Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Secrets to Self-Publishing Young Adult Books Successfully

By S.R. Johannes, @srjohannes

Part of the Indie Authors Series

In 2014, Young adults book sales were up over 20% and adult book sales were down 3%. Young adult books are hotter than ever. Many think YA books dumb down or are easy to write, but this in not the case. Teens today are smart and we authors write for them. YA books have challenges in reaching readers just like any other genres.

To date, I have sold about 80,000 ebooks of my YA novel. Many authors who are interested in writing YA books ask me: "how did I do it?" and "where did I start?". If you have the right book, marketing strategy, cover design, and connection with young readers, self-publishing a YA book can be a successful and rewarding experience! But it is not easy.

Here are some things to think about if you want to self-pub a YA successfully!

1. Get the right idea

Be sure to look at other successful YA books and note the genre. Not all YA books are successful as self-pubbed books. See what is hot and see if you have an idea that is on trend with teens. For example, I think contemporary romance, fantasy, paranormal is all great genres to write for this audience. However, straight up thrillers, historical fiction, and sci-fi are harder sells. There are always the exceptions but this tends to be the general trend right now.

2. Perfect your teen voice

Did you know that about 60% of YA fiction is written in the first person and present tense? You need to make sure teens can identify with your character. Trust me, they can spot a phony a mile away. When writing for teens, you need to immerse yourself in the pop culture and learn about the way teens think today. What issues do they face? How do they talk? What is important to them? Make sure you are speaking the teen language so they can connect. Not everyone can tap into his/her inner teen so make sure your voice fits this market.

3. Make sure you stay current

What do teens like? Make sure your book addresses today's issues, fashions, and trends. You do not want to date your book to a specific time (unless it is core to the story) but you also don't want to mention outdated things either. You want to make sure you connect to the teen culture so they can relate to the character and themes more.

4. Keep up the pace

Where adult books include tons of backstory and setting, teen books are shorter and run at a faster pace. In general, teens have a shorter attention span than adults so the pacing can be critical. Keep the story moving. Make sure it doesn't drag. Teens LOVE page-turners. That can be for romance as well as thrillers. Take a look at Goodreads, the most common comment I see is "I could not put this book down!".

5. A little romance goes a long way

Obviously not all books need a romance. You don't have to include a romance to keep a teen interested in your book. BUT obviously teens are going through major hormonal changes and many have their first loves in high school. In my experience, most of the girl readers tend to like a good romance involved in the story. It does not have to be a major theme nor does it have to be a bad boy or dysfunctional triangle. However, a cute boy or great girl can go a long way. If it works in your story, a little lovin' can never hurt.

6. Create a book design that appeals to teens

Make sure you choose a cover that appeals to the teen audience. Look at successful books in the teen market to see what the cover look like. For teens, right now, any girl or girl's face on the cover is always good. Sometimes a young boy image will work. Symbols and scenes do not seem as effective. Of course, the cover needs to match the book and its themes, but be sure it appeals to teens and shows the things teens care about.

7. Develop a marketing plan that includes a crossover audience

According the recent polls, 60% of YA readers are over the age of 18, most being between 30-45. Young Adult books are not just for teens anymore! When you’re deciding on ways to promote your books, you may want to look at adult audiences as well. Librarians, teachers, and parents are all avid readers. If you’re reaching out to young adults and adults alike, your book has a better chance of being read even more! Not to mention your fan base will grow like crazy.

8. Hang out where teens hang out

Did you know that 70% of teens still use Facebook? Teens know how to use various social media sites extremely well, and if you’re out there on a regular basis pumping up your book release, they’re going to be excited about it!

Hope these help you figure out what you need to do to make sure you write a YA book that appeals to teens and some tools to help you make it successful.

S.R. Johannes is the award-winning author of the Amazon bestselling Nature of Grace thriller series (Untraceable, Uncontrollable, and Unstoppable). She's a winner of the IndieReader Discovery Award in YA, an IPPY a Silver Medalist for YA Fiction, a Finalist in The Kindle Book Review's Best Young Adult Fiction, and a Finalist in US Book News Best YA Book.

Since leaving Corporate America, she has followed her passion for writing and conservation by working with The Dolphin Project, the Atlanta Zoo, other animal rescue organizations, and by weaving conservation themes into her books.

She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her dog, English-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world.

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  1. I'm going to have to pick through this post in detail several times.

    I have two YA projects at the moment. One is self-published, a steampunk fantasy series called Lady Raven, about a girl who's mother is accused of treason, so she becomes an outlaw to save her. The other is a book I'm querying to agents right now, called First Ride, which is a modern-day horror/paranormal series about a mother and daughter who hunt monsters.

    But I write 3rd-person past tense, and my strengths lie in action and dialogue. I'm trying to focus on my protagonists as proactive heroes, so there's much more plot and a lot less focus on romance. I think there's a point in most fiction where male audiences get to keep enjoying the action and adventure, while girls are expected to read more "mature" things, and I'm trying to counter that. I'm not sure how well girl-oriented action is selling, unless there's a heavy romance factor.

  2. Great advice! I absolutely love all of Sarah Dessen's covers. Very girly, but hey, I'm a girl!