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Author needs your help

(157 Posts)
mortalcoils Sun 14-Feb-10 17:50:23

Sorry if this is the wrong place (or, indeed, thing) to post, but I'm after some advice. I'm perhaps best known as an author of slightly edgy/very edgy teenage novels, e.g. Hellbent, Henry Tumour and The Knife That Killed Me. Over the last couple of years I've also written 4 books for younger children, beginning with The Bare Bum Gang and The Football Face-Off. All 4 books are about the same group of children, and are aimed at 7-10 year olds. They are published by Random House, and got really nice reviews from all of the broadsheets. However, they haven't exactly set the world on fire, commercially, and I've been told it's because the titles, which all feature the dreaded words 'Bare bum Gang', have been putting people off. I've been told as a fact that book clubs won't have them because of the 'bum'. The books are really quite sweet, albeit rather rude, in a fart/poo kind of way. So, what do you reckon - should I ditch the bum, or keep on trying?
Anthony McGowan
(apologies again if this isn;'t the kind of thing that belongs here.)

Shitemum Sun 14-Feb-10 18:06:45

Has your publisher suggested changing the name of the gang or is the problem also the fart/poo content?

Shitemum Sun 14-Feb-10 18:10:46

Had a google and I think your bare bum gang would make a good cartoon strip or cartoon.
They sound quite 'Viz'.

Would it be worth doing one as a cartoon strip book to see if it takes off?

BlauerEngel Sun 14-Feb-10 18:56:30

Definitely ditch the bum bit. As shitemum says (great name, BTW) it's too Viz-like. Now I don't mind a bit of funny edginess in a book - DD2 at 7 is currently chortling her way through 'Disgusting Dave and the Farting Dog' or some such - but I just wouldn't buy a book for the kids with that series title, unless they asked me to do so. Not because it's 'obscene' in any way, and I do dislike censorship, but it just wouldn't spontaneously appeal. And I KNOW that my mother (who buys a lot of books for the kids) would avoid it in case it turned out to be porn, but that's just her generation.

Ilovemybed Sun 14-Feb-10 19:15:52

what an intriguing post!

I would ditch the bum. I wouldn't buy them as I would prefer ds not to say bum, and I wouldn't buy them as a gift in case the parent was hmm.

Also might kids be a bit embarrassed to be seen reading something with 'bare bum gang' in the title? It sounds a bit...... gay, which is apparently a no-no at schools (which obv I don't agree with, but just saying).

zapostrophe Sun 14-Feb-10 19:18:46

Message withdrawn

roisin Sun 14-Feb-10 19:20:20

Is this really you?

I have to say Henry Tumour is fantastic: my son read it and recommended it to me, and I enjoyed it too.

Are Random House editors/marketing people not giving you advice on the titles and covers of the new books? I don't like the titles, but then I don't like "Captain Underpants" titles either and it didn't stop my boys reading them when they were little.

There are plenty of books with poo/bum/bogey stuff in their titles. For example, I remember was very popular at school last year.

SoupDragon Sun 14-Feb-10 19:23:17

Did you know there's a fee payable for media/non member requests?

roisin Sun 14-Feb-10 19:24:18

ds2 (10) just came downstairs, so I showed him the cover on Amazon and asked if he would read it.

He said "Hmm... It looks weird"
Me: Weird good or weird bad? Funny weird? Would you pick it up in the library and read it?
Him: Well, it depends what the blurb said. I think I would spend 15 mins looking around in the library, but if I couldn't find anything else, I guess I might read that.


cocolepew Sun 14-Feb-10 19:26:43

I'm surprised tbh, there seems to be more and more toilet related book titles (IYSWIM). I have 2 DDS aged 12 and 8 and have never heard of your books, I mostly look on Red House/Book people.

DD says change it to The Bum Hero Gang hmm Feel free not to use that grin

ninah Sun 14-Feb-10 19:28:18

I would avoid a Bum book for my 7yo (parents are they buyers at this age normally)

Hassled Sun 14-Feb-10 19:28:55

Could it be a cover/illustration issue rather than the Bum issue?

The point re grandparents not buying them is a good one - grandparents do buy a lot of children's books, so covers/titles would have to be pitched to be acceptable to them.

It's relatively seldom that I take my kids into Waterstones and say "pick a book" - if I did, my 7 year old would probably spot and want a bum-related book . Grandparents or me on my own, less likely.

ninah Sun 14-Feb-10 19:28:59

Bum Hero too homoerotic

Hassled Sun 14-Feb-10 19:35:16

OK, I showed the covers to my 7 year old son and asked if he would choose it if he saw it in a shop. He said no, because the children look like idiots.

Hope that helps .

cocolepew Sun 14-Feb-10 19:43:03

OK looked on Amazon, The Bare Bum Gang looks ok but the covers of your other books would put me off, they look scary and unsuitable for 7 year olds.

Batteryhuman Sun 14-Feb-10 19:49:18

The cover designs are naff and I agree that Bare Bum would put off parent/grandparent and school library buyers. You're the writer, you think of something better envy <wish I could write as well as I can read emoticon>.

MilaMae Sun 14-Feb-10 20:07:31

I buy a lot of books and I'm an ex-teacher and literacy co-ordinator. I have twin boys 6 who are both free readers so I organise a lot of what they read. I haven't read your books so forgive me if I presuming them to be something they're not.

I have to say I avoid like the plague anything such as you have described-Captain Thunderpants,the Yuk books etc etc. The reason for this is not because I want to shelter them but because I have to live with the aftermath. Horrid Henry is about as much as I can take and he's currently on dangerous ground. My boys have renamed their teddies Mr Kill, were calling each other 'worm' and if I hear the bottom song once more I might just burn their entire Horrid Henry collection.

Books such as these are great if your ds/dd won't read and it's all you can find to entice them but if you have prolific readers like my two who'll read anything there is no need to put yourself through the agony. I'm suspecting most schools wouldn't order them by the crate load for the same reason.

I'm suspecting the people that buy most children's books are people like myself who have prolific readers as enthusiasm breads enthusiasm. I suspect their ds's/dd's read a huge variety too so said parents would also pick alternatives books by preference.

If my sons actively asked for the books I'd buy them(after trying to steer them onto something else)as don't like to 'ban' any books and I'm all for enthusiasm as regards reading but I personally wouldn't go out of my way to buy them. So I'd ditch the title then parents like myself would be none the wiser.

aoyama Sun 14-Feb-10 20:08:42

I wouldn't buy it because it looks like its trying to hard. Why are they called the bare bum gang?

I asked my ds and he said the children in the picture looked cross and 'like meanies' (it was the football book) and he didn't like the title because it 'sounded awful'. He is only 6 though and not quite up to speed with toilet humour. When I was showing him on Amazon he saw the Charlie books by Hilary Mckay and asked if we could get those because they 'look really, really good and excellent'. He can't tell me why though. I agree with hassled's ds that the children look like idiots. I wouldn't buy it for my own child partly because the name sounds both rude and trying to hard and partly because I do judge a book by the cover and I def wouldn't buy it as a gift because I wouldn't know if the other parent would find it inappropriate.

MilaMae Sun 14-Feb-10 20:14:06

Just looked on Amazon,don't have a problem with the covers but why didn't you call the dog one "The Battle of the Dog Snatchers"? My boys would have been mighty interested due to "battle" "snatchers". I wouldn't have thought twice.

Flightattendant Sun 14-Feb-10 20:23:27

Sorry but the title you mention would make me go hmm because it basically sounds like it would be attractive to people who like children in completely the wrong way.

Sorry. i know it's the stupid kind of name kids think up in real life, we had many such gangs as children, but honestly - they belong in the secret context of an exclusive club, among children, and not leaving the confines of the bedroom/garden shed/ wherever, even to be spoken of to parents. Definitely not as the title of a book. Can you see the difference?

It's way too explicit.

Flightattendant Sun 14-Feb-10 20:26:51

Have had a look at website now and people are right - the illustrations are reminiscent of Viz and given the title, I am amazed frankly that it got anywhere near publication.

It also doesn't explain the reasoning behind, so not good. I would ditch this if ds even picked it up in a shop.

(I know this might be harsh but you bypassed the media fee so you deserve honest critique!)

roisin Sun 14-Feb-10 20:37:18

I don't know why you chose to write for this market, but if you are looking for a hole in the market there is one area that comes up repeatedly on mumsnet.

That is advanced, challenging books for fluent readers, who are very young. As MilaMae says many books are bought by parents or relatives of such children.

If your child learns to read relatively early, it can be hard to find age-appropriate material. They may be capable of reading Harry Potter or Alex Rider, but it doesn't mean that's the best thing for them.

Your new books are aimed at reluctant readers and - whilst that might be laudable - I think it's an over-saturated market at the moment.

SlummyMummy85 Sun 14-Feb-10 20:43:41

I've just showed my 7 yo son the cover on amazon and in his opinion they 'look rubbish' and 'the name is stupid'.

Sorry if that is a bit harsh but looking at the other posts on here it seems to be the general consensus.

I know that I wouldn't buy this book for my child and if your target audience are saying that that book looks 'rubbish' 'sounds awful' and 'looks weird' its maybe time to go in a different direction.

Sorry again if this coming across as nasty but you have asked us for our honest opinion.

VengefulKitty Sun 14-Feb-10 20:48:30

My DS is only 5, but I would not buy these books for him for many of the reasons already stated above.

For me, it is not just the 'bum' in the title, it is the fact they those bums appear to be 'bare'! It immediately conjures up images of a group of half naked boys. Freaks me out!

So sorry, but I can totally see why your books are not selling.

VengefulKitty Sun 14-Feb-10 20:49:20

Sorry, should have read - When he is at that stage of reading, I would not buy them.

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