New Adult fiction – the missing genre?

Have you ever read a book that didn’t seem to fit squarely in either Young Adult (YA) or Adult fiction? It might have been about someone who has just moved out of home to go to uni. Or someone who’s just finished uni and is now trying to prove himself in his first professional job.

The protagonists in these books are too mature to be considered YA protagonists, but they’re not worldly enough to be considered Adult protagonists. So where do they fit?

According to St Martin’s Press, they fit in a new, previously-unidentified genre called ‘New Adult’. JJ from St Martin’s Press explains that, ‘New Adult [fiction] is about young adulthood, when you are an adult but have not established your life as one (career, family, what-have-you)’.

Kristin Hoffman elaborates further, explaining that New Adult fiction is, ‘…about transition. The transformation 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.

Kristin goes on to explain that New Adult protagonists are mostly likely in the range of 18 to 26 years old. ‘College, first jobs, first relationships, or marriage… There’s a lot that can happen when you’re 18-26, but the fact is, those same events feel very different at that age than they do at 12 or at 40. Because kids and teens focus on the present, while adults draw on their past experience to inform their present and future decisions. New Adults are somewhere in between…. That distinction might seem subtle, but it comes through loud and clear in the voice of New Adult fiction.’

I’ve been overjoyed to discover this new genre of fiction. Why? Because I’ve always described Tangled (my novel-in-progress) as Young Adult, but that categorisation has never sat comfortably with me. Now I know why. Now I have a genre that fits. Tangled – which follows the journey of two country teenagers as they try to survive living away from home to attend an inner city university –  is well and truly New Adult. It describes many of those New Adult blisters and aches Kristin talked about, including struggling to get along with flatmates and trying to deal with changing relationships with close friends.

A number of my favourite books could be classified as New Adult, including:

Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life and Somebody’s Crying by Maureen McCarthy

World of Chickens and Bachelor Kisses by Nick Earls

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Book covers of new adult fiction

So, what do you think? Do you agree there should be a New Adult genre? Or do you think it’s splitting hairs and the Young Adult and Adult genres are sufficient? Are there any books you’d classify as New Adult fiction? Do tell!

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61 Comments

Filed under Authors, Maureen McCarthy, New Adult fiction, Nick Earls, Reading, Tangled, Tracy Chevalier, Writing, Writing style, YA fiction

61 responses to “New Adult fiction – the missing genre?

  1. I think it makes sense that there’s a category in between YA and Adult. Those college years definitely don’t fit into either!

  2. Robyn Martin

    I totally agree that New Adult should be a genre on its own. I’ve just realised that my latest WIP would fit into that genre perfectly. Let me know if you agree.

  3. I think it is an excellent classification. I think people of all ages like ‘coming of age’ books, movies, etc. To clearly delineate this as a genre is great for people interested in this type of material.

  4. I think some of my stories would fit into that category pretty well!

  5. My current books would probably be New Adult. As it is, I classify them as YA because they’re more YA than adult.

    Then again, I think it depends a lot on what the publisher decides. My co-author and I are writing a series that we define as YA, but quite a lot of the protags are adults, and when the first book was published, it ended up being classified as Juvenile Fiction. *shrugs* So it can be really subjective.

  6. Great post Cally. I love how they’ve defined New Adult. It’s nice to have some parameters to check my new WIP against. Faerie Wings would definitely fit here. Originally, my MC just graduated from the university, but I’m considering sticking her back in. 🙂 Decisions, decisions…

    I hope they start shelving New Adult separately. That would be a big help for those of us who write it.

    • I bet that MC will be mighty annoyed at you if you send her back to university. All those years of study, wasted! 😉

      Thanks, Charity!

      My guess is there’s not much chance that bricks-and-mortar book shops will shelve it separately (too little space) but e-retailers might if there’s enough interest in it as a separate genre. Fingers crossed! 🙂

  7. I think this new adult category is great. I had to convince a fellow blogger to turn her WIP into or do a big rewrite because once a protagonist is in college, it’s not YA.

  8. Great Post! I’m definitely a New Adult, and I write New Adult fiction for the most part. I really hope St. Martin will be able to make this into a new genre with it’s own shelves at the store, because I would love to read more of it (if only it were easier to find hidden in the YA and Adult sections!) and I certainly want people to be able to find my writing some day 🙂

    • I’m no longer a New Adult, by definition. *Sigh* But I usually still feel qute new to this whole adult caper and still refer to myself as a ‘girl’ so I’m claiming to be a ‘New Adult’ anyway!

      Wouldn’t it be nice if these books were easier to find? I think it’s more likely for e-book stores than physical ones (not enough space), but time will tell!

  9. This new category makes sense, if only because our culture delays the entry into adulthood for most people. At 40, I still don’t feel quite grown up! In former years, college age people would have been considered fully adult.

    I’m happy to learn about New Adult, though, because my WiP doesn’t quite fit in YA or Adult categories. Hooray!

  10. I am thrilled that New Adult is coming into its own. I have a couple WIPs that fit this genre.

  11. One of my novels isn’t YA or adult fiction…even though the characters are all 19 going on 20. I 0nly recently heard about New Adult fiction, but it seems to fit this particular story!

  12. An interesting topic, and well put.

    I can really see the thinking behind the idea of New Adult and I don’t think it’s splitting hairs, but is it possibly splitting readers? And, if it is, do we have enough readers in Australia to split?

    We know how to sell YA fiction, and we know how we sell adult fiction, but how do we sell New Adult and who’s buying it? Those feel like some of the questions when looking at it from a business point of view.

    I’ve written a few books that I hoped could work in some kind of overlap between YA and adult, but the fear every time is that the novel might fall into a gap instead. Mostly they’ve been marketed as YA. The ones of mine that you’ve mentioned were marketed as adult, but I agree they fit squarely into the New Adult category.

    Now how do we make that work for us? How do we make it something that makes us sell more books?

    • Thanks for dropping by and offering your thoughts, Nick. You make some interesting points.

      Personally, I think we do have enough readers in Australia to split – 20-somethings (who might be put off by a YA classification) would arguably read New Adult and younger teens (who might not want to venture into the fully fledged ‘adult’ category) might also be interested in New Adult. So you’d get a slice from either side of the market.
       
      And with the move to a more international audience through e-books, the readership for Australian novels has the potential to increase significantly. Given the increase in books available, this segmentation might help readers sort through the virtual shelves to hone in on what they’re really interested in. This cut-through could, in effect, help us sell more books.
       
      On top of that, there are many maketing channels aimed at New Adults (particularly in the magazine and online sectors) which could help us reach the target audience.
       
      They’re the reasons why I believe New Adult could be viable as a distinct category. In saying that, my opinion is based on very little research so I wouldn’t reject valid arguments that suggest otherwise.

      • You’re right about the YA badging of a book putting plenty of post-17 readers off. A few years ago I saw some books released in YA and adult editions, with totally different covers and looks (and an adult price point a couple of dollars higher, for identical content). And I’ve heard from quite a few people >17 who ended up reading novels of mine badged YA and who were surprised how well the experience went …

        Is there anything to say that readers aged 18-26 would respond better to a book badged New Adult rather than Young Adult? Is it a demographic that might prefer something more subtle than being categorised (yet again, and yet again mostly by people older than them)? Might it be better achieved by design than by a label? That is, give the book a look that clearly signals the market it’s being put out to, and target appropriate media.

        The e-book point is good, though we still haven’t really worked out how to break new (non-celeb) talent that way. There’s a lot of noise out there, and a lot of people selling only a few copies. That’ll change though. It already is changing, but if you know how to create an e-book hit, you know more than I do.

        I think the really interesting point is the one about marketing channels. That’s changing across the board. A book tour and everything surrounding it already looks very different now to the way it looked in 2006, and that should only be more so if you’re targeting people aged 18-26.

        I think your main issue here – assuming you were to start by selling your novel to an Australian publisher – might be convincing the publishers that NA is a viable category (from PK Hrezo’s comment below its use in the US even seems limited). There are books published here with 18-26-y-os as a target market, but they’re typically published as adult, and then designed and marketed to target their specific market.

        And any Australian author thinking of bypassing Australian publishers and going straight to NYC needs to get ready for their royalties from Australian sales to be 1/3 to 1/2 what they’d be if they had a publisher here.

        And anyone thinking of avoiding p-books entirely and going only to e-books really needs to have a good reason and a very good plan to pull it off.

        From my own point of view, maybe my NYC agent should be putting in a call to St Martitn’s Press. They published World of Chickens there (?in 2002) on their adult list with unspectacular results, so maybe it’s time for a fresh start for it with them as NA?

        I think we can all see the point in NA. The big question, maybe, is whether or not anyone can prove to the industry (anywhere) that it’s commercially viable. They’re the people who need to be convinced.

        • That’s really interesting about seeing books released in both YA and adult editions with different covers – I guess it makes sense from a marketing perspective as different covers would appeal to the different age groups. Come to think of it, they did this with the last Harry Potter book – that is, they produced a more mature cover for adults like me who are as addicted to the series as children!

          You ask an interesting question about whether readers aged 18-26 would respond better to a book badged New Adult rather than Young Adult. I don’t think the badging itself would make much of a difference (‘New Adult’ and ‘Young Adult sound pretty similar, really). But pulling the books out of the Young Adult section and shelving them separately could make a difference, because New Adult readers wouldn’t have to trawl through the books aimed at young teens to find the ones they’re interested in. Given the lack of shelf space already in most bookshelves however, I’m not holding high hopes that this will happen anytime soon.

          You’re absolutely right that the biggest challenge to having New Adult accepted as a genre would be getting buy-in from the gatekeepers – publishers and book sellers. I think there’d be a better chance of it being recognised in e-book stores because their shelf space is infinite. Perhaps if it was a smashing success online, bricks-and-mortar book stores might look at adopting it as marketing strategy too. But in terms of influencing traditional publishers, there’s a long way to go and I wouldn’t have the first idea about how to go about this.

          Regarding the e-book market, I’ve been following a lot of blogs that talk about how to achieve success in this area (social media, social media, social media). But as you said, there are a lot more hits than misses, and of course, you hear more about the hits than you do the misses. Have you seen Joe Konrath’s blog? He’s a strong advocate for writers going it alone by self publishing e-books and print-on-demand paper books, arguing that people have a better chance of making more money that way. I know he’s American, but some Australian authors are singing the same tune, such as Joanna Penn.

          I’m considering going down the self publishing route with Tangled, mainly because I know the hefty word count will turn the vast majority of YA agents and publishers off. I’ll only self publish, though, if I (and esteemed others) believe Tangled is ‘ready’. I don’t want to taint my reputation as an author by publishing something that’s not at a high literary standard. I’d be very keen to get your thoughts on self publishing as an option in today’s market.

          And for you, yes, it probably would be a good idea to ask your agent to get in touch with St Martin’s Press. Can’t hurt, can it? 🙂

  13. I love the idea for the genre, think it’s a smart move to gear toward that readers. One of my mss is new adult, but during the query process learned that agents do not honor the genre. It’s more like a sub-category and very very hard to identify yourself as a new adult author. It’s really disappointing because it’s such an important age IMO. St. Martin’s press is the only one who actively identifies it, yet they require submissions via agents.
    Let me know if you have any luck with it. I gave up on querying as new adult and stuck with “older YA.”

    • It’s a shame that very few publishers recognise New Adult as a separate category. Hopefully this will change over time. You might be interested to read the conversation in the comments above between myself and Nick Earls (a prominent Australian author). I’ll definitely let you know if I have any luck! 🙂

  14. laradunning

    A genre that is much needed to fill that gap between teen years and adulthood.

  15. Intriguing! New Adult? I suppose that makes sense . . . only now I’m really getting confused with all the different genres and sub-genres and age groups. LOL.

  16. Back in the pre-e-book days, some people made self-publishing work, but they tended to be people whose work had a niche market to which they had better access than mainstream publishers.

    Technology has the potential to make everyone their own publisher. The problem is it could make EVERYONE their own publisher.

    Garrison Keillor last year in the New York Times said the ‘the future of publishing [is] 18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75.’

    But people are working out how to make it work as a business. You need a way of getting people to buy YOUR book. You need to send the right signals in a world full of noise.

    Do you know Will Entrekin? Have a look for his blog. He has a lot of good ideas, as does Kate Eltham at QWC.

    If you do self-publish, I’d say pay a good freelance editor to work with you first, and find someone who can really take you where you need to be online.

    • As the e-book market expands, sorting through the masses to find quality writing will definitely be a challenge for readers. I think tools like Amazon reviews will play an increasingly important role, which is both exciting and scary, given some of the reviews I’ve read.

      I’m a subscriber to Kate Eltham’s blog (which provide excellent food for thought) but I’ve not heard of Will Entrekin. I’ll definitely check him out. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic, Nick. It’s great to get your perspective and I really appreciate the time you’ve spent.

      I’ll keep you posted as Tangled progresses. 🙂

  17. Hi Cally
    Fasinating post and discussion especially as I am just completeing a novel that could be either YA and Adult. But I think one point is missed here. Genere is not just about content (what it’s about) but also writing style which in turn reflects the assumed audience, e.g. Lord of the Flies is not really a children’s book although about children. Similarly, I put Girl with a Pearl Earring as mainstream adult despite the age of the protagonist. Think I may follow this up on my own blog …
    Alib

    • You make a good point, Ali, and one I’m inclined to agree with. I put Girl with a Pearl Earring in my list because St Martin’s Press had it as an example, but in thinking about it more I agree that Pearl Earring’s tone is more suited to an Adult audience than New Adult or Young Adult. Voice is a critical factor in determining where a book should sit. Room by Emma Donahue, for example, is told from the POV of a five year old but is most definitely a book for Adults only. Thanks for dropping by and giving your thoughts. Swinging by your blog now… 🙂

  18. Thanks for this post. I understand the dilemma, I write older YA, and a number of my friends who write college-aged stories are stumped on where and how to sell them. This summer I’ll be teaching a workshop about the Young Adult-New Adult concept, and I’m eager to hear more stories and learn of more examples that I might be able to use in my presentation.

    • Thanks for visiting and leaving your thoughts, B.A. You might also be interested to check out the Debut Novelist’s blog post about new adult fiction. Hope your workshop goes well!

  19. This would explain a gap I felt in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series… Whilst “Twilight”, “New Moon” and “Eclipse” seemed comfortably YA, “Breaking Dawn” didn’t seem to fit because of the subject matter (which I won’t specify as it might spoil others’ enjoyment). Now I realise it’s probably because “Breaking Dawn” is new adult! Some might argue that genre doesn’t matter, and that they’re all simply great stories, and they would of course be right. However, it sometimes helps to indicate approximate genre classifications when recommending books to others, and their kids! You don’t want young readers reading something too old for them 😀

    • Interesting thought. I hadn’t considered that myself, but there was definitely a shift between the other Twilight books and Breaking Dawn. You could say that Eclipse sat on the cusp of YA and New Adult, given some of its themes, but Breaking Dawn would definitely sit within New Adult. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts, Zena. 🙂

  20. Loved reading all the comments as well as the original post. My manuscript definitely falls under this category and it is killing me trying to categorize it. It is way too gritty for a younger adult audience, though the characters are seventeen years old. Still waiting for an agent to say they are looking for a “new adult” project.

    • Glad the post was useful for you, Annemarie. It’s tricky to trying to find the right angle to pitch these books, isn’t it? Perhaps it would be worthwhile for you to find other books in the marketplace that are targeting a similar audience and that way, you can include them as comparisons in your pitch letters? That way, it demonstrates there is a market for them.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  21. Just wrote a new query and subbed to an agency that represented a series with similiar themes…keeping my fingers crossed. Thanks Cally!

  22. Pingback: New Adult Fiction « Vickietaylor's Blog

  23. SOONMUN

    I just finished book one to my novella series a while back, and I had trouble defining what it was. I didn’t consider it a YA, do to only three characters being between ages 17-26. The rest are all adults. The point of the series is actually about a female college student falling in love with a business man and coming into her own after her mother is killed. My story isn’t about two high schoolers being in love, her boyfriend problems, or back stabbing friends. it’s about something so much deeper than YA based stories.(Not trying to insult the genre, but most YA stories are similar. They also mostly target women and people ages 20-under.)

    Note: I was being brief in describing my novella series. It’s more than just romance, it’s actually an epic paranormal romance, Mystery/suspense, and now New Adult Fiction.

  24. authorheatherwood

    Really hope the New Adult genre takes off. It’s exactly where my book fits in. The main character is 21 and agents keep telling me she’s too old for the young adult genre. I don’t feel the story really could be categorized as an adult romance though.

  25. Mimi

    Yes, yes yes! New Adult is perfect! I always felt that my current book didn’t quite fit in YA or A!

  26. Pingback: The Future of YA: Is older YA turning into ‘New Adult’? | Website of Megan Burke

  27. This post is perfect for my current dilemma because the story I am writing right now started with young adult characters but as I keep on making changes, they just keep on sounding older to me but not quite full out adult yet. I had no idea there was a new adult genre but I am so glad there is a name for it now.

    What an interesting post. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  28. Hushed by Kelley York is another great “New Adult” novel. I hope other publishers follow St. Martin’s lead. This is an untapped market that is ready to explode.
    Great post.

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  31. I just returned from a writing conference, at which, I pitched my story, Dream Weaver, to 7 AEs and got 6 requests. However, they all want me to decide if my story is YA or Adult. I made my protagonist 21, only because there would be an underage drinking scene if went the YA route. I didn’t know how publishers would feel about that.
    It was only when I got home that I stumbled upon the term New Adult. I think it’s a great idea. As a reader, I tend toward the YA. I don’t really care for most Adult books. They say write what you read, so at this point, in order to make AEs happy I have to choose. I really hope the industry considers this as a new genre.
    Su

  32. Hello!
    First, allow me to apologize for the length of this comment! It’s long, but I feel I need to write all of this down! It covers a LOT for this NEW genre that I HOPE to see come to fruition!
    I found your post in a search I did on the “NEW” genre I’ve been seeing (or at least what I think is a new genre!) on ‘some’ YA blogs calling it “New Adult”! I have seen them ‘clumping’ this genre together WITH YA. So, I did a search on this genre as I have not seen it before and I am curious! I am SO GLAD I have found this article, as it DOES clear up what I was wondering!
    This ‘new genre’ is SO NEEDED! I completely agree with you and ALL the Comments!
    I have a book blog over at http://www.lauriehere.blogspot.com in which I do book reviews of Adult Contemporary Fiction, Popular Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Mystery/Suspense/Thrillers. I don’t generally do YA, but every now and then, I do read and review books such as “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It’s genre, according to Amazon is Literary, Family Saga, and Psychological Thrillers. WHAT? Especially the Psychological Thriller? That does NOT fit! WHERE did they get ‘that’ genre for this book? It’s about a young girl who was orphaned as an infant, lived with numerous foster families until one woman comes along and wants to adopt her when she was 10. When the time came for this woman to actually adopt her, she chickens out and never does it due to her shortcomings. At this point she has to go back to live at a girls’ home through the state until she is emancipated at 18. (The author wrote this book on the seriousness of the ’emancipation issues’ that we have going on. It’s where our children turn 18, and they are turned out onto the street. It IS a HUGE issue. These kids are NOT ready to fully be able to SUPPORT themselves! They can’t put a roof over their own heads! There is a GREAT interview on Amazon where the author talks about this issue in much greater detail. It’s a super interview!) Anyway, it tells us about this young girl’s life after this happens, how she lives, where she lives, her first job she gets, a man she meets, and more. ‘This book’ would be PERFECT for the “New Adult” genre! Even myself, who doesn’t really get into YA as an adult at the age of 45, I enjoyed this book immensely! It was a VERY good story! (I generally don’t review YA only because I’m so far removed from that age group that the stories don’t really fit where I am at in life anymore. I’m FAR removed from being a teenager! LOL!!!)
    Take my 19 year old daughter. She has QUIT READING! She is in her 2nd year of college now, and can’t find ANY ‘good’ books to read. She doesn’t like the YA anymore as she considers herself ‘above’ the High School issues that occur in the YA genre. She does NOT like the Adult genre, as a lot of it is too old for her. She is having a problem finding books to read, despite my suggestions! I’m MOM! Mom can’t have ANY good suggestions! You all most likely know how that goes! LOL!
    “IF” this genre IS recognized by the Publishing Industry, AND put on the Bookstore’s shelves, they would find a HUGE audience for it! At least this is MY opinion, an opinion of a book blogger/reviewer!
    The one thing that bothers me IS the use that some of the YA blogs are using this genre as being ‘part of’ YA. It’s NOT, yet they ARE clumping them together. I wish they would NOT. It’s completely separate.
    Take, for example, some parents. Some parents read their kids’ books prior to allowing them to read the books they want to read. My own sister-in-law ‘claims’ she does this. I can’t see HOW she could because her 2 daughters read like crazy! My nieces are 13 and 15. My 13 year old niece cannot find a book THICK ENOUGH! My 15 year old niece LOVES the Vampire books! They read SO MUCH that my sis-in-law can’t keep up with reading ALL of the books! She has a full-time job, and doing all the other stuff Mom’s have to do! So her claim that she reads EVERYTHING BEFORE allowing her girls to read books cannot be true, but, there ARE some parents who DO do this. Mix in the YA genre with New Adult, and we will have books that DON’T GET READ! That is what I don’t like about the ‘clumping’ of these genres together. Some parents may think the New Adult genre is too old for their 16 year old’s. Anyway . . .
    Myself, being a realist, wish parents would allow their kids to read any and all books because this world is NOT a super great place to live in, and I think kids should know this, and NOT get life sugar-coated. So with this addition of New Adult, it sure would make the parents’ job a whole LOT easier! But the clumping of the YA AND New Adult genres
    together, in my opinion, should not be done. They ARE separate. That, I don’t like. It’s going to HAVE to be one or the other.
    CONGRATULATIONS to you authors who have written New Adult!!! Thank you!!! You have done this age group a TREMENDOUS thing! You will get them to CONTINUE READING!
    I HOPE this takes off! I DO see it starting to happen on review blogs!
    IF there is ANYTHING us book review blogs can do, PLEASE LET US KNOW!! I’m MORE than happy to do ANYTHING to get this genre off the ground and GOING!
    Laurie Carlson
    http://www.lauriehere.blogspot.com
    laurieisreading at gmail dot com

  33. Pingback: What About Plain Old Adult-Adult? « Bloodthirsty Muses

  34. Pingback: Work Wednesday: New Reading Trend: New-Adult Fiction? « Ben Nanamaker

  35. kidsculture89460

    I just self published a new adult book, however I have found a lot of poorly written romance novels listed under this genre which I find insulting to the intended audince. Upon launching this new book “Denali Skies” I am offering copies for free and only asking that those who read it donate a book review on my website or more importantly Amazon.com
    This is the link to read it for free: https://www.createspace.com/Preview/1119453

  36. Finally! A genre for my characters! Thank you for this post, the explainantion and claarification. The list of favorite books that are New Adult makes perfect sense. The diescription that it is a bout transition is brilliant. I can see clearly. . . for a change. Thanks!

    • In excitement I made several typing errors. explanation, clarification, description, about….
      I also appreciate the back and forth exchange with Nick. Great information, talking points. Glad I’ve found you all.

  37. Pingback: A Primer on Writers’ Acronyms | Julie Glover, Writer

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