By JOHN CONNORS
It’s often said that no two people are the same, yet all we seem to do is categorise ourselves in various aspects of life. So when it comes to books – and particularly self publishing – this process is something authors face.
The question seems simple enough, What age range is your book intended for? Yet the answer, at least as far as I have found, is far from simple. In fact I don’t even know if there can be a definitive answer. Obviously any novel can broadly fit into a box. Some are clearly intended for adults; others for children but when it comes to narrowing that down further it is a very subjective process.
My novel Elemental came out in April and my initial thought was that it would suit the 9-12 age category broadly used by bookshops and sellers in the UK. For Amazon I had to categorise it based on the American education system (about which I known nothing), so I opted to select the readership age range of between ten and 13. Yet since some adults have read it, they have suggested to me it is actually what is known as a Young Adults novel and that some of the language is too advanced for readers of nine or ten. I’m not sure that is true, when I was that age I was reading books intended for older children but it depends on how advanced a child’s reading age is.
Simply choosing an age range seems to ignore that aspect. In the same way that parents choose to bring up their children in different ways, so they will have different ideas as to what they would want their children to read. I know, for example, that some people feel that characters in children’s novels need to be role models and that they should not be behaving in a way that will influence young readers down a path of bad behaviour.
Alternatively there are many who suggest that children’ stories need to relate to the real world and all its contradictions and that if children grow up sheltered from ideas of greed, trickery, loss and other difficult issues they will get a nasty shock upon leaving school and finding the world is not as sugar-coated as novelists have suggested.
In other media, narrow age range categories do not exist. Films, for example, have much wider categories, which allow flexibility. I think it would be better if books were re-categorised along these sort of lines so that parents could exercise more flexibility. Children with a high reading age will probably be bored with novels aimed at their age range whereas other kids may struggle with them. As for adults, it might also help give them a better idea of what a particular book is about without having to read through lots of promotional blurb.
If the issue is a subjective one, how could we define these categories? Rather than the focus on particular age ranges, might it not be better to group novels for sale under their themes? This would make it easier for self-publishing authors to select a category that would better define their book. The idea I had was that these categories would be similar to the ones that films have, with much broader age ranges and text that gives a summary of the type of book each title is. This strategy would recognise the diversity of each age group rather than try to suggest narrow definitions.
In the current absence of wider categories I am happy to define Elemental as a novel under 18s might enjoy and leave it for parents – and children – to make up their own minds.
John Connor’s book Elemental is for sale here: www.amazon.co.uk/