After much deep and profound brain things inside my head, as King Julien would say, I have come to the conclusion that what I really need here is your opinions. As many of them as possible, in fact, although ideally not more than one each. (Unless you can support them with reference to the text, as my first-year Shakespeare lecturer would say.)
The brain-thing which is currently circulating inside my head is this question: what constitutes a Young Adult novel? More specifically, was I mistaken in not classifying Restoration Day as a YA novel?
It does have a young adult protagonist, and it is, content-wise, suitable for young adults (although from what I’ve read, some YA novels are more graphic and/or explicit than adult novels). But is it a YA novel?
Is it a YA novel, and I didn’t know?
Technically, as the publisher, the book is whatever I say it is. There was a moment when I had to choose how to categorize it. And while you can choose more than one category, you can’t choose a YA category and a non-YA category. YA is YA and adult is adult and never the twain shall meet, except of course in surreptitious skulkings between the library sections.
Restoration Day is classified as Fiction > Fantasy > General; and Fiction > Coming of Age. To be honest, the main reason I didn’t classify it as YA fiction is because teenagers read fantasy that isn’t specifically marketed as YA, but you don’t often see adults in the teen section of the library. Casting the net wide, you might say.
And yet Restoration Day is frequently referred to by reviewers and other interested parties (e.g. at least one of the people who nominated it for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards) as a young adult novel. And maybe they’re right. I don’t know.
Now, I’m not planning to try retroactively reclassifying a novel that’s been out for more than a year, but it has occurred to me that I could, at some future date, try releasing a YA edition of it – with a more YA-friendly cover, and perhaps a study guide. (A sort of reverse of Harry Potter, which came out first with colourful kid-friendly covers, and subsequently with more dignified covers for the adults who didn’t want to own up to reading “kids’ books”.)
The other point – and this applies regardless of whether Restoration Day is ever reissued – is that I need to know how to categorize The Wound of Words when it eventually makes its appearance in the World Outside My Head.
In some ways, it’s similar to Restoration Day – similarish tone, youngish protagonists, and carrying themes around coming of age and finding your place in the world.
But does that make it a Young Adult novel? All the advice I’ve seen seems based on the idea that you first decide to write a YA novel and then need to find out what that entails. No one ever seems to think that you might have already written a novel and require an accurate diagnosis.
Perhaps I should release The Wound of Words as a YA novel and see what happens, but…
Confession time: you know how they say that the secret to marketing is going where your readers are and interacting with them? I have no idea how to interact with young people. I wasn’t even any good at it when I was a young people myself. I was the kid you saw scurrying off to the library in the lunch-break – wearing their student librarian pin.
Transcript of actual conversation held while Deborah issuing fellow student’s books in school library:
Fellow Student: So… do you actually talk?
Deborah’s Brain: Only when there’s someone worth talking to.
Deborah’s Mouth: Only when there’s something worth saying.
(Yes, my brain is a lot snarkier than I am. Let us all be thankful that it doesn’t have a direct line to my mouth, or my life could have been a lot more eventful.)
The interaction thing has possibly worsened as I’ve aged, bobbing gently out of the main current of pop culture. I’m the person who sits on a bus idly wondering what language the teens behind me are speaking, until, after five minutes or so, it dawns on me that it’s actually English.
So it’s perfectly possible that categorizing Restoration Day as general rather than young adult fiction was rather more a matter of cowardice than I would like to admit.
What do you think? When is a YA novel not a YA novel, and when is it, or possibly vice versa? And what course of action would you recommend?