Today, we explore an important aspect of both writing and education and that’s reading level. Candida Martinelli shares an important measure in determining audience that also factored into her new series, The Violet Strange Mysteries:
It is estimated that one third of sales of Young Adult fiction is for reading by adults. Adults enjoy the well-plotted, optimistic novels that feature young characters. Think of fantastical Harry Potter, for example, who carries his readers, big and small, to the amazing world of Hogwarts; or of the Rosemary Sutcliff Roman Empire novels that bring all her readers, from age nine to ninety, through great adventures in Ancient Britain.
Cataloged as a children’s books, these classics are read and re-read by children and adults around the world in their original English and in translation. The language is straightforward, but not simplistic. The plots are well-developed, but not convoluted. The endings can be sad, but they are never nihilistic. I aimed for all those elements when I wrote The Violet Strange Mysteries, a series of nine historical mystery novels for ages 12+.
I aimed to write the series for the girls who enjoy The Nancy Drew Mysteries, so I relied on a tool that rates reading ability and the reading difficulty of texts, a Lexile® measurement, to know if I had succeeded. Many books now include the measurement, a rating between 0L and 1600+L, with the general book information. A writer can pay for an “official” rating, or can submit blocks of texts for free ratings, which can be averaged and then included with the book information as the “estimated” rating. To give you an idea, the first Harry Potter book rates 880L.
Some brick-and-mortar bookstores are following the example of on-line stores and making Young Adult sections in their stores. There are even a few Young Adult bookstores, that carry only books that might interest readers aged 12+, with the books arrayed in a setting that does not feel childish or too grown-up. Graphic novels are included in these stores, next to the coming-of-age novels, the adventure stories, the young romances, and the fantasies that stimulate imaginations of all ages.
Writers are advised to categorize their work as YA/Adult whenever possible, to signal to booksellers and to readers the accessibility of the books. Having a book listed in both categories helps sales, of course, and it helps writers find an audience they might not have even considered before. When a Young Adult label seems too young for your work, consider New Adult, a relatively new label for books aimed at readers aged roughly 18 to 25.
Candida Martinelli is a technical and creative writer, and most-importantly, she is a confirmed Italophile. To share her love of Italian culture, in 2003 she established the Italian culture website Candida Martinelli’s Italophile Site. The website has grown into a popular entertainment and reference site.
She is the author of the cozy-murder-mystery An Extra Virgin Pressing Murder, and the young-adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES. The Violet Strange Mysteries are nine Gilded Age detective novels that Candida based on short stories published 1915 by The Mother of Detective Fiction, Anna Katherine Green, in the short story collection The Golden Slipper and Other Problems for Violet Strange. Each of the nine novels is a major case for Violet Strange, a debutante and secret high society-detective.