Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016: Dedicated Issue: Sourcebooks Fire

Sourcebooks Fire: This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Editors' Note

Sourcebooks YA Books Are on Fire!

With the help of the publisher, Shelf Awareness celebrates the evolution of Sourcebooks Fire. With a growing list of award-winning titles and a dedicated mission of delivering books that make an impact on a variety of teen readers, the publisher's youngest imprint is burning bright.


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Sourcebooks Fire: This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Books & Authors

Sourcebooks Fire: Ever Brighter

In just five years, Sourcebooks Fire, the YA imprint of Sourcebooks, has experienced tremendous growth, publishing more than 40 titles a year; doubling sales in 2014 and jumping another 25% last year; and publishing distinctive fiction and nonfiction titles in a range of YA categories. As children's librarian Katy Grant from the Shawnee Branch of the Louisville (Ky.) Free Public Library notes, "[Sourcebooks Fire] always bring[s] me the very best… I have read titles that I normally wouldn't have picked up and found myself glued to the titles until I finish reading them, and then sharing them with teens and even some adults."


And Grant's sentiment has been echoed widely. Sourcebooks Fire has also seen great growth in the number of accolades received for its titles. 2015 brought the imprint 11 starred reviews and its first YA Indie Next Pick of the year (This Is Where It Ends by debut author Marieke Nijkamp was included on the Winter 2015-2016 list); and books by mainstay authors Geoff Herbach, Jeff Strand and Patty Blount have continued to have a presence on YALSA's annual reading lists. But perhaps most important of all, Sourcebooks Fire has taken great  pride in putting out books that "deliver a lot of impact," as Todd Stocke, v-p and editorial director of Sourcebooks, says. "Touching lives and reaching as many people as possible" is key, adds Chris Bauerle, director of sales and marketing.

Independent bookstores are playing a larger-than-ever role in that overall mission. National sales manager Heidi Weiland notes that "key people in many indies know and love YA and are huge YA advocates." The imprint works with them as partners--staying in touch, sending marked-up ARCs and notes from editors and more--to find the right readers for the books. "We're handselling the handsellers," Stocke observes.

Often, Sourcebooks Fire titles are bestsellers at indies. Says Sara Grochowski of Brilliant Books, Traverse City, Mich.: "I read over 300 books per year and am always on the lookout for unique titles to recommend to customers. Sourcebooks Fire is one of my go-to imprints because, within in a relatively small title list, there are usually multiple titles that make both a lasting impression and ideal handsells. Looking for a great hook? Check. Memorable characters? Check. Underrepresented YA subgenres like thriller and humor? Double check."

Steve Geck, editorial director of children's books, also brings a strong indie bookseller perspective to Sourcebooks Fire; he started his publishing career as buyer and manager at Eeyore's bookstore in New York City. He often approaches acquisitions with a bookseller's eye: "My first thought is 'Is there readership for this?' " he says. "I don't acquire a book just because I like it."

Going Beyond What's Trending

As in any category, the YA space is dominated by trends--and right now, contemporary is king. While Sourcebooks has identified these trends, and, ironically, launched the imprint five years ago with a number of contemporary authors, the ultimate goal of the imprint--and the publisher in general--is to find fantastic titles by authors they can grow. When they know they've got a great book that will find an audience, Sourcebooks will never shy away from trying something new. "Experimentation and diversification have been really strategic for us, allowing us to grow and be remarkably stable," Stocke notes. 

Not only has this experimentation allowed Sourcebooks to diversify the list, it's also helped Fire to establish itself as one of the leading YA thriller publishers. The team highlights author Natalie D. Richards as a thriller standout. In 2013, her first novel, Six Months Later, debuted to strong reviews--including a YALSA Teen Top Ten nomination--and sales, and has been followed by three additional standalone thrillers, the next of which, One Was Lost, is due this October. They've also been able to build a major U.S. readership for U.K. author Natasha Preston, whose debut thriller. The Cellar (March 2014), has sold more than 140,000 copies to date.

But thrillers aren't the only area where Sourcebooks Fire has seen success:

Speculative Fiction
H20 by Virginia Bergin, first published September 2014, has been a standout. Steve Geck, editorial director of children's books, recalls that the book was pitched as "just one drop will kill you... I had to get it." Geck also calls Ruby, the book's protagonist, "one of the most polarizing characters in YA." Shortly after poison rain begins falling in London, killing 90% of the population, Ruby sets off to find her father, who may or may not be alive. Sourcebooks Fire published Bergin's sequel, The Storm, in October.

Praised for her "Steven King-like" horror stories and lyrical prose, author Rin Chupeco's companion novels The Girl from the Well (August 2014) and The Suffering (September 2015) have received starred reviews, been recognized by the Junior Library Guild and have been represented on state lists. The books feature ghost exorcisms, mysticism and murder, all while touching on the dilemmas that teens face. They are the types of tales, editorial manager Annette Pollert-Morgan says, that are so powerful "you need to share the experience with friend."

Called "an experience" by Kirkus Reviews, Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose, edited by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil, is the journal of high school girl struggling with addiction, bullying, abuse and a terminal illness. It's also the book that caused "the longest discussion in history" at a Sourcebooks acquisition meeting, Stocke says. Because they were all so deeply moved, "all of the editors had something to say about it."

This Book Is Gay by James Dawson (now Juno, since transitioning to female at the end of last year) is a handbook about sexual identity that any person can relate to, and is "irreverent, deeply experiential, and has lots of stories," Stocke says. "A lot of books in this space are pretty didactic and don't rollick like Dawson's does."

Annette Pollert-Morgan calls the book "truly hilarious and informative, with something for everyone, not just teens. For a parent or an educator or a librarian, this is an amazing resource. I thought I was well-versed on a lot of this, but I learned new things too."

"I heard from a librarian just this past weekend who mentioned that this title has the highest circulation of any nonfiction title in their library," adds Beth Oleniczak, marketing specialist. "We're just so proud to have it on our list."


It's no secret that capturing a male YA audience is a difficult task, so Sourcebooks considers itself particularly lucky to be able to direct people to author Geoff Herbach. Says Beth Oleniczak, "I attend upwards of 10 library and educator trade shows a year, and not one has gone by where I haven't been approached by someone praising Herbach for being their go-to gateway author for boy or reluctant readers. Once they introduce him, they can't keep the books on their shelves." With Stupid Fast, the much-acclaimed first book in Herbach's Felton Reinstein trilogy, School Library Journal praised the author for "perfectly captur[ing] the voice of his generation." And nationally-awarded standalone Gabe Johnson Takes Over and the forthcoming Anything You Want are no different. Herbach's quirky, hilarious voice "will zap you back to high school in a paragraph," says Pollert-Morgan.

Sourcebooks Fire: You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

The Next Big Books from Sourcebooks Fire!


This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp ($17.99, 9781492622468) begins on the first day of a new semester at Opportunity High School in Alabama. At 10 a.m., the principal finishes her welcome address to the student body. By 10:05, the students find themselves trapped in a locked auditorium with a classmate and his gun.

Told over 54 minutes in real time, from the perspectives of four students, all with their own reasons to fear the shooter, This Is Where It Ends is a chronicle of their struggle to survive this tragically realistic scenario, and elicits equal parts terror and hope.

The unfortunate, timely topic and strong narrative hook of this title created immediate in-house noise at Sourcebooks. "Lots of people have called it harrowing, important, shocking," says Beth Oleniczak, "but we were left with an important marketing question. How do you create 'buzz' around something that's clearly so tragic? We had to figure out how to spread the word while respecting the subject matter." So, she worked with senior publicity manager Heather Moore to put together a launch plan that would help enhance the conversation that they knew would surround the difficult content. "One of the first things we saw was how strongly educators were responding to this book--so many mentioned in early reviews that they couldn't wait to share it with their students," says Oleniczak. So they used the reviews as an opportunity to start these conversations. They contacted the teachers directly about holding pre-publication book clubs with their teens, ultimately distributing more than 550 ARCs to 26 schools and libraries in 20 states--and sent the author on a virtual Skype tour. Each student also received an individual chalkboard--to mimic the title's cover--and was asked to record their reaction to the book. Says Oleniczak, "Feedback from teachers was unbelievable: one teacher passed out 30 advance-reader copies on a Friday, and Monday morning there was a line out the door of students who had finished the book and wanted to talk about it."

They extended the chalkboard campaign to bloggers, asking them to record their reactions and post them on social media with #thisiswhereitends, and Moore has also been maintaining a special Tumblr page to keep all of these assets in one place. Trade and consumer advertising, successful author signings at BEA and ALA Midwinter, a Winter 2015-2016 Kids' Indie Next Pick, broad media attention and librarian support have helped round out the plan, and the strong word-of-mouth that's been building over the past six months foreshadows even bigger buzz following the book's January 5 release.

Marieke Nijkamp is the founder of DiversifYA, an executive committee member of We Need Diverse Books and a founding contributor to YA Misfits. She was born, raised and lives in the Netherlands, where she maintains an international social media presence. This Is Where It Ends is her first book.


You Were Here by Cori McCarthy ($17.99, 9781492617044) chronicles the lives of five, small-town high school students who are dealing with the uncertainty that comes with high school graduation, and grief from a tragedy that occurred years prior--when Jaycee's daredevil older brother died during one of his stunts. To deal, the group embarks on a mission to visit the derelict places where her brother played with death and eventually lost.

McCarthy's novel, which author Jo Knowles calls "wrenchingly beautiful" and an "achingly accurate portrayal of grief" is told through an ambitious combination of prose, graphic novel panels and word art poetry."Put it in someone's hands and give them the opportunity to page through it," says Beth Oleniczak. "It's not a format that they've seen before."

Cori McCarthy signing ARCs of You Were Here at ALA Midwinter in Boston.

These various art styles and five character perspectives move through real locations in Ohio, from the ruins of a mental asylum to the remnants of what was once the world's largest amusement park. "The setting is as much a character as the characters themselves," says Annette Pollert-Morgan.

Cori McCarthy's previous Sourcebooks Fire book, Breaking Sky, is dystopian science fiction with Top Gun overtones that garnered critical acclaim--including two starred reviews--and has been optioned by Sony Pictures. McCarthy studied screenwriting and poetry before earning an MFA in children's and YA writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. You Were Here comes out March 1.


Don't Get Caught by Kurt Dinan ($9.99, 9781492630142) gives average high school student Max an unexpected chance to break the bonds of teenage mediocrity. With his 2.5 GPA and nonexistent social life, Max seems an unlikely candidate for entry into a secretive group of skilled high school pranksters called the Chaos Club. Yet he and four other students have mysteriously received invitations. When the group of misfits realizes that their summoning was merely a setup, they set out on a mission to expose the Chaos Club... in a very public way.

When looking at the wide range of contemporary novels that are out in the market right now, it's critical to remember that different readers are looking for different things--ranging from dark and angst-ridden, to riotously funny and entertaining, and, as made clear by these forthcoming Sourcebooks Fire titles, "It's important for us to have a spectrum," says Annette Pollert-Morgan, "to have both ends of it on our list."

Don't Get Caught's bright cover, featuring three cows, one upside-down, conveys the novel's lightheartedness. In flipbook style, similar cows cartwheel across the bottom right corners of the book's pages. "The unique prankster angle could spark some really creative, funny April Fools displays," says Valerie Pierce, marketing manager.

Kurt Dinan has been a high school English teacher for 21 years. Expect to see him at the Winter Institute. Don't Get Caught is his debut novel, and its release date is, appropriately, April 1.

Sourcebooks Fire: Don't Get Caught by Kurt Dinan

Marieke Nijkamp: This Is Where It Ends


Marieke Nijkamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. A lifelong student of stories, language and ideas, she is more or less proficient in about a dozen languages and holds degrees in philosophy, history and medieval studies. This Is Where It Ends is her debut novel. This interview with Nijkamp was conducted by her editor, Annette Pollert-Morgan.

What inspired you to write This Is Where It Ends?
Several high-profile school shootings and a deep longing to understand not only the situation, but especially the human aspect of it. I wanted to understand the stories behind a school shooting. And This Is Where It Ends allowed me to create and explore those stories.

What research did you do to write the novel?
For every hour I spent writing, I spent another (at least) researching. I read firsthand accounts of shootings, I listened to 911 calls, I plowed through hundreds of pages of investigative reports, I talked to people, I kept up with news and social media feeds as active shooter situations emerged, I familiarized myself with the psychology of being held at gunpoint. As much as possible, I immersed myself in what we know about school shootings (which is both a lot and very little). And I tried to translate that to the book.

At the same time, of course, This Is Where It Ends is still fiction. The story isn't about the technicalities of a shooting; it's about four teens in a harrowing situation whose world is being turned upside down. So I allowed for that, too, in the way the story unfolded. But I wanted to ensure that any poetic license remained respectful to real life.

This Is Where It Ends takes place over 54 minutes and is narrated by four different characters. How did you track what each character was doing from moment to moment and keep the voices distinct? What was that writing process like?
I'm a plotter at heart, and while plotting this story, I created a massive spreadsheet that tracked, minute by minute, what happened to each of the main characters as well as the shooter and several other prominent players. It allowed me to keep track of the various arcs of the story, as well as the way different scenes influenced each other. From there, I wrote the story four times, from all four different perspectives to keep the voices distinct, and only then did I start bringing it all together.

Given all of the different characters in the novel, do you have a favorite? Why is that character your favorite?
This is such a cruel question, because I spent so much time with each of these characters and I've grown so close to them.☺ But if I had to choose, I wouldn't go for one of the four main characters. I would have to say Fareed, who happens to be outside the auditorium when the shooting starts and drops everything because his best friend's sister is in danger. He understands what needs to be done to help a friend in need, and does it, no matter the cost.

What would you like readers to take away from This Is Where It Ends?
Hope. This Is Where It Ends is no easy story. Autumn, Claire, Sylv and Tomás face what may well be every student's worst nightmare. A situation where nothing is safe and survival seems impossible. But it's not a totally bleak story. There's anger but also friendship. Revenge but also love. There's family. There's sacrifice. And, ultimately, there's the belief that even when the world seems to have stopped turning, when everything has fallen apart, the darkness is never absolute. There is always hope.

Book Brahmin: Kurt Dinan


Kurt Dinan has been a high school English teacher for the past 21 years. He works in the Cincinnati suburbs, where he lives with his wife and four children. He has published several short stories. Don't Get Caught is his first novel.

On your nightstand now:

Stand Off by Andrew Smith.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Sideway Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. A teacher read this aloud to us in third grade and I vividly remember thinking, "Wait, Mrs. Gorf is turning the students into apples because she doesn't like them? What sort of awesomeness is this?!" The novel is probably the start of my twisted sense of humor.

Your top five authors:

Stephen King, Robert B. Parker, Andrew Smith, Chris Crutcher and A.S. King.

Book you've faked reading:

Oh man, where to begin? There are a lot of college novels I faked my way through reading. The one I remember most was The Canterbury Tales, which we were to read in the original Old English. I tried (sort of) for a few minutes, then gave up. On the day before the test, I went to the library, found a modern translation of the book, and read two of the stories. Then, brilliantly, I memorized two short sections of the novel in the original Old English and used them on the test to make it look like I really knew what I was talking about. I'm pretty sure I got an A in that class. So let that be a lesson to all of you.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. We read this book to our son when it first came out. It's a perfectly plotted and beautifully written novel. I find myself thinking of Ivan, his elephant friend Ruby, and the stray dog Bob at odd times.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Plan B by Jonathan Tropper. I'd just turned 30 and was getting divorced when I saw this book with two people on the cover, one with "Thirty" on her shirt, and the other with "Sh*t" on his. It was pretty much exactly how I felt at the time. Little did I know Tropper would become one of my favorite writers.

Book that changed your life:  

From the Borderlands: Stories of Terror and Madness. I was 35 when I discovered this in a used bookstore. I bought it for the Stephen King story, and in the back found an ad for a writer's workshop that Tom Monteleone, the book's editor, ran in Maryland. You had to submit a writing sample to get in, so I applied just to see if my stuff was good enough. Ultimately, I was accepted, was told by my wife, "Oh, you are going," and things have never been the same. If I hadn't found that book, there's no way I would be a writer today.

Favorite line from a book:

"Boo and I walked up the steps to the porch. His fingers found the front doorknob. He gently released my hand, opened the door, went inside, and shut the door behind him. I never saw him again." Obviously, To Kill a Mockingbird. It gives me chills every time!

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. I think everyone has a few books, movies, or albums that make them sit up and say, "Wait, you can do that? Oh my God." It's an exhilarating moment and your life is never the same again--it's wider and deeper than it was before. Vonnegut's novel was the first book that did this for me.

Sourcebooks Fire: This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp Sourcebooks Fire: Don't Get Caught by Kurt Dinan Sourcebooks Fire: You Were Here by Cori McCarthy Sourcebooks Fire: This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp Sourcebooks Fire: Don't Get Caught by Kurt Dinan
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