Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who's Reading the YA Novels?

Way back in the dark ages of March 2007, I had a post that linked to an article about the rise of Young Adult literature (YA for the acronymically gifted) and how the doom and gloom forecasts about how the kids aren't reading are a little gloomier than the situation warrants (Sure kids don't read. Except for HARRY POTTER. And Lemony Snicket. And TWILIGHT. And...)

So I was really feeling good about the land of Kidbookdom. But then in last week's You Tell Me I asked people what they were writing, and Holy Tyra there are a lot of people writing YA!!! Like, a lot a lot a lot of people. More than I could even count. (I didn't actually try to count).

Presumably if you're writing YA you read YA. Clearly there are a lot of adults reading young adult literature (including me).

This week's You Tell Me: is the YA boom driven by adults reading (and buying) kids books? Or are the kids really reading more?






74 comments:

Merry Jelinek said...

I noticed the number of YA authors on that post, and then I shuttered two or three times because the competition must be horrible. (and I'm writing middle grade, so it doesn't bode terrifically well for me)

From my observation, high schoolers are not reading YA, the avid readers in that age bracket have usually moved up to adult literature (or they carry around the adult lit. and keep their YA in a brown paper bag so no one will notice their actual reading tastes...) Generally, middle school kids are reading YA and so are a growing number of adults - I've noticed a lot of moms getting into YA because they want to see what their kids are into, and then sticking with it because a lot of it is really good.

Erik said...

How about both and something else?

There's no doubt in my mind that a lot of adults are reading Diane Lee Wilson and Anne Rinaldi. These books are very tightly written and very straightforward. They make easy and yet satisfying reads.

I also think that kids are reading a lot these days, at least my kids and their friends. There has been a big emphasis on this in schools (No Child Left Behind, for example) and there's a lot out there for them. My kids read a lot more than I did.

However, I don't think you can leave out the effect of simply having a lot of material in a genre as a promotional vehicle in and of itself. They sell well partly because of the shelf space allocated to them. There are a lot of diverse titles as well, and a lot of hoopla.

I think that the lesson the publishing industry can take away from this is that having more titles out there does generate sales, even if the inventory becomes a pain to manage.

(This is coming from one YA writer who has yet to make the real effort necessary to get himself published because self-publishing gives all the same "hit" without all the hassle).

WendyNYC said...

If you come take a look at my daughter's bookshelves, you might think she is single-handedly supporting the children's and YA (if the content is appropriate-- she's young) genres. She reads, and reads, and reads. It seems to me that her classmates are doing the same.

Jess said...

I think it's the same as it is for adult literature - while 1 in every 4 adults didn't read a book last year, possibly one or more of the three who DID probably read a LOT. It's the same way with kids. A lot of kids won't read, but you'll have the slice of kids who read enough books to make up the defecit, or something. ;)

And I think everyone reads everything. I and kids I knew were reading classics like Victor Hugo at twelve, thirteen years old, but then I know college students reading Lemony Snicket. YMMV.

bria said...

I'll admit it - I write YA.

But here's the thing I find interesting lately. I've been getting my curiosity-groove on and speaking with bookstore managers and librarians and the definitions of YA have blown my mind.

8-25

Seriously? Third-grade thru Grad School?

The librarians I spoke with told me this was a 'relatively' new age bracketing - but how do you quantify adult readers when we can't even quantify when someone becomes an adult.

As YA books get heavier, deeper, and sexier - why should it be any surprise that adults are reading them.

Not to mention how well written a lot of them are. Instead of feeling mass produced, they have a deeper emotional tie thru the characters to the reader that I feel is often missing in the same genre books written for adults.

BUT, I also work with teens - who do you think tells me what to read. They are definitely reading - not only that, I find them more likely to BUY books instead of getting them out of the library. 1/2 my loaners are from 15 year old girls!

Kaleb Nation said...

Kids don't read adult books. But adults can read kids books. It's mostly that simple.

It's like the old toy store aisle thing. There's only one pink aisle, because girls will play with stuff for boys, but boys won't play with toys for girls.

Dave Wood said...

I've wondered about that, myself. I also wonder what YA means these days. Both questions are probably two slices of the same marketing pie. Philip Pullman's "Dark Materials" trilogy seems to get billed as YA, but it's pretty sophisticated, and a book like "Trigger" is even more so. I think kids who read are probably more sophisticated earlier these days, so books that appeal to them that are classified as YA today, would have been clearly "adult" not so long ago. Also, they may be transitioning from gateway books like the Harry Potter stories to more "adult" books more quickly. At the same time, more adults seem to be open to reading YA. I know I pay a visit to the YA section pretty regularly, just in the last two years. So maybe the age of the target reader just doesn't mean what it used to - maybe the label's just a way to help art directors figure out which cover artist to use, and bookstores, how to shelve the book.

I've also wondered if more people are writing YA because it feels easier than writing for adults. I don't really know anyone who is currently writing YA, so I'm probably off base. Having tried it, I now know it isn't easier, just different. More complex in some ways. In fact, a YA author I met at a convention suggested it's actually harder because you're writing for a couple more levels of audience: not just the kids, but the parents, teachers, and librarians who act as gate-keepers.

Sophie W. said...

I'd like to think that people, adult or not, who love books are reading all sorts of books. Adult, YA, MG, all different genres. Comic books. Non-fiction. Picture books. I still read picture books. Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein are favorites.

As for writing YA, the best thing to do is to write like you would for an adult (excepting voice and character ages, perhaps), and not enter the project thinking, "I'm writing this for kids." We'll know if that's what you're thinking, and we hate being called kids. ;)

Helen said...

Yes, I also saw that the most people on that post said they were writing YA. That scared me. On the other hand, I am sure competition is stiff in all genres.

I fill out Scholastic book orders for my son's school. It's a small private school, about 100 kids. And I am the only one who ever orders YA books. Then again, maybe teenagers prefer buying books at stores rather than through catalogs. Which brings me to the question I wanted to ask Mr. Bransford for some time by now. Is it easier to sell books for young adults or for adults?

Emily Marshall said...

I have often wondered the same thing. I'm a YA author and read pretty much YA books, and anyone I know that reads YA are adults. But that's only because I know alot of other YA writers.

From the other side, I work at a library and the only ones checking out the Teen books are teens, with the occasional exception such Harry Potter and others. But I think the library is the last place most people get their YA books. It seems to be a genre that sells from bookstores and online book retailers more. That might be my assumption, though.

So I guess it's both. But this is an interesting topic. I'm curious what others think.

Roxan said...

Never read YA even when I was age appropriate for it. At 12 years old I read Portnoy's Complaint.

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

Let's just say that where my YA reader daughter is concerned, I haven't changed much since my college-bound son was a YA reader:

If the book looks interesting to daddy, then the chances that daddy will pay for the book (instead of babysitting or lawn mowing money) are much higher.

I out-and-out told my daughter that I wasn't buying her another book in Clique series because they were garbage. But if she wanted one of Scott Westerfeld's books, I'd buy it as long as I got to read it.

Erik said...

Another thought just occurred to me:

YA is often a term used to described what used to be "pulp fiction". The main difference is that the sex and other stuff inserted around Kilgore Trout's seminal work is missing.

I say this because I remember the last time I was on a plane a lot of people were reading titles I recognized as YA. They are quick, light reads in most cases - just like pulp fiction.

That's probably a lot of the real market here. Airplane reads.

Karen Duvall said...

Several of the members of my paranormal mystery writers yahoo group (close to 400 members) have limited their reading diet to almost solely YA. They're reading fantasy, paranormal mystery and urban fantasy, and they prefer the YA versions because they find the adult choices too offensive. These readers are uncomfortable with graphic sex and profanity, and they say its used too often in the books written for adults. The YA versions are tamer, but written with grown-up themes that appeal to their reading tastes.

Angela said...

Both!
Since the YA market is more competitive than the Adult market, I know the YA books I choose to read will be good. Not so, more often than not,with the adult books I've chosen.There seems to be more fantasy in YA now(thanks to you know who) and I'm not really noticing any worthy, if any, Adult fantasy. Most of the adult books I do find AND like, I've sought after myself through Amazon by keywords I've entered or there reputable authors I know won't disappoint me. But the YA books, through their impeccable advertising means, seem to find me.
BUT, I think Kids are reading more YA. My daughter and her friends are constantly eager to read anything that's remotely chick lit and the teens I work with are always able to tell me about their latest new reads.

Angela said...

Just being anal and editing my previous comment. Should be "they're reputable authors..." and not "there reputable authors."
Lest anyone thinks I's ain't got no edumacation:)

Erik said...

Karen, I think you are right about a big hunk of the YA market, but one agent that I did bother to get through with my MS told me that it needed to be "spiced up". I think that a lot of people are taking a good genre that fills a niche and are messing around with it to suit their own (slightly perverted) tastes.

I do hope I am wrong on this one.

Dave Wood said...

Sophie W.,
When you mentioned the word, I realized I really only think of middle school/junior high and lower (and maybe not even eighth grade) as "kids" -- and that mostly because my...umm...proto-young-adults are still in second and third grade, and they'd much rather be called kids than children. When I do find myself talking to thirteen to seventeen year-old...um...types, I guess I usually use "folks" or "guys" or something like that. I suspect that even those terms sound pretty stuffy. Sigh. If it's any consolation, I grit my dentures when people call me "sir." ;)

Dave Wood said...

Here's a question for you, Nathan, sort of related to Helen's.

Does it sometimes make sense not to query a book as YA if it potentially is YA?
I've been thinking about how to query the book I've been working on. I started it assuming I was writing a young adult book because the protag is fifteen and I was going for a younger voice -- and trying to gear the vocabulary to be challenging, but not overwhelming, for early teens. By the end of one of the middle drafts I'd started to think of it as "a book for sophisticated fourteen year-olds and up." So I'm considering querying it as "contemporary fiction" and I've been looking for those agents who work with both adult and YA fiction. (That search led me here, in fact.) I thought I could address the YA/non-YA issue in the cover letter for the partial when it's requested.

I figure the agent has the better perspective on knowing where the book will fit, but I also wonder if I'll run the risk of setting up the wrong expectation for the manuscript: leading to an immediate reaction of "this voice is too young" when I might not get that reaction if I queried it as YA.

Karen Duvall said...

Erik, heavy petting (is that term even used any more? lol!) might be acceptable in YA, but I sure hope they don't ever publish a full out Ellora's Cave YA kind of story. Man, talk about a potential book ban. Eek! The adult YA readers, like those in my group, would be okay with behind-closed-doors sex, just not the in your face kind (okay, the pun was intentional; I couldn't help myself).

Nathan Bransford said...

Dave-

It's important not to overthink it. If you think it's YA, query it as YA.

Linnea said...

Yeah, I wonder what YA means these days too. Although I didn't write my novel with the YA market in mind, it was promoted as a YA and received nomination for a young readers choice award. My emails from high school students are enthusiastic even though the story is not about teens or teen situations. Go figure.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

My children are all avid readers and they read a wide variety of YA and adult fiction. I read most of what my kids read because I want to make sure they aren't reading trash (i.e. bad language, sex). Most of the time I enjoy the YA books as much as they do.

Lauren said...

I read YA. I write YA. I'm 27. Several of my similarly-aged friends read YA, though they don't write it. I even got my husband (age 30; an SF and humor fan, mostly) to read some of my favorite contemporary YA novels. The last two author events I attended were YA author events: 1.) Stephenie Meyer (packed, loud, infreakingsane), and 2.) Markus Zusak (speech for the adult/ YA crossover The Book Thief. Also packed. Most people there were my parents' age).

The YA section is my first stop whenever I go to a bookstore or library. I go to my local B&N at least once a week to check out the new YA releases and keep up with the market as much as possible. What's interesting to me is that I'm nearly always the only one in the YA sections at both the bookstore and library. I know somebody's buying the books, but I hardly ever see them. The last few times I wasn't alone in the YA section, I was joined by a younger girl (middle school-age) and her parents as she combed the shelves for chick lit series books. The Clique, The A-List and that ilk. Pardon me, but BLEH. Why would you read The Clique when JOHN GREEN exists?

...Sorry, I guess I'm a bit defensive of the kind of stuff I write and read. Contemporary, realistic YA, veering towards literary. Stuff like Barry Lyga's BOY TOY and Margo Rabb's CURES FOR HEARTBREAK. I see those hardbacks on the shelves and wonder how they sell, and how they sell to teens, specifically. Sometimes I wonder if they're mainly selling to my fellow weird 20somethings who want to write for teenagers. Sigh. All I know is, whenever I sit down with my "I will write the kind of novel I would want to read" mantra in my head (or, as Markus Zusak said about The Book Thief, "I wanted to write someone's favorite book"), what comes out is realistic, literaryish YA.

Helen said...

I've read more YA as an adult than I did as a YA. I am so jealous of the reading selection teens have now! As a teen, I was reading a lot of sci-fi, classics, historical fiction, some fantasy -- almost all adult.

The children of my friends are mostly in the 'middle grade' age range and they read quite a bit. On the flip side, my adult friends are all big Harry Potter fans. My mom (primarily a romance/women's fiction reader) has been reading YA as well as my father and grandmother (primarily sci-fi/fantasy readers).

Good stories are good stories. A lot of good stories are being written for that age group.

Dave F. said...

I buy the stuff for my niece's son (he's now 12 1/2). Sometimes I read it, mostly I just scan it. My niece doesn't want cursing.

My nephew's girl is just reaching the right grade level for books. He grouched when I gave her Gaimen's Stardust.

I won't write YA because by the time I do, the Harry Potter clones will be out in force. Consider that Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies spawned Bridge to Terabithia and Narnia. Also, with The Golden Compass coming out this year, they might make the sequel to that. Along with two more Harry Potter movies.

A ton of people are going to write YA. An author has to be careful. It takes more than a dragon, a wizard and a few kids to make the story.

Even "Monsters Inc" and "Chicken Little" and "Shrek" have more to the stories than just a quest for some thing. They actually have nicely developed characters and great satire. It's all in the details.

Kathryn said...

My son (17) and my goddaughter (16) have read everything they could get their hands on since they were second graders. They've both been reading YA and adult stuff, including the classics (voluntarily), for the last couple years, generally going through at least a book a week. My own favorite YA authors at present, besides Rowling, are Sherwood Smith and Tamora Pierce. I copyedit middle grades and YAs, too, which has given me the opportunity to read a lot of good books before almost anyone else. :-) I also enjoy rereading my old Oz books from time to time.

Sophie W. said...

Dave Wood - My comment about "kids" was not meant for anyone in particular. Please don't take offense.

PS: "Folks" isn't cool anymore. You want "homedawgs." That'll get you in with the cool kids. ;)

original bran fan said...

Huh, until Karen Duvall mentioned it, I hadn't thought about adults reading YA because they prefer something "cleaner" and are guaranteed not to be offended by most YA offerings.

This is interesting. I betcha New York never thought of it, but in the bible belt and other places it might be a huge factor.

And maybe people like to write it for the same reason. You might be embarrassed to let your saintly grandmother read your erotica or your serial killer novel, but letting her read your YA is okay.

inept time traveler said...

Sometimes it feels like YA is the only choice left when you get tired of reading about another handsome shiney-toothed cop chasing a mean-nasty serial killer.

Other Lisa said...

Hmmm, the only YA stuff I've read since I was out of that age bracket are the Pullmans and the Potters. The former seems like it crosses the line into adult fiction (to me), and Pottter - it's just fun. But that's it.

However I don't have kids - from this thread it seems that parents are a large segment of the adult "YA" market.

K.C. Shaw said...

Remember that kids usually like to read about protags who are a little older than they are. Thus little kids read about grade-schoolers, middle grade kids read about high schoolers, and high schoolers read adult books. I still say there's a huge untapped market for books about college students--which will be read by high schoolers.

My mother went on a YA-reading kick recently. She was amazed at the clarity and high quality of the writing, but that's something that I've appreciated for a long time. I used to write YA (and I'm sure I'll come back to it eventually), and I think that's the main reason why my writing is clear and gets to the point without waffling around describing the scenery first!

(Usually.)

Katie Alender said...

I would guess that many YA writers are more likely to be interested in technology and gadgetry than your average bear, and therefore are overrepresented on the blogosphere.

But I'm a YA author, and I read a lot of YA.

Heather B. Moore said...

As a teenager I read adult fiction. The YA pickings were slim.

But now there's a whole new world in YA that adults and kids can enjoy. The sophistication level is up.

When I read adult fiction now, I skim a lot. Unless it's Harlan Coben.

Several of my author friends have switched from adult to YA. They've received multi-book contracts as a result. Hmmm... maybe I'm writing in the wrong genre.

Michele Lee said...

And I remember when I used to get made fun of for reading YA in high school and early college.

Maripat said...

Heh...in my house book recommendations are usually through my kids. Both teenagers. So they're actually the ones buying them.

But I tend to read YA and adult novels now.

When I was their age, I hated most of the YA books out there so I ended up reading adult. (Stephen King, anyone?) My daughter loves the YA section and I have to admit the diversity is wonderful.

Lupina said...

I think the HP series has enticed more adults AND kids to read YA, particularly fantasy. I discovered the joy of YA four or five years ago in a grad class on YA literature, when I found myself loving homework as never before. It still might not have occurred to me to write YA, however, until I finished my first adult novel and realized my favorite parts dealt with a deluded adolescent gamer I had sicced on my protagonist. And yes, the avoidance of super-graphic sex and violence is an attraction YA has for me. I'm much too impressionable for many adult novels, and I know it.

It's been interesting as I've passed my current YA novel around to various associates of associates for reading assessment; the readers have ranged from a 10-year old neighbor to a 27-year old son of an online group acquaintance. That would tend to bear out the new YA demographics of 8-25 that were cited. And I believe the readers range much older than that! - Lupina

Sharon said...

At a certain point I realised all the books I was super impressed with were YA. Hence I stuck to it. I read and write fantasy, YA, of course, and YA just seems to utterly outstrip adult fantasy in terms of originality, accessibility, and that hard to define certain something, heart. Or as I've heard it termed, maybe that sensawunda.
So yes, I read loads of YA Fantasy. I'm frequently amazed how much love for mankind I find wrapped up in the stories, and I mean that in a totally non gushy way, as I am a totally non gusher. :)
But, yeah, now that I've had a think about it, maybe that's why I read it, and that's why I write it.
And anyway, haven't the maturation levels been pushed back lately?
Apparently, anyone up to 30 years old is now referred to as an emerging adult, as opposed to a full blown real one.
So maybe we need to redefine YA.

Enagwolo said...

Hey Nathan,

In your opinion, is there a market for simple, YA love stories? Without any vampires, werewolves, craziness but just a story about kids in highschool? Chick-litty, maybe? But a very realistic story. Or is that just too old school?

Deborah K. White said...

I'm 31, and I'm one of those people who read a lot of YA because it's "cleaner" (little to no profanity, graphic sex, or graphic violence).

I have no kids, but the girl I mentor reads a lot of YA books.

2readornot said...

Granted there wasn't a ton of YA when I was actually in that age bracket -- but I've always enjoyed YA. Now I mostly read Tamora Pierce and my friends' books (published and pre-published), however :)

When I've wandered through the teen sections here and there (all right, every weekend) at the bookstore, I've noticed mostly adults there with me. So good question!

Katie said...

I found all of these comments VERY interesting! Particularly all of those who went for YA because of the lack of sex and swearing. After all... that's what I'm writing, but I've never thought of classifying it as YA, since my characters are 22 and 23. Here I've been hoping that there's a market for PG rated time-travel and fantasy, so this is encouraging!

Another thought I had, that no one's mentioned, is if the shorter length and slightly lower reading level of (some) YA is also attracting today's busier and slower readers. I mean... a 400 page book only takes most of us a couple of hours to read (I'm guessing that most of you are like me)... but plenty of lighter readers that I know take 3-4 times as long to get through the same book. Perhaps these readers prefer the shorter length of YA?

150 said...

I honest to gosh think it's the adults reading YA, especially in the fantasy and urban fantasy genres. I've found it livelier, less vulgar, more hopeful, and much more broadly creative.

Josephine Damian said...

Katie, lots of cozy mysteries don't have sex or swearing (or show violence); there are plenty of mystery titles for you to share with your kids.

Nathan, when I was 14, I rifled through my English teacher's desk drawer looking for something different to read and pulled out the play, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?".

When I asked if I could read it,
my teacher said it was kind of "adult," and did not recommend I read it, which made me wanna read it more. Which I did, since she gave in and let me.

As a young teenager, I remember swiping my dad's copy of the "Godfather" and whatever other books my parents were reading.

Bottom line, when I was a YA all I wanted to read was the grown-up stuff. And now that I'm a grown-up? It's still nothing but adult stuff for me. Sorry, but the YA titles have never interested me.

cc said...

I read YA because I write it, and some of it is very, very good. But I think in general teens are buying/reading YA much more than adults.

Anonymous said...

I'm a high schooler and I read YA fiction. I mean, duh...?

I can see how a lot of adults read YA novels, but I somehow doubt they'd find A-List or Gossip Girl very interesting.

Mary said...

YA has expanded to cover a larger age group than the words Young Adult immediately suggest. They are stories that can be enjoyed by people of most ages, the literary equivalent of the family film. My mother doesn’t read children’s books, but in the last few years she’s started to intersperse her usual crime fiction with the occasional YA.

Then there's teen fiction. And as anon@5:33 points out, that's never going to interest my seventy-year-old Mum.

Ozal said...

As an adult, I read YA fantasy for two of the reasons already mentioned. First and foremost, because I am SICK TO DEATH of adult fantasy which seems these days to have plots exclusively based on situations allowing copious amounts of sex.
I also think the time factor comes into the decision - I'm time poor, I can't afford to be brain-deep in fantasy land for too long. And I get really cranky if I have to keep putting a book down.

Howsabout it, Nathan? Can you single-handedly convince the publishing world that sex is not the most important ingredient in a book?

P.G said...

OOOH MAMA! I have read alot of YA books. I just them, so easy to read and without alot of the hassels of adult books.
I can say truthfully I have recommended many YA series to adults that want a light read and dont want chic lit.
My fav series to recommend is The Uglies/pretties/specials and Extras.
Great series that many enjoy for many reasons.
Plus the teens are very active in my library, they volunteer and give advice on what books they would love to see bought.
HUGE turn over of YA books and loads are bought all the time.
I am happy to see these books as my teens years were horrible until I found Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin. The YA section was poor and I think I spent much of my time rereading books.
Kudos to those in publishing that are making this happen. Keep them reading and keep them busy.
In my area more teens read books then adults. But I think that is due to the library giving them a space to call their own.

A Paperback Writer said...

I've been teaching at the same junior high school for 20 years, and I can most definitely assure you that the students there are reading FAR more than they used to. Yes, I think much of it has to do with Harry Potter and the huge YA surge since then. They don't all read YA, though. They also like non-fiction, and the better readers are not afraid to grab "older" stuff. (Last year I saw a good deal of The Historian, plus, there are always the classics, and Dracula's a favorite.)
Just today, one of my 7th graders told me that all she'd put on her Christmas list were books: 17 of them. That, I think, is pretty cool. (By the way, she had Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days on her desk in front of her.)

cathellisen said...

I read young adult books because I like reading about younger protagonists and that almost always means the book will be labelled YA.

I like writing about younger characters too, so the time will come when I have to send my query to agents and I'll most likely first focus on the ones who rep older YA. I don't think that my work is YA, but it seems to fit a very loose bill of being short and focusing on people just hitting their twenties.

I can't say if more kids are reading, because my only contact with high schoolers are the drop-outs my mom tutors, and they have to be held at gunpoint before they will even crack open a book.

cynjay said...

I went to a signing at Books Inc. in SF last night - Jay Asher, Barry Lyga, Ellen Hopkins and Brian Mandabach (we missed you Nathan - where were you?), and there were a large number of teens in the audience. They were very enthusiastic, asking questions and almost giggling in the presence of these great authors. It was heartwarming.

One reason you might have a higher number of YA writers here is that I found your blog through Editoral Anonymous, who is a kid's editor, and your name is often bandied about on Verla Kay's Blue Board which is also for kidlit writers. There might just be more of us here.

writtenwyrdd said...

Because I love dark fantasy, I read YA. Also because I love good stories, I read YA. I'm finding that so many of the new fantasy novels are too full of sex or romantic elements that distract from the cool world and the story, that YA novels (which have a high level of skill, in general, when romance fantasy novels frequently do not)that they fit the bill for me.

Besides, what is defined as YA now is what was considered mainstream adult when I began reading this genre around 40 years ago.

Josephine Damian said...

Nathan, along the lines of Dave's comment, how do you think "The Secret History" and "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" were pitched/queried/submitted to publishers? As YA? YA mystery/thriller? Neither?

These books seemed geared to a wider audience.

Looking back I realize I read some YA as a kid, but they were animal based books like "Black Beauty" and "Old Yeller" - it was the animals that appealed to me, not the YA characters.

abc said...

All I know is, I'm depressed.
Signed, a wannabe YA author.

Liz said...

During my stint manning the YA area at our local library, I was astounded by the number of adults reading YA. After I began reading a few of them, I understood why. Some really fine authors are writing YA.

I have to agree with several of the other posts, kids are reading more today than in the past. It may be due to requirements at school through programs like Accelerated Reader.

Also, with such a wide variety of books available in YA, even a picky reader can find something.

As the librarian, if I could find one book or one series that hooked a kid, I knew he/she would be hooked for life. I saw this happen with my own daughter. She needed major prodding to read until I gave her the Louise Rennison series. She was hooked and now reads everything and wants to own it for her 'collection.'

My trips to Barnes and Noble are quite expensive these days.

Carrie said...

I write YA so that's one reason I read YA. But one reason I LOVE YA is because the books don't have to adhere to genre norms (mostly because they're all lumped together on one shelf). I feel like adult genre books have to fit that genre while YA books can be all over the place because they're all lumped together (you can write a romance without a HEA). I love the mixing of genres I find in YA, the lack of convention, the pure imagination.

Lauren said...

Josephine Damian: I read a lot about Special Topics In Calamity Physics when it was released, and I recall that Marisha Pessl specifically targeted Jonathan Franzen's agent with her manuscript. That agent (totally blanking on her name right now) is well-known for repping literary fiction, and I believe, does not rep YA. Special Topics is an adult lit fic novel with a precocious teenage protagonist, though I'm sure plenty of brainy teens have read it. ("Brainy" is a high compliment in my book.) Secret History is also categorized as adult lit fic, though I find it to be much more readable than Special Topics, and probably has more appeal to teens in general.

It's funny you commented about those books this morning, because they came to my mind last night when I was considering how I could reimagine my WIP if it doesn't sell as YA. It's about a nerdy older teen guy protagonist with some very big problems, and there are several adult characters who figure prominently in it. I suspect I could add 10 - 15K words and re-pitch it as adult mainstream. I've found that the line between YA and adult has a lot to do with pacing.

Sam Hranac said...

Crossover is strong for YA, but I see actual young adults reading them. I take my lunches at Seattle's Central Library, and see them coming and going from the YA fiction stack all the time.

One of the benefits of aiming for the crossover crowd is it has raised the content bar, creating a separate Tween category. My 11-year old doesn't read the more earth YA. Yet. But I can tell from his interests that it will be a fresh new adventure for him when he does.

Sara said...

Well, just look at all of the adults who enjoy the Gossip Girl TV show and who were big on The OC, Gilmore Girls, etc. If they like that kind of thing, they'll like YA. As everyone here has already pointed out, YA has come a long way since the days of those cheesy, tiny little romances with the heroine holding a pair of ballet shoes on the cover and a blue-eyed hunk in the background. I avoid adult literature geared toward my demographic because too often it is about grown women who can't find/hold onto men and who can't get along with their mothers. If I'm going to read that kind of thing, I'd rather read about teens experiencing it. With adult characters, I just want to smack them and tell them to grown up.

Oh, and yes, I write YA. But I would read YA regardless.

Josephine Damian said...

Lauren, I tried to imagine those two authors sitting down to write their queries, and scratching their heads over which of many ways to present it.

I wonder if they made a decision and stuck to it, or it queried it different ways to different agents, went through trial and error, etc. I also wonder if I would had read either if they were promoted as YA.

Scott said...

The interest in YA doesn't really surprise me. Of course, there's the phenomenal success of Harry Potter, but also Lemony Snicket, Artemis Fowl, and others. But more than that, look at what we've grown up on.

I think most of us here were raised on 80's and 90's TV, and a few of us even go back to the Brady Bunch and beyond. Look at the popular shows: from the MG Full House to the YA Beverly Hills 90210, many of the most popular shows of our younger years were about kids dealing with their troubles, and they were on prime time, not just after school.

Cosby, Facts Of Life, Wonder Years, Doogie Howser, and on and on--you make your own list. Even though the supposedly main character on Home Improvement was a man, he was an adult child, and as the kids grew up on the show, they became more important to the story lines.

Those shows, whether network sitcoms or the teen shows on Disney and Nick, made stories about young people popular with people of all ages. And those shows gave way to reality shows, which are usually about--guess what--young people in extraordinary circumstances dealing with their troubles.

As for books, much of the adult interest in YA is in fantasy, which has always had young characters. Tolkien almost totally ignored children in his stories, but his main characters were little people with childlike interests who got sucked into the problems of a big-people world.

Adolescents are fun to read and write about and to write for. They are searching for their identities, learning to cope with problems they often didn't cause, and they still have a sense of fun and magic.

And, let's face it, most of us are still kids. Jung claimed that, for most people, adolescence lasts into the mid thirties, and often well beyond that. And those of us who have more or less grown up, still long to be young and relatively free.

Anonymous said...

Life is so much more exciting when you are a young adult. The world is yours for the taking and you have so much hope.

A good YA, coming-of-age novel is much more interesting than reading about a stat-at-home mom, divorcee, or over forty-year-old woman whose jealous of her married friends.

Sam Hranac said...

o/` o/` o/` o/` o/` o/`
You're gonna make it after aaaaaalll!


Sorry. Carry on.

bria said...

I recently went to a cult meeting - I mean Stephanie Meyer's book signing - hoping to hear her speak. There were three adults (we found each other pretty quickly.)

I'd like to give you a head count of the teens there, but they had to shut the B&N down once they hit 6000. No one counted the mob teens outside still hoping to get in.

I'm pretty sure they all read the books :)

Mayumi said...

Middle school kids read YA lit. because it's at their reading level. High schoolers are too cool for YA lit, as Merry Jelinek notes. And people in their 20s and 30s read it because it's retro-cool. I think.

Just found your blog recently ... as a writer, it is very interesting and helpful to learn about the industry/business side of publishing. So, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Kids don't read adult books.

Tell that to my nephew. He started reading adult books when he was about 13-14 (he's 17 now). That's when he started reading Tom Clancy novels.

~Nancy (who's too lazy to log in)
http://writerlystuff.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Hah! Kids don't read adult books? I read everything I could get my hands on, including Bob & Carol, Ted & Alice at 11 or 12, because I loved to read and couldn't drag enough books home from the bookmobile.

Cocaine Princess said...

Dear Mr. Bransford,

My question is do some literary agents no matter how amazing the manuscript could be, pass on it just based on their own personal taste? For example, suppose a writer submitted a manuscript that was set in the wild west days and the particular agent who is reading it may not care or like reading about westerns and therefore passes on it? Or do they keep an open mind?
Respectfully Yours,
Cocaine Princess

Rose Green said...

I work with teens, and believe me, they read YA. (I read it, too. They are always borrowing from my shelves.)

I prefer YA because it is often more cohesive than adult (in a YA you can't just skip over the climax, for example, or have a sudden random setting/personality switch stuck on at the very ending of a novel, or have the cynical characters at the beginning just as miserable at the end of 400 pages as they were at the beginning--just thinking of a few lauded adult books I've read.) I like the power in a YA--small choices can lead to tangible change in the world.

I suspect that there's a lot wider scope of YA out there today than there used to be. So many adults seem proud of the fact that they never read any YA books--they just went straight to adult. And I remember being frustrated when I'd maxed out my library at age 12 and wasn't really interested in paperback pulpy teen romance. But there's a lot out there today, and it's not all just "airplane reads."

Actually, I disagree pretty strongly with the assessment that all YA is just another name for pulp fiction and airplane reads. Octavian Nothing? The Book Thief? House of the Scorpion? Speak? River Secrets? These are only a handful of well-written, interesting YA novels with depth as well.

Jill C. said...

My 6th grader is instructed to choose a YA Novel for his Language Arts class. MG Novels are not acceptable.

Anonymous said...

"Kids don't read adult books."

I read books like the Count of Monte Cristo in middle school for fun and some of Tolkien’s books (including the Silmarillion) starting around fourth or fifth grade. I actually had more patience for the classics when I was younger than I do now.

Nic said...

Everyone reads YA. Well, not my three-year-old, but you know. Everyone else.

sylvia said...

Well, my kid reads YA like it is going out of style. This time of year, everyone is asking me for recommendations for Christmas presents and I'm saying "NOT popular boys books because he's almost certainly already read it." Thank god for the school library or else I'd go broke trying to keep him in reading material.

Yes, he's also addicted to the computer and the Xbox and the gameboy - I've not banned electronics or anything like that. But you can tell if it's a really good book because he'll pass on all of them in favour of lying on his bed and finishing the book.

This hit extreme levels with Harry Potter:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sylvia/53114887/

He's done some branching out to adult books but is less than enthralled.

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