Difference between YA and teen? And do word counts really matter?

by Madeline
(U.S.)

Question: Is there a difference between YA and teen novels? If so what are they?

And do word counts really matter? I've looked it up on the internet several times. I get mixed reviews. Some say 60,000 words for a YA. Some say 75,000. Others say it doesn't matter. I'm so confused!

Answer: Young adult books are aimed at readers between 13 and 24, which is actually quite a wide range. For this reason, some publishers are now trying to create a new category (New Adult) to separate books for the late teen/early twenties crowd from those intended for young teens. I suspect this is partly because the young end of the YA range tend to be not sexually active whereas college age readers often are. This makes it difficult to please both ends and the parents of those at the young end at the same time.

Regarding word counts: there are no rules, only guidelines and ranges. Some YA books are short, especially if aimed at the more reluctant, young teen readers. On the other hand, some teens have no trouble plowing through lengthy Russian novels. Fantasy books tend to be longer than non-fantasy.

What you have to do is look at books similar to yours, aimed at a similar audience, and try not to be too far out of line. For instance, if you're targeting a publisher that tends to put out YA novels that are all around 60,000 words and your book is 100,000 words, that could be a problem. Similarly, if your book is under 40,000 words, that might be too thin for your audience.

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