The Writer’s Bag Of Tricks: When is it YA?

The Writer’s Bag Of Tricks: When is it YA?

As a writer and editor, Susan is all too familiar with both sides of the publishing world. Since 2009, Susan Brooks has served on the board of directors for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, a nonprofit educational organization supporting both published and aspiring writers of commercial fiction. She holds a masters degree in publishing from George Washington University and is Editor in Chief at Literary Wanderlust, a small traditional press located in Denver,  Colorado.

Susan is an editor with many years of experience and occasionally takes on freelance projects. Recent editorial projects include The Homeplace by Kevin Wolf, and The Rampart Guards: Chronicle One in the Adventures of Jason Lex, by Wendy Terrien.

She tweets once in a while and you can follow her as @oosuzieq on Twitter.

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When Is It YA?

We’ve been talking about genre-specific tropes for the last several weeks. Tropes, or story patterns, are an important concept to learn if you write genre fiction.


  • Because writers need to know how to market their books.
  • Because booksellers need to know where to put books on the shelf.
  • Because readers have expectations that when they purchase a specific genre of book, that is exactly what they are getting

This week I want to shift to young adult (YA) novels, which are stories written for and marketed to young adults.

“Some people confuse YA and MG…”

YA Stats (includes sub-categories)

  • Current paperback book revenue for YA is $4.84 billion
  • Revenue grew 20.9% in 2014
  • 55% of YA books are purchased by adults over eighteen
  • 28% of YA sales are from readers aged 30 to 44 years of age
  • 40% of readers of YA use an e-reader, an increase of 3.8%
  • Over 510 million YA e-books were sold in 2014
  • 71% of readers will buy the book in print if it is not available as an e-book

What are all the acronyms? Aren’t they all children’s books? Isn’t it all YA?

Absolutely not.

  • Board books (BB) are books for children aged 0 to 3
  • Picture books (PB) are books for children aged 4 to 7
  • Early readers (ER) are books for children aged 5 to 7
  • Chapter books (CB) are books for children aged 6+
  • Middle grade books (MG) are books for children aged 12+ and are 25,000 to 45,000 words
  • Young Adult books (YA) are books for young adults aged 14+ and are 40,000 to 60,000 words
  • New Adult books (NA) are books for college aged (18 to 30) people and are 60,000 to 85,000 words

Some people confuse YA and MG, but it breaks down something like this:

  • Is the main character a child at the end of the book? If yes, then the book is MG. If no, then the book is YA.
  • The inclusion of sex or the topic of sex makes the book YA.
  • The age of our protagonist also determines the category of your book. The protagonist should be approximately two years older than your readers.

Next week we dig deeper into YA tropes.

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