Vlogger Oli White's debut Generation Next (Hodder & Stoughton) has been placed top of this week's Sunday Times adult hardback fiction bestseller list, after being "reclassified" by its publisher.
White's novel, the tale of a group of teenagers who pool together to create a new social media platform, was announced as Young Adult fiction when acquired and is classified by Nielsen as "Young Adult Fiction". It appears in this week's The Bookseller in the Children's and Young Adult chart, coming second to David Walliams.
Its placement in the adult hardback fiction listings for today's issue of the Sunday Times (12th) gives it the number one spot, meaning Peter James' latest Roy Grace novel Love You Dead (Macmillan) moves down to number two in the influential ranking.
Clare Harington, group communications director at Hachette, said that although Generation Next was announced as YA fiction on acquisition, the publisher changed its mind on receiving the manuscript and "recategorised" it. "This was not picked up by Nielsen who still have it as YA although it has been sold and promoted as adult fiction and as I say it is stocked under fiction by retailers," she said.
Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate told The Bookseller: "When is a short story a novella, when is a novella a novel, when is YA an adult book? It's not a science. There is an element of discretion in the Sunday Times list – for example, we don't include the Driving Test book and so on. This comes up occasionally, and we have a discussion with Nielsen."
He added: "YA is a very, very difficult area. It does have the word 'young' and the word 'adult' in it." He had been "wondering" about introducing a YA bestseller chart, he said, but didn't want to go down the New York Times route of having several pages of charts. But the idea is "worth thinking about", he said.
Andre Breedt, director of Nielsen Book Research International, which supplies the Sunday Times charts data, said: "There are a number of different classifications. The publisher is able to decide how they classify a book. Nielsen has an independent decision on how it classifies the book and so does the Sunday Times – they can choose because it's their chart."
He added: "There's a bigger problem with this area [YA] and it comes up again and again. The biggest example was Harry Potter, which had some editions in adult and some in childrens."
Harington commented: "It's an interesting debate, what goes into adult fiction and what goes into the children's charts, and one we've wrestled with. This is particularly true of books that appeal to wide audiences that include young adults but also 20-somethings and beyond, as is the case with a great many of the vloggers, including Joe Sugg and Oli White from the Hodder list. Last year Hodder had great success with Username Evie which appeared throughout the autumn on the adult fiction bestseller list.
"When Oli's manuscript was delivered in January Hodder recategorised the book on Nielsen and our data feeds as adult fiction and felt that this positioning would take the book to the widest possible readership. It is consistent with the categorisation for all the other vloggers apart from Zoella, whose novels are clearly aimed at a younger audience and who comes out of a children's division - while Hodder of course are one of the adult divisions in the Hachette group, and Oli White sits alongside their roster of other bestselling authors, with his book stocked in adult space in retailers and promoted on TV and radio in similar ways to those brand novels."
Pan Macmillan m.d. Anthony Forbes Watson was not available for comment.