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 Unpublished, debut and experienced authors all blog.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.
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?