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Scroll the feed on Instagram and you’ll come to a few conclusions. They might be: she definitely shouldn’t be wearing that, is that dude out of his mind, and holy batman young adults love their books. I follow more than a few book addicts on Instagram and they all happen to be ones who are obsessed with taking pictures of their bookshelves, rather than their freckled faces. When was the last time that you saw Helen, the retired widow, arranging her books in the garden so she could take a pretty picture to post on social media? So what’s my point? It’s that we need to be catering to this hungry market. Young adults crave the actual pages of books. They use the hashtag for cover love more than anyone else. Young adult fantasy is especially hot right now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. And if we know this knowledge, then we might should be using it. 

When I was a young adult, I didn’t think I liked to read. Stop gasping and listen to me. It’s because the books I was forced to read were Heart of Darkness and Frankenstein. Now before you forever loathe me for complaining about being exposed to classic literature, please hear me out. While those novels are amazing in their own way, they aren’t something relatable for a young adult. I know, you’re shocked, I’ve never, not once, sailed down the Congo. It wasn’t until later that I accidentally picked up a young adult novel that I fell in love with books. I remember the exact moment. It was like Prince Charming walked into the room and I was instantly in love. That passion for young adult literature then grew and now I read books of all genres. However, too often I think we force the classics before we’ve hooked the young reader. I think we cater to the adult readers, not realizing that it’s the teens of the world that are going to break down doors to get a fresh paperbacks. They are obsessed with covers. Obsessed with collecting spicy fantasy novels. And most importantly, they are consumers who have decades of reading ahead of them.

Having written five young adult and new adult series, I’ll claim to know a little bit about the genre. New adult is this relatively recent category that is just starting to emerge. It has less rules than young adult and is relatable to a larger audience. However, I will disclose that most of the readers of my young adult series are thirty-something-year-old women.  The reason for the wide appeal is that young adult characters have more potentials and I’ve polled readers and found there’s an irresistible draw to that. It’s fun when a character is still developing and doesn’t know who they are, what they want or who they love. The key to good young adult fiction is exploring these potentials. And the key to happy readers is to find the stories that they can relate to, while also creating surprising potentials. Finally, because I like sets of three, the key to success for authors, libraries and retailers is tapping into this hungry market. Hooking the young and young at heart readers is a great strategy. From my experience there aren’t more loyal followers than those who post their TBR lists on social media. 

I keep hearing a rumor that the book market is over saturated. Honestly, I can’t find relevant data to support this. If my Instagram feed serves as antidotal evidence then young adults actually don’t have enough books. If I see another picture in my feed of the Harry Potter series with a newly released cover then I’m chunking my phone across the room. #coverlove

 

by Sarah Noffke  (TopShelf Columnist)

Twitter @RealSarahNoffke / SarahNoffke.com