Genre. It’s a word that’s been on my mind lately. I write in the genre of ‘Young Adult’. Sub-genres being low fantasy/adventure, superhero, whatever Resonance is–dark superhero fantasy possibly–zombies for Imogen Shroud (or possibly action-horror or something), but it’s all under that umbrella of Young Adult.
Or is it?
Because lately I’ve been wondering. Is what I write really YA fiction? I label it that because there’s nothing better–and don’t get me wrong, I love young adults, I think they’re great, so-called ‘juveniles’ too, babies, kids, teenagers, all fine by me. It’s grown-ups I have trouble with. But that’s not really the point, because kids and teenagers can and will read beyond what’s prescribed for them, I know I did. Back in MY day we didn’t even HAVE a ‘young adult’ section, and we had to walk twenty miles in the snow uphill both ways just to get a LOOK at the library.
So if it’s not YA then what is it? Let’s look at Miya Black. Recommended reading level (according to complexity of vocabulary, length, violence etc.) 9+. Classification? Juvenile – Adventure – Pirates. Yes, delightfully this is a real category. Also delightfully, and … well, completely surprisingly, actually, Miya Black is number one in the Kindle section on Amazon, in the Juve-Adv-Pirate category. It doesn’t have much competition but still, that’s kind of nice, don’t you think? It’s number five in the Juvenile – Adventure category too. If only people actually looked at these lists, I might be selling more. Maybe I could use that as a selling point, as ‘social proof’, “It’s number one!”.
Let’s get back on track. What genre could Miya Black be? Well, Pirate Adventure, naturally. Low fantasy, seeing as it’s not set on Earth but there’s no magic or elves or anything (there are some pretty awful sea-beasts but that’s about it). Or, well, just YA. Young Adult Adventure. I think that might be what needs to happen, YA can still be an umbrella-like classification but there needs to be more than that. Miya Black is nothing like the paranormal romances out there, or the gritty urban fantasies, it’s separate from them. Maybe something like a code could be good, P for pirates, A for adventure, Nm for No Magic, Ne for Not Earth, Nv for No Vampires.
Well, anyway. All of this is partly because I’ve looked around at some of the books I’m sharing this ‘genre’ with and I don’t entirely like what I see. YA has something of a reputation now, and having read a lot of YA samples recently, I have to agree with people when they say “YA as a genre is full of rubbish”. Because it is, well and truly, CROWDED with terrible writing, poor editing, the loosest of plots, the most ridiculous of excuse-characters … there’s good stuff out there. Truly, there is. But it’s becoming more and more difficult to find. And I’m starting to think that labelling myself as a YA author is hurting my chances of finding readers–because if you say “YA” to someone they get an idea in their head, and either they’re not even going to sample my books because they don’t like that idea, or they’re not going to like the samples of my books because they’re too different from that idea.
Which is a thorny problem.
Also, if I stop calling myself a YA author I wouldn’t be able to say “Kicking it OS on the YA!” any more. Granted, I never say that now, but I like that I could if I wanted to.
For now I think I have to keep the label. But I also think that in promotion I’m going to be downplaying that aspect of things, I think I will start referring to Miya Black as a pirate adventure story rather than YA adventure.
Aha, correction. #1 BESTSELLING Pirate Adventure story.