Wise Ink has the privilege of working with publishing industry professionals on a daily basis. We love helping authors get feedback from copyeditors, proofreaders, graphic designers, and marketers who are immersed in the world of books and are conscious of today’s literary trends.
But at the end of the day, it is the readers who will determine whether a book is a sensation, not these professionals. That’s why one of our consistent pieces of advice for authors is this: get to know your audience.
So, when two bright and insightful teenagers, Natalie and Bella, stopped by the Wise Ink office to learn more about self-publishing, we decided to learn something from them as well. When they weren’t busy helping us get organized or reading manuscripts, we asked them to give us a consumer’s perspective on one of today’s most beloved book categories: Young Adult fiction.
YA authors, listen up! Their responses just might surprise you:
Q: What’s really interesting and engaging for you in YA fiction?
Bella: “Realistic characters! Not everyone fits the mold of strong, beautiful, brave, athletic, and cunning.”
Natalie: “Patchwork character designs and personalities. I like this because many unique stories can unfold from an interesting appearance as well.”
Other trends they love:
- Characters that fight injustice
- Books that promote the empowerment of teenage girls
- Characters with relatable conflict
Q: What are your least favorite trends in YA fiction? What is lame and overdone?
Bella: “All of the romance! This trend is not very realistic! It is often an overwhelming theme and it sends a message that a relationship is a must-have. This is especially true for younger kids that read YA. I often hear young girls wishing for a relationship like Katniss and Peeta—it’s a bad example, as I doubt they will be forced to participate in the Hunger Games.”
Natalie: “What I find boring are special-snowflake characters—young teens with dead parents but an incredible supernatural ability. I’ve seen this mold used and reused more time than I think necessary.”
The girls were also critical of the overabundance of dystopian and futuristic settings within today’s YA fiction:
Bella: “There are so many books about teens doing the impossible—saving the nation, leading rebellions, and overthrowing governments. Again, this is almost nothing like the real world. I feel like every YA novel now has this theme dealing with the supernatural. I love my Harry Potter, but it’s getting repetitive.”
Natalie also suggests avoiding these protagonist concepts:
- “Everyone is in danger because of me”
- “I hurt everyone I love”
- “I have walls built up that no one can break down”
- “Characters who are good at everything”
Q: What advice do you have for YA authors?
Bella: “There are still plenty of things right here in everyday life that have not been written about —or pioneer a new genre! Don’t add to what’s already here, start something new. The uniqueness will draw people to your writing.”
Natalie: “Wise Ink really made Bella and me think hard about what we want to see in the books tailored for our age group, especially with so many people dying to strike gold like J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins. But what’s the point in building an empire if your throne is made of recycled material?
Make the characters more human and believable. Let them have flaws, make them imperfect, let them react the way you would expect a normal human being would. They can cry—sob, even. And believe it or not, they can love! Give them fickle willpower—I’ve seen lots of books where characters can keep their emotions at bay because of their incredible mental strength. Let them make lots of mistakes.”
Make the characters more human and believable. Let them have flaws, make them imperfect, let them react the way you would expect a normal human being would. They can cry—sob, even. And believe it or not, they can love!
Q: What do young readers want to see in future YA fiction?
Natalie: “There’s so much untapped material and endless combinations of plot devices that could completely dominate the YA genre! I know that I’m not the only one getting a little tired of the trite, overused dystopian future setup, so I have hope that younger writers will seize the day and bring light to this genre!
I want the diversity of settings to increase. Don’t always zoom forward to a futuristic barren wasteland of no hope and a tyrant-like government—create new worlds! Or, stay in the present, just pinpoint your story onto the other side of the map to a country you would have never dreamed writing about. Do some research, tap into a different culture. You might learn something too.”
I want the diversity of settings to increase. Don’t always zoom forward to a futuristic barren wasteland of no hope and a tyrant-like government—create new worlds!
Q: If you were going to write a YA novel for your age group, what elements would it have?
Bella: “It would address more problems normal people have and it would explore new genres of fiction.”
Natalie: “Thrilling twists and interesting characters. And, if it were to have a romance, make that romance outside of the box.”
We cannot thank Bella and Natalie enough for sharing their thoughts and exposing the minds of YA readers!
Authors: what other questions do you have for your potential readers? Feel free to comment below!