A large number of fantasy books is published with the “Young Adult” label, or–more recently–as part of the “New Adult” category, which combines the young adult appeal with explicit sex (a.k.a. “Harry Potter meets Fifty Shades of Grey”). But are these age labels useful for targeting the appropriate readers?
Sir Terry Pratchett, one of the favorite authors of our staff, believes that fantasy is uni-age. We tend to agree. Fantasy tales appeal to a wide range of readers of different ages, and they tend to cluster by taste more than “age-appropriate matter” as defined by mass media. In the end, many of the timeless fantasies have universal appeal to all ages — and as a result they are targeted to “Young Adult” audiences (loosely, 12-18-year-olds) when in reality most of the buyers of these books are fully aged adults. Examples of such books include “Harry Potter”, “The Lord of the Rings”, and “Chronicles of Narnia”, to name a few.
The flip side of such age labels is that many of these books are overlooked by adult readers, who would be their main audience but tend to cast their eyes toward the adult-labeled titles. Such books pick up their main readership only when they are talked about enough to draw interest, a barrier which probably prevents many good titles from breaking through and creates a lag to their success.
Wouldn’t it be better if such books were marketed as “appropriate for all ages”, to distinguish them from those with excessive sex and violence which may indeed be appropriate only for adults?
We hope that “for all ages” label eventually finds its way into book publishing, just like the recently promoted “new adult” category that combines “young adult” category with hot, steaming sex.
And, if you are interested, check out Terry Pratchett’s post on the age and fantasy at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/apr/22/terry-pratchett-raising-steam
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