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03 January 2011 @ 08:44 am
Rearranging the Teen shelves  
Since it's the beginning of a new year, I thought it'd be interesting to take a look at a new trend in bookstores. That is, the segregated shelving Barnes & Noble stores are starting to introduce in their Teen sections.

Previously, all YA books have been shelved together, as a genre in itself. Now they're being split into Teen Paranormal Romance, Teen Fantasy and Adventure, and a general Teen section for everything else. Since fantasy is one of the targeted subgenres, and many of us here at the Inkpot write paranormal as well, I asked the Inkies to weigh in on whether these divisions are helpful or hurtful. Here are some of their thoughts...

The Benefits:

Marissa Meyer: I think the change speaks to how huge and influential YA has become, and as the genre continues to expand I think it makes sense to group like genres together, so readers can more easily locate books that match their tastes, in much the same way as it makes sense within adult titles.

Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban: This could mean YA will get more space and more exposure. And if the new trend spurs controversy and thus attention towards YA novels, so much the better.

Anne Nesbit: Isn't part of the logic behind this trying to bring the boys back in by giving them some safer shelves -- not all romance on the covers?

Laura Williams McCaffrey: I've worked as a school librarian, and so I know how helpful it can be to kids -- particularly those who have a hard time finding reading material they like -- to have books separated by genre. However, I think separating books by genre really is no substitute for having people working in bookstores and libraries who love children's and YA literature, who read a lot of classic and contemporary children's/YA literature, who have great rapport with their patrons, and who take a great deal of pleasure in talking books all day.

The Possible Problems:

Lisa Green: I hope that people wouldn't miss out on something because of the way it's been shelved. There are so many different opinions on which genre certain things fall under, i.e. paranormal, fantasy, paranormal romance, that I'm not sure how accurate it really can be. Hopefully customers will take their time and peruse the shelves carefully despite the labels.

Leah Cypress: In my opinion, part of the strength of YA was its genre-less nature, and this makes me wonder where they're going to put those books that cross genres. I'm really curious, for example, about where Before I Fall is going to land. Regular teen fiction, despite the fantasy elements? Paranormal romance, just because the main character is a girl and there are a few pages of romance?

Jenny Moss: One of the really great things about YA - as Leah said - is the genrelessness of it. The way it's been shelved in the past - with contemporary alongside sci-fi alongside paranormal - encourages readers to try different genres, discovering a good story is a good story. I'm disappointed we'll be losing that.

Malinda Lo: I've only seen the division in one B&N so far, and it's been a little confusing because the realistic YA section ran directly into travel. (Yes, travel! I don't understand it.) I think there are positive benefits for writers whose books are shelved in paranormal romance, honestly, since that continues to be such a popular subgenre. However, the division between B&N's "paranormal romance" and "fantasy and adventure" seems to be highly arbitrary and confusing. For example, I believe my first novel, Ash, was shelved in paranormal romance. This sort of makes sense, since there is romance in it. However, my next novel, Huntress, is clearly high fantasy. Where is B&N going to shelve it? Next to Ash or in the "fantasy and adventure" section? Does this mean my books will be separated?

Elizabeth C. Bunce: I'm against it. I think it's going to stifle the creativity and innovation that has been such a hallmark of YA, and it's going to be harder for genre-bending books to get published, because they won't fit the niches just exactly right. In adult publishing, the genres can be so rigid with what must or must not be included in a story of that type, and I really hate to think that might be trickling over to YA now, as well.

What do you think, readers? Have you checked out the new B&N set-up? Did it help you find new books to try, or make finding the books you already wanted more confusing?
Brooke CarletonTBrookeReviews on January 3rd, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
I think it's a great idea. Whenever I go to the YA section of the bookstores here, all the YAs are grouped together, and most of the time not in any sort of order at all. It usually makes it impossible to find anything I'm looking for!
dawn_metcalf: Um...dawn_metcalf on January 3rd, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC)
I'm still of two minds: on the one hand, I like the idea that guys and non-romance readers might find a happy place to peruse YA or those wanting their faves could find them faster and like-minded new books to read; on the other hand, I don't like losing potential readers by pigeon-holing them into shelves where they're only exposed to more of the same instead of expanding their horizons by having something different catch their eye.

I'm of course nervous for my own book's placement, but admit to being befuddled when I saw beloved books by authors I knew in places where I didn't expect them or, far worse, not being in the places I *did* expect them.

I guess we'll have to wait and see.
halliethalliet on January 3rd, 2011 02:38 pm (UTC)
I've been in a store shelved that way, and it was awful. Books seemed to be shelved randomly into one of the three sections. I couldn't just head for the books I was looking for alphabetically by author, and I had to keep wandering around to make sure I checked each section. In this store, too, the "fantasy and adventure" books wrapped around a corner, so I found them only by accident! On top of that, none of the fantasy (or science fiction; where do those go?) books were actually in that special section. It's been a couple of weeks since I looked, but I recall MISTWOOD, BEFORE I FALL, WILDWING, THE UNIDENTIFIED, BLACK HOLE SUN and others all shelved as "general teen."

Elizabeth Bunce said what I'd otherwise want to say. That, and what happens for authors who write in multiple categories? If I were a more casual reader, would I think to check the other sections to see if a favorite author was shelved there too? It gives me a headache.
I'd rather see everything
halliethalliet on January 3rd, 2011 02:40 pm (UTC)

...shelved together.
Shanynshanynlee on January 3rd, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
While it does make it easier for a teen to find something they would like to read (which I think is helpful), I did have an issue with where they were shelving certain books. I think that if they are going to do this they should order an extra copy of books that fall into two categories - especially with fantasy and paranormal being different. I found a book I was trying to recommend to a reader in a different section after the reader had left the aisle, and I lost that recommendation because I wasn't able to tell exactly what section it would be in.
Jeri Smith-Ready: Aura_epicjer_bear711 on January 3rd, 2011 02:49 pm (UTC)
I was recently in a B&N and happened to discuss this with the booksellers (not in an official way, just chatting). They said that it was great for browsers who knew what *type* of book they wanted, but readers looking for a specific book or author were finding it confusing and frustrating (as did I, trying to shop there).

One of them asked me, "Does this make you feel like you now have to write a certain way to stay published?" I said, unequivocally, YES. (To be fair, this fear might not be borne out by experience--my publisher is wonderful when it comes to creative freedom.)

As Leah and several others mentioned, one of the great things about YA is its non-genre-specificity. Great cross-genre books like BEFORE I FALL get published, whereas in adult fiction the publisher would fret about how it would be marketed. It would have to be submitted to a certain niche line and hopefully luck out with a particular editor, or just not be published at all.

As a paranormal writer, I should probably be happy that this might increase my exposure and sales. But as a WRITER-writer, I'm dismayed beyond words.
Leah_Cypessleah_cypess on January 3rd, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC)
"As a paranormal writer, I should probably be happy that this might increase my exposure and sales. But as a WRITER-writer, I'm dismayed beyond words."

Exactly. Other people have been telling me I should be happy Mistwood is shelved in paranormal romance, because it will increase exposure and sales. But if the people who pick it up looking for a paranormal romance don't actually LIKE it - and certainly won't like my next book, which has even less romance - that doesn't help me as a writer, long-term.
Inara Scottinarascott on January 3rd, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
keep 'em together
I'm with Elizabeth and the others who are concerned about this trend. Usually, I don't mind bookstores shelving according to genre -- they do that for adult books, and I appreciate being able to browse the "romance" and "fantasy" sections, knowing they have different books. Books that mix genres are always vulnerable to losing their audience because they aren't shelved in the spot where readers are looking. But I think "teen paranormal romance" is just too darn narrow. What about teen paranormal that isn't a romance? What about fantasy and romance that isn't precisely paranormal? I think this trend sets up reader expectations for the books they will find in this section, and then artificially narrows the success of books that don't fit there.
Writer's Blogmegancrewe on January 3rd, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
Re: keep 'em together
I agree--the narrowness of the categories (and possible overlap between them) bothers me the most. I think I'd be more on-board with the change if, say, it was general Teen and Fantasy, SF, & Paranormal Teen (all in one section). It's pretty easy to tell whether a given book has any speculative elements at all.

And, of course, they'd have to actually shelve the books accurately, which is a whole different problem.
katecoombs on January 3rd, 2011 03:12 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I took a look at the shelves and had mixed feelings. On the one hand, what had started to feel like wall-to-wall paranormal romance now has its own section, which makes sense to me. On the other hand, as is mentioned in the post, some of the shelving decisions seemed a little random. Most of all, I just had trouble finding where the sections began and ended, and the section signs were so dinky I'm wondering if half the B&N browsers didn't even see them!
The great work begins...: QIceilidh_ann on January 3rd, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
I worked in Waterstones in Edinburgh over the Xmas period (best part time job EVER!) and our teen section was divided into 'normal' teen lit and 'dark fantasy' which was pretty much the same thing as B&N are doing. We never had any other genre categories in the kids section; the rest was done by age then there was this honking big section full of Twilight books and similar love stories. I wasn't really a fan of the division between the books. Often it's very dark to categorise a book and to show it into one specific genre could put some readers off. I don't think it's going to last very long either; it's clearly cashing in on a fad for now. But in terms of wider categorisation for different genres, I'm not really for it. It's good if you want to look for something similar to another book (although I am sort of obliged to say that the amazing booksellers of the world are always very helpful and informative in giving advice on book recommendations *nudgewinknudge*) but it also means people might miss really good stories because they don't see it in a certain area.
Akoss: an avi i did for gaiaonline.comakossket on January 3rd, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC)
I honestly doubt this way of shelving will keep me from going through all of them. In my opinion and according to what I've witnessed in my neighborhood, Barnes and Noble is a lot more organized compared to Borders for example. I like it when there are specific sections. Besides if you can't find what you are looking for you go to the register and ask for help. :)
Rose Greenolmue on January 3rd, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
The last time I was in B&N, a teen girl told her brother to get out, "because this is the teen girl section." It was the whole YA area (or maybe just the YA paranormal, I don't remember--but the shelves are all there together.) It made me irritated that that's the vibe she got, as I was standing there with my two boys who were looking for something to read.

I've seen other stores that separate them out like that, but as far as I could see, there were fantasy novels in both the "regular" teen and the fantasy teen area. I don't know that there's enough of a divide to separate the two, myself... (Especially at B&N, where most of the titles feature the living dead, anyhow.)
ebooraem on January 3rd, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
I've actually been through a little of this in the adult section at Borders...Georgette Heyer books, for example, may be in romance or historical fiction, depending on who's making the decision. Sometimes I've found different books by the same author in the same store, shelved in two different spots when there's no clear genre difference between them.

I like the idea of buying two copies of a book and shelving it in two places! Everybody wins!
natalieag on January 3rd, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC)
As a reader, I like the separation. I tend to look for paranormal and fantasy so I like when they're broken up. I'm not sure any categorization system will be perfect.
A Deserving Porcupine: librariansrockinlibrarian on January 3rd, 2011 08:42 pm (UTC)
It's easier to deal with this in libraries. My director is a very business/managerial-side-of-libraries type, and she likes the idea of splitting the LIBRARY up into "more bookstore-like subject sections." So far she's only had luck splitting the adult fiction section into "Mystery/suspence" and "everything else" (and that depends on your definition of "had luck"-- most of us find it a pain in the butt). I have been able to stave off this sort of move in Children's and YA by championing genre-label spine stickers! If a kid wants fantasy, they can look for the fantasy sticker! And they might still therefore discover Meet the Austins because it's still right next to A Wrinkle in Time!

...buuuut that doesn't work with bookstores. I have no suggestions for them, except having Suggestion Lists available that people can work from if they're looking for all books-of-a-type.

When I was writing up my Favorite-Books-of-the-Year post last week, I tried to identify each book by genre, but this was pretty tough for some titles. And I LIKE that. I LOVE genre-bending books. That IS one of the reasons I love books for young people more than for adults. I can't imagine writers and editors would ever let that go away, regardless of what the bookstores do there.
annastanannastan on January 3rd, 2011 10:06 pm (UTC)
I am totally on the fence about this. On the one hand, I hope it brings more people into the YA section who might not have ventured there before. On the other hand, as others have said, I hope it doesn't keep books from reaching readers who might enjoy them. As for books that don't fall neatly into one category, I think that's probably the trickiest part of it all.
wanderingdreamr: kobatowanderingdreamr on January 3rd, 2011 10:53 pm (UTC)
So now I don't have to slog through all the paranormal romance, ie the stuff that terrifies me and sends me running for the manga and the knitting books each time? Yaaaaay, but somehow I don't feel as happy as I think I should, probably because almost all YA books have romance in them these days so I wonder who is going to sort all this and by what categories.
readwriterockreadwriterock on January 4th, 2011 02:28 am (UTC)
I must admit, I like that paranormal romance has its own section, because it makes it easier for me to browse for titles I am interested in in the "main" YA section. Which is not to say that I don't read and enjoy paranormal romance titles - I do - but I generally have an idea of which of these I want to read going in. I can specifically look for those if I want to, without having to sort through a lot of PR that I find derivative and - to me - not that interesting.

A few of the adult series that I read have the where-to-shelve it problem in the adult sections shelved by genre (Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series comes to mind, as do Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey novels), but I don't have a problem hitting the various sections until I find them. Then again, I am not 14 years old. Aside from just the convenience issues, as an adult reader, I have a more developed sense of genre and what I like about various genres than a lot of kids and teens do. So I don't know how I feel about that aspect.
heatherzundelheatherzundel on January 4th, 2011 05:02 am (UTC)
Honestly, I hate it. Too narrow of subcategories, I loved that YA you could find a contemporary next to a high fantasy (and it actually helped me branch out into several new genres and also buy them), and also - I CANNOT FIND ANYTHING NOW TO SAVE MY LIFE. It is so frustrating. I have tried at least twice to find a book I was *planning* on buying, and looking in every section to see if it was mislabeled or just put in a wonky place (there are some seriously wrong placements for books, by the way. I saw Brightly Woven in Contemporary, for instance). No luck. I can't buy books in B&N anymore because I just can't find them. B&N if you're listening, please change it back. I feel more confined, like I now don't want to venture into the "other" YA subgenres. I love you but I can no longer support you because I simply can't find the books anymore.

It's a disadvantage to the exploring reader, disadvantage to the author with mislabeled book, disadvantage to the reader trying to find the book they want.

My suggestion? Highlight these "subgeneres" with displays and endcaps, entire shelves even, definitely, but DON'T put them into subgenres.
(Anonymous) on January 5th, 2011 02:27 am (UTC)
As a young adult myself, I find the move bothersome. Now the format is similar to the shelving in Borders bookstores, with a separation of scifi/fantasy and contemporary, and I dislike this because I read mainly fantasy and science fiction books and so tend to avoid the contemporary section. If B&N does this separation of shelves, I can't help but to go straight to the fantasy section of the bookstore, curse the paranormal romance section, and miss the contemporary section because I'm not much of a contemporary reader. ALSO I think my main dislike is that now if I want to find an author based on his or her name, I'm going to have to check three or four different sections as opposed to just one big YA section. Argh.
holyschistholyschist on January 6th, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
Ash is not paranormal romance! It might be a romance, but it's not paranormal.

Part of me thinks this is a good idea--as a teenager and now, I mostly read SFF and find it easier to browse when I don't have to sort through a ton of other stuff--but I also have reservations about what will happen to genre-crossing books, and whether a whole lot of non-paranormal non-romance books will be stuck in that section because they are fantasy with a romance in them, hence losing a fair number of readers who aren't into PNR. I'd rather have books split into SFF, contemporary, and historical, and the boys (and girls) who don't like PNR can deal with it being mixed with the rest of SFF. But that's still an issue for writers who write more than one genre and the readers looking for their books. I'm reminded of how my local library splits Octavia Butler series randomly between SFF and general adult fiction sections, probably according to whether the cataloging librarian thought they were SF or "real literature" and how long it took me to find a Nalo Hopkinson book that was inexplicably shelved in general fiction instead of SFF despite being magic realism/fantasy and...well, I don't want to see those kinds of attitudes creeping into YA.
(Anonymous) on January 11th, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC)
I went into Barnes & Noble the other day looking for Paranormalcy and Anna and the French Kiss. I was so confused by how everything was arranged. If I remember correctly, they weren't in the same area. Of course, I normally shop at Borders, but I had a gift card for B&N and just couldn't understand the arrangement. I think it could actually hurt sales because I'm not normally a paranormal person and if that stuff isn't mixed in, I wouldn't come across it. How many people would have found Twilight had it been separated and would it have garnered the same success? What about Harry Potter?
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