is a work of art!)

I’m a big Brené Brown fan. In fact, I have a copy of Daring Greatly sitting right here on my desk as I write this piece. If you haven’t read it, I recommend that you do! It’s a great guide for how to approach your own life, but beyond that, I’ve found that Brown’s work on vulnerability is also the key to the X-factor of writing. The thing that makes you special, that makes you different from every other writer, is the fact that you are, well, you. Remember that as you embark on your writing journey.

Here are some things you can do or think about to ensure you’re writing in your unique way:

Write what you know (i.e. Know Thyself). I think this is one of the most misunderstood pieces of writing advice out there. To me, write what you know doesn’t mean you can only write your own life again and again and again. Not by a long shot! Write what you know means that you should connect with the many depths and shades of your emotional truths and put them on the page. It doesn’t matter if the truth appears in a galaxy far, far away or in a contemporary setting—it is the internal conflict a character is forced to grapple with and the growth they experience that keep readers coming back for more. If the emotional core of a novel feels visceral and real, readers will connect with it.

The universal is in the specific. As humans, we are all connected by common experiences, feelings, challenges. That’s what makes empathy and compassion possible. When a novel is truly engrossing, readers actually physically experience what the characters are experiencing—this happens on a neurological level. Trust that, no matter your character’s background, religion, sexuality, race, etc., readers have the capacity to connect. Then, rather than trying to write a story that will please everyone, focus on writing a story that will please you. Let your characters have flaws, quirks, strange interests, etc. What makes you unique is the eyes you see the world through. Let that come out in your narrative. The more you hone in on emotional details, the deeper you dive, the more specific you get, the more your characters and story will feel real, and the more readers will connect.

Write what brings you joy. One fundamental truth in life and in publishing is that things are always changing. What was trending two years ago isn’t trending now. The world moves along, and we are forced to move with it. Because of that, it is important to stay on top of what is happening in the book world and to be aware of where the successes in your genre are, but it is equally important not to write to a trend because, chances are, by the time you’ve finished writing your trendy book, the next trend will already have come along. Because of that, the most important thing is that you write a novel that you want to spend time with, that gives you creative pride, and that feels meaningful to you. When an author loves their story, it shines through in the work, and readers connect with that.

So go forth and enjoy the process of writing, of putting your own unique stamp on the world through your words. Because you are the only person in the history of the world who can be yourself.

Kristin's Book Club

It's clear why this is a top choice for book clubs!

Tara Westover’s memoir EDUCATED has been a top choice for book clubs around the nation for more than a year. No surprise it was a favorite for my book club as well.

What resonated most? The personal division at the heart of Tara’s struggle. How can one love her father (and her family) to a point of all-consuming and yet decide to be true to herself and pursue experience in the greater world—which the family will perceive as an act of betrayal? Tara’s choice to pursue an education is how she fully recognized her father’s paranoid schizophrenia and the personal devastation it caused during her upbringing.

Vogue magazine says it well: “The questions her book poses are universal: How much of ourselves should we give to those we love? And how much must we betray them to grow up?”

Much of our discussion revolved around what wasn’t stated on the page. Was sexual abuse also at the heart of this story? In the end, answering that question doesn’t matter, as we all admired her resiliency, her emotional tenacity, and triumph.

Next up, Madeline Miller’s CIRCE.

New Releases

The Magnolia Sword

by Sherry Thomas

CHINA, 484 A.D.

A Warrior in Disguise
All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.

Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan’s father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man.

A War for a Dynasty
Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling—the royal duke’s son, who is also the handsomest man she’s ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan’s life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it’s too late.

Inspired by wuxia martial-arts dramas as well as the centuries-old ballad of Mulan, The Magnolia Sword is perfect for fans of Renee Ahdieh, Marie Lu, or Kristin Cashore—a thrilling, romantic, and sharp-edged novel that lives up to its beloved heroine.

Buy It Here:

       

Stormrise

by Jillian Boehme

A combat warrior will risk everything to awaken the dragons and save her kingdom in Jillian Boehme’s epic YA Fantasy debut, Stormrise, inspired by Twelfth Night and perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce.

If Rain weren’t a girl, she would be respected as a Neshu combat master. Instead, her gender dooms her to a colorless future.

When an army of nomads invades her kingdom, and a draft forces every household to send one man to fight, Rain takes her chance to seize the life she wants.

Knowing she’ll be killed if she’s discovered, Rain purchases powder made from dragon magic that enables her to disguise herself as a boy.

Then she hurries to the war camps, where she excels in her training―and wrestles with the voice that has taken shape inside her head. The voice of a dragon she never truly believed existed.

As war looms and Rain is enlisted into an elite, secret unit tasked with rescuing the High King, she begins to realize this dragon tincture may hold the key to her kingdom’s victory.

For the dragons that once guarded her land have slumbered for centuries . . . and someone must awaken them to fight once more.

 

Buy It Here:

       

Saving Fable

by Scott Reintgen

Side characters can be heroes too in this charming and fast-paced adventure that is The Land of Stories meets The Phantom Tollbooth!

Indira has been a character-in-waiting her entire life. So she can’t believe her luck when she’s finally chosen to travel to Fable and study at the renowned Protagonist Preparatory, a school known for producing the best heroes.

But Indira’s dreams of achieving hero status don’t exactly go as planned. A failed audition lands her in the school’s side-character track, and her best efforts to prove advisors–famous characters like Alice from Wonderland and Professor Darcy–wrong are constantly sabotaged.

Indira is starting to feel like an evil antagonist might be to blame.

As the danger spreads, Indira discovers all of Fable is under siege. With her friends Maxi and Phoenix by her side, she pieces together clues that will reveal who is behind the dark magic threatening them all.

But the more Indira uncovers, the more doubt she feels about her place in this world of stories. After all, can a side character really save the day?

Buy It Here:

       

Chilling Effect

by Valerie Valdes

A hilarious, offbeat debut space opera that skewers everything from pop culture to video games and features an irresistible foul-mouthed captain and her motley crew, strange life forms, exciting twists, and a galaxy full of fun and adventure.

Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.

To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.

Buy It Here:

       

Slay

by Brittney Morris

Ready Player One meets The Hate U Give in this dynamite debut novel that follows a fierce teen game developer as she battles a real-life troll intent on ruining the Black Panther–inspired video game she created and the safe community it represents for Black gamers.

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

Buy It Here:

       

Rebel

by Marie Lu

Respect the Legend. Idolize the Prodigy. Celebrate the Champion. But never underestimate the Rebel.

With unmatched suspense and her signature cinematic storytelling, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marie Lu plunges readers back into the unforgettable world of Legend for a truly grand finale.

Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother.

A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe―even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life.

As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them.

Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own . . .

Buy It Here:

       
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