Adapting to Your Environment

My agent has just informed me that the French editions of three of my novels will be released as ebooks. ‘Small-Minded Giants’ (under the title, ‘Liberté Surveillée’) , ‘Ancient Appetites’ (under the title ‘Voraces’) and ‘The Wisdom of Dead Men’ (don’t know what they’re calling it yet) are to go digital, courtesy of my French publisher, Mango Jeunesse.
I don’t know much about the book culture in France, except that their taste in sci-fi and fantasy would be less influenced by British and American stuff than ours, and they’re much more appreciative of comics, so it’ll be interesting to see how these do as ebooks. I don’t think publishers in the UK have sussed how to sell ebooks yet, despite most of the big ones setting up their own retail sites. It all seems to be left up to the big retailers, so the stuff that sells well overall is most represented in the ebook market.
Publishers have been struggling to predict the next big thing – or trends in general – in the YA market. And with all the financial turmoil, things seem to be contracting, growing more conservative again, after a really adventurous time. I want to avoid getting caught in that pinch, so the sci-fi crime thriller book I’m just finishing up is aimed at a slightly younger audience – more Robert Muchamore than Alex Rider, but still more palatable for the gatekeepers.
But this bending to the market makes me question just who makes up that market. Once kids are into novels, they’re the ones deciding what to buy, and yet it’s the adults who are still dictating the level of content in the books that we write for these kids. I’ve said it time and time again, but one of the reasons books don’t sell in the same way – indeed, are not marketed in the same way – as other consumer products, is that we’re out of touch.
I have had people in my publishers take issue with some of the content of my stories. Apparently, O’Brien have had complaints from teachers about my Forbidden Files. Though any teacher I’ve spoken to – and I speak to a lot of them – are happy to have these books in the classroom.
My ten year-old stepson got an iPod for Christmas. A couple of his mates got ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ – a game rated 18+. I had a conversation with this same bunch of lads a couple of years ago (when they were eight), where they told me about a scene in Jackass 2, where a guy pumped beer up his own arse. This is the kind of stuff they were talking about in the schoolyard when they were eight. These are the kids to whom the publishing industry is trying to sell ‘Horrid Henry’ and ‘BeastQuest’. Think we’re hitting the mark?