What’s My Age Again? New Adult

This post was inspired by a well-intended, writing buddy. She asked me what audience I was trying to market my stories toward. This is a valid question and one I pondered quite a bit after our conversation. The main markets out there are Young Adult (YA for all you cool kids that talk in abrevs.) and Adult. Here’s the catch…my stories and I, we don’t seem to fit into either of these categories. This is where New Adult (NA) comes in. Curious? Let me break it down for you.

WHAT IS IT?

  • In layman’s terms, New Adult is a somewhat fledgling genre of literature, much like those readers and writers who hope to embody it
  • The label Young Adult is a misnomer in some ways. YA literature often is not about young adults, instead it is about middle to old teens (no offense, I love you all). Despite this fact, plots might seem more “young” or possibly more “adult” actions and characters. NA has the potential to be both (with a somewhat more accurate name in my opinion)
  • Kristin Hoffman (quoted by Cally Jackson) on New Adult:

“The Transition from child to adult doesn’t happen overnight–just ask as anyone who is or has been (or is a parent to) a teenager. But the transition from teen to adult doesn’t happen overnight either. There’s a period of time where adulthood feels like a new pair of shoes. The expectations of independence and self-sufficiency are still new, still being broken in. New Adults are the people who have just begun to walk in those shoes; New Adult fiction is about their blisters and aches.”

As a heel wearer and NA I like this metaphor. A lot. This is quite a lovely way to put it.

  • Similarly, the NA genre is young, dubbed so in 2009, and still trying to make its way in the writing/publishing world
  • To expand, it generally includes characters that are about 18-26 year-old, those stuck in the middle, as oppose to the 14-17 year-olds of YA
  • NA topics and challenges consist of, but are not limited to: college, jobs (or job hunting), family, this “real world” people speak of, rent, bills, relationships (familial, friends, dating, engagement, early marriage, first babies), possibly battling other “issues” that result from working through this transitions such as drugs, abuse, identity crisis’s, love, hate, drinking, self-esteem, and wedding season (a slightly mature twist on many YA themes/tropes)
  • This NA business is a period of time that can last longer than the four years of college or year or two after, therefore, is has a somewhat longer “shelf life” than books that circle around high school (again, just my opinion)
  • NA allows writers with characters older than high school to still have a shot at fitting into a genre without getting lost in the vast pool of adult literature

WHAT’S THE APPEAL?

  • In my experience as a reader (and teacher) it seems many people not only enjoy reading books about people their own age, but also older than them (heck even younger than them). Often elementary school kids (4th and 5th ) like reading about middle school kids and middle schoolers like reading books about high school etc. For this reason NA stories (much like YA lit) can be enjoyed by those younger than the common character ages, those living it and those older.
  • “I think it’s a common complaint that YA titles don’t seem to cover the older age range of 18-21. Heck, I think it’s kind of rare if they deal with high school seniors, let alone college students. ” (H.M.R* I recently looked through some shelves at the local B and N (not that they are the gods of book organizing but I thought a decent reference) and checked out the awkwardly shaped section that they dub, YA. Based on some books’ back blurbs, only a few seemed to be about older teens/college students. Goodness knows a handful of them alluded to what I would think to be “adult” things taking place in high school, which is fine by me in the grand scheme of things…usually.
  • One of the beauties of NA is that the 18-26 age bracket allows for some drinking, sex, freedom, less parental intervention etc. in healthy moderation. This is viable. Likewise, as a teacher, I have had a few YA reading experiences where I am happily getting lost in a world and then, bam, something I didn’t quite see coming (often from one of above bullet points). This makes recommending it to students a little dodgy, especially with certain sets of parents. Whereas, if it was a NA novel, it fits better, is more accepted, possibly even expected. If that makes any sense. Instead or trying to make teen characters more adult, one could bump up their age and put them in NA without losing teen readers
  • As a twenty-something, I can honestly say I would read NA (and that I write NA) but there is not enough of it. Sometimes I feel super old reading YA (even with how age-universal it is becoming) or just don’t want to read about high school or prom or drama (yes I know that is oversimplifying the genre, no patronizing meant). I want to read about people like me, an admirable desire for many literature lovers of all ages and who read all genres.

WHAT IS ALL THE HUBUB?

  • “From what I understand about New Adult, there’s a lot of talk about it becoming its market, but right now it’s just talk. There hasn’t been enough demand. It’s a tricky gray area right now in publishing…I would absolutely love to see New Adult become its own market. I think there are a lot of people who would love to read and write for it. I know what you mean about wishing to see more books out there about people in [their twenties].” (A. M.*)
  • Some feel that creating a new genre of NA is splitting hairs, adding an unnecessary new section to bookstores (Though I disagree as it takes me forever to find a good story about people my age in the adult section…see below)
  • The YA section currently (as of my last book perusal) is home to books like Pride and Prejudice and the Anne of Green Gables series (two of my personal faves), complete with pretty, new modern covers. While both books have teen characters, P and P’s main two are in their early to mid-twenties, and Anne’s series follows her through adulthood. Technically would these classics fall into NA? Currently they are being re-marketed to teens, is this the wrong move? Or are there exceptions? Is it sufficient for a book seller to divvy up books into YA and Adult, or is NA needed, or would it prove helpful?
  • As for agents, while some specialize and back NA, some don’t see the marketability.

Who would read it? Who would they sell it to? Who writes it?

In answer to those last three questions: ME. ME. ME.

I do not expect all readers to be twenty-somethings, or NA friendly supporters. To tell you the truth, I love holing up in my room on a rainy day reading a snarky contemporary YA novel just as much as the next person, but some part of me (more lately a rather large part) thinks I’d spend my meager “real world” paycheck to buy a whole section of NA books in a heartbeat.

SOME OTHER GREAT NEW ADULT RESOURCES

*Friends quoted and their thoughts reposted with their consent.

What are your thoughts? Are you a backer of NA? Did you (like me) have a breakthrough and realize you, indeed, write NA? Do you think it would be better to make your characters younger (YA) for the sake of current markets? Let me know below (points, to comments).

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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “What’s My Age Again? New Adult

  1. I discovered NA this week, literally, when I was told by an editor that my wip would be a good fit for it. Like the above ‘ME, ME, ME,’ statement, she asked who my audience was and I basically said I hadn’t written it with that in mind, and reducing it to YA marketability made me cringe. I’m glad NA is out there and I hope that it gets more recognition!

  2. Pingback: New Adult? « M Blackburn: A Writer's Journey

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