In just a few weeks we will all celebrate the publication of the last book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. This series has been a long time in the making and has taken more than a little elbow grease from the author, who wrote the first draft of Eragon at the ambitious age of fifteen. What some may not remember about the illustrious history of this series is that it began as a small homegrown project from a family publishing house.
Paolini took several years to plan and write what would finally become Eragon with the support of his parents. When most people would be finishing high school, Paolini was finishing his final draft, which his parents read and agreed to publish through their small family press, Paolini International. After 135 visits to schools, libraries and bookstores around the county with little success, Eragon came to the attention of Carl Hiaasen who, in turn, introduced it to the publishing house Alfred A. Knopf. After another round of editing and new cover, Eragon was rereleased in 2003 to quickly move onto the New York Times Children’s Books Best Sellers list and stay there for 121 weeks!
A decade later, readers are drawn to another self-published author, Amanda Hocking. Fed up with rejections by traditional publishing houses, Hocking began to sell her paranormal young adult novels online in March 2010 to almost instant success. A year later, Hocking’s Trylle Trilogy was a USA Today best-seller (currently all three are nominees for the 2012 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers). Today she has many more successful ebooks on the market, a deal with St. Martin’s Press to reprint her popular series, and a movie deal in the works.
Although these stories both end with the fame and fortune of young writers, as well as the satisfaction of young readers, they happen on two very different timelines. Paolini’s vision took almost five years to become reality, with long days of travels and talks to promote his work. Hocking has experienced a meteoric rise to fame and fortune over the past two years, and with her publication schedule over the next few years, I expect we will continue to see more of her. While Paolini depended on face-to-face promotion to get the word out about Eragon, Hocking used a rigorous Facebook, Twitter and word-of-mouth campaign to get her books into the hands of readers.
How will young adult literature change as more and more authors are turning to self-publishing ebooks? Evidence implies that it is still a gamble for the first-time author to make a career of self-publishing. But with examples like Paolini and Hocking, I am betting more and more will be willing to take that risk.
If you are interested in the future of young adult literature, please consider submitting your proposal for a paper presentation or program to be shared at YALSA’s 2012 Young Adult Literature Symposium in St. Louis, Mo. This year’s theme is The Future of Young Adult Literature: hit me with the next big thing! Proposals are due November 15th, and applicants will be notified of their status by January 15th.
— Kate Pickett is the chair of the 2012 YA Literature Symposium Task Force and is currently reading Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley