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So many writers pitch books in their query letters that they guarantee “will resonate with young adult and adult audiences alike.” But agents tend to be skeptical when authors make these kinds of claims, because writing a book that appeals to “everyone” often indicates a book will not be easy to market to any particular group.
That said, there absolutely are books on the shelf that go on to be wild bestsellers, appealing to both adults and young readers. But how can you be sure your book hits this “sweet spot” and appeals to such a large audience? Here are a few tips to help you bridge the gap between young and old.
Writing A Book With Wide Appeal: Young Adult And Adult Fiction
1. Know Your Primary Audience. Even if you are writing a book that you hope will appeal to both adults and young adults, it’s important to know which is your primary demographic. Generally speaking, a book that is marketed toward young adults tends to be more readily picked up by adults, while a book that is specifically written for adults may not be quite as popular among young adults as a book designated for a younger audience.
Sometimes, parents are a little skittish about allowing their children to read books for adults (that is, books that might contain adult material). So while adults can pick up books for more youthful readers, a youthful reader may not pick up books targeted toward adults.
2. Pay Attention To Universal Themes. If your young adult novel touches on major themes that speak to the very deepest aspects of the human condition, then you might have a winner with kids and grown-ups alike. Often these themes are illustrated and explored through great characterization.
Consider: Harry Potter’s vulnerability and strength made him appealing not only to children but to adults. And in The Hunger Games, teenagers find themselves in very adult situations, facing life-and-death odds. Twilight spoke to the insecurities and romantic aspirations of teenage girls but also managed to capture the imagination of adult readers because of its emotionality.
3. Don’t Underestimate Your Young Readers. If you know you’re writing for readers between the ages of 15 and 18, you may be tempted to dumb down or simplify your sentences, themes, or content. However, your readers might be smarter than you think.
It’s important to understand your reader’s abilities, as well as their maturity level and reading level. You may be surprised by the sophistication of today’s young readers. And if you over-censor your story line, you may find that readers don’t respond in the way you’d hoped.
4. Consider The New Adult Genre. If your book is about a young person learning how to become an adult and losing his or her sense of innocence, then you might be writing in a new genre called “new adult fiction.” New adult fiction offers stories about adults, often in their 20s, who are making the transition into full adulthood and leaving their childhood behind.
New adult fiction tends to be more explicit than young adult fiction (some people consider 50 Shades Of Grey new adult fiction). New adult fiction typically targets younger adults; but because its themes are universal, it tends to have a wide appeal.
One Last Word About Writing Your Broad-Appeal Novel
As you’re writing your novel, it’s important not to become too caught up in the idea of marketing to a specific demographic. As you write, you want your story to flow naturally. If you spend too much time thinking about marketing, you may inadvertently damage your creative process.
The important thing is to be honest and true to your own vision of what you want your story to be. Ultimately, it’s up to the world of readers to decide whether or not adults will pick up your young adult novel. And no agent or editor can predict that.
Photo by Newton Free Library