11/9/06

Middle Readers & YA

Your post about LDS picture books was quite enlightening [thank you] (especially about the cost to the publisher). I have LDS picture books I purchased from years ago and the spines are barely cracked--the stories were a huge disappointment. (The only one I ever bought that was well-written was MY TURN ON EARTH.)

But there's more to children's lit than picture books. What about the market for middle grade and YA fiction? What's your perspective on
that? Do you see improvement? What's needed to make it better?

There are LDS romance/suspense authors whose books have sold in six-figure amounts. Still, it seems like the only successful books are the ones like the Foo series, which is not really LDS fiction and is published by an imprint of Deseret. Since it's not seen as LDS-themed, it seems to be doing well in the national market (Simon and
Schuster bought the paperback rights not long ago).

Good, good thread. I'm learning a lot!


This blog has taken me over an hour to write because you’ve unwittingly hit upon one of my soapboxes. I’ve deleted 4 pages of rant and here’s what you get:

My perspective on the LDS market for middle grade and YA fiction is that it stinks right now. While there is a huge need and demand for books at those age levels, there are not enough high quality submissions coming in to meet that demand.

Because it is more difficult to sell to this age group, snooty publishers, like myself, are refusing to accept submissions that don’t meet our high and lofty standards. Other publishers are taking mediocre manuscripts and hyping them up, which leaves many readers disappointed and less likely to buy again.

Yes, there are some shining examples out there now (Wiles, Dashner, Blair, to name a few), and yes, we are seeing a gradual improvement. But it’s not happening fast enough to suit me. I want more, MORE, MORE!! Quit reading this blog and go write some, now!

Seriously, I really would like to encourage any writers who are so inclined to write for this market. Books can make such an impression on young minds. We need a host of titles to compete with what’s out there nationally. When you look at what our kids are being exposed to, it just breaks my heart. They are reading books that are really funny, entertaining, thought provoking and well-written, but then they sneak immorality in through the back door. We so need to balance that with really funny, entertaining, thought provoking and well-written books that are CLEAN and that support our values.

If I were independently wealthy or had some serious investors, I’d leave the company I’m with in a heartbeat and launch an all-out search for quality LDS children’s/YA lit to publish. [deep sigh] If you happen to have a few hundred thousand dollars lying around and would like to contribute to this cause, contact me via e-mail and we’ll talk.


P.S. Since you mentioned Foo [Leven Thumps & the Gateway to Foo], yes, I was excited to see it come out. I thought it was a definite step in the right direction. But book 1 had its problems. My fingers just itched to lay my red pencil to it. Foo was good, but it could have been great. I don’t think it would be selling as well as it is if it weren’t for Harry Potter readers wanting something to fill in the wait between books in that series. I bought book 2, but it didn’t grab me right away. I put it down before I finished chapter 1 and I haven’t gotten back to it.

7 comments:

FHL said...

Could you enlighten us on this "Foo"? Getting a lot of search hits on "Foo Fighters" and "Little Bunny Foo Foo"

Is it Leven Thumps? That was the closest thing I found on Amazon.

Anonymous said...

I read that "Obert Skye" was going to be signing books. Really? Isn't the true identity of Obert Skye some big mystery? Or, does everyone, except me, know who it really is?

I agree about the YA and MG market. I am always flabbergasted when my kids come home with a book that their teacher says is sooooo good, but in reality has very questionable material subtly woven into the story. My 13 year old daughter's teacher recommended a book about date rape. I'm sure he thought he was doing her a favor, but I don't think it's appropriate. My son was required to read a book laced with profanity on every page . . .don't get me started.

There's a huge need for YA and MG. I have an MG story I'm writing, but fear there's no true LDS market for it. How do we change that?

You bring up great points, as always. I'd love to read your 4 page rant!

Andrew Hall said...

As you mention, there are several excelent YA and middle reader authors publishing in the LDS market right now, like Patricia Wiles. And besides Oberty Skye, Brandon Mull's Fablehaven has been well received, as, to a lesser extent, has K. L. Fogg's Serpent Tide.

But probably the biggest reason for the lack of good YA manuscripts sent to LDS publishers is that Mormon YA authors are flourishing in the bigger national market. While the world view and morals of LDS authors may not fit well with what publishers of adult literary and popular fiction are looking for, they can and have had success in the national YA and middle reader market.

Louise Plummer, Kristin Randle (why have there been no books from those two lately??) and Ann Cannon helped to get the trend going in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since 2000 there have been three or four good to fantastic books published by LDS authors every year. Among the authors have been Shannon Hale (Newberry Honor Book winner), Stephanie Meyer, Kimberly Heuston, Chris Crowe, Ron Woods, Martinne Bates Leavitt, and John H. Ritter. I am leaving out several that could have been included. With the national YA market being as welcoming to quality and uplifting works as it is, why should they work in the smaller pool of LDS publishing?

Well, if they want to include LDS characters or doctrine to a great degree, they may want to. Most of the national novels published by the above authors did not.

There are exceptions, however. While Kristin Randle's first two national novels had some oblique hints that some leading charecters were Mormon, Mormonism plays a key role in her most recent novel, Slumming. Some thing for Louise Plummer, Mormonism plays a fairly significant role in her most recent novel, A Dance For Three. (And can I just say again how great Slumming and A Dance for Three are).
Slumming
A Dance For Three

And Ann Cannon's Charlotte's Rose was set in the Mormon pioneer migration to Utah.

Andrew Hall said...

And let me go farther, and say that the bulk of excellent fiction writing (that is mind-expanding, spirit-filling, and literarily appealing) done by LDS authors in the last ten years have been in the YA field. Mostly national, but also some within the LDS publishing world, particularly Patricia Wiles.

The only Mormons publishing national literary fiction recently have been LaBute and Evenson, who have been on the way out of the Church, and whose writings are unpalatable to most Mormons (I like some of regardless, though). The work of big selling Mormon popular authors (Evans, Perry) have their charms, but do not rise to "excellent" in my book.

There are some wonderful Mormon authors working in national speculative fiction: Orson Scott Card, Dave Wolverton/David Farland, and now Brandon Sanderson. But they are dwarfed by the number and diversity of those working in YA.

Of course there are a growing number of wonderful adult books being published within the LDS publishing world. But national YA is currently the playground of the bulk of great Mormon authors at the moment.

LDS Publisher said...

Great comments!

Yes, the reference to Foo is Leven Thunps. I don't know the true identity of Obert Skye, although one of my assistants does--but she won't tell, even under penalty of losing her job. (Brat!)

Fablehaven and Serpent Tide are both in a stack of books waiting for me to read them. I've heard their both good.

And you're right that many LDS authors are doing well nationally and so far, most have resisted the pull to lower their morals and standards. (Love Kristen Randle.)

Norm said...

Obert Skye shouldn't be too hard to figure out. Just think of rather well-known Deseret Book author who completely stopped publishing anything just about the same time Obert Skye started.

Come on... it's easy.

tattletale said...

I've heard that Obert Skye is actually Robert Farrell Smith, the guy who gave us Baptists at our Barbecue.

How big of a secret can this be, anyway? The guy does author visits. Surely someone has seen his face.