It’s a reader’s market (Part 3 – final)

Target market: women 18-25

I’ve looked at writers, publishers and agents of New Adult (NA) fiction, but are readers buying NA fiction? I interviewed a wide range of readers and booksellers of Young Adult (YA), adult and NA fiction to see what they thought. Rachel Kennedy, a book publicity assistant, reader of NA and former bookseller said, “There is a real demand for YA that deals with more mature themes. What works for a 14 year old can be too juvenile for an 18 year old. I first heard the term NA back as a bookseller off the back of Fifty Shades of Grey. Young people wanted similar reads but not the mumsy romances. There’s definitely a market.”

Elizabeth Ashdown, a reader and writer on Wattpad said, “I think it is a gap in the market, the cross over between teen and adult fiction, except it’s not absolutely necessary to give it it’s own name. Some teen and some adult authors do write novels that would easily fit the NA category, yet are not published as that. So I guess naming it as something completely separate is the publishing ploy.”

As a twenty-something reader myself, I know I would have loved for NA books to have been published when I was moving away to university. But at the time there were no books about people my age; I was either reading about characters coming of age at school (been there and done that) or characters having babies or getting divorced (way too soon). It would have certainly filled a gap in my bookshelf.

My opinion from my research is that NA fiction does fill a gap in the market, because the readers who found the gap began writing the books to fill it. The availability of self-publishing platforms has enabled these books, once turned down by traditional publishers according to writers such as Cora Carmack and Samantha Young, to become available for readers who are looking for something they can relate to. It seems to me that the hype around the term has come from publishers jumping on the back of something which has already established itself as popular and therefore a viable market they can tap into without too much risk.

I spoke to Dahlia Adler Fisch, who started publishing YA around 2008 when she realized traditional publishers were not looking for books about college-age adults, and I think she sums it up perfectly. “I think it was an invention necessitated by a gap in the market. By which I mean, I don’t think that gap really should’ve been there in the first place. But the fact is, there was always a huge audience for books set in this category, and publishing decided there wasn’t, and New Adult proved them wrong. I think of other categories opened up to the kinds of books we’re seeing in NA, it would probably swallow NA whole, and truthfully, I think that’s probably what will happen in the next few years. But for now? It absolutely fills a gap, and I’m glad it does.” Her first NA book is due for release later this year.

 

Hop on the New Adult fiction train! (Part 2)

NAAlley BlogSpot

NAAlley BlogSpot

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?

The birth of New Adult fiction (Part 1)

New Adult Book Club on GoodReads

New Adult Book Club on GoodReads

In my opinion, New Adult (NA) fiction has popped up in the publishing industry as the new buzzword. Until last year, when I attended the London Book Fair, I’d never heard the term and now it seems to be everywhere; from excessive reading groups on GoodReads to conferences hosted by the Publishers Advertising and Marketing Association. What I want to know is whether this new category fills a real gap in the market or if it is a new marketing term invented by the publishing companies to strike up interest in an industry under pressure from reduced sales.

It seems to me that the fiction we now term as NA, now commonly agreed by publishers and readers alike to be novels targeted at 18-25 year-old women about college-aged characters experiencing life on their own for the first time, began by US writers. Writers seemed determined to reach this audience and therefore self-published their novels. This was an area of the unknown to the traditional publishers, such as Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, which model their business on commissioning manuscripts, paying royalties and selling their books through bricks and mortar stores.

Samantha Young, New York Times Bestselling Author said, “publishers didn’t know how to market characters and stories that were neither young adult nor quite mature enough to be categorised as adult.  I know a few authors who decided to self-publish their New Adult titles as a result of this.” Cora Carmack, the writer on the lips of everyone I’ve spoken to about NA fiction, stated in her blog post on The Savvy Reader, “[It] began almost exclusively through the self-publishing world. For years, it had been a widely held belief… that books about college-aged protagonists just wouldn’t sell”. [Page no longer available.]

It seems that the stories were waiting to be written and readers were eager to find them. I also don’t think it’s necessarily a coincidence that the majority of NA writers are women in their mid-to-late twenties. They grew up in the nineties when US television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek, Saved by the Bell and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were cult classics about teenagers in school and their first few years of college. It seems to me that these shows could have influenced NA writers, including UK authors such as Liz Bankes, who admitted as such at the London Book Fair 2013. But in the nineties and noughties there were no books which spoke to teens growing up and experiencing important ‘firsts’ such as moving out of home, going to university or landing their first proper job, so writers had to write these stories themselves. “I was twenty-five-years-old, and still felt like I was adrift in an intimidating world. I wish I’d had books about those experiences when I was still in college. It would have been nice to read and know I wasn’t alone.” [Cora Cormack].

Writers like Cora Carmack and Jamie McGuire predominantly found their readers through word-of-mouth and e-books sales due to self-publishing, now they are US bestselling authors on the lists of some of the top traditional publishers in the market today.

However, would the category have actually have become a recognized category without the traditional publishers climbing on board the NA train? My next post will look at publishers and agents.