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Self-Publishing Young Adult Fiction: An Indie Authors Guide to YA Success by SR Johannes

self publishing YA writerAccording to Galley Cat, the most current American Publishers Association research suggests there has been a 41% percent increase in children’s and young adult sales for the first ½ of 2012, followed by adult fiction at 8.5%.

Since the boom of Harry Potter over a decade ago, the children’s market has been growing at a faster rate than any book market. A few years later, the Twilight craze put the young adult market on the map of publishing. All ages began to see that books in the children’s market – especially YA – are just as good as in the adult market.

Now, more YA books are being made and more people are reading YA. In a recent Bowker’s recent study, they found that 55% of the buyers of YA books — are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44.

There has been much debate on why this is. Some skeptics believe the increases in the YA market and the number of adults reading YA are a negative sign that our adult brains are diminishing into mush. What such critics seem to forget is that many of the “literary classics” have now been reclassified as a “children's books”, including Lord of the Rings, Catcher in the Rye, and The Giver among others.

So, why is the YA market still booming and why are adults reading more in this genre? The adult readers would simply say YA books are better. That, in general, YA tends to be more focused on the story and character development than, for example, demonstrating how the author excels at vocabulary choices.

Based on my reading and my own observation, I think the overall growth can be attributed to several reasons:

  1. More parents (adults) reading YA. Maybe this is because we are trying to connect with our kids more.  Or, maybe because we just enjoy them more. Maybe with the struggle to find time to read, we turn to YA because they are fast-paced and generally tend to be a lighter and shorter than most adult books. Maybe we just want to connect with that teen inside of us. No matter the reason, adult readership is up 50% in the YA market.
  2. More books available to teens. No matter what genre you prefer, it is no longer hard to find comparable books to read. The plethra of choices encourages kids to continue reading when they find a genre they love. For example: if you liked Twilight, try Rashelle Workman’s Blood and Snow series. If you liked Hunger Games or Elana Johnson’s Possession, try Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn. If you like a good James Patterson’s contemporary thriller, try Untraceable.
  3. More series. Almost every book nowadays seems to have a Book Two in the works as soon as it appears. A series grabs teens because they can follow their favorite characters and favorite authors. Addison Moore’s Celestra series, for example, is now on Book Seven and doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.
  4. More relatable to teens. Books seem to address current issues in a teen’s life and in their world. Kids today have to hear and deal with serious topics: drugs, the economy, global warming, school bullying, war, and even the science talk around genetic cloning. It is natural that kids who have questions about these deeper subjects turn to books or movies as opposed to the news.
  5. More choices for reluctant readers. Graphic novels and illustrated books like Big Nate, Dork Diaries, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid have given kids who struggle with reading something to pick up.  The days of struggling through books are over.
  6. Small market catching up. When Harry Potter came out, the children’s section was much smaller than today. Because the market is so small, it has more potential for growth that the adult market. The adult market has always been large, so naturally it would not have the growth the YA market has anyway.


No matter the reason for the growth or interest in YA, the continuing demand for YA is great news for YA authors as well as teens. To me, a growth in books (in ANY genre) combined with an increase in reading can never be a bad thing.

What are your thoughts about Young Adult books?

Shelli Johannes-Wells (AKA S.R. JOHANNES) is 2012 Georgia Author of the Year YA Nominee and a 2012 IndieReader Discovery winner in YA. Her book  Untraceable available in paperback and ebook at all booksellers. 


This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. dEAR

  2. Thank you for the insight and I agree it’s great to see them becoming popular. My rock star ex is a great example of a book that my teenage daughter was reading and well, it looked interesting so I stole it and read it before she found it and yes, it was a really good fun read!

  3. Without a doubt, the majority of people buying YA books are adults. The kids don’t have the money, their parents do, and the parents often read the books as well as the kids. Kids will ask for books they’ve heard of, but all the kids I’ve spoken to at the High school where I work say that their mother buys books for them. They even select them and say, here I think you’d like this.

    Teens from the ages of 17 to when they finish uni, don’t have time to read for pleasure because they have so much study to do, so that’s worth remembering too. The people reading the older YA books are adults and younger kids. They like them for the same reason I do, they’re lighter, than a lot of adult fiction and have plenty of action and a nice balance of humour, action, romance, adventure and with touches of horror sometimes. They tend to be a bit cross genre in that respect which makes them more interesting to many than single genre books.

  4. Keen insights! We are seeing many more YA books come through our office for review but hadn’t made some of the connections you made here. I found myself nodding in agreement. Thanks for sharing!

  5. A great article, Shelli! And I agree with a major point you touched on. Kids are exposed to so much of what is going on in the world today. They’re curious. Adults are curious. But kids naturally tackle tough subjects and want to know more.

    I have finally decided to publish my latest novel, and I tackle the subject of human cloning and genetic engineering, but not in a tough, boring sciency way I don’t think. But in an “is that really possible” way, and what would happen if scientists were truly messing with such things. How far could they take it? And can they get away with it.

    Anyway, I read for entertainment. I write to entertain and make people think. I like that there are so many amazing young adult books out there that do the same thing no matter how old you are.

  6. Interesting article! I would add to your list that some books classified as YA are actually more of an escape and more entertaining than ‘adult’ reads. I find that a good story is a good story regardless of it’s market sub-classification. As a reader I’m also very bored of the prevalent and very negative adult themes such as crime, murder, abuse etc. I prefer to be entertained rather than reminded how gross the world can be. Even my favourite (famous) adult authors are capable of underwhelming with bloated books and sometimes I end up wondering – can’t they edit properly? A longer book is not necessarily a better book.

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