Julie Strauss-Gabel, publisher of Dutton Children’s Books since 2011, is known for her harsh editorial letters that tear an author’s work to shreds. She is also known for her knack of spotting talent and transforming it into the next breakout star of young adult fiction. (In this week’s New York Times young adult best-seller list, five of the ten spots are held by novels she edited, including John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns.)
In 2014, revenue from adult fiction and nonfiction sales fell by 1.4 percent, while revenue from young adult and children’s books rose by a whopping 21 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, adults aged 18-44 made up 65 percent of young adult fiction buyers, purchasing the books for their own reading pleasure.
“We’re in an era where the definition of a young adult book is completely up for grabs, and people are willing to reinvent it,” says Strauss-Gabel. “There’s no one saying ‘You can’t do this in a book for children.‘”
Julie Strauss-Gabel, pictured here with John Green.
To read the full New York Times article on Julie Strauss-Gabel andthe future of YA publishing, click here.
I’ll be honest: my ultimate goal when attending Book Expo America and Bookcon this year was to see John Green. Yes, me and thousands of other people, most of which were teenage girls. Of course, when I read John Green’s first book, Looking for Alaska, it was 2006 and I was fifteen years old, a teenage girl. Then, I didn’t know who the author was, nor was it really important. I only wanted to read a story about a girl named Alaska. However, I think this is still the goal today, despite the fact that authors can share their personal stories with thousands of people. Nonetheless, an author’s strong social media presence can have a lasting impact on the amount of people who choose to read their book. You can’t say John Green without immediately thinking of his latest and most popular novel, The Fault in Our Stars, and vice versa. Although my parents still ask, “It’s what? We are at fault for the stars?” Close enough. With The Fault in Our Stars releasing as a major motion picture this Friday, June 6, there is not a better time than now to present this special edition of the Link of the Week.
When it comes to using social media, authors do not necessarily have to put themselves out there as personally as John Green has in order to garner success. This February 2013 Huffington Post article, “Does Social Media Sell Books? Gillian Flynn’s Agent Gives Her Perspective,” sheds some interesting insight on the topic. Gillian Flynn is the bestselling author of Gone Girl. Her agent said in the article, “There has certainly been a lot of social media chatter ABOUT Gillian’s books, although it’s true that for the most part she was not out there participating in or generating the conversation. I think a lot of this was ignited by media coverage of the book (online and off) and early on it was helped by a widespread galley distribution that the publisher executed for Gone Girl. The book itself really encourages discussion, so as more people read it, more people felt compelled to talk about it.”
However, I also do not believe that John Green’s success is solely determined by his use of social media. No matter how socially popular an author becomes, the books need to have readability. Like in the case of Gone Girl, they need to be good. If his books weren’t any good, why would hundreds of thousands of people continue to be interested in his social media presence? I suppose it is possible to follow Green’s updates and videos based only on curiosity and interest in him as a person, but what fun would that be? John Green is an author first, and it is his storytelling talent that keeps readers wanting more. Knowing about an author on a personal level is more like an added bonus.
Nevertheless, the combination of John Green’s charismatic social media presence and the exponential love of his books has truly escalated him to the title of an author rockstar. Well, I personally don’t like the word “rockstar” to describe John Green. “Celebrity” isn’t necessarily the right world either. “Popular person” might be the right words. With social media, Green has shown that he is indeed just a person like his readers. The symbiotic relationship of traditional book marketing on Penguin’s part and social media digital marketing has become the perfect pairing for Green’s success. I think it is important for each individual author to do only what he or she is comfortable with in terms of social media. Authors should not have to force themselves to participate in social media. However, if an author is good at it, like Green, then it can be very beneficial.
In a May 2013 post from John Green’s Tumblr, Fishing Boat Proceeds, Green gave his opinion on the success of The Fault in Our Stars. He said, “The Fault in Our Stars  is NOT successful primarily because I am famous on the Internet. I know this because I was famous on the Internet when Paper Towns  was published, and also when Will Grayson, Will Grayson  was published. (TFiOS has almost a million copies in print; Paper Towns sold perhaps 4% as much in its first year.) Having the built-in audience of nerdfighteria is tremendously important to me and to my work, but both Paper Towns and WGWG sold less in hardcover than Looking for Alaska , which was published when I was entirely unknown online.
For many reasons—partly because I’d built a readership over the past six years, partly because I signed the entire first print run—TFiOS had far more preorders than my previous novels. But when you have the kind of regular relationship with your audience that I do, pretty much 100% of that built-in fan base buys your book within the first month. It’s not something they find browsing at a bookstore three months later, as shown by the huge drop-off in sales for Paper Towns and WGWG. Why did this not happen with TFiOS? I think for a few reasons, which I’ll discuss below.”
Now, what is the “nerfighteria?” To me, it is the combination of fans from John and Hank Green’s, John’s brother, YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers, which they began in 2007, and the readers of John’s books. Nerdfighters are loyal fans who not only believe in John’s stories, but also in the positive messages that he and his brother convey on Vlogbrothers. They believe in decreasing the amount of “world suck” and increasing the amount of awesome. John and Hank began their YouTube channel in 2007 as a way to communicate with one another. Today, Vlogbrothers has over 2 million subscribers and over 1.5 billion views. Simply amazing. John Green has almost 2.5 million Twitter followers and announced in December 2012 that he had almost reached 200,000 Tumblr followers.
These are great numbers. The majority, if not all, of these numbers represent not only his fans, but his readers. Millions of people are reading! That is one of the greatest treasures of all. Social media master, rockstar, popular person–no matter the title, John Green has shown that with a lot of determination and love for your fans, you can create readers too.
Learn more about John Green and his fans by watching this video from the CBS Sunday Morning show. Green also made it into this week’s The New Yorker. The article titled “The Teen Whisperer” gives an in-depth glimpse into Green’s past and present while reiterating that, indeed, Green is just a person. When using social media, he isn’t simply marketing his books or himself, but he is contributing his role model presence to a generation of young adults who only want to be believed in.
Whether you adore Valentine’s Day, or can’t stand to see another flying baby yielding arrows for the rest of your life, the pink-and-red-choco-holic holiday is upon us. As book lovers, what better way to spend the day than by reading other people’s romantic escapades. Though the task of choosing a book may be a little more difficult. There are so many that you can choose! This is not even including the wonderful array of novels from the romance genre itself which has grown to over $1.4 billion in revenue. Why do romance novels sell? Check out this podcast from The Take Away to get an interesting spin on the industry from Jesse Barron, assistant editor at Harpers magazine, and Angela Knight, the best-selling romance author.
If you want a great list of romance novels from another best-selling romance author, check it out here on Publisher’s Weekly. On the list, author Bella Andre includes titles like Bet Me by Jennifer Cruise, the Gallaghers of Ardmore Trilogy by Nora Roberts, and The Duchess by Jude Deveraux. Andre comments about her love of romance in the article: “I have been a huge romance fan my entire life, reading a book a day when I can squeeze it into my busy writing schedule. There’s nothing I enjoy more than reading about two people falling in love and the best romances are the ones that make me laugh, cry and stop to tell my husband, ‘This book is so good!’ at least half a dozen times while I’m reading.”
What are your favorite lovey-dovey books? I’ll leave a few more here just in case some more inspiration is needed.
“Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.
A poignant story of one college student’s romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love.”
“A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger’s cinematic storytelling that makes the novel’s unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.”
“Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.”
Best-selling author John Green has been making waves in the literary world. His book, the The Fault in Our Stars has been extremely successful, crossing over both YA and adult markets. LA Times writer Susan Carpenter delves into Green’s work and rise to popularity. Recently he hosted an event “the Evening of Awesome” at Carnegie Hall for fans and aspiring writers. With music, special guests the Mountain Goats and author Neil Gaiman, Green’s popularity is reaching celebrity status. The whole event is available to stream on YouTube. Visit Green’s blog to read his notes on the publishing industry, life, and writing.
As aspiring publishers, writers, publicists, and marketers we should all take note of Green’s interaction with the public. The connection and visibility Green offers his young readers can create life-long fans and devoted literary defenders. By hosting events and creating new content on his blog, Green stays current in the literary world’s eye. When the Huffington Postasked him about giving back to his fans, Green says:
“I don’t really think of it as giving, because I also receive a lot: Readers make music and art and fan fiction and t-shirts inspired by my books, which is tremendously fulfilling. One of the most important things art can do is inspire more art. I also like my readers, and I feel lucky for the conversations we get to have inside of books but also for the ones we get to have off the page.”