04/22/2013 02:46 pm ET Updated Jun 22, 2013

Secret to Self-Publishing Success: Write for Young Adults

I admit that I haven't done much research on this subject, but intuitively something tells me that self-published authors whose works are targeted toward readers who are young adults do much better marketing their books than self- published authors whose target audiences are the age 40-plus crowd. Why? Because young adults know how to use social media and can successfully network using all of the social media tools available to them to let others know what they think about the book.

Undoubtedly, there's been a paradigm shift in how books are published and distributed, and there has been a major paradigm shift in how books are marketed. With all other aspects of the book process being equal (writing style, plot development, cover and interior design), if a book's target audience is the 40-plus age group (as my books are), an author has to rely on traditional marketing tools such as:

• Book signings (in bookstores that are almost non-existent)
• Attempt to work with independent book stores (many who still shy away from promoting self-published titles, especially those by Amazon)
• Focus on book clubs (where aged 40-plus people actually get together and discuss books while doing things like eating hors d'oeuvres)
• Book reviews written by book editors published in newspapers (mostly written by baby boomers and read by baby boomers),
• And television appearances (on stations watched by age 40-plus viewers).

Colleen Hoover's self-published book, Slammed, got over 50,000 ratings and over 8,000 reviews on Goodreads. It's become a bestseller, been picked up by a traditional publisher, and she has even been able to sell the movie rights. Wow! What a great success story for a well-written book that would have had little chance through the traditional publishing route. It demonstrates how the world of publishing has changed... especially if you write good stories for audiences under 40. Compare the number of ratings and reviews of the latest Oprah book club selection, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie to Hoover's work on Goodreads as an example (Mathis's book received a sixth of the ratings and a third of the reviews that was received by Slammed).

I wonder how many of those 50,115 ratings and 8,211 reviews to date for Slammed were done by individuals outside of Generation X and Y age range. When readers of my fiction work contact me (by email) to let me know they like my book, I ask them to write a review and to please post it on Amazon or Goodreads. They respectfully tell me they don't know how to do that and ask what is Goodreads? Those who are a bit more computer savvy and have written reviews, suffer through writing them as if they were composing a college essay and afraid they will be graded poorly. Even clicking on the stars to rate the book can be a challenge. After rejoicing that they have found the time to even read and finish a book, performing the task of going back online to rate it ranks so low on the to-do list that by the time they would get around to doing it the book might be out of print. I appreciate my readers, but for the most part, baby boomer folks have a much lower probability of creating the kind of buzz that a young adult can about a book that appeals to them.

When I explore the most requested books and popular authors on the giveaway web page of Goodreads, I feel like I am wandering around in the young adult section of the library. Oh, a library... what's that? A place where they teach baby boomers about book bloggers, Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, and even The Library Thing.