May 4th, 2010


Reading Between The Gap

This past weekend I attended a writing conference. After the Friday night banquet and keynote speaker, the conference attendees scattered to various locations in the hotel to participate in “Buzz Sessions.” It was a time for writers to talk with the speakers about various issues regarding the publishing industry. I had the privilege of hanging out with Josh Getzler, an agent with Russell and Volkening. During the conversation he discussed his difficulties placing an author’s story, which is a sequel to Macbeth.  Roughly paraphrasing him, the youthful tone mixed with the adult theme made it a square peg in a round hole. It simply did not fit into the current definition of Young Adult (YA) fiction that has a protagonist under the age of 18, who must face the story’s conflict AND address typical adolescent issues (i.e., school, parent-adolescent conflicts, peer pressure). Mr. Getzler went on to say that many books are straddling the categories established by powerhouses like Barnes and Nobles and Borders. For example, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has a 15-year-old protagonist but the storyline is sophisticated and appeals to people in the 18-25 year-old age group.


On Saturday, Kate Angelella of Aladdin, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, said this “defining” issue is also present in the children’s section. Some youth are eager to move beyond middle grade books; yet, they are not ready for the mature themes in YA. Simon and Schuster refers to this group as Tweens and has found that Jessica Burkhart’s Canterwood Crest series, a diluted version of the YA series Gossip Girls, fits into the gap nicely.


The stories are being written.


There is an audience.


But the question remains. What section in the bookstore becomes home for these books?


Some in the industry fear 30 year-olds will not buy YA books because they are embarrassed to go in the “child’s” section. And placing books marketed for not-quite teens in the children’s section may offend tweens. In short, readers tend to move forward, “reach up” for more mature reading material.


I gave these anecdotal comments some thought. I know avid adolescent readers who read books in the adult section. (I did this back in the day). Yet, I have noticed books shelved in two locations. For example, I see Jane Austen with YA books and with adult books. Twilight had two addresses when it reigned, now it is solidly YA. I assumed the dual placement was because the publisher paid for the near-the-door placement. Now I wonder if the publisher feared women would not go the YA section. I purchase books from every location in the bookstore. Spending most of my time in the YA section . . . I dare someone to say something to me.  


I (and Mr. Getzler) believe the current categories found in bookstores are antiquated. I thought I would bring the issue to my people on LJ.


What are you seeing with regards to book placement in your local bookstores? What do you think of the current system?