How to Write Hugely Successful Young Adult Novels

Treacherous villainy!

So, you want to rake in that sweet YA coin, do you? Chronologically, it’s the last age group where you can guarantee some level of readership, so it makes sense. Once you leave this demo everyone is distracted by going to college, getting hammered, taking pregnancy tests, and gaining weight/losing hair at an alarming rate. Who has time to marvel at your fiction skills? No one, not even your mom!

Nope, it’s those 11- to 17-year olds that still might plunk down their allowance/babysitting/paper route cash and go nose-deep in your tales of fancy. But where do you start? How do you become the next Beverly Cleary, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, or Veronica Roth? There are five easy steps to set you on the path to unimaginable wealth and legions of screaming fans.

1) Be a woman. Let’s say, theoretically, you were not born a woman (if you were, skip to #2). You’ve got the full basket of male apparel at your disposal. Don’t worry! This will not hold you back in an awesome variety of ways in today’s world. However, it does put you at a slight disadvantage when it comes to attaining mind-boggling YA riches. So, simple – get yourself a lady pseudonym. Even if you just alter your own name slightly, as I did with my ground-breaking, astronomically massive series Vampire Zombie Ville, penned under the name “Josephine Goats.” Trust me, it opened doors. Behind some of those doors were creepy agents expecting someone considerably less hairy than myself, but it still got me PowerPointing my way to selling this story.

VZV32) Fantastical elements. You might think a story about a 14-year-old kid starting a camping club and evading wolves sounds like a great story, but this isn’t 1913. That shit isn’t gonna spawn action figures. If you want to write the great adolescent novel of our times, these instructions aren’t for you. And really, if your ideas are that good, aim higher than pimply teens and hipster douches for your audiences. Don’t sell yourself short. But, those of you looking for cocaine-lord-style greenbacks with only a modicum of ingenuity and ability, trust me, fantastic elements are the way to go. Talking unicorn president? Do it! Heroic manatee watchmen? Yes! Rampaging mutated lobster horses? This shit practically writes itself! When V.Z.V. was in the planning stages, everything was thrown at the wall to see what stuck, and honestly, 90% of it is in the book. Golem mayor? The evil John Corpus presides! Teenage, forlorn, warlock love cults? Book three! Vampire Zombie Ville: Love Bites, Then You Die! Ogre football? The most brutal sport since werewolf golf!

3) Simplify everything. Oh, you might consider yourself a goddamn Faulknerian wordsmith, but you’ve gotta tone that shit down. Because – hint, hint – it’s not just kids reading these books. “What the hell?” I hear you asking. “If adults read them too, why would they need to be simpler?” You’ve answered the question. Adults are idiots. So are teens. Hell, so are babies, when you get right down to it. People reading your nonsense teenage-fairies-battling-pterodactyl-pirates novel don’t want to get bogged down in imagery and metaphors and four-syllable words. Cut to the chase. This is YA 101 right here.

VZV64) Sex. “For shame!” I can hear you thinking. “In a young adult novel?? How could you suggest such a thing?” Fact of the matter is, once you hit puberty, the chemicals are bubbling and things are happening that turn even the most even keel child into a raging, pheromonal sociopath. Look it up, that’s science right there. So while you don’t have to include graphic depictions of hardcore pornography to make your local priest blush, you need enough hints and innuendos to keep the palm-sweating readers turning, hoping to get to that moment when the kids grow up enough so that their groping isn’t too weird. Not to continue plugging my own product, but V.Z.V. was a practically a textbook on undead sexuality, cloaked in fist-fighting leprechauns. Go back, look at book six, Vampire Zombie Ville: High Stakes Through the Heart. That’s one long penetration metaphor right there.

5. Sell your soul to the public. And lie. How are you going to stand out in a market so clogged with this trashy product that even you are thinking of getting involved? You, with no discernible writing skills or clever ideas! Well, that’s where the public comes in. Get your hard luck story together. Acquire a few scars. Develop a crippling addiction. It doesn’t matter. Why was it harder for you to write this book than anyone else writing their stupid book? Oh, that chick went to a workshop at the University of Iowa and produced her goddamn miniature-future-dystopia-run-by-ants while raising a kid as a single mom? Did she do it while on heroin and battling encephalitis too?! Boom! Even if you’re really a thirty-something guy living with four other guys who won’t stop playing Madden and smoking weed, you can sell this reality. Because you know hardships too.

banned booksAnd shit, that’s it! Those are the steps. Bang through that draft, get a little editing together, bribe a few agents, hire prostitutes for some critics (I’m still assuming you’re a guy, and so are they), make the cover kid-friendly no matter the content, and watch the dough roll in! It’s as easy as that! Good luck out there, hacks!

Josephine Goats is the author of twenty young adult novels: the nine-book Vampire Zombie Ville series, the four-book allegorical King Crawfish quadrilogy, the six-book Ghost Train Express epic, and Touchdown Carl and His Team of Friendship, his first and, to date, only unsuccessful publication.


Filed under humor

57 responses to “How to Write Hugely Successful Young Adult Novels

  1. “Bang through that draft, get a little editing together, bribe a few agents, hire prostitutes for some critics (I’m still assuming you’re a guy, and so are they), make the cover kid-friendly no matter the content, and watch the dough roll in! It’s as easy as that!” – hahaha…ya right.
    congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  2. These are both very funny and probably very practical. Very nice job.

  3. Max

    I’ve been doing it wrong all thes years then. 🙂

  4. God this is funny. And sad. Because its just so damn TRUE. I feel like I need to get drunk now…

  5. Jgncs

    Excellent 🙂

  6. no sex or the city

    so true. i need to begin writing a book, stat.

  7. This was very interesting advice…I must say Ditto on the funny but sad yet so TRUE…however, I will leave my comment without having to get drunk now….jejeje May you all have a wonderful holiday weekend!

  8. I love your sense of humor…so right on, lol

  9. Phenomenal 🙂 Thanks for this!

  10. Brilliant. I’ll be sure to check out your books — they look fantastic ;P

  11. You’re more than right about all those aspects! Looking forward to you novel. ;D

  12. Thanks for the advice and lighthearted look at the world of YA fiction. I will definitely keep it in mind while I pitch my manuscript.

  13. I enjoyed this. Too many YA books are over the top and generic, in my mind. Fortunately there are those rare gems, it just takes effort to find them.

  14. Reblogged this on ystungar's Blog and commented:

  15. rpmas

    hum.. you know if you simply add florid sex scenes you can change that all over to an adult demographic. So you can sell two books for the price of writing one. A YA version and an Adult version. Just don’t get the two confused and remember to change the names and the title.

  16. Someone seems a little bitter… your disenchantment amuses me.
    Heh. I’m only joking. JOIN THE CLUB 😥

  17. Love this! Am in the process of writing a young adult novel and I needed this to make me smile! Thank you!!!

    In regards to the sex point, I have been attempting sex scenes appropriate for this age group.. I googled “sex scenes” and boy some of the things I found! I needed to wash my eyes out and send them to confession! lol

  18. LOL. This is obviously where I’m going wrong 🙂

  19. huesanglai

    This is spot on! Any single noun/verb in passive form off the top of anybody’s head would most probably be one of these YA books 😀

  20. ThatGirlA

    I am a young adult, and as someone who reads the books you are talking about here all of this was “right on” (and no offense to guys or anything but I ALWAYS look for women writers.)

  21. Adventures in Kevin's World

    I fully recognize that writing is not my top skill. Which means I’m fully capable of writing the next hit YA series.

  22. Don’t forget,a few gratuitous “swear words”!

  23. Now the next step is to turn this article into “YA Novel Authorship for Idiots.” You’ll make your second fortune.

  24. Reblogged this on 紫木蘭 and commented:
    Hilarious & brilliant article! What a sad but true reflection of our society *sigh*

  25. I found my new hero…Josephine Goats

  26. squirrelrealness

    Fantastic job! You forgot the obligatory love triangle, though.

  27. Hmm,I stopped taking notes half way through this and I’ve printed this out and it’s going above my desk. I have to ask: you haven’t copyrighted any of these ideas have you? If not expect to see a gripping tale of talking manatee watchmen battling a talking unicorn president hit the shelves very soon, they will probably be in love with a sassy but insecure,plain looking but beautiful, loner but well liked human girl. That idea is all mine.

  28. Reblogged this on meggiisully and commented:
    very funny

  29. Pingback: Freshly Riffed 47: With A Wink, And A Smile, And A Vial Of Meth | A VERY STRANGE PLACE

  30. ncbek

    I love this article, and it kept me laughing. Although the sad fact facing myself and many others is probably a few of these points.
    Thanks for the post it was really entertaining, and I look forward to seeing what else you have to offer!

    “Is it just me or are the voices within me becoming physical entities upon the page”

  31. Don’t tell me your book has rampaging mutated lobster horses AS WELL? I thought of them first, I tell you!

  32. W. K. Tucker

    And I thought all that was needed was a good story! Dumbass me. 🙂

  33. crookedeyebrows

    Very interesting and exhilarating. Just great

  34. Thanks for stopping by my blog and liking my photos! Also, thanks for posting this. An aspiring writer like me needs all the help I can get! You pointed out a lot of great things to consider while writing/editing.

  35. Enjoyed it so much. A smile is stuck on my face 🙂

  36. Unfortunately, I was looking to write the great adolescent novel of our times. Got a blog for that?

  37. cocomils

    wow this is really a good advice…. now i can try to write a book at peace…. but you funny thou….thanks

  38. Love this it was entertaining and funny and so true I must start writing now

  39. I’ve never heard of your series and don’t particularly like YA, but after reading this I am interested..

  40. Great article – no hope for us though…

  41. Hellz yeah! I am on the right track and have almost of the steps mentioned covered! Though I need to think of something pretty awesomely horrible that has happened to me besides the everyday poverty, unplanned pregnancies, family devastated by natural disaster, etc… Something more fun and sexy!

  42. Reblogged this on coralcoastpr and commented:

  43. Reblogged this on gregorallan9 and commented:
    brilliant read!

  44. This is almost sad but it’s so true. There is a trick to publishing and it’s being marketable. Those were the very qualities that I wanted in a book as a young adult: mild sexual content, fantasy elements, etc. Great blog post!

  45. Reblogged this on Writer's Cramp and commented:
    One of the most honest, albeit cynical articles concerning young adult literature.

  46. Reading this in the office. Trying to keep a straight face so I look like I’m working. Hilarious : )

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