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SFWC: New Adult

Three agents from Foreword Literary [8/26/16: now Fuse Lit] discussed the New Adult category on Saturday morning. New Adult is an emerging category meant to bridge YA and Adult literature, to appeal to late teens and twentysomethings. The agents defined it as stories that highlight that feeling of, “Holy crap, I’m an adult now! What do I do?”

This market is still evolving. Most bookstores don’t even have a New Adult section, and it remains to be seen whether the category will survive. Agent Laurie McLean is hoping to see New Adult branch out into genres like fantasy and science fiction. Right now it mostly exists in a contemporary, realistic space where the characters face things like their first jobs, serious relationships . . . New Adult touches on “what do I do with my life?” or “where am I going in life?”—the questions recent college grads ask themselves. And while the characters may still be in college, they are ultimately facing “the real world” and all that being a grownup entails.

Can we bring fantasy into that? While the agents were speaking, I couldn’t help thinking of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. That seems to me to fit the category and still have a sort of whimsical, fantastical bent. It’s not all-out fantasy, but it’s closer than a lot of other New Adult books.

But maybe those reading New Adult aren’t looking for the kind of escapism fantasy or sci-fi provide? They want to see others like them but with worse problems. Because that allows them to feel better about themselves, makes their troubles not look so bad.

Still, there are obstacles. Currently Amazon has a New Adult category set up as a subcategory of Adult Genre Romance. And while some New Adult books—many, maybe even most (but hopefully that’s only temporary)—fit that, not all do.

So what kinds of subjects does New Adult typically cover?
* Pregnancy
* Divorce
* Housing or homelessness issues
* First jobs and/or job loss

And what’s the difference in style and focus between New Adult and Adult?
* More immediate prose—New Adult is often written in first person so the reader connects and identifies more directly with the narrator.
* The protagonists in New Adult are usually ages 18–25 (roughly) so as to better appeal to the target audience.
* Word count for New Adult is closer to YA numbers than Adult numbers.

But one shouldn’t focus solely on the ages of the characters. New Adult, according to the agents, is more about the issues being dealt with than the ages of the people dealing with them. And the two do go hand in hand, in a way, since these issues are most likely to fall on people of a certain age group.

Finally, an interesting bit of trivia: Though St. Martin’s Press was the one to coin the term “New Adult,” they don’t actually publish the genre. (If you’re looking at publishers to target, Harper Collins and William Morrow do publish New Adult books.)

Anyone here write New Adult? Do you think it’s a genre that will stand the test of time? Is there a demand for it—and for new forms of it outside the contemporary stories (mostly romance) that we see today?

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