When The Fault in Our Stars, based on the young adult novel by John Green, opened atop the North American box office, very few box office observers were surprised. Still, the scope of the film’s success caught industry insiders off guard, especially as opening weekend numbers dripped in, revealing that the film would earn $48 million, a genre record dwarfing Tom Cruise’s action-packed Edge of Tomorrow.
This isn’t the first time a film based on a bestselling young adult novel reigned supreme at the box office. The Twilight Saga grossed an epic $1.4 billion while Harry Potter conjured a mammoth $7.7 billion. More recently, The Hunger Games series amassed $1.3 billion, with two installments left in the series.
Of course, these numbers are just a glimpse at the growing young adult novel industry, which, until recently, was only considered a niche genre. Now, publishing houses are buried in young adult novel submissions, as expert Michael Cart heralds the phenomenon “the second golden age of young adult fiction.”
Writing Techniques from Young Adult Bestsellers
Is the young adult trend indicative of a permanent change in consumer reading habits? That’s debatable. Still, it’s vital to learn from the success of the young adult niche to refresh your content strategy, even if just to reach young Millennials.
Here are a few practical lessons from young adult novels:
- Don’t write down. Publishers Weekly said it beautifully when it declared, “Young Adult does not mean stupid. It doesn’t mean ignorant.” Too often, new authors or individuals unfamiliar with the genre make the mistake of ‘dumbing down’ their content for teens. The reality, however, is that even ‘teen’ novels can be categorized for adults. What the ‘young adult’ title means is that a teenager is the protagonist in the story.
Similarly, even if you’re strategically poising your company as a thought leader in its industry, you should never write down. Always assume that your audience knows the basics of what you’re talking about. Sure, it’s fine to elaborate, give examples, or otherwise explain your concepts, but it’s critical to treat your audience with respect.
- Define your view. The majority of young adult novels are written from the first person point of view, which allows the reader to experience the struggles, observations, and emotions of the protagonist firsthand. While first person POV is inappropriate for many business blogs, this is a stark reminder that personable writing is critical to creating a lasting relationship with your audience.
- Remember what you felt, not what you remember. Since young adult novels are written from the perspective of a teenager, many authors attempt to reconnect with memories from their high school years. By dusting off these old memories, authors are able to create relatable and timeless characters that resonate with young adults. Instead of remembering a specific timeline of events (such as homecoming week), authors remember what they felt, not what they remember. In other words, the memory is strong because of an equally strong emotional connection.
Similarly, consumers will remember how your marketing, blog posts, and interactions made them feel, even if they can’t recall the specifics of the engagement with your brand. Brands such as Whole Foods and Subaru have purposefully created marketing campaigns that emote a “feeling” more-so than a memorable message.
- Know the rules. The number of books published annually in the US has exploded. Aspiring authors must not only know the rules of submission to find a literary agent, but must also understand the rules of their genre. Of course, rules can be broken, but they’re generally the parameters necessary to follow for success.
When it comes to content marketing, it’s critical to refresh yourself on the rules of content, SEO, keyword density, and much more. Since search engines change their algorithms so frequently, your understanding of the “rules” must be updated. Failure to play by the rules could hurt your ranking and render your previous content ineffective. Stay on top of algorithm changes to keep your web presence safe.
- Think like your audience. The challenge for young adult authors is that the work they create as a adults, whether 30- or 60-years-old, must resonate with a teenager. To achieve this, authors think like teens to write content that would appeal to a younger demographic.
Even if you’re trying to build thought leadership and position your brand as a content resource, it’s perfectly okay to think like your audience. Failing to understand their perspective could result in content that goes over their heads or is too basic to be useful.
- It’s okay to use a good pop culture reference. Young adult novels are popular largely due to their timeliness. Hazel, the protagonist in The Fault in Our Stars, for instance, openly admits to watching marathons of America’s Next Top Model. Why did John Green mention Tyra Bank’s famous show? This simple pop-culture reference actually reveals a lot about Hazel’s character and perspective as a teenager. Utilizing pop-culture references, when done effectively, gives your audience an opportunity to relate your brand to the rest of the world.
- Become a “whisperer.” Margaret Talbot of The New Yorker has called John Green a “teen whisperer” for his ability to publish story after story, post after post, and YouTube video after YouTube video that resonates with his fans. In other words, Green utilizes a multiple platforms to cultivate his online following, which in-turn translates into practical success.
Whether you want to be a “Legal Whisperer,” “Dog Whisperer,” or anything in-between, the most critical part in communication is consistency. John Green didn’t simply publish The Fault in Our Stars and then fall off the face of the earth. Instead, he’s built a YouTube channel, regularly updated his online profiles, and was even involved in the making of the film adaptation. Businesses like yours have to maintain a regularly curated business blog, social pages, and email newsletters while running your business and serving your customers.
By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll ensure that your content resonates with readers and establishes a meaningful connection that grows your business. Are you actively engaging your audience and cultivating new content?
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