From Publishers Weekly:
Young adult fiction sales are in decline, and it’s a hot topic in publishing, where the internet is awash with questions of why. Are YA books really “New Adult” books in disguise? Are we still writing for teens, or for adults who read and review teen books—those who grew up in the second Golden Age of YA and now seek a similar experience as adult readers? And have we forgotten the 13–16-year-olds?
Keep in mind the natural ebbs and flows of publishing, the economy, and the recent years of upheaval that have driven us all a bit chaotic in our entertainment habits. Also, perhaps the “baby bust” of the mid-aughts means there are actually fewer teens around to buy and read books. All these things are certainly at play.
As a YA author, I’m keenly interested in this decline, the reasons, and possible solutions. I recently tweeted (sorry, posted? X’d? Anyway…) a theory that struck a chord: in our mission to make books beautiful and important, pay authors well, and appeal to adult buyers, we have forgotten the teen aesthetic and budget.
What I mean is: what ever happened to the paperback book? That luscious, bendy, cheap, satisfying companion you could stuff in a backpack, fold over on the train, take to the beach or the park without fear of “ruining” it. The $7 price tag that meant just about anybody could buy one. When seeking a serotonin boost where my options might be an $8 vanilla oat milk latte, a $6 phone game, or a $20 hardcover book, even as an adult my choice is clear.
Maybe it’s time for teen books to be an impulse purchase again.
Book bloggers, adult reviewers, and social media influencers have warped how we market, review, and perhaps even make books. This is a natural evolution—we want to sell books. Maybe publishers were so afraid that the e-book would replace our beloved physical tomes that they’re overcorrecting and trying to make every book precious, beautifully made, heavy, important; an artifact of bygone days.
Except the days aren’t bygone. “Kids these days” are very into aesthetic and retro life. Aside from generational cycles and fascinations, what is life in the roaring ’20s missing that they’re seeking in the styles and trappings of millennial and Gen X childhoods? And how can book publishers capitalize on these cravings?
Understand that when you’re competing for the attention of a teen reader, you aren’t competing against games, movies, and social media. A teen reader is reading, just reading differently. Often, they are reading fan fiction—on their phone. They are part of a secret club, finding comfort in characters they already know and scenarios that are reassuring (and yes, maybe titillating, but these are teens we’re talking about). However, there’s something else extremely important to remember about fan fiction: it’s free.
Maybe part of the decline in YA sales is because books for the average teen are not affordable to the average teen.
Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly
The island on which traditional publishers and their camp followers live provides a very warped view of the real book world.
Plus, approximately one out of ten thousand “kids” would choose a paperback instead of an ebook.