Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Stigma of New Adult

Recently I discovered that I was mentioned in Library Journal for my Upper YA/New Adult story DIVIDED as part of a genre spotlight on Romance. I completely acknowledge that I was very fortunate to have Library Journal pick up DIVIDED and talk about it in their Romance spotlight. There are definitely other authors who are taking NA to other places as well, and were doing so before me.

I loved the comment for my story. It's exactly what I wanted from branding my story as New Adult when I discovered it could be described as NA. But there were other things in the article that I think the industry needs to take note of to make sure that New Adult survives. My concerns are also echoed in the fact that some YA bloggers are refusing New Adult reviews because of the stigma that NA lacks diversity and has too much of a focus on sex.

New Adult is largely considered a genre, when it should be a category. For New Adult to have longevity it needs to be across genres. At the moment it's more considered a romance genre with a focus on college romances, and to a lesser extent two people who find sexual healing with each other. But, for me, it should mirror YA and Adult that cover off across all categories. And some of the most popular YA stories could easily be NA.

Many protagonists are about to turn 18 and/or are about to head to college, or sometimes are already in college. Quite often by the end of a YA series, the original protagonists are most definitely in the NA world. But these stories are still labelled as YA as the NA is still sitting in the realm of a genre rather than a category. Some examples of this are Were She Went by Gayle Foreman, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and the Kricket series.

In Australia, New Adult isn't really acknowledged at all. I was asked to make my character at high school instead of college by an agent so it could firmly be YA, as New Adult wasn't even a common term at the time I was querying it. This is why Rebecca Jame's novels Beautiful Malice, Sweet Damage and Cooper Bartholomew is Dead are technically considered YA.

The article talks about a NA plateau, with few debut NAs coming through and a saturated market. Unlike YA, the NA saturated market is dominated by contemporaries.

Books like Losing It did a lot for the category, and authors who were brave enough to take the self publishing plunge when the industry said there was no real demand for college stories.

For me, this time was one of the most interesting times of my life. And like a lot of other people in the NA age category, it wasn't dominated by university. I deferred, got married, fell pregnant, lost my job, went back to uni at 21 with a baby. And there's lots of other stories out there.

I've also noticed a lot of people's reading habits decline at this age, which could contribute to the perceived lack of demand. But is this because the readers don't find themselves represented in stories. Then there is also the fact that children and teens often read up and books set straight after graduation give them insight into what's to come.

Originally when I wrote Divided I'd never heard of NA. Thankfully City Owl Press is a forward thinking publisher who saw that NA can branch out beyond the contemporary realm, as have a lot of other indie publishers and authors.

Ultimately the fate of New Adult is in the hands of the readers, who can with their buying power show the publishing industry whether or not they want this genre to expand into a category that can stand on it's own long-term.

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