Pub Rants

Where Have All The Young’uns Gone?

 52 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: It’s a little hectic lately. I guess we consider ourselves as hitting full swing in this new year.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TRUE by Spandau Ballet
(Jake Ryan anyone?)

This weekend I attended an event called Writers Respond To Readers at the Tattered Cover. And who said agents never attend publishing events.

The program lasted all day (although I had to duck out for about 75 minutes in the morning) but I had the pleasure of listening to Molly Glass, Laura Groff, and David Wroblewski. (I missed John Burnham Schwartz.)

Writers Respond To Readers is a yearly event that TC puts on. It costs $50.00 for the all-day fest. Coffee is free in the morning and each participant gets a lovely bag with three or four ARCs (this event was sponsored by HaperCollins so the variety of titles came from them).

Okay, an all-day event that is for no small pocket change. Tickets can only be purchased by phone and tradition has it that the event sells out in about 30 minutes every year.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That’s some book love! There’s hope yet for our industry. But here is what I found interesting and this is by no means a scientific survey.

Over 95% of the attendees were women.
In my early forties, I was a young’un in this crowd.

And that made me a little sad as I have to say that this might possibly be the future of this industry. Where are the younger people? And I think it’s too easy to say that the entry fee was keeping them away as young people will spend $50 without blinking an eye—but maybe not on a book event.

52 Responses

  1. Kristin Laughtin said:

    If there were an event like that near me, I would definitely go, although I do think I’d be one of the few my age to do so. (I’m 25.) I was able to go to Book Expo America last year for my job, and I was definitely one of the youngest there, with the exception of the children of various industry professionals. Part of that may be due to the show being open only to the industry and not a whole lot of people in their twenties having broken in yet. But an event open to the public? I think the entry fee does play a role, because many of us will spend $50 easily, but only on something we’re really, really into.

  2. acpaul said:

    Perhaps the young ‘uns were all working? I work nights and weekends. My employer doesn’t know what a holiday is (hospitals don’t close).
    I’d love to attend an event like that, but lack the time, and Phoenix isn’t exactly hopping with culture or events.

  3. Evangeline said:

    When I snoop at books most people my age (25) and younger are reading it’s a lot of genre fiction (sf/f), YA fiction or mainstream best-sellers like Dan Brown, Nicholas Sparks, etc. It’s rare to see someone actually reading literary fiction–and in the case of David Wroblewski, Oprah selections–during my day. I can also posit that most teens and twentysomethings tend to idolize authors like Stephanie Meyer, JK Rowling, Cecily von Ziegesar etc: authors who’ve written stories whose “worlds” they have connected to.

    With YA being the booming market it is, we may see more and more events where non-YA author events are overwhelmingly populated by “Baby Boomers” rather than “Gen Y”.

  4. Nikki Hootman said:

    I’m 27 so I don’t know if I can speak for teens or even other people my own age, but I wouldn’t go to something like this. Maybe if it were free, sure, but $50 no way. Not because I balk at spending $50, but because I know I could make my $50 go a lot farther elsewhere – even on other books I already know I want. At an event like this, I’d be going for maybe 1 or 2 authors I loved, and the others would be icing but nothing really special.

    Also, in general, I’m not really interested in what writers have to say about their books. (And I’m a writer!) I’m interested in the book. I learned this in high school when I traveled 2 hours to see one of my favorite authors speak. I spent the entire time bored out of my mind. Writers are not speakers and I don’t want them to be. I want them to write more books.

    And – tickets only by phone? Sorry, if it’s not on the internet, I’m not there. Srsly. 😉

  5. Anonymous said:

    Young women are working, taking care of their kids, going to school. How many women have time for an all-day event like this?

  6. ~Jamie said:

    This is exactly why I am kind of turned off by the romance writers groups around my area. They all promise that they have women’s fiction groups, but that isn’t all I am looking for. I was so surprised when I went into a meeting and I was the youngest one there! (I am 30, but look younger than that.) I feel so lost when trying to find a group of writers to write with. I have no idea how I am going to find a group my age critique and stuff with! I want the group to have similar interests as me. You know, I want us to meet at the local chuck-e-cheese so our kids can play together while we looked over each other’s work!

  7. suelder said:

    I think you may be right about the cost, though.

    I spend some time (okay a lot of time) at the chat room at And we’ve got a lot of high school and college students there, as well as oldsters (upper 40’s) like me.

    Kids do love books. And they want to write them.


  8. AJ said:

    I think it more speaks to younger people not being as interested in those authors and/or not knowing they’d have to buy the tickets in the first 30 minutes they went on sale. (Presumably older readers will have been to the event before and so know they have to get in fast.) Also, buying over the phone? That would put a few off. Last time I can think of any friend who bought tickets over the phone, I was in middle school. (23 now)

  9. Just_Me said:

    The younger people (being under 30 that’s me) don’t have $50 for an all-day event. They don’t even have all day. They are in school, working two jobs to pay rent, raising kids, and trying to get their feet under them.

    They read on the bus or at their lunch break, stealing minutes from Real Life to enjoy beautiful prose.

    They write at night, when their kids/roommates/cats are all asleep and they have 30 minutes to spare for down time.

    And they don’t all live in Denver, NYC, or San Fran.

    If you want names of some fabulous up-and-coming authors under 30, I can give them to you. There are some wonderful young authors out there who just need to jump over the cliff and find an agent already. I could list hundreds of young readers who love everything from classic Heminway to modern ‘punk fiction.

    Don’t give up, we’re out here. We’re just busy.

  10. DebraLSchubert said:

    I would have fit in perfectly there and would have loved every minute of it. I think $50 for an all day event to hear writers speak (which, by the way, a lot of them/us do very well, thank you) is a bargain. Plus, I simply LOVE the TC!

  11. Anonymous said:

    Could be because authors are not rock stars or actors?

    Most writers don’t have name recognition in the way that a band or an actor does. You are assuming incorrectly that the names of these writers should draw tons of people — why? Perhaps it’s because I write YA and am more familiar with those authors, but I’ve only heard of one of these writers. I’d have loved to have come, anyway, but still.

    A reader participates in reading a book and they do not hold an author in awe the same way they might a singer or an actor — something they know they couldn’t do — I think the writer-as-rock-star only applies to the best-selling entities of Steven King, or John Grisham or, David Sedaris.

  12. WendyCinNYC said:

    I hear you. I often attend author events in my neighborhood–hugely mega-famous authors–and while the events are typically sold out, I’m the youngest in the room by a wiiiiiide margin. And I’m 38!

  13. Anonymous said:

    too much for the young’uns. Also, as someone pointed out,the authors aren’t necessarily ones appealing to that cohort. Also, let’s face it, twenty-somethings are out moving and doing with very full schedules. An all-day event. Not gonna appeal. An hour or so, maybe. Keep in mind the young’uns are of the ADD generation. sitting down all day? aint gonna happen.

  14. Anonymous said:

    There are some of us for whom Jake Ryan will always be delicious.

    I imagine most of that same group carry a torch for John Cusack as well, yes? I have a great plan on how to bear his children, though it sadly involves the tragic death of my husband (hey, I’m no adulterer!) and the writing of a book telling the tale. JC will play him in the movie, and love will bloom. Husband is aware of said fantasy, I should mention, and willing to die for the cause. Should I query you when it happens? Maybe we can get Michael Shoeffling to play the best friend, and you can giggle with him? Sounds like a great partnership in the making. Tell you what–when my husband sadly passes and I write the book, I’ll query you.

  15. Anonymous said:

    John Cusack…..mmmmmm….

    But seriously. I am in my early 40’s, but thanks to a late marriage, my kids are 6,5, and 3, and since my husband’s job canm be all-consuming, they pretty much need to tag along with me wherever I go. If there’s no baby-sitting, a meeting like this is just out of the question, however much I might want to go. And, not to stereotype exactly, but I’ve found that women in their late 40’s and 50’s are often the least sympathetic to mothers with young children. It’s as if, having finally gotten their kids out of the nest, they forget how hard it can be when children are young, and as they do not yet have granchildren, they look at little squirmy people who can only whisper for a few minutes at a time with palpable disapproval.

    I do know that, once our PTO started offering babysitting onsite, attendance tripled. Perhaps that something event planners should consider.

  16. Deirdre Mundy said:

    Most of my friends (young professionals) are MUCH more likely to attend an author event if it’s an after work thing, preferably at a bookstore near the train lines.

    And their weekends? Booked up way in advance, or used for laying in bed with a book.

    But to go out of their way for an all day event? It would really have to be a FAVORITE author,… a Neil Gaiman/ Terry Pratchett type…

    But most of THOSE events are free…….

    Also, the kind of advertising DOES matter…. Were there posters up in the bookstores and a web presence? Or was it just a thing that those ‘in the know’ could hear about……

  17. Dara said:

    $50 is almost half of a monthly college loan payment for me. I know right now my hubby and I are using what extra money we can to pay off the loans and the mortgage.

    Jamie, I wish you lived near me. I’m part of a critique group and I’m the youngest at 24. I’m also the only one in the group who is NOT writing fantasy. It would be nice to have someone else who wrote contemporary, women’s, or historical fiction in the group besides all the fantasy.

    Evangeline, I must break the stereotype of twentysomethings because I don’t idolize Stephanie Meyer or JK Rowling (I haven’t even read the HP series and can’t seem to get into it). 🙂 Then again, most of the twentysomethings I know play video games all day (at least all the twentysomething guys…)

  18. Anonymous said:

    $50 isn’t bad. A conference I want to go to is $250 for one day. I so want to go, but it’s out of reach. I could do a lot of other things for $250.


    And yes, I think a lot of younger folks have other responsibilities and spending $50 on something fun just isn’t in the cards? Come on girls, let’s treat ourselves!

  19. 27WithADayJob said:

    Working. Most young people have jobs with bosses who call the shots. Flexibility in your work schedule comes later in life (God, I hope it does, anyway).

    That’s why the agent/editor blogs are such a wonderful thing for us. We simply don’t have the time to go to conferences or events, but need to have access to all the valuable information.

    If we are so lucky to catch a break and be able to write for a living, then we’ll attend the conferences and meetings at TC.

  20. Anonymous said:

    I don’t think it’s fair to say “this might possibly be the future of the industry.” I’m not even sure what you mean by that, to be honest.

    Young people read. Young people write. But we also have to WORK. Typical jobs with typical 9-5 hours, in most cases. On top of that, loads of young people also have family repsonsibilities. This prevents us from attending all-day events, even though we may want to.

    By the time women are in their 40s or 50s, the kids are either out of hte house, or at least in school for the day. And perhaps they don’t have to work so much.

    As for spending $50 without blinking an eye, that’s simply not the case anymore. I’d guess that young people are the ones who have been hit hardest in these trouble economic times, for many reasons. 1) They are the ones frequently being laid-off because they have the least seniority. 2) They have family obligations, with kids to feed. 3) They have to be more selective in where that $50 is spent.

  21. V said:

    Was the advertising of the event limited to just the store announcement? If so, you’ve got a self-selecting group right there.

    At 39 and child free, I would have loved to go. But.
    1) Ordering tickets by phone within a narrow time window? No. I’m not even going to try. If I have to go out of my way to reserve a seat, that’s an immediate turn off.
    2) I don’t have to take off work for a weekend event, but that isn’t always the case with people who aren’t retired. If it happens during the week, then no.
    3) $50 isn’t unreasonable, but I can spend $30 to go to a scifi convention lasting all weekend, see a lot more authors in one place and get more than free coffee and three or four books.

  22. Maureen Lipinski said:

    It’s not the $50 that would stop me, it would be the day job.

    And I’m also surprised to see that I’m almost always the youngest author in any group at 29. Maybe us young ‘uns need to band together!

  23. Susan Helene Gottfried said:

    The $50 is cheap; that’s what I’ve paid for Lori Foster’s upcoming weekend, and that’s a longer event.

    It’s the ALL DAY on a weekend that would stop me. My kids are still young enough that they need Mom and Dad both to play Jeeves the chauffeur. And if Jeeves has the day off, then we’re having a family adventure.

    Nope. Family still comes first right now. When the kids are older and less willing to be with us, then I’ll attend those all-day events.

  24. HWP said:

    It doesn’t matter if the event is about books, rockstars, cooking, or archaeology…

    A mid-week, all-day event is always going to draw an older crowd. It’s not the $50 price tag, because that’s not all that much money. But if I’m going to have to use some of my precious vacation time and find someone to pick up my daughter from preschool at 1pm, there had better be one of my favorite authors there.

    (Oh, and I’m totally not a fan of lit-fic, which I think IS a generational reality… but I could be biased.)

    I would totally go to a Pratchett/Gaiman ANYTHING. That would be fun beyond words.

    As to the ladies looking for someone in their area to critique with… exchange emails! You don’t have to be able to meet in coffee shops to bond as crit partners. I ran online writing workshops for years. It’s big fun. And most cel phones have free long distance for when you’re wanting to talk on the phone instead.

    I’m a member of our local chapter of SCBWI, and I’ve found a huge mix of ages at those critique groups. I’ve also found some amazing new friends. I know there’s a Romance Writers society out there somewhere, right?

  25. 150 said:

    I think we’re all forgetting that this thing starts at nine in the morning. For that, I’d better be sharing free bagels with Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and the ghost of Oscar Wilde.

  26. Anthony said:

    I believe the outreach possible via electronic communication changes the dynamic of these types of events.

    One of the writers that I completely adore, Sylvia Louise Engdahl, is very approachable on her website and even email, yet she would never, I believe, show up at any reader event.

    The power of outreach from podcasts, blogs, even Twitter is a powerful powerful force. Nothing can replace face-to-face talks, but those types of events change the way people network.

    Events like this are not so much anachronisms, as they need to adjust to the modern era of outreach.

  27. Mandy Hubbard said:

    I’m 26, and I’m published in both YA and romance.

    And I didn’t recognize any of the names you mentioned. Where are the younger people? They’re reading commercial fiction– YA, romance, mysteries, suspense.

    If that event had hosted Sara Dessen or Lauren Myracle, you can bet the crowd would have looked decidedly different. Heck, even the mainstream authors like Jodi Piccoult or Dan Brown would have brought in a younger crowd.

    I don’t think the more serious, enormously thick literary fictioni s quite as accessible to the younger crowd. Don’t get me wrong– plenty of young people may have read EDGAR SAWTELLE, but when you thikn about the demographic, do you picture a young twenty-something? Not so much.

  28. Maggie Stiefvater said:

    I think it was a variety of reasons — possibly most prominently having to do with advertising. Where was the event advertised? Online? Where young folks tend to be? Or in print inserts in newspapers? Maybe young folks didn’t know.

    And I have to agree with the commentors who said that young people have different bookish priorities for their money. As a reader, I love books, not authors, as terrible as that sounds, and unless it was an author whose work I loved to DEATH, I would rather spend $50 to buy books than to hear adult commercial/ literary authors speak, even if I knew them (I knew all the authors you mentioned).

    Also, the fact that it sells out via phone very quickly makes me think the mostly the same people are coming each year — maybe they were younger when they started. 😉

  29. Evangeline said:

    Welcome to the club Jamie. *g* My only issue is that when I do find people my age, they’re usually married or married with kids or unmarried with kids.

    Ha, Dara. I didn’t mean to imply all twentysomethings, just those in my area.

    And there is a romance writer’s organization, but alack, alas, the same issue. Not to cast aspirations on women older than I am, or women my age with husbands and/or children, but it’s pretty difficult to find people in their twenties pursuing a career in genre fiction (and romance at that!). But I’m derailing the conversation. lol

  30. notanotherexit said:

    23, here, and I hear you on the “where are the young writers/readers” thing. I went to a college-ran conference and was one of maybe three people in the 18-and-up group under thirty. I was shocked that there weren’t more kids my age, since it was hosted by the university.

    On the flip side, my NaNoWriMo-started writing group is all under thirty…

  31. Marilynn Byerly said:

    I attend Stellarcon (High Point, NC) every year. The con is run by a college group so lots of younger attendees are there as well as us Boomers. By and large, one author talking doesn’t attract the younger crowd. Being lectured to is their educational life so they aren’t interested in the same thing in their off time.

    But if there is more than one author and the topic and group is lively, the younger audience will show up. They also enjoy interactive sessions where the authors are sitting around with them, and they can discuss something together.

    If the topic is about an ongoing series plot arc or something that can be debated, the room is usually jammed with younger readers eager to give their opinion.

  32. AC said:

    Everyone’s probably already said it, but here’s my two cents as a 26-year-old:

    If it got a lot of blog attention, I might be more likely to go.

    $50 is probably too much for a one-day event unless an author is there who I just adore.

    I don’t have kids, but I can imagine that if I did, it would be kind of a production to find someone to watch them, come up with an extra $50, etc. Plus weekends can be SO busy.

  33. Molly said:

    I’m a young person (25). When I spend $50, it’s generally on books. And I wait for special promotions or sales. I like to get bargains. 😀

    If I had been in the area, I probably wouldn’t have attended the event. I’d rather read an author’s books than hear him/her talk.

  34. Just_Me said:

    For those hunting a younger critique group there is an online one that caters to all ages and has a good-sized under-30 crowd.

  35. Liz Kreger said:

    I would have loved to attend something like that, Kristin. Sounds terrific.

    I WISH I could get my daughter to read more. She’s only 9 years old, but still …

  36. Eileen Wiedbrauk said:

    sold out in 30 minutes? THAT does not fit into my procrastination-first 20-something lifestyle.

    And why do I want to go to a book event? I don’t go to live concernts either. I want to read the book and hear the CD on my own terms: at home where I don’t have to make nice with anyone, the snacks are free, and no one — not even my cat — cares if I’m in my PJs. That’s what makes the book a decadant self-indulgence.

  37. Tatum said:

    27-year-old here.

    I love the chance to socialize with authors and book lovers. That said, I’d pretty much catagorically spend 50 spare dollars on actual books over an event. And if I did attend an event, I’d want it to showcase an array of YA writers.

    In this economy, though, attending would be tough no matter what. There was a time when $50 wouldn’t have seemed like a lot for me to spend, but that time is long gone. And all this presuposes that I’d be willing to take a full day off work to attend the event. Sadly, that’s not even remotely possible right now.

    In addition, I find out about almost all events like this online (or through friends). If it wasn’t promoted online, I wouldn’t be likely to hear about it in the first place.

    As awe-inspiring as a full weekday of authors, books, and more authors sounds…I’m just not able to attend an event designed for people with spare time and spare money. Nor (I think) could any of my 20-something friends.

  38. V_F_ said:

    Most of the readers my age(21-29)show their support by attending cons, such as comiccon, twicon, fantasycon, worldcon, etc.

  39. Anonymous said:

    Maybe they were all at home curled up with a book because it’s the first down time they’ve had all week?

    I know I have plenty of weeks where I’ll skip all sorts of “interesting” weekend plans just to steal a few moments to myself for reading and writing. And if there’s a cost involved that’s more than a typical dinner out, that just makes the decision easier…

  40. Deb Vlock said:

    Based on what my students (college age) tell me, there is far less reading than IMing and texting going on. I wonder whether different, more creative types of book marketing would appeal to the younger set?

  41. Anonymous said:

    It must be snack-time, because I read your post as: “Coffee is free in the morning and each participant gets a lovely bagel with three or four ARCs…”

    Bagels, free ARCs and a shmear of cream cheese, please.

    We visited the Tattered Cover several years ago while in town for the ACFW convention. I loved the shop but was a bit disappointed at the scarce Inspie bookshelf. Maybe this fall when we return, it’ll be bigger!

  42. Wes said:

    I had the pleasure of attending David Wroblewski’s lecture at a benefit for the Westminster and Bloomfield (Colorado) public libraries a couple of weeks ago. He was gracious to donate his time and stature to the libraries where he did much of his research. He was a charming, captivating speaker. The auditorium was sold out.

  43. Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said:

    Another “young ‘un” here (I think…) Though I’m almost 30.

    It may have already been said, but especially if women are more likely than men to go to these events (I’ll refrain from analyzing why), it makes all the sense in the world that older women would be more common.

    Gals my age tend to have the primary responsibility for the “unending tasks” of home and children. And while my husband will share all sorts of responsibilities on the weekend (and sometimes take the lion’s share), he is *exceedingly* reluctant to be alone with 3 children under six and a Labrador retriever.

    Also, since my manuscript isn’t done yet, the types of events we have in my small town (mostly of the less-focused “inspirational” variety– your sounded much more useful) aren’t a better spending of time than simply writing with the door closed.

  44. Arovell said:

    That really is surprising. I’m under 20, and an event like that sounds like fun to me. I mean, free coffee is always good. =D
    But learning more about what your audience wants is even better.