But the book got me thinking, although not about the stuff I was supposed to think about.
It got me thinking about how difficult it is to succeed writing a book like The Deathday Letter. And by succeed I mean selling lots of books, becoming a household name, and then treating people horribly.
First, I should say that Shaun David Hutchinson made it further than I think most books like this do or will. The Deathday Letter, if you do not know, is about a fifteen-year-old kid who receives a letter telling him he's got one day left to live. It's a clever premise; one that's easily understood and tickles the imagination. And it's funny. And it's well written. And there's a serious message, too.
But the book's target audience is unabashedly young adult males. And I love that. I wish there were more books for these kids. I like to read books like this and I like to write books like this so I wish The Deathday Letter all kinds of crazy success. (Seriously, just buy the book. I did. See photo above.)
Unfortunately, the book has and will continue to fight an uphill battle. I bought the book at a honest to goodness bookstore. It was in the YA section which was on the back wall and took me ten minutes to find. I bought it the day after it came out and it was sandwiched between other authors who last names start with H. And there were two copies.
Conversely, I knocked down seven vampire books with black covers and was screamed at by a gang of goth girls because they thought I was disrespecting Richelle Mead on my way to the YA wall. This was because the vampire books were practically placed in the middle of an aisle so that you needed to go out of your way to avoid them.
Now I know Shaun is just elated to have the thing published and out there and there's no way he'll ever complain (I wouldn't either), but let's just look at the hurdles he's had to clear to elbow aside enough books to get his own on the shelf.
- First he had to write it. This is hard.
- Then he had to get an agent interested in it, even though the target audience tends to spend a lot of time playing video games and watching YouTube and playing sports and staring at girls. And when they do read, they pick up fantasy novels or books for adults. (I know. I mostly read Stephen King in high school. I didn't even know there were books for high school kids.)
- And then said agent had to get a publisher interested, in spite of the above challenges.
- And now I'm skipping some steps, but after all that there were two (now there's one) copies of the book in my local bookstore (and it's a big one) and you pretty much had to be looking for it like I was to find it.
It depresses me. Mostly for selfish reasons because before I sit down to write another novel I will think to myself, "I really want to write a funny book for high school guys, but will anybody read it? And if nobody is going to read it, then do I have a chance of finding an agent? And if I do find an agent who gets it and loves it, which might be kinda hard because 90% of YA agents are chicks, will he or she be able to find a publisher (more chicks) who not only likes it but thinks it will sell enough to make it worth her while?" And I won't be the only one.
So here's hoping The Deathday Letter gets great word of mouth, high school dudes buy a copy, and publishers are suddenly clamoring for more books like it. Because I really want to click on an agency Web site and read, "I'm always on the lookout for books with penis jokes and scatological humor." Because, dude, that's my kind of agent.