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Young Authors Give Back Tour: The [Give] Backstory

Four young authors who are stoked about mentorship, going on a road trip to pay it forward. As soon as we caught wind of the Young Authors Give Back tour, we knew we had to invite them to share their two cents on Trendsetter. Here, Kat, Erin, Sarah, and Susan talk about how they hatched a plan not only to spend quality time with each other and their readers, but also to mentor other young writers and to make book business feel more like a community–a welcoming one, at that. 

Kat Zhang

Kat Zhang

 

Kat Zhang: In a way, the idea behind the Young Authors Give Back tour has been in the works for nearly a year. Erin, Sarah, Susan, and I are all members of Pub(lishing) Crawl, a book industry blog we helped found in January of 2012. One of the goals of Pub Crawl has always been involvement with readers–we love talking with them about everything from editing tips to query writing to book reviews and recent industry news.

Early on, I started throwing around the idea of having a “Pub Crawl” book tour. Many times, group book tours tend to be limited to authors from a single publishing house. Since Pub Crawl includes authors from many different publishers, we wanted to put together something that allowed for all of us to travel and do events together. Besides, what better way to really get to know readers than to hit the road and see them in person? I’ve always been a big fan of road trips, and honestly, I couldn’t imagine anything better than spending a couple weeks on the road with some amazing author friends, visiting bookstores and talking with readers. Luckily for me, many of my fellow Pub Crawlers felt the same way.

Susan Dennard

Susan Dennard

Susan Dennard: We all knew we wanted to do something different with our tour, and over New Years, Sarah J. Maas and I just happened to be talking about an amazing experience we had had in 2012 with the very successful fantasy author Robin Hobb. We had met Ms. Hobb at the Decatur Book Festival, and after fangirling like crazy over her, she generously invited us to dinner.

It was so brilliant speaking to one of my favorite writers of all time–and to realize that she wasn’t so different from us. During the course of our conversation, Ms. Hobb mentioned an idea she had first experienced as a newbie author years ago: pay it forward.  Apparently it’s a well-known concept in the adult fantasy community–this idea of mentoring and reaching out to those behind you in the publishing/writing process. She received some incredible help and support from big name authors years ago, and now she was simply paying her own wisdom forward to us.

Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas: Honestly, that dinner with Robin was a game-changer for Susan and me. The kindness, graciousness, and humility Robin showed us, the fact that she took two debut authors out to dinner and shared so much of her knowledge… It left a big, big impact. For months after that dinner, Susan and I couldn’t stop talking about paying it forward—and how important it was to us to continue the tradition. Publishing can feel so huge and overwhelming, it’s easy to forget we’re all in this together—easier still to forget that there are plenty of people who need someone to reach back and offer them a hand.

By the time New Year’s rolled around, Susan and I had already hosted word sprints on Twitter, donated critiques, taught free online workshops to aspiring YA authors, and spoken on panels for young writers…but we wanted more face-to-face interaction with aspiring authors. And then it hit: that epic book tour we wanted to take with Kat and Erin? We could totally turn it into a one big Pay-It-Forward. Susan had once attended a signing with an intimate one-on-one session prior to the event, so why not turn that intimate session into a workshop instead? All of us—Kat, Susan, Erin, and I—got our starts as young writers, so why not reach out to kids like us? Frankly, it seemed a hell of a lot more fun than just driving around, promoting ourselves and handing out swag.

Erin Bowman

Erin Bowman

Erin Bowman: Furthermore, the timing just felt right. The explosion of social media in recent years has certainly impacted the YA community and how authors interact with their fanbase. Two-way communication has never been easier. Tumblr has a particularly young demographic, and with such a straightforward, no mess platform, we thought it would be the perfect outlet for reaching teens and promoting the tour. I was a web designer in my past life and, after lightly tweaking a free tumblr theme, pulled together the Young Authors Give Back tour site. We unveiled it along with our tentative tour stops in early March, and already, the response has been fantastic, especially where the pay it forward angle is concerned. Colleagues and readers alike have been sharing the news via their personal platforms.

Come June, we hope to use the tumblog to do what tumblr does best: micro-blogging! We’ll liveblog from the road, sharing photos and videos from the signings and workshops, as well as our travels in between. We’ll not only be capturing everything digitally, but also ensuring that those unable to make it to an event in-person can still be a part of the experience. Anyone with an internet connection is going to be able to peek in.

With a little bit of elbow grease* and a lot of heart, this grassroots campaign was born; and thanks to social media, our megaphones are sounding both locally and nation-wide. Plus, paying it forward seems downright contagious. Perhaps this is why so many people are willingly helping us share the news.

* We did hire a dedicated publicist to help us pitch venues and book events. All four of us our in various stages of writing series, and our elbow grease could only extend so far.

One Trackback

  1. […] summer, three of the other ladies from Pub Crawl and I went on a two-and-a-half week tour with the goal of giving back a little to the bookish community. We’d all started out as young […]

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