Genres, genres everywhere

So I’m at the stage where I’m refining my pitch to agents and publishers, and one thing that’s bugging me slightly is how to classify the blasted thing.

I occasionally browse the baffling array of Twitter hashtags that promise Q&As with agents/editors, novel pitch contests and the like. I haven’t jumped into them yet, party because I’m a big fearty wuss I need to sort out exactly how I’m pitching this.

A few people, after reading my novel, have suggested that it would fit into the dreaded trendy Young Adult category. Their reasoning goes something like this:

– My protagonist is a teenager

– There are no explicit sex scenes

– There’s only moderate violence

But it gets complicated. Depending on what publisher’s website you read, it’s not YA if:

– The protagonist is an adult

– There’s adult language and themes

Well, my protagonist is in his late teens (which is technically adulthood if you’re being pedantic). He swears like a trooper; Word tells me there are 145 swearwords in the manuscript right now. But hold your horses! Wikipedia, fount of all wisdom, tells me that it’s also YA if:

– There’s issues young adults can relate to, such as identity, sexuality, depression, suicide, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, familial struggles, bullying etc etc

Well, it doesn’t spoiler much to say that Rael is a bit of a troubled character, so that base is covered. But wait, there’s more! There’s now the New Adult genre that’s popped up, which seems to be catering for the helicopter parents who decide that their children should not be exposed to Real People with Real Issues. And there’s also ‘Middle Grade’, which my novel most certainly isn’t. (Sorry, potential 8-year-old readers!)

All this angsting over how to categorise it is sadly necessary as part of the book-pimping process. But it’s like nailing jelly to a wall for me, and the main reason it’s so hard is probably that I’m still a bit in awe that I’m at the stage where my silly little idea has turned into a thing I have to market like a creative-writing-flavoured job application. I’d quite like to think that this is a book for adults young and old. I didn’t have a target demographic in mind when I wrote it, but I’ll hazard a guess that the author of this piece isn’t in it.

I hate clickbait pieces at the best of times, but steaming turds like that Slate article really grind my gears. When I was a teenager, I read a mixture of ‘normal’ adult books and age-specific fiction (this was before ‘YA’ was a Thing, whippersnappers). Now I’m a ‘responsible’ adult, I still read for ‘escapism, instant gratification and nostalgia’. Which, er, is the point of reading books, I thought. I might not be an angsty youngster anymore, but does that really mean adults can’t identify with YA characters? I THINK NOT. I bet there are still adults with relationship issues, family turmoil, problems with bullying and the like. I’d rather read about those than another Grauniad-recommended book where 30-somethings whinge about their mortgage and go out for lattes or something.

I find YA books to be just as sophisticated and complex as their adult equivalents. And actually, I sometimes prefer my books to not be doorstops with highly-detailed 10-page descriptions about flux capacitors and sentences that make you have to go for a lie down. So sue me.

Oh, and another thing to chew on. If you like novels with instantly likeable protagonists and happy endings where young couples frolic off into the sunset…you definitely won’t like my book. On the other hand, if you’re a human being with reading skills and you like these things:

– Fantasy characters meddling with the real world, with thrilling consequences

– Human characters with Flaws and Issues™

– Fighting and occasional angsting and sometimes even bits where people have no clothes on

– Words which are not intended to be combed through vigorously for the purposes of passing arbitrary checkpoints for concerned readers, but probably won’t offend you (It passes the BĂ©chamel Test and everything)

then you will definitely like my book. So don’t angst about it, guys.



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