Kim here to welcome Dee Willson to Writer Unboxed today! Dee is the award-winning author of A Keeper’s Truth, GOT (Gift of Travel), and No Apology For Being(WIP). You can learn more about Dee on her website, Facebook and Twitter.
So, I find myself blocked by a mountain. Okay, maybe blocked is a strong word. I am facing a mountain. A big, unmovable mountain. This mountain is publishing in a very specific sense. It is the great divide between two major categories created by the publishing world only forty (or so) years ago, but holding strong, despite confusion and change. The divide between YA and ADULT.
Before I go any further, maybe I should be clear: genre and target market are two different things. First Books (FB, Birth-School), Middle Grade (MG, -12), Young Adult (YA, 13-18), Adult (ADULT, 18+)…these are demographics, audiences, ages used by sales, merchandising, and marketing people. Horror, romance, sci-fi, fantasy…these are genres. Stephen King straddles several genres, but mostly writes for an adult audience. Harry Potter, even the last of the series, targets the YA reader, kids under 18. Harry Potter falls under the fantasy genre. Some books blur genre lines, some appeal to more than one audience. I was excited when NEW ADULT hit the scene. But NA got twisted into a genre when it should have been a target market. Two very different things.
Gosh, Dee, get back to the mountain….
Recently, two contradictory things happened in the same moment.
I opened an email from my agent – feedback from the big boys of publishing regarding my latest manuscript. “Love it, but is the author willing to make the protagonist eighteen or under, make the book YA?” My first thoughts were wow, how the hell do I alter an entire manuscript to appeal to a different target market? Can I? Should I? Why? I don’t consider myself a YA author.
While reading this email, I was opening a package, a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, Seventeenth Edition, ‘The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers’. For those unaware, this is an industry bible. The book mostly covers non-fiction and editorial tips, but what really struck me was that it’s in its seventeenth edition. As in: changed, updated…seventeen times since its original incarnation. I thought, here is this tome, this style manual, rewritten to include up-to-date details, keeping up with the times. It moves, turns like a spoke in some massive publishing wheel.
Would changing my manuscript to YA be a positive change, a nod to society, a give required by the 21st century? Would it tell my character’s story best? Would it sell more books? Would it make me, the author, flexible, a spoke? Or would it be surrender, giving in to a publishing push, intimidated by the mountain?
You might be wondering how I got to this thought process. So let’s take a step back.
I write characters in their early twenties, present day. First person, if it helps to know. It’s a difficult age to write, to voice. So much is happening at this age. And so much is not happening at this age. Over 75% of twenty-somethings today are still in school, still dependent. Basic necessities like shelter, education, clothes, food, are funded by Mom and Dad. Even newly-minted graduates are hard-pressed to go it alone. Housing and food are crazy expensive, student loans take years to pay down. It’s a confusing time, a stressful time. All these life-altering decisions to make, massive changes….
You get the idea. Their minds are mush. And no 13-18 year-old could relate.
Now, had 2018’s twenty-something been born a few generations ago, they’d be married with two-point-two kids. They’d want to read about characters balancing parenthood with careers, money, mortgages. They’d relate to adult experiences. But this is no longer the case. Twenty-somethings today are not kids or adults. Worse, a thirteen or seventeen year-old is so far from a young adult these days, it baffles the mind. The world has changed. Society has changed. Why hasn’t publishing? [Read more…]