Regular readers of this blog will know that I wear a few different hats as a writer. Most fiction writers do as a matter of necessity. It is a rare writer who can sustain themselves by just writing fiction, unless of course, they crack the best seller list but even then they need to be prepared to participate in book tours, signings, interviews and if they’re writing for young adults or children, school visits. On top of all this it’s becoming increasingly more important for all authors —bestsellers or not— to be involved in book promotion and social media.
Recently someone asked me how I manage to change my mind set for each of my roles. I don’t. None of the roles I have is mutually exclusive. As well as a fiction author, I am lucky enough to be Writer in Residence in a Sydney High School, an eLiteracy Consultant in different schools, and I still fit in some casual teaching. It’s a perfect scenario for me really. I love each of my jobs and look forward to interacting with different groups of kids in different contexts each week.
Of course, like most authors I wish I had more time to write, but I don’t resent having to work at other jobs as well. My secondary jobs (I am a writer first) mean that not only do I get to nurture young writers, but I get to regularly interact with the teenage demographic for whom I write. It is enormously helpful listening to their speech and dialect and observing the way in which they regard me, each other, their teachers, and other members of the community.
It’s different for each gender. Girls and boys use language differently, treat each other differently, observe, regard and prioritise differently. Neither gender is better or worse at these things. Just different. But it’s an important distinction to make when creating authentic characters. And younger teens do all these things differently to older teens — they haven’t yet developed the analysis and cynicism of their older peers. As an author of young adult fiction, I’m incredibly lucky to be privy to the nuances and subtleties of these differences.
And when it comes to marketing through social media, I’m in a similarly privileged position. If I want to know the social media platforms where teens hang out, I ask them directly. And It’s not where I thought they might be. Younger kids yearn to be on Facebook, many of them (some as young as ten) flaunt the 13-year-old age requirement to do so. But somewhere between the middle and end of Year 10, they lose interest. They still might maintain their accounts but they are not active on them, choosing instead to use Messenger to chat or Tumblr to view their thoughts. This is invaluable information when targeting the age group. There’s no point marketing your books on a platform devoid of your target group.
More and more authors are required to diversify their skill set to manage their writing careers. Me, I’m lucky — I love all my jobs. And as hard as it sometimes is to juggle everything and still find time to write, I wouldn’t have it any other way.