Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thinking About the Young Adult Market

I have written before about trying to anticipate trends in public taste where literature is concerned.

Who knew that the YA market would bleed into the adult arena to the point where so many readers of the Twilight Series were over the age of eighteen? Who knew the young adult market, energized by Rowling's Harry Potter series, would soar to such heights?

Some people in the market have posited that into the YA arena, there's a developing "literary" influence which I would argue has been there all along (I won't bore anyone with another tirade about "literary" fiction). Some have also pointed to the importance of that manufactured market as a way to instruct young people in issues related to social awareness and self-worth. Even with a book such as Twilight, which one would think of in terms of literary cotton candy, critics have found messages regarding female empowerment and a Mormon philosophy. Want to peek at the debate, here is a posting from The Motley Vision, a site on Mormon arts and culture.

 Like it or not, the YA market has been the fastest growing market on the shelves. Step back from discussions about vampires and zombies and see the venue in which they have been dominating audience. Vampires? At this time I would wager the audience is predominantly female, with the majority between 16-25 years of age. The venue? Books. Sure, we can fall back on Buffy and the film versions of Twilight, but instead consider how much adolescent literature being pushed through Barnes and Noble is centered around vampires. The world of wizards, fairly dominated by males, has just about run its course and been shoved aside.

And speaking about boys? While many may embrace the world of the vampire, I would argue the love of zombies is predominantly male, following the above age span of 16-25. I would also bet that while the vampire has strength in literature at this point, zombies have come into their own basically through cinema.

This is changing. One only has to look at the explosion of animated dead novels and short stories suddenly becoming available. How deep an impact will zombie's make? That remains to be seen, but probably not as deep as the vampire's indentation. The walking dead have a different and limited appeal. When writing The Ravening, a survival horror novel which features zombies, I knew the appeal wasn't an identification with romanticization of the monster, as it is in vampiric fiction, but instead with the people struggling to survive (also I should note The Ravening isn't YA)

I don't know where the future is in YA, or what will next grab the imagination of boy or girl audiences. Where is the next Eregon? The next Harry Potter? The next Twilight? I'm sure the corporations will let us know.

All this being said, I would argue that vampiric and survival horror fiction, will retain an audience. Even when the folk at Barnes and Noble relegate it to a back shelf, or take away its identification tag altogether, even when the vampire is no longer en vogue, the vampire will still sell, reclaimed by its original audience and beloved by those who prefer the shadow to the sunlight, the world of the weird to the mundane and hyper-real.


Charles Gramlich said...

It would be nice if the corporations would tell everyone that Gramlich was the next big thing.

BStearns said...

Wow, I can't believe you've been posting on my blog and I never thought to look and see if you had one. Very sorry it took me so long to get here.

Great post though. I've always had a love for vampires more than zombies, but I hate what Twilight and shows like Vampire Diaries has done to it. I like my vampires mean, blood-sucking, sun scorching machines! I'm an Angel fan through and through, which is a big contributor to my love of traditional vampires. I do look forward to the day when vampires finally go back to the symbol of death that they once were. All this...perversion of it just seems wrong.


SQT said...

I read very little YA fiction. It tends to be superficial for my tastes. And the more I'm exposed to "Twilight," the more I dislike it. Don't even get me started on the warped psychology that's behind the fascination housewives have for that drek.

But, my prejudices aside, YA fiction is a great medium for widespread success. The problem is knowing what's going to sell. Quality doesn't particularly matter either -- "Twilight" is a gawd awful example of writing. Read some of the one-star reviews on the book, they're more enlightening than the 4-5 reviews, and way more entertaining.

SQT said...

Also-- I don't thing "Twilight" is really about vampires. It's a fantasy that allows girls to feel love without the pressure of sex (at least initially). Over time I've come to believe that the Edward character is creepy and stalkerish, but there are legions of women out there that will defend the characterization to the death.

I think YA fiction succeeds when it acts as wish fulfillment. Harry Potter and Bella both have the ordinary-kid-does-extraordinary things vibe going for them.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Charles, I'm doing my best to spread your greatness.

Bstearns..don't be a stranger.

SQT...I liked Twilight...but I just saw New Moon, the second film. I don't know how closely these hew to the novels, but by the end of the film, I wanted to claw my eyes out. The end was especially excruciating. "I want you to be the one to do me, Edward."
"I won't turn you until we're married."

Well, at least there was no mormon agenda. hahahahaha

SQT said...

Stewart-- I guarantee you'll despise "Twilight" if you try to read it. The writing is so bad it will offend you to know that the woman has made a ton of money off of such a lack of talent. But I guess teenage girls are all about feelings.

Simcha said...

I actually enjoyed reading Twilight (though I would be afraid to admit this on my blog) but I just think people have taken the book much more seriously then it is meant to be taken. It's just a fun, romantic escapism novel with vampires.
I actually don't read very much YA but I think it's great how the recent popularity if this genre is attracting more people to reading in general.
But I do think it's a shame that older (as in, from back in my day) YA books are not getting the attention they deserve. It's now all about vampires and teenagers discovering they they are really half wolf/fairy/demon etc. and those new to reading are missing out on some really great books with more varied themes.

Stewart Sternberg said...

No fear Simcha. I actually tend the defend the series and its original audience. I am not sure, having seen the second film, why twenty-somethings would find it so intriguing. I think that is worthy of investigation.

Simcha said...

Stewart: I really don't think you can judge the Twilight books by the movies because- while they are not great works of literature- the movies are just awful. The first one I couldn't even sit through and the second one I only watched as a favor to a friend. I really have no idea why they are so popular.

SQT said...

@Simcha-- That's interesting. I've had most people tell me the movies are better than the books. I haven't watched the movies so I can't say.

SQT said...

@Simcha-- Please don't take my rantings on "Twilight" personally. I think I've just gotten fed up with the housewives in my area who think they're into fantasy now that they've read/watched "Twilight." Of course they'd never, in a million years, watch "Hellboy" or "Resident Evil." But they're super edgy now that they've picked up "Twilight." So irritating.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Simcha I actually defend the books and the entire Twilight phenomena when I'm at conventions. I tend to have trouble when fans of one area of genre develop this elitism. If the series can draw in new fans who may look for other dark fantasy when they are through, then hey, why not?

BStearns said...

Personally, I've avoided everything in and around Twilight and its ilk. Don't like it, never will. Be it the movie or the books. On the flip side on YA is Harry Potter, which I remember when I received Book 3 I was 13, so I literally grew up with those books. They are actually my second favourite book series. Twilight, well that's probably down there with my least favourite.


Kate Sterling said...

"But they're super edgy now that they've picked up "Twilight." Of course they'd never, in a million years, watch "Hellboy" or "Resident Evil."

ROFL. I lurves me some Hellboy - particularly the second one. (Ok, so I got all fangirl over Prince Nuada. I admit it.)

I actually enjoyed the Twilight books, though the movies are just god-awful. And in spite of Meyers' claims to have never read any vampire books before writing it, I still maintain that some of her scenes bear a remarkable resemblance to "The Vampire Diaries" which were written first.

Anyway, what was Stewart's post about again? Oh, yeah. Stew, I think one of the reasons YA is big is because it appeals to so many age groups. It hits its target audience, but then there are those of us who are either going through a mid-life crisis, or just suffer arrested development, who love them too.

Oh, and don't knock what the corporations are telling you will be the next big thing. Several years ago, my grandfather was trying to sell one of the many Westerns he'd written. Time & again, he was told: Western won't sell, unless you want to make it gay. That was about a year or two before Brokeback Mountain came out.

OTH, they've been predicting the death of vampire romances for the past 20 years.

SQT said...

Stu-- If they were genuinely interested in exploring more fantasy-- then I'm with you. But I've found that the "Twilight" crowd isn't looking for something new and different. People who are already into fantasy will venture into "Twilight" territory for something lighter, but they're not changing their underlying taste. I think the same is true for traditionally non-fantasy fans of "Twilight." Really they're drawn to the romance more than the fantasy. They might then pick up some Patricia Briggs or Charlaine Harris, but most "Twilight" fans I've talked to think that stuff is too bloody! I've had more "Twilight" fans tell me they don't like "True Blood" because it's too violent. Lol. They're not looking for vampires and werewolves. They're looking for true love.

SQT said...

Kate-- I love "Hellboy 2." Not everyone was into the storyline of that one but it really appealed to me. I'm big on lush visuals and that one is one of my favorites. Count me in as a fangirl.