Finding a New Way to Bring Shakespeare to YA Readers

In News by Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is using Pentian to crowdfund the publication of his new YA series on Shakespeare, based on his Publishing Perspectives reading group.
Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

If you’re a regular reader (or even an irregular reader) of Publishing Perspectives, you’re familiar with our online literary book club, The Play’s The Thing, an exploration of all the plays (and some of the sonnets) of one William Shakespeare.

For two and a half years, readers online gathered to ask questions, discuss, and read about some of the greatest plays ever written. It was an extraordinary project, and one that I’m not willing to see come to an end.

So my goal, my dream then, is to convert and rewrite the two and a half years of material and bring it to a young adult audience, readers who might be intimidated to tackle Shakespeare, or who believe that the plays are old, and dusty, and, perish the thought “classic” that have nothing to do with their lives, or, really, the lives of anyone in the 21st century.

But traditional publishing houses have been reluctant to take the project on. So I’m going anon-traditional route, using Pentian. (See our articles about Pentian here, here, and here.)

Here’s how it works:

  • Authors such as myself come to Pentian to gather funding for their book’s publishing.
  • Readers pledge to support new talent that they discover on the Pentian site.
  • Both the authors and readers profit financially when books are sold. (From net profits, 50% goes to financial backers of the book, 40% to the author, and 10% to Pentian.)

It’s a new publishing platform that works. Risky projects (such as mine), get published and marketed just like any other title if they can get public backing that proves there’s an audience for the title. Investors win, Pentian wins, and I win.

And most of all, young adult readers will win. My book, entitled The Play’s The Thing (naturally) will contain one essay per play. It’s going to be smart but non-academic, funny and interesting and informal and readable, and will show reluctant readers (of all ages really) that the things that concerned Shakespeare – love won and lost, parents and children, how power is won and lost – are our, are their concerns as well. (And the book’s illustrations, done by well-known comic book artist John Rauch will only add to the book’s appeal)

As I write in my introduction:

“…the problem for so many of us is that Shakespeare has become so “classic,” so much a writer to be studied but not enjoyed, whose characters talk funny and can be difficult to understand, that the sheer enjoyment to be found in reading Shakespeare, in becoming acquainted with his characters, in learning the brilliance of his language has been lost.

The goal of this guide, then, is to turn Shakespeare from somebody you have to read into somebody that you want to read.”

If you’re interested in becoming part of the project, click here.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.