...Definitely a number.
Let’s talk about age range.
It’s been on my mind for a while now, especially in the UK where ‘teen’ isn’t always accepted as its own group.
We go from Middle Grade, which in my head tends to cover readers that are 8-12 years old, and the main characters would likely be at the top end of that age range. This is fiction that doesn’t tend to feature romance or savage scenes, but focuses instead on adventure, mystery and sometimes more difficult familial / friendship themes done with a sensitive hand (a great example being the ME representation in Toby and the Silver Blood Witches by Sally Doherty).
Then we have a huge jump to Young Adult, where you can have anything from a hint of romance to full blown fade-to-black intimate scenes, plus often discussion of things that would require a trigger warning (drugs, violence, and so on).
But, if we look at popular series for children like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Skulduggery Pleasant, etc., they’re loved by teens and can also be read by younger readers as well. The themes might border on ‘traditional’ YA themes, but they tend to be handled at a distance by the narrator (i.e. told or briefly discussed rather than the reader being shown and experiencing them inside the scene itself).
I don’t mind admitting that throughout this self-publishing journey, it surprised me when quite a few people were saying The Trouble With Fairies was suitable for younger teens and I’ve been told that one school librarian placed it as suitable for Year 8 (12-13 years old).
While it definitely doesn’t include any themes that might not suit younger readers, in my head I had it as YA because Demi and Taz are 16 and technically school leavers. I’m so pleased with this revelation though, because readers can follow the series as it evolves and takes on slightly more teen themes like building trust in relationships, growing self-esteem, learning to trust your own judgement and also romance (yes, it was bound to happen with me writing it!)
So, there’s no avoiding the age-group saga if you want to move into publishing of any kind (indie or traditional). Agents and publishers will need to know what readers will likely buy it, as this influences everything from marketing locations to cover design and so on. Booksellers and librarians will need to know which section to shelf it in.
My main advice for choosing your age group (and not going up and down and back and forth and sideways more times than an Arcanium lift) would be ask yourself the following:
- Who is going to be reading it?
- Where do you see it being shelved, i.e. who will be your neighbouring authors in the bookshop?
- How old is your main character and do their voice and actions ring true to that age?
Lastly, write the story as you need it to be written, at least to start with. A character’s age can be changed (which is why I live on ‘Find and Replace’ in Word) to match their voice. Changing their voice to fit an arbitrary number you’ve chosen, however, is a lot more work.
If you want further examples of what I’m warbling on about (if only to find out what I mean about the Arcanium lifts), here’s a sneaky link for The Trouble With Fairies:
Also, a reminder that we have the cover reveal for The Problem With Fae, book #2 in the Arcanium series on 18th February hosted by the lovely Golden Books Girl!
Until then, happy reading and writing everyone!