Thursday, May 20, 2010

If I don't write YA, am I doomed?

I don't read Young Adult fiction. I haven't even read the Harry Potter series, although I did see the movies.

I don't like vampire novels unless the names Stephen King or Bram Stoker are attached to them.

I wouldn't know Twilight from Lightning Thief. And when I think of Team Edward or Team Jacob -- well, I don't think of them. Ever.

I prefer adult fiction. Nothing against YA, of course. I'm thrilled that young people are reading and that there are tons of talented authors out there providing wonderful books for them to read. I have a preteen who loves YA and reads several novels a week. My wife has even been known to read it occasionally.

But not me. It just isn't my cup of tea. And I write what I like. Period.

But I've been getting some scary vibes on the Internet recently. Basically, conventional wisdom says that unless you write YA, you can pretty much forget about getting published these days.

Say what?

Now, I'm sure I'm oversimplifying the situation. Or worse. I once had a boss who told me I was an awfulizer. Of course, he was a complete moron, but that's beside the point. He was right that one time.

But the fear arose within me again recently when a friend commented (partially in jest, I'm sure) on one of my blog posts that maybe if I made my main character a teen instead of an adult, then perhaps an agent would be interested in my book.

Uh, no.

All joking aside, I do think it's much harder for those of us who don't write YA or even romance novels to get published these days. Maybe everyone has quit reading books except kids, young adults and romance lovers. I don't know. But it's enough to worry me, a writer of adult fiction.

So I'd like to know: How many of you reading this blog write Young Adult fiction? How many write romance? And finally, how many write plain old commercial or literary fiction?

I'll bet the vast majority of you write the first two. And that means my fears might be rooted in some truths.

Great. That's all I need. Yet another hurdle to publication. But then again, I might just be awfulizing. It's happened before.


  1. My WIP is YA, although I have an adult memoir brewing and two adult fiction in outline stage. I will read anything, and against all odds really loved Twilight. I resisted, I did... and then, well: Team Edward!

    I have no idea if it is harder to find an agent and publish adult fiction. It seems unlikely considering how much there is available to read right now in that genre. I think the YA genre is just exploding right now, so it gets a lot of attention.

    I choose to believe that if your stuff is good, it will get through.

    Chin up Mr. Awfulist. I keep coming back to something that several agents who blog keep saying: Write the book you are meant to write and stop thinking about what's hot, what is selling, etc. Sure, I want my book to sell - but I don't want to feel like a sell out to get there.

  2. Of course you're not doomed!

    And yes, I do happen to write YA, but that's beside the point. I write it simply because I obviously haven't got a grown-up brain like yours. Don't you have to use lots of big words?

    DON'T. CHANGE. A. THING. There will always be room for adult fiction. I read a lot of it. Plus, YA of course. Then again, I'm just a big kid.

    PS. You awfulize way too much my friend :)

  3. Romance is just as hard to break into, sometimes I even think more so than adult or commercial fiction. Especially if there're no vamps or weres. And I definately have none of those. Or zombies either.

    Buck up Ter, we're all in this together. One of us has to land an agent before the year is out. We all write really great books and somewhere there is an agent who's going to say, "Holy cow! Send me the full, sign on the dotted line."

  4. I'm sure you're not DOOMED :)

    Um, ok, so I do write YA. BUT HEAR ME OUT. I write it because I'm young and still feel connected to my teenage year (um, being ninteen and all *kicks dirt*). I write YA because it helped me through difficult times and I want give something back.

    I've got nothing against Adult Fiction, it's just I don't think I could write it for toffee. I happen to have a very childish mentality ;~) NOT THAT YA REQUIRES THAT. But I'm not sure I'd make good of adult fiction, the idea scares me...

  5. I'd like to make one additional point here, if I may: I never meant to disparage writers of YA or romance in any way.

    On the contrary, I wish I *could* write and enjoy those genres. But I don't.

    Still, no one can argue that they aren't HOT right now. And while I agree with those above who say to write what I want and not worry about the market, sometimes that's easier said than done.

    But I shall soldier on, as we all will. :)

  6. I write neither YA or romance. I'm not sure what I write. My first book was a memoir, the second women's fiction/literary/chick lit? The third is more of that. I have an idea for a fourth that is neither. But it's not YA either. I am dead certain I would never have found an agent. I had to go with a small, start up press that takes unagented submissions.

  7. Terry, I'm with you bro. My thoughts exactly, and if I could buy you a beer and tap your knuckles, I would, because these are the precise thoughts I've had since joining bloggerland earlier this year.

    I'll further the observation, though, and say there aren't that many MALE writers on my favorites list. Look at yours. Most of your followers are women, at a ratio of about 7:1 (on my blog).

    Most women write YA and Romance.

    The other men I've seen online either write action or fantasy. Some of the "literary" men I've found are bone fide screwheads, and cross-threaded at that. Those guys I ignore.

    Boil all that down and you aren't left with many bloggers who are male, and mainstream fiction or modern fantasy writers like K&K (Koontz & King).

    So, I'll say you're not alone. I write modern fantasy that's a bit more literary than K&K, and my last book was an American fiction about a boy whose father committed suicide and left him to fend for himself in the East Texas woods.

    I also wish I could write YA. Heck, I was thinking today how great a cross-over book would be, such as Jurassic Park, something for the young and the old.

    Anyway. Focus on the craft. Focus on what you're good at. Write well and write better and keep writing.

    Write what you love.

    That's all you can do.

    That, or drink a lot of beer. At this point in my writing career, both approaches have about the same effect.

    - Eric

  8. Um, Terry...




    And Harry Potter and the Lightning Thief are both MG ;-)

    (I'll forgive you for Twilight since I maintain that calling a rock hard, unfanged, non-biting 108 year old virgin teenager a vampire doesn't make the stake stick.)

    Yes, a lot of it's derivative and much of it's just ... blech, but there are some definite gems hiding in the YA stack. And you'll love mine. Really (<--- read: or else)

    Who knows, maybe one of these days you'll wake up with the burning desire to rewrite TDYK as YA from the kid's POV.

    You can't hold out forever.


    one of us... one of us... one of us...


  9. Yes, Josin, but ... I would submit that while Harry Potter BEGAN as MG, it certainly ended up YA.

    So there.

    But since you can be fairly frightening when you want to be, I promise I WILL read yours. Once it's published. And if you sign it. ;)

  10. I write what I want to write and just see what happens. I think it's what every writer should do. This is my equation for writing: Get a night job = you can pay rent + then you can write whatever you want x self-publish it and make all the money off of the project yourself = no agent fees or people telling you what to do. You have the control of your own work. Aaahh!

  11. I'm just like you, except that I did read Harry Potter. It's the only YA series I have truly enjoyed recently. I much prefer adult fantasy and sci-fi, and that is what I write. In fact, my main hero is well into his 50's in my book. I worry, just like you, that agents won't pick me up because I'm not doing the YA thing. Then I wonder why they complain men aren't buying fiction. We would if they would publish what we want to read!

  12. It's hard to break into the book market in any genre. Budgets are tight. No one really wants to risk their job by backing an unknown quanity.

    If your name is unknown, but your genre is selling in the bookstores as YA and Romance is, then the agents and editors will pause at your book.

    A hook of a title will help. Your title is good at that. Your first line will hook the agent or sink your hopes.

    It is easy to lose hope. But new authors get published every day. But look at Robin Mellom,who just sold her first book after 8 hard years : DITCHED. It's a YA ... and it's sold as a YA echo of HANGOVER, a hot date flick.

    But it also has mystery and humor. If your book has those two elements plus suspense, you can become published. No worthy battle was ever won easily.

    I will knock on wood (thumping my forehead with my knuckles) that very soon your publishing dreams will come true, Roland

  13. Hey Terry! I hear ya! I'm frustrated about this fiasco too. It seems there doesn't seem to be any other legitimate genre anymore! I write women's fiction. I haven't read any YA stuff either. I just can't see the attraction :(

  14. Well if you're doomed, I'm doomed. It's funny you posted this because I myself have been wondering the same thing. Every blog I visit seems to have something to do with YA or paranormal romance. This is partly what had me hung up there for a minute. I don't read any of that stuff and I won't write it. I have never been a fan of romance unless of course it's funny.

    I do like Chick Lit though. Woa, did I just say that out loud?

    But besides that I love morbid, gritty horror and serial killer type stuff. I like funny and scary. I like books about junkies and whores.

    You know you can't do anything but follow your heart and keep your integrity intact at all costs. I see plenty of agents out there looking for adult fiction.

    If people only wrote YA who would write for people like us? I know there's more of us out there Terry. And I'm in agreement with our pal Marty. You have to write what you like to read and what you want to write, otherwise it won't be believable and there has to be truth in fiction.

    Thank you for getting this out in the open though. You're more brave than I.

  15. You are so not doomed. :D I totally hear ya on this. I am trying to write New Adult (which doesn't really exist yet, how awesome is that?), because once I got to college I was BORED out of my ever-loving mind. I have two siblings in college now, and it's like a wasteland for them-nothing really connects w/ what they're experiencing. I remember exactly how that felt. I inhaled Harry Potter in college because there was nothing else to read (I mean in terms of fiction). My first novel is geared towards YA but then moves into this nebulous world of New Adult (geared more towards 18-24) in the second and third books.

    It might be "easier" to break into the business if you write YA now, but I guess in the end, it's always better to do what you think is right. If you're passionate and you're thoughtful about what you're doing, you'll be successful. Better to hone your own voice, however that sounds, than to pander. Heck, I'm trying to write in a genre that's not really there. ;) There are rumblings, but it isn't nearly as defined as YA.

    Also, question: I thought I remembered an MC teenager or two kicking around in your character sketches...? Not that you can't have a teen in a lit fic, but I'm curious. :)

  16. Annie: Yes, two of my major characters are teens. Jordan is 15 and Samantha is 16. Both figure prominently in the story's plot.

    Hey! Perhaps I CAN sell it as an adult/YA hybrid! ;)

  17. I am a fan of the Harry Potter series, but that's about it. I truly cannot get into the vampire or Twilight Series whatsoever!

    I definitely do NOT write Young Adult fiction or read much of it.

  18. I think that you are getting really hung up on what is increasingly become a meaningless label. I don't generally read what gets classified as YA, but I am really looking forward to the release of Minder , which from what I have seen is going too feature some fairly sophisticated writing, and blessedly no vampires or werewolves whatsoever. Good books with always be published.

  19. The one I'm half-ass querying at this point is contemporary fantasy, and has had zero interest. Like you, I saw the obvious slant towards YA and my WIP is that... sort of. It's not like what is selling in that market, which could be either good or bad. I'm the sort of writer that MUST set my work apart and do the opposite of what everyone else is doing, so we'll see how that works out for me.