Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Who needs labels?

Too many labels!
We all know about young adult fiction. We were then introduced to New Adult which was supposed to piggy back on the success of Fifty Shades of Grey and its erotica. It included stories aimed at the upper age range of YAF right into the early twenties. But now, today, I have heard of another label. This time it is called Clean Teen! This is apparently 'sophisticated stories for the NA market but without the sexualised content.'

Does this mean that neither YAF or NA can be sophisticated? Who decides?

For me what they are forgetting to mention all the time is that whatever age you are you want good stories told well. Stories that interest you and deal with issues that may concern you or amuse you. You may be particularly keen on romance or crime, it may be Sci Fi or Fantasy that tickles your fancy. Or you might enjoy a good war story or a bit of sick lit (that's a whole other issue). But at the end of the day it doesn't matter as long as you are enjoying reading it.

All these labels at the end of the day mean nothing. They are just labels. Some are being conveniently used to raise the profile of certain books but most people don't actually care what label a book comes under. They care about whether the writing is any good and the story is enthralling.

As a writer I would suggest you don't worry about them either. Write the story you want to write to the best of your ability. You may find yourself shoehorned into a label at a later date but forget about it until it happens. Concentrate on honing your craft as a writer. Making your story come to life and lift off the page, sucking the reader in so even when they put the book down they are still thinking about it.

When writing for teenagers/young adults/new adults/clean adults (whoever) I would suggest you think about what Nicola Morgan has previously said: 'I believe teenagers want….stories that take them out of the comfort zone (and definitely out of their parents’ comfort zone), to the limit of fear, disgust, emotion, grief, or passion, and which then brings them safely back again'

Therefore my tip for today is - just go away and write and forget about labels!

One talented teenager:


  1. That would be lovely, but... publishers want to know where a story will fit. If bookshops don't know where to put it or the marketing department doesn't know how to sell it, it won't be taken. So it's wise to have have at least some idea of how it will be labelled if you want to sell it.

    By the way, I'm quite pleased to hear of Clean Teen as New Adult has been entirely taken over by erotica - which is a great shame for those of us who wanted to write NA that wasn't all about sex.

  2. I agree with Vanessa - write the story you want to write first - of course you're going to think about who you're writing for. Worry about selling it when you know what you have to sell.

  3. I'm not saying don't do it. But it's frustrating when you spend weeks on something and then your agent says 'I can't sell this because....' and it's a category/theme issue, not a quality issue. If you support your family by writing, you can't afford to spend weeks writing something that won't sell simply because of a categorisation problem. Or you can't afford to do it too often! (I'm assuming that people who are doing a CW course want to sell their writing, but perhaps that's not a valid assumption.)

  4. I think your points are very valid Anne and something certainly to be aware of.