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Why I Am Starting To Grow A Little Disillusioned by New Adult

24 Mar 2014
Anyone who has followed me for any significant period of time probably knows that I am an avid supporter of the New Adult category and have been from the get go. When it was struggling to get a foothold in the world of publishing and constantly being slammed on blogs and websites I was there fighting its corner.

The term New Adult was coined by St. Martin's Press is 2009 when they ran a contest seeking new material to publish in what they deemed an untapped marketing area. “Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be marketed as adult—sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult.’” This initial definition sets NA to be an age category just above that of YA and therefore encompassing a variety of genres.

When New Adult books exploded into popularity in mid to late 2012 they were led by college set contemporary romance such as Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire and Easy by Tammara Webber. At this time there was a large amount of confusion about what exactly New Adult books were and what they weren't.

Here is a post I wrote well over a year ago about what New Adult was and responding to some of the confusion and questions about the category - http://bookishtreasures.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/new-adult-books-what-they-are-why-i.html

I have always personally defined New Adult as a broad reaching age category that can include a wide variety of genres etc. and the main requirement for a book to be NA is character age (basically how most people would define YA but just for characters a few years older.) I would be very rich if I had been given a pound for each time I told someone that NA didn't have to be contemporary, didn't have to be romance led etc.

The problem is that New Adult is changing, well actually it isn't changing and that is what is making it change (a confusing comment I know but I will explain). Though I have always argued that NA doesn't just have to be contemporary romance, the popularity of other NA genres hasn't increased over time as I thought would happen and in fact many non-contemporary NA authors have now started to write only NA contemporary romance as it sells significantly better.

Now when people comment that New Adult books are all contemporary romance, lack variety have very similar plotlines etc. I don't argue anymore. I cant really argue as that is what New Adult is defining itself to be, it is turning into a genre, a subset of romance. If you have a book that doesn't fit into this somewhat narrow mould of New Adult you are better off marketing it to other people (eg. have what you reckon is an NA paranormal romance? Just stick to marketing to the adult paranormal romance fans) as there isn't much success to be found for it in New Adult.

On to why this is a problem for me. I am an incredibly fast reader and therefore get through A LOT of books. Last year about 80% of the books I read were New Adult novels and most of these fit the small mould that the NA category is narrowing itself down into. I now can hardly read a New Adult novel without feeling like I have read exactly the same story many times before. There seems to be about 4 or 5 plot lines that most New Adult novels follow and though I hate to say it I am getting bored. Jamie McGuire, Abbi Glines, J.Lynn, Cora Carmack, Tammara Webber, Katy Evans and a few of the other big names in NA wrote incredible unique books and most new releases (though not all, there are a few gems) seem like weak imitations.

I'm still not giving up hope that the New Adult category will grow and expand but I am no longer under any illusion that will definitely happen.

If like me you are also growing disillusioned with New Adult and want more variety then please please please go and buy a non-contemp or more unique New Adult novel as we, the consumers and readers are what have the power to make the market grow. (You can see some of my recommendations here, here, and here. I also highly recommend my current featured debut novel of the month The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian).

I still plan to support non-contemporary NA novels as there really are some fantastic ones out there. I will still be reading NA contemporary romance also as I DO still like them, I'm just going to be a hell of a lot pickier about which ones I read from now on.

28 comments:

  1. I am completely agree with you. I think NA is becoming a sub genre of romance. I have yet to find any NA that is not romance led! It is a shame because it really is good genre and it deserves to be more popular, especially now the generation who started with Twilight have grown up!

    I will be definitely checking out your recs! :)

    Great post! :)

    Alex @ The Shelf Diaries

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    1. Yeah I was really expecting that NA paranormal would be much more popular than it is considering the twilight generation are all late teens, early twenty somethings now.

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  2. I know what you mean. My love for NA started with Beautiful Disaster but after a few book, all the plot lines seem repeated to me.
    They still are interesting enough reads but sometimes they all seem the same. I keep asking for more Fantasy in NA like Throne of Glass, which is advertised as YA.

    Samina @ Escapism from Reality

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    1. There are some FANTASTIC and successful NA fantasy books but almost all are marketed as YA or Adult.

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  3. Viewpoint from an author who writes NA that's not contemporary romance? Sigh. And just yesterday I was thinking that I would stop marketing my Nogiku Series as New Adult. No one in that audience wants to try anything different and I find it frustrating and saddening. I might take the words "New Adult" off the back cover and out of the descriptions and just market it to adults. I don't know. It's something I'm still thinking about for when I reboot with new covers. That audience craves SAME SAME SAME and while I'm glad that the books are read and people like them, it's a genre now, not a category like it could have been.

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    1. I think it is definitely worth thinking about who would enjoy your book (maybe older YA spec fic readers) and focusing the marketing on them. Hopefully NA readership will start to expand but until then you aren't putting all your eggs in one basket :)

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    2. I'm with S.J. Pajonas here. I've been marketing my Mark of Nexus series as NA since well before it was "cool," but the category definition has shifted in compliance with its readership. I'm still interested in supporting it via my various channels (like NA Alley), but I'm really not looking to write any more for a while. My fantasy is going to be YA.

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    3. It's sad to see some great writers like you veering away from writing more NA. But I will certainly still read your future books if you drop them down to be more YA.

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    4. Thank you, Laura! The troubling thing is that I can't get NA out of my system. Even after making my fantasy YA, I still have a lingering idea for an NA contemporary... LOL

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  4. I'm REALLY hoping it expands, too. I write new adult fiction, but none of it is contemporary romance. :) I'm holding out for the slow creep into other genres!

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    1. I am holding out too but at the moment there seems to be even less variety than there was a year or so ago :(

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  5. Yep. I intended to market Legacy Code Saga as NA Science Fiction, but I realized very quickly that's not what the NA audience is looking for. So it's Mature YA / Adult. I'm also working on a book that should fit the NA mold, but is about a girl giving up a college scholarship to follow her dreams...there are boys, but no official boyfriend in the first book. I guess I'll market that one as Mature YA, too. ;-\

    But I'm still hoping NA becomes a category! Maybe if Amazon would move it out of romance...

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    1. I would persevere and not remove the NA label from your books, but definitely don't focus all your marketing efforts on the current NA audience.

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  6. The issue seems not to be that there aren't books like that out there, just that they are not calling themselves "New adult" but rather calling themselves fantasy or mystery or whatever else and they just happen to be new adult novels. I'm not entirely sure that's a problem, though. Publishers call books what is most likely to reach the appropriate audience, and it seems apparent that most readers who want to read something called "new adult" want a romance novel.

    I think it's getting even worse now, and my first inkling was a few months ago when you described my book as having little to no sex in it. Not only is NA romance, but it's a very sex based kind and is trending strongly toward what I wouldn't call romance at all, but dark erotica, lately. (Sex slaves, torture, etc.)

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    1. The popularity of NA dark erotica is growing (so I suppose that means something other than contemporary romance is doing well :P)

      My saying that One & Only has little to no sex really does highlight how large a part sex plays in most NA contemporary romance novels. On the NA scale One & Only definitely has minimal descriptive sex however on a different scale, you could say it has quite a lot.

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  7. Four other authors and I recently released Curses, Fates & Soul Mates: 5 Paranormal New Adult Novels in the hopes of spreading the word that New Adult can be more than contemporary romance. We've done well with the set, but I've also felt what you're saying here. In a discussion on FB about NA being perceived as erotica, at least one person with a well known blog said she and her reviewers have backed off anything labeled NA because they're sick of the same story lines overloaded with sex. Others agreed. Those comments have made me to reconsider how I market now. Ugh.

    Trying to expand the NA category may be a hopeless endeavor. Or, at least, a difficult one. I'm not going to give up hope. We may have to help readers along one NA book at a time, but I think with persistence and reader word-of-mouth, we can do it. The good news is that Amazon has recently started creating sub-categories in genres like sci-fi and fantasy called New Adult and College Age. I've seen it a few times. If it doesn't do well, they could always take it away, so maybe rather than backing off on what we're doing to market NA Paranormal/UF/sci-fi/dystopian/etc., we should push it harder and keep Amazon in our corner.

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  8. Love this article. I had an agent tell me I write new adult paranormal. "Love your writing. Love the story. Can't sell it." I adore the NA genre, but I'm not a big fan of contemporary. It's frustrating that I started writing what I couldn't find (before NA was a title), and then I finished it only to find that NA was being boxed in. I always thought of NA the same way I think of YA, meaning it can have any number of sub-genres.

    The big eye-opener came for me when I just happened to read the judging sheet for an RWA chapter's competition. It actually subtracted points if your story was NOT contemporary!!! I'm still shaking my head over that one. I entered another chapter that allowed you to clarify if your paranormal happened to be new adult, and I won 3rd.

    I think a gamechanger would be if Amazon were to add subcategories to new adult. It's bizarre having them all lumped under one category, and you have to sell thousands a day to get a leg up on that list. Let's have contemporary, paranormal, erotica, sci fi, etc. I would LOVE to see that.

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  9. Wonderful article. It would help if Amazon would actually let you publish your book in the NA genre and give it some categories of its own, like YA, Romance, and others do. I don't know how they (Amazon) determine the book is a NA if you can't select it when your self-publishing your book.

    One of the best books I've read recently was Amy Harmon's "Making Faces." It is NA, only because of the ages of the main characters. It is "clean," beautifully written, and all in all, a very good book. I don't think Ms. Harmon got the credit she deserved for her book because, dare I say, there wasn't enough sex between the covers. There was no tattoo'd bad boy. No rock stars... etc.

    It's a shame that if your book isn't page after page of how many different ways and positions you can can have sex with some broken, tattoo'd borderline psychopath in the hopes of redeeming him, then the NA fans thumb their nose at it.

    Summer Walden published "Good," and it didn't meet with a lot of raves because it was "too clean," or it was about a "good, God fearing girl." She decided to grow her next series up and stray away from NA into adult.

    I have found myself moving back to read YA and/or Adult lately because the NA genre is too much of the same stuff different halfnakedtattoodbadassonthecover. :)

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  10. I'm planning to self-publish my novel this year, it's NA mystery. Like, contemporary thriller mystery. I'm self-publishing because I know no publishing house or agent would probably take it on because it's not the typical norm. Gotta carve a spot out for myself.

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  11. Please go read Sarina Bowen's novel, THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN. It's refreshingly different.

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  12. I'm glad I'm not alone in this. I've noticed the same thing and it's been hard for me because... I'm actually not big into romance novels! So all of this NA Contemporary Romance isn't that interesting to me-- and I was starting to feel left out.

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  13. I'm glad I've found this article...a lot of my stories are New Adult based on my characters age but they are soooooooo different from what's selling as New Adult these days and I write majority Contemporary Romance! I'm not sure how I'll market my next 20-something romance book....my last release was marketed as NA Contemporary Romance however there was no sex so maybe that's why it wasn't that popular ha! I don't know...great article btw!! Happy Hump Day!

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  14. I think its really hard to separate out books because we as book lovers and bloggers read and hear about so many. My problem with NA books is that a lot of the storylines are all the same and they tend to roll into one, and become very forgettable, which is sad. Dont give up hope!

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  15. I love this article! As an author of New Adult paranormal romance, I agree with everything you said. It's frustrating but I will persevere.

    Sedona Venez
    www.sedonavenez.com

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  16. Even though I'm an author of NA Contemporary 'Romance' novels, I agree with your post Laura. To be honest, I still love NA books, but I read less of them now. The same tropes are used too many times, the sex is taking more and more space in the stories and sometimes it puts a dent in the characterization.
    Recently, I read a NA paranormal romance and I LOVED it. I don't read a lot of paranormal romance novels and fantasy novels these days, but I used to and I find it sad that the NA category is relegated to only sexy romances and not as something more in all the genres.
    Unfortunately, I'm afraid that it'll cost to the NA trend one of these days and consequently, even more so to the authors no matter which genres they're writing.

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  17. OMG! I was just enjoying this article, and skimming the contents, and found my own book mentioned here!!! Thank you, Delancy Stewart, for recommending THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN.

    Damn! This made my day. And such an awesome discussion, too!

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  19. I wrote a NA love triangle/sports fiction novel focusing on determination and overcoming common things that happen as you go through your 20's and 30's, but everyone just assumes its a romance as so much NA falls into that stereotype. Very frustrating and it makes it hard to market my book. Glad to have found a blog giving a voice to ALL NA.

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