Archive for the ‘General Musings and Keen Observations’ Category

Books for Boys (and Men) Blog Review

13 May

Stacey from DGL posted a poll about what men want to read. Let’s make sure that there are healthy number of responses from actual men. Stop by and let her know what you think.

Author Andy Smith talks about what kills creativity in boys on his Ghost Medicine Blog. Andy talks a lot about what boys like to read and the impact that failing to develop a love for reading can have on boys. I don’t always agree with everything he says, but he has a lot of insight into the problems with boys and reading and his posts always provoke thought.

The Carlman (no relation) of Boys Rule Boys Read! reviews three nonfiction books about Nascar that he came across as a result of his job as a guybrarian. He recommends all three!


Men’s Summer Reading List

26 Apr

I picked up a neat link from Janet Reid’s blog.  She blogged about Library Journal’s Summer Men’s Fiction.   Below are the books on the list.

Eisler, Barry. Inside Out. Ballantine. Jul. 2010

Grant, Andrew. Die Twice. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. May 2010

Hawke, Richard. House of Secrets. Random. May 2010

Hewson, David. City of Fear. Delacorte. Jun. 2010

Hinshelwood, Tom. The Killer. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin’s. 2010

Hurwitz, Gregg. They’re Watching. St. Martin’s. Jul. 2010

Knox, Tom. The Marks of Cain. Viking. May 2010

Lawson, Mike. House Justice: A Joe DeMarco Thriller

Patterson, Richard North. In the Name of Honor. Holt. Jun. 2010

Stevens, Michael R. Fortuna. Oceanview, dist. by Midpoint Trade. May 2010

Vance, Lee. The Garden of Betrayal. Knopf. Aug. 2010

What do you think about the list?  Are these the kind of books that guys like?  Should they be the kind of books that guys like?  In our last blog we talked about making boys read books with girl main characters.  Should men have to read books with female male characters, too?

If you’re a man, what would you put on the list?  If you’re not, what would you put on a reading list for men if you had the power to influence what men read?


Should Boys be Forced to Read Books with Girl MC’s?

23 Apr

There are a couple of interesting posts on Author Andrew Smith’s blog about boys and reading.   Should boys be indoctrinated into reading “girl” fiction?  After all, girls read “boy” fiction.  Should they be forced to read books with girl MC’s?

Andrew Smith talks about this and literacy for boys in general.

Don’t forget to participate in the DJ MacHale Morpheus Road Giveaway.  The winner gets an autographed copy of Morpheus Road – The Light!


Marketing Books to Boys, Part 3

17 Mar

This is the third in a series entitled, “Marketing Books to Boys.” Men represent approximately 50% of the potential fiction reading market but about 20% of the actual fiction reading market, according to some polls. We’ll be exploring some of the things publishers can do to reach boys.

My original plan for Part 3 was to move on to non-technological ways to market books to boys, but in looking for book trailers to include on this site, I did notice something that I wanted to comment on first.

In Part 1, I talked about my visit to and how the publisher channels I visited were as girl oriented as was children’s book publishing in general.  However, I recently stumbled onto the Puffin Books channel and found that the opposite was true there.  The lead video was for the Young Samurai series and almost every video in the sidebar was about boy books.  Many of the videos were just of talking heads, and I question the effectiveness of that, but there is no doubt that Puffin Books was using their Youtube channel to market to boys, at least the times that I visited there.  So, I wanted to give credit where credit was due and acknowledge that at least Puffin Books was taking demographics into consideration in making their Youtube marketing decisions.

Moving on – Publishers need to make an effort to reach boys in elementary and middle school.  I am reminded of something that West Publishing, a major publisher of law related books and journals did in the 1980’s.  As you may imagine, attorneys do a great deal of research and that research was primarily done with books.  However, it didn’t take long for it to become obvious to everyone that doing computer research would ultimately be more efficient and less expensive than continuing to conduct research using books.  Even though lawyers and legal libraries had a great deal invested in printed books the electronic writing was on the wall and anyone with a modicum of foresight knew where legal research was heading.  Books are still used, but electronic research is dominant.

The major legal publishers realized that with the availability of electronic research, competitors could move into their industry without the huge capital investment that would otherwise be required.  (This seems familiar, no?)  West did the only thing that made sense and they are still in business today as a result.  What did they do?  They made the electronic research available for free.  Yes, free. Not for everyone mind you, but for law students.  They did several other things to protect their position in the industry, but it’s their focus on law students that interests me.

Why did they give law students free access to their electronic research resources?  They wanted them to become familiar and comfortable with their product before they had an opportunity to become familiar and comfortable with someone else’s product.  They had an inroad with law schools that potential competitors did not have so they took advantage of it.  They planted a seed and hoped it would grow.

I think publishers of children’s books could do a better job of planting the seeds of reading in elementary and middle school boys.  Elementary and middle school children have reading requirements.  They are going to be exposed to a certain number of books whether they want to or not.  Shouldn’t the publishing industry be directing attention there?  Here is an opportunity to reach boys who must read, and to find out from them what it is they like to read.  For instance, publishers could donate a certain number of books to a representative number of classes in various geographic locations in exchange for some feedback as to what the boys enjoyed.  Obviously, while they’re doing it they should be getting the same feedback from the girls, but this kind of information may give them valuable insight into what they need to publish in order to attract this neglected and underrepresented demographic.

While it’s important that publishers make a better effort to market books to boys, they also need to make a better effort to publish a sufficient number of books that boys like.  There’s no point in luring them to the table if there’s nothing on the menu they want.   My challenge to the publishing industry to is to take notice of this ignored demographic and make efforts to market to them and to publish books that will lead boys to seek out more books on their own.  Find out where the boys are and meet them there.  Find out what they like and cater to them.   Having a boy main character in a book that could just as easily be about a girl is not enough. Step up your game on Youtube and start working towards a way to license books to the portable gaming platforms.  Be innovative.  I’m sure there are lots of other ways to reach boys we haven’t even discussed.  You may never be able to make girls read more than they are already reading, but the boys demographic is ripe for the picking and they need you.

What else can the publishing industry do to encourage reading in elementary and middle school boys?


Eleventh Grade Burns (Chronicles of Vladimir Tod) by Heather Brewer – Book Trailer

14 Mar

Heather Brewer Website


Marketing Books to Boys, Part 2

10 Mar

This is the second in a series entitled, “Marketing Books to Boys.” Men represent approximately 50% of the potential fiction reading market but about 20% of the actual fiction reading market, according to some polls. We’ll be exploring some of the things publishers can do to reach boys.

In the last exciting installment of Marketing Books to Boys, we discussed the possibility of using technology, specifically book trailers and Youtube, to market books to boys.   In the interest of practicing what I preach, I started posting book trailers on the site shortly after I posted that blog.

Is there another type of technology in the hands of young boys that publishers might be able to use to market to boys?  I think there is.  No matter how technologically advanced we get, young boys still like to have portable game platforms.  The Nintendo DS and Sony PSP continue to be popular with boys and have evolved from simple gaming platforms to general entertainment devices.  They can now watch videos, listen to music, and engage in simple communications with others on these devices.

If these portable gaming devices could be used as e-readers, think of the possibilities.   When people fall in love with characters they look for other sources for their character “fix.”  Even boys who would not normally read a book may download an e-book to their gaming device featuring their favorite characters if it’s marketed to them directly on the device.  For instance, the Harry Potter movies and video games could be used to market the Harry Potter books.  A reluctant reader may not be willing to download a 400-500 page book no matter how infatuated he is with a story, but many boys would.

The reluctant reader might require a different tact, but he is reachable in this format, too.  Even he may be enticed to download a full-length novel if provided with a free chapter or two and a link to the rest of the novel attached to a related video game or movie. And we don’t have to confine ourselves to full length novels.  The e-book platform lends itself to the distribution of serialized novels and short stories.   A reluctant reader might not be willing to download a full-length novel featuring the characters from the Transformers, but he might be willing to download and read a serialized version or even short stories featuring those characters, particularly if they are accompanied by some graphics.   And speaking of graphics, is there much doubt that they would download a related graphic novel?

The advent of the e-book might very well bring back the serial novel and increase the popularity of the short story.  It might also make the publication of graphics novels much more economical.  These are literary forms that reluctant readers are more likely to be willing to tackle, but there is little economic incentive to publish them in book form.  However, publishing them in electronic format may be more economically feasible and may allow the publishing industry to make inroads into the underrepresented male demographic. That would be good for reluctant readers, publishers, and authors.

In the next installment of Marketing Books to Boys, we will discuss some non-technological ways to market books to boys, but I welcome any ideas you may have, technology related or otherwise.



Marketing Books to Boys, Part 1

07 Mar

This is the first in a series entitled, “Marketing Books to Boys.”  Men represent approximately 50% of the potential fiction reading market but about 20% of the actual fiction reading market, according to some polls.  We’ll be exploring some of the things publishers can do to reach boys.

What can publishers do to better market books to boys?  I can think of several things they can do, but let’s start with the use of technology.  Can publishers use the technology that boys love to encourage them to read?

According to Nielson*, boys are more likely to visit Youtube than girls, with the highest representation of visitors being between the ages of 12 and 17.  Both boys and that particular age group are an “overrepresented” demographic among Youtube visitors and an “underrepresented” demographic of fiction readers .  What a great place to target boys.  Brilliant, bloody brilliant!

I think there is a great opportunity to reach boys by taking advantage of their visual nature.  Using book trailers to hook them seems like a sound plan, and a lot of authors have been doing so, but is the industry taking complete advantage of the medium? I visited Youtube to find out.

While I found that some publishers seem to have a presence on Youtube, their efforts aren’t particularly directed at boys and they don’t really seem to be taking complete advantage of the technology.  I searched for videos using some words that boys might search on Youtube to see if any book trailers would pop up in the results. (I have a twelve-year-old test subject.)  Some did, but they were mostly picture books.  I think that publishers could make a better effort to have their book trailers come up in searches of the type of things boys look for on Youtube.

After I did some unscientific test searches, I decided to see if any publishers were progressive enough to have their own Youtube channels.  At least some did, and when I got to their channels I saw . . . chiclit!  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  Yup, even in a place where you would most likely find boys, publishers targeted girls for the most part, followed by adults, and made only some token efforts to reach boys.

So, what is Random House’s lead video when you visit their page?   It’s Carrie Ryan’s “The Dead-Tossed Waves.”  (Yeah, Carrie!)  There was even a link to purchase the book in the text that accompanied the video.  That’s very progressive and I didn’t find that feature in any of the other publisher channels I visited, though I don’t doubt someone else is doing that, too.  But here in the land of boys, couldn’t Random House throw us a bone?  They didn’t have any boylit book trailers even in their side panel, at least when I checked.

Penguin Putnam led with a video of the author of “Killer Summer” sitting in a chair, facing the camera, and chatting about his novel.  It was a video about an adult novel, with no action, and no button to purchase the book.  The channel was sparse, at best, and had no boylit.  Way to take advantage of the medium PP!

My visit to Harper Collins’ Children Book channel was much more encouraging.  They featured an actual book trailer of “Lord Sunday.”  I don’t think the trailer would effectively entice a boy to read it, it was comprised of static images and Muzac, but the book did have a male main character.  Give them credit for trying.

My final visit was to Disney Hyperion’s Youtube channel.  I was full of optimism based on the decent showing by Harper Collins, but there I was once again assaulted with  . . . chiclit!  Et Tu, Disney?  However, on the side panel there was a book trailer for Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a great boy book, but I don’t consider that a series for reluctant readers and I don’t think Disney needs to go to Youtube for an audience for that book.  Still, it was a boy book and the trailer was decent.  The rest of the book trailers on the side panel were . . . chicklit!  (Not that – well you know.)  Some of them were gender neutral, but most of them were for books for girls and involved talking heads; a poor use of the medium.

I’m sure that some publishers are using Youtube to market books to boys in an effective manner, I just haven’t found them yet.  But if publishers are going to come “a courting” to Youtube, the land of boys between 12 and 17, shouldn’t they at least give the boys a wave while they’re there?  It would be the polite thing to do and might even result in some sales.

What do you think about book trailers, boys, and Youtube?  Could publishers be making better use of Youtube to encourage boys to read?  Can you think of another way publishers could be marketing to boys and reluctant readers in particular?




Author Andrew Smith Blogs “the why chromosome”

26 Feb

Author Andrew Smith has been blogging about “the why chromosome.”   He asks, “If boys’ achievement scores are declining, and they are reporting less time spent on reading and higher rates of discouragement, what can we do to help bring boys back as readers?”

I’ve enjoyed the series, which cites various studies about boys and reading and the possible reasons for their lack of interest compared to girls.  I don’t know that he’s arrived at any firm conclusions, but he has certainly provided food for thought and advanced the discussion.   Andrew seems to believe that strong male role models who read and value reading can have a strong influence on young boys.  Those who read a great deal and still have sons who are reluctant readers may be tempted to dismiss that influence, but it’s unlikely that the problem results from one factor, anyway.   There is probably a range of factors that contribute to reader reluctance and an array of solutions that must be employed to address it both in regard to the universal problem and the problem as it applies to individuals.  Of course, that doesn’t even begin to take into consideration those with reading disabilities, as opposed to just reading reluctance.

I don’t know if Andrew is experiencing the same angst I am about the issue, but he certainly demonstrates an interest having written three thoughtful blogs on the subject, so far.  Please take a moment to visit his blog site and read them.

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Hi, My Name is . . . and My Son is a Reluctant Reader

16 Feb

Can graphic novels be used to stimulate a reluctant reader’s interest in reading? I’ve always loved reading, so I struggle to get through to my reluctant reader. I just can’t seem to get the fire lit. Oh, he’s read books that he loves. Good books, too, like Bud, Not Buddy and Hatchet, but those were just sparks – no flame. He never gets a white hot desire to find his next book.

He has passion, though. It’s not that he lacks that. He just does not find fulfillment from the written word. When he has an interest in something he researches it with as much fervor as I would, but where I would Google and work my way through the results, he will go on YouTube to find a video on the subject and will not quit until he does. To his credit, he has learned lots that way, but it bothers me that he is missing something that is so much a part of my life, and something that can be so rewarding and enriching. I feel like I should start a support group or something.

“Hi, my name is Carl and my son eschews the written word.” Yes, I did just use the word “eschew.” I did it because I can. Will he ever be able to?

Today I began my experiment with graphic novels. I purchased the graphic novel version of Treasure Island. His eyes lit up a bit when I showed it to him, but then he said, “She’ll never accept it.” By “she” he means his literature teacher. His first criteria in deciding (no, agreeing) to read a book is whether or not the book will get him one step closer to fulfilling his reading requirement. (Don’t even get me started.)

Shh! Don’t make a sound. He just picked up the book and sat down next to me. This is rarely seen and has never been photographed. Arrg! The first thing he said upon opening the book was, “How many pages is this?” My response, “Really? Even when a book is 90% pictures you have a maximum page count?”

Well, he’s done now. He went back to the computer. Sigh. No combustion.  I guess there’s always tomorrow. I was hoping to be able to provide you with an uplifting graphic novel success story. Good thing I had a backup plan.

For an uplifting graphic novel success story, please take a look at this article on the The Official Site of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents. For more reading on the subject, here’s an article on Using Graphic Novels to Attract Reluctant Readers.

Finally, for those of you who are like my reluctant reader, here is a Youtube video promoting graphic novels for reluctant readers.  Yes, really.   Graphic Novel Promo.



Books for Boys

14 Feb

How would you describe a boy’s lit book?  One could argue that it is a novel with a male protagonist, but is that correct?  Well, it’s probably semantic, but shouldn’t “boy’s lit” be something boys in particular would enjoy?  Yes, boys can enjoy all kinds of books, with or without male protagonists, but as long as we have chick lit let’s not waste time arguing that we shouldn’t lump books into categories.  Young boys read little enough, in general, to further encumber them with a political correctness we don’t apply elsewhere.  As for those boys that are voracious readers, well we don’t need to worry about them.  They will find what they like.  I guess in my mind, boy’s lit is literature that is geared towards the male reluctant reader.  I’m not looking for a universally acceptable definition, I’m just trying to frame the purpose of this blog which is to discuss, identify, and promote literature for boys.

I suspect that boys do like what everyone else likes in a story, but young boys haven’t learned that yet, so perhaps it is a question of marketing?   Many boys like sports and are attracted to novels that feature sports.  Does this mean they will only enjoy stories that feature sports?  I don’t think so.  They may not even enjoy the sports stories to which they are drawn.  They may just expect to like them.  I can think of two literary agents who seem to know this.  Chris Richman and Caryn Wiseman both seek sports stories that have a hook other than sports.  So, sports as a backdrop for real stories?  Sounds like a good idea.

Which books do you think of as boy’s books?  What do they have in common?  Authors like Gordon Korman seem to have a style that draws boys.  Korman’s novels are based on action and adventure – and they’re short.  Have you ever watched a reluctant reader select a book?  One of the first things they do is check the page count.  Korman writes long stories that he divides into short books that do not intimidate reluctant readers.  His books often break the “rule” that each book should be a complete story.  Many are not, but he writes books that reluctant readers are attracted to and not afraid to pick up.

Contrast Korman with Rick Riordan.  The Percy Jackson books are fantasy novels that are very long.  Certainly, boys are reading these books, but are these “boy” books?  Are reluctant readers reading them?  I doubt it.  I wish they would, but I just don’t think most would voluntarily pick up a 400 page novel.  They are wonderful novels in their own right, but not what I would classify as “boy books.”

What types of books do you think would attract reluctant readers?