Popularity vs. appeal
The William C. Morris YA Debut Award is a new award sponsored by YALSA and will be given for the first time in 2009. It “celebrates the achievement of a previously unpublished author, or authors, who have made a strong literary debut in writing for young adult readers.” I love the fact that, like the Printz, it is not limited to American authors and specifically states that “original young adult works of fiction in any genre, nonfiction, poetry, a short story collection, or graphic work” will be considered. But two things in particular about this award caught my attention. First, a shortlist will be announced in December, which I’m sure will fuel Printz Award speculation as three (four? does American Born Chinese count?) Printz winners have been debut novels and several other debuts received a Printz Honor. Second, take a look at the Criteria section at the bottom of the the policies and procedures page:
3. Popularity is not the criterion for this award, nor is the award based on the message or content of the book.
4. The book must have teen appeal or have the potential to appeal to teen readers.
One of the things I struggled with as I read the Cybils nominees was exactly this difference between popularity and appeal. Ultimately, this is what I came up with: books that are popular with teens obviously have teen appeal, but unpopular, or not yet popular, books don’t necessarily lack teen appeal. And just because a book has teen appeal does not automatically mean it will be popular. Appeal is based on what’s actually between the covers, but popularity can be influenced by more superficial things, such as covers. Some books are more popular in certain areas, but that doesn’t mean teen appeal is lacking just because it’s not circulating/selling in other areas. The way I see it, the teen appeal is still there, but there may be factors limiting its popularity in those particular locations.
So how do you, oh blog reader, separate appeal from popularity? And, yes, I know. If I was smarter, I would have asked this question at least a month ago.
Bonus link of the day: Meg Rosoff’s What I Was in the New York Times