YA Imprints: Expectations or Extras?

Posted November 21, 2014 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Discussions / 10 Comments

discussionmasterNo doubt YA books have started to occupy a larger and larger portion of the book market. Whether you notice the expanding shelf space in bookstores dedicated to YA novels or the fact that a good chunk of movie blockbusters this year have been film adaptations of popular YA novels (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay, The Mazerunner, Mockingjay…) it’s impossible to not see the growing mark YA novels are making. Though I’ve only been officially YA book blogging for about a year, I’ve been reading YA since about 2001-2002 (I started young) and it’s exploded from the tiny shelves smashed in the children’s section at my local chain bookstore to a genre that holds its own against all the rest.

Along with the undeniable establishment of YA as a popular- and fast selling- genre, more and more publishers are starting to establish their own YA imprints under their parent companies, which specifically publish YA content. This fall I came across this article on publishersweekly.com, “New YA Imprints Seek to Make Their Mark” (that was ironically categorized under their children’s news reporting) detailing how YA Imprints are becoming more and more common with both major and minor publishing houses. The article deduces that publishers are trying to capitalize upon the trend of teen-centered novels but that many of the imprints have struggled or have folded due to market saturation.

As an avid YA reader, the fact that these imprints are growing evoke mixed feelings for me. I think that in some ways it gives more validation to the genre and acknowledges the growth potential for a larger and more predominant readership, and that for all of those who may scoff at YA there are many, many more who enjoy it and are creating a higher demand for more YA stories. Yet in some ways it seems like the rush to create these imprints seems like jumping on a YA bandwagon that’s more about a temporary flare in popularity rather than a real acknowledgement of the strength and potential of the genre, and that it doesn’t merit enough value to be published under the same umbrella as adult fiction. Yet some publishers (such as Soho Press with imprint Soho Teen) have realized that the scope of YA can be as broad as that of adult fiction, and see their new YA only imprints as opportunities to broaden the range of YA literature. (Interestingly enough, the article also cites that e-books are not a popular method of purchase or use in the YA market compared to adult fiction, and that YA readers are still significantly choosing to buy physical books over electronic ones.)

Now I want to know what your thoughts on this are. Many of the YA books out there now are published by such imprints (such as Feiwel & Friends by Macmillan, Delacorte by Random House, Poppy by Hachette, etc). Do you think the growing and growing amount of YA imprints is indicative of a YA “trend” (or “teen wave” as many publishers refer to it, which is sort of problematic considering so many YA readers are in fact adults…) or is a mark of YA being taken more seriously as a genre? Do you think it’s going to over saturate the YA market and exhaust the genre or that it’s going to broaden they types of YA written? Should YA even need its own imprints? Is it now a necessity or expectation that YA be published under specific imprints, even at small publishing houses? Is it insulting that it’s not published alongside adult fiction? Do you think these imprints will kick it out from under the “children” umbrella? And if YA is given specific imprints due to its age demographics, what sort of precedent does that set for genres such as New Adult, which specifically target a different age range from YA? Should NA be published under these YA imprints, the adult publisher parents, or does it will it eventually need its own imprint as well?

The original article that inspired this post, “New YA-Only Imprints Seek to Make Their Mark” can be found here.

The YA Curator has a fantastic post that lists many of the major, medium, and small/indie publishing houses and their imprints in this great blog post.

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10 responses to “YA Imprints: Expectations or Extras?

  1. Alison's Wonderland Recipes

    I think the spike of YA-centric imprints is most likely indicative of a trend. I don’t think the market can permanently maintain even a majority of the new imprints. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yes, those that are jumping on the band wagon for a quick buck will die off, but those that devote themselves to consistently publishing quality material will stick around for the long term. In short, I think we’re about to see TONS of mediocre YA books (mostly rehashes of previously successes), but this will give way to long-lasting imprints devoted to quality. We’ll probably even see the birth of a few imprints who will become big names in the future.

    • Your comment is really well thought out! I think you’re definitely right about the market being flooded with mediocre content (I mentioned earlier that there’s way more titles in YA then when I was a young teen, but I also realize that there’s more sort of “meh” books as well). The imprint trend may mainly serve to perpetuate trends and over-saturate the market, but I hope that SOME imprints will use the opportunity to be more original and perhaps broaden the scope of the types of YA published, since there’s SO many more directions it could go in!

  2. I think they’re just money grabbers, the book business is after all, a business. I mean, I guess publishing it under parent companies helps with branding, in terms of if you pick up a book from x publisher you know it’s going to be a x kind of book. But I definitely don’t think they’re doing it because they’ve recognized the awesome unfortunately. :/ It still annoys the heck out of me that on many websites I have to click on the children’s section to get the YA up. It’s kind of infuriating!! But then, I’ve never thought that books should be categorized by genre based on reader age. A 13 year old can love The Fault in Our Stars and also love Wuthering Heights or Atonement. Just like an adult can read complex fiction but still dissolve into gooey smiles when they read a feel good children’s book like Harry Potter or Winnie the Pooh but it’s still sold that way because again it helps with branding *sigh*.

    • That irks me as well! Having to go to the “children’s” section on websites to purchase YA (or even if it’s labeled “Kids & Teen, because I am technically not a teen anymore so it still sort of devalues the fact that I’m an adult and reading YA). While I would like to *hope* that more imprints mean that more stories are going to be published and that more aspiring authors have opportunities to be picked up by publishers, realistically I doubt this is really the case. I definitely agree with your point that this age-based branding really polarizes the reading community. Also, I think the term Young Adult is sort of misleading because the publishing industry says it encompasses ages 12-17, but I always saw Young Adult referring to like 17-25, but apparently now that’s “New Adult…”

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion! 🙂

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