Thursday 2 July 2009

The Joy of YA Author Blogs

Author accessibility is a facet of YA literature that has become increasingly important. Whether through MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, official websites, blog tours or blogs - today's YA author needs to be readily accessible to all.

That being said, blogs (and vlogs) can be a win or lose proposition for me. It can make me more excited to read their work or have no affect at all. However, I haven't found poor blogging to be detrimental to my regard for the author, but that does not include authors who use blogs as sources of ongoing self-celebration. That being said, I enjoy some author's blogs more than I will ever enjoy their novels.

US authors are definitely at the top of the heap in terms of their blogging. Unpublished, debut and experienced authors all blog. In fact, it's rare to find an American YA author who's not blog-literate. In Australia, it's growing in popularity but I would argue that it's very rare to find authors that are as prolific as their American counterparts. The UK authors in contrast, seem to rarely blog at all.

Blogging isn't just posting your release dates, positive reviews, blog tours and tour dates - though some authors tend to think it is. While this information is very welcome by readers, we like more. There needs to be frequent posts (2-3 week) that are personal to some degree. These entries don't have to be long but they do need to reflect the author's personality.

Why is the blog important? It allows the reader to learn more about the author, their process, and their novels. Many blogs were my first introduction to the author - specifically Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Kuehnert and Melissa Walker. In fact, in the latter's case, I ordered all three of her books from the States for around AUS$90, sight unseen...I wasn't disappointed.

Today I thought I would talk about some of the ways an author can reach their audience through the medium of the blog –

Brutal honesty and bravery - I hadn't heard of Stephanie Kuehnert prior to joining the blogosphere. Once I began, I immediately heard about I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone but I had no concept of who Stephanie was. I happened to drop by her blog on February 2nd, 2009 when Stephanie posted her 'The Hardest Blog I've Ever Written'.

Stephanie used her blog to share a large part of herself and her relationship history with her audience. It's an intensely personal post about a relationship that was particularly toxic and the affect this had on her. It packs a massive emotional wallop, she's unflinchingly honest and her discussion of grief, controlling relationships, self-harm and survival is inspiring and heart wrenching. My admiration for Stephanie is immense; as a person and as an author. I can only think of the many girls that have read (and will read) that post and take something positive away from it - whether it be awareness, a wake up call, understanding or a connection. It's an amazingly powerful piece of writing and evidence of what an author can achieve through the power of the blog.

Family Tales - This isn't a necessary component within the blogoverse as I understand the need to maintain a distance and privacy but sometimes it's fun hearing about someone else's family. In the case of Gayle Forman (If I Stay), her blog readers were able to read about her family's expansion with with the adoption of Denbele. The Big Bigger Biggest News of All post shared with us her joy, the frustration of the bureaucracy in the adoption process and the weirdness in sharing this news with her readers. What is even more touching is reading the comments in response to this post and the happiness shared by her readers and her family. Gayle's family all comment regularly which I haven't really seen on other author's blogs, it's very representative of Gayle as a person - welcoming, accepting, open and joyful.

The second author I wanted to mention is debut author, Michelle Zink (Prophecy of the Sisters). Her family play a gigantic role in every facet of her writing and this is evident in her blogs and vlogs. Regulars to her blog know that her son, Kenneth, composed the music that accompanies Prophecy of the Sisters. That being said, it was her post about BEA 2009 that really showed the strength of her family to it's most sparkly and awesome degree. The overwhelming feedback she received about her tight knit family then resulted in the blog post A Peek at My Life where she briefly spoke about the uniqueness of her family and shared the Little Brown promotional trailer that featured them.

Humour - Meg Cabot is the Grand Dame of YA Blogging as far as I am concerned. She's fabulous at mixing self-promotion, recommendations, pop culture and personal anecdotes with a biting (sometimes silly) humour. Last week she posted her thoughts on Harry Potter with the post, Harry Potter and the Gushy Stuff. This hilarious post talked about how Ron and Harry were "equipped" and also deliberated how much Hermoine should be pining in the HP and Half Blood Prince posters.

How to Write - What is more inspiring or informative than getting tips straight from the author's mouths? No one does this better, in my humble opinion, than Justine Larbalestier. I started reading her blog as she was in the midst of giving advice that covered every possible area of the writing and publishing game. January Writing Advice Month covered everything from POV, voice, getting unstuck and generating ideas. I loved that she took questions from her readership and wrote plain spoken tips to help new writers along.

Vlogs - This is a medium that John Green and his brother, Hank, have definitely made their own but there are many others that delight us with their presence.

Jackson Pearce (As You Wish) won my admiration through vlogging when she cold-called Amazon after the whole AmazonFail debacle. She's cute, sassy and sure knows how to entertain! Jackson's also a frequent vlogger, making many videos not only about her take on life but often in the highlighting of other debut writers. Her recent adventure to the locations in John Green's Looking for Alaska was amazingly entertaining and informative - as an Australian it really brought a place in the world that I am unfamiliar with alive.

Plain Wacky (I mean that in the most complimentary way possible) - I have to go with Canadian Courtney Summers (Cracked Up To Be) on this one. Where else would I find an entire post on Toto's Africa?

Contests - I personally don't think they are necessary but I am not going to be a hypocrite and say that I don't enter them. But my interest isn't held by contests, thought provoking / humorous / personal posts do. Most of the authors in my Google reader don't run contests.

and...the obvious...

Their Writing - I am not going to reference any author in particular but I get a strange sense of joy reading about writer's block, writing hijacked by small children, character name deliberation, the exhaustive editing process, receiving the first mock cover and release day. This is way we all come back for time after time and I very much appreciate that all these blogging YA authors take the time to blog.

So what about you? What do you like to see in author's blog posts?


Michelle Zink said...

What a great post! And I found some new awesome blogs to visit, too.

I have to laugh, because I keep saying someday soon Kenneth & Rebekah will have more fans then I. They'll be on tour and I'll be standing in the background handing them t-shirts to sign...

Summer said...

wonderful post. Thanks for pointing me in the direction of some blog entries I missed. I pretty much agree with you. Though I adore entering contests, as long as I don't have to do anything difficult cause I'm lazy, lol.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Man this makes me want to be a better blogger!! Thanks for giving examples of good blogs, I love that. I will be checking them out.

I think what's hard for me, and others I know, is that I also work a full-time job. I have a family and some where in there, I have to write my books.

Writing a really good blog entry can take a good hour, at minimum, as you probably know. And although I wish I had that kind of time, I just don't.

I'm wondering though, do you think twitter is starting to take the place of blogging in a way?

Tony said...

Thanks for a really interesting post, Adele. As a YA writer new to the whole blogging thing, this was really useful. I've got to admit, I'm still finding my voice and purpose in the blogosphere, and this is all food for thought... I've always had issues with the whole 'self promotion' thing, but I suspect it's becoming more and more of a necessity in these TET (Tough Economic TImes - first cousin of the GFC). Thanks for this post.


simmone said...

of course the americans blog more ... americans do EVERYTHING more ... of course the aussies are reticent ... we're all scared of looking like we think we love ourselves ... of course the poms don't give a fark ... the poms have NEVER given a fark ...

personally I like a writer's blog to show me something new, something that excited them, something that influenced them ... I don't want to read fifty reviews of the same book on fifty different blogs. My own blog is more like a diary for myself - what I was reading, thinking, as well as a virtual pinboard where I can stick news so I don't have to pay my website dude everytime I get a new gig ... I don't expect to lure readers, if I do, great, but ultimately, it's like with anything I write, it's for me first.

I think the blogging, tweeting, etc can be awesome for writers because many writers have no idea how they sell, who is reading and get bugger all publicity BUT if it's just done for self-promotion then, you know, what shakespeare said about bluster and noise signifying nothing.

now please excuse me. I must go and buy some tampons.

Melanie said...

I love reading authors' blogs! They make me smile, and they definitely get me a bit more excited about an upcoming book. I especially love Maureen Johnson's blog. Her posts make me laugh every time!

Melissa Walker said...

Adele, Great post! Also, I had no idea you had to drop that kind of $ on the Violet books! THANK YOU. And your copy of LOVESTRUCK SUMMER is in the mail. It's the least I can do!

mare-bear said...

Thank you so much for bringing my attention to Meg Cabot's blog. The Harry Potter and the Gushy stuff article was amazing!

Tashya said...

Wow, great post, thank you! I know I'd like to hear what, besides $$, made an author go with one publisher over another, but, I fear I may be alone in that wish...! Anyway, really enjoyed all the info here.