Monday, January 9, 2012

Changing Times (or: Authors as Rock Stars)

I'm going to come right out and say it: I'm not that old. In fact, I'm a downright youngin' compared to some of you lovely people, and compared to some of my dearest writer friends. I grew up in the 90s; I've never owned an Ace of Base CD, I don't remember the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, and I was too young to get into either Fraggle Rock or ThunderCats.

I haven't had my 5-year college reunion yet. I sometimes frown in consternation when household chores don't mystically do themselves. I own a cheese grater, though I'm not entirely sure why. If the Power Rangers knocked on my door tomorrow and asked me to fight evil with them, I'd probably say yes. (So long as the original Blue Ranger was there. Because: BILLY!)

Basically, the point I'm trying to make is that I am still a bit of a wee one.

But I'm old enough to remember when things were different. I'm talking about books, here - and YA books in particular. All of us know the general zero-to-sixty history of the YA book market, which experienced exponential growth with the advent of the Harry Potter series and continued to metastasize over the next 10 years.

Thousands of YA books are published every year now. There's money in the market, lots of sales, and a recent report revealed that in 2011 young adult book deals made up the vast majority of 6- and 7-figure deals to authors.

I kind of take this for granted sometimes. This is sort of the new normal for us, as it were. We've come to expect it.

But I'll tell you what's different - and a lot more recent. More and more lately have I seen books and authors, and excitement for both of those things, hyped up in the mainstream entertainment industry. A lot of this is surely due to the enthusiasm that started with Harry Potter, that carried over with Twilight, and seems to be continuing with The Hunger Games. Loads of people, including many who've never even read the books, have watched and loved these movies - or in the case of THG, anticipate them just as much as the rest of us.

Movie adaptations have been made out of books for approximately a thousand years, but for the first time the reaction is not, "That was a book?" or "They always screw it up" or even "I don't want to see something based on a book". The reaction is, "I read these books and I can't wait for the movie".

Books aren't the dirty little secret or the kicked-around kid sister of the entertainment industry anymore.

I'm thinking of Tahereh Mafi's exclusive cover reveal a few months back, which was hosted by MTV. Mafi also wrote an op-ed that was featured in the Wall Street Journal, and I saw an ad recently for SHATTER ME in Entertainment Weekly.

My fabulous friend Miranda Kennealy's book CATCHING JORDAN was reviewed with glowing praise by SEVENTEEN magazine.

These are only two examples, really, because they're the only ones I can think of off the top of my head and I haven't saved the links. But I've been seeing more and more of this kind of thing, and it makes me so passionately, inexplicably happy.

I never thought when I was a kid, or even a teen - as both a writer and read of YA fiction - that I would see a day when writers were written up in Seventeen Magazine, when their books were featured on MTV or where bookstores would be so intimidated by crowds they opt instead to hold author events in the local Hyatt (John Green I'm looking at you).

I'm old enough to remember when things weren't this way at all, but I am so, so glad they are now and I hope this never changes.

Authors have always been my rock stars. I'm glad to see the rest of the world catching on.


  1. there was never a big YA selection back when I was in school and it frustrated me to no end. (I'm also fairly young compared to some, having hit my mid-twenties just last year.) but now the selection is endless. It's a good thing I never grew out of my YA phase. Oh, and Tommy and Kimberly forever!

  2. Aww, Tommy <3 Kimberly!

    *ahem* It's interesting that in the past year, whenever I thought of certain authors, I would also mentally label them an author rockstar. Neil Gaiman comes to mind (not just because he actually does tour with his wife, doing concerts), due to his huge celeb status and how obvious it is that he's of the mindset "I do what I want, so there."

    You're a rockstar in -my- heart, Rick!

  3. The green ranger the best. Blue was probably a close second, followed by pink. It's really weird that I remember all their first names. I remember when Goosebumps were all the rage in third grade, and prior to that was Boxcar Children, and I collected them all. I don't really remember if the other kids in my class liked them too (I was, and still am, in my own little world). But I'm glad to see the popularity of books with kids. I think YA books are more honest with kids today than they were in my time, and in the end, kids respect that. I hope the trend continues.

  4. I totally agree with you. "Times are a changin'" I think the internet plays a big part in this because not only do we get to read their books but we can also learn about them through blogs, vlogs, twitter, fb, websites, youtube, etc. They no longer feel like just a name on a page, but the real people that they are. It is similar to the way we are with celebrities. For a long time they felt very out of reach and foreign to us until the invention of twitter and fb. Now we get to learn anything they wish to share with us, bringing them back down to the same reachable level as the rest of us.

    I really hope it stays like this for quite some time. It gets children reading more than my generation did.