This week marks the Midwinter American Library Association (ALA) meeting. Librarians are crucial to the success of YA literature. (Well that and writing about werewolves and/or vampires, but I digress.)
Writing for adults
The first five books I published were novels for adults. Then I wrote a thriller, Shock Point, with a 16 year old protagonist. My agent, who represents a lot of YA authors, said it was really a novel for teens. And publishers agreed - the book was ultimately sold to Putnam.
When you write books for adults, there are many factors that might affect their success: cover design, pre-publication reviews in places like Publishers Weekly, reviews in newspapers and magazines, book tours, word-of-mouth, and librarian interest.
But when you write books for teens, the most important factor in your success is librarian love. Sure, the other things I mentioned are important (although good luck getting reviews for YA books in newspapers and magazines), but librarians can make a big difference by showing your book some love.
Why? One big reason is YALSA - the Young Adult Library Services Association. At Midwinter ALA, YALSA will be naming the teen books chosen for lists like Quick Picks (books that appeal to even reluctant readers) and Best Fiction for Young Adults. (And my latest - Girl, Stolen - is up for both!) These lists help your book get noticed by even more librarians - who spread the word to the teens they work with.
YA librarians also give out awards, like the Printz Award (other librarians give out awards, like the Newberry and the Caldecott, for younger readers). These awards are also noticed by booksellers.
Librarian love can help your book land on a state list. When Shock Point was named to Texas Taysha’s list, it nearly doubled sales. Doubled!
School librarians help pick which authors make school visits, which can help writers supplement their income. Authors are paid to do school visits (which I didn’t actually believe at first, as adult authors are rarely paid to make appearances). But librarians know that meeting a real live author and hearing about where they get their ideas, how they do their research, and how much their editors make them rewrite can inspire teens to be better writers.
More reasons to love librarians
In addition, librarians support intellectual freedom. They love books, and if a teen tell a librarian, “I like this book,” the librarian can immediately name a dozen other books the teen might like. And librarians love authors. So many authors have had a bad day turned around by a librarian dropping them a note about their books. Authors appreciate that librarians think what we do matters. And we know that what they do matters.