In the past ten years, a new age group of published novels has emerged – and subsequently been shelved. It’s called “new adult” or “NA,” and it’s primarily geared toward readers – and featuring characters – in their late teens or early/mid-twenties who fall into the chasm between young adult and adult novels. But despite the seemingly obvious market for such a group, it hasn’t been met with success.
In fact, it’s been riddled with stigma – which you can read more about here but is basically summed up as NA being equivalent to college-aged erotica – making publishers wary of taking a chance on books in that category.
But NA has evolved past it’s first few years of content. Sure, some still have sex scenes; sex is common for characters and readers in that stage of life. Yet it’s could mean so much more to the industry. I took to the street – or my Twitter timeline – to gather opinions, and here’s why I think it needs to make a comeback.
Since publishers aren’t really buying into New Adult yet, writers are stuck with a huge gap in age range. It’s something I’ve been struggling with personally: my current work-in-progress features a nineteen-year old protagonist who handles some dark subject matter and mature topics. Where does she fall: young adult or adult?
The consequence of not having a strong new adult avenue is authors either not writing what they feel passionate about OR having to age up/age down their characters and target audience. The first of these is just a travesty. Writing is such a personal and passion-fueled endeavor, and limitations like this can crippled an author.
But the second leads to other issues. It leads to
There’s a big discussion in the industry about how much YA readership has evolved. Did you know that nearly 70% of young adult books are actually bought by adults to read themselves? So only 30% are reaching their true intended audience. There’s nothing wrong with adults reading those books – I am one of them! – but there’s an argument that we need to keep YA books for teen writers and readers. NA solves that problem. It combines the fast-paced plot and the voice-driven narrative of YA but caters to more adult issues and readers.
It also addresses a multitude of issues that readers need/want to read about but may be too mature for teens. Remember, YA ranges from 12 – 18. There’s a lot of matters in current YA novels that I would not want my (future) twelve year old reading. Not just sex scenes, it could be drug/alcohol addiction, emotional growth, politics, mental health. Unfortunately, we live in a world where teenagers often do have to face those issues, but talking to a teen about them is different than talking to a college student.
Let’s face it, publishers are in the game to make money. And NA can potentially provide a huge source of income. It’s an untapped market that could be marketed in a variety of ways to find new readers, to capitalize on interest from existing readers and to grow bookstore selections and thus drive profit.
Ultimately, if you spend any time in bookstores or online, people are hungry for new adult books. So what’s it going to take to make NA a reality? Maybe it needs a new name, maybe it just needs one established publisher or author *cough Sarah J Maas* to take the leap. In my opinion, I think the entire age categorization of books needs an overhaul, but that’s a subject for another blog. Regardless, I think an age group that targets older teens and twenty-somethings is crucial, and I think it’s coming – one way or another.