Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Imagine Marley & Me but for Teens": Pitching Popular Young Adult Literature

Last week's New Yorker had an intriguing article on Alloy Entertainment, a leading book packaging company of popular young adult literature, including the Gossip Girl series and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Although it is nice for us to imagine that writers are suddenly struck by inspiration and write feverishly until all of their thoughts are on paper, this article quickly dispels us of this image. Instead, Alloy's approach is a more collaborative process, where people pitch book ideas in weekly development meetings. Some ideas are rejected, while others are fleshed out into a summary. The most promising ideas are given to a writer, who writes a sample chapter.

While any collaboration certainly has its merits and limitations, this article really underscores the calculation and sometimes profound lack of creativity that goes into these pitches. For instance, many of the pitches mentioned in the article have a basis in current events or films. From the sound of the article, it is like any previous idea, be it Knocked Up, Nancy Drew, or Chappaquiddick, could make for a potential YAL pitch.

This approach to getting books published isn't new (the Stratemeyer Syndicate did it with numerous book series, including Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys), but the process seems more than a little cynical. Maybe it is my naivete, but I'd like to think that teens deserve more than just an adolescent version of the latest hit film for adults or the most recent news story. On the other hand, many of the most interesting and intriguing works have a universal appeal that allow them to be remade or repackaged for teens.

With all of this said, check out the article and then try to come up with some creative (if nonsensical or perhaps borderline offensive) ideas for YAL book titles or pitches. My personal favorite for the worst idea in the article might just be I Did the President's Daughter, a pitch that mercifully failed.


tgs said...

Here's a YAL idea that would be an epic fail: the story of Lot and his daughters, but for teenagers. We could call it "Daddy's Girls."

Now I need to get that memory erase treatment from "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" to get that thought out of my head :)