Defined by its bold exploration into the life of the typical twenty-something, the category of literature dubbed “New Adult” has been pushing the boundaries of the publishing world since its creation by St. Martin’s Press in 2009. Critics of the genre, however, have not received the “NA” title well; while some claim that the “raw coming of age stories” that typically fall in the New Adult genre had been around years before its label, others claim that this new category is filling a chasm that had long been ignored by authors and publishers alike[i]. Despite the doubters, New Adult literature has gained a massive following because of these four reasons:
- The gap between Children’s and Adult Fiction has finally been filled. Writers House agent Merrilee Heifetz says new adult fiction caters to the “post-YA reader” that used to lose momentum once they transitioned to adult content from children’s reads. Because of the mega popularity surrounding explosive YA series like The Hunger Games or The Twilight Saga, readers and publishers had both seemed to forget that those series cater to an audience 12-18 years old. For young adult fans who devoted their time to the YA genre, the more mature, yet still accessible content of New Adult fiction says “here, these books are for you.”[ii] Yet the NA genre satisfies more than its readers; Karen Grove, YA editor for Entangled Publishing, often came across manuscript submissions that she loved, but had no place for within the YA genre: “It drove me crazy that there was no place for these books…they wouldn’t be successful in YA and they wouldn’t find an audience in adult. They were in between. It seems the 18–24-year-old had been forgotten in literature.” Well, not anymore. With literature that finally explores the transition period from dependent teen to independent adult, readers who were previously being “forgotten” now have an overwhelming number of options upon stepping up to the New Adult section in bookstores, while publishers finally have the opportunity to put them there.
- New authors are being discovered in new ways. The genre’s roots are in the digital world as many of the established NA authors began as up-and-coming online self-publishers. In contrast to the traditional manuscript submission process, the New Adult genre evolved through a more technological setting: publishers are now seeking out authors because of the success of their self-published eBooks[iii]. As Angela James, editorial director for Carina Press told PW journalist Julie Naughton, “digital books were and continue to be the main driver of the new adult category”. Seeing as though these self-published eBooks gained popularity through consumer sales and fans’ “word of mouth”, publishers couldn’t help but take notice. According to journalist Natalie Butz, the genre continues to grow in this way: “New adult novels are still gaining popularity this way, with large publishing houses calling only after they see books having significant success online. It’s probably another reason new adult is so appealing to our generation- it’s a genre fighting to be taken seriously written for a generation fighting to be taken seriously.”
- There are no restrictions on the audience. Just like YA audiences sprawled across generations of literature lovers, publishers are finding that NA is having the same effect on its consumers. Unlike children’s literature, which is usually targeted up to age 12, and adult literature, which is not marketed to the young adult crowd based on mature content, the new adult genre speaks to issues that young adults are facing for the first time and that older readers have already experienced. Dan Weiss, who was the Publisher at Large at St. Martin’s Press, as well as the creator of the term “New Adult”, had this to say about the audience: “I had known for years that older readers were reading [young adult novels]…Over the last few years, the phenomenon has been well-documented….the line between teen and adult books has been blurring ever since”[iv]. Though that audience is intended to be readers 18-24 years old, NA does not discriminate against those that can relate to its content.
- The future looks bright. Multiple authors, including NA authors Jennifer L. Armentrout and Jay Crownover, say the possibilities within this genre are numerous and exciting. Crownover exclaims, “I think readers like to walk on the wild side. There is room in the market for exploration.” Though the literature has often been described as an extension of the romance genre, the authors of New Adult novels explore wilder worlds because they’re founded in reality and readers can relate to them. In this sense, the New Adult genre provides the ultimate platform for writers to jump into original and bold projects that have never been explored before.
Though it has been five years since the genre took off, there are still critics who continue to categorize the genre as “repackaged chick lit” and “sexed-up young adult”. Publishers know that the ultimate indicator is the readers, who have quickly transformed into fans, and it doesn’t look like they’re giving up on the genre anytime soon. The only question left to be answered is, where will New Adult literature take us next?
[i] Naughton, Julie. “New Adult: A Book Category For Twentysomethings by Twentysomethings.” PublishersWeekly.com. N.p., 11 July 2014. Web. 09 Sept. 2014.
[ii] Source: Deahl, Rachel. “New Adult: Needless Marketing-Speak or Valued Subgenre?” Publishers Weekly. N.p., 14 Dec. 2012. Web. 7 Sept. 2014
[iii] Butz, Natalie. “Publishing Invented a Brand New Literary Genre for 18-25 Year Olds.” Mic. N.p., 10 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.
[iv] Klems, Brian. ““New Adult”: The Next Big Thing?” WritersDigestcom. N.p., 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.