Friday, November 18, 2011

Y.A. Fantasy Taking Over?

Is it me or are most of the popular fantasy novels (and any other genre for that matter) catering to the Young Adult market? Harry Potter and Twilight are two huge examples of what I am talking about. Those two franchises are unbelievably successful and I chalk it up to gearing the novels towards teenagers. That age group seems to be a good decision for two reasons: Time and expendable cash….

I don’t know about you, but when I was a teen, I had to worry about making enough money for my comic book addiction, gas for my car and even car insurance. I did not have to decide whether or not to buy the book I wanted to read or make the mortgage payment! Most teens seem to have an abundance of time and possibly, some spending cash—so why not market books to them. Some of the most popular books and movies that I have mentioned are geared for them. And yet, many adults are watching now, too. So, as I can see it, the steps are to write the first novel or two specifically for that target audience and then move to a darker and possibly more adult-minded ending…is that about right? I really don’t know as I have not read any of these series, but I have seen some of the movies.

I personally like my vampires less sparkly and more evil (30 Days of Night comes to mind) and my wizards need to be…well, older, I guess. (See Elminster and Gandolph) I will say that both J. K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer are innovators, incredible business people and they have both impacted the worlds of fantasy like no one since the great
J. R. R. Tolkien. They have succeeded in opening up a whole new generation to the genre, so kudos for that. And any artist that gets people reading is OK in my book! (pun intended)

Are Y.A. titles such as Twilight and Harry Potter taking over the fantasy genre? Are Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance and Middle Earth a thing of the past? As always, I am looking forward to your opinions!

See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

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  1. I often think I'm writing in the wrong genre. Perhaps I should be doing some YA fantasy rather than my own weird made up genre. I might sell more books that way!

    I agree with you that anything that gets people reading is a good thing. I like to think that readers will develop and perhaps go on to read other things - the YA stuff is just a good place for a reader to start.

    I'll stick with writing books that I'd want to read regardless of genre and not worry about how many I'll sell. Makes it more enjoyable for me. ;)

  2. Thanks for the comments, Craig! I think that above all else, you should write whatever makes you happy. The Y.A. genre, as you have said, is an excellent forum with which to engage the young reader and get them hooked on reading (instead of doing whatever other, probably less-beneficial thing they were going to do instead!)

    The reader will know if you are going through the motions. As I learn a little bit each day, i find that you need to stay true to your intended vision and not stray very far from it, else your reader suffers.

    Writing something that you want to read is probably the smartest thing you can do because, in my humble opinion, you will do your best work! Keep at it, man!

  3. There has always been an element of YA in the Fantasy genre. Much of Fantasy is very dark and very adult, but I feel that many who get hooked on the genre do so in their teen years (or even earlier!)

    Tolkien felt England had lost much of its traditional pre-Norman Conquest folklore and mythology and Lord of the Rings was his attempt to rectify that. But the unintended consequence was that LOTR kicked off the fantasy genre we know today.

    Rowling has managed to get boys reading books again, and for that alone she deserves far greater recognition than she has already received. For that reason alone, her books are deservedly popular and she has done the Fantasy genre a great favour. Her earlier readers are adults now...

    YA Fantasy is hugely important to the genre, but I don't feel it's taking over completely. It is certainly popular at the moment thanks to authors such as Rowling. But all things go in cycles. Perhaps our genre is reinventing itself?

  4. Heya, Nick! Thanks for popping over to my humble blog and sharing a few poignant thoughts. I agree with everything you say here and even though classic fantasy or adult fantasy or whatever you want to call it, is not as popular, it always remains. I firmly believe they each have their place, too and strangely enough, support each other.

    Getting boys reading again is actually a good thing, too. I know it seems sexist, but I am sure that girls read more as evidenced by this:

    I think that I will touch on these subjects in my next blog posts! Thanks again for sharing, Nick! (And for inadvertently inspiring me with new blog topics!)


  5. YA adult fantasy has many characteristics that cause it to be marketed heavily and thereby become broadly popular.

    Publishers are attracted to YA because:

    - young people go to movies more so there is a better possibility of a lucrative movie deal.
    - young people have enthusiasm and fewer demands on their money, which means there is a better opportunity to market merchandise.
    - young people are highly social and susceptible to fads and trying to be cool, which means that they will spread the word about things they like and make it even more popular.
    These characteristics make it attractive for a large company to take the risk on production. Plus there's the crossover appeal and added market of parents who start reading the books too.

    It's all about business. Writers of more adult oriented fiction need not give up. That's a big market too, but it can't benefit from the feverish excitement of teenagers who would think it's fun to line up at a bookstore or movie theater at midnight for a new release. Most adults don't get into that kind of froth about anything. Even if I totally want a book, I'll simply preorder it or pick it up at the library. Not exactly fodder for a media event is it?

  6. Hi, Tracy and thanks for posting! I could not agree with you more. You certainly have broken it down for us pretty well and have brought up some good points.

    I personally just started, so I do not plan to give up and probably never will. I also think that if adults want new releases right away, the eReaders have given them the avenue with which to purchase them. And we don't have to stand in lines anymore, either!

    Also, Tracy, feel free to join the site. I would love to hear more comments from you on other topics! Take care.

  7. A lot of fantasy gets promoted in the YA sections of book stores, regardless of whether or not it was written for that audience (Trudi Cannavan's first trilogy (The Novice etc) is a good example that springs to mind). Also, a lot of YA out there has fantasy elements e.g. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, Rick Riordan's stuff is effectively urban fantasy, even classroom staples like Skellig have elements of the fantasy genre in.

    I think that the YA audience will help to make the genre more popular, which has to be a good thing for everyone writing fantasy, right?

  8. Hi Clare and thanks for dropping by to share comments! Fantasy becoming more popular certainly has its benefits. I certainly won't be mad about that fact! I was wondering if people were throwing the YA title around like you suggested, to simply garner attention, rather than defining the content within its pages.

    Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to your future posts!

  9. Twilight isn't fantasy, it's contemporary fantasy. Harry Potter was middle grade until the last 3 books.

    And YA Fantasy is coming back into style, but if you want to point at what's popular NOW in YA Fantasy why didn't you point at Chris Paolini and his Inheritance book? That book is being featured EVERYWHERE right now.

  10. I work as an editor, and I see an abundance of YA fantasy far above anything else. I take all genres, the only exceptions being excessively adult works such as erotica and certain horror novels. But without question, though I have received at least one book from probably every main genre heading you can think of, fantasy aimed at young adults far outweighs the rest. So I definitely think it's a very 'in thing' right now. I don't think that will change, but I do think that - particularly with the world of epublishing we now live in - it will become oversaturated in certain sub-genres and the perspective will shift to some other fantastical element. A decade ago it was magic; now it's vampires; in another ten years, it'll probably be something else.

  11. Rhiannon, thanks for stopping by and sharing. Yes, I forgot to mention Inheritance series, maybe because all I hear or see on the TV every time I walk by is the Twilight and Harry Potter movies! They are kind of force fed to use at the moment, but give Paolini some time and he will be there, too.

    Nick, thanks for coming to the blog and sharing! I was just thinking that over-saturated is probably right. If supply and demand holds true here, it will all face soon enough. I don't mind it, you see, as long as it gets kids away from the TV and puts their nose in a book, then I am absolutely fine with it!

  12. I have a 14 year old that isn't reading Harry Potter. She read the Twilight Series and has now graduated onto to other authors. We've had Percy Jackson series books, Tolkien, CS Lewis and some more recent releases. I've read them as well and enjoyed them. Then again that's me. If if it's taking you into the Realms of Imagination and it's holding one's attention then it's a good book. I write mainly non fiction so I haven't really ventured into the genre. Even so if the inspiration is there I would give YA a try.

  13. Hi, Liz and thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts with us! Your rather simplistic view on a good book is something that cannot be overlooked by any aspiring author. That should be the main focus of the fiction writer, especially those who choose to create their own world, rather than use the current one we are all familiar with. Even when using this world as a backdrop, the writer needs to create interesting characters or happenstances which draw the reader in. No matter what genre, however, we as writers need to create a concise, clear and interesting setting for our characters to interact. If you decide to venture into the YA market, I wish you the best of luck! Thanks again for the comments and have a great 2012!

  14. Well stated, although I think you may have under rated the number of adults that are reading YA fantasy novels. There are some who believe that the adults actually outnumber the teens, and even AARP's magazine and Reader's Digest have seen fit to mention this trend. I would suggest that another idea might be to begin a series as you suggest - aimed at the teen market, and then at say book # 3 split the series with one storyline going along a darker more adult path and the other staying on course with the first two books. That way you would hold on to both readerships and provide both with appropriately written books. Just a thought... LOVE the look of your website! Let me know how it all goes.

  15. Annie, thanks for joining our little community here in the discussion and sharing your thoughts!

    I am planning to do a post in the near future about that very subject. I have been doing some research and one thing is for sure: Women read more than men! I don't know the age groups just yet, though. I know that Harry Potter brought some boys back to reading, but I am not sure what happened to them.

    My genre of high fantasy/epic fantasy or whatever you want to call it, was what got me into reading novels. I started with comic books and progressed right into novels.

    I do like your suggestion and that is what the Harry Potter books did: grew with their audience. She did not write 2 series, but sort of did something along the lines of what you are suggesting, I think.

    Thanks for the compliments about the site! I am constantly trying to evolve and expand on it so it looks more and more professional. I would love to hear more from you on other subjects, so feel free to join the blog and share comments! I look forward to future posts. Have a great weekend!

  16. Great post! New follower. Found you via twitter! :D Fellow fantasy writer, too.

  17. Thanks for stopping by, Liesel. Best of luck with your writing and look forward to reading some comments here!

  18. Generally it has been more widely accepted for youth to venture into the realms of the impossible. This is why so much YA and children's fiction has fantastic elements. Fantasy has been for children only while adults had to "get real." With changes in cultural norms and expectations, the fantasy audience has broadened (think: Mirror, Mirror, Game of Thrones, Wondercon, etc). As other comments have said, YA that bridges youth and adulthood is more successful because it appeals to more people. Parents will buy their children the books, read the series themselves, and everyone sees the movies. Let's not forget merch on top of that!
    While the burst of YA labelled novels may annoy some, it is a boon to all fantasy writers. Our genre is popular. Our demographic is assured. Let's ride this wave until it crashes!

  19. Like people have said, it's a marketing thing. I started out as a fan of fantasy/sf, read a lot of adult genre books, and eventually wrote a trilogy myself but couldn't sell it to an adult genre publisher. (This was back in the early 1990's when self-publishing was out of the question for normal people). So I sent my manuscript round some children's publishers, and it got picked up by JK Rowling's editor and won an award for young people. But it was essentially an adult fantasy to start with, just without very much "adult" material so I could easlily remove those parts for the publisher. I've continued down that route and now write younger childen's fantasy, too. But I enjoy YA books, and I'm not exactly the target readership... loved The Hunger Games!

    Books find their own readership, I think, given half a chance. I wrote one that was originally published on a childen's list and sold averagely, but has now found an adult readership as an ebook.

  20. You made a good point in comparing the YA Fantasy and Paranormal to Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, etc. Those books have given way to the new round. Remember also, with rating system changes, many of the scifi books aimed at adults 20 years ago could find a YA audience today. We didn't have YA in the same way back then.