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Send your own questions to me at [email protected]@TheLiB, or +Sarah Houghton.


Welcome to episode 3 of  What Sarah Said.  Today’s question comes from J.R., and J.R. is an author.  I get a lot of questions from authors so this is a good one.  He writes:

I am in the process of publishing my first novel, a YA fantasy.  Anyway, my larger vision for myself is playing a role in improving
teen literacy in my region…and beyond.  With my soon to be published novel, I believe I will be able to have more credibility with respect
to this endeavor. I know you are not in the Pennsylvania area but would love any suggestions you may have on where I can look to begin this process. As exciting as the publishing process can be, I’m even more excited about the potential of using it as a vehicle for helping others.  My book
has a male protagonist, which, I believe given the trend of YA novels leaning more and more toward the female reader could be both an
advantage and disadvantage. When it comes to teen literacy, I believe this is an advantage because of what the statistics say about boys
versus girls and reading/literacy. Do I begin with the library system or would you recommend looking elsewhere? On a more self-serving note, in your opinion (being an expert), what is the most effective way to reach 12-22 year-old males? Online? Somewhere else? I’d love to connect with this elusive age group but struggle to find a good place to start.  They simply don’t seem to congregate like females of the same age online.

All right.  So…congratulations on being an author!  I don’t know if you already have a publishing venue, if you’ve got a publisher lined up.  If not, consider self-publishing.  More and more people are doing that and finding it is a very valid way to get your information and your stuff out there.  The main thing you want is people to read your stuff, right?  That’s the main thing you want.  You’re not doing this because you expect to make a million dollars off of your first book. And if you do you’re delusional.  I love you J.R., but I don’t think you’re going to make your first million here.  Having not read the book…I could be wrong, I could be wrong.  You could be the next J.K. Rowling.  I could be totally wrong.  But I do think the key to your question is that your focus isn’t on your book, your focus is on your desire to improve teen literacy.  And the book is second to that.

So whether you’re in Pennsylvania or any other part of the world, really, I think libraries are a great place to start to ask them if they would welcome an event where you’re promoting literacy, you’re inviting teen boys.  Have some kind of a pre-canned program ready to go where you say “Oh yeah, I’ll bring them in and I’ll have them write, and I’ll have them talk about the book, or read a chapter at a time…” or however you want to set it up.  I would also recommend contacting literacy programs in your area.  Many of these have become underfunded due to state and national budget issues, but I do think there are still enough of those around that it’s worth looking to see.  Now is there a literacy agency that would appeal to or attract this particular age group?  And then also the schools.  Talk to the schools.  Again, come to them with your pre-planned canned event of what you would like to bring to the table, what you can do for them.  That’s what they want to hear.  And show them how you can help boys in their school become excited about reading or writing again.

And then finally, you talk about what the effective way is to reach 12-22 year old males.  I gotta be honest.  I’m not an expert on that.  When I was 12-22 as a female, I didn’t know where to find these boys.  So definitely not an expert now as a 30-something.  Look everywhere you can–online, offline, places in the community where they tend to congregate.  I know that in the past the library has left marketing materials for middle schoolers of both genders all over the place–in pizza shops, at skateboard parks, at coffee shops, wherever you see people of this age group.  And this is a very wide group.  12-22 is huge.  I mean, that’s very different from one end of the spectrum to the other.  So think about…are you really trying to target one particular part of that segment?   Are you really trying to get 12-15? To me that’s a little bit too broad to give you one answer.  But look in as many places, be in as many places as you can and you will have the most success.  And as a library person who has tried to market to this age group for years, I’ll say that there’s no magic bullet that I’ve found so far.  But again, really diversifying that reach and hitting as many points as possible is probably your best approach.

And I just want to say good for you J.R. for being interested in improving literacy, particularly among teenage boys.  I applaud you for that and I wish you luck with your writing.

Thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you at the next episode.

“What Sarah Said: Episode 3: Authors, Boys, and Literacy”

  1. Jane Says:

    Hey JR, as a former teen librarian but still teen librarian at heart, I understand the struggle for finding books that appeal to the male demographic in this age. I actually think as YA lit becomes more mainstream, there is less division along the gender lines. I used to worry about trying to sell books with girl main characters to boys, and vice versa. Now there are just tons of great stories. Look at Hunger Games. Girl character, but definitely bad ass! (I just had an 11 year old boy ask for it yesterday).
    If you are trying to specifically reach boys, check out See if there’s a local chapter in your area, start one, and talk with your area teens to see what types of books they’d be interested in. I think literacy is much more achievable these days if we can just get the interesting subject matter into their hands, and thankfully, there’s tons of good stuff out there!
    Good luck!

  2. Josh Says:


    Thank you so very much for taking the time to answer my question. The answers are very helpful! Jane, thank you for your input as well. I’ll keep you posted as things progress.

    Best wishes to both of you!

    Josh (J.R.)

  3. KathyS Says:

    I second the recommendation for checking out (edited by author Jon Sczieska). Another good site is, whose “mission is to transform boys into lifelong readers”. You can check out what these sites are doing, and then see if you can build on them, or do something different. You aren’t be the only one with the mission to reach teen boys!

    Also check out the books, “Guys write for guys read” (edited by Jon Sczieska) or “Connecting Boys With Books 2: Closing the Reading Gap”by Michael Sullivan to see what they are doing and recommending. “Connecting boys to books” made a big impression on me and has guided my work as a librarian since I read it.

    Good luck!

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