Eager to introduce themselves, their new novels, and the joy of reading to teens, four YA authors have organized a group tour on their own. The “You Are Next” tour, a nod to what the group calls “the next generation of books for the next generation of readers,” launched in January, with visits to schools and bookstores in Las Vegas, and San Francisco, and Portland, Ore. The tour will next touch down in greater Los Angeles, where the quartet will make several store appearances during the week of March 25. Capping off the week is a visit to Disneyland on March 30, when they will be joined by several other YA authors, plus bloggers, librarians, booksellers, and fans for a day of play.
The touring authors – Martha Brockenbrough (Devine Intervention, Scholastic/Levine), Sean Beaudoin (The Infects, Candlewick), Kevin Emerson (The Lost Code, HarperCollins/Tegen), and Cat Patrick (Revived, Little, Brown) – are friends who met through the Seattle writing community. “We started talking about some of the changes in the publishing industry, and about how, despite social media, it is harder and harder to actually reach readers,” says Brockenbrough. “We decided we wanted to take the best parts of the modern world, like Facebook and Twitter, and combine them with old-fashioned, get-out-there-and-meet-in-person tactics, to get readers excited about new books coming out, not just by us, but other writers as well. We are living in an amazing age of literature for young adults, and we want to make sure that kids who are busier than ever with activities and school work still remember the awesomeness of reading.”
To chart their itinerary, the authors brainstormed about West Coast cities they’d like to go to and bookstores they’d enjoyed visiting in the past. They contacted booksellers to arrange store and school visits, and circulated flyers announcing the tour. “We recreated some of the outreach often done by our in-house publicists, for whom we have incredible respect,” says Brockenbrough. “We’ve been letting our publicists know what stores and schools we are visiting, and have been working closely with them. Some publishers have been able to support the tour financially, some have reached out to bloggers and media to let people know about it, and others have helped us connect with stores.”
At each stop on the You Are Next tour, which the authors are publicizing through its Facebook page and through their respective Twitter feeds, the authors offer a panel presentation that involves significant audience participation. “We wanted to crank up the dial on standard author presentations and entertain the heck out of kids,” says Brockenbrough. The authors show embarrassing photos of themselves (“including but not limited to prom photos,” she says), read from their books in voices mimicking those of celebrities, and give kids prizes if they guess correctly which “fun facts” pertain to which authors.
One bookseller who was impressed by the You Are Next presentation is Angela Mann, youth event coordinator at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, Calif., who organized an in-store event and three local school visits for the authors. “These are incredibly energetic, interesting authors who put a lot of thought into their presentation,” she says. “It is very interactive and really fun, and not at all run-of-the-mill. The authors appeared to really enjoy each other’s company, and to know and promote each other’s books. I though it was one of the very best presentations I’ve seen.”
The authors hope that the You Are Next tour will visit additional cities in the future; this leg culminates March 30 in what they are calling “The YAppiest Day on Earth,” a riff on Disneyland’s tagline: “The Happiest Place on Earth”. The Disneyland event, which will also include YA authors Elise Allen, Carrie Arcos, Cecil Castellucci, Rachel Cohn, Chris Howard, Lish McBride, Gretchen McNeil, Robin Mellom, Shannon Messenger, Kasie West, and Gabrielle Zevin, will be followed by a group book signing at the nearby Anabella Hotel in Anaheim.
The daylong event was the brainchild of Cat Patrick. “The four of us contacted writer friends who we though would be interesting in joining us,” she says of organizing the event, which is not sponsored by Disneyland. “I love Disneyland as much now as I did as a child, and I feel the same way about books, so I thought, ‘Why not merge the two and give readers a chance to interact with authors while riding Space Mountain?’ ” Participating authors and fans will tweet about the event using hashtag #YAPPIEST.
Though Brockenbrough notes that it has been gratifying to see fans enjoying and buying her book and those of her touring partners, the You Are Next tour has brought other rewards as well. “The real rush has been connecting with readers, librarians, teachers, and booksellers,” she says. “In addition to that, there’s little in life more delightful than cracking up an audience of 250 kids, and knowing that they’re likely to pick up a book the next time they want to be entertained.”