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YA Books in Libraries—What’s Popular? Guest Post by Karen McCoy

I've been anxiously waiting to share this awesome guest post by Karen McCoy with all of you. When I found out Karen is a librarian, I mentioned it would be super interesting to hear what's circulating in YA right now and Karen went above and beyond to answer. I can't wait to hear what you think! After you read her amazing guest post below, please leave a comment and then visit Karen at her website and blog, The Writer Librarian.

YA Books in Libraries—What’s Popular?

How do you know if the manuscript you’re pitching to a literary agent is marketable? How do you know if your idea hasn’t already been done?

Anyone can look at a bestseller list on Barnes and Noble or Amazon, but those cover recent books only. What about the books that end up long-lasting bestsellers? For this kind of comprehensive data, I consulted people in my own field: librarians.

I began by looking into library literature. When I couldn’t find anything concrete, I surveyed children’s and teen librarians myself. I also consulted a few colleagues of mine who worked in public libraries, where the popularity of books depends on how often they circulate (check-out).

A total of 34 librarians responded. I also gathered my own data, as I’m in charge of the YA collection in the academic library where I work, making a total of 35 respondents.

I was not only interested in what was checking out, but what librarians have recommended. Librarians are some of the highest consumers of books, and most selection policies are based on patron demand, so the titles they’re buying and recommending are likely to be popular.

Results:

35 Librarians

44 Series

94 Individual Titles

Titles and series were separated into two different categories: which were checking out the most, and which were the most recommended.

Both teen and children’s librarians responded, as well as some others, like me, who don’t fit into either category. Here’s a graph of the demographic surveyed:

Type

Others that didn’t fit into those categories were readers’ advisory librarians.

What are librarians recommending?

Many librarians were forthcoming about their favorite YA titles, but the vast majority said recommendations depended on a patron’s interests. Age group, income, individual preferences, and geographic areas were all listed as factors. Genres listed included some I hadn’t heard of (e.g. steampunk, which involves Victorian era time periods with advanced steam technology).

Below are the top series, titles, and genres that were recommended. Individual titles are separated from series, and ** denotes books that were (or will be) made into movies.

Series:

Popular Authors

Book Series

Genre

Librarians who Recommended Series

Suzanne Collins

Hunger Games**

Dystopian

16

Stephanie Meyer

Twilight**

Paranormal Romance

3

Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson**

Fantasy

3

Maggie Stiefvater

The Wolves of Mercy Falls

Paranormal Romance

2

J.K Rowling

Harry Potter**

Fantasy

2

James Dashner

Maze Runner

Science Fiction

2

Scott Westerfield

Uglies

Science Fiction

2

Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl

Fantasy

2

Brandon Mull

Fablehaven Series

Fantasy

2

Libba Bray

Gemma Doyle

Historical Fiction

2

Richelle Meade

Vampire Academy

Paranormal Romance

1

James Patterson

Maximum Ride

Science Fiction

1

Scott Westerfield

Leviathan Series

Steampunk

1

L.J. Smith

Vampire Diaries

Paranormal Romance

1

John Flanagan

Ranger's Apprentice

Fantasy

1

Maggie Stiefvater

Books of Faerie

Fantasy

1

Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider

Spy Fiction

1

Claudia Gray

Evernight

Paranormal Romance

1

D.J. Machale

Pendragon

Fantasy

1

Cherith Baldry

Eaglesmount

Fantasy

1

R.L. LaFevers

Lowthar's Blade

Supernatural

1

Dan Waters

Generation Dead

Supernatural

1

Michael Grant

Gone

Science Fiction

1

Titles:

Popular Authors

Book Titles

Genre

Librarians who Recommended Titles

Markus Zusak

Book Thief

Historical Fiction

3

Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall

Character-driven

3

Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss

Realistic/Chick Lit

3

L.A. Meyer

Bloody Jack

Historical Fiction

2

Neil Gaiman

Graveyard Book

Fantasy

2

Robert Cormier

I Am the Cheese

Spy Fiction

2

Robin McKinley

Chalice

Fantasy

2

Patrick Ness

Knife of Never Letting Go

Science Fiction

2

Jennifer Donnelly

A Northern Light

Historical Fiction

2

Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution

Historical Fiction

2

Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker

Dystopian

2

Kristin Cashore

Graceling

Fantasy

2

Kristin Cashore

Fire

Fantasy

2

Sarah Zarr

Story of a Girl

Realistic Fiction

2

Gayle Forman

If I Stay

Realistic Fiction

2

Ellen Hopkins

Burned

Coming of Age/ Realistic

1

Sara Dessen

Along for the Ride

Coming of Age/Realistic

1

John Green

Looking for Alaska

Coming of Age/Realistic

1

Walter Dean Myers

Monster

Realistic Fiction

1

Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

The Compound

Psychological Suspense

1

S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

Realistic Fiction

1

Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak

Realistic Fiction

1

Recommend

Which books are checking out the most?

Results here indicate that though vampires aren’t as popular, they and their supernatural counterparts still have a firm place in YA. One librarian said, “Supernatural romances with a twist are staying steady (love interests are werewolves, angels, undead).” However, dystopias, post-apocalyptic worlds, and steampunk settings are elbowing their way in. The best example of this is The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. A whopping 27 out of 35 librarians listed it as circulating the most. As above, ** denotes books that were (or will be) made into movies, and *** denotes newly published works.

Series:

Popular Authors

Book Series

Genre

# of Times Listed Among Most Checked Out Items

Suzanne Collins

Hunger Games**

Dystopian

27

Stephanie Meyer

Twilight**

Paranormal Romance

23

P.C. Cast

House of Night

Coming of Age

8

Sara Shepard

Pretty Little Liars

Realistic/Chick Lit

8

Cassandra Clare

Mortal Instruments

Urban Fantasy

8

Maggie Stiefvater

The Wolves of Mercy Falls

Paranormal Romance

7

Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson**

Fantasy

6

Rick Riordan

Kane Chronicles

Fantasy

6

J.K Rowling

Harry Potter**

Fantasy

6

Richelle Meade

Vampire Academy

Paranormal Romance

4

James Patterson

Maximum Ride

Science Fiction

3

Scott Westerfield

Leviathan

Steampunk

3

Alyson Noel

Immortals

Paranormal Romance

3

James Dashner

Maze Runner

Science Fiction

3

Cassandra Clare

Infernal Devices

Steampunk

3

Scott Westerfield

Uglies

Science Fiction

2

Lisi Harrison

Clique

Realistic/Chick Lit

2

L.J. Smith

Dark Visions

Supernatural/Gothic

2

L.J. Smith

Vampire Diaries

Paranormal Romance

2

Melissa De la Cruz

Blue Bloods

Supernatural

2

Michael Scott

Nicholas Flamel

Fantasy

1

Erin Hunter

Warriors

Fantasy

1

Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl

Fantasy

1

Christopher Paolini

Eragon

Fantasy

1

John Flanagan

Ranger's Apprentice

Fantasy

1

James Patterson

Daniel X

Science Fiction

1

James Patterson

Witch &Wizard

Fantasy/Wizards

1

Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider Series

Spy Fiction

1


Titles:


Popular Authors

Book Titles

Genre

# of Times Listed Among Most Checked Out Items

Lauren Kate

Fallen

Paranormal Romance

5

Ellen Hopkins

Burned

Coming of Age

3

Sara Dessen

Along for the Ride

Coming of Age/Realistic

3

Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why

Realistic Fiction

3

Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush

Fantasy

3

Ellen Hopkins

Crank

Coming of Age

2

Markus Zuzak

Book Thief

Historical Fiction

2

Sara Dessen

Lock and Key

Coming of Age/Realistic

2

John Green

Looking for Alaska

Coming of Age/Realistic

2

Stephenie Meyer

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

Paranormal Romance

2

Pittacus Lore

I Am Number Four**

Science Fiction

2

Ellen Hopkins

Identical

Coming of Age

1

Ellen Hopkins

Fallout

Coming of Age

1

Allison Van Diepan

Snitch

Coming of Age

1

Walter Dean Myers

Monster

Realistic Fiction

1

Amy Efaw

After

Coming of Age

1

Bryan Lee O'Malley

Scott Pilgrim

Graphic Novel

1

Allyson Condie

Matched***

Dystopian

1

Lauren Conrad

L.A. Candy

Realistic Fiction

1

Christopher Pike

Thirst

Supernatural

1

Marlene Perez

Dead is Just a Rumor

Supernatural

1

What are the trends?

As was mentioned, trends are impacted by varying demographic factors. Still, many librarians felt that steampunk and dystopias will overtake the recent paranormal romance trends, while fantasy, sci-fi, and chick-lit will hold their own. Others believed a gothic feel to novels would remain, particularly regarding book covers. Graphic novels have also stayed strong. Another emerging trend is character-driven novels, such as Before I Fall.


Current Trends

Librarians Recommended

Librarians Noted as Being Popular

Supernatural/Gothic

3

13

Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic

2

10

Fantasy

9

5

Paranormal Romance

0

3

Graphic Novels/ Manga

2

3

Steampunk

0

3

Science Fiction

2

2

Realistic

6

2

Chick Lit

0

2

Character-driven

0

1

Coming of Age

1

0


The good news…

While other areas of publishing seem to be lagging, YA is still in very high demand. One librarian said, “I read everything, and have been on the Printz, Morris, state award committees (member and chair), and am currently on the Walden Award Committee for ALAN. I am surprised that publishing has kept up with the demand for teen literature--I thought that with the economic slump we would see a YA lit decline. Not so…”

Further study

I’d be interested in finding out if these trends and titles hold true for ebooks and audiobooks, as different formats gain prominence.

Places to find more info

A couple librarians recommended the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) list of Top Ten Books for Young Adults. This is a good place to check titles, since YALSA books tend to explode in popularity soon after they’re listed (if they’re not popular already). Here are the YALSA books from 2010, categorized into genre:

Brennan, Sarah Rees. Demon's Lexicon. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing/Margaret K. McElderry. 2009. Fantasy

Griffin, Paul. The Orange Houses. Penguin/Dial Books. 2009. Realistic Fiction

Herlong, M.H. The Great Wide Sea. Penguin/Viking. 2008. Adventure

Jinks, Catherine. The Reformed Vampire Support Group. Harcourt/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2009. Supernatural, Mystery

Napoli, Donna Jo. Alligator Bayou. Random House / Knopf. 2009. Historical Fiction

Small, David. Stitches: A Memoir. W.W. Norton & Co. 2009. Graphic Novel

Stead, Rebecca. When You Reach Me. Random House / Wendy Lamb Books. 2009.
Science Fiction

Stork, Francisco X. Marcelo in the Real World. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books. 2009.
Realistic Fiction

Taylor, Laini. Lips Touch: Three Times. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2009.
Paranormal Romance

Walker, Sally M. Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland. Lerner/Carolrhoda Books. 2009. Nonfiction


Another good resource to check out is WhatchYAreading? a blog full of YA recommendations from consumers.

Notes:

Genre information courtesy of Novelist, An Ebsco Database.

YALSA Award Books are listed on YALSA’s website at http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/bestbooksya/topten2010.cfm


Karen
is a librarian by day and writer by night. She is currently in the process of revising her first completed manuscript, and has drafts of three more books in the works. Her blog is The Writer Librarian, found at http://thewriterlibrarian.blogspot.com/. For more information, you can visit her website, www.karenlibrarian.com.

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for such an awesome breakdown! Very interesting.

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  2. Awesome post! I love the breakdowns here. Also glad to hear there's no major slump for YA, especially compared to other genres.

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  3. Fantastic post Karen! You did so much hard work for it.

    It's great to know YA is still popular. I was surprised that Harry Potter isn't being checked out more by newer YA readers. And some of the books that get so much buzz on blogs are not on the list.

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  4. Natalie - I liked your comment and think it's true. Not many of the books that get buzz online make it into libraries. I know our library steers away from the trendy unless it is super popular and they invest in the timeless.

    B/c of what my kids in elementary school are reading these answers didn't fully surprise me.

    My impression is that the teen section of our library is visited more by older tweens than older teens. And adults like myself. :)

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  5. I was jumping up and down when I read this! Especially when I saw the top genre referred is Supernatural! I am so happy to hear my genre is selling. I hope, hope, hope that means I'll have an easier time finding an agent/publisher.
    THANK YOU for this post, Karen. I appreciate all the hard work this must have been. You've made my day.

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  6. Thanks, everyone! I'm so glad the data was useful--and helped reveal a few unexpected trends. What's nice about YA is that it's an ever-changing genre--so even if yours isn't popular yet, it could be soon...

    Special thanks to all the librarians surveyed, and to Casey for tackling the complicated code involved with the tables!

    -Karen

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  7. Wow! What interesting data. This is good to know.

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  8. Fantastic post; thanks for this! Interesting to see that realistic fiction does make a decent showing among stand-alone titles.

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  9. Very interesting and there are definitely some books on these lists that I need to remember to read when I get the chance.

    Oh, and a note: The first Alex Rider book by Anthony Horowitz was made into a movie a few years ago. Alex Pettyfer, Alicia Silverstone, and Mickey Rourke are a few of the stars.

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  10. Thanks so much for this wealth of data! Interesting facts and figures. I'd always assumed that YA was hit less hard than other genres in the economic slump, so I'm glad to hear I thought right.

    Thanks again, Casey!

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  11. Great information. Now I want to go chat with our teen and children librarians. Thanks!

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  12. Really great info! Now I'm wondering if trends are affected by regional influences...Say in conservative parts of the country, are teens reading more fantasy because it's recommmended over some of the grittier realistic fiction?

    Karen, were your librarians from red and blue states? :-)

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  13. @ Cathy C. Survey was anonymous--but that would be a really interesting study to see which red and blue states they were from!

    @Melanie: Good call--I should have done a more extensive search on books made into movies--I'll update the data to include the Alex Rider book. Thanks for the fix!

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  14. Thanks Karen. I'm surprised by how large a list of titles popped up from your research. It's encouraging to see that the most popular are not concentrated in just a few titles. Yay!

    Cheers!

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  15. Oh my, thank you so much for sharing this! What a great idea to do this--the trends aren't too surprising seeing supernatural & dystopian top the list, but I am surprised to see coming of age at the bottom. Hmmm.

    Again, thank you!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  16. Wow. So much information! I've read most of these books, but there are some I haven't and they are going on my TBR list ASAP.

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  17. This is great info, Casey. Thank you!

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  18. Wow. Terrific, well-organized information. Thanks, Karen, for your amazing work, and Literary Rambles, for sharing this!

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