Kids & Teens

There are books for adults and there are books for children, but what about the adolescents, the young adults, who are tired of reading children books and somehow do not fit into the adult segment? Young Adult Fiction (YA) caters specifically to this age group. Though Indian market always had its share of Harry Potters alike, but it’s time young adults in India get to read books, specially published for the Indians. This new era has begun…. Varsha Verma brings more on this nascent segment of the Indian publishing industry. Karthika (L) & Sudeshna Shome Ghosh (R) Technically, young adult fiction (YA) refers to books written for the young adults or the adolescents, roughly in the age group of 14-21. Mostly, the main character is an adolescent and the stories or novel revolve around what he/she sees, feels or experiences in that age. The story line is limited only by the imagination and the language is what adolescents in this age can relate to.

But, it does not means that a young adult book is enjoyed only by the children in this segment…many adults would also love to read these books. As Karthika VK, publisher & chief editor, Harper Collins Publisher India, puts it, “We do not want to restrict the readers by age. Hence, we do not use ‘YA’ symbol on our books. But, we have started a different imprint for this category, which is called ‘Harper.’ The title designs are made really interesting and stand apart from kids books.”

While, Penguin has initiated a separate Penguin Young Adult imprint for the same. “We are targeting mid to late teens in the books that carry this label. It is ideally meant for readers who have outgrown children’s books and adult books may not always be what they are looking to read,” told Sudeshna Shome Ghosh, editorial director, Puffin and Penguin Young Adult as a matter of fact.

The varied topics…

But Young Adult books are not limited to fiction alone; there is a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles. “We have tried to bring books of diverse kinds into the list. Mostly we have looked at what interests them at the age. Fantasy adventure is a popular genre for young adults, which is why David Hair’s books are appearing in this series. The books would usually have a young adult protagonist and can fall into a variety of genres – crime, fantasy, coming of age. We are also looking to do non-fiction books in this category – we also have a book on teen fitness and one on business and the professional life,” told Sudeshna.

Similarly, Harper-Collins, which started this division an year back, has a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles. “We are also launching a book on Euphoria (rock band by Palash Sen), which would be released with their new album. Then, we have a book on ‘Body talk’ where we have explained things that young women would like to know about their body. We also have books on crossover fiction for adults and young adults. Our first YA fiction – Potato Chips – received an overwhelming response,” informed Karthika.

Penguin has an initial print run between 2,000 and 8,000 copies for these books while HarperCollins goes with a print run of 5,000 copies.

Finding authors – a mammoth task…

Finding authors for young adult fiction is not easy. As Sudeshna puts it, “It is not easy, the way it is not easy finding really good children’s writers. When an author writes for a specific target group, various considerations do come in – is the language appropriate, or the content and the relevance of issues that crop up in the books. In YA we also need to be careful that the book does not come off sounding as if it is talking down to anyone. We prefer to have books by Indian authors, or if not Indian, then ideally the book should have an Indian or a subcontinent connection.”

Her views were echoed by Karthika who agrees that there are very few writers in this segment but since they are not looking at a huge list in this category, they wait for the right author and the right manuscript. “Sometimes, even adolescents write very interesting books. Our title ‘Potato Chips’ was written by Anshuman, who is a 16 year old boy. The idea is to have a book which is smart and has an immediate appeal to the young adults. Besides, it should directly appeal to Indians, it should not be boring – it should be cool and have hyper urban chic style.”

The marketing angle…

Merchandising seems to be one way to promote the books. Harper is looking at bringing out merchandising like chic handbags to promote their books like a fiction by the ‘Sex and the city’ author Candace Bushnell. Besides, advertising at the live media at coffee shops etc is also done from time to time, besides organizing the regular reading sessions at bookstores and schools.

While Sudeshna says that there is no substitute for good gripping writing. “The design of the book has to be appropriate and not look too kiddish. The promotions of the book can look at various platforms like social media, mobiles, and other avenues,” she added.

On encouraging reading habits…

Adolescents have a lot of other entertainment options but books undoubtedly remain their best friends. As Sheba Karim, an author of a young adult novel opines, “I’d say that unlike movies and video games, which create a visual world for you, the visual world created by books is, though guided by the author’s words, entirely of your own mind, that reading books opens up your mind to new emotional depths and physical possibilities, and there’s nothing more fun than exploration of one’s own imagination.”

“We encourage reading habits by publishing well thought out, well edited books for them. Our commissioning into this section is well thought out and sustained, which means we will continue to publish for this segment regularly,” added Sudeshna.

How big the market is…

Since it is a new segment, there are no ready data available for how big the market is. There have always been books for this segment but it is only now, that they are marketed in this genre. “Most trade publishers are bringing out books for this age group though no one in India has a separate imprint or series name for it like we do and it is difficult to state how big the market is,” told Sudeshna. “We enjoy a good market share for our other books, since the YA series is just introduced we would obviously want to be optimistic and go for similar numbers as our other books. The initial sell through has been receptive, and we hope that we continue a good run,” added Sudeshna.

At HarperCollins, Karthika feels that right now, they are just eyeing 10 percent of their list for this segment but as the market will grow, they definitely will bring out more titles.

The challenges ahead…

Karthika opines that it is not an easy segment as there are not many writers who write for it and a lot of aggressive marketing and publicity is required to make people aware that there are books in this segment. “This segment will get its due share once they have a substantial segment in the bookshelves. I think it will find its own voice and we would be really glad to see Young Adult weave its way into the Indian publishing industry,” concluded Karthika.



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