Saturday, July 9, 2016

Indie Publishing for Young Adults?

One of the questions I frequently get is, "I want to write for the Young Adult market. Is self publishing a good option?"

In a word, "No".

Let's begin with a couple of realities:
Indie publishing is dominated by ebooks.
Young adults and middle-graders like print books.

Yes, there are exceptions, but let's not waste one another's time with tales of our brother's sister-in-law's niece who is addicted to ebooks, or the indie author who hit it big. The reality of the market is that print is king in young adult. Heck, "king" doesn't begin to describe it. Emperor Pope Elvis, maybe?

During a recent YA literature panel at Thrillerfest, popular YA authors shared their own experiences, which are consistent with this trend. All agreed that their ebook sales make up a disproportionately low percentage compared to overall market demographics, and that their ebook readership is comprised almost entirely of adults.

This might seem strange. I mean, kids love technology. They love their phones. Many love reading on Wattpad, or will voraciously read fan fiction online. So what gives?

A few possibilities:
You need a credit card to set up an account with all the major ebook sellers.
Fanfic and Wattpad are free. For a kid with little money, borrowing from the library, receiving books as gifts, or using gift money to buy bargain books is the way to go.
School libraries, classroom libraries, and book fairs help shape reading tastes, and get kids into the habit of reading print books.
It's fun to snap a pic of your new book purchase and share it on Instagram. Not so much with your new ebook purchase.
Ebooks are great formats for story delivery, but as a memento of the reading experience, they lack something. There's something special about owning a favorite book in print, and it's even more special if it's the actual copy you read the first time. Kids, in particular, love owning a tangible reminder of the way they felt when they read a beloved story for the first time.

So what does this mean for us?

If your goal is to sell stories to the young adult market, neither self-publishing nor small/mid-size press are likely to help you achieve your goals. You aren't likely to get into school libraries without reviews in professional trade journals. Book fairs won't carry your books. You might manage to schedule some school appearances, but the barriers are much lower with an established publisher.

Many independent publishers will publish YA books, but few deliver results. If you're considering a publisher, check your local bookstores and libraries and see if their books are on the shelves. Check the Amazon rankings of their titles and see if they're selling. See if any of the teen readers you know have heard of any of their authors or titles. The answer to all of those is likely to be "No." I know this is harsh, but I know too many authors who ended up disappointed because their self/indie press-published YA/Middle Grades/New Adult book(s) didn't reach their target audience.

Many adults read and enjoy stories aimed at the YA market, so it's possible that you could succeed in selling to those readers, but if you want to sell your books to teens and young adults, the "traditional" route remains the way to go.

On the positive side, new YA authors are being signed and published all the time. Study the market, research literary agents, and follow best submission practices.

Good luck and keep writing!

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