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November 19th, 2011, 01:39 PM #16
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Very useful overview, Kat. Thanks much.
So we have a general definition of YA as bildungsroman: coming-of-age stories. And we have a specific system: a collection of publishing financial and organizational mechanisms. Into the meshing gears of which every writer with a YA product to sell must venture.
The Internet marketing and ereader phenomena complicate matters because categories can overlap. A book can simultaneously be "on" the YA shelves, and "on" the adult shelves. Because there are no physical shelves, only database categories.
But a writer cannot be in two places at the same time: speaking to a classroom of high school students at a writing class. And sitting on a panel at a convention for adult writing. S/he has to timeshare, and time spent on one activity takes away time spent on another.
To selfishly return to my situation, I can place THE SUPER OLYMPIAN online in the YA category, and switch it to SF at some future date with few problems. It is not going to be published as a print edition and placed on bookshelves until at least a year in the future, and it may never be. I'm a writer just starting out, as far as the world knows, and there are no expectations good or bad for me.
Also, Amazon and B&N have several mechanisms to lead customers to other books they might like, such as the "Customers who bought this also bought this" and Package deal gadgets. And the Author Page which includes a photo, short bio, and a list of your books. That last lets readers interested in one book explore the others.
So I'm still seriously considering putting up OLYMPIAN in the YA category. I'll know better when I have a cover for it, which will take at least a week to create. Then it takes a day or two to convert to the Kindle and the Nook formats. So meanwhile my subconscious will be working on this question.
November 20th, 2011, 12:13 PM #17
Well, YA authors go to conventions. Usually, they write both adult and YA and market both.
Basically, if you're hoping to reach an audience of mainly teens, then list it YA. If you're hoping to reach an audience of mainly adults, then list it as adult. You're perfectly free to market to both groups and with a young protagonist this is common, but you're picking a main target to concentrate on for the audience and being sure to try to use those marketing channels.
November 21st, 2011, 08:03 PM #18
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From another thread.
In a lot of teen comedies it's all about losing your virginity. In some teen tragedies it's about experiencing some awful event. Two kinds of loss of innocence, one sexual, one emotional. Not really becoming an adult, in my opinion.
In real life maturity most often happens gradually. In fact, at well into the sixties I feel I'm still learning about myself and the universe and growing more mature and capable. But I don't see myself as immature. I see a lot of supposed adults who think they are but are not. They haven't grown up, they've just become even more self-centered and narrow-souled. And stopped growing.
In YA books maturity also most often comes slowly, over the course of the book. Not that anyone becomes perfectly and totally mature in those books, but they go a long way toward it.
The Shapechanger Tales are all speculative. What happens if someone becomes, in effect, a superhuman?
That's what happened to Peter Parker, who becomes Spiderman when he's bitten by a radioactive spider. He goes out and fights criminals. They not being challenging enough, the writers introduce super-criminals. But part of the resonance of Peter which has kept him around in several incarnations is that he has the usual problems of ordinary humans. Earning money after he leaves high school. Taking care of his aging grandparents. Courting an ordinary girl.
Meg Cabot's popular PRINCESS DIARIES is about a young girl who discovers she is a princess of a European country, destined some day to rule. The movie about the character introduced Anne Hathaway to the world.
I have several different protagonists who become shapechangers. One is Mary McCarthy, 53 year old peasant wife, mentally sharp and emotionally tough. In OLYMPIAN it is Sasha Canaro.
She is not an ordinary teenager. (Is there such a thing?) She's modeled on several child athletes who I've known personally over the years and others I've read about. Some of them are pushed into it by parents, some by the state. But a lot of them conceive of it on their own, sometimes at astounding ages. However they get their start they are very tough and stubborn people. Not always easy for others to be deal with.
At 17 Sasha becomes a shapechanger. In a good part of the book Sasha is learning about her new abilities and adjusting to how they are affecting her life. Now she is so superior physically that competition with ordinary humans is no challenge. Being tough and getting tougher is a large part of being an athlete. It's part of the ... fun?
So what new challenges can she find? The answer goes through her senior year in high school and through the Olympics. But it goes beyond. And this is where the book becomes questionable as YA fare. Do any teenagers, or enough of them, care about the years past high school? Enough to buy and enjoy THE SUPER OLYMPIAN?
I suppose I'll just have to find out.
November 21st, 2011, 11:24 PM #19
The YA audience is typically about 11-16. That's the core group. (The official designation is 12 and up.) Readers older than that may be reading YA, even extensively. A few readers younger than that range may as well. Typically, that 11-16 year old age range is reading about protagonists who are in the 15-19 years old age range, sometimes slightly older or slightly younger. So if she's 17 or 18, it's not an issue for YA. If, however, Mary starts at 53 and goes immortal from there, then it may get a little more complex because stories about adult are usually considered for adults, even if teens may read them.
In adult fiction, there is no age range of reader or protagonist. While a teen protagonist under twenty is liable to have some asking you if it's YA, traditionally adult SFFH has plenty of teen protagonists. So it's not really an issue there either, especially as you are indie publishing rather than trying to persuade an adult fiction or YA fiction imprint to invest in the series.
The big issue, as you have already identified, is who are you going to target your main marketing of the book towards, who are you hoping to have as your initial fanbase. While you can market as extensively as you like, the basic channels for a young teen audience or an adult one are ones that you should try to hit depending on your attempted market. Yours may be a case where some of the sub-series of the Shapechanger Tales that are teen-based, like Sasha's, are done as YA and others, like Mary's perhaps, are done as adult. This is what McCaffrey did with her Pern books and is not unusual.
Last edited by KatG; November 21st, 2011 at 11:29 PM.
November 28th, 2011, 01:00 AM #20
November 28th, 2011, 10:15 AM #21
So if you sell your rights to a children's publisher or imprint, then your work will be assigned an age group and if it's for teens, it will be YA. If you sell the rights to an adult publisher or imprint, then it will not be given an age group and it will not be YA. The YA books are sold for regular retail customers in the YA section of the bookstores in those countries that have children's areas and YA sections. The adult books are not sold in the children's section. (If they are considered classics that fit junior high/high school curriculums, they may be marketed to the schools as teen level works.)
This did not used to be a big issue in retail trade because YA was tiny. Now YA is huge in some countries like the U.S. and makes lots of money. More adults read YA titles than they did before. But the age group system for children's and educational publishing has not changed.
There are three ways where you might write a book with a young protagonist intended for an adult audience and end up in the YA section:
1) You sell your rights to an adult publisher in your home country/territory. You try to sell your rights abroad to other countries, but the publishers most interested in it are that countries' children's publishers for YA. This frequently happens when foreign authors are selling to the U.S., such as Alison Croggon. It's not necessarily a bad strategy as you can greatly increase the size of your audience. But again, it's you the author selling to a YA publisher, so you know that you are marketed as YA in that territory.
2) You sell your rights to an adult, large publisher that has children's imprints. Because of scheduling issues, imput from major booksellers and maybe early reviewers, they want to move you to one of their children's imprints, publish it in YA and cross-market to adult. This is happening a bit more often now that YA is huge, but it's not going to happen a lot in fantasy because a large chunk of adult fantasy has teen protagonists and teens buy adult fantasy books and so it's not really necessary (although you may have a better shot at a film deal in YA.) But if they think they can get good interest from the schools, it may be proposed.
3) You sell your rights to an adult publisher who is cross marketing it between YA and adult, in which case you'll likely be in both sections of the bookstore. This is basically what Baen is doing with Weber. Weber had an idea, wanted a YA title and Baen doesn't have a YA line but they may be testing doing one, so working with their long time bestselling author Weber is ideal; they cross market and if it sells well in YA, they do more titles like that and eventually start a YA line, like Tor did.
So largely the author controls where it goes and largely the titles are separate in their industries but because YA is lucrative, titles that can work as YA may find a better audience there to start and there may be cross-marketing schemes, usually in cooperation with the author. Because the author of the YA title has to do certain things -- you have to hit up certain reviewers, you do signings at kid bookstores, you may have to go to libraries and schools, you are going to be dealing with teen fan mail, etc. There are YA promotional channels that are going to be used if your book is being pushed in that age group.
So sell it to Scholastic and you're YA. Sell it to Tor YA and you're YA. Sell it to Bantam Spectra, and you're adult. The more important thing is to connect with readers whether they are teens or adults and to hit as many potential audiences as possible. (And the teens frankly are more loyal. )
November 28th, 2011, 10:22 AM #22
I really don't get it, Kat. I'll explain.
I've got YA on my shelves from Del Rey (Landover), Harper Voyager (Seven Realms, Abarat, arguably Riftwar), Tor (Great Alta), Pan Macmillan (Un Lun Dun), Gollancz (Wizard Knight) and others. None of those labels are YA in nature, but they have YA imprints - but these aren't labelled as such. I've got Scholastic, Hodder Teens (I think), Atom and I think some others that are clearly YA.
So I really don't get it. Are some of those titles YA only because people have said they're YA, or what?
November 28th, 2011, 05:06 PM #23
Interesting issue. Kat's discussion is very enlightening. I do wonder, though, about the part of the conversation that was brought up earlier and that was, at least in the background, a part of the OP. Is YA less serious than Adult? Is it less advanced topically? Does a YA label on a book equal a disappointment for an author? Does a book's labeled audience degrade its content...to say it bluntly.
I have enjoyed thoroughly several YA books and I've never quite agreed with the idea that books about children and youth or books for children and youth are inferior. Often times, they aren't even all that different. Adults absolutely can learn from the tales of the young, just as a young person can learn of life through the story of an elder. Also I think sometimes the things children face are just as profound or difficult as the things adults face and not just because they are young.
On the other hand, in my own writing I am playing with how to make my book, which has a teenage protagonist, appeal more to an adult audience. I'm not sure if I would be disappointed were my book published (I would be absolutely thrilled if my book were published no matter what) as a YA book, though I would hope adults would also read it.
November 28th, 2011, 05:48 PM #24
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As for me, I'm still debating which category to pick when I put my next book online. Here is my cover in the sizes used by B&N and Amazon for each book. I wonder if it would appeal to teenagers.
Are there still fans for futuristic Star Wars kind of sci-fi? Or have they all gone over to the dark side - fantasy?!
November 28th, 2011, 10:32 PM #25Originally Posted by Laer
YA is not a philosophy. It's not a style of writing. It is not a method to simplify one's thinking. It is not a difference in depth, theme, etc. from books in the adult section. There is some content in adult publishing that you probably won't find in YA publications (though that border line changes all the time,) and YA titles will always have teen protagonists while titles sold in the adult section may or may not have them, but that's about it for established differences. That a book is sold in the adult section does not mean that it won't appeal to teens, but if it is not also sold in the YA section and marketed as YA, then it's not YA. YA is the market in which the books are sold, not qualities of the books themselves. The sales figures that Laer trotted out for this thread are not, for YA, all the books with teen protagonists. They are all the books sold in the YA market/sections/publishers' YA lines.
Which is why the figures don't tell you anything about the books themselves. What it tells you is that the YA market is expanding at a faster rate than the general fiction (adult) market. Since the YA market has been in an expansion since 1998 from a very tiny market, and bolstered by t.v. and film adaptations directed at the teen audience since around 2001, this is hardly surprising. YA market venues and channels have been expanding along with the rest of children/teen products and media.
So Riftwar is not YA, just because someone thinks the "style" is teenish, Loerwyn, and because a lot of teens read it. Un Lun Dun, however, is YA. It was marketed as YA, sold in the YA market and to schools, Mieville promoted it as YA, etc. If you go to American Amazon, where the book is published by Del Rey, and you look down at the publisher information, you'll see the age group: Reading Level: 10 and up.
The book was also, because Mieville has an extensive adult audience, crossmarketed to that adult SFF market that contains Mieville readers. And this seems to be the interesting thing about the British market -- while they have the YA market and the children's/YA publishers, etc., they don't necessarily post age group info in listing the book. Pan Macmillan has reissued all of Mieville's work with a common cover treatment and so that includes Un Lun Dun. Canada is also rather like this -- titles will be listed in Teen, but there won't be a "Reading Level" entry necessarily, though it will almost always be on the cover. But the YA market is not a mysterious thing.
I think that authors expect to be told what their book is -- YA or adult, as if there is some quality that will determine it. (And there are numerous myths about what YA books are supposed to be.) But that's not how it works. The author decides what market he will chiefly go after. If they sell to a YA publisher, it's going to be YA because it will be in that market. And the author promotes it as YA. But that doesn't mean that the author is forbidden to market to adults either and vice versa. So when you're trying to figure out if a book is "YA," the question is what market is it chiefly being marketed in, which includes who the publisher is, whether the main reviews are School Library Journal or Publishers Weekly, is it being sold to schools, is it in the YA section of bookstores, does it have an age group posted on it, what the author does for promotion, etc.
November 29th, 2011, 03:14 AM #26
So, the reason I don't exactly get it is pretty much just because publishers in my country do it differently?
November 29th, 2011, 01:06 PM #27
At a YA level, Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy actually deals with moral ambiguity--an issue with which even many adults are uncomfortable. It's my own belief that young people are quite able to deal with complex thought, as long as the characters and the story appeal to them.
Last edited by Window Bar; November 29th, 2011 at 02:55 PM. Reason: sp.
November 29th, 2011, 01:26 PM #28
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Publishers and book stores use the terms in a very SPECIFIC sense, however. And that is where a lot of the confusion comes in.
November 29th, 2011, 03:47 PM #29
The confusion is A) people confuse what might appeal to teens with what is sold specifically to them and their schools; B) because a novel may be sold first as an adult and then later also as a YA book or vice versa, as both adult and YA, as adult in one country and YA in another, etc., and because people believe there must be something fundamentally in the books that differentiates YA from adult rather than things like publishers using one market or another, they try to center in on YA as a style which is a hopeless task; and C) people like to be the ones who get to decree how things are sorted and come up with all sorts of interesting systems that usually ignore the publishing business and large amounts of data that doesn't fit the systems.
This is parallel to the confusion of category markets and general fiction, with many people convinced that the category shelves in a bookstore mean something more than expansion marketing channels, while totally ignoring how publishers work. (It actually kind of relates somewhat to my and Fung Koo's dead horse beating in the other thread.)
In the case of YA, it's understandable confusion. But as writers, you will be making choices about what publishers to approach if you're approaching publishers. (And Laer's sales figures were from publishers, not indies.) And part of that choice, if you have a teen protagonist, will be whether you're going to approach adult publishing imprints, children's/YA ones or both and see which market wants you most. And another choice, should you get a deal with a publisher, will be when selling foreign rights to other countries, are you going to their children's/YA publishers, adult publishers or both. So understanding that YA is a market in case publishing folk suggest going into that market may be important. You have a big say in whether it will be in the YA market or not and what you will do promotionally for that YA market if it is.
That the YA market is profitable, that a good percentage of the bestsellers and mid-listers are doing well in YA is clearly evident. But it doesn't really tell you much about the adult fiction market. There are very clear reasons for the growth of the YA market over the last fifteen years, and again, it has little to do with the adult fiction market.
November 29th, 2011, 04:07 PM #30
Well, thanks for trying to explain, Kat.
I think my brain just melted out of my ears.