1/8/07

YA Hard to Sell

Hi! Great blog. (Thanks)

Here's my question: I've spent the past year submitting my YA to LDS publishers. Every rejection I've received said the same thing - that YA is a hard sell in the LDS market right now. Why is this? YA seems to be hotter than ever in the national market.

Thanks in advance.


YA is a harder sell for a variety of reasons (these are generalities, not specific cases):

1. Adults buy books; teens do not. Teens buy music or clothes or food. Most teens who read get their books from the library. If a teen owns a book it is usually a gift from an adult or something they really, really love and want to re-read.

2. Teens who read are voracious. While a parent will spend money to support their own reading habit (feeling they will keep the book and read it multiple times), they don't want to spend the same on kids who will read a book in a day and then be done with it. It would break the family budget to keep the kids in reading material.

3. Teens who don't read rarely make it past chapter 1. Parent won't invest in a book that may or may not be read. Since most parents are not a good judge of what their kids will want to read, it makes the investment even more risky.

4. Most LDS YA books are a one-time read--a pleasant story, but not something that is going to grab the teen reader and make them want to keep it and read it multiple times. We don't have any classics yet, nothing on the level of Lord of the Rings or Dune or Enders Game. (Yes, I like fantasy, so those are the titles that immediately pop into my mind. I'm sure you can think of many others.) Think of it like DVDs. We buy the ones we love and know we'll watch over and over again. We rent the ones that we think we'll only want to watch once or twice.

5. It costs the same amount to publish a YA book as it does an adult book. Given #1 above, all things being equal, you will sell two or three times as many adult books as you will the YA book.

YA may be selling better than ever nationally, but adult fiction still outsells YA fiction on a national level--and for the same reasons as listed above. This will always be the case. Think of the last 10 books you purchased (not counting Christmas gifts). How many were for your teens and how many were for you?

The good news is that the LDS market runs parallel but a little behind the national market. Trends you see there will eventually show up here. The bad news is that in a small, niche market like ours, an uptrend in YA may be so small it won't even be noticed.

5 comments:

Edgy said...

I would add an additional, non-financial reason to your list, and that is the nature of YA itself. YA is about identity and questioning how you as the individual fit into society at large. This is fundamentally at odds with general Mormon notions about identity. Because we know who we are, it is pointless to have books that focus on the protagonists questioning who they are. So most LDS YA novels become a sort of fluff that doesn't speak to teen angst, which even the best of kids still experience.

I think it's telling that the best YA LDS novel (Kristen Randle's Breaking Rank) wasn't published by an LDS publisher but instead by a national publisher.

Of course, that's just my take.

Anonymous said...

My kids rarely, if ever, get books from the library. I buy all of their books. I buy picture books, MG, YA, whatever books my kids want to read, and when one finishes another reads it. I read what I buy for them and hardly ever buy a book just for myself.

This post is an eye opener for me because I don't fit the typical pattern. We have many YA books, national and LDS. We have LDS doctrine adult books, but very, very few adult LDS novels and no national adult novels.

As always, this is a great blog from which to learn. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Anonymous said...

My kids buy books all the time. It's hard for me to imagine kids not buying books! I bought them when I was young, my kids buy them now. Of course, I buy books for me and I buy books for them and we all use the library regularly. Anyone old enough to read in my house does, voraciously.

Andrew Hall said...

I would say that there is an uptick in YA books from LDS publishers. The most interesting thing is that the first two fiction series that Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain has really pushed in national bookstores (not counting Orson Scott Card's DB books, since he was already a nationally known author, so it was not hard) was Obert Skye's Leven Thumps series and now Brandon Mull's Fablehaven. I saw many copies of both on the shelves of my Dallas-area Barnes and Noble the other day, and was very impressed. Skye appears to be a pseudonym for an already established LDS author, but Mull is a first-time author.

Of course both of those have little (or no?) specific LDS content. But Covenant has done several middle readers series recently, including the one by Margaret Bell and the excellent Kevin Kirk series by Patricia Wiles. Deseret has had popular books by Julie Wright and Kay Mangum.

But it is the national market YA where LDS authors are making the most noise. Louise Plummer and Kristin Randle have done some fantastic work (I agree that Randle's Slumming is one of the best, I would add Plummer's A Dance for Three). There have been several a year recently, led by Shannon Hale and Stephenie Meyers.

Janette Rallison said...

It's true that teens buy less books--at least at 16.95. Fortunately for YA authors there's a wonderful thing called Scholastic book club and fairs. Teens buy tons of books through them. Scholastic tries to keep high standards in these books that go out through the schools, and so not surprisingly, there are quite a few LDS authors in their flyers--including Shannon, Stephenie, and myself.

My suggestion to anyone who writes YA novels is to go with the national market. Deseret Book rejected my book All's Fair in Love, War, and High School and it's now sold over 350,000 in the national market.

Happy writing!

Janette