March 6, 2012

Guest Post: Robert Pease and Writing for Boys

Today I welcome author Robert Pease author of Noah Zarc - Mammoth Trouble.  He's here today to talk about writing for the  middle grade boy.  I'm very excited about this because I think sometimes boys get over-looked in the blogging world.  I am seeing more and that makes me happy!  In a feature post I'll be sharing some of those great blogs that I see highlighing boys books.  But for now let's welcome Robert Pease!

First about Noah Zarc - Mammoth Trouble
Noah lives for piloting spaceships through time, dodging killer robots and saving Earth’s animals from extinction. Life couldn’t be better. However, the twelve-year-old time traveler soon learns it could be a whole lot worse. His mom is abducted and taken to thirty-first century Mars; his dad becomes stranded in the Ice Age; and Noah is attacked at every turn by a foe bent on destroying a newly habitable, post-apocalyptic Earth. 
Traveling through time in the family’s immense spaceship, Noah, a paraplegic from birth, must somehow care for the thousands of animals on board, while finding a way to rescue his parents. Along the way, he discovers his mother and father aren’t who he thought they were, and there is strength inside him he didn’t know he had.

Doesn't it sound really good!  Check out more about it at Robert Pease's website.   

Welcome Robert Pease!

Do Boys Read?

I didn't set out to write a "boy's" book. Initially, I didn't even set out to write books for kids.  It just kind of came to me naturally. For several years I'd slaved away on an epic fantasy novel. It was hard work. Sure I had fun, but I remember times when I just couldn't get the words to flow. Then one day I got the idea to write a book for kids. I'd been kicking the concept of Noah Zarc around for a while. The idea of a futuristic version of the old Noah story in the Bible, really appealed to me. So during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2008 I started working on my first draft. It was a blast. But what made it even more exciting was every day I'd give my then eleven-year-old son a print out of what I'd written the day before. It became a story that I was writing directly to him. So Noah Zarc is literally a book written to eleven-year-old boys.

It wasn't until after I finished rewriting, and editing the book, that I started to look at the market. If I had done so first, I might have been a little hesitant to write it in the first place. Everywhere I went people were talking about how boys don't read.  I've read that at least 75% of kid's, who are considered active readers, are girls. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Kids book authors, who want to make a living, write for girls. There is therefore a glut of girl books, and very few boy books.

For quite a few years I've been following the blogs of literary agents and editors. One thing I've seen, almost universally across the board, is they have very few authors writing for boys, and even fewer authors who are men. Does this mean they aren't interested in taking on men, or boy books? Not if you are to believe what they say. Nearly every one of them, on a regular basis, will put out a call saying they are seeking authors who write boy books.

So where is the disconnect? Why is the market so saturated with girl’s books and such a wasteland for boys? Obviously there are a few exceptions. In the upper middle grade category, which is where I place Noah Zarc, there are books such as Percy Jackson, and Artemis Fowl. Both books seem to be written directly to boys, although girls like them too. Both are doing very well.  But these are definitely the exception. If you look at the top 100 lists for kids books, you will see cover after cover with a picture of a girl on it. In YA it gets even worse. At that point it seems like the publishing industry has just given up.

So, can anything be done about it? I hope so. I have a son who loves to read. But sometimes he really struggles to find something he likes at the library. He's read nearly everything geared toward boys of his age (or at least it seems like it.) This may be an area where self-published authors can fill the void. We don't have huge corporations to back, so our sales margins can be much smaller. If more of us begin to put out quality stories for boys, maybe we can bring them back as readers. As more and more kids get eReaders, the opportunity to reach them grows even further.

Boys are naturally more shy about showing their feelings, and may have a hard time expressing their emotions. This is why I think books can be such a powerful way for boys to explore what it means to grow up. When they're reading a book, no one is looking over their shoulder. No one hears what they are thinking. They can explore the deeper things in life on their own. So we as authors can't be afraid to write books with depth. Sure I try to make my stories fun. Otherwise boys wouldn't make it through. But I also try to have some meat to them. I want boys to get a glimpse of who they can become a few years down the road. What it means to be a man.

If I can get boys to maybe like reading a little more, and help them navigate a sometimes-crazy world, then I would consider myself successful. Even if I don't end up with legions of vampire-loving teenage girls scrambling for my next book.

Thank you so much for this post! I really enjoyed this post and I hope to see more and more boys reading!  Now check later for a giveaway of some boy MG books!


  1. Thanks for letting me visit today. This is definitely a topic that is near and dear to my heart.

  2. As a librarian I am constantly searching for good boy books, so this post was particularly interesting to me. As Mr. Pease said, there does seem to be a huge disconnect - if so many readers want "boy books," why are so few being published? Are there really so few authors who want to write them? Or is the market just not as strong as I'd like to believe? I wonder if that 75% stat is true. And if it is, is that a result of the # of books that are written "for" boys? So Many Questions!! I will definitely keep my eyes open for Noah Zarc :)

  3. This has been a mystery to me for a long time. I've written a YA series with a male POV character, and it's really striking how few of those there are out there.

    I think the real challenge is figuring out how to market books to guys—and YA with male POV to female readers—because once they get hold of good "boy" books, they do enjoy them. So much of my reader feedback indicates that people enjoyed the books, but are SURPRISED that they did.

    So for me the question is, why the surprise? How can authors who write male leads market these books so that readers EXPECT to like them?

  4. Hi all - it's nice to stumble across this. I have just published my second children's book ('Eeek!') which I wrote specifically with boys in mind....

    I have two sons (now 20 and 18!), one of whom was an avid reader when they were younger whereas his older brother hardly read at all. They were (and still are) both mad about sport - rugby/soccer/cricket etc. To inspire my older son I wanted to find something that I knew boys liked. Aliens and sport felt like a good mix - thus 'Eeek!' was born...

    The story is about a soccer-mad alien who runs away to space from Earth during the World Cup - it's written from the perspective of 11-year-old Charlie Spruit who opens his door to this alien one morning... and is deliberately fast-paced and humorous to keep the interest of more reluctant younger boy readers.

    It's just come on Kindle and Amazon and will be in local Waterstones in south-west London soon.... Please do take a look and share if it sounds of interest for any younger boys you know. The booksellers seem quite excited! And my local librarian has asked me to come and do an event...

    It had strong interest from Bloomsbury when I first wrote it but in the end was too short for their lists. Having recently taken a sabbatical from the day job I decided to publish it independently.... The print version came out on Thursday and the Kindle version last week. It's also just been ordered by Gardners.

    You can read more about me and my first book at and see excerpts from Eeek in the Kindle Store...

    Best wishes,

  5. I agree that we could use plenty more "boy books" (and my book "The Bad Advice of Grandma Hasenfuss" is all about middle school boys and I certainly hope appeals to boys...)
    But that said, I also think there's another sort of disconnect if we assume/expect that boys won't read anything with a female lead or a girl on the cover. I have a son and a daughter to whom I've read aloud chapter books every day for as long as they can remember. We read books with girl characters, books with boy characters, books with both... (mostly fantasy, but a smattering of other genres) And both my kids understand that great books come with all kinds of heroes. My son's last read has been the Kronos Chronicles by Rutkoski. The main character is a girl, with male sidekicks, but the book has appealed equally to my son and my daughter. We do our sons a disservice if we teach them (even unconsciously) that they can't relate to adventures with girls.