Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Jessa Crispin Pops A Question To Borders
October 26, 2006
By Jessa Crispin

It's no revelation that today, getting a book published is only the beginning of an author's battle: The old fantasy that just having a book "out there" might be enough for it to find an audience has been replaced with the reality that an author has to take control of her own publicity—because as likely as not, the publisher-assigned publicist has moved on to a bigger, more marketable titles—in order to get potential readers into stores to buy books.

But what about a promising writer who finds herself at a huge disadvantage—essentially before even heading out of that starting gate—because one of the largest bookstore chains in America is refusing to stock her book?

Aury Wallington recently went from writing for television shows like Sex and the City and Veronica Mars to writing a young-adult novel called Pop! Her tale of a seventeen-year-old virgin and her quest to have sex is funny and reminiscent of another young-adult novelist. Wallington explained, "I wanted to write a book that would serve a new generation of girls the way Judy Blume's Forever served me—answering questions that I was too embarrassed to ask anyone, and showing the emotional issues of sex and virginity through a character I could identify with."

But sexual content in young-adult novels is a tricky issue right now, with books like Craig Thompson's Blankets getting pulled off of library shelves in Marshall, Mo., library because of an image on its cover of a couple lying in bed together, even though there isn't any sex depicted. As for Pop!, Wallington describes the book's sexual content as "on-screen, so to speak, although the language and act itself are not graphic."

While Barnes & Noble made the decision to carry Pop!, that’s not what happened at the other big store. Ami Hassler, children’s buyer for Borders Group, Inc., said, “It is true that we monthly review many titles and because the space in the YA section is not unlimited, we make choices every day regarding what to carry and what not to carry. Other factors in this decision include the format of the book, the price, the cover design, and the competitive landscape.”

So where does that leave Wallington and her book? Hassler does say that Borders will special-order Pop! if a customer requests it. But having the book available, and visible, in the stores is important. After all, a book’s marketing campaign has to be that much more convincing if a customer has to remember enough about the book to special-order it through a major retailer.

Wallington was disappointed to hear that Borders wouldn’t be carrying her first novel, especially with no clear answers as to why. Sexual content? No established audience? Perhaps it really was just the cover artthough that seems pretty unlikely, considering the image is of a soda can emblazoned with the title. Wallington believes the young-adult section is in need of books like hers. “There are so many contemporary young-adult novels that trivialize teen sex, where the characters are so glib and sophisticated that sexual intimacy seems like no big deal, and sex has few or no physical or emotional consequences, as opposed to the awkward, confusing struggle that most real teenagers go through, which I tried to capture honestly in my book.”

She continues, "I've been so pleased with the reaction I've gotten to Pop!, both from readers and organizations like Planned Parenthood (which is running an interview with me about both the book and the issues surrounding sex and virginity on its website, teenwire.com) that I was surprised and disheartened to learn that Borders won't be carrying it, especially since sex is such an immediate and overwhelming issue for most teenagers and there isn't a whole lot of current YA fiction which addresses the subject frankly without sensationalizing it."

Wallington's work will appear in Borders stores—just in the form of Veronica Mars DVD sets instead of Pop! Meanwhile, Wallington's editor at Razorbill, Kristin Pettit, is optimistic. "We remain hopeful however that Aury's voice will be heard through other channels."

I wonder if my library will be carrying this book? I wonder if yours is?


1 comment:

Peter said...

This is just yet one more in a list of many reasons to hate Borders, beyond its overworked and ignorant staff, its non-existent cusomer service, its ignorance of the concept of mid-list, and its lack of store-level indepence. BOYCOTT BORDERS! BREAK THE CHAINS!
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