One of the great things about writing young adult (YA) fiction right now is that, in a contracting publishing landscape, the young adult market seems like a veritable land of opportunity. In comparison to the adult romance market, where lines and imprints are constantly shrinking and folding and major publishers are closing up shop, the young adult market seems to be holding steady, with a lengthy list of publishing houses, some with multiple imprints, publishing young adult fiction. In fact, there has even been some growth lately—first Harlequin added a teen imprint, followed by Sourcebooks, and now Kensington is publishing YA titles, too.
As a point of comparison, when my agent last shopped one of my historical romance projects, the list of editors in the first round of submissions numbered about, oh, a half-dozen. When she shopped my debut YA project, the list numbered eighteen! And that was still reserving a couple of houses/imprints to submit to during a second round, if need be.
In part, we have TWILIGHT to thank for this, much like middle grade fiction owes a lot to the HARRY POTTER phenomena. Both series inspired huge numbers of readers (including large numbers of adult crossover readers, who then stuck with the genre), who then went searching for similar books to read. Publishers have responded to that demand, and YA, especially paranormal YA, continues to flourish and grow.
I think another reason that young adult is doing so well right now is that there are fewer restrictions on content dictated by marketing. When an author writes a novel that’s primarily a contemporary romance with some paranormal elements, publishers worry “How will we market this?” Same with a historical romance with paranormal elements, or any other mash-up of genres. Romance is generally “sorted” by sub-genre. But young adult is mostly marketed as simply “YA fiction,” so a publisher is less constrained when it comes to “How do I sell this?” and so you often finds books that mix and match elements in a way that you don’t see quite so much with adult romance. We’ll see how this changes now that Barnes and Noble stores are testing “breaking out” young adult titles into separate shelf space, but for now it’s not all that uncommon to find something like a contemporary-set YA that seems to mostly deal with a girl getting over her sister’s death, learning that she didn’t know her sister as well as she thought she did, while at the same time falling in love and solving a mystery that deals with paranormal creatures (SIREN, by Tricia Rayburn).
The YA market is big enough that it takes some getting to know, especially when major publishers like Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins have multiple imprints releasing YA fiction (Simon & Schuster has Simon Pulse, Books for Young Readers, Atheneum, and Margaret K. McElderry publishing teen fiction, while Harper Collins has Harper Teen, Balzer & Bray, Greenwillow, and Katherine Tegen Books). It’s important to get to know the different imprints and understand what differentiates the titles (for example, some are more literary, others more commercial).
If you’re not already familiar with Verla Kay’s Blueboards, I highly recommend them as an excellent starting place to familiarize yourself with the YA market!