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Ask Daphne! But what about college age kids?

Judy writes:

I’m wondering where fiction involving university students fits in. Would that be considered YA fiction? Or would that be considered adult fiction? If it is a realistic novel without any genre elements like fantasy / sci fi / mystery, it doesn’t seem to fit completely in either of these categories, so where would this sort of manuscript be submitted?

I know the answer to this, but it’s not one that makes me very happy. I’ve had multiple conversations with editors from publishing houses big and small, and they all come back to me with the same answer — once you have a main character in college, it’s no longer YA.
But wait, you argue. What’s the big difference between a book about a senior in high school and one about a freshman in college?
Nothing, really, except for a bit more freedom, but nonetheless, that’s the bridge from YA or teen fiction into adult. Now, there are some exceptions to this: MTV Books, for example, is carving out a great niche in the publishing marketplace in targeting these college-age kids, but for most houses, this is an underserved age group.
It goes to traditions, sort of. Traditionally, kids read up or at the same age as the protagonists, so Middle Grade books are read by those the target range and younger, as are teen books. Once you get out of the 12-16 YA range, publishers have found that readers jump to adult books. There’s also something to be said for the time college age students have for leisure reading, i.e. not much. And when they do read for fun — they’re already looking ahead to adult books, not back to YA.
So, Judy, for your novel about university age kids, check out MTV Books and see if they might be for you (although I’m not aware of their policy on unsolicited submissions), otherwise, look to the adult publishers. If there’s a romance involved, there’s a lot of great imprints publishing chick lit, which, really, is nothing more than young women’s fiction.
Good luck!

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