Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oh Boy!

I've been thinking. That's never good.

Here's the deal. Over the past two days I've been reading blogs, interviews, and agent bios trying to find the right agent to represent my work. Here's the problem--none of the advice agrees on one key point.

Yesterday, I was discouraged to read several sources stating that boys don't read, so YA agents won't touch male-centered YA novels. When they see YA and a male protagonist's name together in the same query, it's a questions asked. Should I be creating characters with unisex names to trick them?

However, today I've been reading that because the YA section of the book store has gotten so pink that males are afraid to even go down the aisle, agents are dying to find good male voices in YA to attract an untapped market.

What the fuck? So am I doomed or not?

That's where the logical debate begins. First, even if it's true that young men don't read, does that necessarily mean male-centered YA won't sell? Don't girls want to see "romance" and relationships through a male point-of-view? It's like having an secret inside look at how the other half lives. I read stuff written by chicks about chicks. I loved Speak, for example. It's kind of like having that best friend of the opposite gender there to let you in on the little nuances of the opposite sex. Cool, right?

So, technically, even if boys don't read, which is probably somewhat true but not wholly, that doesn't mean girls won't buy a book with a male main character. Seems pretty obvious. But that's the "ought" not the "is." YA agents should listen to pitches about books with male leading characters because some guys might buy it and chicks could by it, too. Let's not stereotype. Let's not say this is for boys and this is for girls and that's it.

But is that how it really is? Do agents care about how things ought to be or only how they are. Look at the big hits lately--Twilight and Hunger Games. Girls. Girls. Girls. Even Harry Potter was created by a woman, and he isn't the prototypical male dealing with male problems. What about us dudes? I can see in our culture why agents might be afraid to take chances on us.

On the other hand, just because agents might be dying to add some blue to their pink YA shelves doesn't mean they're willing to take a chance on it. I also read an opinion in a comment on a blog stating that everyone in YA talks the game. They all say they want more male voices and that boys would read more if they had some to choose from, but they aren't willing to actually take the chance.

It sounds grim. But what does the logic of it matter anyway? Should agents be looking for male YA? Should agents be playing it safe and sticking to teenage chick lit? Who cares? At the end of the day, I wrote what I wrote. I write what I write. The golden rule is a great story with great characters will get published. So, what am I worried about? We've advanced to the point where boys can read girl characters and girls can read boy characters, and it doesn't matter either way!

I know you're sitting there saying the same thing--it's stereotyping to even say there's one thing for boys and one thing for girls. This is 2012--we've got Hillary Clinton and Title 9. It's a new world! The end of gender stereotyping!

Every minute in this country, 160 boys are born. How many hospitals do you think are putting the pink hat on those boys? How many of their parents have prepared a Disney Princesses nursery?

That's what I thought.


  1. Keep at it with the male centered stories. My gut tells me the advice you have read is tainted by marketing "allness" as in painting everything with broad brush strokes. That's not life. I bet there is some truth to the business wanting more male YA stories, it's just a matter of blowing the publisher away with a strong series of stories. As for boys not reading – that sounds quite short-sighted as we all likely know boys who read. Maybe boys read less than girls on average.

    1. Absolutely. I was just thinking about how there's always such conflicting information, mostly just because one person sees one thing happen, one agent saying "I'm not touching a boy story," and another sees another thing happen just once--an agent saying "I'm dying for a good male YA story"-- and they just go blabbing like it's always the way it was that one time. It's like going to a new job on the highway, getting stuck in traffic the first day, and then taking a roundabout way that takes a half extra because you didn't realize that one day was a freak occurrence.