During the past few weeks, I have come across several instances about labeling and marketing books via Goodreads and blog posts about their perceived and targeted audiences. I recently raised this issue myself about a YA book which had erotic content. I was very uncomfortable with that, and it looks like it has been confirmed that Noble Romance is targeting their erotic romance towards YA’s. Even though I felt the book was aimed towards older teens or readers in their early 20s, there wasn’t any real age guidance or warnings that was stated in their book pages at the publisher site. I also think for an ebook publisher it is pretty ironic since they are pretty good at listing clearly what is involved, and what tropes are raised in their books. Their definition for this audience is also very broad, since they have marketed a book with a 26 year old engaged heroine as YA, although I can’t see how that book could be relatable to a teen audience.
YA is not a genre, it is an audience which encompasses a diverse range of genres as well age ranges. There is also a crossover with adults and I think recently that has enriched the genre because it has expanded it with other sub-genres that explores darker edged themes and issues. But I do think there has to be some kind of marketing or even guidance if it features really graphic material that you would see in horror or adult books, because what exactly is the age bracket for Young Adults. Is it 12-16? 14-18? 18-21?
And before anyone screams CENSORSHIP – I’m not saying that at all. I am discussing the issue about labeling and marketing although some people have misconstrued this as a way to muddy the waters – and frankly there is a huge distinction between censorship and marketing/aiming the books at the right audience. I have read and enjoyed many YA books that deal with serious issues involving sex, violence, rape and other issues, and they should be explored if the story calls for it. I think most teens should read those books if they choose to, and many do. My gripe is when a book is marketed as a YA when it is really for another audience. Such as when a book deals with really graphic content, such as explicit sex, like in the case with In the Bad Boy’s Bed, especially if its idealised, and not relatable in a teen context or violence that can challenge a reader’s expectation due to the fact most YA books is subtle or reflective of the teens when exploring these issues.
Whilst reading a discussion on goodreads, there was another book being discussed that was catered towards YA, where mutilation and attempted rape was involved — including a penis being chopped off and stuck to a wall. As an adult, I would like to be warned about graphic material like this, even though I like dark and gritty books. That would be difficult to read for me as an adult, and I know for certain I would have not liked it as a young teen.
Even the author has stated that this book isn’t geared towards younger teens, the publisher has marketed it as one and this audience has a huge age range that affects younger teens and even preteens. And there is the conundrum. I think this is mostly due to YA is treated like a genre instead of an audience? There is also a crossover with adults, which is great because books are universal, however the voice of the characters should connect with teens because this is the audience the books are aimed at. I know labeling books is difficult and once you label them, detractors can leap on that, which is definitely not what I want. But there are certain publishers who do market and aim books incorrectly. I question if this is a way to cash into a huge market and I think that may be the case.
Nonetheless this issue is not only directed towards YA. Other books are marketed to be in genres like Romance when they should be placed in another genre. I came across this book on Amazon. This isn’t a romance, yet the blurb and the cover looks like one. An abusive relationship isn’t what I call a good romantic story, and I can’t not help think that the publisher is marketing the book because Romance is a profitable and popular genre. Whilst in other cases some paranormal romance series have morphed into UF series mid way or vice versa. For some this has worked but for most it has upset the core audience who have pre-expectations with the genre and was invested with the characters/series but felt they were being misled by the author or the publisher for changing genres midway.
I think this is the main reason why mislabeling and marketing to wrong audiences can be problematic. I can understand the reason to appeal to a wider audience, but pissing off readers when this happens can cause more disappointment and even upset and that can be more damaging in the long run. I have seen in the past and it is happening still today, where Romance was used a lot to capitalise on a wider readership, and I think the same is happening to YA. I just hope when issues crop up, there won’t be another hysterical outcry, like the recent incidents with articles such as from the WSJ. But I think this is part of the game of being a huge audience and a popular genre. There will always be critics of popular fiction and genres and authors jumping onto the popular genre bandwagon without fully realising or caring for the target audience because this is where the money is at. However I think that overshadows the discussion about what is YA and who should it be aimed at because genres evolve over time but audiences are fixed which I think at the moment is being misconstrued.
So what do you think? Is changing genres midway a series is disappointing or is it okay because it is part of the evolution of the series, and do you think there could be an easier way to market or label books?