I asked in a Goodreads group back in May what ‘New Adult’ (NA) meant to them. Answers ranged from sexed up YA, to college drama, and most believed it was a genre all of its own. They are all right, and wrong. One thing is clear, NA has some identity issues.
NA is not a genre. NA, like Young Adult (YA), expresses an overall ‘feel’ for the book. It’s a marketing term; the road sign that lets readers know what to expect; the shelf marker in your bookstore. Generally, the protagonist is between 18 – 30 years old. That doesn’t mean just those in that age bracket should read it. It means, the protagonist is 18 – 30, that’s it. You can have NA fantasy, NA comedy, NA romances, NA sci-fi (I’d like to read that!). Those are genres. NA is not sexed up YA (although it can be). It’s more complex than that. It’s not all about college either. As far as I can tell, the protagonists age is the only static requirement. Beyond that, NA is anything and everything. NA has the ingredients of sex, life, and relationships, and tosses them into a big genre-cake of your choosing. But, I only know this because I’ve researched it. Readers don’t have that benefit. Publishers are beginning to realise the potential of NA. Once they do embrace the NA market I suspect we’ll see NA broaden its horizons. But NA has a long way to go before it breaks out of its own mould.
As a reader, I don’t like to be told what I can and can’t read but I do understand the need for marketing brackets. A YA read is not going to be the same as an adult read. Some books currently classified as YA have high sexual content inappropriate for under 18’s – those books are crying out for the NA bracket. As readers, we each have expectations, and if you read reviews for authors that have switched from adult to YA (for example) you’ll see some disgruntled readers who didn’t get what they expected. Marketing brackets are important. They help define the package. George R R Martin at Loncon3 recently said, “If I buy Cornflakes, I expect to get Cornflakes. I don’t expect to open the box and see Froot Loops instead.” He was talking about an author’s brand, but it applies to marketing brackets too.
New Adult is many things, and that’s the point I want to get across. It shouldn’t be dismissed as sexed up college drama, even though NA is heavily populated with these themes. Things are changing. Self-publishers spotlighted the need for NA, but now traditional publishers are now blinking into the light. NA is becoming real at last. It’s an exciting time for NA authors and readers.
Keep an eye out for my new NA urban fantasy series soon 😉 (See, there was a point to this post!).