Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The "Autopsy" series

A few weeks ago, I was in a strategic planning session for my FTJ and the facilitator used a term that resonated with me: autopsy without blame.

I'm a crime procedural fan, so the phrase brought up vivid imagery of the coroner delicately probing a body searching for cause of death. But maybe that's just me. Obviously the facilitator didn't have my wacky imagery in mind. She meant every organization should embrace a process of dissecting organizational issues/problems to get at the root of those problems without pointing fingers at who was to blame for the "death," of a project or initiative.

The truth is, too many organizations don't do that. Everyone's so quick to cover their own ass that it can be near impossible, in many cases, to do a tried and true autopsy without blame.

But it's never too late.

I hesitate to say that the publishing industry's efforts to offer a wider variety of brown YA books is dead, but my recent search to locate the players that initiated that venture back in 2007 turned up disheartening evidence. So hesitant or not, it's time for an autopsy. And if we're able to fix the issue before the effort flat lines, all the better.
The first issue I think contributed to the struggle to get more brown books out there among YA readers:  

YA authors vs. Authors writing for YA readers
Pee, what the hell are you talking about, you're asking. What's the difference?

When the YA boom exploded all over the place, quite a few authors who traditionally swam in the adult fiction pool saw an opportunity. I mean, who wouldn't? If mom is an avid reader and likes my work, why wouldn't I try and write something for the kiddies? Keep it in the family.

Problem is, YA authors are pretty...err...special. We don't write YA because we're cutting our teeth on the market. We're obsessed with that period in a young person's life and we want to put a mirror up to it and make sure that the voice of a young character is heard. But from a marketing perspective, having an author with an existing base is too attractive to refuse.

 In the brown market, in particular, more and more publishers began courting their big name adult fic authors to jump into the fray. Unfortunately, I ran across one too many of those authors who quickly grew disenchanted with the YA market for a myriad reasons, but chief among them - it's nothing short of a challenge to reach the readers. For some the juice wasn't worth the squeeze. While for authors focused exclusively on YA, it was the only juice we drank.

 By then, the damage was done. It was already a challenge for YA featuring African American protags to see the light of day. Some YA author voices got lost in the chorus as it became clear we weren't all really singing from the same hymnal.  

Proposed solution: Let the YA authors write YA. There are more than enough good YA authors and a slew of good aspiring YA authors out there to keep readers happy. It's about the reader and readers know when an author is talking for them versus at them.

You can debate me, if you like, but good YA authors write for lovers of YA organically. When an author writes out of their element because they're courted to, it's a challenge. It would be like me writing paranormal simply because it's whats selling. Sure, I can write well enough and given enough background to get basic paranormal elements down, I could probably produce something. But it doesn't mean I should.

Next in the series: Schizophrenic Marketing


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