Today is the release day for my twelfth book (and the first in a new series!), The Naturals. It is, essentially, a book about teenagers using psychology to fight crime. (My PhD is in psychology! Yay, psychology!)
More specifically, the characters in The Naturals are using their insight into the way the mind works to profile and catch serial killers.
What people are saying about The Naturals
"In an intense CSI-type thriller… Barnes shows every card at just the right moment, catching readers off-guard at the final reveal. It’s a stay-up-late-to-finish kind of book, and it doesn’t disappoint." - Publisher’s Weekly
"This savvy thriller grabs readers right away." - Kirkus
"In this high-adrenaline series opener… Even a psychic won’t anticipate all the twists and turns." - Booklist
“The Naturals is Criminal Minds for the YA world, and I loved every page.” -New York Times best-selling author Ally Carter
What is a “natural”?
Each of the five teens in the book is a “Natural,” meaning that they have incredibly honed instincts in a specific area. Each of the teens’ abilities is the kind of thing than can and does exist. There’s nothing supernatural about them—these are abilities that we all have, to a certain extent. The ability to read other people’s emotions, based on their facial expressions and postures. The ability to tell when someone is lying to you, based on what they say and how they say it. The ability to understand other people’s personalities and motivations based on their behavior and what you know about their backgrounds. The ability to turn experiences into probabilities, to know whether something is likely or unlikely—and just how likely or unlikely it is.
Some people are better at each of these things than others—and in the case of the teen characters in this book, you’re dealing with people who are in the top .00000001% of the population. We’re not just talking one in a million—more like one in ten million.
The Naturals explores what happens when you take five teenagers who fit this classification and put them in a single house. A game of Truth or Dare looks very different when there’s a girl in the room who can spot lies (and is also a self-professed pathological liar herself). Trying to figure out how you feel—romantically and otherwise—about someone is that much harder when the aforementioned someone can take one look at you and tell the exact mix of emotions you’re feeling.
Amidst all of this, narrator Cassie and the other Naturals are being taught how to use their abilities to crack cold cases. For Cassie, that means learning to use her understanding of human behavior and motivation to profile the dark and twisted psychology of serial killers. A lot of what Cassie learns comes from the actual science of criminal profiling—so readers can pick up some profiling tips themselves as they read.
And, of course, since this is a thriller, the Naturals aren’t just dealing with cold cases. There’s a killer out there now. And ultimately, no one is safe.
I’m a sucker for sibling stories. And also extra-powerful-sixteen-year-olds and werewolves-who-find-family-in-unexpected-places and psychologists-who-hang-out-with-vampires (the tropes I love, they are VERY SPECIFIC).
Long story short, THE ORIGINALS was pretty much made for me. This week’s episode was my favorite so far!
Before the Episode:
DURING THE EPISODE:
After the Episode:
I totally re-watched both of the Elijah scenes. And also, I am still holding out hope for the HAYLEY + REBEKAH BFF SLUMBER PARTY.
Today is the official cover reveal for the UK edition of THE NATURALS. As some of you might remember, I did my Masters degree in England, so I am always so excited to know that my books have found a wonderful publishing home with Quercus on that side of the pond!
What do you think? I love how tough Cassie looks (and yet, hidden vulnerability!). It’s interesting to me how different the US and UK covers are, and yet I LOVE THEM BOTH.
You can also check out what UK reviewers are saying about THE NATURALS:
“I loved Jennifer Lynn Barne’s previous YA series about werewolves and I loved how her background in psychology gave the story this added depth… and I was sure that I would love The Naturals just as much. And you know what? I did. More so, even. ” - Fluttering Butterflies
"…this is the best YA novel I have read for a long time. It was so exciting and so unique that I couldn’t stop turning page after page." - She Loves to Read
“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”—
Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (via thatkindofwoman)
This is an excellent book! I teach parts of it in both my Cognitive Science of Fiction class and my Writing Young Adult Novels class. Definitely worth a read if you are interested in the science of story!
Syfy in the US has picked up the Bitten TV show. That story is here. It seems they’re airing it next year, as is Space in Canada. I don’t know if that’s still scheduled for January or if it’ll be simultaneous releases etc. If you want to know when my next book comes out, I know that. Everything…
Please join me in sending huge congrats to my sometimes-co-author, sometimes-co-editor, and always friend Kelley!
Since the WOMEN OF THE OTHERWORLD is one of my all-time favorite books series (and Kelley one of my very favorite authors), I am hugely excited (from an entirely selfish perspective) that the show will be airing in the U.S.!
I am also super psyched for Kelley, who is lovely (And also? Has a regrettable love of playing “Guess How Old Jen Is” in front of crowds).
And as long as I have your attention… if you haven’t read Kelley Armstrong’s newest adult book, OMENS, you totally and completely should. Serial killers. The supernatural. Enough said, right?
Every January, the American Library Association releases the Best Fiction for Young Adults list. This list includes novels, short story collections, and novels in verse that were published in the past 16 months. These titles, according to the ALA, “are…
We’ll be reading this post (and many of Malinda’s other posts!) in my YA class this spring. I so appreciate the amount of work that goes into providing this kind of quantitative analysis (complete with GRAPHS) about the state of the industry—it’s an eye-opener.
Hello! I know this might be strange (Considering it's not even OUT yet and all), but I was just wondering what books you read about psychology/body language in preparation for "The Naturals". Textbooks, maybe? That sort of thing is really interesting and I always wonder how writers study up to make such interesting AND believable books. Thanks!
I did two kinds of research to write THE NATURALS. The first falls under the category of what I like to call “research by living.” It’s basically the idea that rather than coming up with an idea for a book and THEN researching it, you have certain areas of expertise and interests, and ideas fall out of those pre-existing knowledge bases.
So, for example, back when I wrote THE SQUAD, I didn’t have to research competitive cheerleading because I’d been a competitive cheerleader. And when I wrote RAISED BY WOLVES, the pack structure and hierarchy and all of the animal behavior tidbits were greatly inspired by the fact that I’d spent several summers on an island full of monkeys, observing things like dominance hierarchies and violent challenges for dominance first hand.
Similarly, a large percentage of the research behind THE NATURALS was stuff I already knew before I came up with the idea of the book. I’ve always been fascinated by the way the mind works and have spent the past decade of my life researching that topic first-hand. I’ve got degrees in cognitive science, psychiatry, and psychology; I read and publish in psychology journals; I come up with theories and test them and actually run experiments.
So. I had a pre-existing interest (and some knowledge of) the way our mind works and specifically, the domain of social cognition and theory of mind (or how we interpret the invisible mental states of others—which is one of the things I study as a scientist). So I had a pretty good basis going in for writing Michael’s ability, and Lia’s, and Sloane’s (which isn’t social, but which falls roughly under the heading of “systemizing,” which I talked briefly about above).
The ability that I really had to study up on was Cassie’s. Not only did I not have a prior background in criminal psychology or psychological profiling, I hadn’t really run into much research in cognitive science on how the average person builds personality models of people. (Although there is indeed some cool work on the topic).
Long story short, I actually did end up doing some more active researching to write THE NATURALS. One of my favorite books on the topic was MIND-HUNTER by John Douglas, an FBI agent who pioneered the discipline of criminal profiling. The book is part explanatory, part memoir, as Douglas walks us through some of his most high profile cases and explains how he (and the rest of the FBI) profiled them. I also read some textbook-like entries on profiling, and interviews with other profilers, and so on, but for me, the most helpful thing was the memoir-style pieces, since they actually took me inside the head of profilers.
The next challenge, of course, was combining what I’d learned about criminal profiling with what I knew about social cognition and how we view others to figure out how a person like Cassie, who naturally profiles everyone around her, would view the world. Of all the Naturals, hers was the only ability I had to be able to write from a first-person perspective, so I really had to spend a lot of time thinking about how her mind would work in even mundane situations.
Are you by chance making a sequel to "Every Other Day," because I feel there should be another book to it. P.S. I totally LOVED "Every Other Day," how it was written and EVERYTHING about it, so PLEASE think about writing a sequel. If you do I will rush to get it first thing.
I’m so glad you enjoyed Every Other Day! That book was so much fun to write. I spent most of the book thinking “Is this too crazy?” so it has been really gratifying to see readers who embrace the crazy plot twists and world building so fully!
In answer to your question, though, I have no plans for an EVERY OTHER DAY sequel at the moment. The book ends with Kali’s high school graduation, and you get just a hint at what her adult life might be like. I always meant for it to be a standalone, and for that last chapter to jump-start readers’ imaginations about what Kali’s future might be like.
That said, if you like the idea of Kali (SPOILER ALERT for EOD…SPOILERS AHOY…) working with the FBI in a special unit devoted to preternatural crime, you might ALSO enjoy my new book, THE NATURALS, which comes out in November. It is also about a special unit in the FBI! In this case, it’s a unit that uses highly intelligent teenagers to profile and catch serial killers.
Like EVERY OTHER DAY, THE NATURALS has a variety of female characters (including one who, like Bethany, appears at first to be a pretty unlikely ally and another one that I think would get along really well with Skylar…). And, like EOD, it’s a book that was very much inspired by my love of science! Whereas Every Other Day was strongly influenced by the field of evolutionary biology, The Naturals is based largely on research in cognitive science and criminal psychology.
Thanks for stopping by. You look great. How’s the family? Also, I really need you to go see Austenland.
I know that sounds self-interested, but it’s not as much as you might think. Yes I wrote the book (and co-wrote the screenplay) but no writer can claim ownership of any product. Even…
I’m planning on going with my sister and as many friends as I can muster. And I hope you can too.
I’m going to put together a Girls’ Night to go see Austenland. I’ll see The Mortal Instruments the week it comes out. I went to see The Heat TWICE this summer. As a movie goer, I am STARVING for movies with female leads—and I have every intention of voting with my wallet.
For a look at the eye-opening statistics on the topic of women in movies this summer, check out this Vulture article.
I’ve been thinking recently about how my background and research in psychological science influences my life as an author (and also about what results in fields like Behavioral Economics might be able to teach us about storytelling). I am sure there is a series of posts in there somewhere—but this is a tiny thing that has affected my life as a READER, so I thought I would share.
Several years ago, I noticed that sometimes I will buy a book in hardback right after it comes out, because I am super excited about reading it… and then, somehow, a year later, I still haven’t read it, even though I’ve read like 165 other books in that time period, many of which I was not as excited about to begin with. It’s not that I don’t want to read the ignored book—it’s just that every time I go to be To Be Read pile, it seems to lose out to another book. And then, after a while, I can’t quite remember why I was SO excited about reading it in the first place.
And then I realized—at least in part—why I think this was happening.
Back in the 1950s, Leon Festinger proposed a concept called Cognitive Dissonance, which basically refers to a discomfiting state in which our actions and beliefs don’t line up. The basic idea is that the human mind has a variety of ways of reducing dissonance—one of which is to (subconsciously) change the belief so that it is more in line with the action. So, for example, we see effort justification, where you value an outcome more if you have to put more effort into achieving it. In other words, it’s kind of like your mind goes “Hmmm… I seem to have put a ton of effort into obtaining X. X must be really awesome, because I would only put that much effort into getting something that was really awesome.” And then, without even realizing you’re doing it, you end up LIKING X MORE than you otherwise would.
One of the classic experiments of cognitive dissonance involves a choice task, where participants are asked to rate a bunch of “prizes” on how much they like them. Later, they are offered a choice between two prizes that they initially rated as equally appealing. Then, after participants finally make their choice, they’re asked to rate all of the prizes again. And basically what happens is that participants, on average, like the thing that they chose MORE than they did before they chose it, and they like the non-chosen item LESS. (This effect even persists with monkeys and children).
All of which is a very roundabout way of saying that a few years ago, I realized my To Be Read pile was recreating this experiment almost exactly. Every time I chose to read Book A and not Book B, Book B would become a little less appealing, even if I chose Book A because I was in the mood for that particular genre, or because a friend wanted to talk to me about it, or because Book B was longer and I didn’t have enough time to finish it, or because Book B was a hardback and wouldn’t fit in my purse, and NOT because I just wanted to read Book A more. But then, after not-choosing Book B, the next time I came back to my TBR pile, I would choose Book C over Book B, too… and so on and so forth until I didn’t really want to read Book B at all.
If/when I finally get around to reading Book B (usually because I’ve taken it on a trip and read all of the books I have with me), the result is, more often than not, “WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG?!”
At least part of the answer: cognitive dissonance. Not choosing the book—for whatever reason—made me feel like I wanted to read it a little less.
In an attempt to circumvent this effect somewhat, I now divide my To Be Read piles into much smaller piles, so that when I choose a book, the number of books I’m not choosing is a lot smaller. I also frequently swap books in and out of the “active” TBR pile, so that I don’t “not choose” a specific book a bunch of times in a row. Using the library also helps with this quite a bit, because I feel pressured to read the books before their due dates! (And because, with library books, my TBR pile changes over completely quite frequently). Also, when I travel, I try to select books that have lost recent battles, knowing I will read ALL of them when I’m on the road.
And now, I need to stop blogging about psychology and go do some!
ANNOYING BOY: Women should stay at home behind the dishwasher.
ME: *does not look up from book* You don’t get behind the dishwasher, dumbass.
This made me laugh.
It also reminded me of a group project in high school, where my group was me and a bunch of guys, many of whom were my friends. And one of them decided, early on, that it would be funny if every time I tried to say something, they told me to go to the kitchen and bake them a pie. I laughed along with them the first time. “Ha-ha, guys. Very funny.”
But they didn’t stop. Every time we met as a group, every time I tried to say anything…I got the same response. At one point, we were voting which way to go on the project, and I was informed that I only got two-thirds of a vote. Ha-ha. Very funny.
And it literally did not occur to me until just now that the guy who made a point of repeating this line every time I had something really important to say probably wasn’t just joking, that on some level, he did want me to shut up, and that part of the reason he wanted me to shut up was that I was a girl.
And suddenly, MANY aspects of my high school experience make sense in retrospect.
My upcoming YA FBI thriller, THE NATURALS (due out November 5), has a NEW COVER. I am BEYOND THRILLED with it.
Drum roll please…
ABOUT THE BOOK
"The Naturals is Criminal Minds for the YA World, and I loved every page!"-New York Times Bestselling Author Ally Carter
Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But, it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.
What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides-especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms close. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.
My short answer to the question of whether or not I find it disingenuous to suggest that being male might have had some effect on John’s success is… no. Not even a little bit. Not at all.
The Long Answer
My long answer is (as one might suspect from my the length of my last blog entry)…. long.
I want to start with the scientific method and the concept of the null hypothesis. In any experiment, there is a null hypothesis: the hypothesis that says that the effect you’re looking for or investigating does not exist. So for the “experiment” you’ve just run, looking at a data set of the top 100 bestselling books in 2012, the null hypothesis is that there is no effect of author gender. In order to reject the null hypothesis, the data would need to show that the distribution of male and female authors varies in a statistically significant way from chance. In this case, based on the numbers you cite, I am going to assume that it does not.[i]
This is called a null result. What does it mean when you get a null result?
It means that you don’t reject the null hypothesis.
It does not mean that you acceptthe null hypothesis, or that the null hypothesis has been in any way proven or confirmed.
The reason for this is that you can get null results for a huge variety of reasons. In a laboratory setting, you can make pretty much any effect go away with a poorly designed study. A null result might mean that the effect you’re looking for doesn’t exist, but it also might mean that there’s something wrong with your logic or design, that you’re not getting at your big question the right way, that your measures aren’t sensitive enough or that they don’t measure what you think they do, that your sample size isn’t big enough…or any hundreds of things.
Null results are notoriously hard to interpret, and there is probably not a social scientist on the planet who would agree that saying “well, I analyzed a single data set, and the results don’t appear to be significant, so no need for further exploration! THE CASE IS CLOSED!”
Science doesn’t work like that—and neither should your day-to-day reasoning. “I did not see evidence of privilege in this one thing I looked at” is a far cry from “there is definitely no privilege at play in this entire domain!”
What stands out to me the most about your question is that you seem to believe that the evidence that you present is sufficient to robustly conclude not only that there is no effect of male privilege within the literary world (especially the young adult literary world), but also that anyone who so much as suggests there might be is being “remarkably disingenuous” and “silly.”
This is particularly striking to me, because as you pointed out in the question, “male privilege exists in many areas of life.” If you come into this knowing that male privilege—and white privilege and so many other kinds of privilege—do exist, in many different arenas, why does it take so little evidence to convince you that not only is it unlikely that male privilege exists in this domain, it is remarkably unlikely?
The existence of male privilege out there in the world should be enough to make a person look at a null result and think “this merits further investigation” rather than “case closed,” especially given that you can’t conclusively interpret an isolated null resultanyway.
For the sake of the rest of my response, I’m going to translate the question from “aren’t you being disingenuous and silly, forcing something that isn’t there?” to “I’m curious, given the composition of this end of year bestseller lists and the existence of female writers of mega-hits, like J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and Suzanne Collins, why would you think male privilege plays a role in the reception of literature and especially young adult literature?”
I could give a variety of answers to this question, but today, I am going to focus on one: reception by literary critics and review outlets, a factor John himself credits for contributing to his success.[ii]
First, I’ll give a brief overview of the question and its importance. Then, I will outline some theoretical reasons to think that male privilege might exist in this arena and that it might be particularly strong for stories that, like The Fault in Our Stars, are set in our real world, rather than a fantastical or futuristic world. And finally, I’ll examine some actual data on the topic.
Reception among adult literary critics and review outlets
The questions “could being written by a male author have affected the reception and treatment The Fault in Our Stars received?” and “do some books by women become huge bestsellers?” are not actually the same question, and it’s a mistake to treat them like they are. One of the many food-for-thought questions I posed in my last post regarded the interaction between gender and genre, in terms of success. The idea behind this question is that there may be particular genres in which being male is more of an advantage than others—for example, in books considered to be “literary,” or in realistic contemporary YA. There are a variety of theoretical reasons to think this might be true.
For example, there’s an idea in our culture that male stories are somehow more universal than female stories—we’re a culture that expects young girls to be willing to read stories about boys, but actively discourages boys from reading stories about girls. We’re also a society in which prominent female bloggers in the real world are frequently met with rape and death threats and told to shut up. Empirical studies have shown that male students perceive females as “dominating” class discussion even if they talk only 50% of the time.
In short, there is reason to believe that when women talk, they’re met with more resistance than men are; they’re seen as overstepping their bounds, even when they’re not talking any more than men are; and their experiences and stories are seen as holding less relevance for the opposite sex.
What does all of this have to do with predicting that literary acclaim might favor books written by men, particularly for books set in the real world—books that deal with things like break-ups and falling in love and infatuation and loss? Philosophers have suggested that worlds further removed from ours in fictional space—those that feature more fantastical elements, for instance—may trigger less “imaginative resistance” to counter-cultural norms. So there is a theoretical reason to predict that the “guy stories are for everyone; girl stories are for girls” rationale—as applies to both author gender and character gender—may apply somewhat more to stories set in our world than to stories set in a fantastical or dystopian world.
Here’s an anecdotal example illustrating how this overvaluing of contemporary male stories and undervaluing of contemporary female stories can play out in terms of character gender: I’ve seen it suggested that the reason that “An Abundance of Katherines” might have been received differently (e.g. coverage in the New York Times Book Review, Printz Honor) than a female-POV “An Abundance of Kevins” would have been is that obsessing over someone you’ve broken up with is such a female thing to do, that it’s more interesting and somehow a more worthy story when a teenage boy does it than when a teenage girl does it.
But is there any actual evidence to suggest that teenage boys take being dumped by someone they love any better than teenage girls do, that obsessing over a break-up is actually a “girl” thing to do? A google search for “why did my boyfriend break up with me?” (quotation marks included) yields 21,700 results. A search for “why did my girlfriend break up with me?” yields 118,000. If anything, it seems as if guys might obsess (on the internet) about their lost loves more. It’s also not the case that “guy gets depressed because his girlfriend dumped him” is somehow a unique or underplayed narrative in our culture. The Social Network, 500 Days of Summer, and Silver Linings Playbook all feature guys who don’t deal well with break-ups, and that’s just off the top of my head.
A story about a guy obsessing over an ex is not, a priori, a more noteworthy story than the story of a girl doing the same. But people treat it like it is. You sometimes see the same line of reasoning used in the adult literary world with respect to author gender—books written by men that deal with emotion tend to be seen as somehow deeper, because everyone knows that women are emotional creatures anyway, so it’s the male emotions that are really interesting.
You can see how this might put contemporary books by females—particularly those that, as The Fault in Our Stars does, feature romance and feelings—at something of a disadvantage compared to those written by males, in terms of the way they are evaluated for literary merit.
In the next section, we’ll look to see if there is any evidence to support the idea that the literary world may be biased in this way.
One of the contributing factors to his success that John cites in his original post on the success of TFIOS is the fact that “someone got a bunch of adult literary critics to read a YA novel that those adult literary critics really liked.” He actually bolded that phrase in the blog entry, because it was an important point to his analysis in the success of TFIOS!
So what do we know about getting adult literary critics to read stuff and feature it in prominent outlets?
This isn’t just one analysis from one list. This is looking at multiple review outlets, multiple best of lists, across multiple years, and there is a fairly unmistakable trend here: books by male authors are given more attention in these outlets than books by female authors.
So let’s return to the causality chart from my previous post (which, remember, is far less complicated than what big book success probably looks like). I’ve added in just this one consideration of author gender.
The dashed line here is meant to emphasize that gender is exerting some weight on press coverage. It does not have to affect all types of press coverage to be incorporated in the model; if it exerts a statistically significant effect on a subset of coverage that John identifies as playing a key role in his success (attention from adult literary critics), that alone is worth inclusion in the model.
Time Magazine Best Books
Just in case you aren’t yet convinced, let’s take a look at a specific major milestone for TFIOS that John mentioned in his exploration of the book’s success: being named TIME MAGAZINE’S BEST FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR, the first YA book ever to hold the title.
Could there be an effect of author gender on the likelihood of being named to—and topping—this list?
I found a list of the books named to Times Best Books of the Year lists here.
This list covered the books recognized on Times’ Best Book lists from 1996-2010. I then went in manually added in the 2011 and 2012 titles, and I went through and classified each title by author gender (using Google to help me make the correct determination for unisex or ambiguous names). Then I ran some pre-planned statistical tests on the resulting numbers.
Disclaimer: all of this was done around 2 in the morning and is subject to some margin of human error. If you run the statistics for 7 out of 10, the result is not significant—meaning that 7 out of 10 does not significantly vary from 5 out of 10. So even though the cut-off point of the top 10 appears to favor women, it does not do so in meaningful way.
I’m using TFIOS as an example here, but as I discussed in my last blog post, this isn’t really about John or TFIOS. It’s part of a wider discussion, made easier to have by the fact that John has provided us with a thoughtful analysis of his book’s success to use as a reference point for factors that might be worth investigating.
This may be particularly true for YA, given that certain adult genres, such as science fiction, have a history of being more unwelcoming to women and women writers that could be an additional confounding variable here.
I ended up with 249 titles total, which tells me that somewhere along the way, a single title was lost; however, as you will see once I show you the numbers, one book would not affect the statistical significance of these results. I’ve included the source of my data and details about the method so that others can check the math if they wish to do so.
For those of you interested in publishing: some thoughts on the causality of big book success
John Green has a fascinating post in which he discusses the success of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and opens the topic up for conversation. This post has made me think about many things, among them the way we talk, in general, about the causality of a Book Becoming Really Big.
In general, when we use the word “because,” we could mean lots of things. Any sentence starting “This book is successful because…” could mean that what comes after the “because” is a contributing factor, a really important contributing factor, the deciding factor, or the only factor. This is an imprecision of our language, that you can use “because” and it can mean any of these things.
For example, I don’t think that when people say “that book is so successful because he’s a guy,” they are actually proposing causal models that look like this:
Or even like this:
I think the model most people are talking about is one in which each of those arrows has a probability coefficient of some kind over it (meaning that being male exerts some force over the likelihood of receiving, say, major press and specific types of in-house attention, which in turn has a weighted effect on the outcome). But even once you add in the probabilities, it’s still not much of a model of success, because it’s not even close to a comprehensive model of success.
But that’s okay! I do not think it’s meant to be a comprehensive model of success.
Most people probably do not believe that being male is both necessary and sufficient for having a book be really, really successful. I think many people are, however, interested in author gender as a contributing factor (a point I will return to later).
John seems to propose a model that looks a bit more like this:
(Note: John did not call his own book awesomesauce. I did, because I think it is).
(Also note: John’s model would really have a lot more squares and arrows, with a feedback loop for word-of-mouth, and some role for the initial support of readers, and so on, so it is actually way more complicated than this, but this was the last chart I made, and I was kind of charted out by that point, so use your imaginations and read John’s post to get a better idea of the nuances!).
This, on the surface, seems to be a pretty reasonable model for book success in general and also seems to have a great deal of application here. I think Penguin did some BRILLIANT things with TFIOS before publication, around publication, afterwards! And I think the evidence that the book resonates with readers and turns them into evangelists is very strong.
Anecdotally, I have experienced this first hand.
The Fault in Our Stars was my favorite book last year. I loved it. I immediately bought extra copies to give as gifts. I loaned my copy out (AND NEVER GOT IT BACK AND HAD TO ORDER ANOTHER ONE). I taught it this year in my YA class and got to watch my students’ reactions (direct quote: “I want to make everyone I know read this book. And maybe some people I don’t know, too.”)
I have, in fact, had conversations with people before where I have argued—strongly—that TFIOS (the text itself, independent of any factors outside of the book) can teach us a lot about what goes into inspiring word-of-mouth and what it takes to write a big book. I have occasionally countered the opposing view of “it’s just because of vlog brothers,” to which I have made pretty much the same argument that John makes in his post, regarding nerdfighteria accounting for the first months of sales, but not the degree to which the sales have been sustained thereafter.
I think there’s something missing (or at least, underestimated) in thinking of the causality of success as a bunch of factors with +’s in between them—and that is the interplay and relationship between the various factors themselves, at the various stages. I think it’s far more likely that success follows a cascade model, where prior circumstances feed into later circumstances, gathering speed like a waterfall!
(Note: John never said this doesn’t happen! But I wanted to stress how much I think it does happen).
So what does a causal model of book success really look like? Answer: probably way more complicated even than this chart (which is already kind of complicated, because it is the first one I made).
This shares a lot in common with what John says in his post—for instance, the huge importance of word of mouth (people loving the book and recommending it) to spread past the initial audience, as well as an acknowledgment of the key role played by that initial audience.
But there are a few aspects of all of this that I wanted to talk about more specifically, and they center on the fact that all of these factors are not connected with the word “and.” They build on each other, they influence and feed back to each other. And that means that altering any one factor—especially early in the cascade—has the potential to have a very, very large ripple effect.
It’s obvious, from looking at this chart, that if you take away the magic quality of the book itself that makes people want to hand it to others, the book is not on the Times list much past the first month.
But what I think is underestimated in John’s post is the effect that changing the stuff in the box at the top could have on the book’s long-term sales, too. Pre-orders aren’t just book sales. They can affect the way the book is viewed by accounts, the kind of placement it receives, the numbers it is stocked in, pre-publication buzz and press, visibility, and all of these things that (as John acknowledges) get the machine started!
But what you get from a cascade model, that you don’t from an “and” model, is that knocking out something at the beginning of the cascade doesn’t just give it a bit less gas in the engine. It can exert a substantial effect on everything that comes afterwards, potentially in a cascading/escalating way.
Meaning that it seems very reasonable to me to also suggest that if TFIOS had had first week and pre-order sales of, say 3,000 copies, and vlog brothers had never existed, the book quite possibly (maybe even probably) would not be on the Times list a year and a half later either. The people who read it would still love it, but with a lower starting visibility, the press and coverage, the long-term store space, the effectiveness of recommendations (because finding the book is so easy, it’s right there at the front of the store!) would all be affected… and who knows what that would do to ultimate sales levels, though it would surely do something.
In other words, I completely agree with John that without the incredible magical something of the book itself, TFIOS probably wouldn’t have sales much different from John’s other books.
But I also think there’s reason to suspect that without nerdfighteria, TFIOS might well have sales that more closely resemble—for instance—Code Name Verity’s. Very strong, continual seller that has a ton of longevity because people LOVE IT SO HARD AND MAKE OTHER PEOPLE READ IT, a super successful book by any measure… but not TFIOS-level sales.
The statements “that book is so successful because he’s an internet celebrity” and “that book is so successful because readers love it and want to share it with others” are not mutually exclusive. They refer to different points in the cascade. The former is perhaps more nebulous, given that the portion of the model it affects is a lot less cut and dry, but I definitely do not think you can use the truth of one to negate the other.
“That book is so successful… because of a variety of factors that come into play at different points in time and have interesting and complicated relationships with each other!” is a pretty general statement, with not a whole lot of meaning. Which means that if you are talking about the success of TFIOS, you are likely to focus on one aspect or another. So which aspect should you focus on?
Well, in my opinion, that depends on why you’re talking about it.
Are you interested in what a variety of books with supernova sales have in common, and maybe developing theories about what factors influence how likely a person is to rec a book and how passionately they do so?
Then it makes sense to look at the book itself. Concentrate on the bottom half of the chart, and there are so many interesting discussions to have there! (I have theories. Many theories. And TFIOS is one of those books that has greatly contributed to my understanding, both as a psychologist who studies fiction and as a writer).
Are you interested in how to effectively translate social media audience into book audience?
I think the signing of the first print run here was genius (for some pretty rich and interesting psychological reasons involving parasocial relationships, essentialism, and contagion, over and above the coolness of just having a signed book).
Or are you discussing TFIOS as part of a larger discussion on author gender and its relationship to marketing, push, publicity, and critical reception?
Because my general impression is that when people are discussing TFIOS and author gender, they’re not usually trying to diagnose the intricacies of TFIOS’s success. They’re discussing TFIOS as part of a larger discussion or series of discussions that stretches far beyond one book.
You’ll notice that gender is not currently part of the giant complicated diagram above. That’s because integrating it is REALLY COMPLICATED.
What’s the relationship (if any) between being male and being able to develop the kind of online following John has? What’s the relationship between being male and the likelihood of a publicist pitching your book for major media outlets? What’s the relationship between being male and those outlets saying yes? What’s the relationship between reception in the adult literary world and being male? What’s the relationship between being male and the way that people react to you promoting your book and the effectiveness of said promotion? What’s the relationship between being male and critical acclaim in general? What’s the relationship between being male and getting a certain cover? What’s the relationship between being male and the likelihood of being seen as a “big book” instead of a “big girl book”? What’s the relationship between author gender and potential for breaking out in various genres? Heck, what’s the relationship between being male and the effectiveness of a book-signing campaign?
Those are open questions. But based on the evidence of gender bias in adult literary reviews, as well as a variety of other factors involving the publishing climate and our culture in general… I think there’s reason to believe that being male at least sometimes matters at least some.
Does TFIOS become TFIOS if John was a woman? What about if John was both a woman and his early books had not featured male protagonists? If you gender flip An Abundance of Katherines and it becomes An Abundance of Kevins, about a geeky girl who is heart-broken because she keeps breaking up with guys named Kevin, even if everything else is the same… does it get the same critical reception?
I think these are questions worth asking—and I don’t think that the questions themselves have to be set up against the other reasons for John’s success in some grudge match fight to the death. You can believe—as I tend to—that TFIOS owes the fact that it has been able to sustain initial buzz and sales to the incredible quality of the book and the hard work and dedication of the fine folks at Penguin and simultaneously believe that a woman writing the same story might have had a different publishing experience.
I also do not think that having this discussion has to denigrate, in any way, what John and this book have achieved. I have had many, many privileges and advantages in life. Without some of those advantages, would I have still ended up getting my Ph.D.? Quite possibly not. Maybe even probably not. Does that mean that I didn’t work hard for my Ph.D., or that I don’t deserve it, or that it doesn’t mean anything? Of course not.
Similarly, to the extent that being male (and as John points out, white and cisgendered and so on) conveys privilege in our society—and perhaps some specific privileges within our industry—that’s something worth discussing, but it doesn’t somehow nullify John’s achievement. I get why it might feel, from an author’s perspective, like people were saying it DOES. TFIOS is so big now that it’s going to come up a VERY LARGE number of these discussions. It is going to be named and discussed specifically in a way that I think would make me feel bad and frustrated, in turn, if I were in John’s shoes.
But here’s the thing: when you consider that the kind of success John currently has—not just with TFIOS, but with his backlist now, too—it’s the kind that has the potential to start trends and help other books break out. TFIOS could be that kind of market game changer, the way Hunger Games was, the Twilight was. I’ve already seen people starting to use the term “Green-lit” to refer to books in John’s subgenre. But what is that subgenre? What is the trend going to be? And is it a trend that will benefit male authors of contemporary and contemporary stories that focus on boys more than their female equivalents?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But in general, I think talking about these things is thought-provoking and important, and I think that a lot of discussions about the success of TFIOS aren’t just about the success of TFIOS.
One final thought, and then I will end this obscenely long blog post, and that thought is this: there are ALWAYS going to be factors external to a book that affect its success. Maybe TFIOS isn’t the TFIOS phenomenon without nerdfighteria to kick it off. But Twilight probably also isn’t the Twilight phenomenon if it had a negligible marketing campaign when it came out, and would Hunger Games have been Hunger Games if it wasn’t published by Scholastic and strategically positioned in book fairs and clubs?
Change things near the top of the cascade, and the ripple through could be huge.
However, even given this, I think there is a tendency, when a book reaches a certain level of success, to fixate on the external factors (unless you or a close friend wrote the book, in which case the psychology operates in the opposite direction, as seen below).
There’s a finding in psychology called the Fundamental Attribution Error, which basically has to do with a way that we systematically vary in the way in how we judge our own successes and failures versus the successes and failures of others. When other people succeed, we tend to attribute their success to external factors, but when we succeed, we attribute it to internal factors. You get the reverse pattern for failure.
Basically, there’s this really pervasive and unconscious bias to say, “When I succeed, it’s because I’m smart and I work hard and I deserve it, but when other people succeed, they got lucky. And when I don’t succeed, it’s because of all of the factors outside of my control, but when other people fail, it’s because they just weren’t really that good to begin with.”
When you apply this to authors and publishing, you can substitute “my book” for “I” and “[name-of-book-not-by-me]” for “other people.” When you succeed, it’s mostly because of THE BOOK. But when you’re looking at the success of books in the market, particularly big books, it’s because they GOT LUCKY. It’s the marketing plan, or the timing, or the author’s platform, or…
You get the picture.
This is just the way the brain works! We do it ALL THE TIME, without any idea we’re doing it, and it’s not because we objectively think we are awesomesauce; it just happens. And I think it’s a bias that is helpful to be aware of, no matter which side of the equation you are on.
Sorry for the length of this entry. I had a lot of thoughts and hope that some of them may have been worth my posting them and your reading them. Some of them are undoubtedly wrong or inaccurate or illogical—but there they are!
I think it’s important to point out that John built his internet presence. Obscene amounts of time, effort, creativity, positivity… it’s not like he was just randomly blessed by the Internet Fairy. If Joss Whedon were to suddenly write a YA book, I bet a lot of people would be all over it. (I certainly would). Is that because he’s a “celebrity author”? Not really—it’s because he’s made things we enjoy, and those things seem relevant to any YA book he might write. So to the extent that nerdfighteria plays a role in John’s success, I think it’s important not to treat that like something external to John or completely disconnected from his literary works.
And maybe some of them actually are saying that, but I think they should read the section on the fundamental attribution error below.
I want a fourth Raised by Wolf book just so I can laught a Ali marching righ into Stone River's territory to kill Callum over him turning Bryn into a Were. No matter what else happens in the book, that would make it perfect.
That Ali/Callum confrontation would be epic—especially considering that Callum not only turned Bryn, but has probably known, since he first gave her to Ali, that he eventually would.
After everything Ali went through with her own family, it would kill her to see what Callum’s machinations have done to Bryn. Callum cares about the “greater good,” while Ali cares about her DAUGHTER, and screw everything else!
Who's your favorite character in Every Other Day????!!!
My favorite Every Other Day character to write was Bethany. I loved writing a “mean girl” who was also incredibly loyal and tough and defied others’ expectations of her. There’s a scene, right after Kali saves Bethany’s life, where Kali acts surprised that Bethany sticks around to help her in return, because, you know, Beth’s not just going to sit around and watch the person who just saved her DIE. Anyway, Bethany just rolls her eyes at Kali’s shock and says something along the lines of, “I’m shallow, not a sociopath. There’s a difference.”
I'm reading your book Every Other Day and LOVE IT!!!!! It is the first amazing book that I've read in a while. Anyway, I have to do a paper over you and was wondering: What's your life like just everyday and what's some history on you?
I love when people do projects on my books and am so glad you’re enjoying Every Other Day!
I generally am unable to answer questions for school projects—I get too many requests, and I have very little time for anything that is not work or family or friends! Oh, for Harry Potter-style Time Turner. (I have Hermione Granger hair! Why do I not have Hermione Granger time traveling abilities?).
But the good news, for everyone doing projects, is that with a little online sleuthing, you can find out quite a bit about me online.
You can read through this tumblr, and you will discover things about my job and the classes I am teaching and my writing process.
You can read my twitter, and follow my day-to-day adventures for the last few years:
Raised by wolves needs a fourth book, although I don't know how you are going to fix the diasaster of taken by storm and its tragic and cliffhanger ending. Loved the first two books, but I don't understand why you did what you did in the third book. I read your explanation and I still don't understand it.
It is totally okay to not understand, disagree with, or hate the ending to Taken By Storm!
It was the story I wanted to write, the one I thought was authentic and true to the characters and the world I’d built. But my interpretation of the characters is not the only interpretation, and just because it was the story I wanted (and needed) to write to feel like I’d done my best by the characters and the world, that doesn’t mean it was the story you wanted to read. I understand that! I am sorry to disappoint readers—always. But at the same time, I have not, even for one second, regretted writing the ending the way I did.
I understand that it’s an ending that made some readers very upset and disappointed. It’s also an ending that other readers loved. For some people, it made the series, and for others, it ruined it. As a writer, I feel very strongly that my job is to write the stories that feel true to me. I hope readers will love it, of course, but I don’t write thinking “what do readers want to happen?” I write thinking “what would happen, in this world and to these characters, as they have been portrayed up to this point?”
And that’s part of the reason that I’m hesitant to write a fourth Raised By Wolves book. Because a lot of readers want me to write a fourth book to “fix” the series—and if I wrote a fourth book, it would not do that. Because, as a writer, I strongly feel that what happened in book three was the right call. You are completely free to disagree! You have a right to feel however you feel about the ending and about me as an author for writing it that way! There is no right or wrong way to react to a book, and by virtue of the time and emotions you’ve invested in the series, you absolutely have the right to your opinion, whatever that opinion is.
But having said all of that, if I did write a fourth book, it would not fix what happened in book three. It would not put a bandaid on it. It would not make what happened any less tragic. It would deal with the fallout of what happened—and eventually, the healing, but just as Bryn has physical scars, those emotional scars will always be there. She’s a survivor. She’ll get through it, but the very last thing I would do if I wrote another book is cheat her out of that process. Her losses wouldn’t stop being tragic. Her world wouldn’t stop being hard. That’s what it means to be alpha, and to be resilient, and to be Bryn, who loves so fiercely and lives in such a dangerous world.
None of which is to say she couldn’t be happy some day! I think she would be. It’s possible I might someday write a book about an adult Bryn, who’s had a decade or so to heal and has to learn to love (romantically) again. But I also believe, very strongly, that being happy and having a fulfilling life does not depend on one’s relationship status. Bryn’s worth and the weight of her life is not measured by whether or not she is with a guy. If I ever returned to her story, it would have to be hers. Maybe it would involve romance! But it would certainly involve Bryn growing and changing as a character and as a person.
I am one of those people who stayed in school FOREVER. I have a Ph.D. in developmental psychology and a slew of other degrees earned along the way. I just finished my first year as a college professor.
This is what the writing half of my life looks like right now, in tweets. (Updates on the academic half, including Ally Carter and Rachel Vincent visiting my Writing YA class and recent scientific victories, to come).
So, basically, right now I am working on TV pilots (for two cable networks) as I await my revision letter for Naturals #2. This is what me working on a TV pilot looks like.
But I am determined to get stuff done! So determined that I am attempting to perfect the art of sleep writing. Given that I already sleep walk and sleep talk, this seems like it should be a snap, right? And yet…
But the next morning, I escaped from The Sleeps and managed to persevere!
There was rejoicing in Jen Land.
Then today, I was writing at the Panera, because that is the place where The Sleeps fear to tread. But Panera offers distractions of its own…
And I still somehow managed to pay enough attention to my script to add another 9 pages to it…
STEFERINE OR KALIJAH. STELENA OR ELEJAH. OT4? What are your thoughts???
I tend not to be a person who gets super invested in couples. I get invested in CHARACTERS. On Vampire Diaries, my favorite has long been Caroline. I pretty much ship Caroline/Anyone-Who-Realizes-How-Awesome-Caroline-Is. (I still have not forgiven Matt for his “I don’t want to love you, because you’re so needy and obnoxious and unlikable, but I’m such a great guy that I will be with you anyway” attitude from season 1). So I loved Caroline with Tyler in season 2-3! And I love how smitten Klaus is with her now. And I would totally watch the Caroline/Stefan Vampire Buddy Comedy.
I also really love Rebekah. And I think Elijah is totally hunky. In fact, my Elijah thoughts are best summed up by this tweet from Vampire Diaries show runner Julie Plec:
I would happily ship Elijah with anyone! I am very excited for THE ORIGINALS spin-off, where there will hopefully be someone to love my poor Bex, and where Elijah will doubtlessly sizzle with constant chemistry. Plus, there are few things I love more than sibling stories!
As for Katherine, I love her! I always thought she had more chemistry with Stefan than with Damon, while I always thought Damon had more chemistry with Elena (which is mainly just a testament to how good an actress Nina Dobrev is, since she plays both characters). But at the end of the day, I do not care too much who the characters end up with… I care about who the characters become!
Is there any chance you will bring Golden to ebook format? I'd love to be able to read it on my Kindle :D
Yes! I am working on getting both GOLDEN (about a teenage girl who sees auras) and its sequel, PLATINUM, up as e-books. The main thing I need at this point is cover design! Unfortunately, between book writing and selling two TV pilots and being a first year college professor… I am pretty much a crazy person right now. Any extra time is devoted to SLEEP. So the e-books will probably not go up until summer.
This week, in my cognitive science of fiction class, we’re discussing this paper, in which (among other things), young children are asked whether Batman thinks SpongeBob is real. Awesome article also includes: discussion of whether James Bond is one character or many; a proposal about what makes two fictional worlds prime candidates for a crossover; the age-old question of why exactly it is that our intuitions say that the story of Cinderella probably exists in Batman’s world, but the story of Batman probably does not exist in Cinderella’s.
Hi there, first off, HUGE fan! :D You are an AMAZING author. I just have one question; I know you've said you won't be returning to this arc of Bryn's story. Does that mean if you DO return, it'll be to an older, changed Bryn, with years -possibly even decades- in between the Raised by Wolves trilogy and the new arc?
It does not mean that I would for sure jump ahead in time, but I have definitely entertained the possibility. I think it would be interesting to return to Bryn’s life a decade or so after the end of Taken By Storm. What is she like as an adult, after experiencing all of this when she was a teen? And then, too, if ten years had passed, some of the younger kids (like Lily) would be teenagers…
For those of you who would like to play along with my “Cognitive Science of Fiction” class (at the University of Oklahoma), next week, we’re discussing the psychology of our relationships with fictional characters. The study linked above (Eval and Cohen, 2006) looked at the psychological effects of saying goodbye to your favorite characters when a show goes off air and highlights the similarities and differences between real-world and “parasocial” break-ups.
Answering Your Questions: Lake (and Lake's Brother)
When I write, I often discover things in the process of writing. That was the case with Lake. She showed up on the page as this gun-toting, blond bombshell of a female werewolf who treated her firearms like pets (or possibly very deadly teddy bears). This is a re-enactment of what happened next.
HEAD JEN: Oh, she’s going to be so much fun! But why don’t she and her dad live with the rest of the pack? Did something traumatic happen? Is there a rift there? When did they leave? Why did they leave?
JEN: *write write write* SHE CALLS HER GUN MATILDA. *write write write* SHE CALLS HER GUN MATILDA, AND SHE HUSTLES POOL. WHAT ELSE MATTERS?
HEAD JEN: She’s female. And a werewolf. And I have already established that in this world, female werewolves are always half of a set of twins. WHERE IS HER TWIN?
JEN: Nope! No twin here! Only weapons!
HEAD JEN: Oh. Oh. Lake, you poor baby! You used to have a twin brother. And now you don’t. He died, didn’t he? When you were kids? And you never, ever let anyone see how much that still tears you up inside. I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER.
And that is pretty much how that decision was made. It didn’t really feel like a decision so much as a discovery.
It was a discovery that felt right, though. I liked that Bryn’s pack (especially the four initial members) were all defined in part by being outsiders when they were part of Callum’s pack. Chase was newly turned and not-quite-as-human as most of the Weres. Devon did not fit with the pack’s ideas about what a pure-blooded, destined-to-be-alpha male should be. Bryn was human. And Lake was a young female without a twin, in a world where that is seen as unnatural. The biggest loss of her life… and it can never, ever be private.
Do you think (know?) if pretty much all of the werewolves knew of Callum's knack but the younger generation?
Certainly all of the alphas know that Callum sees the future in some way. And I think there’s evidence, in the text, that Ali knew, and that Mitch knew. Given how long Sora has been in Callum’s pack, she almost certainly knows as well.
But there are a lot of members of Callum’s pack that we’ve never met on the page, and I’m not sure if they’re privy to it as well. Callum strikes me as the type of person who only parts with information when it serves a purpose for him to do so. It’s to his advantage for the other alphas to know how powerful he is. He needed Ali to know about his knack so that he could convince her to stay, become a part of the pack, and adopt Bryn. But I suspect that there are a lot of Weres in Callum’s pack who don’t know what he can do. And even among the people who know the gist of his knack, very few probably know its limitations (though Bryn gets a peak at them at the end of Raised By Wolves, and also in Taken By Storm).
how does it make you feel when you think about the fact that the raised by wolves series metaphorically tore my heart out and created a river of tears but it was so mind-blowingly amazing it pulled me back in to read the entire series again?
Does it make me a horrible person if I said that it makes me feel really, really good?
I didn’t craft the ending of Taken By Storm for the *purpose* of tearing out people’s hearts… but I think the ability to create emotions (of all kinds) in readers is one of the most powerful things fiction can do. So thank you, for your kind words and emotional investment! They are both appreciated. :)
I just caught up on Vampire Diaries. OH MY GOODNESS!
I was so busy tweeting about how awesome Caroline is that I almost missed the end of the episode. Those last three minutes! OH MY GOODNESS! Katherine, how I have missed you! Please never go away. Shirtless Jeremy, are you really dead? But… but…
Also, I’m psyched that Rebekah has joined the cast of the ORIGINALS spin-off. I would watch Elijah, Rebekah, and Klaus having sibling drama all day long!
I just finished your book Every Other Day and I really loved it. I'm also a huge fan of your Raised by Wolves trilogy. You create the characters and the world so well that I can't stop thinking about them after I put the book down. Anyway, I have recently been seriously considering pursuing a career in psychology and I'm curious to know how you realized it was the right fit for you and if you have any advice you could give me? I would really appreciate it.
I’m so glad you enjoyed RBW and EOD! That makes me very happy. :)
My interest in psychology has much the same roots as my interest in writing—I am essentially interested in people, the way our minds and emotions and relationships work. I started college with the vague idea that I might be interested in neuroscience. Or possibly law. I ended up majoring in cognitive science, which was an interdisciplinary major that mixed psychology, philosophy, and linguistics (among others).
The thing that really sold me on psychology, though, was getting involved in research as an undergraduate. I worked in three different psychology labs, and my undergraduate advisor was such an incredible research mentor. We even published papers together. Ultimately, I got really into the science of psychology: asking questions, designing ways to get at them, and then ending up with actual answers.
The great thing about psychology, as a research discipline, is that there is a psychology of everything. If it involves people, it involves psychology. So there is, for instance, a psychology of fiction and the imagination. And that meant that I was able to do the science I loved, but on a topic I was equally passionate about as a writer. One of my friends in grad school was a former actress who was studying the psychology of acting. I knew other people who studied the psychology of art and music and ideas… morality, politics, religion, economics, prejudice… there are SO MANY things to study, and so many mysteries of the mind and human behavior to unravel.
So if you’re thinking you might be interested in going into psychology research, I’d recommend trying to get some experience working in a psychology lab to get some first hand research. If you’re interested in clinical psychology or counseling, I am not the best person to give advice, because that’s very different than what I do.