Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Should Authors Give Up on Writing YA Christian Fiction?

Pin it!
photo credit: nic519 via photopin cc
When I was in middle school, I had a dream. And that dream was to write Christian books for teenagers.

I had no idea the genre existed. I don't think I was aware of Christian at all, for that matter. But I had a heart for youth ministry, as well as fiction writing. So I figured, why not combine the two?

One day, when I was fourteen, I decided to Google search “Christian books for teens”. I was thrilled when I found out the genre actually did exist, and I immediately started ordering several books by Melody Carlson.

I devoured YA Christian fiction in high school; I barely laid a finger on a YA secular book. However, the rare times that I did, the amount of swear words and immorality that filled the pages had me closing the book in an instant. (Of course, some books had an exception. More specifically, The Hunger Games series. =)

Fiction is powerful. Jesus knew this when He used parables to illustrate certain Truths. Teenagers soak up everything—from the movies/shows they watch, to books they read, and even the people that they hang out with. If fiction is so powerful, then why isn't there more YA books in the Christian market?

I’ve finally realized the answer to that question after having my first YACF novel, Purple Moon, published last month. Authors simply don’t want to write for a market that has such little audience.

Don’t get me wrong, there are several fantasy and sci-fi books in YA Christian fiction. And while many teens love those genres, there really aren’t many YACF contemporary novels that cover issues that teens face on a day-to-day basis, nor are there many YACF romance novels either. 

When teenagers go to a bookstore, they aren’t hoping to find a book that will preach a sermon. They search for a book that can offer: 

  1. Entertainment. 
  2. Escapism. 
  3. Or to feel as if they aren't alone in what they are going through.

Most teens aren’t going to search for the YACF section—which is usually buried within a bookstore and contains only a few shelves—when there is shelf after shelf of YA books in the secular market.

So should an author give up writing for the YACF market altogether?

There are several authors who are, in fact, doing this. Many of them have decided to start writing for the secular YA market instead. Of course, I don’t see a problem with that. In fact, I believe there needs to be more Christians writing for the mainstream market, and I hope to do so one day as well.

But I still don’t think that authors should give up writing for the YA Christian market altogether. The lack of readers in this genre only proves how bad teens need these books. So rather than feeling discouraged at the size of YACF’s audience, this should encourage authors to expand the audience by attracting more teens.

How can authors do this?

While I am trying to attract more teenagers to this market, I have found much difficulty in promoting Purple Moon.

However, I’ve realized something: The parents of teenagers want their kids to read clean books. So if a teen might not pick up your book, why not try to sell it to the parents?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a lady stop by my book signing to buy a book for her 12-year-old
granddaughter. The following week, I received a handwritten letter from this girl, thanking me for writing Purple Moon. She told me that she read it in less than 24 hours and accepted Christ as her Savior because of it. She also told me that she’s always wanted to be a writer, and that she’s wanted to change the word. Now, she said, she knows how to do that: through writing fiction.

This girl, who wouldn’t have read my book if it wasn't for her grandmother, experienced first-hand just how powerful Christian fiction can be.

Although I also believe that Christians should write for the YA mainstream market as well, there are some stories that you just can’t publish in the mainstream industry without having to water down the spiritual element. I hope that more people will begin to realize just how much these YACF books can impact today’s youth culture.

Teenagers don’t just need clean stories. They need life-changing stories. They need stories that are not afraid to mention the gospel and show them God's love while staying away from coming across as preachy. These stories should entertain, relate to the teenager, and show them the Truth. All in one.

“But where serious challenges exist, there are also great opportunities.” 
~Publishers Weekly, referring to the YA Christian fiction market

Pin it!

Summary: I do not think that the lack of readers in the YACF market should discourage authors. Instead, it should encourage us to bring more authors into the market and better promote the books by selling them to parents rather than just teenagers. We shouldn’t write just clean stories, but stories that show the power of God’s unconditional love and transforming grace without preaching to them. Teenagers are like a sponge, soaking up everything. Christian authors should use this to our advantage. We have the opportunity to affect teens’ lives in a positive way through writing YACF.

Should Authors Give Up on Writing YA Christian Fiction? ~ @tessaemilyhall Click to Tweet! 
"Teenagers don’t just need clean stories. They need life-changing stories." ~ @tessaemilyhall Click to Tweet! 


  1. Great thoughts, Tessa! I especially appreciate your insight as a pubbed author in that genre. And what an amazing letter to get as a new author!!

    My follow-up question is will older teens read books that their parents (or grandparents) give them? When I was 13 or 14 I read anything my mom gave me automatically, but my 16/17 year old self was a lot more skeptical. (And it's the older teens I want to write for.)

    Just curious what sort of ideas you have about that! Thanks!! :)

    1. That's a good question! And you're right, younger teens are probably far more likely to read a book that a parent gives them. But you never know. And although you might want to write books for the older teens, the younger teens will probably want to read it also. Many young teens like to read YA books that have an older protagonist. (For example, my protagonist is 16, and I also thought Purple Moon would be more likely to reach older teens. However, many younger teens have read it as well.)

      Thanks for your comment!

    2. So true--younger teens do tend to "read up." I was reading about 16 year-old protags when I was 13 and 14. :)

      May Purple Moon continue to grow in its readership and bless many younger (and older!) readers alike!

  2. Great post. I think it is so AWESOME how a girl was inspired and led to Christ through your book. It's been a dream of mine to one day write something that touches others, lets them know they aren't alone, and (most important) to share God's love.
    Still cheering you on! How's it feel to be a debut author? Have you received any more notable feedback? What's your next project? ^^

    1. That was my only purpose in writing as well, and I am soooo happy that it happened so soon!

      I'm loving being a debut author, especially after having the publishing contract for three years. =) Yes, I've had several people tell me that my book really spoke to them. I'm so humbled reading the good reviews that have come in, as well as the emails people have written to me about how God used "Purple Moon" to speak healing into their lives. I can't explain how happy it makes me that God is using my writing to reach to others.

      I've already finished my second book actually. It's with my agent right now, and we're hoping to start selling it to publishers in December. So exciting! =)

  3. I actually disagree that all YA books are bad. I've read lots and lots of secular YA books and at least half of them (probably more) were clean and (at least in my opinion) quite inspiring. However, I do think that there needs to be more non-preachy non-cheesy YACF out there. I'm hoping my WIP, if it gets published, will help that genre grow, at least a little bit. Reading your story gives me hope that I'll be able to get published and reach a lot of teen with my book as well. :)

    1. So glad that my story can inspire you, Mandy!

      I didn't mean that YA books are bad, just the ones that I've read. Of course, I mentioned that some books do have an exception, such as the Hunger Games. =) I've also read Divergent by Veronica Roth, Delirium by Lauren Oliver (currently reading the sequel), Rosie Dunne by Cecelia Ahern, and Matched by Allie Condie. Loved all of them. (As you can see, I love dystopian fiction.)

      I just don't care for a lot of cursing and immorality in other secular YA books that I've read. But I'm happy to hear that they're not all like that!

      Thanks for your comment, Mandy!


Thanks for stopping by my blog!