Monday, January 7, 2013

GENRES: And again, we ask...

WHAT MAKES A BOOK YA (versus adult)?

After returning home from an awesome ski vacation, I picked up the Wall Street Journal's December 15/16 weekend edition and discovered that among the ten "Best Fiction of 2012" picks were Shani Boianjiu's THE PEOPLE OF FOREVER ARE NOT AFRAID ("a simple coming-of-age story" WSJ); Carol Rifka Brunt's TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME (protagonist is 14 years old); and Lawrence Norfalk's JOHN SATURNALL'S FEAST (begins when John is age 11).

Just for fun, I popped over to SLJ to find an epic list of "Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2012" which also includes Brunt's WOLVES.  Kirkus Reviews' 25 BEST OF 2012 (general category, not kids/YA) includes Karen Thompson Walker's THE AGE OF MIRACLES (protagonist: grade 6) and, again, TELL THE WOLVES... PW's 10 Best of 2012 list includes Louise Erdrich's THE ROUND HOUSE, featuring 13-year-old Joe, and its top fiction roster features Walker's THE AGE OF MIRACLES.

As if this weren't confusing enough, I refer you now to Liz Burns' excellent, SLJ-linked blog A CHAIR, A FIREPLACE & A TEA COZY in which she ponders the question "What is New Adult?" for a view of the question from the flipside. Yes, another fab phrase to join Steampunk, Paranormal Dystopian, Crossover and the erstwhile Young Adult in your filing wordbook.

I'm all for categories. My first-grader proudly announces each time he moves up a letter to a more challenging reading level. I like to know my fiction from my nonfiction (although, er, memoir, autobiography, as-told-to/by, the Petraeus book...?).  Many an email from a librarian asking whether to shelve AUDITION under "W" for Ward of "K" for Kehoe (btw, it's "K"!) makes me know I'm not alone in my desire for order and understanding in the book-o-sphere.

As an author, though, the question I want to pose today is: DOES THE RIGHT CATEGORY MAKE A BOOK MORE SUCCESSFUL?

Here are a few other ways to put it...
  • Would a high YA novel do better "crossing over" from Adult back to Teen or vice versa?
  • If a book is mostly mystery and only a little paranormal, from which shelf will it be most often lifted for actual purchase?
  • Does an author/editor/publisher really choose a book's category or does the category choose it?
  • As an author, should I advocate in any way for my book's genre?
Whadya think?

PS: I think I'd really better read that WOLVES book!


Hillary said...

You ask some really great questions. I think it's often a matter of where a book would get the most exposure. I think of the novel Prep, which which was coming of age but marketed to adult, yet held crossover appeal. If that book were marketed today would it do better as YA/crossover vs. adult. Perhaps. Some of this is so cyclical and depends on what is currently hot.

Great post, Stasia!

Stasia said...

Thanks for stopping by, Hillary, and for your thoughts about PREP. It is tricky, isn't it? Hope your writing is going well!