PDA

View Full Version : 12-year-old protag = deal breaker?



AbbyBabble
08-06-2014, 11:53 AM
I wrote a 102k word science fantasy novel, aimed at the YA crossover and adult markets.

The main protagonist is a twelve-year-old telepath who absorbs other peoples's memories, giving him godlike knowledge. The novel has multiple POVs, and the other characters are adults--but after many edits and rewrites, I feel that this novel needs to start in his POV in chapters 1 & 2.

His age seems to be a major red flag to industry professionals. The writing style and query pitch are clearly not Middle Grade, so they see a child POV and assume I don't know my target audience.

Would it help if I mention that it's a multiple POV novel in the query letter?

Or should I make the 12-year-old protagonist into an 18-year-old? That would ruin the story (his age is integral to the plot), but his age seems to be a major roadblock to getting it read (combined with this one other major red flag item (http://abbybabble.blogspot.com/2014/08/subverting-tropes-hard-sell.html)).

cornflake
08-06-2014, 11:59 AM
I wrote a 102k word science fantasy novel, aimed at the YA crossover and adult markets.

The main protagonist is a twelve-year-old telepath who absorbs other peoples's memories, giving him godlike knowledge. The novel has multiple POVs, and the other characters are adults--but after many edits and rewrites, I feel that this novel needs to start in his POV in chapters 1 & 2.

His age seems to be a major red flag to industry professionals. The writing style and query pitch are clearly not Middle Grade, so they see a child POV and assume I don't know my target audience.

Would it help if I mention that it's a multiple POV novel in the query letter?

Or should I make the 12-year-old protagonist into an 18-year-old? That would ruin the story (his age is integral to the plot), but his age seems to be a major roadblock to getting it read (combined with this one other major red flag item (http://abbybabble.blogspot.com/2014/08/subverting-tropes-hard-sell.html)).

Again, I'd ask how you know that's a roadblock to getting it read?

You have a 12-year-old MC, which is naturally going to seem MG, but if the voice and plot are clearly not, it'd seem obvious it's not an MG novel.

Have you put your query up?

Old Hack
08-06-2014, 12:09 PM
If the book is well-written and has a great plot and story, then this is not an issue.

Consider Liz Jensen's The Rapture, or The Nine Lives of Louis Drax; or Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles. There are plenty more that I can think of. Having a child protagonist does not prevent good books from being published in any genre. Poor writing does.

Feldkamp
08-06-2014, 12:28 PM
Half the POVs in the Song of Fire and Ice series are of children (though HBO has done a good job of making us forget that fact) - Bran is only 7 in the first novel and it in no way detracts from the genre or readability.

If your writing and plot are strong enough to carry the POV, then I wouldn't change the character's age.

waylander
08-06-2014, 01:31 PM
Do you state in your query that your novel is aimed at the adult market?

heza
08-06-2014, 05:46 PM
It's fine to have a child's POV in novels other than MG. The only thing that gives me pause is that you said you're aiming it at a YA audience--yet the POVs are either children or adults. Is it really a YA novel? I think YA audiences have a greater need to have a primary MC "like them." Would this work as adult fiction?

As to your other red flag, are you very clear in your query that you do end up subverting the trope?

Marlys
08-06-2014, 05:52 PM
...his age seems to be a major roadblock to getting it read (combined with this one other major red flag item (http://abbybabble.blogspot.com/2014/08/subverting-tropes-hard-sell.html)).

If you want to discuss the other red flag item here, maybe you should say what it is? That way, people could follow the conversation without hopping back and forth.

Sage
08-06-2014, 06:09 PM
If you're saying it's YA/adult crossover (which you should never say, btw. They want you to pick a market), then it probably is a roadblock. If you're just saying YA, it's also a roadblock. 12yo is MG age, or it can be an adult book.

sassandgroove
08-06-2014, 07:09 PM
If you want to discuss the other red flag item here, maybe you should say what it is? That way, people could follow the conversation without hopping back and forth.

Good point. I didn't even notice the link.

Hapax Legomenon
08-06-2014, 07:19 PM
I'm with Sage. You're probably best off saying it's an adult book. From what you've described, it sounds a lot like an adult book, anyway.

Toothpaste
08-06-2014, 08:18 PM
Another voice jumping on the "either it's MG or adult, it can't be YA" bandwagon. There aren't tons of rules with YA but one of them is it has to have a teenage protagonist. This is why, for example, they have aged up the protagonist of THE GIVER in the movie so that it can be sold as a YA film not a MG.

I think you are fine trying to sell the book as adult as long as the book is firmly written with an adult voice and about adult themes.

As far as subverting your trope is concerned, do you mention that right in the query letter? That might help. "While the book starts out as a stereotypical chosen one adventure, it subverts the reader's expectations and at about a quarter of the way through the story it turns out that this isn't your typical genius saves the world plot" - or something to that effect . . .

Fizgig
08-06-2014, 08:32 PM
I'm also curious how you know why your book isn't being read? Have you gotten feedback from agents? I read your other issue post as well and think, unless you're getting directed feedback at those specific issues, there could be a million reasons agents/beta readers aren't getting beyond the beginning.

In fact, most books submitted don't get past the first few pages with agents.

In relation to your issue questions, my impression is that a young MC is fine as long as you make it clear the audience. You second issue, subverting tropes will make your book approximately 1 million times more likely to get read -- you just have to say clearly in your query that you are doing so (give the agent a reason to keep reading by letting them know).

AbbyBabble
08-07-2014, 02:31 AM
I've consistently had great reactions from beta readers, and auto-rejections from agents. One bit of feedback that I get from 100% of industry readers is: "Are you aware that your character is too young for YA/adult?"

'Normal' beta readers don't have the same expectations, and they seem to be reading it as a book intended for an adult audience. They never mention his age as an issue.

Ender's Game and A Game of Thrones both have child POV characters, but neither of those manuscripts had to go through slush piles. And that was decades ago. And IIRC, neither started in the child's POV.

I don't think this is the only factor for the auto-rejections, but it seems to be a major one, especially in combination with another red flag item. I suspect those two factors combined are hitting the 'kill switch' in agents' minds ... only because I get that same bit of feedback from 100% of industry beta readers. "Are you aware that YA readers like to read up for their age?" "Do you realize that he's too young for the audience?"


If you're saying it's YA/adult crossover (which you should never say, btw. They want you to pick a market), then it probably is a roadblock. If you're just saying YA, it's also a roadblock. 12yo is MG age, or it can be an adult book. This is helpful. Thanks!!! Note to self: Say it's adult, or say it's YA--not both. Can I say 'YA crossover'?

I would prefer to market it as adult, but honestly, I think it would appeal to teenagers as well. I've had really, really great reactions from teenage beta readers.

Jamesaritchie
08-07-2014, 02:52 AM
The funny thing is, from my experience, a 12 year old simply will not work for the YA readership, but will work for an adult novel. This, I think, is as it should be. YA is a very specific genre, with specific needs and wants, and a specific age group that reads it. Anything is possible, but I really doubt you'll get any takers in the YA genre with such a protagonist.

I'd say forget all about the crossover idea. This usually doesn't work by intention, anyway. Write the novel for adults, market it for adults, and if it crosses over after being published, fine, great, but I wouldn't even mention it until then.

LJD
08-07-2014, 03:05 AM
This is helpful. Thanks!!! Note to self: Say it's adult, or say it's YA--not both. Can I say 'YA crossover'?

I would prefer to market it as adult, but honestly, I think it would appeal to teenagers as well. I've had really, really great reactions from teenage beta readers.

To me, saying something is a crossover could sound like you're a bit...full of it (IMHO). Because the books we think of as crossovers are the big hits.

And teens read adult fiction too.


You might find this (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/02/dude-looks-like-ya.html) post interesting (former agent):
"But here's the problem with crossover novels: there's no crossover publisher, only children's publishers and adult publishers, and there's no crossover section of the bookstore, only the children's side and the adult side...All of this is a long way to say that I think you need to write and pitch your novel as one or the other."

mayqueen
08-07-2014, 04:03 AM
It sounds like your novel isn't YA, based on the age of the protagonist and the multiple viewpoints including adults. Another reason to query it as adult is that your word count is on the high side for YA. Here (http://litreactor.com/columns/ask-the-agent-your-novel-word-count-guide-and-more), here (http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/word-count-for-novels-and-childrens-books-the-definitive-post), here (http://hardcoversandheroines.com/2013/08/23/word-count-and-ya-novels/), etc.

As for the other thing, I don't know. If you're not getting personalized feedback, you can't assume anything about why you're being rejected.

Hapax Legomenon
08-07-2014, 04:35 AM
YA is less a demographic and more a particular type of novel. Teenagers read lots of adult novels. Market as adult.

cornflake
08-07-2014, 04:51 AM
I've consistently had great reactions from beta readers, and auto-rejections from agents. One bit of feedback that I get from 100% of industry readers is: "Are you aware that your character is too young for YA/adult?"

'Normal' beta readers don't have the same expectations, and they seem to be reading it as a book intended for an adult audience. They never mention his age as an issue.

Ender's Game and A Game of Thrones both have child POV characters, but neither of those manuscripts had to go through slush piles. And that was decades ago. And IIRC, neither started in the child's POV.

I don't think this is the only factor for the auto-rejections, but it seems to be a major one, especially in combination with another red flag item. I suspect those two factors combined are hitting the 'kill switch' in agents' minds ... only because I get that same bit of feedback from 100% of industry beta readers. "Are you aware that YA readers like to read up for their age?" "Do you realize that he's too young for the audience?"

This is helpful. Thanks!!! Note to self: Say it's adult, or say it's YA--not both. Can I say 'YA crossover'?

I would prefer to market it as adult, but honestly, I think it would appeal to teenagers as well. I've had really, really great reactions from teenage beta readers.

As others have said, if you're not getting feedback, you've no idea what the problem is or why it's being rejected.

If you're getting no bites off the query at all - I'm inclined to say it's very likely the query has problems.

No requests off the query = look at the query.

Requests, then rejections = look at the ms.

jeffo20
08-07-2014, 06:07 AM
I agree with Cornflake, if all you're getting are auto-rejections, take another hard look at your query letter.

thisprovinciallife
08-07-2014, 07:53 AM
I recently saw a successful query post from an author who signed with a well-respected agent - and his query had a line stating that he had "knowingly used several fantasy tropes" with the intention of then subverting them later (or something to that extent). Maybe something like that would work for you! Although, I am wary of lines like that - as it's very easy to end up sounding bragg-y.

quicklime
08-07-2014, 05:40 PM
I agree with Cornflake, if all you're getting are auto-rejections, take another hard look at your query letter.

Thirding......

Thedrellum
08-07-2014, 06:52 PM
Another voice jumping on the "either it's MG or adult, it can't be YA" bandwagon. There aren't tons of rules with YA but one of them is it has to have a teenage protagonist. This is why, for example, they have aged up the protagonist of THE GIVER in the movie so that it can be sold as a YA film not a MG.

Just wanted to jump in to say that this is not always the case. Rick Yancey's THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST has a twelve-year-old protagonist and that book is definitely YA.

As to the thread as a whole, I agree with pretty much what everyone else has said. Advice re: the query fourthed.

AbbyBabble
08-08-2014, 05:29 AM
Agents don't offer feedback when they auto-reject. However, I've had a lot of feedback on the first three chapters from industry professionals. The age thing is consistently mentioned by them.

This 12-year-old character, Thomas, doesn't act like a child. He's more like an adult in a child's body. He absorbs lifetimes worth of memories, and he has super-fast processing speed. In chapters 1 & 2, he's at his most childlike; his knowledge grows quite a bit once he hooks up to the telepath network.

Yet his young age is integral to the plot. Here's why [spoilers]:

Thomas was never supposed to live to adulthood. That's why he invented his medicine, which is coveted by other telepaths with his mutations (the super-geniuses). Sure, I can change it to "super-geniuses die during their twenties" rather than "super-geniuses die during puberty." But I don't like giving the super-geniuses sex characteristics and introducing the element of sexual tension, no matter how small. Children are innocent, and the whole point of super-geniuses is that they're *not* innocent like other children. If I make Thomas and the Indigo Governess into teenagers, their fatalism and high ambitions might seem akin to mundane teenage angst. It will lose impact.

There would be other negative repercussions to making Thomas a teenager. Right now, he acts like an old man in the body of a child, which is a direct contrast to the character of Garrett, who acts like a child in the body of an old man. If Thomas is a teenager, I lose that contrast. There's at least two scenes where Thomas needs to be carried by an ummin (small alien). If he's the size of a teenager, that's implausible. And there are so many scenes where Thomas's appearance of being harmless and innocent plays into reader and character expectations. An underground civilization of runaway slaves treat Thomas like he's their devil, which looks appalling when he's actually a child. It will look less appalling if he's a sulky teenager. Towards the end of the series, Thomas becomes sort of a Torth anti-christ, massacring and enslaving trillions of Torth. That will have a lot more visual impact if he looks like an innocent child.

LJD
08-08-2014, 05:37 AM
"industry professionals"=?

Literary agents? Assistants to literary agents? Editors for major publishing houses? People who work as "editors" but really don't have the experience to do so?

AbbyBabble
08-08-2014, 05:44 AM
"industry professionals"=? Literary agents? Assistants to literary agents? Editors for major publishing houses? People who work as "editors" but really don't have the experience to do so?

Former assistant editors (at major publishers, such as Tor and Daw), and agented and published novelists.

Working literary agents and editors generally don't have time for beta reading. If you know one who's willing, please let me know.

Hapax Legomenon
08-08-2014, 05:45 AM
Why are you so married to the YA label?

amergina
08-08-2014, 06:42 AM
Does he *start* the book as a 12-year old? because that's pretty much the midpoint for boys to hit puberty (between 9-14).

I'm not sure that 12-year-olds are all that innocent, either. (Unless you're strictly talking sexual innocence. Then sure. Especially if puberty hadn't hit.)

Sure, they don't have all the emotional and decision-making capacity of adults, but they can lie. And cheat. And steal. And hurt people. And bully.

I'd actually buy it more if he were... I don't know... a six-year old. A kind of Charles Wallace (Wrinkle in Time) type character.

Presumably by the end of the series, he'll be older? So if you *do* have him as 12 now, in later books, he'll be older so... you're going to lose that visual child-like impact anyway. (Not that 12-year-old boys are exactly child-like.)

So maybe age him *down?

Toothpaste
08-08-2014, 08:27 AM
Just wanted to jump in to say that this is not always the case. Rick Yancey's THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST has a twelve-year-old protagonist and that book is definitely YA.

As to the thread as a whole, I agree with pretty much what everyone else has said. Advice re: the query fourthed.

That might be the exception that proves the rule then. I think one ought to be wary advising someone though that it's cool to have a 12 yearold in a YA. Especially someone who has said she has had responses from people saying the age threw them. I honestly don't see what the big deal is to say the book is adult, since she is talking about it being for adults anyway. It would be one thing if she was saying it was MG and we were saying it had to be adult, that would require an entire re-write with tone etc. But saying something is YA but we are saying say it's adult requires nothing but changing a few words in a query.

Regardless, I don't really know what the big deal is. Call it adult and Bob's your uncle. Why even discuss ageing up the character to be a teen to fit YA if the author really feels ageing up the character ruins the heart of the book? This isn't that hard a thing to solve really.

Quite honestly my thinking is that there's a greater issue with the sample chapters than just age and market. I feel like even if the author mislabeled those things, an agent could help reframe how to sell it. So I'm thinking something isn't quite selling the book within the actual chapters. And I'm wondering if it doesn't actually read as adult as the author thinks it does, and that possibly it does read really YA and THEN there's an issue, because despite one or two examples, selling a YA with a non-teen protagonist is a REALLY tough sell.

ETA: I also believe that those rare YAs that have non-teen protags are quite literary and dark and would otherwise be considered MG except it's a bit too difficult a read for that age group. If that's the tone of her book, then maybe that could work. OP is that the tone of your work?

Putputt
08-08-2014, 09:06 AM
I would call it adult. Have you read Room? It's an adult novel written from the PoV of a five-year-old. So you can go young in adult novel.

But, more importantly than that, like people have said, if you are consistently getting rejected from your query, take a look at your query again. Have you posted it on QLH? Also, if you're pasting the first ten pages of your MS onto the body of the e-mail, maybe try posting them on SYW.

AbbyBabble
08-08-2014, 12:37 PM
I really appreciate these examples of YA/adult novels with child POVs.


So maybe age him *down? I don't want to evoke Charles Wallace; his character is a subversion of that trope. But he was originally 11, and I changed him to 12 to see if that would make a difference. I should change him back to 11.


Why are you so married to the YA label? I'm not. But I think this novel has crossover appeal. I've had a bunch of beta readers on the whole series, and teens seem to love it as much as adults. Also, my style is minimalist rather than prose-heavy, so the story has a YA pace to it.

I'm considering changing his age to 18 in the first three chapters, just to see if that leads to a full manuscript request. If it does, then ... I'll panic? :) I can change his age in this novel, to the detriment of the story [see my post #23]. Maybe it will make the difference between getting the mss read or not.


But, more importantly than that, like people have said, if you are consistently getting rejected from your query, take a look at your query again. Have you posted it on QLH? Also, if you're pasting the first ten pages of your MS onto the body of the e-mail, maybe try posting them on SYW. Yes, done it. I've rewritten the query about 108x, and the first three chapters more than 150x. I've gotten loads of feedback--enough to realize that his age is one of the major factors leading to auto-rejections.

There's another major factor, as well, which is trope assumption. It seems that many readers (and about 100% of industry professionals) assume that this character is going to follow the typical child-genius-saves-the-day trope. My novel takes an unexpected twist and subverts that trope, but the agent isn't going to read far enough to see that. So I'm working on figuring out a way to signal the trope subversion in chapter 1, and/or in the query letter.

Old Hack
08-08-2014, 12:38 PM
Agents don't offer feedback when they auto-reject. However, I've had a lot of feedback on the first three chapters from industry professionals. The age thing is consistently mentioned by them.

You've mentioned these industry professionals before: I wonder who they are, and where you've found them.


Former assistant editors (at major publishers, such as Tor and Daw), and agented and published novelists.

Working literary agents and editors generally don't have time for beta reading. If you know one who's willing, please let me know.

Ah.

You realise that you have a similar range of industry professionals responding to you here, at AW, some of them in this very thread?

*glances at own CV*

*glances at the many books on my shelves written, represented and edited by AW members*

It's true that few of us will be able to beta-read a full novel. But we do have time to give our opinions here, and because we've read so many queries and submissions, and have seen many of the books connected to those submissions, we can usually identify where the problems are. I do think the age of your main character is problematic, as has been discussed elsewhere.


Does he *start* the book as a 12-year old? because that's pretty much the midpoint for boys to hit puberty (between 9-14).

I'm not sure that 12-year-olds are all that innocent, either. (Unless you're strictly talking sexual innocence. Then sure. Especially if puberty hadn't hit.)

Sure, they don't have all the emotional and decision-making capacity of adults, but they can lie. And cheat. And steal. And hurt people. And bully.

I'd actually buy it more if he were... I don't know... a six-year old. A kind of Charles Wallace (Wrinkle in Time) type character.

Presumably by the end of the series, he'll be older? So if you *do* have him as 12 now, in later books, he'll be older so... you're going to lose that visual child-like impact anyway. (Not that 12-year-old boys are exactly child-like.)

So maybe age him *down?

My bold.

I think that could be a brilliant solution.

He's not working as he is now. He just seems over-preciocious, and unbelievable. If he were significantly younger, it would be obvious that he was behaving in this way because of how extraordinary he was. I think it would work much better.


Why are you so married to the YA label?

Good question.


I would call it adult. Have you read Room? It's an adult novel written from the PoV of a five-year-old. So you can go young in adult novel.

I loved the first half of Room. But I thought it lost impetus in its second half, which was a shame.


But, more importantly than that, like people have said, if you are consistently getting rejected from your query, take a look at your query again. Have you posted it on QLH? Also, if you're pasting the first ten pages of your MS onto the body of the e-mail, maybe try posting them on SYW.

The OP does indeed have a thread in QLH. It's here (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=269567), and there's a lot of discussion about the age of her MC in that thread too.

The OP also has another thread in which she talks about why her book was rejected: she links to it in the first post of this thread. I'm concerned that they represent a duplication of discussions, to some extent, so perhaps we should do our best to focus very specifically in this thread on the question she asked here.

Gilroy Cullen
08-08-2014, 03:53 PM
I don't want to evoke Charles Wallace; his character is a subversion of that trope. But he was originally 11, and I changed him to 12 to see if that would make a difference. I should change him back to 11.

You mention Ender's Game as your example. If you've read the novel, you'd know they start Ender at age 6 (Unlike the mess of a movie.) I think the suggestion to age him DOWN is better, because of the innocence factor, especially with the way American Society is with regard to anything over age 10 these days...


I think this novel has crossover appeal.

:gaah Please drop the whole crossover thing. When I was a teen, I read mostly adult books. There is NO crossover. It's what people want to read. Some adults now read MG book, because they want to, not because of "crossover."

quicklime
08-08-2014, 05:38 PM
I'm not. But I think this novel has crossover appeal. I've had a bunch of beta readers on the whole series, and teens seem to love it as much as adults. Just to play devil's advocate, I read several books by King before I was ten. My daughter, in the same age group, read Twilight. My son read Phantoms. Help me out, where are those shelved? Oh, that's right....adult, YA or whatever the fuck Twilight is, and adult again.

The simple truth is, most folks read more than one genre or age grouping. They just do. At the same time, MOST books get shelved in a single spot.

You aren't in Marketing, particularly not of books. What sounds lovely to you ("I can sell to tow or three groups, and get my jet-money twice as quickly!") may not to folks who have to 1) sell the book as effectively as possible and 2) deal with you, the author, who is possibly already coming off as a snowflake at worst, and naive at best, with this line of argument. I get where you're coming from, but your logic is flawed. Pick the correct genre, and stop muddying your own waters.


Also, my style is minimalist rather than prose-heavy, so the story has a YA pace to it. aaah, like famed YA author Ernest Hemingway. Yeah....prose style does not automatically determine where it goes either. My prose is also sparse, but writing about 30-ish people fucking and killing and loving and hating doesn't turn it into YA because I don't write purple.

I'm considering changing his age to 18 in the first three chapters, just to see if that leads to a full manuscript request. I doubt it will, fwiw. you can certainly try, but I really think this is like suggesting you could take a car with a flat tire and make it run by replacing the muffler. If it does, then ... I'll panic? :) I can change his age in this novel, to the detriment of the story [see my post #23]. Maybe it will make the difference between getting the mss read or not.

Yes, done it. I've rewritten the query about 108x, and the first three chapters more than 150x. I've gotten loads of feedback--enough to realize that his age is one of the major factors leading to auto-rejections.

There's another major factor, as well, which is trope assumption. It seems that many readers (and about 100% of industry professionals) assume that this character is going to follow the typical child-genius-saves-the-day trope. My novel takes an unexpected twist and subverts that trope, but the agent isn't going to read far enough to see that. So I'm working on figuring out a way to signal the trope subversion in chapter 1, and/or in the query letter.


I remember your query. A bit. I left the thread early, so I can't comment on that specifically.

That said, I suspect your trope subversion (or inability to communicate it in the query) and attempts to turn this book into a thnead (remember The Lorax? A thnead was the pajamas the Onceler made from those trees, and in the cartoon there was a whole song where those pajamas weren't just pajamas, they could be used to thicken soups, and do a million other things) are killing you.

As a last thought on multi-marketing, put it this way: I'm no agent, but I've been in QLH a few years now. I roll my jaded brown eyes when folks mention crossover appeal because at a guess 90% of those folks are very new or very difficult. Their query threads bear that out. NOT EVERYONE, but a lot of them.

So, how jaded do you think an agent is?

How well do you think you're presenting this crossover bit? (bearing in mind you have agents, writers, and editors in this very thread, telling you to pick and move ahead)

just worth a ponder.....

quicklime
08-08-2014, 05:40 PM
You've mentioned these industry professionals before: I wonder who they are, and where you've found them.





.


I also wonder this. Because there are a lot of scammers out there, and there are also a lot of folks just plain out of touch. King's advice on how to break in in On Writing for example is a model that still works, but is more exception than rule now, and has been since maybe the mid-1990s.....

Sage
08-08-2014, 05:53 PM
The audience will determine whether there's crossover appeal. A publisher or agent may feel strongly that the novel will appeal to multiple audiences, but if so, you don't have to tell them that. Market it to the intended audience.

If an agent thinks a book has promise from the query or pages, but they think that you're marketing the wrong audience, they will tell you. I had a book that had three agents request that I age it up from MG to YA.

mayqueen
08-08-2014, 06:14 PM
I'm just a wannabe writer, but my understanding of "crossover appeal" in a query is that it signals "I don't actually know my audience" to an agent. What kinds of comp titles do you have for this MS, AbbyBabble?



I don't want to evoke Charles Wallace; his character is a subversion of that trope. But he was originally 11, and I changed him to 12 to see if that would make a difference. I should change him back to 11.

How is he a subversion of this trope? I haven't really figured that out yet, and I've been following this thread and your others. He sounds like your typical young kid with a disability who saves the world. (Like Charles Wallace, like Bran...) What are the subversive elements?


I'm considering changing his age to 18 in the first three chapters, just to see if that leads to a full manuscript request. If it does, then ... I'll panic? :) I can change his age in this novel, to the detriment of the story [see my post #23]. Maybe it will make the difference between getting the mss read or not.

Definitely don't do this unless you're committed to rewriting the whole MS that way and keeping it. It's misrepresentative of your work, which doesn't bode well for a business relationship. I understand the frustration of endless form Rs. But this is a bad idea.


There's another major factor, as well, which is trope assumption. It seems that many readers (and about 100% of industry professionals) assume that this character is going to follow the typical child-genius-saves-the-day trope. My novel takes an unexpected twist and subverts that trope, but the agent isn't going to read far enough to see that. So I'm working on figuring out a way to signal the trope subversion in chapter 1, and/or in the query letter.

I think that this is a good idea. As a reader, if I get the sense that something is obviously and un-self-consciously a trope without any hint whatsoever that I'm about to be proved wrong or that it's being used intentionally, I don't keep reading.

KateJJ
08-08-2014, 07:30 PM
Signal the trope inversion. How far into the book is it? If it's over halfway you run a HUGE risk: the people who wants to see the trope inverted gave up at chapter one, and the people who are still reading LIKE the trope and when you invert it, will throw the book at the wall.

I hate hate hate books where I get to some twist and realize that the author intended for me to feel stupid at this point. Not the "ah ha, of course that's what's really going on, Poirot, how clever of you to have seen that the butler did it" but "Seriously, Sherlock, aliens came down in a spaceship and murdered the guy and framed the butler?" So... send the right signals early, ok?

Jennifer_Laughran
08-08-2014, 07:35 PM
Sounds like a grownup book to me. Plenty of teens read grownup books, that doesn't mean you have to call it YA.

PROBLEM SOLVED.

Toothpaste
08-08-2014, 08:24 PM
I'm feeling marginally ignored. OP, are you interested in writing into your query about subverting tropes? I notice nowhere in your query do you even hint at the fact that this is a subversive story.

Old Hack
08-08-2014, 11:12 PM
The audience will determine whether there's crossover appeal.

Agreed. Crossover is what happens after a book is published, when different people find the book and their kids or parents read it too.


Sounds like a grownup book to me. Plenty of teens read grownup books, that doesn't mean you have to call it YA.

PROBLEM SOLVED.

Agreed.


I'm feeling marginally ignored. OP, are you interested in writing into your query about subverting tropes? I notice nowhere in your query do you even hint at the fact that this is a subversive story.

I don't know many agents who are keen to read about how tropes are subverted. I do know a lot who are keen to read great stories, skillfully told.

If the OP writes a great query which grabs the agents' attention, her book--or at least a partial--will be read. If she doesn't, it won't.

Toothpaste
08-09-2014, 06:26 AM
Yes, but maybe I misread, but I thought she was getting feedback on her pages that suggested folks were tired of the same old same old. Now yes, that might have to do with the writing itself not being compelling, or it could be that agents are tired of seeing the same tropes trotted out and are looking for a fresh spin. I guess I just don't see what harm it would be to say that there is a subversive spin on the story. That what starts as your standard SF fair takes a turn for the unexpected. I've read the query, in no way does any of it sound subversive or like the story is trying to play with tropes. It reads very standard SF hero saves the day kind of thing. Why not hint at what makes one's book unique within the query? I mean, you wouldn't try to sell THE PRINCESS BRIDE just as a standard fairytale would you?

Debbie V
08-11-2014, 10:44 PM
Sounds like a grownup book to me. Plenty of teens read grownup books, that doesn't mean you have to call it YA.

PROBLEM SOLVED.

In case the OP is unaware, I wanted to point out that this is an industry pro who deals with books for all age groups. She knows. (Google her.)

TechnoFusion
08-19-2014, 06:53 AM
There are YA books with young protagonists though. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas had the main character as nine, and Sign Language by Amy Ackley had the main protagonist as twelve.

And I can see why OP wants the YA label; it's easily the most booming genre at the moment. It gives the book a chance to be found in a section frequented by all ages and for school libraries to buy a book.

Is it possible you could just mention the main character as "young" without specifying a certain age? I think that'd be okay in YA.

Bolder
08-21-2014, 08:31 PM
Wasn't Harry Potter 12? I'm pretty sure it was all adults that bought those books and read them.... So I always say Harry Potter is an adult book. I wouldn't change the age.

quicklime
08-21-2014, 08:54 PM
Wasn't Harry Potter 12? I'm pretty sure it was all adults that bought those books and read them.... So I always say Harry Potter is an adult book. I wouldn't change the age.

while the OP's book appears to be an adult book, and she's been told as much by several folks in-thread who are part of the publishing industry, HP was middle-grad; it is a marketing term, based upon intended readership audience.

That said, no, she shouldn't change the age to try to pander to a non-problem, I agree to that part

tko
08-23-2014, 06:00 AM
Ender was six I think, and played video games. Seemed to do OK.

It's all about the writing style. Young kids can be terrifying. Just ask any horror novelist.

jeffo20
08-23-2014, 06:12 AM
Young kids can be terrifying. Just ask any horror novelist.Just ask any parent!

Debbie V
08-27-2014, 01:43 AM
The first three Harry Potter books are solidly middle grade. After that he goes a little more YA where he solidly ends up. Tough on the third grader reading him now who may not be ready for those older books.