Saturday, 26 December 2020

Ten Years of YA Yeah Yeah - And Looking Forward to Beyond The Big 5

I've been blogging here at YA Yeah Yeah for 10 years today. To celebrate, I wanted to take the opportunity to look back briefly, and look forward in a little more depth.

The last ten years have been a massive change for me - when I started the blog I'd been reviewing books consistently over at The Bookbag for a year or so, I was teaching in a secondary school, and I'd just moved out to live in a flat by myself in England.

Fast forward ten years, and I've now been reviewing books (admittedly somewhat less consistently, due to promotions and things cutting into my time) for 11 years, am married, and living in America with my wife and her parents (for now; pandemic messed up with our plans to a fairly massive degree!) In that intervening decade, so many amazing things happened through YA Yeah Yeah. I was a judge for the YA Book Prize alongside massively knowledgeable people. I appeared on Down The Rabbit Hole twice, once interviewing Siobhan Curham and once discussing romance. My favourite children's bookshop Tales on Moon Lane employed me part-time for a couple of years. And I organized countless drinks get-togethers for bloggers to meet authors including Angie Thomas, Sally Nicholls and Nick Lake. (Massive thanks to Louie Stowell, who set up #DrinkYA with me, and Julianne Benford who co-organized so many!)

Most importantly, I made a huge amount of wonderful friends. (Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, I haven't seen most of them for about a year. Due to the move to the US, I probably won't see most of them for another year or more. I'm so glad we have Zoom!)

As a site, I kept YA Yeah Yeah going throughout, but changed it in many ways as the decade progressed. This was partly intentional, and partly less so. I didn't have an overall plan for the site other than 'write about things I liked'. Often, that meant I talked about books, but I also included other things. For various reasons, I never really looked into advertising on the site, or SEO. (Ten years ago, people generally seemed less okay with the idea of making money out of a book blog. As for SEO, I considered trying to learn, but could never find the time!)

Due to currently not have a full-time job (although I'm available for online maths tuition at very reasonable rates!) I now have the time to look at something a little different. This isn't a replacement for YA Yeah Yeah, which I'll still be running. However, it's where most of my blogging efforts will be featured for the foreseeable future.

If you're following me on Twitter, you've probably seen my tweets about Beyond The Big 5. I've set up social media accounts, and am currently working on a new website. (As well as Twitter, you can follow me on Instagram and Tumblr, although I haven't started posting on either account yet.) I haven't officially announced the site launch date, but at some point in January, it will go live!

The idea of Beyond The Big 5 is to promote books that aren't released by the five companies who dominate publishing today. I've had more time to read books this year, and more time to read other people's blogs. Understandably, the majority of social media buzz and blog posts tend to be about books from those big publishers. (Apart from anything else, their imprints release so many books!) I wanted to create a site that would showcase some of the independent publishers out there and their books. I've spent a while planning this, and a fair amount of time contacting publishers, publicists and authors. I'm really excited by the line-up I have planned so far for 2021 - although there's plenty of room for others. I'll be interviewing people about new and backlist books, providing monthly showcases for releases, and running a variety of features.

I'm especially excited to be launching in mid-Jan with features celebrating smaller-press books past and future. In one, I'll look back - with guest posters - at 101 great books of the last decade from non-big 5 publishers. In a second one, I'll talk about the books in 2021 from these publishers I'm most looking forward to, as will numerous guests. I'm also going to have lists of books you may like in a variety of genres.

(My aim is to launch with at least fifteen lists of books that I'd either personally recommend, or people I trust have said are great. So whether you're in the US or the UK, you'll be able to click on a page and find something like "20 YA contemporaries", "15 YA books from Latinx authors", or "10 YA graphic novels" and be linked to Goodreads pages to find out more.)

The plan is to merge my long experience of blogging and newfound SEO skills to create a site which will introduce readers to books they might have missed. (And, if I can eventually earn money from ads, I'll be pretty happy!)

Having spent more than I'm used to spending on setting this up, I'm open to donations to help with hosting costs etc. If anyone wants to buy me a virtual coffee, I'd really appreciate it! What I'd love more than anything, though, is for people to engage with the @beyondthebig5 Twitter account. Tell me your favourite books from small/mid-sized publishers, suggest features you'd love to see, or send me cute pet pictures. (Because, after all, it's ALWAYS time for cute pet pictures!)

And, of course, if you're following, you'll be the first to know when I confirm the site's official launch date!

Here's to 2021 being full of amazing things for everyone reading this.

Finally, a massive thanks to the fabulous Sarah for the gorgeous illustration in my logo above!

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