Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The New Adult Genre: What I Make of It

I keep hearing about this genre called new adult fiction, a.k.a. fiction for and about people from ages 18 through their early or mid-20s. From a reader's perspective, I can certainly see a gap between the young adult market and the adult market- there are fewer books out there about people fresh out of high school plowing through college or their first job. Though I've seen  books about college  life (e.g. SWEET VALLEY UNIVERSITY) or first jobs (e.g. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA), the former has often been written as YA and the latter is usually marketed as adult fiction or chick lit.

Some bloggers have mentioned St. Martin's Press attempt to launch the new adult genre by hosting a contest for writers of this genre. But the big question centers on whether new adult fiction is currently considered a legitimate genre among industry folk.

In a blog post, writer and lit agent intern C.A. Marshall shares her ideas on why the new adult genre hasn't really taken off but encourages writers to write what they want to write because "great books are great books." While Sarah LaPolla, an agent with Curtis Brown, Ltd.  acknowledges in a blog post that the new adult crowd "deserve their own literature," she shares her reasons as to why new adult isn't a marketable genre...yet. 

At WriteOnCon last week, I joined a chat where I asked a panel of industry professionals- three agents and one editor- if they thought there will be a legitimate market for the new adult genre. One agent responded that there is a legitimate market for this. But another agent said that readers find college characters harder to root for. The vibe I got from the overall responses was that it would be nice if there was a market for new adult fiction, but it's not something that has potential to really take off. (The editor recommended a book that she liked which could qualify as new adult called WHERE SHE WENT.) 

It's always helpful to know what industry professionals think. I'm cautiously optimistic and  hopeful for the future of new adult writing. I have a lot of stories in this genre I'd love to tell.

Have you ever had any story ideas set immediately after high school, in college, or in the post-college work setting? Can you think of any published books out there that qualify as new adult?

25 comments:

fairbetty said...

The first book that comes to mind for me is "Tam Lin" by Pamela Dean... it has a definite college setting, but it's young and fresh (although a little dated now).

Janna said...

The first thing that came to mind for me are some of Douglas Coupland's books; Microserfs and Generation X specifically, and Shampoo Planet.

Jay Noel said...

I'm totally stumped....can't think of any book I read that could be considered "New Adult" at all.

Writer on Fire

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

"Readers find college characters harder to root for?"
No. First of all, readers can identify with practically any character. Second, college/first jobs/gap years are a great time of life to write (and read) about: it's an incredibly rich time, with lots of changes and challenges and big decisions.
The trouble with this genre is just that it hasn't had a breakout hit yet, so booksellers haven't figured out how to market it, and readers haven't thought to look for such books. One blockbuster could change the landscape overnight.

As to titles that qualify now: RULES OF ATTRACTION, by Bret Easton Ellis. PSYCH MAJOR SYNDROME, by Alicia Thompson. LIGHT YEARS, by Tammar Stein. A bunch of Norma Klein books.
There's a new book called DREAM SCHOOL that I haven't read, but it sounds like it could fit.

Cynthia said...

Fairbetty: Thanks for the recommendation.

Janna: Thanks for the recommendations.

Jay: No worries.

Jennifer: Thanks for the recommendations and your input.

Laura Marcella said...

I didn't know about this "new adult" genre. What will they come up with next?

Lionel said...

Great post! I'm not that familiar with the new adult genre, but I have a hard time believing that it won't take off. Seems to me that many readers relate to characters of similar age and/or just a bit older. I can't see why this wouldn't be popular (unless kids that age are doing things other than reading:) Thanks for the insight, I look forward to watching this genre.

Paul R. Hewlett

Julie Dao said...

I think of the New Adult genre as being similar to books for 13-year-olds that neither fit MG not YA. It's in that grayish, in-betweeny area. I think there's always a market for readers of every age!

marion croslydon said...

Thank you for your post.Very interesting. Indie authors like Jamie McGuire (Beautiful Disaster), Abbi Glines (Because of Low) and Tammara Webber (Easy) have been very successful with NA best-selling novels. They got movie and foreign deals. I believe the NA is already here. But who knows, I might be wrong...

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I'm a dinosaur. I don't think I've read a NA. Or if I had I didn't know I was. Okay, scratch that. I read Christine Hart's "Best Laid Plans" about a young woman graduating from high school in the Kelowna area. Excellent book about her parents' attempt at crushing her dreams.

Happy IWSG!

Susan Roebuck said...

Another genre to add to my mystifying list (I added Urban Fantasy yesterday which was the first time I'd heard of it). As one of your commenters said, it just needs one hit for the genre to take off. Maybe people of this particular age-group are too busy with exams and university to read much fiction, but I don't know - I'm well into a later generation :-). Thanks for the links.

Nick Wilford said...

It's just the new thing. It needs a big hit (hopefully different from Twilight!) I can see how some wouldn't relate to the college thing, though. How about NA books with characters struggling to get a job, maybe raising a child? Keeping it in college or a post-college job makes it a bit restricting, I think.

Cynthia said...

Laura: I'm curious to know what the next new genre could be too...

Lionel: For me, I even relate to characters younger than me, which is why I like kidlit.

Julie: I certainly hope so!

Marion: Thanks for the recommendations!

Joylene: That sounds like an interesting book. Happy IWSG to you too! My debut post will be in September...

Susan: You're welcome, Susan!

Cynthia said...

Nick: I hear what you're saying...I guess my story idea takes place in and out of college...

Rachel Morgan said...

I definitely have some New Adult stories hanging out in my head and/or partially drafted somewhere on my laptop :-) I'm trying to think if I've read any ... I have a blog friend who's self-publishing a New Adult book later this year, and I've read that (The Big Smoke, by Cally Jackson). Can't remember if there's been anything else!

Arlee Bird said...

I'm not thrilled by all this categorization. I like good literature that goes beyond age and spans a wide readership. I can understand it though. I guess a lot of readers want to read things they can identify with. I have a couple of novels on the back burner that would fit into this genre so maybe it's time to break these back out and finish them.


Lee
Wrote By Rote

Gina C said...

i remember wishing there were more books that spoke to me when i was in my early 2os. definitely seems like there is a gap to fill.

also -- readers tend to read up. so why wouldn't an older high school kid want to spy into the life/matters of someone slightly older? no sense in limiting our fiction to such small boxes.

Lynda R Young said...

I do think the genre will take off as soon as someone writes a popular book in it. That's usually what happens.

Stephsco said...

I think books should be written about any age character, but I've still had reservations about specifically marketing books labeled New Adult. I personally don't feel like the label itself is necessary, although I don't like that publishers will overlook a book about someone in late teens early 20s because it won't sell. I don't buy that no one will buy :)

Not sure what the answer is, but I know this debate won't go away. More "new" adults than ever are still living with parents post-college (or no college at all) and delaying marriage and parenthood.

rented life said...

I dont know if I've read something specific to that age group, but the novel I'm working on my lead is 18 and most of the others are older...but I also am writing in more of a fantasy genre. In the Guadians of the Flame series (by Joel Rosenburg) the characters were college students.

I struggle with the age labels. I enjoy children's lit, YA, chick lit, etc. and the books I don't enjoy have nothing to do with age. I worry that some of these labels discourage people from exploring books/authors that are very talented.

Cynthia said...

Rachel: I have stories hanging out in my head too...and thanks for the recommendation.

Lee: Let me know if you do finish these stories.

Gina: I don't believe in limiting the material readers can have access to either.

Lynda: I think so too.

Stephsco: I know- I feel a good story is a good story, and it shouldn't be turned away because the characters aren't at the "right" age group, if there's ever such a thing.

rentedlife: Good luck with your novel and thanks for the recommendation.

Jeremy Bates said...

I invent characters from my mind and opt for the age that defines the story. I pay no attention to sub-genres et al. For me, it is best to write what I know and/or have experienced with a healthy helping of fiction.

If at some time I occasion to find myself in this genre you speak of, so be it. However, I just write and that works best for me. Ergo, I would be in agreement with the person who advised that a good book is a good book. True words of wisdom were those.

Stephsco said...

I was in the same WoC chat; I think books exist that deal with college aged characters, but the question is whether those books need their own niche genre outside adult market fiction. Arguments on both sides are compelling; I'm a little reluctant to say we need a shelf that says New Adult. BUT I also don't like the idea of agents and publishers shying away from a book about a character just because she's 19.

Cora Smith said...

Easy by Tamara Webber was the first book that I read from this genre and it was fantastic

Cora Smith said...

Easy by Tamara Webber was the first book that I read from this genre and it was fantastic

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