Authors of adult fiction genres are targeting self-sustaining adults. Adults have credit cards, and can buy ebooks or physical copies online at their discretion. But what if you write YA for teenagers?
Teens typically don’t have a credit card at their disposal for purchases—they rely on their parents to approve and supply funds for the titles they want, or schools and public libraries to provide free access to fiction. Teenagers get most of their book recommendations by word of mouth from their peers, or from book blogs, but mostly from looking on library shelves. Teenagers also like print books—recent surveys suggest that more than 60% of teens simply prefer physical books, and fewer than 25% own an ereader. They have high expectations for their fiction, and demand a good story.
So what does all this mean for indie authors of YA fiction? Here’s a few suggestions for how to self-publish young adult fiction.
Write a Great Book
This is number one. Contrary to what some people believe, writing for teens isn’t "easier" than writing for adults—in fact, it’s often much harder. Teenagers are very savvy readers. They can spot plot holes a mile away, and they expect something to happen on every page. They are aware of whether the teen protagonist voice in your fiction sounds authentic, and they can tell if you are "writing down" to them. Teens also share recommendations, read reviews on sites like Goodreads, and aren’t shy about voicing their opinion on titles.
Make sure you write the best possible book for this demanding audience. Figure out your favourite YA authors and check their blogs for tips on writing for Young Adults. Most importantly, read widely in the category to determine standards, styles, and plots that have already been done to death.
Create a Print Copy
Most YA sales in the traditional publishing market are via hardcopy. For indie authors trying to self-publish young adult fiction and access the YA market, physical copies are a must.
Make sure your book is professionally edited and laid out—don’t slack off on the fine details. Teenagers like an attractive product as much as adult readers, and they notice font, print size, and margins. They also like great covers—in fact, teens cite effective cover design as one of the most important factors for book selection. Make sure your cover is eye-catching and professional, reflects the story inside, has great backcover copy, and appeals specifically to teens (featuring adults prominently on the cover of a YA book is obviously a no-no). Have a look through the latest bestsellers in YA fiction, and you’ll notice how beautiful and innovative YA cover design can be.
Supply to Libraries
Price and ease of access are two major factors in teen preferences for print. If you want to reach your target audience, you need to make your book inexpensive and readily available—and that means libraries.
Self-published books were once rejected by libraries, but as the quality of print on demand (POD) books has increased, that attitude is changing. It can still be a challenge to get your title noticed by librarians. The best ways to do it are by:
- contacting individual libraries
- making your title available through library vendors
- getting reputable reviews
Contacting libraries is good for building relationships, and a way to make librarians aware that your book exists. Then make sure you have your book accessible to vendors: libraries (public and school) buy for their collections from library suppliers and library vendor catalogues. For new acquisitions, library buyers often rely on positive reviews from recognised publications. This article lists some publications in North America—you can google to find other publications in your own country.
More than 50% of teenagers own a library card, so it’s definitely worth it.
Check Your Book Metadata
Both bookstores and libraries require good metadata for their POD purchases. We’ve already discussed the importance of a good cover. Now it’s up to you to make sure your BISAC or Thema subject codes are on target, your book description is accurate, you are specific about the recommended age range, and your regional information is listed appropriately.
Have an Online Presence
Teens are media savvy, and expect YA authors to have presence on social media platforms. Choose the platforms that feel comfortable to you—if YouTube and Snapchat aren’t your style, stick to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest (or vice versa). Teens who have limited social media access will often sign up for a newsletter. Some YA authors have had success by promoting free excerpts on Wattpad. Try out different platforms and find out what works for you. Be yourself—above all, teen readers like genuine interaction and sincerity.
I hope this has helped you feel more comfortable with how to self-publish young adult fiction. Cracking the teenage market is challenging for indie authors, but writing for teens is hugely satisfying—and a lot of fun.