Tag Archives: tween genre

First Impressions-Book Covers

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We often say that a picture is worth 1,000 words, and I say that in the case of book cover art “words” could be changed to “readers”. With so many books available and so many thumb-sized images to sort through, one of the best ways to gain readership is to make sure that in the first seconds a reader’s eyes land on your book cover, he/she is enticed enough to peel back that cover. Book covers should hook readers much like the first lines of a book; they should entice them enough to spend additional seconds, turn those into minutes, and ultimately spend hours delving into the story behind that enticing cover.

For those authors who are also expert cover artists, I applaud your skills. It is a talent every bit as refined as authoring a book. For those of us who have no business handling this aspect of book publishing, we benefit from surrendering to the talents of such artists. I had the pleasure of meeting my cover artist through a collective that I joined in 2012. Chelsea Starling has created covers for all 3 of my books published over the past few years, and though she only creates covers for a few exclusive clients, she is also a web designer specializing in author web sites (if you are in need of a site, visit her at Starling Magic).

I had it easy from the start where my covers were concerned. I offered a few key ideas and Chelsea conjured up covers beyond my imaginings. For example, I knew that I wanted the cover for ARROW OF THE MIST to be mostly black, include thorny vines, have Lia—a teen girl with a crossbow and red hair—on one side, and a drop of blood somewhere on the other side to match the hair. That’s all I gave her to go on and she created a cover that pretty much hit the mark the very first go around. Cover number two for ARMS OF ANU had nearly the same quick and wonderful creation process AND I am thrilled to announce has just been nominated for Best Supernatural Cover at the utopYA 2015 Awards in June.

Perhaps my greatest advice to an author with regards to working with an accomplished cover artist is to remember that that person is the artist, the expert, the one with the keen eye and skill set needed for such a task. Having a voice as the author is important, but then follow that with a good measure of surrender to allow the artist’s “muse” to create that oh-so-important first impression your book deserves.

If you are in the market for an expert cover artist (or for many other experts involved in the writing and publishing process), check out Indie-Visible.  As one of the co-founders, I can attest for our PubHub feature where authors can “Build Their Publishing Teams” by utilizing a referral list of Recommended Freelancers (at least one of our crew can vouch for them!). Our goal there is to provide authors a place to find experts with skills either not contained in their own bags of tricks and/or to find experts who can take on tasks authors might simply not have time enough to accomplish on their own.

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Christina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. Honored titles include Tween Fantasy ARROW OF THE MIST and its sequel ARMS OF ANU, and YA Paranormal Romance HONEY QUEEN. She is also the co-founder of www.indie-visible.com. Christina enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees. For more about her and her writing, visit:

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What Characterizes Tween Literature?

You found us! Emblazon is a BRAND NEW website that celebrates tween literature. Please browse our pages to see who we are what we’re all about, and tune in each Wednesday as we add new content. This is our very first post!

In celebration of our launch, we’re giving away signed paperback copies AND ebook copies of books written by Emblazon authors. Click here for details. Thanks for stopping by! 

What Characterizes Tween Literature?

Here on Emblazon we love tween literature. That’s the unique subgenre that falls between middle grade and young adult and can lean either way. You know, the one every reader of children’s books can sense but nobody really names or defines. Well, we’ve named it and defined it. We’ve even put an 11-14 age bracket around it. But what goes into a tween novel? What makes this genre so special? To answer that, let’s first look at the kids who read in it.

Middle schoolers, that’s basically who we’re talking about. Sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, maybe even fifth and ninth. These are the kids transitioning from grade school to high school, all at different rates. Their bodies are changing, their minds are developing, they’re becoming more independent, yet they’re still in need of adult guidance. Here are a few developmental landmarks characteristic to this age group:

  • Striving more for peer acceptance than parental approval
  • Moving from concrete to abstract thinking
  • Losing childish egocentrism; strong desire for fairness, justice
  • Understanding morality in shades of gray rather than black and white
  • Taking an interest in real world problems and issues
  • Changing body, changing emotions, becoming aware of sexuality

So how does this translate into literature? In all sorts of ways. Now is the time to start introducing tweens to tough topics they will face as adults, as Lois Lowry does in The Giver. Yet these topics must still be handled appropriately. Tweens are ready to empathize, to problem solve, to experience real life in a sheltered way.

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Tween literature generally contains a positive world view. Kids this age are beginning to think of others. They’re idealistic. They appreciate satisfactory resolutions because that’s how they want the world to work. They have a strong sense of justice and resonate with plots that see justice done. Tween literature almost always celebrates honesty, loyalty, sacrifice, friendship, etc.

Tweens are also looking forward to high school and greater independence, so protagonists tend to be at least age twelve and as old as fifteen or sixteen. Stories are often adventurous, with protagonists acting in peer groups with limited adult interaction, as in Harry Potter. The strongest adult characters tend to be mentors who provide a measure of wisdom. Books may contain some romance, but sexuality is generally toned way down. Portrayals of violence and substance abuse, if addressed at all, are portrayed in a negative light. Language is mild.

Middle schoolers are beginning to comprehend abstract ideas, so their books can be rich with metaphor, hidden meanings, and deep thoughts. An example of this would be the gentle lessons about life and death in Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt. But these guys still appreciate the absurd and can understand a higher degree of humor, which makes Percy Jackson so popular.

All these characteristics make the tween genre so dynamic and rich. Kids this age are discerning and they demand quality writing. As tween authors, we need to deliver it. By understanding what makes tween literature so unique, we’re better able to recognize it, appreciate it, and create it.

Photo of girls courtesy of Jaimie Duplass via Photoxpress. Photo of boy courtesy of Stepanov via Photoxpress.

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0451111When Michelle Isenhoff is not writing imaginary adventures, she’s probably off on one. She loves roller coasters and swimming in big waves. She’s currently training for a triathlon. She likes big dogs, high school football games, old graveyards, and wearing flip-flops all winter. Once an elementary teacher, Michelle now homeschools two of her three kids and looks forward to summer break as much as they do. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Email