The “New Adult” Genre: Why Does It Exist?

by Jami Gold on January 8, 2013

in Writing Stuff

Graduation cap with text: The

Publishing industry news has exploded with stories about a new genre, called New Adult. The New Adult genre is meant to bridge the supposed gap between Young Adult (teen) books and general Adult fiction books. Every news site from the New York Times to Publishers Weekly has been giving their spin on the genre ever since HarperCollins signed Cora Carmack in a high-six-figured three-book deal.

What is the New Adult genre? That’s the question of the month.

Some claim it’s simply the angsty stories of YA (the Young Adult genre) sexed up for readers in their older teens or twenties. One publisher is going so far as to release two versions of a YA series, one where the door closes on the sex scenes and one where the door stays open.

Others call the genre “Harry Potter meets Fifty Shades of Grey.” Anyone who thinks this is a new phenomenon hasn’t heard of fan fiction, which has been doing this very thing for years. After all, Fifty Shades of Grey started as fan fiction and features a twenty-year-old protagonist based on Twilight‘s Bella Swan, meaning that it reads very much like teen-voiced YA books, but with erotic content.

Still others call it the “new chick-lit,” where recent college grads explore the world through first jobs and Sex in the City style romances. Or even younger, to college students exploring freedom from their parents with new (often sexual) experiences.

Why Is There a Push for a New Adult Genre? Reason #1

The New Adult genre is marketing, pure and simple. The YA market has been the trendy place for books for years, the home shelf of the Twilight and Hunger Games series. But now publishers are worried about those YA readers “aging out” of those books.

Adults typically don’t have a problem reading about protagonists younger than themselves. However, recent high-school graduates might find stories set in high school beneath them. So what should they read now?

Enter the New Adult genre. These are the same stories that have always existed about 18-25 year old protagonists, but now they have the label to make them theoretically easier for those college-aged readers to find. Bookstores, especially those online, might create New Adult shelves, as they try to increase the discover-ability of these stories.

Why Is There a Push for a New Adult Genre? Reason #2

In the United States, those in the target age market for these stories are called Generation Y, or Millenials, or more interestingly… Echo Boomers. Just as the U.S. Boomer generation of the 1946-1964 period changed society’s perception of life stages and milestones (forcing us all to know what Viagra is), this latest baby boom generation (typically those born from 1983-2000) is similarly attracting media attention from those who hope to appeal to them.

Coincidentally (or not), the rise of the original Baby Boomers also heralded widespread usage of the word “teenager.” So maybe it’s not surprising that this latest baby boom comes with a new life stage as well.

<begin sarcasm font> As the Millenials age up, maybe we’ll get to add “Newly Married Adults,” “Adults with Young Kids,” “Adults with Teenagers,” and “Divorced and Newly Single” genres to bookshelves. Oh yay! </end sarcasm font>

Why Is There a Push for a New Adult Genre? Reason #3

YA readers are used to finding all age-appropriate books in one section. Graduating to Adult fiction means they have to delve into the genre shelves. Genre fiction features plenty of 18-25 year old protagonists, but general Adult fiction often focuses on older protagonists.

The New Adult genre protests against pigeonholing for a specific genre of story. These YA graduates don’t want to have to decide if they want a Mystery, Romance, or Horror story before picking up a book.

However, like YA, the New Adult genre instead pigeonholes by the protagonist’s age. The New Adult label could be used to let readers know the types of experiences the characters will face during the course of a story, such as: “college, living away from home for the first time, military deployment, apprenticeships, a first steady job, a first serious relationship, etc.

But the inability to agree on a definition for the genre doesn’t bode well for such logic. Instead, the label will likely be slapped onto every story with a 18-25 year old protagonist in an effort to jump on the trend.

What’s the Problem with a New Adult Genre?

The problem is that “books about 18-25 year old protagonists” doesn’t tell us anything about the story itself. Will a 22-year-old protagonist who’s a stay-at-home mom really speak to the New Adult reader?

Most of the stories being marketed as New Adult so far seem to be contemporary romance stories (or at least with romantic elements). So why have the label? Is the protagonist being in college or a new college graduate a significant enough characteristic to differentiate these books from contemporary romance?

News flash! Most romance stories feature a heroine in that 18-25 age range. So if a New Adult story is a contemporary romance-ish story with an 18-25 year old protagonist…? Um, the Romance genre already has that niche down pat. Usually with all the sexy times you could want.

The story I just completed has a twenty-year-old heroine (in college even!), who experiences her first relationship, and is high on the spicy scale. Yet I would call that book paranormal romance and not New Adult.

So why is this genre needed? It’s not about the sexual content or the age of the protagonist. It’s simply marketing speak for highlighting books that might appeal to that purchasing juggernaut: the Millenial generation. Some of these books will explore the experiences of an extended adolescence, relateable to those who are adults by age, but through economic forces, life choices, or immaturity aren’t able to feel secure in their adulthood yet, and some of these books will just be trend hangers-on.

Don’t get me wrong. Books should be written that speak to those experiences. But let’s recognize that these are books that would fit into other genres. The New Adult label is only a marketing decision to prevent these readers from having to dig into the Adult genre shelves.

A publisher might come along and decide to market my books as New Adult, and I wouldn’t have a problem with that if it helps my books connect with readers. However, I don’t think that my stories speak to that Millenial experience any more than any other romance book. So maybe New Adult readers just need to read more romances. *smile*

Have you heard of the New Adult genre? How do you define it? Do you have other theories for the recent push behind the label? Do you prefer categorizing books by genre or protagonist age? What do you think about the overlap between contemporary romance and New Adult stories?

Pin It
49 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Amanda January 8, 2013 at 8:23 am

I love your sarcasm font. Can I steal it? :)

I’m on the fence about the NA category. Looking back at my own reading preferences during that age range of my own life, I wouldn’t have had any use for them. But there seems to be a pretty loud clamoring for more books that fall into that category (Carina Press just opened to NA submissions, BTW).

Someone pointed out the problem with NA is in the system bookstores and libraries use to order books, called BISACs. Adding NA as a viable category means having to change the entire system. It’s not simply a matter of rearranging a few shelves to say yo, NA over here! If you’re a bookseller shelving books, you’re not going to want to take the time to read every back cover and figure out if it belongs in the YA, NA, or adult category, which is, I’m guessing, how they’d have to do it at this point.

One of my stories features a 24 year old protagonist in her first job out of college, first apartment without roommates, and her first serious relationship. I call it adult urban fantasy :)

Reply

Jami Gold January 8, 2013 at 8:58 am

Hi Amanda,

LOL! Absolutely. :)

Great point about how the “system” literally doesn’t allow for adding a genre that easily. And like I alluded to, I don’t think the stories that would legitimately address the NA experience are enough to justify all that work. However, a subgenre might be a different story.

Publishers could “create” a subgenre by putting New Adult on the spine (typically just above the publisher logo). This is how Paranormal Romance and Historical Romance are often identified inside the Romance genre, and readers in bookstores can skim the shelves, looking for that label on the spine. Alternately, New Adult titles could use a common trope for a cover (again like Historical Romance or Paranormal Romance), and then use a mini-version of the cover on the spine.

In other words, there are ways to self-identify even if they don’t have their own genre as far as the libraries and booksellers are concerned. We’ll have to see. :) Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Michelle Roberts January 8, 2013 at 8:30 am

I think it’s a good idea. I’m in my 20′s myself, and I would love to find NA dystopian, or NA fantasy that has a YAish voice but older, slightly more mature characters.

This is actually kind of what I’m writing. My protag is 18-19 for most of the book, but it reads like a YA fantasy.

Reply

Jami Gold January 8, 2013 at 9:03 am

Hi Michelle,

Interesting! I think for NA to have enough books to justify a whole genre, it would have to incorporate those other genres (Horror NA, Dystopian NA, etc.) much the way YA does, but so far, the examples have all been romance and/or chick-lit -ish. :) Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Roni Loren January 8, 2013 at 8:34 am

Great examination of the “new” genre. I do agree that books have existed with 18-25 protagonists for a long time, but as a reader/lover of this New Adult thing and a reader/writer of contemporary romance, I have to say that the two are different. I joked when 50 Shades hit it big that the reason people were gobbling it up was because it was erotic YA. And I was only half-joking. Obviously, there was a crap ton of BDSM erotic romance out there already (hey, I write it, so I should know, lol) but it was written in a contemporary romance voice, not a YA voice. So that was the difference.

And I think that’s the difference with New Adult and say contemporary romance or a paranormal who has a 20 yr old. There is a voice and a *feel* that is more YA-like and hence, gets the label New Adult. And though it has echoes of chick-lit, the voice is more “every day” and less sophisticated/jaded than a chick lit voice. The focus is also different. Chick lit usually didn’t have that romance feel like New Adult often has (I always think of chick lit as closer to today’s Women’s Fiction category).

New Adult is every day heroines in every day America often dealing with common problems like first jobs, first real relationship, leaving home, etc.. The voice is typically younger, modern, and in first person. It’s often more angsty and yes they are sometimes sexier, but not always. Most of the ones I’ve read have been mild in that department.

So though I don’t know if it needs it’s own shelf in the bookstore (I think it could be a subsection of YA), I do think it’s a subgenre that has its own unique properties besides just the age group it covers. :)

*end essay* lol

Reply

Jami Gold January 8, 2013 at 9:17 am

Hi Roni,

I agree that a subgenre would make more sense. And I agree completely with what NA “should” be. However, we both know that reality will dictate that if NA becomes trendy, that every story and its brother with a 18-25 year old protagonist will end up with the label. *sigh*

Your comment brought up another thought about the difference between contemporary romance and NA. I haven’t read any stories that I would consider NA, but if I’m not mistaken, aren’t they primarily told from one POV? Most (but not all) romance stories have alternating POV between the hero and heroine, and as you alluded to, are in 3rd person rather than 1st. Just those differences alone would give the stories a unique feel.

So maybe the stories and plots are similar between NA and contemporary romance, and it’s the storytelling style that makes them different. Again, those differences don’t justify a whole genre (we don’t separate 1st person and 3rd person Mysteries, for example), but a subgenre and/or label could help readers find the style that appeals to them. Thanks for the great essay! :)

Reply

Roni Loren January 8, 2013 at 11:27 am

I don’t think it necessarily exclusive to First POV or single POV. And if you want some suggestions to read (it may help show the *feel* I’m talking about since it’s hard to articulate) here are some faves I’ve read recently:
Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park (SO good)
Easy by Tamarra Webber
On Dublin Street by Samantha Young (this one falls on the sexy side)

Reply

Jami Gold January 8, 2013 at 11:38 am

Hi Roni,

Thanks for the feedback! Yes, I’ve heard those titles being labeled NA, but with the focus on romance in those stories, I tended to agree with the Diana Peterfreund link above about these not being terribly different from contemporary romance.

I have some stories that cross genres, so I know the differences between genres aren’t insurmountable. :) But I worry a) about the trend aspect watering-down the usefulness of the label and b) if these minor differences will confuse more readers than they attract. I suppose that all remains to be seen. Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Laura Pauling January 8, 2013 at 9:46 am

Many of the New Adult books I’ve read are told from the dual pov of the guy and the girl. :) And I’m not sure I’d call it a marketing thing easier -at least from the publisher’s pov. Yes, a publisher coined the term but it didn’t really take off until authors self published their New Adult works and told some incredible stories. For example, Flat Out Love by Jessica Park, which has no sex at all. Just a college-aged character.

I think after years of agents and publishers refusing to sell this genre b/c of bookstore placement, it took the self publishing revolution for it to break out.

Reply

Jami Gold January 8, 2013 at 10:01 am

Hi Laura,

Interesting about dual POV. Of course, that brings back the question of what makes these stories different enough to need a whole genre. :)

Again, I’m all for stories like these being told. I can still remember the first time I went to a grocery store when I was living on my own and thinking that I was an absolute impostor of a grown-up. (Many days, I still feel like that. ;) Often along the lines of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime”: How did I get here?)

But every story (those that have a character arc anyway) is about the character(s) “figuring out who they are and who they want to be” on some level. That’s the change necessary for the character/emotional arc. That questioning isn’t enough to define NA either.

So maybe the real problem is that publishers were slow to catch on to the fact that “Hey! A huge percentage of our YA readers are actually adults. They’re reading about protagonists younger than they are! Hmm, so maybe they wouldn’t mind reading about college-aged protagonists either.” :) As you said, the success of self-published books with this label and protagonists of that age proved the market did exist. Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Stefanie Nicholas January 8, 2013 at 11:05 am

I’ve actually never heard of the New Adult genre, so this post was super interesting to me! I guess I’ll have to keep an eye on it, though by the sounds of it it will be a lot of the ‘erotic paranormal’ type stuff, which I rarely like. However, I do see the need for it somewhat, because I hate saying I like YA books as a 20 year old! I read both YA and adult fiction, but sometimes I do feel inbetween and YA has a bad rep a little bit for adult readers.

Reply

Jami Gold January 8, 2013 at 11:29 am

Hi Stefanie,

I haven’t seen paranormal NA yet, but I’m sure it’s coming. So far, the stories are simple, real-world contemporary. But that’s a problem as far as trying to find enough stories to justify a genre.

I know several of my readers fall into that NA age range, so I’m glad you chimed in with your thoughts. :) Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Stephanie Scott January 8, 2013 at 11:12 am

I share your same skepticism for the NA label; it’s not that I don’t want those stories being told–I do! I just feel like they already ARE to an extend, and like saying a book is YA, that isn’t a genre. That’s a category and tells you nothing about the book other than it was written for a teen audience. So, if a book is shelved under New Adult romance, is it also shelved under regular romance? Much of the genre romance I read are about women in their 20s–sure many of them are probably later 20s. All those chick lit books I used to read (Devil Wears Prada for example), many are young, upwardly mobile women, which would fit in NA. So, is the category now needed because chick lit is a dirty word?

I guess what I’m wondering is, what is the issue with writing a book for adults and naming contemporary romance, or literary fiction? Is there really a need for a whole genre of books about adults who struggle with taking on new responsibilities? Isn’t that like, ALL of fiction?

Then again, I have heard writers lament that their book set in college or just after was rejected because it doesn’t have a place in the market. I don’t know what the agents know, maybe publishers really believe that. Does adding a label fix the problem?

Reply

Jami Gold January 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Hi Stephanie,

Exactly! We call YA a genre, but it’s really a category. So is NA trying to carve out a whole category along a similar vein?

As I alluded to in my second reply to Roni, if these books aren’t dual-shelved (which I doubt they would be other than online), they could lose more readers than they gain. Will calling a college romance an NA really bring more readers than just having it shelved as romance? I don’t know. Partly, that might depend on how trendy this label becomes. But if it doesn’t become a trend, then those books could miss out on those readers who have already identified themselves as X genre readers (no matter how numerous the Millenial generation is, it still doesn’t exceed the buying power of all adults of all ages).

“Is there really a need for a whole genre of books about adults who struggle with taking on new responsibilities? Isn’t that like, ALL of fiction?”

Yes! :) All character arcs explore those “who am I, who do I want to be” questions. So all I’m seeing that’s different here is the college/post-college graduation setting and maybe a voice between YA and adult. (I call that questionable, however, because voice should be about the character, not their age.)

I’m Generation X, so I grew up in the shadow of the Baby Boomers. I remember reading/hearing countless stories about how the Boomers acted like they were the first generation to ever experience X thing. And they weren’t. It’s just that they made a big deal out of normal life. I suspect this is some of the same situation. I feel like shouting, “Guess what, Millenials! Almost all adults still feel like impostors, so these “New Adult experiences” aren’t nearly as unique as you think they are. Don’t be afraid to dive into genre fiction–you might find more in common with the protagonist’s experiences than you think.” LOL!

So yes, a label to point out how a book falls into a category that is selling so it’s not rejected simply based on that college/post-college setting–Great! Absolutely! But a whole genre–or even category? Eh, I’m not convinced that’s necessary or helpful in that discover-ability for readers outside the limited NA age range. Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Christina @FaerieWriter January 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I love the possibilities of this new category as a reader and a writer. I recently had an embarrasing experience at Barnes and Noble when asking where the YA section was (I am 31 years old), and reading about 16 and 17 year olds is tiresome when all I really care about is the urban fantasy and paranormal romance elements. The protagonist in my urban fantasy WIP is 22 years old and I was worried that I would have to drop her age to at least 18 in order to market it as YA just to get it seen along with the books I read. But NA is perfect so long as they will embrace fantasy subgenres and not just contemporary romance.

Reply

Jami Gold January 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Hi Christina,

Interesting. So how do you see NA with paranormal and romance elements as different from normal paranormal romance? Is it just an attempt to cross-promote to YA readers?

I ask because a good friend of mine published a YA trilogy with paranormal and romance elements. It had a love triangle which didn’t play out until the end of the trilogy. Most romances get their happily-ever-after at the end of the first book and don’t often have love triangles, so I can see how her books wouldn’t fit within paranormal romance. But it would fit in perfectly with urban fantasy. The ONLY difference between her books and urban fantasies is the age of the protagonist. That’s it. The themes, choices, story events, etc. are all so similar as to be indistinguishable from a storytelling perspective. So this seems to be merely a different approach to pigeonholing (by age) and a marketing decision.

(Above, we talked about the voice issue, but I’ve read YAs with mature teens and Adult books with immature protagonists, and the voices appropriate to each. So I don’t like saying that every YA has to be populated by an immature-enough protagonist to have an immature voice or vice versa. I’m often a goofball, and my adult characters should be allowed to not be oh-so-mature all the time too. :) )

Some people will like that different approach to pigeonholing and some won’t. Some people want their libraries in Alphabetical order and some want them by Genre. :) It’s a preference. I’d love to see online booksellers dual-shelve these books to make them easy to find by either browsing method. But for brick-and-mortar, that will be more difficult. :) Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Christina @FaerieWriter January 10, 2013 at 1:55 pm

My ideal NA section of the local bookstore would be exactly like YA but with older protagonists. It sounds like my interpretation of paranormal romance is different than yours, for example, I would consider Twilight a YA paranormal romance because it has paranormal and romance elements. Yes there is a love triangle but ultimately it is a love story. I haven’t really ventured into the adult category of paranormal romance, but definitely think that e-shelving in multiple categories is the way to go. More labels=more exposure.

Reply

Jami Gold January 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Hi Christina,

Oh yes, I agree with you about Twilight being a YA paranormal romance. In YA, the romance “must have a happily ever after at the end of the book” rule probably doesn’t apply as much to series. (In adult romances, an HEA at the end of the book is a requirement with very few exceptions.) Plus, I never felt that Twilight‘s love triangle was ever evenly balanced, even with New Moon being so Jacob-heavy.

The example trilogy I was referring to was less heavy on the romance aspects all around through the early books, and the triangle was a true, balanced triangle. Those added together to create the UF impression.

You’re absolutely right about more shelves equaling more exposure. We can hope that’s the direction the online booksellers will take. :) Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Tamara LeBlanc January 8, 2013 at 7:07 pm

So this, ladies and gentleman, is EXACTLY why I visit Jami Gold’s blog regularly!! I learn something new everytime I click on!!
Never, heard of New Adult, but that certainly doesn’t mean its not relevant. Lately it seems I have my head under a rock *or eyes plastered on my WIP* I don’t watch the news-ever-I don’t read newspapers-ever-I only watch educational programing (with some Downton Abby and a little Supernatural sprinkled in) so I barely ever know what’s going on.
Yes, that’s scary, but I kind of like my own little world. If something huge happens I let my husband or sisters fill me in (or my favorite blogger.
So…I’ve never heard of NA, but what a fascinating topic.
Hmm, I think the series I’m working on for my agent might be shelved there one day. My heroine is 22 and just finishing up college. She’s fallen for a 30 year old father of a 5 year old boy.
Interesting.
I’ll have to ask her.
THANK YOU for opening my eyes today!!
it’s good to get the wool thrown off now and then :)
Have a fabulous evening!
I’ll be pinning this one, Jami.
Hugs, Tamara

Oh, and I loved the insertion of sarcasm font! :)

Reply

Jami Gold January 8, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Hi Tamara,

LOL! And this is why I look forward to your comments so much, my friend. *hugs* You always bring a smile to my face. Thank you!

Reply

Serena January 8, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Oh I like how you pointed out the problem with genre pigeon-holing. I never paid attention to that but you’re right. I indeed find it easier to choose a book from the Teen section than from the genres sections–the latter just feels like there are too many choices and I can’t decide. XD

Also, oh I never knew that Fifty Shades of Grey started out as a fanfiction! Just to run off topic for a second, the English course I’m taking now requires us to read “Fanny Hill” by John Cleland. I haven’t read Fifty S. G. yet, but I’m guessing that it’s as explicitly and ridiculously erotic as “Fanny Hill”? XP

LOL I am in this New Adult age range—just turned 22 a few days ago. (Thanks for your birthday post on my wall ^^) However, I personally prefer to read about 17 year olds, or even children of 5 or 7 or 10 years! (I’m not that interested in 18+ characters, haha. Still a child at heart ^^)

Is there a section with protagonists in the age range of about 5 – 10 years? “Children’s books” is not it, because I like to write about child protagonists in that range but with a lot of adult themes. (I don’t mean sex, romance, or violence. Just that the things written about, described, and discussed are more philosophical, intellectual, and well…just much deeper and more complex than what the average child in that age range would understand.)

Reply

Jami Gold January 9, 2013 at 9:06 am

Hi Serena,

I hear you about being unable to decide when faced with too many choices. :) Would you believe that I didn’t like libraries when I was a kid because they stressed me out with that “where to begin” question? LOL! Even today, I’m 99% more likely to pick up a book from a recommendation than from random browsing at a bookstore or library.

As for your question, I’m not sure if this is what you’re getting at, but there’s a category called Middle Grade that falls between Children’s and YA both in terms of protagonist age and reading depth. Many MG books aren’t the fluffy stories of Children’s. To give you an idea, Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games fame wrote an MG series (the Gregor Underland Chronicles) before moving on to the YA of Hunger Games. I read Gregor first and understood why she was “allowed” to end on that cliffhanger in Hunger Games–The Powers That Be already knew she had the writing chops (in Gregor, I cried at the death of a bug–a BUG! LOL!). And of course, Harry Potter is a MG series that ages up slightly. MG generally runs from 8/10 years old to 12/14 years old or so as far as age (protagonist and reading level), I think.

As for Adult-focused books with children as narrators/protagonists, there’s no genre for that. I don’t think they’re common, but I know some exist. Probably a librarian would be best at helping track those down. :) Hope that helps! Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Serena January 9, 2013 at 8:58 pm

When you said Middle Grade, I was thinking Middle Earth. XDD Sorry I’m reading Lord of the Rings now, lol. (Yes, shame on me that I didn’t read it until now, haha.) Ooh 8 – 14 years old. That’s like Artemis Fowl! He was 12 – 15 years old. :) And as usual, I love child protagonists!

The poor bug! :(

“As for Adult-focused books with children as narrators/protagonists, there’s no genre for that. I don’t think they’re common”

Yes!!! I love it when I learn that I’m writing something not that many people are writing XD (Although I can think of “Room” with a 5 year old narrating an obviously adult, and very disturbing, themed story.)

Reply

Jami Gold January 9, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Hi Serena,

Yes, Artemis Fowl is another MG series. There are a ton of them now: Percy Jackson, Brotherband Chronicles, Alex Ryder, Inkheart, How to Train Your Dragon, The Last Dragon Chronicles, Kane Chronicles. Those are the series I can think of off the top of my head. LOL!

Ooo, yes, Room was one of the ones I was thinking of that fell into that child narrator category. I first heard of that story from the book trailer. Yikes! That was spooky. Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Taurean Watkins January 9, 2013 at 2:55 am

Jami, I never heard of this category until you brought it to my attention, as you may remember.

While I get the cynic comments of those above, as someone who’s in this supposed “fluff” category, let me tell you, for some of us drinking, drugs, and sex are NOT (I repeat, NOT!!) on our agendas. Hard as it may be to believe, some of us are still virgins, don’t talk like we’re in a ghetto-ized after-school special.

Even when I was a teen, most of the books aimed at me at the time just weren’t for me personally, and please understand, I respect authors like Ellen Hopkins or Patricia McCormick for having the courage to be so raw in their storytelling.

But my personal life is/was HARD ENOUGH to live. I didn’t have room in my heart for those hard hitting stories, and while I can’t say I’ve done a 180 at 25 (From where I was at 12-19), overall I’m taking more risks as a reader.

But as a writer, I still can only push the proverbial envelope so much, and while I don’t self-censor myself when I write, if I can’t write about something that requires a certain level of courage and surrender (i.e. sex or living with a mental illness/mentally ill mother), I won’t write it, or I just won’t share it with anyone.

As consequence, I often get comments regarding my stories as “Not enough conflict” or “Characters too nice” or “Are you trying to parody Leave it to Beaver” and I’m seriously not. But I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to let the life you lived definte all you write, let alone all you are about, and I guess to a degree my stories suffer for it.

I don’t think NA is a souless marketing push, it’s a category that needs to exist, and despite what some above who say adult novels already inherently fill that supposed void, you need to remember that adults today (Who are under 30, and born on and after 1990) don’t have the same milestones or live in the same world those of you adults 30+ did.

Economy aside, it’s taking longer to “Grow up” with things costing more, jobs requiring more, and more money to pay for that mandated schooling, and those of us who didn’t their education and are STRUGGLING to catch up. We didn’t choose to be “deadbeats still living at home” but we can’t afford to live anywhere else, and I wish more books in general faced this problem, without making us under 30 folks look hopelessly incompetent, sure some are, but don’t lump us all into the same boat.

Jami, while you’ve said college isn’t the right choice for everyone, I still wonder how true that really is, because the only jobs I see are ones that require some level of college education, and the few things I find that aren’t demanding degrees from four year schools are jobs in engineering and health care (Like nursing or some data admistration role) and I know I don’t want to work in the medical field. It requires a level of grace and emotional detatchment I just can’t give.

Maybe you could name some people (not nessecarily writers, of course) who didn’t go to college.

But please dont mention folks like Eientein, because the world he lived in and mine just aren’t comparable, people from this era, and ideally still ALIVE, would be more helpful, BTW.

Sorry if I sounded mad, but you know this is a subject that tugs at me heartstring, Jami. I say it from a kind place, and as somebody who’s trying to live it without cracking daily.

Take care All,
Taurean

P.S. For those who have time, maybe these videos and links will better illustrate the pressure I feel-

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/dropout-nation/

http://www.npr.org/2012/10/10/162643522/students-want-to-be-at-education-reform-table

http://www.americangraduate.org/component/content/article/610-pbs-newshour-why-students-drop-out-.html

Even though my life isn’t as traumatic as the kids in the vidoes/articles, I still have my crosses to bear, and I wish more of world at large would see the emotions behind students dropping out, not just the lost dollars and bottom lines, we won’t save HALF the kids and under 30 adults if all we care about test scores and treating college like God, and I’m sorry if I’m offending those with certain beliefs, but I can’t think of a more G-rated way to say it.

I get teachers have it tough, parents have it tough, our economy has it tough, but the students are no less immune to the turmoil involved, and we need to see them as adults, however flawed, we didn’t live this long not knowing ANYTHING.

Regardless of what some medical study says, I’m NOT a “Kid” anymore. I may not live in my own home, have a dozen college degrees, or a working class parent under 30, married or not, but I’m still NOT a kid anymore, and I can never be one again, and I wish educators and some parents would stop juding all of us under 30 adults.

Seniors still make mistakes, seasonsed workforce salarymen make mistakes, and yet by and large it’s the folks under 30′s mistakes that are the most scandaolous and unforgivable, and I’m tired of a few jerks taking the rest of us who don’t fit that mold down with them, at least that it how it feels sometimes.

I know I’m exsaggarting, but it does feel that way sometimes, it really does.

Reply

Jami Gold January 9, 2013 at 9:57 am

Hi Taurean,

I’m glad you weighed in with your thoughts. I had you and some of my other NA-aged readers in mind as I wrote this post. So while I, personally, see the pitfalls of the genre more than the potential, I tried to keep my explanation balanced.

And while I understand your struggle to find stories that speak to you and your desire for NA to be more than a soulless marketing push, I’m…hesitant…to say the new label will fit with what you’re looking for. Might it grow and fill those gaps? Absolutely. But right now, NA is very much centered on that college/post-college graduation setting, and the vast majority are romance and/or Sex in the City like stories.

Stina Lindenblatt made an interesting point to me about NA yesterday. The NA push really started when self-published authors decided they were going to write all these stories about 18-25 year old protagonists that no publisher would buy. So the self-published authors are really the ones creating the impression of NA by what they’ve chosen to write so far.

Does that mean other self-published authors could come in with some non-college-centered stories and label it NA? I don’t know. Maybe right now–this year–is the only time that could happen before the label gets nailed down too much. But if other stories don’t broaden expectations for NA soon, people will have the “college/post-college experience” expectations for the label–and situations like what you bring up would still be left out.

From what I can piece together, the breakdown works like this: If a 23 year old is married and/or has a kid and works at Starbucks to get by? Adult fiction. If a 23 year old is in college or is newly graduated and works at a Starbucks? Either New Adult or Romance–depending on…who knows. If a 23 year old never went to college and works at Starbucks? Nothing. Non-existent. Ditto for a no-college 23 year old trying to learn a trade, like construction, electrician, plumbing, or any of those other perfectly acceptable paths to independence.

It’s for this reason that I fear NA is either trying to define itself too broadly (all 18-25 year old protagonists) or too narrowly (college/post-college only) to make a real dent on the landscape. Like I said, I think these stories (all of them–including the non-college-focused ones) should be told. But I’m not sure if NA will catch on to the extent that YA has, as far as variety and sales figures and broad appeal, to bring readers to the table for all of those stories. We can hope. :) Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Taurean Watkins January 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Thanks for repling, Jami, I’m glad you at least get what I mean, and I do understand the cynacism, but I do feel even if this isn’t the right way to describe the kind of story I’m talking about, we can’t ignore it’s problem we as writers NEED to talk about and take action on.

We can’t leave this to the authors who self-publish, remember some of us can’t afford to, so I do take some issue with how you phrased some of your reply regarding NA right now, which I agree is true, but some of us under 30 folk really have MORE to worry about than the last orgasm we had, and I hope you know what I mean, Jami…

Reply

Jami Gold January 9, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Hi Taurean,

Oh, I absolutely agree with you about how these NA stories should explore more than just the Sex in the City style exploits. I have no interest in those types of stories either. :) And while they have their place, they don’t speak for everyone any more than any other one type of story does.

I truly hope authors will rise to the challenge of exploring more stories for this age range, and I really hope they connect with readers when they do so. My statements are only an observation of what the focus has been so far from what I can see, and certainly not a judgment what it can (or should) be. We can keep our fingers crossed together that NA will rise to that challenge. :) Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Serena January 9, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Hey Jami!

You’re right about how even though there are a lot of (from my very limited experience) Sex in the City-like adult novels, we should definitely focus on what can happen in the future rather than just what has been. We should hope for the future, not complain about the past/present like I was doing just now XD

Reply

Jami Gold January 9, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Hi Serena,

LOL! Don’t worry, there’s no problem with pointing out the problems of the current focus. If we don’t recognize the weaknesses, we won’t know what to fix, right? :)

Reply

Serena January 9, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Hi Taurean,

(I hope you see this post! If you don’t, Jami, could you help me pass on this message when you reply to her next comment? Thanks. ^^)

About the expenses of self publishing, there is actually a way to self publish for free. :) If you finish Nanowrimo (500K story in one month), you get to self publish at zero cost with CreateSpace (one of the biggest self publishing companies). You only need to pay the shipping costs to ship the five free copies of your book to you.

From what I’ve heard, CreateSpace has been offering this to Nanowrimo completers for some years now, so this tradition will likely continue; so you can happily consider self publishing now if you want this option. :) (I also agree that ordinary self publishing is madly expensive…O_O)

Hope that helps!

Reply

Jami Gold January 9, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Hi Serena,

I forwarded your reply to Taurean. :) Thanks!

Reply

Serena January 9, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Hey Taurean,

I’m sorry if I sounded cynical about many adult books being about sex and drugs. :( (And I do believe that many are still virgins, I am too. High five! ^^) It’s just that I was frustrated at seeing so many books about such messed up stuff—I just had the misfortune to encounter so many of this type in my limited experience; and when one sees a lot of examples of something one doesn’t like, one will start assuming that ALL of this category are like this, when in actual fact one simply did not see (or notice) the counterexamples. That’s what happened to me, I think. :(

But I’m very glad that you’ve pointed out to me using your own writing as an example that not ALL adult novels have those elements I so dislike. Thank goodness! :)

And I’m also sorry if I sounded like one of those who don’t care about the more unfortunate people in society. I didn’t intend to imply that either. :(

“As consequence, I often get comments regarding my stories as “Not enough conflict” or “Characters too nice” or “Are you trying to parody Leave it to Beaver” and I’m seriously not. But I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to let the life you lived define all you write, let alone all you are about, and I guess to a degree my stories suffer for it.”

I like your attitude! And I also find it really annoying how some readers think that “too nice” people don’t exist, because they do! I know a lot of wonderful people who really do “seem too good to be true” according to those critics. For instance, I’ve heard people say that Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games is unrealistic because nobody could be thatmorally good. I was so surprised that this commentator would say that because I’ve personally seen some people who are that “unbelievably” good; and there are so many examples of amazingly and astoundingly altruistic people in the news!

Reply

Taurean Watkins January 13, 2013 at 6:46 am

I didn’t get Jami’s forwarding, but I just read your replies to me and I’m thankful I’m not the only one who gets frustrated with this issue.

Before I go further, I just want to say upfront I’m a man, but don’t feel too bad, I’m used to being mistaken as female for various reasons, but it’s just another reason I NEED to upload a real picture of me as my universal avatar, but anyway…

I’ve had little success with Nanowrimo, and last year sadly was no exception. But it’s mostly because I don’t plan ahead for it, and unlike some writers I know, it takes more time for me to draft than a month, etc.

Still, thanks for letting me know about Createspace, but
as much I may want to self-publish some of my work, lack of money is an issue, and since I mostly write children’s books (For NON-Preschoolers), and I don’t write much YA or adult fiction myself, what Createspace offers Nanowrimo completer may not work for me.

Besides, I’ve been to Createspace’s website many times, and while 1,000 USD is nothing for some people, it’s wealth I’ve personally never had, and that’s why I get testy whenever someone brings self-publishing into the conversation.

It’s lack of money, not lack of will, compounded by the fact that the children’s book market below YA isn’t yet as receptive to self-published content in general, particularly when it comes to fiction, since nonfiction is inherently more vital, especially in the children’s market, but I’m not at home with nonfiction yet, so this adds further to my frustrations regarding self-publishing in general.

If it’s not the money, the quality isn’t there, and I don’t feel right cutting corners just to put it out there. I wish I felt differently, but that’s just where I’m at right now.

Reply

Jami Gold January 13, 2013 at 9:43 am

Hi Taurean,

Hmm, I sent the message to your email account that you leave comments with, so I’m sorry that got lost in the ether. :(

Reply

Taurean Watkins January 13, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Thanks, I got it, I just read Serena’s replies to me here. Can you forward her my reply to her reply, please?

Reply

Jami Gold January 13, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Hi Taurean,

Done. :)

Reply

Serena January 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Argh silly me for mistaking your gender. Sorry about that!

“the children’s book market below YA isn’t yet as receptive to self-published content in general, particularly when it comes to fiction,”
I see :(

“If it’s not the money, the quality isn’t there, and I don’t feel right cutting corners just to put it out there. ”

Oh I just want to point out that you don’t have to publish your Nanowrimo story—you can publish whichever already perfected story you have because CreateSpace won’t check which one it is!

Also, you could finish Nanowrimo if you don’t plan and just pants all the way to 50K, if you’re a pantser like me–it worked for me, lol.

Aw, I’m sorry to see that this Nano-CreateSpace-free-self-publishing won’t be suitable for you—yet I do understand how certain markets (children’s books) don’t like self published works. But just in case you one day change your mind, remember there’s always this route to free publishing. :)

Reply

I.J.Vern January 9, 2013 at 3:44 am

Hi Jami.

People don’t know what else to invent. I cringe when I read about genres. I don’t think I had any problem reading more than 3.5 k books without the Young Adult, New Adult, Old Adult, Middle Adult, Urban whatever, etc. characterization.

Urban. What does that mean? And no, I don’t need an explanation. But, people have lived and acted in cities for ages, do I have to classify it? Or am I so stupid that I don’t know what a city is? Or do I need a specification that the action is solely and only in a city? And why do I need it? Urban fantasy opposed to rural fantasy. Oh, and by no means let the character (or the action) cross the city’s boundaries by an inch, because you will be punished. It sounds ridiculous.

New adult. Is there a new species running around and we need an introduction about what they are? Ok, I could deal with Young Adult for the age. Even if I cringe. One is either an adult or not.

Moreover, these classifications can be insulting or discriminating against the audience. Not a new adult or a new adult? Don’t read A or don’t read B, you won’t get it. By the way, you’re new to adulthood, you have no idea what adult means yet, so stay in your corner…

Sarcastic much ;).

Genres should be about subjects, not about target markets. Descriptions of books make a fine job providing the age of the protagonists. They always did and they always will. If they don’t then maybe it’s just not worth reading those books. And do we really care if a book is young adult, urban or whatever else beside the subject? The rest is just a way to confuse readers and to make them scratch their heads regarding what a book is about and loss of time. It’s the job of marketing people to show they can be creative, even in wrong ways.

Reply

Jami Gold January 9, 2013 at 10:36 am

Hi Irene,

LOL! Yes, I have a hard time keeping up with all the genres too. I know you said you weren’t asking for an explanation, but Urban Fiction is different from Urban Fantasy. :)

Urban Fiction typically refers to stories of non-white protagonists struggling with drugs, gangs, and racism in inner-city settings. I believe it’s a subgenre of just plain Adult Fiction. Urban Fantasy is a subgenre of Science Fiction/Fantasy (which are often lumped together on shelves) and refers to the fact that it has fantasy (supernatural/paranormal) aspects but takes place on Earth rather than a fantasy place/planet. For a while, people joked about needing a Rural Fantasy subgenre to cover the Earth-based-but-not-in-a-city stories, but Urban Fantasy seems to have grown to cover all Earth-based fantastical stories. (Which gives hope that New Adult might eventually grow to encompass more than just the college/post-college experience.)

Believe me, I’m right there with you on the sarcasm. :) As I mentioned in a comment above, unless these stories are dual-shelved, they’re going to turn off potential readers who don’t think New Adult stories would appeal to them. But as I also mentioned, many of these aging-up YA readers aren’t used to browsing by subject, and seem to be resistant to do so. I’m not sure that’s a wrong/right rather than a preference. And if libraries/booksellers determine that this boomer generation has enough purchasing power to dictate a change for how to organize shelves, they’ll do it.

Personally, I’m rooting for dual-shelving and/or an NA label within the normal shelves. :) I don’t want to miss out on some great stories that don’t appear on my preferred shelves because the author/publisher decided to chase the NA trend.

Daisy Harris and I had an interesting conversation about NA on Twitter, and she pointed out that it could also be an attempt to get romance onto the shelves at college and indie bookstores–many of which REFUSE to carry the Romance genre. (Which is a whole other rant. *sigh*) I can certainly see the truth in that as well, but it’s all just adding to the confusion. The whole world needs to add a genre just to get past the elitism of some bookstores??? Er, yeah, don’t get me started. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Emilia_Quill January 9, 2013 at 10:31 am

“…explore the world through first jobs and Sex in the City style romances. ”
I knew I missed out on something or maybe you can’t have Sex in the City style romances in Helsinki :P

I’ve heard about New Adult, but I don’t know much about it. Shelving by age range reminds of when I wanted to buy a fantasy book in Madrid. The fantasy shelf was useless since I’m not fluent in spanish.
I stood before the english section wondering which one might be fantasy. I grabbed Lev Grossman’s The Magicians because it had the word ‘magic’ on the title. Dragon, elf, selkie etc. would’ve worked as well.
If faced with a shelf of mixed genre’s I’d probably react the same way and grab the book that screams fantasy or rely on a friend’s recommendation.

Reply

Jami Gold January 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Hi Emilia,

Interesting! This example brings to mind another thought. High schoolers don’t realize how narrow their world view is. I don’t mean anything negative by that statement, just an observation that 99%+ of 14-18 year olds have the high school experience in common (in the U.S. at least). The culture of various high schools can vary, with its mix of cliques, jocks, geeks, etc., but the high school setting is recognizable to all.

However, that extremely high percentage of commonality does not exist past high school. After high school, everyone literally goes their separate ways.

There’s a reason high school best friends often drift apart. After a few years, they find they don’t have anything in common anymore. One went to college, one didn’t. One is working at an internship, one is slinging burgers at McDonalds. One has a steady boyfriend/girlfriend/is thinking of settling down, one parties on the clubbing circuit. One is raising their children in a two-parent household, one is raising their child alone after the baby daddy abandons them.

When I look at one family of my cousins, I see everything from a 50 year old who invented the term “extended adolescence” (he still has no idea what he wants to do with his life–at 50!) to a stereotypical college-bound nuclear family. Despite their common upbringing, there is no commonality in their adult experiences. High school is the last thing these brothers and sisters all had in common.

THIS is why Adult Fiction is broken into genres by subject. Age breakdowns just don’t cut it anymore. As Taurean points out above, the college/post-college experience doesn’t speak to everyone in that age range.

None of that means NA can’t work and become popular, but the differences of experiences among the NA age range will make it difficult emulate the broad readership and success of YA. Thanks for great discussion!

Reply

Madeleine Miles January 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm

I personally am very excited about the NA catagory, and this is why: I prefer reading YA books over adult books.
I’m not actually sure why, but I think it has something to do with the tone. Adult books lose some of that youthful hope and bleeding passion. To me, they feel closed off, jaded, and cynical. And I just…..get bored.
That said, I also get tired of reading about teens and high school and that whole scene. One of the reasons I loved The Hunger Games: the tone and pace was YA, but the characters were thrown into a more adult situation.
So, personally, I can’t wait to see NA books all over, in all different genres.

Reply

Jami Gold January 11, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Hi Madeleine,

I can understand that. For me, I’m not fond of angst, so I avoid many YA books unless the story itself is solid beyond the angst. But as you said, many adult books can be very dark and depressing. It will be interesting to see how NA develops. :) Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Kimberly March 10, 2013 at 11:36 pm

I’m a little late to this post, but oh well! I’m actually pretty excited about this new genre. I’m twenty years old and I love YA books, but I find myself wanting more steamy sex scenes between the characters. I’m hopeful this new genre brings that element. I personally find that I don’t relate to adult romance novels, so reading those would be an odd step for me. I feel like NA could be something really great.

Reply

Jami Gold March 10, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Hi Kimberly,

I’ve been hearing more people excited about this genre, so I hope it comes together and offers people what they’re looking for. :) Thanks for the comment!

Reply

What do you think?

49 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Previous post:

Next post: