Rachel (who still needs a better cognomen) and I have a household imp or a brownie. We’ve given him a name–Elijah–in the hopes that will appease his tricksy ways. (He’s especially fond of hiding our silverware.) It seemed to have worked for a while, but we may now need to leave him a plate of bread and milk at night. This morning I tore my apartment apart looking for my work ID (which I swear was in my wallet last night) only to find it sitting very nicely on my desk right before I ran out the door. I hope you like doughnut holes, Elijah!
I’ve received a few questions about New Adult that I will try and answer to the best of my ability. Clearly this is a new venture, so I can’t foresee/predict/broadcast anything concrete yet. However, I will address questions as I can.
Where does New Adult belong?
On the adult shelves. The target audience are people in their late teens and twenties, the college-aged and post-undergraduate crowd. Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t want other readers picking up our books, of course, but for marketing purposes, this is what Dan is telling the Powers That Be. Now, the question of whether or not “New Adult” will be it’s own section in a bookstore (the way YA is its own section) is largely up to the booksellers, but we are hoping there is enough momentum in this category to warrant that. One of the things I love about YA is that all of the genres are shelved together: contemporary, science fiction, fantasy, romance, etc. and I hope that one day this will happen for us as well.
Aren’t there already books published in this category?
Yes, there are, but the category has not yet been created. A few examples (I’ve tried to include a few genre examples as well):
- A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS by Dave Eggers
- RULES OF ATTRACTION and LESS THAN ZERO by Bret Easton Ellis
- THE GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING by Tracy Chevalier
- EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED by Jonathan Safran Foer
- The KUSHIEL’S LEGACY series by Jacqueline Carey
- KAFKA ON THE SHORE by Haruki Murakami
- NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman
- THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Diaz
- THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA by Lauren Weisberger
- THE NANNY DIARIES by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
- The NIGHT HUNTRESS series by Jeaniene Frost
- THE GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson
- BLACK SWAN GREEN by David Mitchell
- MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA by Arthur Golden
- THE TIME-TRAVELER’S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger
- SECRET SOCIETY GIRL by Diana Peterfreund
- THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH and WONDER BOYS by Michael Chabon
YA novels that I think could have been published in this category:
- A CURSE DARK AS GOLD by Elizabeth C. Bunce
- ASH by Malinda Lo
- THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak (yes, I know this was published as adult in Australia)
- GRACELING by Kristin Cashore (also published adult abroad)
- THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS by E. Lockhart
- THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING, TRAITOR TO THE NATION, VOL I: POX PARTY by M. T. Anderson
Why do you need to create a New Adult category?
It’s not a question of need so much as it’s a question of niche. Before picture books, MG, and YA were created, all children’s books were shelved together. I remember seeing “Young Adult” shelves in my favourite bookstore when I was about 12 or 13 and now it is its own section of Vroman’s. (I learned later that I had my boss to thank for that. He was instrumental in developing the YA genre–publishing for “older children” or teens.)
Every niche has a target audience: for MG it’s 9-12, for YA it’s 12-18, sometimes 14-18. This, of course, doesn’t mean that its readers are ONLY those ages. I love YA and it’s been years since I graduated high school. I’ve had criticism leveled at us for being “ageist”–that was not our intent. I find it interesting how many people in their 20s don’t consider themselves “grown up” yet. One of my friends refuses to refer to herself as a “woman”–she is a girl, thank you.
“Why?” I asked. “You’re female, you’re 25, are completely independent of your parents, and you have your own life.”
“Because,” she said, “I’m not settled yet. I have a job, but it’s not my career or vocation. I have a boyfriend, but I can’t even think about marriage or family right now. I pay my own rent and bills, but I’m struggling with my finances and figuring out how to be responsible with it. Where am I going? What am I doing? I have no idea.”
We might have jobs, marriages, and some even mortgages (lucky bastards), but we still haven’t settled into our adult skins. I still think of myself as a “girl” too–I’m 24, engaged, and I’ve been a “responsible” adult for over 4 years now, but somehow I still feel like a fraud.
I remember being 20 years old and starting my first job in the “real world”, as my parents call it. It paid very well and I became financially independent of Mum and Dad. I was also one of the youngest people in the office. In some ways, I found being a young adult in the “real world” a lonely place; my friends still in college suddenly seemed so much younger than me, even if the age difference was only a matter of a few months. My best friend and roommate Sofa (who, like me, had just graduated and was working a high-paying job at a law firm) and I spent a lot of nights drinking cheap wine out of coffee mugs and smoking cigarettes in our stairwell, waiting to feel “real”, to have that sense of confidence, competence, belonging, and all the markers of being a “grown up” that seemed just out of reach. Our parents were still the first persons we called if we needed help–emotionally and mentally, but even for what was common sense advice about who to call if we had a mouse problem (and boy, do Manhattan apartments have mouse problems).
I’m 24, engaged, with an actual career, my own apartment, and my mother is still listed as my emergency contact.
I don’t see a lot of fiction in the adult market that deals with this strange in-between place, with “post-adolescence”. And if it’s there, it’s not very easy to find.
What about chick lit?
A lot of chick lit would fall into this category, absolutely. But I think there are other genres that might dovetail nicely. A lot of urban fantasy, for one. Perhaps the reason a lot of urban fantasy is popular is because often the protagonist is thrust into an entirely different and new world (“adulthood”) and must learn to cope with and navigate it. I like post-apocalyptic myself: when the world has ended you gotta grow up pretty damn fast, even if you’re not ready or don’t know how.
What about YA and New Adult? Do you expect younger readers to read up?
As much as I expect us older readers to read “down”. I freaking love YA and I don’t consider it reading “down” (even if the industry does). Teens read adult fiction as well as YA–I did when I was a teenager.
Then why New Adult?
I will be straight–adult fiction is flailing. Why? I can’t possibly tell you. Are publishers are looking to “tap” into YA’s popularity? Of course. Why is YA popular but adult fiction not? I don’t know. Personally speaking, most of my discretionary income goes into buying YA, not adult, and I’m not YA’s target audience. Do I find great fiction in the adult sections of the store? Absolutely. But it’s harder–I have to wade through all lot that doesn’t interest me: divorces, having a family, affairs, mid-life crises. I’m closer in age and in place in life to teens than I am to someone who is 35.
Another issue is, there is a lot of great fiction out there with younger protagonists that languish unsold because it’s “too old for the YA market”. I know of writers who have had to “age down” their protagonists to fit it into what the publishing industry thinks will sell. Why aren’t they published as adult? I think there are certain expectations of adult fiction that don’t exist in YA–the same way there are expectations of what being an “adult” is. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but the honest truth is that there just isn’t a defined market for this sort of fiction and my boss thinks there is.