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Shatter the Six Un-truths of Today's Youth 

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"6 Un-truths of Today's Youth"

 

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Where is the Magic in Childhood?

  
  
  

A few days ago, Bunmi Laditan, author and mommy blogger, wrote a piece on the magic of childhood.  Laditan argues that parents should stop trying to create magical moments for their children and tone down extravagant gifts, decorations, and bedrooms.  She's not saying that parents shouldn't spend quality time with their children or create fun moments, childhood, Laditan argues, is alreadChildhood Magicy a magical time so why do parents feel the need to construct larger-than-life magical moments?

While Bunmi’s point-of-view seems to buck the tide of Millennial moms and dads committed to creating the kind of cherished childhood that they never really had themselves (think princesses actually coming to your kids’ birthday parties instead of princesses that simply populate their plates!), we do think she makes an important point about children more than about moms.

Laditan points out that children can find almost anything magical.  Childhood is filled with moments of fascination and delight that parents have very little control over:  seeing your first snowfall, meeting your first friend in school, finding something to be passionate about (if only for a few minutes).  Even when kids are given an engaging game or offered an over-the-top toy, they often play on their own terms. 

It’s clear that kids can create their own magic, but perhaps even more importantly, they should.  Being presented with a magical moments is exciting, but discovering and owning it feels even better.  The experience of finding magic in unexpected places inspires kids to experiment and take risks. And for marketers and content creators, watching how and where they experience magic is as important as knowing what it is.

The notion of leaving a little bit for kids to finish or find on their own isn’t new in innovation.  Products and properties that provide little direction can open up endless magic.  Characters that let you contribute to the story keep you engaged and interested. Play products that imagine a child who participates, not just performs a static script tend to get more use. Understanding that almost anything can be magical opens up numerous possibilities for how we position products and brands in kids’ lives. 


Lollipop Seeds that Sprout for Kind Deeds

  
  
  

Lollipop SeedsWhen it comes to creating family traditions, many of today’s families – especially those headed by Millennials – seek less to recover the past than to adopt great new ideas. The Elf on the Shelf is not necessarily a new tradition but one that many kids consider timeless, while many of their parents take pride in knowing they’ve identified a great opportunity for family fun, and have created a tradition along the way. In our recent work with Millennial Moms, we found that they seek out ways to celebrate the little moments in their children’s days and calendars in ways that are more engaging for kids than any generation before them. Far from cynical about family-focused holidays and kid-events, they see them as sacred. At the same time, they look for ways to bring fun and play into these special days.

Enter a new idea for Easter that we think sits at the center of the Millennial family Zeitgeist. Cherri Prince, an alum of the advertising world (and, in full disclosure, a friend of YouthBeat!) has decided to bring her own family tradition to the world in the form of a new book and idea called Lollipop Seeds that Sprout for Kind Deeds. The concept:

  • Before Easter, kids must do something kind for someone.
  • The night before Easter, parents and kids join together to plant seeds in the backyard or in a pot.
  • The next morning, if kindness occurred, the seed will bloom into a lollipop garden!

In addition to a sweet treat, kids get a great lesson in the power of kind acts. And moms not only get the joy that only comes from watching kids get surprised, but they also have a great story to tell other moms – another element of the experience that Millennial Moms find hard to resist.


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What’s the Power in Parentology?

  
  
  

ParentologyToday’s parents have more information than ever about parenting; but that might be part of the problem. At least according to Dalton Conley, author of Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know About The Science of Raising Kids But Were Too Exhausted to Ask. Despite the sub-title of his book, and the blurbs on the back cover from Tiger Mom’s Amy Chua, and Bringing Up Bebe author Pamela Druckerman, Conley doesn’t necessarily intend to add to the long shelf of self-help books. (In fact, he points out the “one” place where he agrees with Chua in his book, suggesting he doesn’t, in most cases, and he identifies himself as more of an “Italian papa” than a French mere.) Instead, he promotes and chronicles a “new” approach to parenting: “parentology.” While he is a sociologist by training, and does tap into some of the key, recent texts in that field (see our blog post on one of his cited works, Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods), he suggests his parenting journey is one based more on improvisation. Conley outlines three components of the parentology philosophy of “highly engaged child-rearing”:

  1. Accesses all relevant research
  2. Makes a practice of constantly weighing said research against one’s own experience and common sense
  3. Invents unique methodologies on the fly and fearlessly carries them out in order to test creative hypotheses about best practices for one’s own particular offspring

As antonyms to parentology, Conley lists: “Old-world parenting, traditional parenting, textbook parenting, tiger mothering, and bring up bebe.”   

Conley’s genre-bending book reads more like a memoir than a parenting manual. And as the former Dean of NYU, a sociologist by training, and a New York City dad, his story is hardly representative of those of that imaginary “typical” parent that marketers and researchers so often rely on for “authentic” insight.

So what does a book like this help us know or understand about parents or their kids that they’re raising today?

  1. They seek out research. Sure, most parents aren’t consulting social science journals – and wouldn’t necessarily know where to look if they did – but they do have more and more “research” at their fingertips. Instead of googling a second opinion, Conley seeks out experts in the relevant field.
  2. They recognize research’s limits. Even the most academically-inclined among us must admit that the research doesn’t reveal magic bullets when it comes to parenting or to understanding kids. Conley’s journey manifests a reality that many students come to know: just when you thought one theory held the key to your conundrum, another theorist or study counters it. This doesn’t suggest that there’s no point in consulting studies and experts. But it does suggest that the search for the holy grail of putting an infant to bed with ease, potty training, college applications, etc. just doesn’t exist. And most parents come to the realization, much like Conley does, that at some point your gut really matters.
  3. They know that kids are messy-- I mean unique. We admit it – most kids aren’t reading the same textbooks we are. They don’t often fit into neat developmental models, and while it’s incredibly satisfying when these theories help us predict or explain something we see in the world, the truth is that most kids are messy. There, we said it. They fail to comply with the “rules” that experts purport. Or worse, they play fair for one or two days, or maybe even a year, and then they defy their parents by growing, changing and evolving in directions that are sometimes unpredictable. Parents know this. Marketers reluctantly admit this.
  4. They have to laugh. Conley reminds us that part of parenting resilience must include a sense of humor. It’s not only important to laugh with your kids, but to sometimes take great joy and find the kind of humor that you can’t find on any screen in the ridiculousness that is sometimes childhood (and parenthood). We think Conley’s work works because it doesn’t slip into cynicism or snark (except when it does), but rather maintains the loving, knowing tone of a father who has failed as often as he succeeded and kids who make the world complex more often than they simplify it.

We think these are attributes that many of today’s parents – especially Millennial moms and dads – share. And we wonder if “parentology” might not be an approach to parenting with more longevity than the methods that have made it to the mainstream in the past few years.


Frozen’s Princess Revolution

  
  
  

Disney's Frozen was recently released on DVD/Blu-ray and quickly became one of the bestselling video releases in the last decade.  It's one of the biggest hits of 2013 (and an Oscar winner to boot), and one of the most popular kid and family movies in awhile.  Some have called it the beginning of a new Disney renaissance. 

From the very beginning, Frozen was a different kind of Disney fairy talFrozene.  The earliest trailer for the film showed only the goofy snowman, Olaf getting stuck on an icy pond.  The 30-second clip was funny and entertaining, but gave no hints that the film was actually about two sisters.  Later promotional material highlighted the four principle characters (two females and two males), but failed to betray the fact that the film was another princess play from the company that made this trope famous.

But getting kids and parents in the theater is only part of the story.  With Frozen, Disney created another mainstay movie that parents and kids love (and already rewatch over and over).  So, how is Frozen unique in the Disney Princess world and why are parents and kids—especially young girls – so drawn to it?

Princesses can be complex too.  Frozen throws out the typical good versus evil dynamic we've come to expect from Disney animation, especially the classic fairy tales.  Instead, Frozen gives us two princesses at odds with each other.  Neither one is entirely good nor evil.  Both sisters are capable of doing some not-so-nice things (Ana yelling at her sister and Elsa emotionally shutting Ana out), but they are also capable of love and compassion.  These Disney Princesses don't just need to be rescued; they can also do the rescuing.  Frozen lets Elsa and Anna be more than pretty images on screen.  They are complex characters who struggle with relationships and their own identities.  Parents looking to teach their young daughters how to be true to themselves have found some great messages in Frozen.

Defy Expectations.  Early on in Frozen, it looks as if Disney is delivering another "love at first sight" with a young princess and handsome prince.  But the movie quickly rejects the idea of love at first sight and becomes a story about the relationship between two sisters.  One of the reasons fairy tales can be so comforting is that their plots are predicable and formulaic.  By violating expectations of plot, Frozen demands a lot of thought out of its young audience.  Frozen proves that kids don’t always need the simple and familiar stories.  Fans of this Disney film are embracing something that defies everything they’ve come to expect (and frankly, love) about the genre. 

It's not just about beauty—it's also about the ideas.  Some critics have found Frozen's plot to be overly simplistic (or non-existent).  But Frozen is a movie with some pretty big ideas.  Do you hide who you are or "let it go?"  Love is complicated and understanding true love takes work.  You have to take the good with bad, and figure out how to balance to two.  Kids watching Frozen not only get to see some spectacular animation and sing along to catchy songs, they are also confronted with big ideas and questions.  One of the reasons the film has been so popular is that these questions and ideas speak to kids.  Kids have a lot of questions about how the world works, and Frozen respects the seriousness of these questions.  Kids don’t feel talked down to by the film; instead, they are empowered by it. This is the junior viewer’s thinking movie – and we think parents and kids are ready for it.

Girly-Girls can be strong too.  While Frozen is unique and subverts a lot of familiar tropes of the Disney princess, it doesn’t completely reject the genre.  Unlike Brave’s Merida, who is sometimes so opposite of a Disney Princess that she potentially isolates the primary audience of the Disney Princess franchise, Anna is allowed to be kind of a girly-girl.  Anna has moments where she needs help, but she isn't completely helpless.  Young girls who love the Disney Princesses have a lot to love about Frozen, but unlike some early film, they also have a lot to learn about what it means to be a strong girl.  And obviously, the strength Frozen gives them. 


What a Tough Economy Tells Us About Teens

  
  
  

Teen Shopping SpendingBeing a teenager has always been tough, but according to a recent study on teen employment, a rough economy makes finding work more trying than ever for them.  The employment rate for teens ages 16-19 has fallen from 45% in 2000 to 26% in 2011 - the lowest employment rate for teens since World War II. 

While numerous studies suggest that teens are increasingly choosing to focus on school and forgo working, this study accounts for "underutilized" labor—teens that have part-time jobs, but want to work full-time and teens that aren't looking for work, but also want to be working full-time.  In other words, for teens who do want to work, the jobs just aren’t there. 

If you’re interested in gaining a clear picture of the lives of teens today, these findings contribute a crucial piece to the puzzle. But beyond simply describing the current state of affairs, we think this study should inspire some sound insights about the future of the youth market.  Of course, fewer teens working might mean less disposable income for this cohort, but it also means that how teens spend (and think about spending) will change.

So, what might the current economic crisis mean for the future of teen spending?

They will make education (even more of) a priority.  Staying in school has become increasingly important to teens and all Americans, but we predict that more teens will deliberately forgo working to continue with or focus on their education. These teens will seek out supplies to make their school years more productive. In other words, for marketers, think school is cool.

They will prioritize products with longevity.  Even though teens are looking for deals, they also want to get their money’s worth.  Products that last longer are increasingly more appealing to this economically challenged cohort.  Even the "coolest" product can get a bad reputation if it's known to have a short shelf life.  Don't be afraid to emphasize your product’s long-term potential.   

They will make shopping about more than just spending.  With less money to spend, teens might be avoiding retail stores more than their cohorts from previous generations.  And when they do browse, teens feel less obligated to spend on the spot than in the past. This might seem like bad news for marketers, but instead, we think this signals some unexpected opportunities. Acknowledge that the shopping experience is increasingly social – both in-store and online. Don’t despair if they’re window-shopping – getting in their consideration set should be considered the first and critical win with these savvy, strategic shoppers.

They will ponder their purchases more than ever before. Forget your image of the impulsive teen buyer. Teens have become more thorough and more thoughtful in their purchases. This is why it’s vital to facilitate the evaluation process through reviews, demos, etc. Encouraging teens to think about their purchases will show them that you value their time and respect their wallets. 


Relating Your Work to Children’s Rights

  
  
  

Conducting research, or creating content, or engaging in marketing with youth can be tricky business. Many of us who have made our careers in the youth and family space know that attending to the legalities of youth marketing and research – online and offline – is just the beginning of considering the ethics of these endeavors. Many of us who spend significant time working on kid, tween or teen brands, products, and at youth oriented companies and organizations reflect upon the way our work affects the lives of children. Most of us question and worry about our work. We treat the job of communicating with and to children as a sacred one – not business as usual, but rather business that can make a difference – positive or negative – in the lives of children. But linking our work to children’s rights? Is that going too far?unicef

Not surprisingly, LEGO doesn’t think so. Recently, LEGO announced that they were going to start taking steps in their online and offline marketing to protect the rights of children, specifically those outlined in UNICEF's Children's Rights and Business Principles, a guide to help business encourage and protect children's rights. UNICEF contends that companies not only have a responsibility to ensure that communication and marketing does not have an adverse affect on children's rights, but that marketing should be encouraging children's rights.

These principles might be geared towards businesses, but they call to mind a more comprehensive document, United Nation’s Conventions of the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC), that serves as the first legally binding international instrument created to protect the human—civil, cultural, economic, political, and social—rights of children. 

Established in 1989, the UN-CRC outlines the basic rights and protections that all children should be given.  While the UN-CRC is a political instrument meant to help governments, it also gives us insight into a global idea of what rights children have.  Certainly all the articles of the UN-CRC are interesting, but three stood out to us and being particularly important for youth marketers and content creators:

Article 13: Freedom of Expression.  Children have the right to give and receive information as long as that information is not damaging to them or others.  Children’s voices are important, and Article 13 acknowledges that not only do children have voices, but what they have to say is valuable.  This article not only encourages creative expression and children’s rights to express their feelings and become active producers, it also encourages adults to remember that the voices of children should be heard.

Article 17: Right to Media.  Children have the right to get information that is important to their health and well-being.  Rather than discourage media, the UN-CRC encourages media specifically designed for children, media that considers the needs and interests of children.  More than just produce media for children, Article 17 also reminds us that this media should be available in multiple languages and be made available to all children.  Children have the right to access media that represents the diversity of the world.   

Article 31: Right to Play.  Children have the right to relax and play and join in cultural and artistic activities.  Article 31 is our favorite and one we completely agree with.  Play can promote health and foster relationships.  More importantly, play is a human right, something all children need to experience.  The UN-CRC doesn’t limit itself on what play and leisure mean.  Sports, games, toys, and relaxation should all be made available to children. 

The UN-CRC reminds us that children are active agents in the world, and that our work has the power to support them. It’s likely the work that you’re doing considers children’s voices, or children’s right to media or children’s need for play. But considering these “strategies” or brand equities or positioning as rights might raise the stakes in your own organizations and on your youth teams.


5 Risks Youth Marketers and Content Creators Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Take

  
  
  

Youth ResearchComing off of an inspiring week plus at conferences, listening to content creators, fellow researchers and strategists opine about the present and the future of kids, kids media and the youth and family marketplace, I found myself thinking about the kinds of risks that those of us who make our home in this space are often leery to take. In my own thinking about and work with youth, I’ve often found that deciding to live on the edge of what’s typical or acceptable sometimes yields unexpected insight and breakthrough ideas. On the surface, some of these risks might seem quite tame! But more than seeing them as safe, I see the common theme as a more optimistic view of the possibilities and potential of trying something new.

  1. Be nice. So often, in the youth space, being nice or good or kind feels like a young or soft positioning for a brand or property. Still, countless speakers echoed a sentiment that we’ve spoken about in our new work on Millennial Moms – “sensitive kids are the new successful kids.” Said another way, don’t worry about flexing your edge – consider standing for sweet over sarcasm, for good behavior over bad. Seek out heroes you can champion, not just foils who are sometimes humorous but hurtful.
  2. Dream big. At the iKids Conference, we spoke about the need to evaluate the app landscape, along with the online ecosystem in which youth engage, with realistic eyes. It’s more difficult than it might seem to create an app that rivals Angry Birds, or to take down Temple Run with a great game of your own. But what we also believe is that the visionaries who think big are the ones who are most likely to last. We advocate for developing a brand or a property, not just an application. Think about your proposition realistically, but holistically. Don’t get mired in mechanics to the point that you lose sight of the moxie that makes your content truly unique in the world. And then execute.
  3. Experiment. Across the course of the week, we were reminded that sometimes the old rules of conducting research, of gaining eyes on your brand, of engaging in the innovation and creative process itself could use some shaking up. As researchers, it’s easy to rely on “time-tested” approaches or models. But we believe that it’s as important to question and challenge these models as it is to understand them. Some of the most astute risks we saw taken came from folks who simply questioned why something was always done the way it has traditionally been. Granted, we wouldn’t suggest trying “new” just for the sake of “new,” but we would advise reflecting on your sacred cows and steadfast rules to ensure that they’re in the service of stimulation, not stagnation.
  4. Break the frame. More than any conference we’ve been to in a while, we liked that KidScreen and iKids bucked some conventions. Rather than just speakers at the podium (which we were honored to be!) or panels of authorities, we saw PechaKucha (look it up!) put in place to format the remarks of a set of experts, a “pass the baton” style look at viral videos that matter (with the creators of one of the favorites not only invited to talk about their work but also to share their own inspirations), to varied riffs on speed-dating. We like the spirit of these sessions – they sought to teach in ways that felt more visceral, more disruptive and still sound. Discussions about process are often overshadowed by discussions about outcomes, but the truth is, process matters. And innovation should apply as much to the way you work as it does to what you work on.
  5. Share. Time and time again, we see that the best brands – especially in the youth space – don’t hog the spotlight – they share the marquis. The same seems to go for the best and brightest creators and developers. They’re happy to share what they know, to exchange ideas and to collaborate. In a media landscape which seems to move increasingly swiftly, with expertise required in a myriad of methods, approaches and markets, it seems prudent, not polyanna-ish, to give in order to get.

5 Youth Insight Shortcuts That Will Take You Nowhere

  
  
  

Youth ResearchIn marketing, media, innovation and even in research, we can sometimes become victims of our own efficiency. Staying “big picture” and abiding by the old 80 for 20 rule seem to make perfect business sense. And Occam’s Razor (the hypotheses with the fewest assumptions should be selected and that simpler theories should be utilized until a more complicated one merits priority) is an oft-adopted mantra among sensible researchers.

Certainly, when starting research with youth, it’s natural to look to simple rules, guidelines and models to aid in interpretation. But over the years, we’ve noticed a few youth research shortcuts and youth insight practices that tend to lead marketers nowhere.

  1. Get the facts. Of course, researchers shouldn’t ignore facts. In fact, for example, we start our YouthBeat YearBook by looking at the demographic realities, of today’s youth and families. But too often, we’ve seen clients start with a number designed to disrupt – say a large spending or influence number – and forget to bring kids’, tweens’ and teens’ voices and lived experiences to it. Understanding the size of a market is important, but so is identifying the dynamics that make a market and the products that comprise it matter to youth.
  2. Focus your reading. We often get asked for recommendations on research specific to a topic related to youth. And of course, it may be that the topic you’re interested in is covered in a single volume. But a deep understanding of youth requires context – it means not only understanding the role of a device in their lives, but it also requires understanding the way they spend their days. Perhaps you offer youth a product in the food category, but understanding how they relate to identity, morality, emotions and even authority come into play when you consider how to connect with them. And this matters more than, not less than, the flavor or property that they currently care about (even though, with the right knowledge to guide your analysis, this trendy data can be extremely valuable).
  3. Tune out and turn off. Of course, we all need a break from the subject that occupies our professional days! But too often, we’ve seen brilliant strategists and creatives toil away on an idea, or seek to develop an innovative concept, only to find that one just like it is already on TV or in-store. Understanding youth and youth culture doesn’t always mean participating in it (in fact, just because you’re an American Idol superfan doesn’t mean you’re attuned to youth’s perspective on the show!). But it does mean that you should turn on the TV or take in a kid flick or shop the aisles of the supermarket yourself, rather than just studying these from your desk. Don’t assume you understand a property’s appeal without really taking the time to get to know it (this is why years ago, many marketers saw Twilight as simply a vampire movie rather that recognizing the multiple moral and social strands that made it salient among teens).  And steal a page from the way youth marketers and creatives of the past learned about their competitive set: go to where your competing programs air, operate or get consumed.
  4. Start at home. On one hand, we advocate for looking at the local and not ignoring the children you know. It’s natural that many of us will feel the most inspired and interested in the youth already lurking in our homes or our lives! But be aware of the pitfalls of curbing your curiosity there. You probably don’t assume that the women or men you research are like all the men and women in your lives. Remember, there are as many different children and childhoods as there are adults and to only attend to the insights you glean from your own offspring risks leading you astray.
  5. Keep it simple. This shortcut misstep often sounds like an affirmation that “nothing has changed” or an explanation that suggests that any youth phenomenon has just one cause or catalyst. In fact, any trend or truth related to youth often stems from a number of situational conditions. Just as most youth behaviors live somewhere along the continuum between nature and nurture, most preferences held by kids, tweens and teens reflect stage, age, experience and culture-at-large. And when you’re trying to understand what make one property or product or brand really work with your target, seek out more than one answer – not just the simple one that surfaces first.

Making Endorsements Count

  
  
  

Every January, the American Library Association announces the winners of some of the biggest awards in children’s and young adult literature.  These awards are given for excellence in children’s books (John Newbery Award), illustration (Randolph Caldecott Award), young adult literature (Michael Printz Award), African-American children’s literature (Coretta Scott King Award), and much more.  But the way these awards operate in the children’s literature space suggest lessons that a broader group of marketers and content creators can tap into.american library association

In any category, it’s safe to assume that winning a major award increases sales. In the case of children’s literature, public libraries and schools see a medal on the cover as an endorsement of the author (for the unknowns) or as a reason to expand their collection of favorites.  These awards and honors serve as insurance policies on the product’s quality, and also convey secondary but critical information about age-appropriateness. In a 2004 study conducted by Gundry E. Rowe, in which he surveyed public and school librarians, he found that nearly all the librarians bought award winning titles without even looking at plot summaries.  In the extremely competitive marketplace for children’s books, winning an award can take a book from a few sales to hundreds of thousands.  Certainly, libraries and schools look for materials to buy in a different way than parents, but these expert buyers and children’s lit curators create the selection set for moms, dads, aunts and uncles, and children themselves. In other categories, award winners are often a searchable category on online websites. For example, yoyo.com includes their “yoyo picks” but also lets buyers sort by Dr. Toy’s endorsements. With so many options available, these awards feel like a soft exertion of authority which moms and dads welcome. 

In the children’s literature space, winning a major award propels authors to top status, signifying them as master craftsmen. An award can turn an unknown into a key player and force within a specific market. Long before Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1964) was a classic children’s book, it was a Caldecott Award winner in 1964.  The award gave Sendak, and his artwork, a boost in popularity.  Today, Sendak’s artwork is an important part of many children’s lives, and the image of Max and the Wild Things is a part of children’s culture. 

What lessons can we take from looking carefully at the ALA Awards?

  • Endorsement matter. Even for a cohort of moms that might not believe that there’s one source of expertise in any category, they seek out ways to distinguish quality products from simply popular one.
  • Remember to recognize the influencers. While understanding consumer preference is harder than ever in an age with so many property and content possibilities, remember that experts from unexpected places might be more influential than ever. Make sure you have a plan to connect with them.
  • While awards might, on the surface, say more about parent preferences than kids’ requests, they also suggest a glimpse at the marketplace. Even if kids are empowered to make their own choices, they are still limited to the subset of goods that adults allow them to access.

Self-Publishing Teens: Raw Insight and Untapped Talent

  
  
  

Self-publishing isn’t new, but over the past few years, more and more writers have been publishing their work online (E. L. James’ 50 Shades of Gray was originally self-published and Hugh Howey’s Wool saga remains one of Amazon’s top-selling ebooks). 

Book AuthorIt’s no surprise that teens, who have grown up in a crowd-sourced, content-sharing culture, are now getting in on self-publishing.  If a teen is one of the 97% who have access to the Internet, he or she can freely publish and sell novels, poems, and short stories.  Recently, a teenage girl sold her Young Adult novel to Random House and the publisher plans to release more of her books in the future. 

Certainly, not all teens write, or even read for pleasure, so what makes self-publishing so relevant? First, these self-publishing sites and spaces, like Amazon Digital Services, provide a place where truly new ideas can be considered. Many of the hottest YA titles over the past few years were written by teenagers, making it clear that the world of self-publishing is a perfect place to find untapped talent and ideas.  Paying attention to the self-publishing world might provide you with a front row seat to the next batch of powerful youth properties.

While we wouldn’t advocate assuming that the teens who self-publish are “representative” of all teens, the titles that other teens gravitate towards will tell you something about the reads that resonate with this group. Without the intervention of editors and traditional booksellers, these self-published works reveal the kinds of stories and topics that truly interest teens and that might be currently missing from the market.  And teens not only write their own novels, but they design their own covers and market their work. How they package their stories suggests both how they perceive marketing, but also allows us to see an aesthetic that’s generated cultivated by teens themselves.  According to librarian Amy Pelman, the self-publishing trend not only shows a lot of potential in terms of sales, but it also allows teens to produce and read books without adults. 

Exploring the stories of self-publishing provides access to talented teenagers who are creative and innovative, whose ideas are fresh and unique, and who are producing material they can’t seem to find elsewhere.  These books, and the world they inhabit, provide insight into what teens currently like and what they are starting to think about for the future.


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