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What defines the Young adult genre?

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Old 06-21-2010, 07:03 AM
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Default What defines the Young adult genre?


I have novel about men who can dodge bullets, has children packed in crates who are sent off to serve as slaves (but nothing graphic happens to them) has a lot of characters who are prostitutes and has a lot of action (but not gore) in it.

It counts out to 60,000 words.

Originally I marketed it as a action / adventure novel, and got no one who even wanted to find out what the story was about. I sent it to several agents. (80)

Now, when I look back on it, after writing another book, I realize that it is actually a thriller novel.

The wide ranged feedback I got was that it was too short for thriller.

I've started editing it from scratch and have found many things that were pretty bad writing, but have now corrected most of it, and am still in the process of correcting more. Thanks to my new learning experience.

Now I was originally going to push it to 80k words by introducing a plot twist that really goes with the theme, so I think its a good idea.

But I was wondering what's stopping me from marketing it as YA? With 60k words, it fits into YA word range perfectly and maybe more people will look into it. Plus its got action and bullet dodging.

So with the themes I put above, can I market it as YA? Will people look into it? Is it a good idea? Or is foul mouthing, prostitution, slaves, and raw action too much for YA?

Can I market my novel as YA? Will that interest agents at looking at it?

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Old 06-21-2010, 07:30 AM
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Someone else more knowledgeable is welcome to dispute me. My research indicates that generally Y/A fiction is written for 17-21 year olds. I could find no concrete rules on this. Too much adult content for this genre may be viewed negatively by agents and publishers. Although, relevant sex and violence may be included. Think R-rated films.
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Old 06-21-2010, 07:36 AM
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I've always disliked calling YA a genre. It's an age demographic, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, I don't think anyone here can tell you if agents would be interested in it as a novel for teenagers. Length and action are not not what defines the demographic, anyway. Do your research. Books shelved in that section, while generally are nearly always less than 80k words, enough note-worthy ones are longer, and span all types of plots and settings. What they do have in common is one thing about the characters. With so few exceptions that they are hardly worth noting, the main character is between the ages of 11-21. Or if the age is not given, they are in that kind of stage of life.

The amount of sexual content and violence all depends on the publishers and agents. Some publishers don't cencor anything. If it's happened to teens, teens should read it. One publisher I know reprinted a soldier's WW1 memoirs, which had lots of graphic descriptions of what the war was like. They chose it because he was 18-21 when it happened. Others still feel the need to "protect" kids, or try too hard to make it for a wider age group. Which I find funny considering the books my mom and I read when we were twelve, and the ones some of my friends read in high school.

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Old 06-21-2010, 07:43 AM
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I was going to mention The Catcher in the Rye, Tom Sawyer, and other books that I read in school, but then I remembered the controversy that they cause. If you don't make it porn, maybe a little editing will put the story where you want it to be. Please remember that this advice is given by someone that hasn't seen the story.
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Old 06-21-2010, 07:52 AM
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I don't believe we should be afraid of controversy. Judy Blume, who is the essential writer of books for girls, has been banned/cencored in so many places. Yet she wrote/writes the books that kids related to best.
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Old 06-21-2010, 08:32 AM
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Just as different people have various opinions on what should and should not be censored, agents and publishers will have their own opinions on censoring.
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Old 06-21-2010, 10:32 AM
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Right. That's fine. The more I think about it, the more I feel that its perfect for young adult audience. Hell, I was 22 when I wrote it. So I was pretty much a young adult as well.

I think it'll be perfect.

The pitching is important. If I pitch it as YA they'll look at it differently than when I pitch it as Adult fiction.

Besides the novel is more suitable that way. The writing is in short bursts with most chapters ending with around 500 words. It's lightning quick. It's a bit imaginative, and the thrills are never ending. It's a pure entertainer, that's it.

I'm just wondering what it is that does not fit into YA. I mean, what stops any author from pitching his book to YA if its too short?

Also, since the first time around I submitted it to most agents as something else. Do you think they will remember me if I changed the name, and resent it? It was around three months ago when I sent it the first time around. No one requested anything though.
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Old 06-21-2010, 02:13 PM
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What makes something a young adult novel? With few acceptions that are hardly worth noting, the ONLY thing that these books have in common is a character who is 11-21 years old.
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Old 06-21-2010, 02:14 PM
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Three of my clients write YA (one, Lisa Mcmann, just sold movie rights to the WAKE trilogy - yay!).

YA generally covers a wider age range than Milliken suggested, from barely teen up.

Someone said that YA is the same as adult fiction, minus the bullshit.

Don't try to sell this on as YA just because it's not good enough for adults; YA readers are a pretty discerning bunch.
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Old 06-21-2010, 02:20 PM
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Very true, Mike. Unfortunately, too many writers and publishers underestimate younger readers, are afraid of the controversy, or simply think certain things are inappropriate. That's why so many high school students I know just skip over the teen section and go to the adult section.
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Old 06-21-2010, 08:52 PM
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Interesting. Especially since I just launced an online serial aimed at young adult readers (by which I mean almost-adult readers, I suppose, though hopefully also people in their twenties and thirties will read.

Much of the language and situations are based on my contact with high school and college students. I think the referencess to sex and drugs and violence are in the mainstream of whet they like to see.
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Old 06-21-2010, 09:05 PM
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I never liked seeing people clump teenagers into one group like this, as if people are not individuals while they are 13-19 years old.
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Old 06-21-2010, 09:06 PM
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It should be pointed out that the YA market is about the only growth area in publishing right now. Publishers are taking it very seriously, and are looking out for the new twilight/harry potter 'breakthrough' book, both of which - love them or hate them - got kids reading who'd never taken any notice of novels before, which has to be good for everyone.
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Old 06-21-2010, 09:09 PM
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I'm not debating the age range could be stretched to 11-21, but I can't imagine writing a book to specifically target such a broad range of maturity.
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Old 06-21-2010, 09:13 PM
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True, but within that broad range of maturity there is... a broad range of maturity. When I was 11 I was reading adult thrillers. Some people at 21 have a reading age of 8. I think you have to ignore all of that, toss out preconceptions and just write a good story.
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Old 06-21-2010, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike C View Post
True, but within that broad range of maturity there is... a broad range of maturity. When I was 11 I was reading adult thrillers. Some people at 21 have a reading age of 8. I think you have to ignore all of that, toss out preconceptions and just write a good story.
What you say is so true, but I think the subject matter for this post is how and who to market to...and if an agent will take you on based on certain criteria.
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Old 06-21-2010, 09:20 PM
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I don't think I was entirely thinking of the reading level but more of the content. I'm sure there are a lot of us out here who were reading well beyond our age as children, but I didn't read more graphic things until my mid to late teens. Once I hit that age and friends were giving me books to read, I read stuff that scarred my brain for life.
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Old 06-21-2010, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by B. Milliken View Post
I'm not debating the age range could be stretched to 11-21, but I can't imagine writing a book to specifically target such a broad range of maturity.
When I said that, I was refering to the age range of the main characters I have seen shelved in the teens section, not the marketing demographic for individual books. And anyway, lots of kids read books that publishers would consider "too mature" for them, and are able to handle it just fine. My mom once read a book long before the movie came out and they didn't let her in because she was "too young" Everyone is an individual, and age does not automatically suggest what they can read and what they are ready for.

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Old 06-22-2010, 12:17 AM
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Originally Posted by B. Milliken View Post
I read stuff that scarred my brain for life.
Is there such a thing?
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Old 06-22-2010, 12:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Aric Isom View Post
What you say is so true, but I think the subject matter for this post is how and who to market to...and if an agent will take you on based on certain criteria.
The subject is what defines YA - the OP seems to be suggesting that nobody liked the book on the first wave of submissions, so maybe it'll do for kids. An agent will generally take you on based on two criteria - does he/she think they can sell it, and is it better than anything else they've read lately. Kids - and agents, even - are savvy enough to recognise a pig in lipstick.
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Old 06-22-2010, 12:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Rei View Post
Everyone is an individual, and age does not automatically suggest what they can read and what they are ready for.
That is, obviously, true, but books have to be marketed, regardless of genre. People do judge books by their covers, and books have to be marketed to a specific group, even if it gets widely read outside that group (Harry Potter is a good case in point). Marketing dollars are scarce, and they have to be spent wisely; you have to aim a book at the market most likely to shell out the dollars for it; it's common sense. It doesn't automatically mean you'll like anything romance or chick-lit just because you're a woman, but the publishers' marketing departments will do everything in your power to entice you. Try lining up 20 books at random; you'll know, without seeing title or author, who the prospective buyer is just by the cover art. If it didn't work, all books would just go out with a plain brown cover; it's way cheaper to produce.
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Old 06-22-2010, 04:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike C View Post
The subject is what defines YA - the OP seems to be suggesting that nobody liked the book on the first wave of submissions, so maybe it'll do for kids. An agent will generally take you on based on two criteria - does he/she think they can sell it, and is it better than anything else they've read lately. Kids - and agents, even - are savvy enough to recognise a pig in lipstick.
I can tell that a lot of the time you do know what you are talking about and seem very smart. I guest my problem is to get you to know what I'm talking about.

What I got out of urntme's questions were:

So with the themes I put above, can I market it as YA? Will people look into it?"
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Old 06-22-2010, 05:26 AM
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No. The first time around, when I got rejected the most feedback I got was that it was too short for a thriller. But if I put it as YA, it's in the perfect range.

So I don't understand what it is that stops me from trying it as YA.

And I do think that most of my audience is teen boys to 30 something men.
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Old 06-22-2010, 05:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike C View Post
Is there such a thing?
A friend once gave me this book where the MC who was a teenager girl, allowed the family dog to pleasure her. This does not make me feel warm and fuzzy. It's been years since I read that and the image is still embedded in my brain.
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Old 06-22-2010, 05:30 AM
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My first and only novel (currently beginning serialization..so it's not even the first, as it hasn't been finished yet) is very definitely intended for a "YA" readership, but also for adult Science Fiction fans. The protagonist, RockRock is twenty two, but that places him at the older edge of the other characters.

I don't see these categories as attempts to limit or define people of an age group: demographics are demographics and have their purposes quite apart from individual realities.

What I wonder is, since my novel is online and will move to "epublished" in time, how significant this is in the brave new eworld? I have looked it a great deal and conclude that it all devolves to how they pigeonhole the product in stores.

So a novel listed online or an ebook on Smashwords would seem to be totally free of this categorization.

On the other hand, it would seem that if I eventually approach publishers, it might be a factor. I am thinking that "science fiction" is a shelf and might render the "YA or not YA" question irrelevant. Perhaps?
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Old 06-22-2010, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike C View Post
That is, obviously, true, but books have to be marketed, regardless of genre. People do judge books by their covers, and books have to be marketed to a specific group, even if it gets widely read outside that group (Harry Potter is a good case in point). Marketing dollars are scarce, and they have to be spent wisely; you have to aim a book at the market most likely to shell out the dollars for it; it's common sense. It doesn't automatically mean you'll like anything romance or chick-lit just because you're a woman, but the publishers' marketing departments will do everything in your power to entice you. Try lining up 20 books at random; you'll know, without seeing title or author, who the prospective buyer is just by the cover art. If it didn't work, all books would just go out with a plain brown cover; it's way cheaper to produce.
Never said you shouldn't. I was just saying that you shouldn't feel the need to hold you back in terms of what you write if you plan to market it to teens.

As for your question, urntme, I think the point we're making is that there is probably nothing stopping you from marketing it as a YA novel. However, you haven't yet talked about who your main character is, or how old the main character is. We all know that teenagers will read books with characters of any age. However, if your main character is over the age of 21, I do have doubts about it.

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Old 06-22-2010, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Rei View Post
Never said you shouldn't. I was just saying that you shouldn't feel the need to hold you back in terms of what you write if you plan to market it to teens.
In that case I completely agree. There are 'conventions' that run through all of the YA stuf I've read, which undoubtedly will aid your chances of publication, but as for subject matter there are few limitations (outside of Milliken's warm and fuzzy dog story (was that intentional, one has to wonder?)).
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Old 06-22-2010, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike C View Post
In that case I completely agree. There are 'conventions' that run through all of the YA stuf I've read, which undoubtedly will aid your chances of publication, but as for subject matter there are few limitations (outside of Milliken's warm and fuzzy dog story (was that intentional, one has to wonder?)).
How would it have not been intentional? For me it worked against the author. I was utterly disgusted by the scene and remember nothing about the book or the author. I couldn't bring myself to read anymore.
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Old 06-22-2010, 07:47 AM
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No, I meant your use of the phrase 'warm and fuzzy' in conjunction with a dog, which is, usually, warm and fuzzy. It just made me laugh.
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Old 06-22-2010, 07:48 AM
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Gotcha. Yes, that was intentional.
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