Hanna Lafferty ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Book Editor
The NYC Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association sponsored a panel about digital strategies for interacting with readers of Young Adult Fiction. The moderator for the panel was Professor Manuela Soares, Pace University’s Lecturer and Director of the Graduate Seminar. Panel members included Arthur A. Levine of Arthur A. Levine Books, an Imprint of Scholastic Inc.; Alaya Dawn Johnson, author of The Summer Prince, and promoting her new book Love is the Drug; Cheryl Klein, the Executive Editor of Arthur A. Levine Books; Jeffrey Yamaguchi, the Director of Digital Marketing at Abrams Book; Carolyn Mackler, author of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things and cowrote The Future of Us; and Jennifer Hubert Swan, the Middle School Librarian and Librarian Department Chair for L.R.E.I and the author of the reviews-for-teens website, Reading Rants.
The panel discussed the importance of building a relationship with YA readers, and how the use of digital space has become the most obvious place to connect with teen and adult readers of YA fiction. Yamaguchi found that the most important feature of being accessible online is how easy it is to share knowledge and enthusiasm, citing the recent rise of BookTubers as an example of the creativity and passion readers have for YA. Social media has become one of the largest and most sensible places to connect with readers, says Mackler, but it can be overwhelming for authors to manage. Mackler found that when an author personally advocates their book over social media, they are really trying to sell themselves, which can be an enormous undertaking.
Levine explained that not all authors feel comfortable putting themselves out there in social media, but with a strong marketing team, a constant social media presence will be less of a struggle. A marketing department’s job is to find the communities where teen readers are congregating to discuss a particular genre or phenomenon that relates to the novel, and promote the book through that community. Adult fans of YA (such as librarians and parents) have become instrumental as “taste-makers”for what teens are reading. Levine explained that the concepts to marketing novels isn’t new, but the tools for broadening an author’s voice in the YA space are more effective than ever.
Johnson and Mackler both agreed that they don’t feel as comfortable on social media as other authors do, but teens aren’t looking for entertainment when it comes to interacting with authors online, but authenticity. Yamaguchi believes that the most important thing for an author is to find their niche in social media, and stand out. “It’s a creative exercise in finding your comfort level with your fans,”he said.
Klein said she started blogging and tweeting because she was passionate about children’s literature and on helping authors improve their writing in that genre. “Through my blog, I created my book,”she said. The social networking world will continue to evolve and move from platform to platform, but it should always be used as an opportunity to connect with fans and other authors. In order to make their authors more comfortable with social networking, said Yamaguchi, Abrams Books had a Digital Day where authors could attend sessions run by GoodReads and Tumblr on how to keep their connections going in the long-term. He stressed that authors shouldn’t be worried about what kind of platform they used as long as they were using it with the same creativity that was used for the novels.
Mackler found that the most manageable way to stay on top of social media was to pick only a few platforms and stay current. “You want to be Googleable and not dead,”she said. Professor Soares ended the session with the thought that there is a lot of room for the different types of writers on the online space; “each project or book requires it’s own approach.”