Sex, drugs and pop topics that most adults try to avoid having teen and tweens write about, but Vanessa Van Petten is building an empire by having them do just that. One of 100 top bloggers to watch well according to Women’s Magazine anyway at 25 years-old she is a self-proclaimed youthologist. A person who is in the know regarding all things teen and tween. She blogs at RadicalParenting.com where she enlists the raw talent of numerous teen writers. If you think you can’t learn anything from her, think again. At 25 she has already self-published two books, is on the cusp of releasing her first traditionally published book and travels the world speaking to groups interested in her unique brand of knowledge.
Tanya Yvonne: What propelled you to write, Your Grounded!
Vanessa Van Petten: I was angry at my parents and other parenting books that I thought were very out of touch with what real teens wanted. I wrote You're Grounded for a new perspective.
TY: Did it go through several revisions?
VP: YES! At first it was just teens then as I started adding to it I wanted to hear from parents. Then three years later I went back and interviewed teens once they had grown up a bit and asked if anything had changed. This gave it a real rounded out feeling.
TY: Was self-publishing your first choice or did you first try the traditional route?
VP: I didn't even try to get a traditional publisher. I heard in self-publishing you can make more money and have control. I am glad I did it for my first book, but will most likely stick with traditional publishers in the future (I have a book coming out with Penguin/Plume in the Fall!)
TY: Why self-publish the second book, Radical Family Workbook and Activity Journal for Parents, Kids and Teens also?
VP: I wanted more control and bigger margins. Although my book has done extremely well for a self-published book, I quickly learned that really you just get more work and less sales when you self-publish.
TY: What was your major in college?
VP: I was a political science and Chinese double major. I thought I might do investment banking until I realized I could never give up writing or helping teens and parents.
TY: How did RadicalParenting.com come to be?
VP: When I turned 21 I realized that I was no longer a teen and the whole premise of my platform was to provide advice from the teen perspective. I started RadicalParenting to continue to give teens a voice for parents.
TY: Did you always hold the vision that your site would be in the form as it is today? Meaning shaped by a bunch of talented youths versus just yourself?
VP: It has really stayed on the path that I wanted for it except on a much larger scale, which I feel very lucky for.
TY: How important has blogging been to the writing aspect of your career?
VP: Blogging has been a great practice platform for my writing. I write fiction, non-fiction and self-help and blogging is a great practice stage. It is also an awesome way to reach people in a bite-sized format.
TY: Dish, what was your biggest professional disappointment? Ever a moment when you doubted yourself and how did you rebound?
VP: I actually keep a failure file of my failures and what I learned from them. A big one for me would be the failure of a project I started called Rrules.com. I wanted it to be a website where both teens and parents vote on their favorite house rules and it was a wiki so both parents and teens write advice together. It just never took off...time, money, it just didnt work. I decided to cut my losses and go with what worked. Thank goodness Radical Parenting was going strong.
TY: Are there any services that you offer for writers like myself who want to get to that next level?
VP: Yes, I do help authors get their book out there and I help authors build their platform if they want to sell a book. Publishers want authors with audiences and sometimes you need to build a blog before selling. You can check out my services for authors and bloggers here: Parenting Author Partnerships
TY: Your prior books were self-published, yet with your third you have a traditional publisher. How different is your publishing experience turning out to be this time around?
VP: It is sooooo much easier. Everyone told me it would be terrible working with a publisher, but I have found the opposite. Now, I have not started selling the book yet so I still have more to learn as I know even with publishers authors do a lot of the work anyway. But, already it was worth it. Getting an advance was great. Having a editing and marketing team behind you for cover and design and layout. It's really great (right now at least).
TY: Do you feel constricted at all in regards to how you have to present the content?
VP: A little. For example I wanted to have subheadings in my chapters but my editor was not a big fan. Not a big deal, but I definitely had to give that desire up. They have also been really accommodating to me in other areas about my content.
TY: Do you feel that you are an example of where publishing is headed? Because in the beginning you kind of broke the rules by putting out the first two books yourself, then used the internet to gain the spotlight before finally obtaining a traditional book deal.
VP: YES! Publishers either want famous people or authors with a following online. I think building your platform is essential to selling a book or getting a good deal from them.
TY: Do you feel that in addition to writing something publishable an author today also has to consider branding? Like with you, when I see your name I instantly think of teen parenting expert.
VP: Branding is big. But branding is big for everyone, not only authors. I think it is important to stay true to your voice and your passions. If you are all over the place you confuse publishers AND readers.
TY: Please give me details about the new book.
VP: It is: Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I'm Grounded? The title is a mouthful but we wanted something funny and this title was actually submitted by one of my teens. It is a very untraditional guide in to the world of teens and how to reach them as a parent. It will be out in September!
TY: What is next for you?
VP: Working on getting the book out there and always doing blogging. I also work with a lot of brands on their branding for teens and parents. I hope to be writing a lot more book--both fiction and non-fiction hopefully!