This Week in Publishing 8/29/09

by | Aug 28, 2009 | Uncategorized | 107 comments

This Week! The publishing! Which is on a diet this week as I have just a few links for you to peruse.

There’s lots of talk out there about how e-books are better for the environment than paper books. How much better? Well, first of all, would you believe that 125 million trees are cut down for the publishing and magazine industries EVERY YEAR? That startling fact and more in Fast Company’s assessment about whether e-books or print books are more sustainable. (via Book Bench)

Annnnnd speaking of e-readers, Sony announced one more e-reader, and this one will have 3G!! Praise the gods of wireless!! Needless to say I’m pretty excited. Sony will soon have three different e-readers at three different sizes and price points to choose from. Choice is good.

A very interesting discussion at the Guardian’s book blog, as Allison Flood took issue with an assertion that realism has gone too far in children’s literature. What do you think? Has the sex and violence in children’s literature gone too far or do we benefit from authors delving into the difficult areas of teen life?

In writing advice news, Rachelle Gardner is having a guest blog contest of her own, and this week she also tackled some of the pervasive myths about the publishing industry. Spoiler: there is not actually a fire-breathing monster underneath Random House. You can put away your pitchforks.

Jessica Faust at Bookends addressed yet another myth: rampant idea theft among writers. She doesn’t think it’s very common. I’m going to have to agree. And also steal that idea.

Almost finally, Kiersten White got some fantastic news recently about her novel PARANORMALCY, which was quite the splashy acquisition for HarperTeen, so congratulations Kiersten! She also used my brief overview of the publishing process for her own in depth (and hilarious) look at how a book gets published.

And finally finally, I always love reading about the path an author takes from unpublished to published, and Lisa Brackmann/Other Lisa has a great story.

Have a great weekend!


  1. Kiersten

    Is it weird that I'm nearly as excited to be part of your "This Week in Publishing" as I was to get my book deal?

    Thanks for the shout out : )

  2. Natalie

    Yeah, Kiersten is pretty cool. And I can vouch that Paranormalcy is also super, super beyond awesome.

    And I think that some YA material can push that edge a little, but there are books out there for every type of teen. Clean and very not clean. Choice is good.

  3. Kristan

    Is it weird that I want to steal Kiersten's life? Except I'll keep my extra 5 inches, thanks. 😛

  4. Ink

    I'm always a little leary of the environmental claims of e-readers… yes, there are environmental upsides. But… also some downsides. Like byproducts of electronics and plastic manufacturing, and the non-biodegradable plastic itself which will be choking fishes for the next million years. And it's not like people are out whacking wild trees for the next copy of the Lost Symbol. Their from tree farms and lumber companies, who will cut and then regrow the trees. They're not buzzing through California Redwoods. So… I'm not sure what stopping paper books will do except bankrupt those treefarms and give us more parking lots (it certainly won't be wild trees taking up that land and giving us comfy doses of oxygen anymore). So call me hesitant on the environmental charm of the Kindle until a more comprehensive analysis is done.

    Yes, I'm anti-plastic. Hug a tree. If it doesn't hug back, chop it down and grow another. 🙂

    (Okay, I'm conflicted)

  5. The First Carol

    I am a Lisa Brackmann fan and can't wait to stand in line for an autographed copy of Rock Paper Tiger (where's the launch party?). She wrote a killer query, is a fun Twitter friend, and it's been really fun to share in her journey. Cut down as many trees as we need to print her book. We'll grow more.

  6. Heather Lane

    I think that YA books should deal with the same stuff that young adults are dealing with. I was reading adult books at that age. Realism is appropriate for teens. They deal with it anyway, they should have a good place to understand and think about it, like in a good book.

  7. Renee Collins

    Yay Kiersten!!!

    Does having famous friends make me cool? 🙂

  8. ryan field

    Good links for later. I haven't read any yet.

  9. Bane of Anubis

    Bryan, thank you for bringing the OPOV to the discussion, though I imagine that you don't need to buy a Kindle for every book you wanna read 😉 — though plastic can be a really biznitch to dispose of (and now I fondly remember those Star Wars figures I buried a long time ago and yard far far away).

    Kiersten, congrats!

    Nathan, as always, thanks for the links

  10. Lydia Sharp

    I really enjoyed Lisa's post. And I was especially impressed with how much time and effort you both devoted to her book before even having an "official" author/agent relationship. Wow.

    I also liked her honesty in pointing out that you weren't her first choice, but, after doing her research, she gave it another go. Excellent.

    And kudos to you, Nathan, you awesome editor full of agent savvy, you.

    Count me in when Rock Paper Tiger is released. I loved her query letter that you posted a while back (apparently, the wine helped), and I can't wait to read the book.

  11. Mira

    Nathan, thanks, I like the links. I could even read them today before posting, which was fun. 🙂

    I think Ink has a really good point about conservation, but I also feel mixed. I wonder if they are always as responsible with the trees as they should be.

    Congrats Kierstan!

    I liked Lisa Brackmann article except for the part where I got bright neon green with envy at your editing relationship with her. On the other hand, bright neon green matches what I wore today, so that's all to the good.

    Also, Lisa, I'm going to disagree with you on something. We can agree to disagree, but I did want to say this. I don't think I will ever think of my book as a product. I know the business wants you to, and maybe it's good to be able to see it from their perspective, but my books are, and always will be, a part of my soul. Doesn't mean I can't accept feedback or make changes, but they come from a very profound and deep part of me, and that's important to remember. The danger in seeing it as a product is you might lose access to the source. Even in your sucess, don't let the business define you.

  12. Ink


    There are certainly aspects of the Kindle that are environmental positives over books. But there are other aspects, too. So whenever I see arguments based on a limited analysis I start to think "marketing" as much as I think "science". You know, the convenience of supportive analyses making their way into the media just as a company (a very large and powerful company) is pushing to build an e-reader market. Hmmmm…

    Which is not to say that in the long run, all things being equal, the e-reader isn't the best environmental option. It might very well be the best. But I'd like to see a comprehensive argument before I come to that conclusion.

  13. Ink


    That was good. Question: My wife's pregnant… does that mean I can't query? Sort of symbiotic stress or something? I feel sympathy pains, she feels sympathy rejections?

  14. Bane of Anubis

    Bryan, didn't you know, comprehensive analyses are no longer performed anymore? 😉

  15. Kiersten

    No no, Ink, if she's already pregnant, it's fine. Watch out for sympathy weight gain though.

    And thanks for the congratulations, everyone!!

  16. Ink


    Shit. I forgot. I know, I know, they only perform Media Spin now. Devious folk.

    Like Nathan showing his e-reading screen the other day with Cormac McCarthy on it. Good by association! Very cruel. I started drooling and saying "Electric McCarthy goooood…."

  17. J.J. Bennett

    I can't believe you stole that idea Nathan!

    Shame….(Shaking head and pointing finger)

  18. Robert McGuire

    One of my favorite Mark Twain stories is about when he was trying to push one of his books into publication. One of the hold ups was that to get all the paper necessary, a paper mill had to be contracted to manufacturer exclusively for that project for a full month, and they couldn't find one available. It was a funny reminder — Oh, yeah. These things are made of paper. And X thousand copies is a whole lot of it.

  19. Ink


    Damn sympathy weight! It is my Nemesis. Plus the things my wife snacks on while pregnant. Ruffles, how could you betray me so…

    But I'm running 7km a day. Fight the power.

  20. Other Lisa

    Whoah – hey, thanks everyone! I was busy compulsively searching the Interwebz to try and replace a cup I broke and didn't realize I'd been linked.

    Mira, I knew when I used the word "product" that it sounded kind of crass, and maybe more so than I intended. I mostly meant that, for me, I needed to be able to see the book as something separate from myself in order to look at it objectively (and avoid some of that crippling embarrassment I mentioned earlier in the post).

    And many congratulations to Kiersten!

  21. Nathan Bransford

    I think the sustainability debate just comes down to whether you more highly prize forest conservation and global warming or whether you're concerned about creating more plastic.

    Even if people agree that cutting down forests is mostly a sustainable practice, there's still the matter of shipping all those books around the world and the resulting emissions.

  22. Mira

    Other Lisa – no – I didn't take it as crass at all! I took it as pragmatic and cooperative. And, it's good to see things from a distance.

    Okay, I think I see what you were saying. You want to feel less…. vulnerable. That makes sense.

    I just see alot of authors who get so 'bitten' by the business side of things, they start trying to 'produce' instead of 'create.' I think it's good to keep touch with both the practical and the heart of the thing.

    Now, granted, I've never grappled with this myself, so I'm sort of making this all up. It also may not remotely relate to you. So, throw it out if it doesn't fit. 🙂

    Either way, what a problem to be dealing with! I hope your success increases and you have to deal with it even more. 🙂

  23. Bane of Anubis

    RE: sustainability… more seriously,
    It's a catch 22 in some ways… we can do all we want to reduce that damn carbon footprint, but as long as population growth continues, this war cannot be won w/o a significant paradigm shift — we have to reduce consumerism — become a global culture more of necessity than desire… of course, this causes so many other problems (e.g., economic downfall) and would lead, potentially, to other apocalyptic events.

  24. limabean

    I don't know, I think YA is getting insane these days. There's something to be said for realism, to be sure, and those issues should definitely be touched on–but really. Why are half of the books so graphic? You'd think the writers would harness their creativity and create some suspense and feeling without all the swear words and sex scenes.

  25. Hannah

    Wee sleekit timorous lurkie pokes head out . . .

    I'm kind of against overly gritty/sexy/violent YA books, but then, I was a really wimpy YA and am a pretty conservative person. And, Natalie, as to "there are books out there for every type of teen," I respect your opinion and understand what you mean about the choice part, but seriously, you have no idea what I went through in the YA section of the library trying to find something I could read w/o seriously regretting it. I failed. A lot. I read many things that made my life more difficult instead of less. I am a wimp, OK? 🙂

    Question though: how precisely does one distinguish between young adult books and regular books besides the marketing? Is having teenage protagonists the one ultimately defining factor or are there other significant differences? Sounds basic, but I would like to hear a definition. Thoughts?

  26. Keren David

    The Guardian book blog totally misunderstands Anne Fine, because the original report which the blog comments on reported her out of context. She was speaking to a group of social workers in Scotland and asking them about the effect that gritty YA literature has on the vulnerable children in their care. She wasn't deploring gritty realism, nor calling for more happy endings. It's sparked an interesting debate in the UK, but one based on twisted words. You can read my blog for more!

  27. Ink


    I'm with Hannah in being curious about YA and marketing. I've been wondering, since YA seems so "hot" now, if agents and editors are taking manuscripts that have young protagonists but are basically adult books with adult themes and slotting them in the YA market because that's what's selling? I mean, I know the category definitions are soft to start with, so there's always wiggle room, but I was wondering if that might be part of the equation in the increasingly graphic YA market (though I'm by no means an expert in that area). And if so, how much do you think it's changing the genre and its definition?

    Hey, that might make a good post someday…

  28. Ink

    And as for the environment thing… I guess it comes down to Choose Your Own Apocalypse. And whichever one doesn't have cannibals is the one I'm choosing.

  29. Rachel

    I read Anne Fine's article and can find nothing to argue with. The excerpts from the book are disturbingly unreadable (I started skimming part way through, so the words wouldn't etch themselves permanently in my brain).

    Ms. Fine argues that if someone wants to publish this book, it should be as an adult read. This would give kids and parents the wise direction to investigate the book before opening its pages.

    I don't think this is worth publishing, but to each his own. I second the comment of Ms. Fine: "Serial murderers do unspeakable things and even adult publishing houses face honourable resignations when they decide to publish graphic accounts."

  30. nkrell

    I can never get enough of hearing how writers become published authors. It does happen and I enjoyed reading about Lisa's experiences. I know I've said it before, but Congratulations!

  31. clindsay

    Oh, and Sony Reader now has software available for Mac! WHEEEEE!

    (Yes, I'm overly excited about this.)

  32. Marilyn Peake

    Thanks for the links, Nathan.

    Congratulations to both Kiersten and Lisa! I enjoyed reading Lisa’s blog post when I discovered it through an announcement on Twitter. It was great reading about your writing journey, Lisa. It gave me hope.

    I definitely think that realism has gone too far in children’s literature, as children often turn to books to learn about life and find role models. Also, teens are not young adults, and that ought to be kept in mind. The young adult world is, or at least should be, quite different from the adult world. When adults write for teenagers, I think they become mentors and take on a degree of moral responsibility. Teenagers who are ready to read more complex books have, in the past, read adult books; but that’s not the same as adults specifically marketing adult themes to teenagers.

    As far as the Kindle and computers go, I’m all for saving trees, but horrified at how we’re illegally shipping electronic waste to third world countries where even children handle extremely toxic materials. The industrialized world’s current approach seems to be: out of sight, out of mind – meaning, if you take advantage of impoverished people but don’t see their suffering, then it’s OK. Here’s an article about it: Trash Talk – Why I Won’t Buy a Kindle Anytime Soon. I saw the first video, the CBS Sixty Minutes show, THE ELECTRONIC WASTELAND, when it was on TV. It’s eye-opening and well worth watching. My own personal view is that we should use computers, Kindles and all the rest of our electronic products that save paper, BUT we need to conscientiously find ways to safely recycle them.

    Have a good weekend!

  33. Marilyn Peake

    Oooops. Typo. When I said, "The young adult world is, or at least should be, quite different from the adult world.", I meant to say: "The world of teenagers is, or at least should be, quite different from the adult world."

  34. Natalie

    Hannah, I was a totally whimpy YA too. And I still avoid many books on the shelves because I am sensitive. What I usually do is look up reviews to see if I can handle a book. Or I go off friend recommendations.

    But there is clean stuff out there, and it seems like people are wanting more of that now. So let's hope a balance will be found:)

  35. Julie

    I have had the YA book debate with my nice (but sheltered and naive) christian mother many times.

    She thinks my characters should set good moral examples but what's interesting about that? Perfect teens who always do the right thing.

    I won't describe a sex scene just to make the book edgy but sometimes you have to give some detail.

    Teens have sex

    they lie to nearly everyone

    they're dramatic and irrational most of the time.

    They go to parties and consume alcohol and possibly drugs

    they do most of this far more than adults and are a lot more reckless in the process.

    You have to write about these things or it's not true to teenage nature.

  36. JES

    From the Fast Company article about trees-vs-Kindle:

    All paper books are responsible for some of the 125 million trees harvested by the book and magazine industries in 2007, but shipped books are still twice as carbon efficient as books bought in the mall or the local bookstore.

    Thought that final clause was very interesting — about shipped-to-customer books vs. shipped-to-retailer. I wonder if that's because, despite volume discounts and such, the brick-and-mortar shipping costs include a LOT more returns than the virtual ones?

    I also like the way the first statistic mentions magazine as well as book publishers. If our mail is any indication, about 40% of the paper used by the magazine pubs is in the form of subscription offers, blow-in cards, and co-marketing (and re-co-marketing) with the likes of Publishers Clearinghouse.

  37. Kristi

    Congrats Kiersten – that's awesome! I also loved reading Lisa's road to publication.

    As far as the YA thing, I've worked with hundreds of incarcerated teens, and they may be involved with gangs, drugs, and assorted other "non-clean" activities, but they've taught me almost as much as I've taught them. Their stories may not be classified as "wholesome" but they are some of the most amazing kids I've had the privilege of working with – great things don't always come in pretty wrappers.

  38. ~Sia McKye~

    Nathan, I haven't yet invested in a e-reader. Maybe someday. I do read a lot on my computer through pdf files. Downside, you can't lug the computer everywhere to read it.

    Enjoyed the links, Nathan, thanks.

    Like Kiersten, I appreciate being part of your blog and the shout out for Lisa's article on my blog. I will be reading her book, which really goes without saying. She's a wonderful writer. 🙂

  39. Natalie

    Julie, I agree that some teens do that. But there are also some who don't. I think it's unfair to imply that a writer isn't writing authentically if they choose not to feature those aspects of teen life.

    Young adults are so individual, and we can't assume they are all one way or another. There should be books for every kid out there. "Prudes" included.

  40. Arik Durfee

    I'm trying to be a YA writer and I also teach 8th grade English, and I do worry about the realism in YA fiction.

    Yes, it's true that many teens have sex and do drugs and lie and swear. But I wonder how much of that you actually have to depict in your writing. One of my favorite YA novels is SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. It deals with rape in a powerful way without depicting anything terribly graphic.

    I was thinking the other day about writer ethics–about the dual responsibility an author has: our writing should depict reality accurately, but our writing also has the power to shape reality. By graphically depicting something, is it possible we're also encouraging it by making it seem normal?

  41. Julie

    Yes, I agree we need books for the less rebellious teens but either way you're going to have to describe a contrasting character.

    "The girl who sleeps around" joins the "prude girl's" study group

    or the "goody, goody" main character will describe a boy smokes in the bathroom or set the principals car on fire or something and maybe they have to make a decision about whether they will rat them out or not.

    The issues will have to be there in some form. But like you described, I like my characters to have redeeming qualities but there has to be conflict?

  42. Morgan Dempsey

    Has the sex and violence in children's literature gone too far or do we benefit from authors delving into the difficult areas of teen life?

    Anyone who thinks we're being too rough with kids and their delicate sensibilities has probably only seen the Disney fairytales.

    Maybe I'm a cynic. The world is tough, and stories are a safe, controlled environment in which we can help them learn how to navigate a world that isn't as lovely as we'd like it to be.

    That said, sex/violence that are simply put in for the shock factor are no good. They, like all pieces of a story, must be put in for a good reason.

  43. KayKayBe

    Nathan, thanks for the great links. I appreciated Jessica Faust's take on plagiarism. I haven't worried about plagiarism since I started editing and realized how hard it is to polish a novel. I'd almost be happy to see someone take my idea and make it shine (not really, but it could be flattering, in a certain light) I slay newbie fears in a fun post on my blog-

  44. Hannah

    My bad: What is the difference between YA and adult? (essentially my question) is in the FAQs.

    And Natalie, seeing your other posts today I think we pretty much agree. It is just that the YA section at the local library, which my sheltered self traveled without the lovely guidance you refer to having, kinda scarred me and so this is a sensitive issue for me. Cheers!

    I do think that currently the balance is too much in favor of the grittier stuff.

  45. Laurie Touin

    I am all for saving trees and the environment but there's just something about holding a book in my hands and feeling the pages slip beneath my fingers…and then there's always the day when I go back to reread a book and come across a page stained with….what is it? coffee or chocolate? and remember where I was in my life when I last read the book!

  46. Sophie W.

    The question people aren't asking re: Kindle vs. book sustainability is, how much electricity does it take to power a kindle? I'm willing to bet that most of that electricity is gained by burning fossil fuels, since that's the leading source of electricity in America atm… and the burning of fossil fuels emits CO2 and CO2-like emissions just as much as shipping a plane of books.

    You'd also have to take into consideration the recycling programs available, where the component parts of each (kindle and book) are being manufactured and the manufacturing guidelines imposed by those countries (where do they dump their waste?), the materials used in each (PVCs? Heavy metals?) and the biodegradability of the materials. Among other things that I can't think of right now but could probably list if given enough time.

    So saying, "The Kindle is better because there's less shipping involved" is really a superficial statement.

    /envi sci nerd

    About YA vs. adult fic: A good rule of thumb is, "If coming-of-age is an/the important plot point, it's YA." But there are exceptions. It's a real pain.

  47. Sophie W.

    OH! And also, probably, at the end of all of that research, you'd end up with something like the paper vs. cloth diaper conundrum: both are bad for the environment. Just choose the one that makes you feel better and wait for a better option to present itself.

  48. hannah

    Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon after listening to the song "Helter Skelter" over and over again.

    Blaming edgy YA writers for children who emulate book characters is like blaming The Beatles for getting John Lennon shot.

    Art is messy and dirty and sometimes has consequences. But we can't censor it because it gives people bad ideas.

    And YA and children's books are just NOT the same thing, and they need to stop being treated as one entity.

  49. Anonymous

    This conversation concerning YA literature disturbs me. With all due respect, some of the comments posted contain thoughts that, for me, hint at censorship.

    When I was a junior in high school, we were assigned Crime & Punishment by my pre-AP English teacher. I was 16. The book graphically describes murder by axe, and guess what? I've read the novel a dozen times since and I still don't think that murdering someone with an axe is normal.

    The fact is that "teens" are human beings, nothing more, nothing less, and should be treated as such. They aren't babies, or infantile, or stupid. They have sex, they cuss, they drink and they smoke with the same frequency (if not more) than adults do.

    And frankly, this comment:
    "You'd think the writers would harness their creativity and create some suspense and feeling without all the swear words and sex scenes."

    Offended me completely. I am a writer for "teens" and my writing contains characters who swear, drink, and have sex. Can't writing contain those elements and still have suspense and feeling?

    Dostoevsky thought so.

    Just say no to censorship.

  50. Nathan Bransford


    They actually took into account the electricity necessary to produce and power e-readers in the study.

  51. Arik Durfee

    Hanna, I agree that it's pointless to blame authors if kids emulate their stories. Artists have a responsibility to truth. I'm just wondering if artists also have a responsibility to morality. (That's an open-ended question, not an answer.)

    Also, I think we too easily fall into this false dichotomy that an author either has to be a "prude" and have characters that are all perfect little christians or be "realistic" and include graphic violence and sex and tons of profanity. (I put "realistic" in quotes because, for example, I never got drunk in high-school, so I think it's disingenuous to pretend that ALL teens do that.)

    Is it possible to effectively deal with gritty teen themes without being overly explicit?

  52. Arik Durfee

    And to Anonymous,

    I wouldn't ever suggest censoring other people's writing. I like Chris Crutcher's stuff (loved WHALE TALK, and that had a main character that swore and had talked about his sex life.) As an aspiring YA author, I'm just trying to figure out what kind of writer I want to be. I don't think anyone should tell you that your writing is somehow unacceptable because of the things you portray.

  53. Sophie W.

    Nathan – Yeah, I see that now that I've clicked around a couple of pages beyond the article you linked. I was trying to point out that the discussion of the pros and cons of buying a kindle should go beyond transportation-related emissions and cutting down trees. 🙂

    I'd still like to know about recycling and PVCs and the stuff I talked about in my second paragraph, since the cleantech article I read (this one here: ) didn't specify what they meant about the "life cycle" of a kindle. If "life cycle" means from the very beginning of manufacture to its disposal, then that's fantastic. If the Kindle not only reduces emissions, and its manufacture is bereft of toxic waste as a by-product, it's even better. But the information I've found doesn't spell it out. And unfortunately I can't actually access the study.

    *is a stick in the mud*

  54. hannah


    Of course it is. But it shouldn't be a requirement or even an expectation.

    In my book, BREAK, the main character drinks two beers at one point to calm his nerves. He smokes one cigarette, at one point, to look cool. That is the extent of the drinking and smoking in the book. No drug use. So I wrote a book without a lot of drinking or drugs.

    But I have a *ton* of cursing and a ton of self-destructive behavior (it's a book about a boy breaking all his bones). That's closer to my high school experience than getting drunk at parties, but, more importantly, those were what worked for the story.

    If your book doesn't need sex, don't put it in, but if needs it, don't take it out because you're worried teenagers will go out and start banging each other. Really. I'm eighteen, I know what I'm talking about–we're influenced a hell of a lot more by our friends and what we see in our real lives than we are by fictional characters whose motivations we can accurately see, understand, judge, and ultimately evaluate.

    If a kid goes out after reading my book and tries to break all his bones, he read the book wrong.

    Including something in a book is not the same as advocating it. So unless I read a YA book and the overall message is something to the effect of "drugs will solve all your problems," or "you can't get STDs from oral sex," I can't see myself having a problem with any YA book going "too far."

  55. Sophie W.

    Aha! I found an article that cleared up a few of my remaining questions:

    According to this article's citations of the Cleantech study, the study took into account the kindle's emissions and waste including all the mining and manufacture. There's also a neat little graph and more data.

    Also found an article, which I lost and am too lazy to find again because I really should be asleep right now, that said that the fact that the kindle does not use a backlight gives it an edge to reading on your laptop or iPhone.

    So, in summary, I think the kindle looks pretty good. I think we'll have a more definitive answer as to it's environmentally-friendlyness (ugh that was awful) in a few years, once more studies are conducted and we see how effective amazon's recycling program is.

  56. Rose

    Okay. You got me all kindled up with your recent posts on readers and I had a DUH moment!

    The historical research I do requires quickly scanning through thousands of pages of WWII and Cold War .pdf files from various archival sources.
    OF COURSE I need a reader! Why didn't I think of that before?

    A day of research has turned up the Foxit eslick for $260 with all imaginable accessories included. Before they went into the reader business, Foxit created .pdf reader and editor software, and their device is supposed to be the very best one for handling .pdf files. And it has a white, not gray background screen!

    Bless you, Nathan. May you have a filled with front row seats at all your favorite sporting events.

  57. Rose

    "May you have a filled with front row seats at all your favorite sporting events."

    That should read "future filled with…"

    It's late. I have .pdf eyeballs.
    I need a reader.

  58. Anonymous

    I don't get why books don't have ratings…movies and video games have em. Why not.

  59. The Decreed

    Anon does raise a good point. I'll probably rant about it on a blog somewhere. My guess is it has something to do with books being, you know, literature, and the doorway to unhindered progress and all. But what makes a movie, or maybe even a videogame, not capable of the same things? The visual? Masters of the craft make a book preeettty visual…

  60. Donna Hole

    I don't think its "wimpy" to not want to read a gritty/sexy novel as a teen. It shows "upstanding moral fiber" to quote Ron Weasley. Not all teenagers are alike in how they view the world, jsut as not all romance readers like the same kind of romance.

    But, I pretty much have to agree with Marilyn on the subject of "research" for the more sensitive reader. Especially in the children's/YA section. I'm not well-read in the YA genre, but I can't believe ALL YA writers are portraying only teens having sex, doing drugs, drinking and using vile language. At the writer's conference I went to, and the online workshop I took, I met several people writing YA who addressed the issues without vulgarity.

    These novels are out there, and they are housed in the YA section, but you have to look for them. Not too hard, I think either.

    Just my two cents.

  61. Anonymous

    I don't think the sex and violence are necessarily too much for children, but I do think that adding them eliminates some of the distinctions between YA (or children's) literature and adult literature that justify having a separate genre for kids. The difference was never just the reading level to begin with.

    I'd much rather have kids reading Anais Nin (or de Sade, for that matter) than Junie B. Jones Does Juneau. Frankly, my tendency has always been to bump kids out of youth sections as soon as possible because 1.) it makes them feel smarter and 2.)it gives them more common ground with society as a whole (rather than the one or two years of people who happen to be exactly 10 and a half the year that particular kid's book was released.)

    So, my thought is this: If granny can't go into the bookstore and feel comfortable buying YA for their sweet, virginal grandson or daughter, these authors are not only dooming the kids to another year of socks and underwear, they are shooting themselves in the feet.

  62. Christine H

    As a mom, I need to put a quick comment here about YA lit.

    The reason that parents don't want their kids focusing too much on dark themes is not that we are trying to isolate them or treat them like babies.

    It's because young adulthood is already full of a lot of angst and confusion and really negative feelings about oneself.

    The question is: are you going to feed that cycle of negativity by focusing on a lot of self-destructive feelings and behaviors, or are you going to try to encourage your child to find positive, uplifting entertainment that will help them get out of the teen doldrums?

    I got an email yesterday… one of those things that goes around… which was really profound. It was an Indian legend about how we all have two wolves struggling inside of us. "One is envy, sorrow, resentment, fear," etc. and one is "joy, peace, love, hope, serenity," etc.

    The one that wins the struggle is the one we feed.

    What are we feeding our minds and hearts… at any age? That is going to at least partly determine how we view and respond to ourselves and to the world.

    I'm not saying that young adults shouldn't be exposed to anything negative, but that it should be done thoughtfully, with care and perspective.

    As well, there are issues that adolescents simply aren't emotionally equipped to handle. They need to be reserved for later, as a lot of teens will brag 'Yeah, sure, I can handle it' but then end up having nightmares and secret phobias. I know, because I saw how our school's Holocaust curriculum affected my 8th graders. It was too intense, and very traumatizing for them.

  63. Christine H

    P.S. By "my 8th graders" I meant the 8th grade class that I taught a few years ago, not my own children.

  64. Christine H

    One more thing, then I'll shut up.

    I'm strongly opposed to the idea of exposing kids to stuff just for the sake of exposure. I don't see that it is helpful to them in any way.

    But if you include some coping skills or guidelines, perhaps in the form of a mentoring character, then it can be a teaching tool.

    Having a peer relate their own experience is also very helpful, I think, even though it may not include the corresponding life skills or perspective an adult could provide.

  65. Arik Durfee

    Well said, Christine.

    I went to bed last night still mulling this over, but you nailed the idea I was grasping at. It's important to help teens deal positively with issues like rape and drugs and self-destructive behaviors. We can't shelter them from that. But at the same time, we can't deny that what we feed our minds does influence our view of ourselves and the world around us. In my writing, I want to find that balance where I can deal with tough adult issues in a positive, constructive way. Because as adults writing stories for younger people, I do think we have a responsibility to write about this stuff is a way that teaches them how to deal with the rough sides of life rather than just "exposing" them to the rough sides of life.

    Anonymous, the idea of content ratings on books is fascinating. That has me thinking…

    And Hannah, I didn't realize you were so young. (Don't take that as condescending–I'm trying to compliment you). That's awesome that you're eighteen and writing. I wish I had started ten years earlier than I did. This is the teacher in me talking, but I'd be ecstatic if I could get my students to think anywhere close to your level.

  66. lauren

    So, my thought is this: If granny can't go into the bookstore and feel comfortable buying YA for their sweet, virginal grandson or daughter, these authors are not only dooming the kids to another year of socks and underwear, they are shooting themselves in the feet.

    And yet! Somehow, despite all of this foot-shooting, YA remains a bright spot in an otherwise dismal time for the publishing industry. New lines are opening (Harlequin Teen, Egmont USA) and Borders is all but betting the farm on their teen-focused Borders Ink sections. So SOMEONE is buying these books, and enjoying then, and going back and buying more. And despite my rabid YA book-buying habit, I know it can't just be me.

  67. lauren

    quoting Arik: "Is it possible to effectively deal with gritty teen themes without being overly explicit?"

    Yes. And I think this is what many books already do! By the time this year's over, I will have read about 100 YA novels in 2009 — and just as many last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. And of the books that do deal with "issues," the vast majority hit at the emotional resonance of said issue without being gratuitous in terms of graphic content.

    But the real fact is, YA readers don't really tolerate "issue" books much these days (if they ever did!). What YA readers want is AWESOME STORIES with amazing characters — and because the YA imprints have morphed the category into something really alive and wonderful and entertaining, and, yes, catering to teens with all kinds of needs and comfort levels, it's sold big for the latter half of this decade.

    (There was a fab discussion about this topic on Verla Kay's Blue Boards this last week. I believe you have to be registered to view it in the YA sub-forum — but, really, if you're interested in writing YA, there's no reason NOT to be registered there!)

  68. Sissy

    My issue with YA literature really comes from being a librarian at a Middle School. It's a tough job to purchase and shelve books for kids that are 11-13, especially the girls. They want to be reading everything from the YA shelves at the local bookstore, but really, that set of books is not geared for them. YA is intended for ages 14-18, right? There is certainly a maturity difference in those two age groups. I run into problems all the time with girl books…where is the line drawn?

    I say to parents all the time that my job is to make books accessible, their job is to make sure it's appropriate for their family. Parents think that I should know ALL their values and only check out books to their kids that would meet the criteria. One parent said to me, "If my child can't swear at school, I don't feel you should have this book in the library, since there are swear words." WOW. Do they know what the child is watching on TV? Watch one episode of Gossip Girl with your daughter and you won't be worried about books anymore.

    I agree that teens are probably doing all that is depicted in YA books and more, and many of the lessons are important, but for the kids in the middle grades, there is very little out there that meets both the cool factor and isn't too immature.

    I have just finished writing my own YA novel with this in mind…thinking about my middle schoolers and including what they want, but not too much of it.

    And there is a double standard in literature as well. Sex is taboo, but excessive violence isn't an issue with parents. I never have parents complain about that!

  69. hannah

    lauren is absolutely right.

    I also don't believe I ever used the word "wimpy"…

    Books about intense subjects have never made me more depressed. I don't read to escape, I read to have my hand held. And heavy young adult books were an immense comfort to me as a teenager.

    If you're an angsty teenager and the whole world is telling you to cheer up, that these are the best days of your life, sometimes the most uplifting, therapeutic thing a book can say is: YOU ARE NORMAL.

  70. hannah

    re: "wimpy"–I see you were talking to the other Hannah. tricky tricky.

  71. hannah

    Okay, last post, I swear, but–

    Sissy, you touched on it yourself. Your middle schoolers are not the target age for YA. The genre doesn't need to extend to fit them, because they already have a genre for them. MG is geared towards children 11-13. Those are the books about kids in middle school.

    You said: I have just finished writing my own YA novel with this in mind…thinking about my middle schoolers and including what they want, but not too much of it.

    If your "YA" novel is written with a middle school mentality, there's a good chance it's actually MG.

    Okay, I'm taping my mouth shut now.

  72. Sissy

    Thanks to Hannah for that link to Sophie's explanation of the various groupings in Children's Literature. It is helpful to know what should and shouldn't be included. I just wish there was more out there for MG readers, but maybe I am not looking in all the right places. The girls see all the pretty and flashy covers on the YA novels and want to read them. From a librarian standpoint, that is an issue. From a writing standpoint, I completely understand wanting to make things realistic for today's kids.

    Maybe that's the problem. When I was a teenager, my world was very different from what a 12 year old will encounter today.

  73. lauren

    hannah: "If you're an angsty teenager and the whole world is telling you to cheer up, that these are the best days of your life, sometimes the most uplifting, therapeutic thing a book can say is: YOU ARE NORMAL."

    Yes x 1 million.

    When I was a teen (early – mid 90s), my library's YA section contained paperback horror (not my thing), squeaky-clean teen romances, and moral-heavy issue books. All I wanted in a YA book was someone to agree with me that high was was not particularly awesome, and that it was okay for me to be unhappy sometimes, and that it was okay that I wasn't searching for my true love, and oh yeah, to acknowledge that if I happened to drink ONE BEER at a party (which I never did, btw) I wouldn't DIE.

    Mostly what I did was read The Catcher in the Rye over and over (and I didn't ever run away from school or take up smoking).

    I am so so so glad that YA today really tries to represent the full gamut of teen emotions and philosophies. And I think that's why I'm addicted to reading and writing it.

    (Great link from Yapping About YA, too. I'll refer people to that in the future.)

  74. Dara

    Well, it looks like I may have to consider jumping on the eReader wagon soon 😛 Just waiting for the prices to go down. And my former employer OverDrive partnered with Sony Reader just a few weeks ago, making it to where I would be able to use the Reader for eBooks from the library, which was huge selling point for me.

    Perhaps I'll ask for one for Christmas…:)

  75. lauren

    Oops, typo:

    "All I wanted in a YA book was someone to agree with me that high was was not particularly awesome"

    that high SCHOOL was not particularly awesome

    (which it wasn't)

    Hey Sissy — I think "tween" is a growing category within kidlit. For girls, especially. Look at some of Lauren Myracle's novels (Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen), and pretty much anything published by the Aladdin MIX imprint. Great stuff that tackles middle school problems but resembles YA in packaging more than it does MG.

  76. Sissy

    Thanks, Lauren. I will check those books out! I can always use more tips on where to find great books my kids will want to read.

  77. Matilda McCloud

    I imagine lots of these early version e-readers will end up in landfills as improved new versions come out, but printed books are recyclable. Out of 50 books I read, I might keep one. I pass them on to friends, family, or donate them to our local used bookstore (that sells them for charity), or donate them to church/school/public library rummage sales, and so on. My sons' colleges have bins where textbooks that they can't sell back will be sent overseas to countries where they will be given to students who can't afford to buy them.

  78. Bane of Anubis

    I've always liked the idea of rating books and CDs — not so much for censorship, but for easier perusal (e.g., so, if you're searching for a book for an LDS member, you can readily delineate w/o having to go to some sort of website/list that shows approved books, or if you're looking for a beach read — not only rate them on content, but also on readability).

    Of course, the problem with this is the same problem we have w/ the MPAA — the ratings are somewhat arbitrary (e.g., sex is more stringently rated than violence, though most would probably agree that violence is a more negative attribute)… and books tend to have more thematic gray area than most movies.

  79. Ink

    A question (for Nathan or anyone else): Does anyone have stats showing the percentage of books bought by customers based on how many books they read/buy per year?

    On account of the discussion here, I've been wondering about e-readers and books and how the future might play out. I can see why people working in publishing would love an e-reader, as well as writers and readers who have huge libraries and are constantly reading. But then there are people who only read a book or two a year. I can't imagine an e-reader would make any sense for such people (certainly not in large numbers, anyway). So I started wondering what percentage of the market these people would make up.

    For example, I just had a customer at my little store who reads Danielle Steel. And only Danielle Steel. She'd never even heard of Nora Roberts. So, once a year or whatever she picks up a Danielle Steel and reads it. Lots of customers will do same with, say, James Patterson. Lots of people will read one book a year on vacation. So, as individuals they don't buy many books… but as a group they buy a whole lot. From my subjective experience (owning a store) there's a lot of readers like this. Casual readers, the sort who wouldn't be in the market for an e-reader (most likely). I have a core of serious readers, regulars at my shop, but the rest is with people who just get a book here or there. But this is kind of subjective…

    So, are there stats out there? Book market share for people who read 1 book a year, and then 2-5 books a year, 6-10, 10-20, 20-50, etc.? I wonder if such stats might help predict the future balance of paper and e-books.

  80. Bane of Anubis

    Bryan, sounds like an optimization problem… you should contact a math major with literary interests — sounds like thesis material 😉

  81. Ink

    Well, I figure someone must have done this sort of market ananlysis. Who are the readers? I mean, you don't reach a once-a-year shopper the same way you reach a fulltime book-hound. Right? Or am I overly optimistic here?

  82. Bane of Anubis

    I imagine marketers probably focus on the tweeners — the once-a-year/one-author-follower types don't bring in enough coin to waste time/money on and the market hounds probably would come Hell or high water, regardless of marketing (and given internet WOM from readers and writers, marketing heavily to this group doesn't make too much sense)…

    Going back to your original question, I think the data's out there for the percentage of books vs type of reader, at least roughly. Assuming it were legal (which it's probably not), you could cull the data from credit card purchases and interpolate from there…

    Also thinking that Amazon/Sony etc. must have done some sort of market research to determine amoritization timeline (though Amazon's intent right now may be more influence related than profit)… guessing it'd be easier to get data from the credit card companies than from those behemoths, though.

  83. J.J. Bennett

    If anyone wants to try a hand at writing a short Fairy Tale I'm having a contest on my blog…(speaking of contests). It's just for fun and I put up $30.00 for the winner. Check the blog for details… Some people have already submitted entries.

  84. Mira

    "Well, I figure someone must have done this sort of market analysis."

    Bryan, market anaylsis in publishing? I don't get the sense that happens much.

    But I imagine that the switch to electronic will be driven by the more avid readers, who make up the market. Just like with CDs and DVDs, the ones who bought 1 movie or 1 album a year were forced to follow the trend.

    On the other hand, I believe there will always be a market for paper books in a way that there isn't for records or VHS.

    Although, in terms of the environmental issues, after some thought, I do think that global warming is a more alarming and current problem than plastics. But I also see a whole industry based upon it, so I get the complications. Fortunately there's lots of time to adjust to the electronic – if it happens.

  85. Ink


    I think there's one big difference between the book business and the music and movie businesses, and that's that all the forms in the latter businesses require players. It's the difference between one expensive player and another: Walkman or CD Player or iPod in music, and VHS or DVD or BlueRay in movies. Books is different. E-readers are a big investment. But paper books, unlike tapes or VHS movies, require no players. Paper books need nothing but themselves. They're like a tape that can play itself.

    Can you really get millions of people to spend $300.00 on an e-reader for one book a year? Trade a $6.00 purchase for a $306.00 purchase (for the same reading value)? If they force a change they may simply lose a lot of readers… in an industry already worried about losing readers.

    I struggle to see that, at least in the remotely near future, particularly if those occasional readers hold a fairly large market share.

  86. Other Lisa

    I'm personally really excited about getting an iPhone, because it's a device I need for other reasons (my old smart phone's impending death) AND it's an eReader. I think for most people, multi-purpose devices will be their entry into eBooks.

  87. Jenn

    CONGRATS Kiersten!

    Thanks for the links Nathan!

    Not much to say except I really wish it was less expensive to save the environment.


  88. Mira

    I agree with Other Lisa, Bryan, and I also think the price will go down for e-readers as the demand goes up.

    Sort of like computers. How can anyone survive in this day and age without one? Even if they use it occasionally, there are cheap ones, used ones, or in a pinch, one can use one at the library or a cafe. They used to cost thousands of dollars a pop.

    I do think you're right, though, Bryan, that books will never disappear in the same way as records, because of the technology issue. But the technology and manpower needed to produce paper books is expensive – more expensive than e-books.

    I don't know. It may not happen. But I think it's likely. Of course, we may be talking a decade or more here, I don't know.

  89. Ink

    I do think multi-tasking devices will be what cause the largest increases – will everyone really start reading on their phones, though? I'm not certain of that. I'm guessing that will take a generational change, at least – a slow process. And even then…

    Certainly I think e-books will play a bigger and bigger role. How big and how fast…? That's why I'd like to see those marketing stats. Who are the readers out there, and what are the buying patterns? And how conducive are those patterns to the emerging technologies?

  90. crow productions

    Thanks Nathan. I found Kiersten's blog helpful. I am such a lightweight @ 5 rejections.

  91. Nathan

    Young Adult titles should be safe, but more than that parents just need to be aware. Know what's out there and what messages your kids are receiving. You will never be able to control a genre, so keep your eyes open. You make sure they are getting the right messages. You put before them the books that you think will be of benefit. And if you are a writer, you write the books that you think will be of benefit. That being said there are more tasteful, tactful ways of going about such subject matter.

    On another note, look at movie ratings. Why is there not a rating system for books if this issue continues to be prevalent? Put a notice on the cover regarding content. There are great messages to be had in a lot of books that contain such content, but fair warning would go a long way so that you can make the choice yourself as parent or even young adult. I hate running into that kind of material out of the blue without any idea that it was coming, but with movies that warning is easily accessible. It helps you to sift through those movies right from the beginning. I'd love to be able to do that more easily with books. Let them write what they want and label it what they want, but we should be able to see the label clearly regarding content, not just genre.

  92. F. P.

    I think book labeling (tiny, on the back bottom corner or something) might be a good idea, always have thought that should be tried, as long as creators have a say on the labels. I like that movie contents are labeled now, so I can avoid very violent ones.

    I've never hid that my writing often contains explicit sex and language. What's the point in hiding this, letting easily-offended-over-sex people buy it, when they'll later feel angry about the contents, and maybe share that anger in customer reviews somewhere? I want people to enjoy my work, not feel sorry they'd read it.

    Plot spoiling I don't like, for my own writing or for anyone else's, but beforehand I'd prefer knowing what extreme content art will show as I can't stand reading/viewing some contents.

  93. Christine H

    "If you're an angsty teenager and the whole world is telling you to cheer up, that these are the best days of your life, sometimes the most uplifting, therapeutic thing a book can say is: YOU ARE NORMAL."

    Hannah, I totally agree with you on this, and I don't mean to imply that eveyone should be reading "Little House on the Prairie" their whole life.

    But on the flip side, if it is just constant violence, sex, and tragedy, that doesn't help either. It just makes your own life seem that much worse, like there is no end to the tunnel and you'll never get out. At least, I know that's how I felt at that age, and still feel sometimes.

    When handling difficult topics, there has to be some sort of growth and/or redemption, and some ultimately positive outcome, even if it's a small one, or it's just too depressing.

    At least I know that's true for me. Perhaps I'm too engrossed in imaginary worlds, but I find that the books I read drastically affect my moods for at least a few days after I've read them.

  94. J.J. Bennett


    Ratings on books would be fantastic for schools. I work in a library of a Middle School in a very conservative community. We are always concerned about what the content is. Using tax payer funds, I think we would feel safe in purchasing books with some sort of system. If we have read every book in the library then we are okay, but that just isn't possible most of the time. Sometimes we purchase a book and get it in to find material not suited for their age. This can be a problem.

  95. Sylvia Dickey Smith

    Technology will take us where it will, trees or not, but I'm just sad you didn't fall all over my query letter, begging me to hand deliver the whole manuscript! LOL

  96. lauren

    Christine H., you said:

    "When handling difficult topics, there has to be some sort of growth and/or redemption, and some ultimately positive outcome, even if it's a small one, or it's just too depressing."

    But! The hopeful ending is absolutely a hallmark of current YA. In the last few years that I've been attending SCBWI conferences, it's the one thing you can always count on the editors to say about YA: you MUST have a hopeful ending. And the stuff that's been published in the category this decade bears that out. The last really nihilistic YA stuff I read was written by Robert Cormier in the 1970s.

    Even some of the more downbeat stuff I've read over the past few years — I'm thinking of Sherman Alexie's Part-Time Indian, Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls, and Mary Pearson's A Room On Lorelei Street — ends with the protagonist coming into his / her own, finding hope, finding a new beginning.

  97. hannah

    Definitely. I'd hazard to say that most dark books have some hope in their ends, but YA especially.

  98. lauren

    Also, re: book rating systems (and then I'll shut my trap and go back to my WIP b/c I'm sure this comment box is sick of me).

    There is so much information out there about books these days, and I see this with YA in particular. It amazes me how much easier it is to find information about any given book compared to how things were even two years ago. Between Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, and the proliferation of book review blogs, I can become an expert on practically any YA novel out there without ever having read it. (Not really the recommended way to experience literature, but…) To me at least, this negates the need for a content advisory / rating system. Trust me, if you can't find the answer to a book-content-related question through a quick Google Blog Search, you can shoot a quick e-mail or comment to one of the bloggers who reviewed the book, and I'm sure they'll provide you with the information you need.

    Not only that, but there are tons of blogs I've seen that review "clean" books and make recommendations with regard to a given book's content.

    There's no reason today that anyone would have to be surprised by a book's content (unless you've been purposely avoiding spoilers!). All the info is out there.

  99. Reesha

    I love it when your links coincide with my rss feeds. Lets me know what I was already going to read is a good choice.

  100. Bane of Anubis

    Lauren, you're right that anybody who performs proper research can determine the contents of most books nowadays; however,some people don't have those resources, some people don't have the time, and, as evinced by political reactionism, many people are too indolent to perform due diligence.

  101. Lisa R


    I read the story about Other Lisa which was fantastic. I was wondering–she said that you had her do several revisions before you took her on as a client–how long did that take? I've had a few agents who love my book but think it needs revisions. They say they are "close" to taking me on as a client. However, thus far the process has taken 3 and a half years. Not because I don't immediately do the revisions but because as you well know, agents are superbusy and since I'm NOT a client, I am last on their list. That's okay with me, I'm just glad to be in the running at all. I was just wondering from an agent's perspective–is there a time frame that you think is TOO long for me to be waiting it out?

  102. Anonymous

    I think the YA thing is tough. Personally, I think it would do way more harm than good to censor it in any way, because teens do go through all that angsty stuff. But it seems like right now there is a lot of pushing the envelope just to be edgy, not to benefit the story telling.

    And it is especially tough in regards to middle-schoolers. We all know MG exists, but it seems like that category isn't always acknowledged. There is no Middle Grade or Tween section in our local libraries or bookstores. In fact the same MG book could be shelved in YA in one place and with the children's chapter books in another. So you have to know in advance what you're looking for. That can be tough when you have a kid like mine that reads a couple hundred pages a night.

    With the gazillions of books published, you'd think there would be plenty of choices for everyone. But we have to constantly research books for my thirteen-year-old daughter. It seems like there is a bit of a gap between stories that are too Disney-ish and too gritty (by her standards, not mine… I don't censor what she reads, but I do give her a heads up about sex/drugs/etc. She hates too miss out on a good story, but that stuff makes her really uncomfortable).

    So if anyone else (like Sissy) is writing with this in mind, more power to ya, because I personally don't think there are enough books in this category. But I think there needs to be a bigger industry-wide change to clarify what YA vs. MG is (for the masses and the retailers, not just within the publishing industry). Maybe the term Middle Grade in itself is part of the issue. Maybe teens don't want to feel like they're reading down a level.

    Just my thoughts… sorry to ramble. 🙂

  103. Best New Writers

    As a Writer, and Mother, I say Yes. I was at a book signing at Barnes and Noble, when a reader told me her niece really enjoyed my book. I was a bit horrified until she told me her niece was 23. My books should definitely be rater "R"

    KT Banks

  104. Best New Writers

    As a Writer, and Mother, I say Yes. I was at a book signing at Barnes and Noble, when a reader told me her niece really enjoyed my book. I was a bit horrified until she told me her niece was 23. My books should definitely be rated "R"

    KT Banks


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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