Although the New Adult (NA) category seems to have come about through organic writer and reader development, the term’s origin is up for debate. Samantha Young believes “it was bloggers and authors themselves that coined the term New Adult. It was only when it became apparent in ebook bestseller lists that the genre was growing increasingly popular that the big six publishers started looking for New Adult titles for their own catalogues”. However, according to articles featured on Wikipedia and Writer’s Digest, many believe the term itself can be traced back to 2009 when St. Martin’s Press issued an open call for “fiction similar to YA, sort of an older YA or new adult”.
Nowadays, traditional publishers are dedicating entire imprints to the category and defining it for themselves. For example, Bloomsbury Spark describes itself as “dedicated to publishing a wide array of exciting fiction eBooks to teen, YA and new adult readers”. Blink of Zondervan targets its books at “both teen readers and the growing audience of adult readers looking for innovative and exciting reads”. Entangled’s imprint Embrace says it is seeking “characters [that] straddle the line between high school and the adult world of work and family…finding their way to adulthood…. emerging adult, defining a critical period of decision making and growth”. The list continues to grow with the likes of Random House (Flirt), HarperCollins (Harlequin) and Hyperion and Disney Books (Disney Hyperion) all climbing on board the NA train. NAAlley.com, a popular website dedicated to NA fiction, lists all publishers and agents accepting NA submissions, the majority of which are based in the US.
Carly Watters, NA literary agent with P. S. Literary Agency, first heard the term NA “when Cora Carmack published Losing It in October 2012… and [got into representing NA authors] when I realized there was a gap in the market for protagonists of the college age and fans were compellingly buying NA authors and making them sky rocket up the charts”. Other NA agents, such as Julia Churchill and Molly Ker Hawn, are specialists in the children’s book market but are now also representing NA authors. It is my assumption that their story is similar to that of Carly Watters.
With such a backing by the biggest traditional publishers in the world, it now seems like an officially recognised category. It has found its way into the Book Industry Study Group Subject Headings List for fiction under FIC027240 Fiction / Romance / NewAdult and eBooks for the Kindle (although a sub-category under Romance). NA novels also feature in stores such as Waterstones and Barnes and Noble, as well as on the Nook and Kobo, although at the moment do not have their own category and seem to be marketed within Romance.
But what do readers and booksellers think of this category? Does it really fill a gap or is it a marketing ploy?