My rant for the day ...
You know what exhausts me? Publishing trends and the people who say to ignore them. Because you know who doesn't ignore trends? Agents and acquiring editors.
OK. Let me back up a little bit. I'm working on MG books that are basically aimed at boys. I figured these would be sellable, right? I mean, look at the proven success of series like Lightning Thief, Artemis Fowl, Eragon, Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, and the Inkheart books. There is a market there, and when a series does well, it can break out with HUGE sales.
But it turns out this is a harder market to crack than I figured—and I have a theory why.
First off, the MG/YA publishing industry right now is just completely enamored of first-person teen romances. I get it. Stephanie Meyers sold a lot of books. If you look at the books right now going at auction, they are more often than not first-person teen romances. These books are squarely aimed at girls. They are, in fact, frequently despised by boys.
Second, publishing at this level is run by women. I've been agent and editor shopping now for a few years, and I've had lots of contact with both. In all that time, I've dealt with two or three men total. Everyone else is female. Now please don't misunderstand me: I love females. I married one. My mother is female, as are my sisters and even my dog. I strongly suspect that my childhood pet iguana was female. But I think it's fair to observe that women look for different things in books than men do, and naturally, boys look for different things in books than girls do. I've gotten a lot of feedback from high-up editors and agents, basically saying, "This book needs more emotion, more heart." But see, here's the thing: I know a lot of boys, and I don't know ANY who are clamoring for more "emotion" in their entertainment. Most of them are hoping their parents will relax and allow them to watch movies/play games/buy books in which shit blows up.
But what about all those books I mentioned in the beginning of this post? Didn't they get bought? Didn't the industry recognize this large boyish audience?
Well, no. Of all those series I mentioned, only two were purchased traditionally in the United States (and both were written by authors with previous publication histories). Three were first published overseas and only brought here AFTER they had a track record of success. And one was self-published first.
It's not hard to look at the situation and conclude that MG/YA publishing is delicately, subtly and probably unwittingly tilted against young boy readers. I'm not saying I don't need to continue growing as a writer—I do—and I can't pretend to read the vast feminine hive-mind that currently rules children's publishing, but I think I can fairly be frustrated by it.
Several times now, I've had agents or editors say, "I'm actively looking for boy books! I really want to build my boy list!" But I secretly wonder if they really mean it. I think there's never been a less fashionable time to be a boy than right now. Boys are falling behind in virtually every measure of academia, and schools are even taking away recess and gym—the very things boys need to discharge some of that animal energy. I know the struggle for equal rights is ongoing, and I know there's a lot of progress yet to be made, but I worry that some of this future progress will come at the expense of a whole generation of loud, frequently smelly, sticky-handed and woolly headed little boys.