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How To Connect With Teen Readers


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I'll tell you up front that Thomas Umstattd Jr. says something that's pretty damning, and he's not wrong.
https://www.authormedia.com/how-to-connect-with-teen-readers-a-coaching-call-with-a-pre-published-ya-novelist/

This is one section of a wide-ranging interview. It's worth reading the whole thing.
 

Quote

 

Do traditional Christian publishers want YA novels?

Thomas: I’ll just tell you straight up, there’s no real market for Christian Y.A. because, without exception, Christian publishers do not know how to connect with teenagers. None of them have it figured out. Occasionally, they’ll take a shot, but in the last ten years, they’ve had zero hits.

In the secular world, there’s been Twilight, Divergence, and Harry Potter. In the Christian Y.A. world, there have been zero hits. A few books have paid for themselves, but there have been no runaway hits made into a movie. Christian publishing has had hits like Left Behind and The Purpose Driven Life, but nothing big in YA.

I think it’s because Christian publishers fundamentally misunderstand the teenagers they’re writing to. They’re writing to teenagers as they want them to exist rather than as they really do exist.

Authors who see the best sales in the YA genre have embraced the homeschool market. They’re quietly making good money, but they’re often doing it as an independently published author because the traditional publishers don’t understand the homeschool market. They don’t market to it well. I’m willing to be convinced that there are some exceptions, but I have not seen them yet.

Authors who do well in the homeschool market have connected themselves to the homeschool market. They don’t depend on traditional publishers to do it for them.

It sounds like you’re trying to build this website in order to build a platform to get a publisher interested. Having a platform is even more important for you because the publishers have no idea how to connect to the kids. Older people are running these big publishing companies, and they don’t know how to connect.

You’ll have to use raw numbers to prove you have readers interested. The best raw number to show a publisher is the number of email addresses you have.

But how much do kids use email? People don’t tend to do email much until they have a job. Once they have a job, especially a sit-down job where they’re in front of their computer all the time, that’s when email becomes magical. Your typical ebook reader has a desk job, and they’re in front of a computer all day. Emailing those readers is a powerful sales strategy. I’m not convinced that email is as good with teenagers. It’s good, but it’s not a golden ticket.

It’s really hard to become an influencer, especially a cross-generational influencer. Instead of becoming an influencer yourself, go the indie publishing route and sponsor the influential teens who already have 100,000 followers on TikTok. Somebody with 100,000 followers on TikTok is not making any money. If you approach that person and offer to pay them $50 to do a TikTok about your book, they’ll probably be thrilled. You may be the first person to reach out and offer to pay them. On TikTok, 100,000 followers isn’t enough to interest big advertisers, but it’s plenty to interest you.

If you’re targeting homeschoolers, the TikTok influencers need to have a homeschool audience. I know it hurts to narrow your target audience because you want to reach all teenagers, but you need to reach kids who won’t shut up about your book. The only way to get there is to pick which group you’re going to thrill.

 

 

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Oh, I love this! It rings true, and I can ask my kids to find me some of these TikTok kids to promote my teen book I'm putting soon.

Yes, if you want to write for kids and make a decent amount of sales, write something kids like and their homeschool moms want to buy for them. They get that *anything* that doesn't destroy their virtue but gets them to enjoy reading is a very good thing. To be a homeschool mom is to spend an extraordinary amount on books. You should see my house

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My wife tells me that fifth-graders are reading Lord of the Rings.

 

In high school, along with the dystopian stuff like Divergence, they're reading Animal Farm.  Divergence didn't mean much to my sons, but Animal Farm sure did.

 

While Christian publishers are failing to capture the youth market, the secular publishers are dumbing down their work, and filling the gaps with pointless titillation.

 

And now, because of COVID, the homeschool market is exploding from what I hear.

 

Interesting tactic on the TikToc marketing tactic.  That's something I'll have to keep in mind.  Thanks for the post!

 

 

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That's a great way to reach out to teen readers! I'm in the same boat with trying to write books that are geared towards them, but I still have a hard time trying to do that even though I'm a teen. Thanks for this! 😄

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25 minutes ago, Ky_GirlatHeart said:

That's a great way to reach out to teen readers! I'm in the same boat with trying to write books that are geared towards them, but I still have a hard time trying to do that even though I'm a teen. Thanks for this! 😄

 

I looked up a homeschool association in my state.  They were a Christian organization.  At their expo, an author was participating who looked to be a teen.

 

I'm thinking that this might be a good place to push your books.

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6 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

At their expo, an author was participating who looked to be a teen.

 

I'm thinking that this might be a good place to push your books.

Oh, my, I've totally got to do this, but first I'll need a chunk of change to rent a booth and have physical books on hand!

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