Question of the century: is my book written for a YA audience or for kids? If it's got huge pictures and about seven words on each page, it's clearly written for children. If it's got a major character named Ruffley Von Rufflefeather, then odds are it's a children's book. But what if my WIP doesn't fit into a neat box like this? That's what I want to know.
Wikipedia says that "The Young Adult Library Services (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) defines a young adult as 'someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen'" and goes on to say that "theme and style are often subordinated to the more tangible basic narrative elements such as plot, setting, and character, which appeal more readily to younger readers" and "The vast majority of YA stories portray an adolescent as the protagonist, rather than an adult or a child." (OK, I promise I'll stop quoting Wikipedia now).
But what if my main character is younger than an adolescent but my book deals with dark subject matter, more appropriate for young adults than young children to read? But what if it's still got goofy character names like Brumchalk Littlewing? (Aside: that's not an actual character's name from my book; I just made it up to illustrate a point).
This is a big question because, as Nathan Bransford notes on his terrific blog, if you're a children's author (as he is), you really shouldn't be self-publishing for a range of reasons, one of which being that print still dominates in that age range (Bransford reasons that not many parents are rushing out to buy their 8-year-olds Kindles at the moment).
Which makes sense. But part of me really, really wants to self publish. I'm heartened by the fact that J.K. Rowling is considered by Wikipedia (the final authority on all matters, don't you know?) to be a YA writer, because while my WIP is really nothing like the Harry Potter books, my intention for it is to appeal to a broad age range, as the HP books do.
So should I forsake self-pubbing because my book may tread too close to the boundary line that separates children's and YA fiction? Maybe Bransford is right: maybe I'd have a better shot at selling books going the traditional, legacy route. I don't know. It would be interesting to know if anyone else out there is going through a similar marketing crisis.