Young adult fiction is not an easy sell. These days, because there’s so much choice, it’s hard to know what to read next. From an author’s perspective, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find new readers because no one often has time to consider reading books from someone they’ve never heard of–much less buying said books from an unknown author/publisher! From selling online to selling at conventions to being a young adult fiction reader myself, here’s what I’ve learned about reading and buying habits.
1. You have probably seen the novel around. A lot.
In 2011, Smashwords posted a survey at MobileReads to find out how readers discovered new books. The response was interesting: 29% of readers discovered books because their peers were talking about it on online platforms. Imagine–you, trusting a stranger’s opinion about a book that you might like! Note that 71% responders did select another option, but 29% was a large chunk of the response pie.
Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, book blogs–these are all places that young adult fiction readers rave about their books online. I belong to a lot of Facebook groups and I’m Facebook friends with some authors, so I see all manner of books every day. Would I read all of them? Definitely not. Some of them are not to my taste. But if I continued to see them on Facebook, on Goodreads, and on Twitter? I might go to the Amazon page and look up the reviews. I might even check out the author’s website to see what they’re all about. And these are all things that a potential buyer would do before making a decision to purchase.
2. Your friends are raving about it.
Even though only 4% of responders to the Smashwords survey said that they buy/read books their friends recommend, remember that the survey was tailored to eBook readers. I have a feeling that physical books are different in this respect, especially for teen readers. Example: you’re at school, or the workplace, and you see your friend or co-worker reading a book. You start chatting about it, and your friend recommends it to you. Perhaps they will lend you the book when they’re done with it. If your friend has similar tastes as you, and gave it a good review, there’s a chance you just might read the book–especially if you’ve already got it in your hands.
3. “If you bought this young adult novel, you’ll like this…”
I’m sure some of us have fallen for this trick. I’ve fallen for it.
A few years ago I was really into buying books from Amazon. It was like Christmas, having books delivered straight to your door! So I was on my account, putting books in my shopping cart, and I was just under the $25 limit. Only a few more dollars, and I could have free shipping! A list of books similar to the ones I’ve bought comes up, and I spot a book called Princess Ben. I laughed, as this was my then-boyfriend’s name (just Ben, not Princess Ben. Lol!). So into the shopping cart it went. When it showed up, I read it and was pleasantly surprised how much I loved it.
4. You’ve met the author.
Sometimes it’s hard not to get starstruck when you meet an author. While from the author’s perspective, we might be thinking, “All I did was put pretty words on paper in a pleasing order and have it published!” as a reader, we’re thinking, “You created feelings inside me I never knew I could feel!” There’s also the kind of starstruck feeling one gets from meeting a creative person who has done something cool, and all of these feelings can culminate in a sale–even if the potential buyer doesn’t know you personally.
When I went to KeyCon in Winnipeg last month, I had my own table in the dealer’s room. The table wasn’t horribly expensive, but there’s always a fear that you won’t sell anything. And I had other expenses for the weekend as well–hotel costs, travel costs, food costs, etc. I had no idea if I’d sell two books or a hundred. As an unknown author in a city that was not my own, I had low expectations.
But actually being there, in person, pitching your book, makes it hard to resist the sale. People approached my table and chatted with me for a long while, as they examined my books. I ended up selling way more than I thought I would, not just because I was there and my books are pretty (though probably this helped), but because I chatted with everyone. And sometimes if the author is friendly or nice–or if you feel like you’ve connected with them–this will influence your buying decision.
5. The YA novel is part of a series
The first book of a series will always be a staple seller. Why? It’s the calling card for the rest of your series. If people really like Stars In Her Eyes, then they’re probably going to like Dreams In Her Head.
I’m pretty anal when it comes to my books. If I’ve bought the first book in hardcover, I like to have the second and third books in hardcover as well. If the first book in the YA book series is on Kindle, well, all the books will be on Kindle!
Some people like to wait until more books in the young adult fiction series are published before picking them up–that way they don’t have to wait forever between reading the books.
Love young adult fiction?
So do I. So much so that I write and publish it. Go figure! Read about teens with superpowers trapped in a university run by aliens, explore a Cinderella fairy tale fantasy world where the well-to-do live on the surface, and the poor live underground, and watch your back in a Canadian town–there’s a psychotic murderer on the loose.
How about you? What influences what you read and buy?