Young or New?

When attempting to unsuccessfully sell your novel, as an author it's always good to regroup to figure out the why. I like to talk it out, or write it out so to speak. I read countless blogs, articles, and books by professionals; by now, the do's and don't's of the industry are ingrained in my mind. So if I did not commit any literary faux pas, then what pray is keeping me from landing an agent? Most people will say it's a subjective business, the right time and agent combination is needed, you have to know someone, blah, blah, blah. Taking the standard rejection letter reasons as the end all truth won't help you even if it may be true. 

Let me walk you through this experience. You have a finished novel, copy edited on its 50th draft (no, not really exaggerating, first draft was handwritten in 2008), and you are ready to share it. After countless hours of crafting a story, bringing characters to life, putting your blood, sweat, and tears into your work, you need to boil it all down to a little blurb so that a potential agent can get a gist of your book without having to read it all. They don't have the time to read ALL of the manuscripts sent their way. After all, in this digital age everyone thinks they are publishable authors. They get a lot of garbage and I'm not trying to pick on people, but I've read my share of books where plots go no where, characters are flat, and the cardinal rule taught in your very first writing class is ignored: show the reader, don't tell (in case you never had a creative writing class).

Basically you have to write the agent a query letter. In this letter you include a hook, or sentence to encapsulate very many things but foremost the agent's attention and interest. Next, there's a paragraph synopsis of novel--by far, an arduous task to boil down 300 pages into a paragraph and give it justice. Next, you describe yourself, credentials (daunting if you're not published at all), and compare/contrast your work with famous works in the genre. Last, you ask agents if you may send your manuscript to them not forgetting to add a personal compliment to fluff their ego and show them you are well researched. The writing of the letter is one task but the research is another time consuming process. Some agencies only represent certain genres, only some agents will represent your line of work from there. It is best to research the type of books they represent, past sales, currents authors, and most importantly whether they are taking queries and what their submission policies are (they vary).

So you've done your homework, crafted a killer query letter, and sent a few off. Then you wait. Rarely do you get productive feedback. Again, agents have limited time. What is an author to do? 

A smart writer will look for reasons it may have been overlooked, ignored, or rejected. After having published colleagues view the letter, I had a suggestion to change the hook. I had a lot of trouble with the hook, so this made sense. I drafted a few, asked the Facebook masses and selected a new one. I knew this wasn't enough. I needed to make the book more marketable. A good idea is only a good idea, without a target audience, it's just not a lucrative product.

When I sent out my queries, an experimental genre was in the works, but it wasn't well represented at the time. It's called New Adult and it is still a new genre. Whereas I thought books with a protagonist age 17-19 was a very marketable age bracket, like Twilight, Hunger Games, and Divergent, it actually is not. It's straddling the Young Adult genre and adult genres. You would think this would give you the best of both worlds, but I'm finding that's not necessarily the case. This is why New Adult has arisen. It is much like Young Adult literature from my understanding, but it can pick and choose its level of romantic intensity and can face issues that are too taboo to allow kids to read. Now, I'm not for sheltering the youth of our nation, but it is a fact that Young Adult books are read by children, sometimes as young as ten or even younger. Keeping graphic things away from kids is a pretty good idea; we don't want eight year-olds reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Where Twilight toyed with sex, the protagonist was over 18, married, and it was a plot convention (as in sex equals half-vampire baby that takes her life, ergo making her vampriric change necessary and not a choice, not suicide). Much like the series, my series uses it as a plot device too in a way. My characters contemplate sex and begin these actions but are prevented. It is a very necessary plot element that they try to be intimate but are stopped. While writing the scene, I felt awkward, even though it is done in other YA books, and I felt that perhaps my book spoke more towards adults. I often consciously censored characters' thoughts and behaviors to appear more PG-13, when I shouldn't have.

Note the difference in covers:

The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden (The Coincidence, #1)
New Adult
Young Adult


After discussing these issues out loud to a friend, she suggested I revamp the book and make it for New Adults and to make it a little more risqué. So now I'm trying give it a overhaul without changing too much. By sliding the timeline forward by six months my protagonist could be graduating high school and starting college in the second book (where the sex actually occurs). Looking at the New Adult genre, I realize now that my main character and book may not fit nicely into any other genre. I will need to tweak it to make her slightly older and finishing high school, but all the points of sexual tension and attraction in the story will no longer need to be watered down. 
The moral of the story is to know the industry (constantly keep up with the industry), know your audience, and to write what you want to write without censorship or hindrance. I need to stop thinking about how people will react to certain scenes and just write. Perhaps I'm intended to be a romance writer rather than a Young Adult author.