Monday, February 7, 2011

YA/MG: Genres Or Not?

Last week, the blogosphere was buzzing with great contests (including ours!). Most of them involved sharing a one-line, or 25 word, pitch of a completed manuscript. 

They also involved sharing that manuscript's genre.

I noticed a lot of entries that stated the following:


TITLE: UBER AWESOME MANUSCRIPT MADE OF EPIC WIN
GENRE: YA

or

TITLE: BEST MANUSCRIPT EVER. FOR REAL.
GENRE: MG


Here's the deal--there's a ton of conflicting information regarding what YA and MG fiction are.

There's Team YA/MG Are Not Genres. Then there's Team YA/MG Are Genres.

A few notables on Team #1: This post and this podcast. Both links lead to agent blogs. 

Which got me thinking, if most or some agents think YA/MG are not genres, are writers putting them off when they write 'My manuscript is a young adult novel' on queries or contests?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But just to be sure you're not making anyone cringe or hurl their stapler across the office, always be specific. 

Like this:


TITLE: UBER AWESOME MANUSCRIPT MADE OF EPIC WIN
GENRE: YA SCI-FI ROMANCE

or

TITLE: BEST MANUSCRIPT EVER. FOR REAL.
GENRE: MG FANTASY 


By doing so, you're telling agents/editors you know where your book fits in the market. You might not be published yet, but you have your facts straight. Did your homework. 

Personally, I believe YA/MG are a writer's target audience. The intended readers of your work. That doesn't mean they're the only ones who'll read it, but it was written with them in mind. To me, genre surpasses that target audience--it's a more specific category that tells your readers what elements they should expect to find in your story. 

So yes, please be specific. Agents will love you more for it :)

Now tell me: what do you think about this genre vs. not genre debate? Are YA/MG genres or not?

15 comments:

  1. There's a huge difference between a YA romance and a romance. Sure we don't label the latter as an adult romance, but that's because adult novels existed before YA ones did. It's a given that a romance = an adult romance. Are YA and MG really genres? I think so. But more to tell us who the primary audience is more than anything. And I agree, you definitely need to indicate the subgenre, even if it's contemporary (though many people consider YA to mean YA contemporary). I've seen a number of times on the MSFV SA contest someone has labeled his book as YA but it's really YA fantasy. Big difference.

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  2. Excellent point, Stina! I think that distinction between YA romance and romance is v-e-r-y important, as well as any other genres aimed for an adult audience vs. those for young adults. And yes, many people take YA to mean YA contemporary. Don't really know why, but it happens. We all need to be mindful of where our manuscripts fall.

    Unless we want to fall down that slush pile and land on the big ol' rejection pile :D

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  3. There is Genre and then there is something else as well and I really can't think of what it's called. There was a huge #YAlitchat about this, I remember. But like in my query I put "Science fiction novel for teens," so I guess I decided to not use young adult at all...*shrugs* sometimes I don't think.

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  4. I see them more as marketing groups than genres. Definitely if I just see a book labeled as YA I'll think, "YA... what?" just as I would if I just saw something was 'fiction.' Just because you know you write for junior high or high school-aged kids doesn't mean your book is for everyone. I don't, for instance, like reading historical fiction or hard sci-fi. I'd rely on actual genre identifiers so I'd know to avoid books under those categories unless I'm feeling adventurous.

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  5. Well, most agents who rep YA say that they're looking for "young adult", so presumably it's considered a genre. Haven't heard of this debate. I suppose if yours is a contemporary piece, you could say YA Contemporary to be more specific.

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  6. I think YA used to be a genre in and of itself. However, with increasingly large number of YA books published, subgenres are necessary. Personally, I do automatically assume contemporary when faced with just "YA."

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  7. I've heard them called "Categories," and I like that label personally. Genre implies something more specific about the style and structure of your manuscript than category does. Category merely implies the target audience (which does affect themes, etc., but doesn't REQUIRE certain things like genre does).

    Of course, category lines can get blurry, but then so can genre lines.

    When querying a novel, it's good to include both the category and the genre, because both are important.

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  8. MG and YA are the "fallback" genres for people who aren't sure where their book fits into the spectrum. Maybe it's a little sci-fi and a little fantasy mixed with some literary, so they don't want to pigeonhole it as the wrong thing.

    Labeling it "just" YA or MG is common advice in query workshops.

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  9. I think YA or MG refers to target audience. You still need the genre - fantasy, historical, romance, etc.

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  10. I know that agents say they rep YA or MG, but I always tend to add the sub-genre of my story. I think it just makes it clearer when you query.

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  11. I think agents also want to know that you can effectively pitch your book to editors and end-readers, wo you should be more specific.
    erica

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  12. I agree with you. I think you need to specify what type of YA or MG it is.

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  13. Thanks, everyone! I do think this is something that will continue to be debated in the writing community, and I love hearing from both sides. :D

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  14. How about one step further...New Adult. It's coincidental that you posted on this topic, as I'm still trying to figure out if this whole 'New Adult' thing is something I can put on a query. Here's the link to my blog post:
    http://marierearden.blogspot.com/2011/02/will-new-adult-ever-make-it-to-shelves.html.

    Can I put 'sits on the fence between YA and NA' in a query, because I really cringe at writing that and looking like I have no idea/can't make up my mind?

    Thanks for the links!

    Marie Rearden

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  15. Marie--I think it's okay to say your manuscript is New Adult. From what I've read in the blogosphere, agents consider it a legit audience, even though it might not be as popular as YA right now. I believe Kiersten White, author of PARANORMALCY, got her agents with a manuscript that had characters in college, so it's not impossible :)

    Thanks for the link to you, too!

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