Who Am I Writing For?
When talking about writing there are two halves of me. There’s the half that writes fanfiction and the half that writes original novels. Other than on the basic scale of word choices, my styles for each are completely different. My fanfiction is oriented for an adult audience (not to be confused with adult content); my original fiction caters to readers of young adult fiction.
According to an article in Publisher’s Weekly from 2012, the number of adult readers of YA fiction is growing substantially. They cite a study done by Bowker Market Research that shows that 55% of consumers of young adult novels are adults over eighteen.
I remember first reading this article back in late 2012 or early 2013. Although I’ve been a avid reader of YA since early 2012, my first thought when seeing this statistic was, “duh, of course because they are adults buying books for their kids.” That is true, but according to the study, 78% of the people polled were buying the books for themselves. That’s a lot of people.
As a 30-something year old woman, I fall into the largest segment of readers–the 30-44 age range. Teens, though, are a shrinking demographic. A Time article notes that the number of teens reading for fun has drastically declined over the last thirty years. According to the study they cite, 45% of seventeen-year olds read for fun only once or twice a year. Only 19% of seventeen-year olds read for fun every day.
Obviously things are shifting, but what does that mean for me as a writer? It means that my style for YA fiction is converging with my style for my fanfiction. That doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to be writing about the same things (for one, I write in a completely different genre for my fanfiction), but it means I’m writing for a different audience–to a point.
As I’ve been working on my NaNoWriMo novel this past month, I’ve noticed my thinking patterns have changed. I used to think about teens–about my kids and their friends–and about what they like when I’d develop a story. What would interest them? How would they react to a story? This time, though, I’ve been thinking about the adult readers. What would they want? What would they believe is possible within the context of my story?
Becoming aware of that has changed how I write, and how I think about YA as a genre. When thinking of promoting a book, I don’t think of reaching out to teens. I picture adults–women my age–who spend their time discussing books and writing on Goodreads, Facebook, and individual blogs. They are who I’m reaching out to.
The weird thing is that we all enjoy the same aspects of books that teens do, so why am I drawing a line between the two? I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it’s because I’ve read so many reviews of teen books commenting on the unrealistic, unhealthy relationships boys and girls have in them. Or how events are unbelievable. For adult readers, a lot of the predicaments the characters get into can easily be solved with our hindsight, but for teens, most likely experiencing these things for the first time, the situations are plausible and insightful. They might help them figure out their own lives–they don’t want to see perfect relationships; they want all the messed up emotional fallout that goes with love because that’s what they know and need to learn to deal with.
I think right now I’m balancing along the line, but leaning towards writing for my adult readers. If the trends in teen reading continue as they are (which seems likely) then adults will be the only ones reading my books. Maybe then YA fiction will lose the stigma attached to it, and those of us who read and write it won’t feel like we need to mumble through our lists of titles when someone asks what we are reading.