John Scalzi has an illuminating post about the young adult genre fiction market and he’s got some stats:

…the top 50 YA SF/F bestsellers outsold the top 100 adult SF/F bestsellers (adult SF and F are separate lists) by two to one. So 50 YA titles are selling twice as much as 100 adult SF/F titles. The bestselling YA fantasy book last week (not a Harry Potter book) outsold the bestselling adult fantasy book by nearly four to one; the bestselling YA science fiction title sold three copies for every two copies of the chart-topping adult SF title. And as a final kick in the teeth, YA SF/F is amply represented at top of the general bestselling charts of YA book sales, whereas adult SF/F struggles to get onto the general bestselling adult fiction charts at all.

That serious adult science fiction/fantasy readers don’t seem to know any of this is a) a feature of the opaque nature of book sales, in which no one publicly talks about actual units sold and b) a feature of the apparent short-sightedness of adult sf/f readers, who are missing a genuine literary revolution in their genre because the YA section is a blank spot on the map to them, if not to everyone else.

Item ‘b’ is interesting. I know adult genre readers who won’t touch young adult books.

Are you one of them?

An interesting side effect of so kids reading is that it appears to offer some salvation for the ever-bemoaned decline of readership.

Scalzi continues:

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: The most significant SF writer right now is Scott Westerfeld, whom it seems most adult science fiction fans still have not read and indeed barely know exists. In a sane world, Westerfeld would be a hero to adult science fiction readers, because he’s pretty much single-handedly flown the flag for science fiction to teenagers, thus saving the genre’s bacon for another 20 years. But: He’s YA. So he doesn’t count.

Scalzi is being sarcastic with that last line, of course, citing a prevalent attitude among adults. I would also offer that the marketing label of “young adult” is sometimes just that.

So, what’s your beef with young adult science fiction and fantasy?

See also: MIND MELD: Is Young Adult SF/F Too Explicit?

[via Gwenda Bond]

Filed under: Books

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