I have to admit, I've begun to find it frustrating how open the industry seems to be to new YA authors while seeming so reluctant to take a chance on new authors writing in other genres.
Yes, I know that the industry is pretty much fueled by what readers are buying, and over the past decade Harry Potter and Twilight have had such success among all ages of readers that it's made YA look like a frontier full of endless promise. Adult fiction is still selling, but I know of more first-time sales going to YA and to a smaller extent MG authors than to other new novelists. And I see more agents specializing in YA/MG to the exclusion or near-exclusion of adult fiction.
In some ways, this is an awesome development. When I was a kid, there was no marketing category for YA. Ender's Game was considered an adult novel. "Juvenile fiction" was the industry term for the catch-all category that ranged from picture books to Judy Blume. Probably a useful label for people working in the industry, but not for shoppers. And can you see an adult reader buying a juvenile novel for herself to read? There was definitely some societal judgment attached to that label. So I am glad for writers and readers that YA exists and has become "a thing," as Stefon would say.
On the other hand, it's become such a thing that it can feel to a writer trying to get her first novels published that if she's not writing YA, she's doing it wrong. I have noticed that people with a YA novel to sell appear to have an easier time and a shorter road to publication than I've experienced. Logically, I know this is probably just a misguided perception. But it is hard to ignore the sheer numbers of writers working in YA on forums such as Absolute Write. And it is hard to ignore the fact that most weeks there are lots of sales announcements for YA and MG contracts in Publisher's Lunch, but not as many adult novels selling.
I felt for quite a while that my only hope of getting published was to write a YA novel. I thought it might be the only chance I had. So I tried to write one. I developed a few characters and a situation and a setting, and I was ready to go with it. But when I tried to actually write the book, nothing would come. I just had no emotional connection to the idea. I had no desire to write that story. It didn't do anything for me. I actually felt quite a measure of despair over this. I worried that if I couldn't write a YA novel, I might as well kiss my chances of ever publishing any novel good-bye. YA was all that was selling. It was my only hope. I kept kicking myself for not being able to get into it.
But the truth is, I don't feel any particular draw to YA in general. I do read the occasional fantastic YA novel and have a great time doing so, but I don't seek it out. I always end up reading these books because friends recommend them so strongly. I don't keep an eye on what's coming out next in the genre. It's just not my thing. (Which is weird, because I loved my teen years and would do it all over again if I could...but truly, even when I was a teen I was reading adult novels. I've been reading adult fiction since I was eight years old.)
I received the feedback a few times from a few different sources that I should rewrite my first novel, a historical, to make the main character older than her thirteen years at the opening of the novel. Or that I should rewrite it as YA. Multiple professionals suggested this, and I thought about their advice carefully each time. I finally decided not to. I decided I'd rather not publish that book at all than change it so dramatically. Altering the character's age would mean changing actual history more than I'm comfortable with, and changing it so much that it would work as a YA novel would mean turning it into a dramatically different book in story and tone. That wouldn't be my book; it would be somebody else's book with my name on it. I wasn't willing to do either, even though I probably could have sold a historical novel set in ancient Egypt.
I am just not a YA person, I think. It can feel so easy to give into hopelessness, recognizing that about myself. Everybody is writing YA. Everybody is selling YA. Everybody is buying YA. Everybody wants to represent YA. But I don't know what to do, other than to keep writing what I feel I should be writing, even if that means I have way less of a chance of selling it than my friends who are working on YA novels.
Oh well. :/