Friday, October 2, 2009

David Macinnis Gill's YA Workshop

YA stands for young adult, and according to SOUL ENCHILADA author David Macinnis Gill, YA is a marketing category, not a genre. At the SCBWI Carolinas Fall Conference, he explained what YA is and how it distinguishes itself from middle grade and adult books.

Generally, YA books span ages 12 to 18+. But not all YA is appropriate for 12-year-olds. As YA reaches out for college students, the themes become darker and more complex. The language and content of YA books often keep them off the shelves of libraries.

So how do you know if a book is a YA? Gill listed four characteristics:
*a teen main character
*an inherently teenage story problem
*written for a teen audience
*told in the here-and-now, rather than from adult retrospection.

Middle grade and young adult books can share similar characteristics and have an overlapping audience. The main difference between the two is intensity. In a middle grade book, romance might involve hand holding or some kissing. Young adult takes it further. In middle grade books, a bully might hit or push. In a young adult story, a bully might kill or cause serious injuries. In a middle grade book, a teacher might be mean. In a young adult book, the teacher might be a predator.

Writers should have a good idea who their audience is when pitching manuscripts, but the final decision is often out of their hands. Editors, sales and marketing, and agents help decide a book’s category.


  1. Thanks for the recap. I was there and wish I'd taken notes!!!

    Been thinking about this alot lately and trying to resolve some things with my WIP.

  2. Thanks for this Laura. I've never thought of YA simply as a marketing category and not as a genre. That could change a lot! You're totally right about simply writing the story we have in us. That's hard enough without second-guessing yourself to death on the intricacies of genre.