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The New Craze: New Adult, Genre or Age Category

In 2009, St. Martin’s Press put out the call for “fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult’.”  Two years later, when I was pushing college age fiction and hearing nothing but stories of rejection and how there wasn’t a market, New Adult was still not a solid genre or age category.  And now, two years after that, it’s exploding.  “New Adult” is rocketing up the best-seller lists in the wake of 50 Shades of Gray and other books.  But there’s something different than how I pictured it way back in 2009.  Something that was becoming clear in 2011, even as people said it could never sell.  What’s selling now as “New Adult” isn’t an age category, with characters from 18-26; it’s a genre of general fiction focusing in romance and sexuality among upper age college kids and high school graduates gone into the workforce.

New Adult is often compared to its analogous age category “Young Adult”, but for the moment at least, that analogy is flawed.  YA has books is every genre of fiction, but so far, NA is mostly in the Romance and Erotica categories.  In fact, USAToday and ABCNews have gone as far as to call it smut.  And truth be told, it’s being positioned by publishers as an edgier version of YA romance, with the vast majority of titles following the YA contemp romance formula.  Except, you know, in college.  The race is lead by Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster, which follows close behind 50 Shades, and is itself followed up by titles such as Colleen Hoover’s Slammed, and Wait For You by J. Linn, whose real name is Jennifer L. Armentrout.

To me, that set of tropes and conventions with all similar stories signals a genre (a sub-genre of Romance, in this case) rather than an age category designed for marketing purposes.  And there’s nothing wrong with a new sub-genre, but when I first heard about New Adult back in 2009 and 2010, I was really hoping for an age category that gave stories with college age protags a chance to sell.

But maybe I’m wrong?  Is there mystery and spec fic and all the rest out there?  Anyone got any recs for me?

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in genre, New Adult

 

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