I have a friend with access to BookScan, which tracks book sales through stores and retail outlets, who at my request checked the aggregate bestseller list sales of adult fantasy and science fiction against the sale of YA fantasy and SF. Without mentioning specific numbers or titles, my friend says that last week, the top 50 YA SF/F bestsellers outsold the top 100 adult SF/F bestsellers (adult SF and F are separate lists) by two to one. So 50 YA titles are selling twice as much as 100 adult SF/F titles. The bestselling YA fantasy book last week (not a Harry Potter book) outsold the bestselling adult fantasy book by nearly four to one; the bestselling YA science fiction title sold three copies for every two copies of the chart-topping adult SF title. And as a final kick in the teeth, YA SF/F is amply represented at top of the general bestselling charts of YA book sales, whereas adult SF/F struggles to get onto the general bestselling adult fiction charts at all.
That serious adult science fiction/fantasy readers don’t seem to know any of this is a) a feature of the opaque nature of book sales, in which no one publicly talks about actual units sold and b) a feature of the apparent short-sightedness of adult sf/f readers, who are missing a genuine literary revolution in their genre because the YA section is a blank spot on the map to them, if not to everyone else. “Here there be dragons” has been replaced by “Here there be pre-teens” or something of the sort. This attitude is especially puzzling when you consider how many SF/F readers got their start with books like the Heinlein juvies, the fantasies of Susan Cooper and John Christopher and Madeleine L’Engle and so on.
Now, don’t feel sorry for Scott because of this. He’s crying all the way to the bank, he is, because by any sane measure he’s almost certainly the single best-selling science fiction author out there right now. The people to feel bad for are all the adult science fiction readers who haven’t read his Uglies series and by extension are missing the formative SFnal experience of an entire generation of readers — which also happen to be excellent books. Why Scott hasn’t even been nominated for a Hugo yet is unfathomable today, and I expect will be seen as unforgivable in 20 years, when many of his readers have become published writers.
To get back to Cory, I think it might be possible that he’ll miss a few early sales by some of his adult fans not going into the YA section. But I also and strongly believe that he’s going to make those sales up, and pretty quickly, as he’s introduced to a new and very avid set of readers, who are primed for more thought-provoking science fiction (it’s absolutely no coincidence one of the front cover blurbs for the book comes from Westerfeld). Cory’s potential audience has just gotten a lot bigger. It helps his book rocks.
Now, inasmuch as don’t believe we’re marketing ZT as YA, at least at first — when you go to the bookstore to find it, it’ll be in the SF section, not the YA section. But who knows? Maybe they’ll be a chance for cross-pollination there. If Cory can help get the adult science fiction/fantasy readers to venture into young adult, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to help convince some YA readers to take a trip to the science fiction and fantasy section. I would be happy to be part of such a tag team. And lucky, frankly.