This was my favourite panel discussion of AussieCon4. There were plenty of other interesting and worthy ones, but Bec Kavanagh, Lili Wlkinson, Megan Burke and Mif Farquharson brought enthusiasm and, in some senses, hope to the book publishing industry.
Lili explained that the participatory opportunities of social media are being well used by the Young Adult audience, whether readers, writers or publishers. One example was the inky awards with a judging panel of 2 adults and 4 teens (details here http://bit.ly/9tT2GR) and a short list that included 5 Australian alongside 5 international works.
The way reading had become both creative and participatory impressed Lili and she noticed this was a growing trend.
Bec added that reading now has the option to be a community activity, with readers able to contact each other and also authors. This “real time” access via Twitter and Skype, etc, was seen as valuable for YA teen readers and also as an instant feedback mechanism for writers and publishers.
There is now a growing “virtual community” for genres, authors and reading clubs, and Bec mentioned the use of Q&A sessions with remote authors via Skype, plus the use of competitions to add numbers and engagement in a direct and friendly way.
Megan said online networks have helped create many strong and growing book-focussed and author-focussed communities.
SF fandom and fanzines were capable of similar roles in the “print era” but they lacked the attractions of almost-instant opportunities to discuss and ask questions in real time, right when a teen reader wanted to engage.
The panel mentioned a number of authors and active fans of the YA genre, including the example of Neil Gaiman who writes across many genres and is also very active with blogs and other social media.