In a crowded market, it can be difficult for a budding YA author to make a name for themselves. Here are a few tips to help you become the next J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins.
Have An Original Idea
What do Twilight, the Hunger Games and Harry Potter all have in common? They all came up with a relatively new idea and, in doing so, started a trend.
The YA genre tends to have trends where one author will become popular and others will try to cash in on the trend. The Hunger Games trilogy was a good example of this. After the original series came out, you couldn’t pass by the Young Adult section in any bookstore without seeing at least a dozen novels about young rebels bravely overthrowing an oppressive, futuristic government.
Most of those books, however, didn’t make it too far. Some of them were popular for a brief time, but now – less than a decade later – it would be difficult to name any of them besides the series that started the trend.
Just because the newest YA trend is popular, doesn’t mean the author who follows it will become popular. Following the latest popular YA trend may attract a modest audience, but starting a new trend will ensure that you’ll be remembered as an author. Don’t be afraid to break the mold.
Relatability Is Key To Becoming Popular
As an author in the YA genre, you’ll be writing for a mostly teenage audience. If your book gets popular enough, you may find that your YA book appeals to children or adults as well, but your main demographic here is the high-school/middle-school crowd.
If you want your YA novel to be popular with this crowd, you’ll have to tap into their mindset – what they want, what they believe, what they fear.
One thing you probably shouldn’t do is try to relate to your audience using stereotypes of young people or images of teenagers in popular culture. There’s nothing more cringeworthy or embarrassing than a grown-up author making an obvious, painfully inept attempt to “relate to” the younger generation.
So don’t rely on popular stereotypes. Talk to teenagers you know. Try to call up your own specific memories of being fifteen or sixteen. However old you may be, the perils of adolescence haven’t changed as much as it may seem.
If you can tap into the inner life of one adolescent, your audience can sympathize with your protagonist. If you based them off a vague concept of “What Adolescents Are Like,” this may not be the case.
Don’t Assume Your Audience Is Stupid
As in any market of fiction, appealing to the lowest common denominator in YA is a good way for an author to get popular for a brief spurt of time. The catch is that the author risks being completely forgotten three months later.
If you think your audience will fall for the easy tricks in the YA genre – wish fulfillment, imitating popular books, or standard YA cliches – they probably will for a while. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll make a lasting impression on them as an author, or that they’ll remember you when the next popular YA trend starts.
Don’t assume your audience is stupid just because they’re young. Give your budding YA novel the same respect and effort you would if you were writing for adults, and don’t worry if your audience will understand your attempts at foreshadowing or the conflict between the villains. A good author trusts their audience.
In a genre as crowded as the YA genre, it can be difficult for a new author to become popular. And many YA books that do become popular won’t stay popular for long. If you really want to make it big as a YA author, you’ll have to strike a balance between getting popular quickly and being remembered.