Happy New Year readers! I've been away from my office for weeks, I've trudged through the snow, I'm back at my desk, and I'm starting off 2010 with a guest post by Greg Pincus.
Greg's guest post was sparked by a comment he left on Jane Friedman's There are No Rules blog which I asked him to expand on. (Click here to read the post and the comments.)
Read on–and please leave comments yourself if you can offer advice about reaching an audience of young readers online...
If you’re an author or illustrator who’s blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking or using other social networks to build your platform, you need to think strategically about who you’re going to reach online and how you’re going to do it.
Some choices are easy–you’re not likely to use LinkedIn to appeal to the kids who read your picture books. But if you write YA, in particular, you often have to make some more complex choices since your potential readership is actually online…and in large numbers.
Teens, however, don’t use the web the way adults do. As a result, most author/illustrator blogs and websites don’t attract teenage readers unless the author is already known to them. Twitter connections follow a similar pattern.
This means that if you’re offering up a “this is my journey” or writing advice or book review blog or just tweeting as as yourself, you should focus on appealing to the gatekeepers rather than teen readers. If you want to reach your core readership, you need to consider building a community around a central idea or offering up interactivity that your potential readers want and can’t replicate elsewhere. Some examples:
- Author P.J. Haarsma built a game which attracted a huge audience that became the core supporters of his books. The game community helped test storylines and championed the books to their friends, too.
- The women behind Readergirlz have built a community around authors, books, and reading. The site is a destination offering interactivity, changing content, and projects that involve offline participation, as well. While the site is not directly about the Readergirlz “divas” themselves, the connection to the readers still exists for them individually as well as collectively.
- Finding underserved, pre-existing communities can be an effective path to having a teen readership, as Lee Wind has done with his blog I’m Here. I’m Queer. Now What the Hell Do I Read?. Again, the community here is not directly about Lee’s writing… and it’s a mix of gatekeepers and teens.
There are great success stories with authors connecting with their readers via social media. Ellen Hopkins’ use of MySpace and John Green’s use of videos and Twitter–where he has over 1,000,000 followers including members of his core audience–are two notable examples. For most of us, however, social media remains a difficult way to connect to a large network of teen (or younger) readers.
There are many good resources for learning how teens use the Internet. A good place to start is with the work of danah boyd and by looking at sites that already work.
Have you had success reaching your core readership online? Do you know other good ways to attract teen readers? I’d love to hear about them as, I suspect, would everyone else trying to reach them.
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