Monday, 18 June 2012

"My novel is YA / cross-over" - GAH

The reason for the GAH is that a novel is hardly ever genuinely cross-over and your claim that it is is rather like the claim in my recent post about age ranges. It induces much eye-rolling from the agent you've submitted to.

Every YA/teenage writer wants her book bought and devoured and loved by adults. Of course. Every adult writer wants the increased sales that would come from having teenagers buy and love her book. Obviously. And certainly some books genuinely deserve the label. But by pitching it as cross-over, you are failing to recognise two things:
  1. That the marketing of a book as cross-over requires three marketing prongs: marketing it to teenagers, marketing it to adults, and marketing it as cross-over. It's expensive. And therefore risky. And therefore rare.
  2. There are specific things that make a book a teenage/YA book. The fact that many teenagers rightly read books that are "meant" for adults, and vice-versa, is irrelevant to this.
  • If you feel yours is a teenage book (and you know why it is) pitch it as such. If the publisher wants to promote it as cross-over, lovely, but you'll sound naive if you suggest it.
  • If you feel it's aimed at adults, pitch it as such. Lots of teenagers will read it anyway. Fab.
Remember another point: most bookshops do not have room to shelve a book in more than one section. Very few books are.

So, over-keen writer, do yourself a favour and ban the word "cross-over" from your submission.

I call it the C-word.


Nick Green said...

Love this!

I think it's a bit like saying, "EVERYONE in the whole world will enjoy this book. So you can't lose!"

Nothing can be described as 'cross-over' until it has already done so.

Nicola Morgan said...

Nick - "Nothing can be described as 'cross-over' until it has already done so." An excellent way of putting it - love it.

Julia said...

Aha!I always knew it was naff to try and pitch one's novel as crossover, but was never sure exactly why!! Clarity has finally been achieved - thank you!

Chihuahua Zero said...

My line of thinking is basically: "even if you write it for one demographic, another one is going to also read it anyways."

For example, a lot of female readers in their 30s-40s also read YA, so...

Anna Soliveres said...

Glad I read this. It's something I've asked and finally glad to hear an answer for.

Thank you!
Anna Soliveres

Ebony McKenna. said...

Hahahaha, yes the dreaded crossover.

A boy, 8, has read my book and thought it was "okay" (no, not my son, who LOVES everything I do) and grannies in the 70s who love me very much and read my YA out of loyalty.

Sure, there are jokes in there for the parents, but I'm writing romantic YA, so the target market is not merely 12-15 but "girls 12-15". As you said, the genuine crossovers are truly rare, and I agree with Nick, nothing is a crossover until it becomes one.

Sue Purkiss said...

Clear and concise, as ever! Was it Harry Potter that started the whole crossover thing?

Diane Fordham said...

Great post - thanks. Good advice :-)

Carol Hedges said...

Interestingly, Amazon doesn't have a 'crossover' category on its ebook listing. (I know, I'm about to upload a book). You are right tho - many books defy pigeonholing. A good story stands alone. Thanks for this. I enjoyed reading your views!

yampie said...

Here you are Nicola. This will make your toes curl -
"The novel is thought to have adult crossover potential, with writer Simon Kernick calling it "a fast-paced thriller with real heart".

From here no less:

Nicola Morgan said...

Yampie - Ah, but it's the publisher calling it that, so that's okish. My toes are still curling, though! And the book will do brilliantly because of its provenance. Though it might also be really good! I still hate the vacuous crossover label though. *watches toes curl* Almost all my YA novels are equally enjoyable by adults, but I have no desire to call them crossover. I'm just happy whoever reads them. 

Carol, that's interesting, indeed.

Sue, I don't think so. I can't say what did, though. I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard to find out.

I think it's fair to say that a) many adults have enjoyed many of my books b) WASTED is particularly in that category and c) I still have no nearest in using the word about my books. I write for teenagers (when I do) and anyone else is most welcome.