Connecting Online with YA Readers (part 2)

epic fail photos - Parenting FAIL
**Note: I’m about to rant some…   Plus I talk in circles.   Sorry…  The thing is, like the poor mommy in the picture above, my feelings on this topic are split.

After reading this post by Hannah Moskowitz, I was prompted to take my own recent blog post about YA readers online a step further.  Read her post, then come back here. (BTW, YA = young adult)

Finished?  Okay.

First, I agree with Mokowitz’s point — YA authors are more focused on each other than the teenagers we supposedly write for.

And this really ticks me off.  My poor husband has to hear me be-otch about it all the time.  It feel like we YA writers are writing stories for ourselves and rather than the high school audience we claim to write for.

Why do I think feel this way? Because:

  1. YA writers (both published and unpubbed) are connecting with each other through online mediums that our age group and our colleagues connect: Twitter, blogs, and online writing communities.  Like I pointed out in my post two week ago, teenagers aren’t hanging out where we hang out (this excludes the teenage writers, of course).  We aren’t connecting with them through the web — we’re connecting with other writers.  Because of this, it feels like (in my very humble, very ignorant, lower-than-low opinion) we don’t care about our true target audience anymore.
  2. The YA writing community is “clique -y”.  It’s like I’m back in high school — I’m trying to pretend I don’t care that the popular writers don’t hang out on my blog the cool kids don’t invite me to their parties or the YA agents don’t tweet me back the prom king doesn’t know I exist.  I pretty much hated high school because of the exclusivity and the constant need to impress.  And yes, I realize I feel that way because I wasn’t in the exclusive crowd and I impressed no one and that made me a bitter 15-year-old.  And now I’m a bitter 26-year-old who feels like I’m being rejected all over again.  Bleh.

But, on the flip side of this coin, I LOVE the YA writing community for the very same reasons.

  1. YA writers connect with each other!  They tweet, they blog, they comment, and they support.  That’s pretty cool.  AND, keep in mind, a huge portion of YA-readers are actually adults.  So, is it really so bad to be connecting with other people who, because they write what you write, are likely to read what you write too?  Is is so bad to make the hero a guy we would want rather than the guy a modern 15-year-old would want?  Hmmm…
  2. The YA writing community is tight-knit.  When one of us gets an agent, our team of YA-writing-cheerleaders is there to SQUEE with us.  When there’s a release day coming up, we know our fellow YA writers will be the ones pre-ordering our novel and coming to the celebration events.  That’s awesome!

So, while part of me is frustrated with the YA writing community for bringing all my teenage insecurities to the surface (do they like me?  will they hang out with me at SCBWI?  am I cool enough to get a blog comment?), part of me adores the YA writing community for their comments, their blogs, their tweets, and their support.

That said, there’s a lesson to be learned here: we’re drifting away from our target audience the more we connect with only each other. And that makes me kinda sad — especially because, I’m not sure there’s a solution.

When I was a teenager, my friends and I didn’t care about the author or connecting with the author.  We just cared about the books and when the next one would come out.  Heck, I didn’t start caring about the writer-behind-the-book until I became a “serious” writer myself.

So I’m gonna take a tip from the science fiction/fantasy writing community (another group of tight-knit, supportive writers but who operate in a less clique-y manner). What I see happening in that niche of the writing world is this:

  • If my goal is to write the best book I can, then that’s what I’ll do.
  • I’ll connect with writers as I travel the road towards publication.
  • I’ll support other writers because I enjoy their work (not simply because they write YA like me), and because I want to help them succeed.
  • And I’ll hang out with my cousins teenagers because it’s fun (not because I want them to buy my book).

Anyone else have any thoughts?  Arguments or agreements?  Do you see similarities in other genre communities?  Or stark differences?

On a side not, anyone going to DragonCon?  I wish I still lived in the US just for DragonCon.  ::sigh::