1. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Target audience: marketability and propriety

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Sifunkle, Sep 9, 2015.

    This topic has two prongs, but both relate to audience age. First prong:

    I wonder if my target is at odds with what’s marketable (traditional publishing). Pleasing everyone is unrealistic, but I would like to keep my potential audience broad.

    My material isn’t typical of a children’s story, but the core isn't inappropriate, so I thought that if I wrote with accessible enough language, there’s no reason minors couldn’t enjoy it. My current guess is that an intelligent ten-year-old could keep up. This appeals because I recall being a kid and wishing for something more sophisticated within what was deemed kosher (not that propriety stopped me exploring).

    But I’m not really writing for adults either. The protagonist is young, following the notion that all adults have been young, but kids haven’t been old (--> maximised familiarity?). I’ve heard that protagonist age is a key feature in identifying youth genre, but ‘youth issues’ aren't the main focus. So I’m not sure if I’m writing a kids’ book that adults can also enjoy, or vice versa. Thinking of marketability, I wonder if I should narrow my target. (Other than 'Stop procrastinating and write it!',) what are your thoughts?

    Second prong:

    Given my target audience situation, can we approach the ‘Is X appropriate for a YA novel?’ question from the opposite direction: at what age do various themes (language, sex, drugs, violence, etc) become acceptable? This is clearly open to interpretation, so let’s hear some perspectives – hopefully discussion will benefit others too.

    I plan to only allude to more controversial stuff wherever possible (so only readers already familiar with the ideas will connect the dots), but at some point I'll have to decide the cut-off for what's directly mentioned and the language used. It seems that I’ll have to either adjust the content or the age range I’m writing for...
     
  2. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Target Audience: I would try not to think about your target audience too much - this can lead to strange narrative decisions. For instance, we had a writer in my group who stressed a lot because she thought her target audience was black women, and our critique group is majority white. At the end of the day we all still loved her book, and I think she probably overstressed herself by vascillating as to whether she needed to "make it blacker" or change groups so that she got more black feedback. Write a good story, then go from there.

    YA vs. Not YA: Adult stories can have non-Adult protagonists. There are all sorts of non-YA stories that are things I would never advise children to read/watch, that deal with young protagonists going through very real things that wouldn't be appropriate for YA ("White Oleander" comes to mind). If you're writing a "PG-13" story that doesn't deal with those heavy issues a lot, you might step back after you get it done and say, "does this fit broadly withing the YA milleu and should I pitch it as that?"

    On YA itself: I always say it's a rating system, just like movies. Middle Grade is PG, YA is PG-13, Adult is R. PG-13 can be pretty broad, and there are a lot of movies that come really close to getting that R rating (and a lot that get their initial cut rated R and then have to tweak to slide in under the line). But on balance they all meet the same basics - hold the f-bomb, no frontal nudity, no showing the sexytimes, etc. If you end up shooting for YA and your first draft would get an R rating, go back and re-cut so that you slide in under that line.
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Opinion only:

    Stories with protagonists under the age of 15 (give or take) rarely appeal to adults. Harry Potter is one exception. I'm sure there are others but it still requires something special to appeal that broadly. It's the story that will make the difference so it's hard to weigh in with a general opinion.

    As for what's appropriate, kids are pretty sophisticated. You never know when something is going to set the prude patrol off but I don't know how effective book banning efforts are in terms of marketing a book or finding a publisher.

    As these lists demonstrate, you can't please parents: 100 most frequently challenged books by decade.
    The first 25 - 2000 to 2009:
    Captain Underpants! Seriously, my son loved those books in grade school. I bought them but admit I never read them. :)

    I'd still write the story you want to write and not try to go for marketing formulas.
     
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  4. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    @Commandante Lemming - thanks, that's really helpful :) I didn't even think of comparing to film ratings, but that's a good framework and something I can mine for details. My current vision is probably between PG and PG-13 (although my country doesn't have the latter, so my impression may be out).

    @GingerCoffee - I agree about kids being sophisticated. That list is what bothers me - I'd have considered my WIP mostly inoffensive, but I'd have said the same for most of those entries. But your point is that its not something I can fully control. Fair enough.

    ...or maybe your point was 'Look! These controversial books are all hugely successful! You should write something really controversial.' (I know how you love mistaken cause and effect ;))

    @ both - I probably should let the editing process address the marketing issue. With this project, I've been trying a 'meticulous planning' approach, considering the holistic total from the start, but 'best laid plans'... maybe this is a hurdle that belongs further down the track.
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Actually, my point was, people are offended by the most inoffensive stuff, no sense trying to address their issues or taking them seriously. You can't win against irrational beings.
     

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