Tapping into recent buzz that realistic, contemporary fiction is of growing interest to YA readers, and into the prominence of this genre on its fall list, Sourcebooks Fire is debuting a Get Real promotional campaign, whose slogan is “Telling It Like It Is. Real Issues. Real Drama. Real Stories.” The initiative kicks off on November 1 with Get Real: Contemps on Tour, a 10-city multi-author tour featuring four of its YA novelists: Miranda Kenneally, Janet Gurtler, and the sibling writing duo of Lisa and Laura Roecker. Another Sourcebooks Fire author, Geoff Herbach, will join the quartet for a bookstore appearance at Changing Hands in Tempe, Ariz.
On November 7, the tour touches down at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, Ill. Anderson’s publicity and event coordinator Candy Purdom agrees that YA contemporary fiction is rising in popularity. “Teenagers like reading about real life – they see it all around them,” she says. “And these novels are somewhat edgier than some other genres. Of course things go in cycles, and I imagine something will edge out fantasy, paranormal, and dystopian, and it may well be contemporary YA.”
Masterminding the Get Real campaign is Derry Wilkens, Sourcebooks’s publicity manager for children’s and YA books. “We definitely see realistic YA as a growth trend,” she says. “Not even a year after publication, our earlier books by these authors we are touring were all into their sixth, seventh, or eighth printings. Since they all have new books coming out and YA is a particular focus of the Fire imprint this fall, it seemed only natural to bring these authors together to tour under the ‘Get Real’ umbrella.” At each event on the tour, attendees will receive t-shirts and posters, and Sourcebooks will host a meet-and-greet with local YA bloggers.
The publisher has launched a Facebook page to promote the campaign, which will offer videos featuring the touring authors interviewing one another, book excerpts, quizzes, and prizes. The Get Real initiative will continue into 2013, promoting new fiction by the touring authors as well as additional Sourcebooks Fire novelists.
Ready to ‘Get Real’
Janet Gurtler, who met her fellow touring authors at ALA back in June, is excited about her first group tour. “It’s harder to go out on your own when you’re not a Libba Bray [and] really well known,” she says. “For us to be able to do this together is great. Our books are all contemporary, but are about completely different things, and we’ll bring a lot of different themes into the discussion.”
Gurtler’s fall novel, Who I Kissed, centers on a girl who kisses a boy after eating a peanut butter sandwich; unbeknownst to her, he is highly allergic to peanuts and he dies in her arms. Inspired by Gurtler’s son’s peanut allergy, the novel tells how the teen must deal with the aftermath of the tragedy, including cyber bulling by peers. “It is the story of how she makes it out of a very dark place,” says the author, who explains that she naturally gravitates toward writing realistic fiction.
“Contemporary is my love,” Gurtler says. “I like gritty, real stories. I know that teens often think that others are prettier, smarter, better in some way. I like to strip away that and show what’s real, show that even the most popular kids have problems. A lot of times kids don’t share their feelings with others. I want to pass along the message that they aren’t the only ones dealing with issues. They’re not alone.”
Also pleased to be hitting the road is Miranda Kenneally, whose Stealing Parker tells of a teen who goes to promiscuous extremes to prove that she’s not gay after her mother comes out as a lesbian. “She discovers the importance of being herself, but along the way looks for love and acceptance where she shouldn’t,” says Kenneally. In her novels, she says, “I may have characters – and maybe readers – crying on one page of a novel, but on the next page I want them laughing. Life is like that. It has ups and downs of emotion – it’s not all doom and gloom.”
Like the other authors on the tour, Kanneally has been spreading word of their appearances through social media. “I’ve heard from readers living near pretty much every stop on our tour saying they are going to come out and see us,” she explains. “Just yesterday I tweeted about the tour and got 20 retweets – 15 saying ‘I’m coming.’ I really attribute all my success to my online fans and book bloggers. They set the buzz in motion.”
Purdom at Anderson’s amplifies the importance of social media in alerting fans of authors’ appearances. “YA authors are so in touch with fans online, and we know there’s been a lot of back-and-forth about our event here, so we do expect a good turnout,” she says. “We appreciate the fact that publishers make an effort to send out authors in groups, because sometimes individually they may not be all that well known, and it gives them a chance to share the spotlight. We’ve even purchased small, bistro-style tables for authors to use at these events, to create a more social, free-flowing atmosphere. YA readers are at an age where they are very social, and having multiple authors at an event makes sense – it makes it more of a party.”
Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler. Sourcebooks Fire, $9.99 paper Oct. ISBN 978-1-4022-7054-3
Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally. Sourcebooks Fire, $8.99 paper Oct. ISBN 978-1-4022-7187-8
The Liar Society: Lies That Bind by Lisa and Laura Roecker. Sourcebooks Fire, $9.99 paper Nov. ISBN 978-1-4022-7024-6
Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach. Sourcebooks Fire, $9.99 paper May 2012 ISBN 978-1-4022-6507-5