I'm having a hard time determining if my audience should be YA or adult fiction (and, subsequently, which agents to target when querying). I tend to write coming-of-age stories with younger protagonists and an upmarket/literary bent. My current manuscript is about a teenager trying to shape her identity while struggling with a chronic illness in the wake of 9/11. Because of the style, themes, setting, etc, I intended for this book to be for an adult audience. Now I'm not so sure, as the general consensus seems to be that if the main character is a teenager and the book is told from a first-person perspective (which it is), then it's YA. (To be clear, I have no problem if it's YA or adult so long as there's a market for the work, and I know part of determining that is figuring out who to pitch to.)
I know that I'm probably trying to seek out a definitive answer when there isn't one, but the blurred lines between YA and Adult have me so confused as to who I should be targeting for my queries, especially if there's the possibility of crossover later down the road. My concern is that I might be limiting myself when it comes to querying by choosing agents who rep one or the other.
Do you have any advice or additional thoughts on the YA/Adult debate?
If you query someone who rejects you because s/he "doesn't rep This/That/The Other" what do you fear will happen?
1. You will be strung up in the town square and pelted with tomatoes, wearing a sign that says "I thought my novel was for adults; boy am I stupid!"
2. You will be exiled to Carkoon, there to dwell among the kale plants forever
3. You will be added to the Super Secret Agent Blacklist of Writers Who are Foolish and Stupid and whose queries will be spurned forevermore
4. All of the above
5. None of the above
I'm sure you've figured out that the answer is #5.
What this means for you: Query Everyone.
Since most agents have devolved into "no response means no" you'll just hear more silence.
BUT if you have a good query and great pages, agents are looking for good stuff to sell.
One hint: please do NOT put YA or Adult at the start of your query. You're just increasing the chances that you'll get ignored by an agent skimming her queries.
Engage their eyeballs before you mention the category.
I would venture to guess that at least three out of every ten queries get the category wrong in my incoming query mail.
I don't know whether this is YA or adult and I don't really care. I care about reading a good story. I'm pretty sure most of my ilk are too.
Then, once you've landed a slithery agent, you discuss with her where you'll find readers. She will have read the book and if she's any good at her job, she'll know the market better than you (and certainly better than I do.)
Your job right now isn't to decide which shelf you'll be on, it's to write a book that's shelf worthy.