Friday, February 25, 2011

Two for Four: Character Names

Recently spotted: characters known as "Four" in current YA sci-fi. Obviously, the title character in I Am Number Four is, and now Divergent which will be out in May 2011, has a love interest named Four. Who knew that seemingly unique character names could be so common? A few years ago, there was a little trend blip with "Kat" in Graceling and The Hunger Games. Other examples abound, I am sure, but the only other one I could think of was that I've seen "Pol" twice, but published very far apart, in Graceling and in the Dragon Prince and Dragon Star fantasy series by Melanie Rawn.

How important is a name? I recently changed a name I had very carefully chosen to be symbolic and part of a puzzle about who the character really is, but I changed it because while it was not exactly the same, it sounded perilously close to a character in a very popular, soon-to-be-a-movie urban fantasy YA series. I'm still pondering changing it back because it makes the most sense for the character, and it is actually different.

Sometimes the name is worth hanging on to, but don't get too attached if it isn't really that important. I changed a side character name in a picture book manuscript because it was pointed-out to me that another picture book was about to be released with the same kind of character (a robot) and exact same name, but as the protagonist and part of the title. I brainstormed a list of alternatives, and had so many that I liked so much more that I will re-name all the characters in the manuscript with names from my new list.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Catch a Title By the Tail

Having a hard time picking a title? Seems like there has been an abundance of book titles including the word "tiger" in the last month or two, only one of which is actually about a tiger.

Tiger's Curse
The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
Tiger, Tiger
The Tiger
The Tiger's Wife

Why the trend? Who knows - I'm going with a Chinese New Year theory. Up until a few weeks ago, it was year of the tiger (rowr!). This year's animal is the hare or rabbit. Now hop to it and get titling.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love (whack) You (pow) Valentine (Augh!)!

We talk about messages in kid lit, and I could not resist sharing this. Check out these DC character kids paper valentines from the 80's. Ha!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cool Business Cards at, and Something for Trek Fans

I've ordered from this awesome printer based in the U.K., weird name, cool stuff.

They allow you to customize EVERY card in your stack of business cards, so if you are an illustrator, you can order a stack of cards where each one has a different image you've created on the front, like a mini portfolio you can carry with you at all times. Pull out your stack of cards showing different artwork on each piece, and let that art editor pick the card they want.

And they just did a little feature on their blog about cards for writers! How cool is that? I LOVE these!

Oh, and I wanted to share this hysterical site- Tweet in Klingon, for you die hard Star Trek fans.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Comics and Graphic Novels Up and Downs

Comicworld is going through a lot this week.

Good news: San Diego Comic Con 2011 sold out in seven hours. Someone out there likes comics, or at least comic con.

Interesting news: Publisher's Weekly spoke to five college-level comics art programs. Enrollment has increased, as has the number of females entering the programs. So there are more people who want to make comics and therefore more possible competition for creators. Not necessarily a bad thing if quality goes up as competition increases, because it can lead to more opportunity. Remember the path in the last decade or so of young adult literature (YA lit): increased interest by consumers- increase in sales of YA lit - increase in publishing houses creating YA imprints or bulking up their acquisitions lists - increase in writers and manuscripts- increase in competition and quality of manuscripts - back to increase in interest by consumers as YA lit becomes better and more accessible. Get it?

Bad news: Borders possibly filing chapter 11 this week. There are fewer and fewer outlets for book sales in general, and the loss of this one is a biggie. Diamond Books Distributors (the kingpin of comics and graphic novel distribution) has already stopped shipments to Borders.

Bad news: Canada's largest book distributor H.B. Fenn filing for bankruptcy. Why? Because there are not that many distributors, either. This one moved material for 90 publishers, including comics and graphic novel groups like Marvel, Yen Books, Tor, Macmillan and Disney. According to Publisher's Weekly, publishers are scrambling to route sales channels in Canada through other distributors.

So, there are more people who want comics and graphic novels, there are more people serious about penning them, but there are fewer physical outlets to sell them, and fewer distributors to get those hard copy books to those retailers. Milton Griepp, CEO of ICv2 (Internal Correspondence Version 2, an information outlet that provides trending information to pop culture retailers. This grew out of Capital City Distribution, Inc. - one of the largest distributors of pop culture products in the 80s through the mid-90s that was sold to Diamond Comic Distributors in 1996) projected a ten time increase in digital comics sales in 2010 over the previous year in a white paper presented shortly before NY Comic Con last fall.

Change is coming. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 4, 2011

How Wired Are Teens, Really?

My critique group occasionally ponders how to deal with technology in our manuscripts. If you don't cite it in a contemporary work are you dooming your manuscript to the bottom of the slush pile, or alienating readers if it does get published? If you do make references to technology (cell phones, the web, computers, video games) in a manuscript, will it be outdated by the time the manuscript makes it to market? What to do?

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project research shows that:

- 75% of teens have cell phones.
-The age at which kids get cell phones is around 12 or 13.
-Ownership and cell phones are not necessarily on a one-to-one basis, and teens from lower income families were more likely to have more than one cell phone (!).
- Teens text an average of 50 texts per day.
- 90% of parents have a cell phone, much higher than adults with no kids in the home.
- 90% of younger adults (ages 18 to 29) sleep with or next to their cell phone (!!).
-80% of teens have a game console.
-79% have an I-pod or MP3 player.
-69% have a computer.
-51% have portable gaming devices.

Kind of hard to avoid, huh?

And now add another layer of possibility- what country are your characters in?

Nielsen (that company that tracks consumer behavior) has info. on that in the report Mobile Youth Around the World. Check out some interesting parts of it on their blog here.

Who leads the teen world in mobile internet use? Surprise! It is not the U.S or Japan - it's China.

And although girls lead in the U.S. in SMS and MMS messaging, a teen character texting a lot in India is more likely to be male, since they FAR outstrip their female counterparts in those areas if usage, as in 70% male versus 30% female in texts, and 82% males versus 18% females in picture messaging. China and Saudi Arabia are the same way, with more males using mobile messaging, but not as drastically.

What does all this mean for a writer of content for kids? Only you can decide.