I have had published an epic historical novel which has received rave reviews, enjoyed time on the best seller list and has just been nominated for New Zealand's children’s book awards (in the YA) section.Well, it's tricky. It sounds as though you've written a very good book. But you've also put your characters in an age demographic that buys very, very few novels-- they're mostly buying textbooks and using the college library.
My wonderful NYC agent has been working very hard to generate interest in the US but, though it’s been out since late May 2009, there hasn’t been any takers. In a recent email he told me this:
"The reason it hasn’t hit to this point (and it’s rare that one issue comes up as often as this has, to the point that I can really look at it and say THIS is why), is because, unlike in NZ where Penguin (smartly) published it on the adult list but still pushed it to the Young Adult market, in the US the lists are very compartmentalized. If you recall, Disney (Hyperion) wouldn’t even LOOK at [it] because [main character] was over 17 when it began. And that’s the problem—it’s a YA book with characters older than the American YA market typically deals with. Now, mind you, they are behaving like teenagers, and this is a totally marvellous coming-of-age story. He just happens to be 21 instead of a teenager. And that shouldn’t matter, but it clearly does."
My question to you is this: wouldn’t an editor look very hard at a submission of a book (by an agent for an established author*) which has ALREADY been edited and polished with all the work done, is a best seller, has had and continues to have rave reviews and has been nominated for a national book award? My agent also made the comment that more submissions go to children’s editors than the adult section and that there are more submissions than editors which is why it takes a long time. I’d be interested in your thoughts about the ‘compartments’ comment.
Still, it sounds like a question of the correct marketing to me. Penguin NZ may have had the right idea-- something like this might be better aimed at adults with the hope that it will cross down to teens (perhaps with the help of the Alex Awards). So maybe it's about finding the right adult publisher who sees how to aim it at both markets. Or maybe it's about finding the right children's publisher that has some guts and wants to take a chance on this.
Either way, though, this book is going to call for some creative thinking at its publisher. Good luck!