Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hail Satan?

About a year ago Adam Selzer (my boss on the Smart Aleck Staff) got into a discussion about Christian YA novels and joked that he should write a Satanic one. He started writing down a few lines and had the first chapter pretty quickly.

He and I are collaborating on it now. he brought me in because he needed some "14+" stuff in it.

It's the story of Leon, the kid from his first two books, as an 18 year old slacker, three years after his girlfriend moved to Europe and he sort of let himself go. He now works in a b-rate ice cream place, may or may not be graduating with his class, and spends most of his time hanging around with his assistant manager, who claims to be Satan and serves as Jeeves to his Wooster. There's a full draft of it now, and we've been going through and revising it.

But what should we DO with it, anyway?

There's really no market for books like this. It's a humorous boy book in which no one gets shot or blown up. A few years ago there would have been a market for something like that, but for a book like that to find an audience these days, it pretty much has to be written by John Green. We have a lot of friends TRYING to sell books like this, and even if an editor wants it, all they're hearing from sales and marketing is "we could sell this if it were by John Green, but since it's not...."  John is sort of lucky - in the post-Twilight world, he's a YA writer that it's still socially acceptable for boys (and smart, left-of-center kids in general) to be seen reading. Boys were always a tough market in YA - it's not that they don't read, but when they hit "ya" age, they tend to gravitate more towards adult sci-fi/fantasy/horror and graphic novels. And who can blame them? The YA section is still "The Twilight Section" these days. Even most of the books that AREN'T dystopia/paranormal romance are marketed mainly to the girls who read those.

And if someone DID publish it, we don't think there's any chance they'd actually MARKET it as "a novel for young adults who worship the devil." The chain stores would probably tell them they wouldn't order any unless they removed all references to the dark lord from the cover, title, and description. And then they probably wouldn't order it anyway (getting them to carry a boy book by a midlister is a real trick these days - we'd need to have a movie version coming out or something before there'd be any demand for it).

The obvious choice, then, is to just put it out as an e-book. But there's a danger that "once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny." Will it make it harder for us to get traditional publishers (and good contracts) for our other books if they think we're willing to just throw things out for no money upfront? And who's going to edit it? And who'll READ it? These stories you hear about people selling tons and tons (or, well, gigs and gigs) of ebooks are the exception, not the rule. What sales Adam and I get tend to come about mainly because of our good reviews reviews in the trades. We wouldn't get reviewed in the trades at all if we put it out ourselves.

And is it really better to put it out at all, or is it more fun to just tease people about it? It can be like those albums that bands record and are rumored to be masterpieces, but that, for some reason, never actually get released, and become the stuff of legend, even though they're really just okay? Not releasing this it all lends it a kind of air of mystery, doesn't it?

Anyway, the book is in revision now, and the title is either Satan's Parents' Basement or Are You There, Satan? It's Me, Leon. The Holy Quests, who did the "theme song" for Sparks, are recording a whole EP of songs connected to it which we could offer as a free download.

Or maybe we'll just keep it all on our hard drives and let you all stay curious. Muhahahaha.

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