Ask Daphne! What do you call this?

November 11th, 2009 • Kate

leafbootFantasy shoes for T.J. who found me via Twitter to ask the following question (the boots are a design by Michel Tcherevkoff, who has a book of these images. I just added it to my Christmas Wish List):

I have been an avid reader of Terry Brooks, Dragonlance series, Lord of the Rings, etc. for a long time. My question is basically…would these be ‘Young Author’, ‘Fantasy’, ‘Middle Grade’ or story lines that people like yourself represent? I haven’t seen a chart or anything with examples I’m familiar with for these categories and I would hate to misrepresent myself or waste anyone’s time.

I ask, because I am writing a story similar to Dragonlance (Dragons, Knights, Wizards, etc.) and want to set off on the right foot.
I see the poor rants and raves from you guys on Twitter, and I feel bad for the sheer volume of slush queries and I don’t want to be that guy. Anyhow, thank you for getting back to me…and thank you for being so available.

I’m always happy to answer questions, because I know the world of publishing can be confusing, and it’s like the commercials sing, “The More You Know… do do do doooo.”

It sounds like you’re writing fantasy, T.J., but as to whether it’s YA, which stands for “Young Adult,” not “Young Author,” Middle Grade, or Adult isn’t a matter of genre, but age range. One of the reasons I love representing YA and MG is because those categories refer to suggested ages for their readers (or recommended reading levels), and because within those distinctions, there’s a whole world of different genres: fantasy, mystery, thriller, romance, etc.

One way of figuring out what age range you’re writing for is to consider the age of your protagonist, but even that may not tell the whole story. As the writer, you should know your suggested audience. Is it for a reader like yourself, for the ten year old boy you used to be, or the teenage kid down the street? Knowing the answer that that question may help you decide where your book fits.

But it’s not just the age of the main character and who you see reading it — it’s knowing how it would fit in the category you’re considering, which can be an even more difficult process. You have to consider content, whether that’s violence, language, sex, or something else, and decide if what you’re writing is age-appropriate, balanced of course with the question of if it’s STORY appropriate.

All I can say is, it’s not a simple question with a simple answer.

Check out your local library or bookstore and browse the shelves. See what’s out there that’s YA, MG, or shelved with the fantasy stuff. I can say that the titles you’ve mentioned were all mostly written and are usually shelved in the adult fantasy section — although, just to be confusing, Terry Brooks recently re-released the early Shannara books as YA, with minimal to none editing.

If you have further questions, I can happy repeat the advice I give to almost ALL authors — find a great critique group, and make use of them. Ask them what THEY think!

Readers, any other suggestions?

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed Under: Ask Daphne!

Tags: , ,


5 Responses to “Ask Daphne! What do you call this?”

  1. Rissa Watkins Says:

    I agree, Terry Brooks & LOTR are more adult than YA. I haven't read the Dragonlace series yet.

    I am surprised to read Terry Brooks is re-releasing the Shannara books as YA- they don't have a YA feel to me. But then, far be it for me to question one of my favorite writers.

    Perhaps you can find an agent who reps both YA and fantasy- that way you are covered either way?

  2. Kristi Says:

    I would add one thing to do after you figure out your age range and finish your ms. Make sure to look at the agent listings on places like Publisher's Marketplace, Agentquery and Querytracker because your manuscript sounds like what agents term "high-fantasy." There are a lot of agents that will represent urban fantasy but explicitly state that they're not into high-fantasy (the kind involving alternate worlds with knights, wizards, dragons, etc). It'll save you time if you're targeting the right agents. Good luck.

  3. T.J. Says:

    I can't believe I typo'd Adult with Author…I'm embarrassed.

    Thanks for the clarifications Daphne, I appreciate the quick response. πŸ™‚

    I personally considered the story more of a 'high-fantasy' than a 'YA' but I didn't want to limit myself when looking for agents.

    Thanks again πŸ™‚

  4. Sara Raasch Says:

    I WANT THOSE BOOTS.

    Critique groups are absolutely vital to the writing process. I second Kate's suggestion to find one — it's never something you'll regret!

  5. Kate Says:

    T.J. — again, just because it's high fantasy doesn't mean it can't also be YA. One is a genre, and one is an age range.