What Is My Book?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my book, for which I’m now testing out the title 22 Scars (previously A Gothic Symphony). I certainly haven’t given up on it, but there’s been a pause and a lull, and amongst familial things such as taking a vacation, I’ve spent a little bit of time focusing on my fantasy work as well, trying to bring the third book of the series into reality.

It’s been over two months since I last sent an query to an agent, and over a month since my last rejection. In all, I’ve queried 24 agents, been officially rejected by 10, and therefore went unanswered by 14. I realize in the grand scheme of things this isn’t a lot, and to even get a response is an acknowledgement that someone was paying attention, but the longer the list grows, the more disheartening it all gets.

And it leads me to wonder, am I querying the right agents? I’ve so far been pitching my book to Young Adult agents, because the majority of the story revolves around just that—young adults. But when you think Young Adult, what sort of books come to mind? A quick Google search for popular YA novels returns such diverse offerings as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. From wizards and post-apocalyptic societies to down-to-earth stories about self-discovery and death, these are books that have delighted, challenged and opened eyes around the world.

But there seems to be an element of … tameness, for lack of a better word. Many of the books deal with difficult and embarrassing subjects such as periods, masturbation, rape and death, but there’s sometimes a lack of explicit detail in regard to these things. That seems to be saved for the adult novel, where penises and severed heads abound.

My story is somewhere in the middle. Dealing with the struggles of teenage depression, I don’t shy away from explicit scenes of self-harm, sex and death. I show every razor slicing into Amy’s skin. I show the father raping the mother. And I wouldn’t shy away from this for anything, because I believe to do so would be to minimize the truth of teenage depression that so many millions of young adults live with every day.

Yet it puts me at odds with finding an agent and selling my book, because I’m starting to think that I can’t easily pitch it to Young Adult agents, simply because it’s too graphic. And Adult agents might find the topic of teenagers too young.

I suppose the question I should be asking is, who is my book for? And while of course the immediate answer is that I wrote it for myself, the audience I’m seeking is anyone from the suffering teenagers themselves to the parents of those children, seeking to understand what their loved ones are going through.

What do you think? What sort of genre is a book that shows explicit self harm, rape and suicidal thoughts, whilst still mainly portraying the points of view of teenagers? Who would be the best agent to pitch this to? And what would make you want to read it?

Let me know in the comments!

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