Target Audience Age Range: Who is Your Book For?
When writing their first draft, some authors keep their future readers in mind at all times and others only write because they need to tell the story. It is completely okay to fall in either of those two categories (or anywhere in between).
However, at some point during the revising process, you will have to stop and think about who your book is for—especially if you plan on pursuing the traditional publishing process. (I know, it’s another one of those annoying non-writing-related things we writers must do).
So, this week’s post talks about figuring out the age range your book is meant for.
Importance of Knowing Your Target Audience
Obviously, a toddler and a senior citizen are not going to enjoy the same books, but there are various age ranges in between with different interests and mindsets. Literature needs to reflect that.
Think about how you have changed over the years. As you grow older, you start to think about different things. The books you read represent these changes in values through different themes.
Additionally, word count differs between books for different age ranges. Your attention span has likely increased, so you can read longer books.
A picture book is for readers who are still learning to read. The story is primarily told through pictures, with a few words on each page explaining the pictures.
Because most picture book readers are less than seven years of age, the books have minor problems with quick solutions. They’re often repetitive and sometimes rhyme. They use simple words and simple themes that are easy for the readers to follow.
The characters can be of any age, as long as their problems are understandable by young readers (and they don’t have to be human).
Some examples of picture books are If You Give a Mouse A Cookie, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and almost anything by Dr. Suess.
Chapter book readers are usually in the latter years of elementary school, ranging in age from seven to ten years.
Because these readers have short attention spans and are just learning to read, chapter books typically have between 5,000 and 15,000 words.
The protagonists are of the same age as or slightly older than the readers.
They experience simple problems and solutions that are easy for the readers to grasp. Though the characters may experience more changes and face more difficult problems, the book should have an overall light and happy tone.
Some of my favorite examples include: The Magic Tree House series and Boxcar Children.
Middle Grade (MG)
While middle grade readers are between eight and thirteen years of age, the protagonists are typically between ten and twelve years old. This is because readers—especially young readers—want to read about the future. They want to know what life will be like when they’re older, so they are more interested in older characters.
MG readers have a longer attention span, so novels have a word count between 30,000 and 50,000 words.
MG books follow simple, homely themes that are familiar to its readers. Family and friend relationships are often important plot points. Romantic relationships rarely go beyond crushes and maybe a quick kiss. The book probably takes place at a home or school-like setting. MG readers are trying to understand the world and people around them, and these books reflect them.
Because readers are trying to learn more about the world around them (as opposed to themselves), MG books are typically written in 3rd person POV.
Young Adult (YA)
Readers of Young Adult books range from thirteen-year-olds (sixth or seventh grade) to eighteen-year-olds (twelfth grade). This is another age range with a wide audience ranging from early middle schoolers to graduating high schoolers.
The protagonists range from fourteen to eighteen depending on which end of the reading spectrum a book is targeting.
The average YA book has a word count between 50,000 and 75,000 words long, although speculative fiction and mysteries can go beyond that.
YA books explore larger themes that go beyond what is normal in a character’s life. They are often told in the first person POV, representative of their self-reflective nature. Because the readers of YA books think more about their identities and their place in the world, the books reflect that. As such, coming-of-age is a very common theme. Because YA readers are also (usually) more mature than MG readers, they can handle more intense topics. Drug abuse, violence, and sex are fair topics for YA novels, albeit in moderation.
Some popular YA book examples are The Giver, The Hunger Games, and Six of Crows.
New Adult (NA)
This is a bit of a controversial age range. It’s about a decade old and has yet to gain traction in the publishing market. However, it has its purpose.
Readers: older high school students and college students may feel limited by the YA genre, and that is where NA comes in.
NA books follow protagonists between eighteen and thirty years of age, and are typically of the same length or longer than YA books.
NA books explore the problems of new adults, people who are just beginning to face the world on their own. The characters may be starting college, looking to buy a home, or working at their first job. The theme of independence can be found in every NA book. Also, keeping the audience in mind, there are very few limitations for how graphically you can explore intense topics.
Some examples of NA books include Red, White, and Royal Blue and Ninth House.
Adult books have the largest target age range, reaching pretty much every reader over twenty years of age.
Adult protagonists are—you guessed it—adults. Well, for the most part. Adult books could certainly have characters of any age, so long as they explore adult themes.
These themes are typically reflective and nostalgic. Adult books are typically more heavy with prose than action. They are also more graphic and have very few limitations when exploring violence or sex.
Some examples are Fifty Shades of Grey, A Game of Thrones, and The Handmaid’s Tale.
You may realize some topics and themes don’t fall into any of these categories. For instance, it’s usually safe to stay away from a thirteen-year-old protagonist because they don’t fall specifically into MG or YA. Unless you have a really good reason, your character may as well be twelve or fourteen.
If you feel like your book is between two age ranges, try making revisions to push it strictly into one. If that doesn’t work, you can keep it as is, but it might be a hard sell for agents and publishers.
Basically, it’s important to know who your book is for.
What age range do you typically write for? Let me know in the comments!