YA Review Double Whammy: The Heir, The Crown

YA Review 
Double Whammy: 

The Heir
The Crown 

After reading the Selection series, I fell in love with America and Maxon. When the story ended, I bought the extra short stories and found them enjoyable, for the most part. When the next two books came out about another selection, I was excited--until I read a sample. It didn't wow me. I hated the protagonist, Eadlyn--America and Maxon's daughter and heir. Not eager but not able to ignore it, I put the two books on my Christmas list and they were bought for me. They sat on my shelf. Then, I found out the series (at least the first 3 books) are being made into a TV series. I was excited and wanted to reread the books but had lent them to a friend prior to the pandemic. Then I saw the spin-offs on the shelf and just had to read them.

I can't mince my words on this one. I didn't like them. Note my subjectivity in the sentence prior. I'm not going to say the books were bad, as I'm sure lots of people liked them, and they were well written. I personally saw so much potential in a spin-off and this didn't deliver for me. To keep this short, I'm going by categories I normally look at most (lumping the books together in one commentary).


Pacing: good, but one book would've sufficed.

Characters: Eadlyn, the protagonist and America and Maxon's daughter, was god-awful--an entitled, conceited brat who was self-centered, clueless, and cruel at times--the big B-word. I knew the character would arc for the better (oh, it takes loooong), but I was more annoyed that my favorite characters could raise such a monster. First stab a America and Maxon. Her siblings are flat characters. Understandable for the younger ones since they are not central to the plot, but her twin brother, Ahren, was bland. None of the suitors in the selection are appealing to her or the readers, but the person she chooses is so vanilla that I was annoyed. I guess this is the win for nice guys who normally finish last, but he was so dull and basically Eadlyn will continue to be the little tyrant she is over his life instead of a kingdom. America and Maxon are week, clueless, seem much older than the pushing the 40 they're supposed to be (I'd know), and in comparison to the first three books, they're flat; instead of continuing and developing these characters, they are pawns for the plot of Eadlyn. Second stab at my favorite characters.

Plot: Um, so Maxon and America are exhausted from running the kingdom for 20 years? They managed to mess it up so bad the people hate them? The plot alone makes no sense and dismantles the entire point of the first 3 books. Another dig at my favorite characters. There's a random villain that she is too naive to know is bad, but he seems like a thrown-in cameo. There were also so many "surprise" cliches thrown in. I knew who she would pick 1/3 through and was bored and annoyed when it came true. I really wanted it to be a story where she fell in love with her friend, but it started too early then just stopped, fizzled out without explanation before she went for Mr. vanilla. She destroys her entire kingdom pretty much and all the work her father did to fix his ancestor's wrongdoings of the castes.  Basically, she throws the towel in for love, although it might be because she doesn't want to do her job. This turned into a character bash again, so moving on.

Message: It was pretty straightforward in the Selection--equality--between men and women, the rich and poor. In these last two books, I grappled for meaning (and I have degrees that taught me how to dissect even the most difficult literature). Follow your heart is the only thing I could think of. It's a nice sentiment but to follow her heart, Eadlyn destroys the legacy of her parents and by that, I mean the first 3 novels.

If I could give the first three books of the Selection 6 stars out of 5, I would. They inspired me and influenced my own writing. But the successor? Nope. I would have to give it a generous 3 stars because it is much better than some books out there, but that's not taking into account how she destroyed my vision of America and Maxon. I need to reread their story to get my America and Maxon back. On a chipper note, I can't wait for the TV show!

Author Feature: Matthew Pritt

Author Feature: 

Matthew Pritt

The man with a plan: 

Matthew Pritt is the author of The Supes as well as many poems, songs, and microfiction stories. He currently lives in West Virginia with his wife, Lauren, and an ever-increasing number of cats. He hopes to see the Colorado Rockies win the World Series during his lifetime. 

The Book:

Slip Stephenson has the lamest super power of all time. His father, a world renowned Super, can turn himself invisible, but Slip has never managed to do anything more than turn himself an underwhelming shade of black.

According to the rules of the School for Underage Power Enhancement and Refinement (SUPER), Slip has to pass his final test by the end of this year or he must give up his superpowered dreams and live as a regular civilian. He spends his senior year studying with five other nearly useless would-be Supers. Together, they must work as a team and overcome their watered-down powers if they want to make it in the world of superheroes.

As this ragtag group comes together, they notice that strange things are happening in the Super world. A mysterious villain has set up base next to Slip’s school, and famous and powerful Supers are turning evil. To protect the ones they love, Slip and his team must take matters into their own hands.

Can Slip and his newfound friends unravel the mystery? Will they be able to take on fully-powered supervillains? And will they be able to save the world?

    Buy here

The Interview:

What made you become a writer?

I’ve always been a writer. I don’t think I could have ever escaped it. The first thing I ever wrote was a song about my favorite blanket when I was three years old. As I got older, I dove into songwriting, exploring topics beyond bedspreads. When I got to college, I studied music composition, and it was there that I had a change in my writing.

I was never very skilled at writing “art” music. I still wrote in a modern pop-rock style for fun, but that wasn’t acceptable at college, so I tried to do more artsy things in my music. My comp professor noticed that I kept working narrative into my music to some degree. My pieces, even if they didn’t have words, were telling stories. He pushed me to develop that even more, which led to my temporarily becoming a playwright!

After I graduated, I wrote songs for a few years, but then I got an idea for a YA superhero novel and decided to write it. I had learned a ton about structuring a narrative from my music writing, and I was able to expand on that when I started writing The Supes.

Are you a plotter or pantser? Tell us your process.

I almost never write without first doing an outline, but I don’t always adhere to those outlines very strictly. I have to have some sort of idea of what I want to accomplish within a section or else I’ll end up rambling. But I also try to be aware if something I’m writing doesn’t feel natural. I’ve noticed that when I stick too closely to my outlines, I end up with forced dialogue and plot holes.

I reset pretty often too as I’m writing. I keep outlines for 3-5 chapters in the future (with a pretty good idea of where I’m going after that), and then once I write a couple chapters, I’ll redo my outlines. That way, I have a sense of what’s coming next and what I’m working toward without getting too bogged down and feeling like I have to obey the notes I’ve left for myself.

What have you learned most through your publishing experience?

I learned so much through my publishing experience! I had no idea what all went into making a book. I had completed my draft before I looked into anything about publishing, and I thought I had the hard part out of the way already!

Every step of the way turned me into a better writer. When I was querying, I took feedback from my rejections and rewrote the first couple chapters of my book to make it more engaging. Eventually, I landed my book with a publisher, and once it got into their hands, I learned more still. 

Working with editors taught me to see my book in terms of how I’m communicating. As writers, we tell stories, and just like having a conversation, our intentions in what we’re saying matter less than how they’re understood by the readers. There were sections in my first book that I thought I had nailed, and when my editors made suggestions, it was helpful to see where I wasn’t communicating clearly.

Going through editing helped me see that books can be very collaborative. When I first started writing, I shared my work with my wife, she reviewed it and we talked it over, but other than that, I didn’t get much feedback until I started querying. It helped to have outside voices make suggestions and show me where I had room for improvement. We can learn a lot from each other, and that process will almost always make the book better in the end.

How to find Matthew: 




Publishing: Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing


Pros and Cons 
of Self-Publishing

I discussed an overview of the main types of publishing and warned about looking for services versus a vanity publisher (see here), then the pros and cons of traditional publishing (here), and last week small presses (here). Today, we conclude this series by focusing on self-publishing. Remember, there is no "best" path as it depends on the author's preferences when it comes to money they want/can invest, the control they desire, and their goals for their novels. 

Self-publishing—an author publishes a book by themselves

Pros: You have complete control over every decision with the book which is the most hailed benefit among self-published authors. You get the highest royalty rate (around 70-85% depending on platform's cut--Amazon, I've been told only takes 30%) since not sharing with an agent of publishing company. There are few limitations on what you write about, preferences for book length, or expectations. These days it has become a simple setup process and can publish as quickly as author wants--no waiting, no querying to agents or publishers. It can be free if you are qualified or learn to edit, create covers, and format (or sharing your story overrides professionalism--no judgment, it depends on goal).

Cons: There is quality control stigma (addressed below in red). The higher royalty percent depends on distributor, and pricing is still mildly controlled (ex. Amazon must be between $2.99-9.99 to get 70%, otherwise only get 35%). Self-published books are difficult to get into a bookstore and contracts can be POD (print on demand) only and limited to one distributor (there are ways around it). You are responsible for all marketing and finding reviewers/reviewing services. If you want or need an editor, book cover designer, help formatting, you must find and hire them: all upfront costs are all on you. Aspiring authors are often shocked at the costs that go into a book, but you must be fair to someone who works hard helping your book shine. The largest overlooked drawback: no legal protection. This means if someone pirates your book, plagiarizes and uses your writing to make money, slanders you, give you fake reviews out of spite, etc. you have to sue with your own money.

In short, highest royalties and control, but little help (or must hire it) for publishing process; can be free but can become costly

My experience with self-publishing is limited. Personally, it was never a path I was going to take, ruled out because my job. In academia, self-publishing is not considered a "publication" because technically "anyone can do it," so there is no validation from professionals, no vetting process for quality. This gives this path an unfair stigma since there are many quality books through this path. The problem without a clear vetting system is that one bad apple can spoil the bunch for some readers. 

The second reason is monetary. You'd think I could easily self-publish a book myself for free--I'm an English Lecturer who teaches grammar, but rarely can anyone catch all her mistakes; even professionals like editors hire editors. I also am no book cover designer--even with an artist husband, we have limited computer graphics knowledge. And the list goes on. Can I write and edit pretty decently? Yes, but I would never assume I was good enough to go at it completely alone.

So what experience do I have? I've learned a lot--all the hows--through my writing group who are mostly self-published. They end up with quality books because they critique each others work, pay professional editors and book cover designers, or spend long hours learning the craft of each step and becoming professionals in their own right. They care about quality and work hard to produce amazing books--no matter the cost, time, and effort. It is admirable to see authors who can do everything I do and what my publishers do. In this way, self-published authors are amazing.

The takeaway: quality is important and easily attainable with help.

Publishing: Pro and Cons of Small Presses


Pros and Cons 

to Small Presses

I discussed an overview of the main types of publishing and warned about looking for services versus a vanity publisher (see here), then the pros and cons of traditional (here). Today, we focus on small presses also known as independent (indie) publishers. Next week, I'll visit self-publishing. Remember, there is no "best" path as it depends on the author's preferences when it comes to money they want/can invest, the control they desire, and their goals for their novels. 

  Small/indie presses—independent publishers, pretty much every publisher outside of the Big-5 and imprints who is not a self-published label, a vanity press, or a publishing service (I’ll get into these later).
   *note: these vary greatly so I’m generalizing a lot here. Basically, don’t go for one that doesn’t fit this pro model below.
Every March!
Pros: They produce quality products, and are hands-on, small-knit and personal (because they only publish so many a year and have smaller staffs). Their royalty rates tend to be higher than traditional (varies, seen 15-50%), and some have cost models--after they break even on the costs of your book, they up your royalty percent. No agent is needed, so not sharing of royalties and you can query them directly. They have expert editors, formatting folk, and book designers. They include you in every decision and step, and let you be as involved as you want to be. They will market a little for you, and find a few professional or unbiased reviewers. They offer some to all legal protection. The best have reputable distributors, so books can go in independent bookstores. The time from acceptance to print varies, but usually faster than traditional. Some presses do all book formats Most importantly, it should cost you nothing up front.

Cons: They are usually genre niche only, so finding the right one can take research and can be hard to land because they only put out a limited amount of novels a year (averaging 10 titles a year according to several sources). Like traditional, the price is controlled by them as well as promos. They have a smaller budget than the Big-5, so could have less quality or limited marketing, limited exposure and readership, so author must promote (this is expected in trad too, but more vital with indie). Some presses are only POD (print-on-demand) which means bookstores cannot take the risk without profit or a return policy. You could be bound to publisher for a timeframe, genre, or series (read contract carefully before signing). Some can be limited in book formats like not offering print or audio.

    In short, higher royalties and control, experts on it free of charge, but lower sales and exposure than traditional; more professional support and cheaper than self-publishing.

My experiences will sound biased, but I think it is because I found the path that suited me best. Whereas traditional didn't work out, and I did not wish to go self published (the reasons I'll explain next week), small press I found to fit me like a glass slipper. I worked with two different publishers thus far. I don't wish to compare them, as they both are great and taught me loads, but the one I'm with now hand down is so personal, hand-on, and thorough; I feel like I am friends and coworkers with them--my voice counts. I'm getting fair royalty rates, some exposure, and most importantly, I didn't have to change my vision or spent a cent. As opposed to agents wanting me to change everything, both my publishers had made subtle suggestions for improvement that don't completely alter the bones of my novels. If you think you want collaborative control, but can't afford to self-publish a quality novel, or you are tired of agent rejection or hate the idea of having little say, then small press is for you. Here are my works through small presses:

    They can be found for purchase here.

    Join me next week to see the pros and cons to self-publishing.


Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing:  Query example I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other au...