About Me

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Cher-y-lynne {sher-uhl-lin} –noun 1. One who formerly sold and recommended children’s books at a bookstore; a specialist in young adult, middle grade, and picture books. 2. A para-educator at a middle school. 3. A struggling young adult writer. 4. A lover of chocolate and popcorn. Archaic: An Audiology and Speech Language Pathology major at Brigham Young University. Questions? Suggestions? Books you'd like me to review? E-mail me at cherylynne1 (at) gmail (dot) com.
This is a blog for my ranting, raving, and occasionally brilliant opinions. You have been warned. Enter at your own risk.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Life of a Book in a Bookstore

So it's come to my attention that the way "returns" work between bookstores and vendors is sometimes misunderstood, even by professional writers. Keep in mind, this is just how things work in my particular store. Other stores might have different policies. Here's how it usually goes:

A book is published. Yay! It's returnable, it's in our warehouses, it's available to bookstores everywhere.

With some books, our buyer (a person who rarely, if ever, comes to our store or even our state) will order certain titles into the stores, predicting how many we'll need based on what we've sold in the past of that genre or that author. With other books, we will read the description and look at the cover and decide on a case-by-case basis whether it will do well in our store.

Then the book comes in. We display it in our "New in _______ (Teen, Fiction, Non-Fiction, etc.)" section. In general, we keep it for 90 days to see if it sells.

After that, things can get difficult. If it doesn't sell at all, we'll return all copies to the vendor. If it sells slowly, like one a month, we'll all copies to the vendor. If it sells one every two weeks or so, we'll probably keep one copy. If it sells twenty a week, we'll give it its own display.

Pretty simple, right? Here's where it gets tricky.

After the 90 days, the computer gets a say in what stays in the store and what goes, regardless, sometimes, of sales within the individual store. These are called "due outs." The computer pulls up a list of books every month that are doing poorly on the national level, and requests that we return them to the vendor.

This is where I can sometimes step in. If a book does poorly on a national level but really well in our store, I can take those sales figures to the manager and request that we keep it. It's not a guarantee, but it can help.

On the opposite end of the scale, we have what is called "modeling." This is the best thing that can happen to a book. Modeling occurs after about 6 months, when the computer predicts how many copies of that book our specific store will sell every two weeks. Then, whenever we sell below that number, we are automatically sent more copies. With unmodeled books, we have to manually reorder when we run low...and it can be easy to forget those books sometimes.

Now, for the question every author asks: "Why isn't my book on the shelf?"

Unfortunately, it is all about the money. It's not personal. As with any other product, if it's in the store, it is taking up the space that could be given to something that would sell. Yes, I do fight for my local authors. But I can't keep a book in the store if there aren't sales to back it up. So if you want your book on the shelf, don't let your fans buy books online! Books purchased in a store will stay in stores, and books purchased online will stay online.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Or maybe I wanted someone to point a finger at me and say, "Hannah. Are you thinking about killing yourself? Please don't do that, Hannah. Please?" But deep down, the truth was that the only person saying that was me. Deep down, those were my words.

Asher, Jay. Thirteen Reasons Why. New York: Penguin, 2007.

Hannah Baker's suicide is still haunting Clay Jensen. Was there something he could have done? Were there signs he could have caught? While desperately trying to assure himself of his innocence, he receives a box of cassette tapes. From Hannah. Sent to the thirteen people who led her to commit suicide. Unable to listen to the horrifying story, and unable not to, Clay tortures himself with one question: Is he the reason the girl he loved killed herself?

One of the most chilling stories I've ever read. This is the kind of story that could change a teen's perspective on life. I think this should be required reading in all schools. It points out the things to watch out for, and things that no human being should ever do to another, no matter how insignificant it seems at the time.

What's amazing is that you can watch the way a series of small incidents can lead someone who is beautiful and talented to believe she has no other options. Was Hannah looking for excuses to kill herself? Yes. But could something have been done about it? Yes. This is the perfect opportunity to teens to evaluate the way they treat people.

Besides that, it's simply brilliant writing. Jay Asher goes back and forth between Hannah and Clay just enough to keep us interested in both stories. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire time. I could not put this book down for a second. I ate a bag of chips for a meal because I didn't want to stop reading long enough to make a sandwich. It was absolutely heartbreaking with characters who were so vivid that I sometimes talk about them like they were real people.

This was quite honestly the best novel I have read in quite some time. Next time you want to read a book in one sitting, pick up this one. Just have some tissues ready. And a ready-to-eat meal, if you don't feel like chips.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why Kid and Young Adult Bookstores Will Never Go 100% Digital—Part Two

Let me preface this by saying that I have a nook, and I LOVE IT. I feel like I read even more than I used to, because it’s so convenient. There are thousands of books available for free, and others that go on sale periodically for less than five dollars. I can download books from my local library and read them on my nook for up to 14 days, then it automatically goes back.
I’m going to start with the young adult genre, because this is the most likely to go digital. Teens love technology. I bought my younger sister a nook, and she is madly in love with it, reading longer than she ever has before. So, what’s the problem? Why won’t teens go completely digital?
Book covers. I have to say, the young adult publishing industry is doing a phenomenal job with their covers. Every week, I see new ones that are even cooler than the ones the week before. They have finally figured out the benefit of a good cover, and they’re willing to spend money getting a good one. Look at recent bestsellers such as Hush, Hush, Fallen, and Incarceron. All have phenomenal covers, and I see teenagers picking up these titles every day because of it.
Now, does the nook show covers? Yes. It will show the cover in black and white on the full screen, and in color on the touch screen. But is it enough to draw someone into a book that they might not otherwise have picked it up? I don’t think so. Especially with a cover like Incarceron, which is iridescent, or Fallen, which is made of a material that feels almost like suede.

So moving on to the middle grade age. The covers are still a big deal for them, but not quite as much. They’re still at the age where they are required to read from particular genres, but get to choose the books themselves. Therefore, for many of them, they just need descriptions. Also, they have more series, as opposed to the trilogies that rule young adult. The series in middle grade can get up into the hundreds, like “The Boxcar Children.” So younger kids are just anxious for the next in the series, no matter what the cover is.

However, that’s not the biggest problem with middle grade. The biggest problem is that they’re still kids. They drop things. They spill things. They break things. No parent wants to give them a $200 device if they can help it, even if they did get the protection plan.

And for our grand finale…picture books. I don’t think anything will ever replace hardcover picture books. Yes, I have seen picture books on the nook. They’re cute, but they’re in black and white. And yes, I’ve seen them on the Ipad. It’s like looking at a computer screen. For me, that’s not conducive to a bedtime story. And bedtime stories are one pastime that I don’t think I’m ready to leave behind.

Let me say one more time that I love my ereader. It has completely replaced paperbacks for me, because let’s face it, I only buy paperbacks because they’re cheap. And if they’re even cheaper on the nook, then why wouldn’t I get them there? On the other hand, books that I want in hardcover I will still buy in hardcover (hello, Mockingjay!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Kids and Young Adult Bookstores Will Never Go 100% Digital--Part One

In this installment, I want to discuss the .com issue…both Amazon and the websites of physical bookstores. In next week’s installment, I’ll discuss ebooks.

So….the websites. Let’s face it—they’re convenient. And cheaper. No overhead. Just straight from the warehouse to you. You can instantly see what other customers thought of the book, you can compare to other books, and you have a search engine that you can type in the “almost title” or “almost author” spelling and get the book you’re looking for. Very useful.

Well, at least it’s convenient for adults. We know what we’re looking for most of the time. We heard about it from a friend, or a blog, or a newspaper. And if we’re kind of iffy about it, there’s the customer reviews to make up our minds.

But it’s not like that with kids. Not most of the time, anyway. Kids are still trying to figure out what they like. And they want to see the different options. They want to hold the books in their hand and see the covers, the length, the size of the font, how much white space each page has. These kinds of things make a difference.

This hands-on approach becomes even more important with picture books. You can tell, right away, if a kid lights up when they open a picture book. You can tell if this is going to be their new bedtime book that you have read three times a night, every night, for the next two years.

And…sorry, I have to say it…websites can’t replace booksellers. They just can’t. They can tell you what other people have purchased when they purchased your book, or lists that other people recommend. But it’s not truly personalized. And as of yet, book ratings aren’t standardized. If there is something you don’t want your child to read, you have to find someone that’s read it. You need a bookseller.

Now, I’m a specialty bookseller, so I’m the exception, but I work very hard to stay well-informed about everything that’s big in kids and teen. I read for two hours every day. I spend at least an hour networking, watching all of the major authors on Twitter to see what they’re working on, when their books are coming out, what the new books are about. I also use that time to read all of the newsletters from all of the major reviewers (like Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and New York Times.)

Also, when I’m reading, I try very hard to keep track of which swear words are used (i.e., whether it’s the “biblical” swear words or the harder ones) as well as how frequent they are. I also keep track of the sexual activity. These are the kinds of things that parents need to know, and computers can’t always tell them. Now, are some websites, like Common Sense Media, making great strides toward this? Yes. But it’s not perfect, and sometimes you really need to know what another actual person thought.

Another thing that I work on is knowing what grade level a book is on. When you have a fifth grader on a second grade reading level, you need a bookseller to show you the books that won’t make them look like a baby. And when you have an eight-year-old that is on a ninth grade reading level, you need a bookseller to show you the books that will appeal to her without any bad content whatsoever. Websites can and do separate books out by ages…but that doesn’t help when you have kids ahead or behind their reading level. You need a bookseller.

Another thing booksellers can do that a computer never can… “So, I started reading a series a few years ago, and there are five girls in it…or maybe four…or maybe six…Anyway, I know there were 12 books in the series. Though maybe there are more now. I don’t remember part of any of the titles, I don’t remember anything about the author’s name, and I don’t remember anything about the plot.”

Believe it or not, I actually figured that one out…Beacon Street Girls.

Score one for the bookseller.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Book Review: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

I put down my fork. The hunk of meat loaf in my mouth felt like Styrofoam when I swallowed. "I saw Daniel today."

Mom glanced up from trying to prevent James from chucking his food across the table. The look that said, We don't mention that name in this house, passed over her eyes.

We discussed just about everything around our kitchen table: death, teen pregnancy, politics, and even religious injustice in the Sudan--but there was one topic we never talked about anymore: Daniel.

Dad wiped his mouth with his napkin. "Grace and Jude, I could use both of you at the parish tomorrow afternoon. We've had a great response to the charity drive. I can't even get into my office, it's packed so full of canned corn." He gave a slight chuckle.

I cleared my throat. "I talked to him."

Dad's laugh strangled off, almost like he was choking.

"Whoa," Charity said, her fork paused halfway to her mouth. "Way to go with the revelations, Grace."

Jude slid back his chair. "May I be excused?" he asked, and put his napkin on the table. He didn't wait for a response and walked out of the kitchen.

I glanced at Mom. Now look what you did, her eyes seemed to say.

Despain, Bree. The Dark Divine. New York: Egmont, 2009.

Grace Divine is from a perfect family. Her father is the local pastor, her mother is a homemaker, and her brother Jude is the hottest, sweetest, and most popular boy in school. But there's one secret that they never talk about--Daniel. A boy who lived with them for awhile, then disappeared after a tragedy involving Jude. A tragedy that no one has ever disclosed to Grace. So when Daniel reappears in town, she wonders if everything has been exaggerated, and if there's any chance that forgiveness will find its way into her family's heart again.
Loved it. Seriously loved it. Is it just a paranormal romance? No. It's also a retelling of the prodigal son. Fascinating. I've heard some people say that they felt the religion was overdone--I disagree. I think the religion was perfect. I feel like I understand Grace Divine, and her struggle to exist in a world where she is seen as a "walking morality barometer" simply because she's the preacher's daughter. That is essential to the story.

I loved these characters. For once, we have subplots and minor characters whose lives are just as interesting as characters in the romance. I loved Jude! What a complex character he is. He had so many layers, and we just kept getting peeling the onion. Incredible. I could understand Daniel and all his bad boy-ness. I felt for him. I fell in love with him. Why? Because he actually screwed up in the past. No, really! It wasn't some misunderstanding, it wasn't justified or rationalized, he really and honestly and truly screwed up! YAY! Just like real people do!

And the ending was the way it should have been. I HATE HATE HATE when the first book in a series ends in a cliffhanger. Actually, I hate it when any book does that, but particularly first books should be standalones. The way Suzanne Collins did it in the first Hunger Games was correct: Leave the reader wanting more, but not needing more. In the Dark Divine, you find all the answers you were looking for, but there's a new problem that arises at the very end of it that leaves you wanting more. It's one of those "Oh, I'm glad we figured that out. Wait...holy crap, what are we going to do now?"

All in all, for a novel trying to walk that fine line between being popular and being well written, it does great. It works on both levels. Whether you like literary or commercial fiction, it's definitely worth a try.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Marketing: An Interview With the Brilliant Bree Despain

True story: I went to work one day last year, thinking everything was going to be normal.

First phone call of the day- "Do you have The Dark Divine by Bree Despain?"

I checked. We had four come in (a typical number for a new, unknown author) and ALL FOUR were already on hold. Unheard of for a debut author.

I offered to order it in, and wrote it off as a fluke. Maybe all four were on hold by the author herself, I figured. Stranger things had happened.

Half hour later- A customer walks in, wandering through the teen section. "Do you have The Dark Divine by Bree Despain?"

Sigh. It's always a long day when I know I'm going to have a long line of unhappy customers.

Long story short, by the end of the day, I'd ordered 15 copies to come in (on top of the ones that customers had ordered for themselves) and our community relations manager was frantically searching for a way to contact Bree to get her to come in for a signing.

Nowadays, Bree is a sensation nationwide with her book trailer appearing before Eclipse showings throughout Utah. That's right. A book trailer. In movie theaters.

Looking at the evidence, I have to say that Bree is one of the most brilliant marketers I have ever seen. Lucky for us, she agreed to share with me some of her secrets to success.

1. You're a well-known author now, but what did you do to get excitement for The Dark Divine before it came out?

Well I tried to do a lot of things. I started a blog and twitter account and joined a few networking sites specific to books and reading. That helped start to get the word out. The best group I joined was the Tenners, a group of authors debuting in 2010 to both network and help cross promote each others books.

After the blog had a bit of a following, I recruited followers to be on a Street Team to help me spread the word. They received bookmarks, stickers, t-shirts and advanced copies of the book and went out to different events helping to pass out the materials. We had a lot of fun and I think it was a good way to generate excitement. Of course we did a lot of other things together with my publisher, like developing the TDD nail polish or previewing the first six chapters via the Romantic Times blog, to name a couple.

2. What did you do to make your book signings successful?

Mostly I am just enthusiastic about the events when talking about it with my twitter followers and on my blog. But we also passed out printed invitations to all our family and friends with a bottle of our TDD nail polish before my debut party. I think this helped to have them, in turn, talk about the signing with others. I was also lucky enough to be reviewed by some local newspapers that published a couple of my first signings along with the review.

3. What other events do you do? Are there any events that you turn down?

I have done everything from speaking on a author panels with local writing organizations, online chats with different groups of bloggers, teaching a class at conferences, flying out to Washington DC to participate in the American Library Association (ALA) conference, to visiting book clubs and book groups. Basically the only time I've turned an event down is when I just don't have the time to go.

4. What, if anything, have the publishers done for you that required zero effort from you?

Really, I have been highly involved in most of the marketing and promotions- whether it was initiated by me or by my publisher. But Egmont has done a lot on their own as well. For example, they placed some advertisements on Publisher's Weekly, Justine Magazine, Perez Hiltion's blog, and The Romantic Times. They are also currently doing a summer beach bag promotion that lets you listen to the first chapter of three of their Paranormal Romance books (including The Dark Divine of course).

5. How important are online networking sites (i.e. Facebook, blog, web site, Twitter)?

Extremely important. This new age of social media offers authors a new medium for reaching potential readers that they didn't have before. I am able to connect with readers all over the country and even in other countries quickly and easily. However, these sites shouldn't be used just to advertise or spam followers with constant "buy my book" speech. It is a place to converse with the book community and make connections and develop relationships. If it wasn't for my blog and Twitter, I can guarantee I would not have sold as many books as I have.

6. What is the most effective thing you've done to promote your book?

This is a tough question. I've just talked about the importance of the social media efforts, but if I take that out of the running, perhaps I'd say the nail polish. It has been a great give-away because, unlike a book mark or a business card, it is something that people will keep and use. And I've found its an incredible talking piece. People constantly ask me about where I got the great color, giving me a chance to talk about TDD. I have heard several similar anecdotes from my friends and fans telling me about how often they end up talking about my book with their friends because they've asked about the nail polish.

Overall though, its been a matter of trying to keep the momentum going by keeping an open mind and always trying new things. I am just so excited about it, and I want to share that with as many people as possible... and hopefully they will love the book as much as I do.

Speaking of trying new things-- I've just launched an awesome contest to help share a the new official The Dark Divine book trailer that you and your readers should totally check out. So far it has been a lot of fun. You can check it out

I just want to weigh in on a few things that Bree talked about. First of all, that Street Team is a work of absolute genius, and I honestly think that it is because of them that we had such a huge response on the first day The Dark Divine came out.

Secondly, I want to point out that she was involved with nearly all of her promotions, and I firmly believe that that is why she is so successful. One mistaken idea that many authors have is that bookstores or publishers will do your advertising for you.


When you are going to do a signing at a bookstore, we are only providing a venue. YOU are in charge of promoting your own signing. I have run dozens of signings, and I can tell who promotes and who doesn't.

Bree is successful because she takes charge of her signings, and she makes them successful. Believe me, this is a good thing! Your signings no longer have to be a matter of luck! YOU can make them amazing.

And since you're all dying to see it, here's Bree's incredible trailer!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Review: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

In honor of tween week, I thought I'd post about my FAVORITE tween series by Ally Carter.

Carter, Ally. I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You. New York: Hyperion, 2006.

I was just starting to get into the rhythm of our little game, when Mr. Solomon said, "Close your eyes," in Arabic.

We did as we were told.

"What color are my shoes?" This time he spoke in English and, amazingly, thirteen Gallagher Girls sat there quietly without an answer.

"Am I right-handed or left-handed?" he asked, but didn't pause for a response. "Since I walked into this room I have left fingerprints in five different places. Name them!" he demanded, but was met with empty silence.

"Open your eyes," he said, and when idid, I saw him sitting on the corner of his desk, one foot on the floor and the other hanging loosely off the side. "Yep," he said. "You girls are pretty smart. But you're also kind of stupid."

Cammie Morgan goes to a school for spies...though to the rest of the world, it looks like a school for girl geniuses. She speaks fourteen languages fluently, she could kill a man in seven different ways, and she could probably hack her way into any CIA computer.

What don't they teach at Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women? How to talk to boys.

So when Cammie meets a boy, she knows how to analyze his trash, follow him while staying "invisible," and write detailed reports about his behavior and what it means...but isn't quite sure how to talk to him.

This has to be one of the most adorable series out there right now. I freaked out when it took a whole day after the fourth book came out (which was Tuesday, by the way) to get it on ebook. Seriously, I started researching who to call at the publishing company to right this kind of injustice.

The characters definte the word "loveable," and the plot line is phenomenal. My favorite parts are when Cammie writes up detailed "summaries of surveillance" about Josh. I was honestly laughing out loud. And the best part? It's cute and sweet and absolutely, 100% squeaky clean. That, more than anything, is what makes me classify this as a perfect "tween" book. Will older teens love it? Of course. It's the perfect blend of "Alias" and "Princess Diaries." But it's also appropriate and accessible to younger girls that are looking to read up.

If you haven't read this series yet, I strongly recommend it. Straight fun from beginning to end. Also, don't miss Ally Carter's other equally fun series Heist Society.