Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Adult: A Call to Arms

Allright, blogsphere. I've got a problem. I don't normally rant, so you'll have to forgive me. And by forgive me, I mean sit your tushies down, because you're damn well going to listen to me. This post is for YA and MG writers, authors, agents, editors, and anyone interested in the new adult market.

Recently, I've seen a few agents on twitter commenting on the 'new adult  trend.' And though I agree somewhat-- writers, don't try to pitch new adult, as that's going to be a hard sell in the industry right now. However, the aforementioned agents had been remarking about how "new adult was never going to happen." And that, my dear friends, is where they're terribly, terribly wrong.

Before we start, I think you need a little background. I'm 20. I'm still living with my parents (In their basement, ha!) and I have a full time job. I graduated high school two years ago with honors. (To give you some perspective, I spent my three years in high school ruthlessly pursuing publication. Ask anyone in the English department.) I won my agent just before my 19th birthday. He was quite surprised to hear how young I was, as I didn't think to tell him until 2 months after we'd signed the contract.

 I went to university right after graduating, quickly learned that was the wrong place to be, and dropped out after my first semester. Afterwards, I spent a long time floundering, trying to figure out what the heck I was supposed to do with my life. Long story short, I ended up at a temp agency that placed me in a child and family services agency, where I'm very, very happy.

But it was a hard journey to go from a high school graduate to "Hey, I know what I want to do with the rest of my life." And in that time, and still, I'm encountering other kids who are, what I like to call "floundering." Right out of high school, I heard about those kids who immediately shot out of the nest to success, whether it be some school far away, or a round the world tour. Of course we heard about those kids. We never STOPPED hearing about those kids. And for those kids, like me, who ended up floundering, there was a lot of conflict, and a lot of drama, and a lot of questions. Suddenly, the pressures of high school are gone, and the pressures of life replaced them. It's very strange to adjust to, and I found I wasn't the only kid having trouble.

And yet, there are no books. Sure, if I search in the right places, I can find books that have similar "newly adult" issues. For example, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE takes place in Prague, in university-esque arts school. Moreso, the MC is 19. I was able to relate on that when I was in university for that brief span of time. But I have to look hard for these books, and some of my friends, who are readers but not OMG I HAVE TO READ EVERYTHING readers, wont be able to find them.

There is rife conflict in these ages, and people who could benefit reading about some characters who are going through similar issues. I don't just mean contemporary fiction, either. Sometimes they want to read about fantasy through the eyes of someone 21 and who just moved into their new apartment. I would love to write something like that, but alas, the market is a difficult place. Is it YA? Is it Adult? Right now, the market reflects reality. There's no place for these new adults, and so often they're left floundering.

Let's take a look then to the market we want to model after. The YA market. We have a huge market, which has proven to eat up fiction at insatiable rates. Don't you think these kids would love to read about getting a new apartment, or going to university? Yes, yes, editors, agents, I can hear you now. "But they can't relate to those issues." In a lot of cases, no. But so many teens fantasize about moving out on their own, having serious relationships, though a lot of the time, they can't imagine what that's like. Why don't we show them? It's been proven that people read up, so isn't it safe to assume our 16/17/18 year old readers would love to read about 20/21/22 year olds? It's the next stage of their lives, of course they're thinking about it!

Alrighty. We've got a solid market. And let's look at this realistically. The kids my age now grew up with MG fiction, then YA fiction, of COURSE they want their own market. And why shouldn't they get it, if so many writers like myself, would love to write about it?

YA (the trend) blew up about, hmm, 15 years ago? 20? Before that, yes, there were people writing YA fiction, Ender's Game, to name one, and The Catcher in the Rye, to name another. But the trend blew up when we worked together to build a market for this. Once major publishing houses started publishing it, that led the way for editors to buy it, which means agents requested it, which means us writers could crack out some good YA fiction with the hope that one day it may be published. Even movie studios have recognized the market with films like Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and the soon to be made Mortal Instruments movie (yay!) We've created something amazing, along with the writers and editors and agents of this business before us (some of which are still in the biz!) and we should be proud of that.

So let's seize the opportunity. Let's take advantage of this huge success. Let's open the doors for New Adult already. I don't expect agents and editors to turn around overnight and say "Give me New Adult!" (though that'd be nice.) What I'm asking for is just a little open-mindedness. There are those who still say "the YA trend will die out soon." Well, it's not. And it never will, because baby, we're timeless. Well, this new market won't die out either, because it's got the timeless appeal from all angles. It's an opportunity to grow, and everyone loves growth, even if business is a little afraid of it, sometimes.

Will New Adult sell? Yes. There will be lines of teens and young adults who want to look towards the future/relate, and just like YA, we'll have a crowd of adults wanting to relive their early 20s.  Don't dismiss those who are looking for an opportunity to sell it. In 15, 20 years, it could be the next biggest market, and it would be totally amazing to watch it happen from the front lines, in my opinion.

Peace, my friends,



  1. Very nice post, Katie!

    You've raised some valid points, and the one that really resonates with me is the common-sense acknowledgement of the legacy audience. It's a no-brainer that folks raised on a diet of MG and YA will be a shoe-in audience for NA. At the end of the day, we write to satisfy their needs, not to prove the predictions of a few agents right or wrong.

    And I can't tell you how excited I am that the book I'm working on now has a identifiable genre. My protagonist is 19 and seriously floundering so at least I, the author, need not flounder anymore when attempting to place the piece into a category (the genre of "YA sorta" just wasn't cutting it).

  2. YES! You are exactly right.