Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fish Pirates?

Today on Jim Lileks' blog, he mentioned browsing the YA section of a bookstore, and he made the following observation:

After the haircut I got a book Natalie has requested – part of a 946-volume series about talkative, clannish cats. I spent some time examining the rest of the books in the YA section, looking for my own niche. I think Fish Pirates is open, as well as Yugoslav Amoebas with Magic Powers. Perhaps a series about a world where all the kids have magic powers, and then some interesting, conflicted, smart, resourceful kids discover they don’t have any powers at all.

(If you're not familiar with this blog, he rarely discusses books, or at least, books I read, but he does provide a steady supply of wry and very funny observations on politics, parenthood, cereal boxes, postcards, architecture, and more. Try the Gallery of Regrettable Food. Or anything else. Wonderful stuff.)

At any rate, what exactly are the niches in YA books these days? In fact, what is a "niche"? I would think a niche is only full when nobody buys and reads the books in it anymore. Vampire stories would seem to be overflowing the market yet ... people are still reading them.

And is the diversity of books so bad? (I know that's not his point. Probably.) I love that just about anything you can imagine is available. Samurais? Check. Vampires? No comment. Fairies? Yep. Elves dwarves hobbits rabbis stepmothers talking beasts magic technology dystopia historical fantasy spy thrillers horror romance high school drama dragons zombies octopi pirates bird-people aliens.

It's all there! Makes it tricky for writers to find their own space -- and maybe this is the best working definition of "niche" -- but it represents an incredible wealth of options for readers. I remember coming home from the library with a stack of books as long as my arm. It felt like Christmas morning.

So bring on the fish pirates and magical amoebas. Or so say I.

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