If you were starting a YA book today, what genre would you write?

The last book I wrote was a NA urban fantasy. When I queried, no agents were looking for urban fantasy, especially not NA, so it was DOA.

I’m ready to start a new project, and I’d like to avoid making the same mistake if possible. Trouble is, it’ll take me a year. So what I see on agents MSWLs now might change by the time I’m ready to query.

So my question is, if you were to start writing a YA book today, what genre would you write in, if you wanted to get published? I want to do fantasy or sci-if, but I’m open minder on sub-genres.

…And I’m also interested to hear what genre’s you’re considering for your next project.

I would write a 2nd world or portal Fantasy or an SF or a Fantasy-SF mashup. But not because I have a considered opinion that those are the sub-genres that will sell, but simply because those are the kinds of things I like to write.

They’re probably not terrible choices for commercial potential, judging by the size of their bookshop sections. In the bookshops I know, YA Fantasy/SF and YA Romance are the only genres that get dedicated shelving units within YA, and YA Fantasy is typically one of the largest in the shop. Includes Urban, of course, so it’s a broad category.

Sorry to hear urban fantasy is saturated at the moment, but I think these things go in cycles. A few years, another crop of YA / NA readers, and it Urban could be back.

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How about: a YA Weird Western? Never seen one. Like, True Grit with foul-mouthed elves, or The Dark Tower entirely from Jake’s perspective.

How about: a YA fantasy spin on migrant trauma porn, with the oppressed goblins trying to get into our good Earth, but the goblin kids are separated into barbed-wire pens by the oppressive Interdict Creatures from Earth border forces. Subtext romance between a poor goblin girl and the Orange Hegemon’s Executive Goblin Executer. I mean, if the author of American Dirt can make $1mm+ on a badly-Googled Dirty-Harriet-in-brownface-does-Mexico, anything goes!

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I love portal fantasy! Though Alexa Donne was recently saying on her YouTube channel that portal was dead for YA also. So no idea about it’s commercial potential.

Good point about these thing going in cycles. The Urban Fantasy that’s still selling at the moment is from established UF writers, not debut authors apparently.

Maybe one day I will sell Earthshine. But in the meantime, I want another project to work on that has a better chance of selling in the current market :slight_smile:

I think you’re onto something here.

There are so many current political and environmental issues looming large in kids imaginations. YA Fantasy definitely should key into that.

Action with a lot of romance. can’t lose.

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I’m currently working on three novels at the same time–a mystery/thriller, a YA coming-of-age, and general fiction.

But if I were starting a YA book today I would probably write a YA horror/thriller novel. I’ve already written a part 1 of a novel like this but I’ll probably write a part 2 later on.

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The best selling one.

To get an idea of where the market might be headed, I think it’s a good idea to look at the movies that are in development for release in a few years time.

Because if you see any trends, you might have better luck catching interest of an agent if your book is already headed in a direction that will be in the public eye soon.

Personally I was looking at the films currently slated for a 2021-2022 release, and that gave me an idea. I saw one movie that’s based on a memoir by a man whose wife died only a few hours after giving birth to their first child. The guy already had a blog at the time, and then the blog became about his experiences as a widowed dad. Then came the published memoir and now a movie…

And I thought about how completely odd it would be to be the daughter in that situation. To know that you have become your Dad’s whole life in this very intense way. And then he essentially makes parenting you his full-time job through monetizing his documentation of the experience.

And you had no say in any of that happening because you were so young when it all started.

Just the whole Mommy Or Daddy blogger/social media culture can become a bit of a weird real life “Truman Show” type of thing.

I don’t think when I was a teenager I would have ever wanted to read all of these inner thoughts and musings of either of my parents, especially not if it were in relation to me. And I certainly would have been embarrassed by my parents potentially over-sharing things about me with strangers.

And then, what happens to that relationship between parent and child, when the child is on the cusp of adulthood?

Lots of material that could be examined in the idea: co-dependency, privacy, empty nest syndrome, introverts versus extroverts, guilt, etc.

And then how would the parent feel if the child started publishing their own blog where the posts were the flip-side to the same topic/event/entry that the parent had written about, or a callback with the kid’s viewpoint on the older posts.

Basically a “He Said/She Said”

So for example, if the Dad had published a post about a visit to a petting zoo when she was six, then the kid would say, “Here’s what I recall about that day…”


Two years ago, I would have said to go with LitRPG. In light of Ready Player One, the industry predicted it to be the next big thing and during an agency seminar I took, they were all raving how it’s on top of their wish list. As far as I know, that never materialized. They made some movies on the back end like Alita, but I think apart from that, the genre is dead.

Looking at my own kids, the trend is definitely going toward reality fiction and social media (techno) thrillers. Internet leaks of personal information or pictures, cyber bullying, hacking, apps that take over your phone – that sort of thing. My daughter watched recently Assassination Nation, and while she found the reaction a little overdone overall, she loved it. And the ending summed up the general mindset of today’s youth. They do things “for the lols”.

So if I were to start a YA book today, I would probably go with some type of techno thriller, but with a new twist. I also think paranormal has a future. Yet in the end, the YA market will be harder and harder to break into. Kids these days are simply not into reading the way they used to; it’s all about movies and if they read, it’s on their phone, which means shorter chapters, tighter plots and fast pacing. Their attention span is that of a fly (and I’m speaking from the experience of my own kids and their friends).

In addition, there is a constant stream of distractions. I don’t recall one dinner lately where the kids didn’t sneak on their phones at least for a couple of minutes to check on Snapchat or Discord. My son claims he can’t concentrate without music blasting in his ears. Phones are mini computers and the center of their lives. If you can’t fit a story into that, you are already on the losing end.

As to YA romance, that will always be a thing, but I don’t believe the genre is read by teens as much as adults reading down.

Fun fact: all my research into YA confirmed that teens do not enjoy “clean” reads. They want swearing, some violence, and realistic dynamics. Limited sex, and either fade to black or from the emotional aspect of the character v. the act itself. Considering that some agents will reject your manuscript flat out if you include just one “fuck”, I’m not sure how much they are still in sync with the market.

In the end, I get the feeling that YA books that get published today are more targeted at older readers (adults) who enjoy YA reads than teens themselves, and given that most of my readers for my own YA books are adults, I’m not sure that’s not a viable approach. Hence, your question should probably be what YA books will trend for adult readers a year from now than what teens are actually interested in.


55-65% depending on the study. Some books originally written for adults are being re-packaged as YA in order to sell them to adults.


And I think that’s really the key consideration. It’s not what appeals to teens, but to adults reading YA fiction. Also, parents and family often buy for teens, so when they pick a book, it will have indirectly their value stamp of approval. The kid might not even like it.

Sorry, but that type of comment is not helpful at all.I would prefer if you could make positive contributions to the discussion, or, if you can’t, refrain from commenting.

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My worry with movies is even the ones still in production probably mean that in publishing that sub genre has reached over saturation.

But I LOVE your idea - it’s very clever, with lots of layers to it, and nuanced meaning. It’s also so incredibly current. I often worry when I see parents bragging about their kids on social media. I’d hate to be that kid! I think you have a potential massive smash hit on your hands. Seriously. I already want to read it.


I’m glad you found the idea interesting :blush:

There is definitely the danger of over-saturation.

But I think if you take the thing that will be in the public eye, and then can twist it in a unique way, it’s like your story will have some free marketing.

For example, if there a bunch of superhero movies coming out in 3 years, how to twist that genre…

Hmmmm… maybe focusing on the “back office” so to speak.

Thinking about the supporting characters (like Happy Hogan in the Avengers franchise) I could inject a lot of fun into it, in a very absurdist “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” type of way… so a major city is under siege by the “villain” and the “heroes” are fighting… while the guys in the back are on headsets and at computers offering the tech support, but I picture them having a very lackadaisical vibe (they might as well be selling paper for Dunder Mifflin) because historically they always win.

And maybe they talk about how they once were enthusiastic about their jobs, but they’ve never gotten to share the spotlight at all, because they don’t have the Lycra and the abs, but in truth they really do things that save the world all the time…

Perhaps there’s even some sort of antagonistic back and forth with the minions in the back office of one of the villains…

But then something goes awry… and they do have to take the spotlight or put themselves into a more dangerous mission… maybe they have to go undercover as a minion in an evil lair :joy:

Anyway, you see there is a kernel of something in there…


.@saintc shared this video link with me in another thread, which I found really interesting and useful in terms of planning books based on industry genre trends. In it she warns against superheroes, for what it’s worth.

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NA is a tough sell to traditional publishers unless you mean a hot contemporary – and even then they may pitch it as something else. Also, sadly, the urban fantasy shelves are overflowing with established writers, so they’re not particularly interested in things for that space either – unless the manuscript just knocks their socks off.

HOWEVER both NA and urban fantasy are doing well for self published writers who know how to market to their audience. So don’t write the book off.

Because of the time to market for trad pub, it’s not worth trying to write to market as a debut unless you have a handy dandy time machine. Think about it…

1yr+ to write and polish the book
~1year to get an agent
6mos-1yr to get out on submission
6mos-1yr to sell the book
1-2yr to get the book produced and on shelves

There just isn’t any way of knowing what the publishing world will look like that far into the future, so there’s no way to predict the trend.

Write what you’re passionate about. Write the story that grabs your heart and won’t let go.


Well it wouldn’t technically be about superheroes. It would be about the average Joe/Jo behind the scenes. It would be a farcical comic/action story with some absurdist themes.

Everything cycles. The movies turn toward novels for inspiration. But let’s be honest - most movie audiences often haven’t read the source material. So they will see a movie and then their interest might be piqued to find the original book, or read something of the genre/topic.

So if you can catch a topic that will be in the public’s eye, but offer a twist on it that is different from when the source book was published (often 5+ years earlier)… then you are catching the next wave and participating in creating the next evolution of something.

So perhaps the new trend becomes stories about “Behind The Scenes” or “Bit Players Take The Lead”

Again in that idea I can see a New Adult story that could spring up - based on reality shows like “The Bachelor” or “Married At First Sight” the what-if might be “What if one of the participants fell in love with a member of the production team, instead of their intended match?”

It has happened in real life - one of the cast members of “Married At First Sight” divorced their show assigned partner and then went on to date and get engaged to one of the “experts” from the show.

That behind the scenes love story could be a very interesting read.

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This is precisely the problem! :slight_smile:
I think it’s still realistic to target a genre to what is likely to still be on agent’s MSWL in a year’s time though.
I completely agree about writing what you’re passionate about. I would also like writing fiction to become my career one day. So I’m trying to find an overlapping Venn diagram where my passions intersect with something marketable :smiley:

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Spot on. The smarter publishers know that trying to forecast popularity is a pointless game. All they can do is chase, and the agents chase what they think the publishers are chasing. One Big Five CEO said at the Frankfurter Buchmesse a couple of years ago that they’re still just throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.