Adult vs. YA Lit

Hi Writers,
Do you ever wonder what genre you’re writing in? Should you?

If so, you definitely need to read this essay from this week’s Publishers Weekly:
Identity Crisis? Not really: Let the marketing people decide whether I’m writing adult or YA novels, written by Meg Rosoff.

You may have encountered this familiar writerly dilemma:

According to my (new) publisher, I used to be a Young Adult writer. This statement has caused one of my bookseller fans so much outrage, she e-mailed me at home, saying, “I am all set to be enraged at ‘Formerly a YA author’ on your bio. Like YA was just a phase you grew out of? And now, finally, you’re writing Respectable Literary Fiction?” It’s a problem. The truth is, most writers simply write, and by virtue of the subject matter they choose (divorce, sexual deviance, the Peloponnesian wars), are deemed to be adult writers. The presence of puppies and pigs in a story line usually indicates a children’s book, except when it doesn’t (Marley and Me, Animal Farm). And according to the marketing departments of most American publishers, there are children’s books and adult books, and never the twain shall meet.

Rosoff goes on to say that her writing hasn’t changed even though the way her work is being marketed has. She’s still writing about coming-of-age themes just as she did several years ago when her debut novel How I Live Now was sold as YA fiction.

Have you ever confronted this problem of having to figure out which genre your writing fits in? Is this essentially the writers responsibility to know or should writers just leave it up to the marketing departments, as Rosoff suggests? Please drop me a line here.

Keep Writing,

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5 thoughts on “Adult vs. YA Lit

  1. kirsten ashenbrenner

    Hi Maria,

    I posted a fiction peace about a little girl who was terribly mistreated when young, sexually abused and it was judged as adult; I had believed that young sdult, teens would be able to read it considering all that comes through the boob tube that they watch.
    I was not explicit in the story but it caused an issue and yes I was warned but because of personal issues I careened along and committed a writing suicide, created a situation whereby I was banned for a combination of reasons at what I believe to be a very prestigious writer’s site.

    It all started with my story and I snowballed it into a series of bad posting for which I blame myself.

    I begged and pleaded, apologized emphatically to the admin. of the site and explained some personal serious issues about myself, I simply felt I had to under the circumstance and had been allowed back and did not try to harass anyone and apologized emphatically to the authors there.

    I only posted a couple postings that night and got banned again. I do know why I was banned the second time. I did not see any warning at the site addressed to me, but the next morning I was banned again.

    This time I feel it was revenge more than anything because I really did not write anything detrimental. I am perplexed by the whole situation.
    If an author writes a manuscript and an editor at a publishing house reads it and doesn’t like that manuscript does he write down the author’s name and ban her from ever sending to him again?
    I do wish now that I had never posted that short story –all my troubles at the site began with that and snowballed into a mess. It causes me much distress and I am so sorry.
    Can you offer any kind words of advice?
    I would sure appreciate it.

  2. Maria Schneider

    Hi Richard,
    That’s a complicated question to answer without having read your book, but according to this article young writers will read "Adult" fiction while there’s little crossover from adults to YA. So it seems to make sense to categorize your book in the Adult Fiction genre if there’s a question.Hope this helps.
    Best wishes,

  3. Richard Bagge

    Hello Maria,
    Your issue on genre overlaps is timely. My first novel, "The Forest King" in my view as well as several readers falls into: Adult, Y/A, Historical Fiction and Adventure. My publisher made no comment as to categorization. I entered the book in a few contests under Historical Fiction.

    I have another novel, sequel to the above, titled "The Crossing" and it also trancends genre. Your comment to allow publishers and the readers decide are good, however, when we submit a work such as this in contests they ask what genre it falls into. Do you have a tip that can take me over that hurdle?

    Regards, Richard Bagge, (a.k.a. Carson Clay)

  4. Mike Davis

    I’m currently struggling with this problem, although I think it can be an advantage to a certain degree, if there is genre overlap your marketing options would appear to be wider?

    I recently did a blog post with my own definitions of genre, written primarily as an aide to myself, but still felt, after studying various definitions that my current work could fall under fantasy, horror, thriller or suspense.

    I’m not personally invested in any one specific genre and would hope that an agent and/or publisher would help me decide on the most advantageous market to aim at.

  5. Hope Clark


    Absolutely I had this issue arise. I’m writing a mystery series. At a writing conference, I had someone critique the first novel for me. He labeled it a romance. Someone in my writer’s group labeled it a romance suspense, heavy on the suspense. Most everyone else labels it a mystery. I don’t lose sleep over it. Marketing can decide. While I’m all for promoting, I’m not the label expert. I’ll let the experts determine that and I’ll shift and market appropriately since those folks in marketing are more experienced at that than I am. Goodness knows I have enough on my plate without bantering about something I’m not an expert at doing.

    Hope Clark


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