Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What is New Adult?

Being the NEW guy and also representing the New Adult category, I thought it would be appropriate to delve into the basics of this growing area of publishing.

The term New Adult was introduced by St. Martin's Press in 2009 when they held a contest seeking "...fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an 'older YA' or 'new adult'." Most NA books were self-published at the start but that has quickly changed.

I had no idea what New Adult was. At all. Even after writing my first novel, I thought I had written an Adult urban fantasy thriller. There's sex, blood, and lots of expletives. It was definitely not YA. When I found an article covering the new category I was an immediate naysayer. I know, I know, I shouldn't jump to judgments but...I did. I thought it was just a way to cram another categorical shelf in the bookstore or leapfrog on the success of Young Adult fiction. Then I dug a little deeper into what NA really is and to my surprise, the novel I had written was clearly New Adult.

What NA IS:

1. Fiction where the protagonist is generally between the ages of 18 and 25

2. Themes include: leaving the nest, first job, first serious relationship, responsibility, etc.

3. Can be grittier and more "adult" than YA. Situations you wouldn't dream of putting your high school MC in can be tackled with malicious glee.

4. A category covering the gap between youth and adulthood. It has been said that becoming a grownup doesn't happen overnight. NA appeals to the age group that may be in college, may have dropped out of college, or may have never gone in the first place. It's about those individuals who don't yet have a mortgage or kids or a 401k. It's about finding your notch in society and the world around you. I don't know about you but I couldn't wait to leave my parents' house. Then I was on my own. Lots of painful learning ensued.


1. Erotica. It is a common misconception that New Adult means sex. Yes, the door for that is wide open but it's not a requirement. It's also not just frilly, foofoo, girly romance either. New Adult is a CATEGORY not a genre. New Adult books can be horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi, and everything in between. There need not be a puff of "steam".

2. A marketing ploy. While it's true that the category was created by the industry, the readership is there. Jamie McGuire's books are a single but valid example. Her books BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and WALKING DISASTER have sat very comfortably on the New York Times and USA Today Best Seller Lists.

3. Going away. It's a rare occurrence where I'm happy to admit when I'm wrong but I will gladly say that I am an NA convert. A market has been created for an entire army of readers who may have felt they didn't have a voice. New possibilities have been forged. The future has been expanded.

I, for one, am excited to see what comes next.


  1. Thanks for giving a shoutout to NA genres besides contemp romance and erotica! We discuss this evolution of NA a lot in the FB group I belong to, New Adult Authors Unite! Great group with loads of info; I've learned so much from that braintrust.