For some reason, American publishers and agents think teenage boys don’t read. I assume they know that teen males can read, but they choose not to read. Instead, they assume that the teens spend all their time in front of a computer or Wii. I’m sure if you asked one of the big publishers about the reading tastes of male teens, they would shake their heads and moan. However, my boys have a response to that: It’s hard to read what doesn’t exist! US publishers publish very few books (if any) that are geared for middle to late teen males.
When Ariel comes home from the library with her arms laden with books, I hear much gnashing of teeth from my teen sons. Ariel gets to read yet another story about a teen girl, but there’s nothing available for males that they haven’t already read. So, the boys are forced to read middle grade books like the Artemis Fowl and Percy Jackson series, which are great but those series are finished. One of the cool things about the Harry Potter books is that, though they started off middle grade, they ended young adult, just like my guys. Their other reading option is adult books—and let’s just say that outside of a couple of series, what’s marketed toward men is not what you want your teen reading.
Don’t publishers realize that part of the reason the Christopher Paolini books were so popular was not because they were so well written (they weren’t), but because they were about the only thing available to teen males that was interesting and written for teen males? And those books were originally self-published, until a publisher saw the way his son was devouring the book and thought, “Hmm, this might be something we could market.”
Why is this so important to me, besides the fact that my boys have nothing good to read? It’s because I’ve written a young adult novel geared toward teen males. Recently, a literary agent passed on the book even after she told me that she loved the book, the characters, the plot, the voice, etc. Why did she pass—part of the reason was because the book was geared towards teen boys, although she acknowledged that girls would like the book too. My boys nearly hit the ceiling. They begged me to keep trying to find an agent who understands that lots of guys would love to read a book entitled, Screwing Up Time. In fact, many of their friends have said they’d buy the book just because the title is so cool—because someone’s written a book whose title says, “This was written for you.”
So, guys, I’ll keep trying. And just so you know, a couple of different agents are interested—I’m sure there’s someone out there who knows guys would read if given the chance.