The sub-moronic ramblings of a semi-functioning illiterate

Who Is My Target Audience?

I wrote a young adult novel entitled THE GODS OF ASPHALT. The storyline came to me while I was sick, listening to my sons and their father argue in the next room while I lay in bed, unable to referee their emotions. For over a month I listened to them fight, play, and solve problems without me. It was mind-blowing. I felt like Dian Fossey. But instead of gorillas, I discovered how men interact with each other when women aren’t around.

That experience made me think about writing a book that explores what happens when the only woman in a family decides to leave. How do the men respond? How do they display affection? Express disappointment? Until I was sick, I thought that all men did when women weren’t around was eat, sleep and deny their emotions. I was wrong. So wrong, in fact, that I thought there was enough meat in my revelation to write a novel about it.

The initial target audience for my novel was teenaged boys. I thought for sure they would appreciate a storyline written with them in mind. The boys who have read my book so far have given me very good feedback. The agents who rep Young Adult…not so much. They’ve told me that they like my story, they just don’t believe it is technically Young Adult. They don’t know what to do with it. That leaves me, and hopefully you, to figure it out.

I read somewhere that boys read middle grade fiction until they hit their teens and then for some reason jump straight to adult Science Fiction or Horror. They skip right over Young Adult. Anyone who visits a Barnes & Noble Young Adult section can tell you why that is- everything in that genre is written with teenaged girls in mind. So that leads me to ask the following questions:

  • Do boys not read YA because there aren’t enough books to tell their stories, or do publishers turn down male protagonists because boys don’t read YA?
  • John Green writes Young Adult novels with teenaged boy protagonists, but do teenaged boys read them? Or are girls reading his YA novels with male protagonists?
  • What about mainstream fiction? Will adults read a story with a teenaged protagonist? If so, how on earth do I market that book to an agent?
  • I am working on the sequel to GoA now, and it is exploring more adult themes than the first book. Do I even want the first book to be YA? Won’t that make it harder to market GoA2?
  • Are the YA agents blowing smoke up my ass?
  • Am I the only writer out there with this problem?
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13 responses

  1. I think you should target GOA as adult fiction. As an adult (most days), I enjoyed the story and the interaction between the very rich characters you created. That is just my 2 cents. 🙂

    January 27, 2018 at 9:00 am

  2. Oh man, I am totally in this situation with my princess rebellion novel. What age is the right age? I mean, it isn’t as violent as the Hunger Games, and it scares me to think that parents let very young kids read those books. I like to think the story is interesting enough for older readers too. It is the other end of the spectrum that I agonize over.

    January 27, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    • Yeah, your end is much tougher. If I make the wrong call, an adult audience may not relate. If you overshoot your audience, they may be traumatized. Well, maybe not traumatized, but you get my meaning.

      January 28, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      • I want to say that twelve is the earliest cutoff age… but not all twelve-year-olds…

        January 28, 2018 at 9:43 pm

        • When my youngest son was twelve, he decided that he was old enough to watch THE EXORCIST. By the time the movie was over I was buried nose deep under a blanket. He rolled his eyes and went to bed. You just never know, I guess.

          January 29, 2018 at 3:14 pm

  3. Wow, am I behind on commenting. I’ve read The Gods of Asphalt, and I absolutely love it. To answer your question, your target audience is pretty much everyone, I believe. But I think the real question you’re gnawing at here is, “What is my genre?” I think I have an answer, but you should sit down. It’s definitely not YA, and definitely not middle-grade fiction. I’m more inclined to say it’s literary fiction, much as S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” is literary fiction. Classic.

    Also, can you please hurry up with the sequel?

    January 28, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    • Being compared to THE OUTSIDERS is no small compliment. Thank you, Rants.

      January 28, 2018 at 5:41 pm

  4. One of the greatest American works of fiction has a teenaged protagonist – Holden Caulfield, he of Catcher in the Rye. I have never considered that a YA fiction novel. It is literary fiction all the way. I am writing such a novel right now and dread someone suggesting it is YA simply because of the age of my protagonist, who is ten.

    January 29, 2018 at 10:07 am

    • Now that sounds like a book I’d like to read.

      January 29, 2018 at 3:11 pm

  5. My 1 and a half cents is that they’re right–market it to everyone, not just as YA. Non-horror fans read Stephen King, non-mystery fans read James Lee Burke, adults read Harry Potter. Never read it, but in my day “A Separate Peace,” a coming of age novel about teen boys, was taught in high schools and was a NYTimes bestseller earlier. I think GOA would have a broad appeal.

    February 1, 2018 at 1:01 am