With the rise of young adult (YA) fiction popularity, and the wide audience ranging from preteen to late twenties / early thirties (thank you, Hunger Games), publishers and marketers are thinking of creating a new sub-genre called new adult (NA for the purpose of this post).
While marketing directors say there is a need for NA, with an audience geared toward 18- to 23-year-olds, some wonder if it’s even necessary.
“Even though the term is a relatively new one, the content has always been there in literature and movies,” explained Gina Wachtel, v-p and associate publisher at Random House. Wachtel, who is overseeing a slate of new digital imprints at Random House, among them a new adult one called Flirt, said these books feature characters who are at “the stage of figuring out who you really are—and all that goes with it.”
Talk to editors about new adult and the first thing you will hear is that the term is fluid. While these titles will likely feature 18-year-old to 20-something protagonists, fixating on the age of a character misses the point. Lucia Macro, a v-p and executive editor at William Morrow, said the new adult tag speaks more to voice, style, and theme. Asked if the term was necessary, Macro said it’s useful as a marketing tool. “Whether people want to admit it or not, publishing is a lot about marketing, and when you’re marketing to people it’s necessary to have [the appropriate] terminology.” She then added: “In-house it helps people wrap their brain around a book, especially when you have maybe 10 seconds to explain it to them.”
Some people believe the NA title will help censor content too mature for teens. While at the same time, NA can be marketed towards readers that share books across generations: mothers and daughters reading the same series or kinds of books, for example.
Personally, I do think the NA concept is a neat idea, but completely unnecessary. There are some great self-discovery books in fiction (or “adult” fiction, if we have to use this sort of terminology), as people are constantly discovering who they are no matter what stage in life. There are thousands upon thousands of books that do not even contain sex in it, if that’s the concern. The teen and children sections are there to help parents guide their offspring to various titles that is suitable for their age-group. But once that child is out of the house, in college, they are an adult — they should be able to make their own decisions on reading material. Creating an entirely new section almost seems to separate the market even more.
Division based on age, which is honestly what this boils down to, is unnecessary. I thoroughly enjoy books about children, teens, adults, even some protagonists that are in their 70s! It’s about the story.