Since the start of 2013, New Adult Fiction has been making a splash in the mainstream media. ABC News Nightline featured a segment on New Adult Fiction in late February, highlighting the rags to riches stories of several popular genre authors, including Colleen Hoover of Slammed and Cora Carmack of Losing It. The New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, and The Guardian, among others, have also featured articles on New Adult Fiction.
Halfway between angsty young adult fiction and erotic romance, New Adult Fiction deals with the tribulations of eighteen to thirty year olds. Despite being Chick Lit’s darker cousin, New Adult Fiction titles still, like most romance novels, end with the ever elusive happily ever after.
Although the term New Adult Fiction was coined back in 2009 by St. Martin’s Press, the genre really only began to develop an online community with a concrete presence in 2012 with the launch of the now established blog “NA Alley” and the expanding “New Adult Book Club” on Goodreads, which boasts 1635 members.
Debates are ongoing as to the novelty of New Adult Fiction. Is it really just Young Adult fiction with slightly older characters and more sex scenes? A clever marketing ploy? Or, are New Adult authors telling a whole new type of “coming of age” story?
If not for its content, New Adult Fiction has been capturing the interest of traditional book publishers due to its commercial potential. After being rejected by publishers and agents, many New Adult authors turned to self-publishing, using the Internet and word-of-blog combined with a low price point to sell their books with considerable success. One glance at today’s top 100 romance ebooks on Amazon says it all. The top slot is held by Falling into You, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling self-published book, released March 14, 2013. It already has 650 mostly positive reviews. Second on the list is Walking Disaster, the sequel to Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, a self-publishing sensation who signed on with a traditional publisher. New Adult authors are taking over ebook top seller lists, becoming New York Times and USA Today bestsellers in surprising quantities.
In a time when “discoverability” is a trending topic in the publishing industry, with the decline of Barnes and Noble, the death of Borders, and concerns about the future of bookstores mounting, the ability of New Adult authors to reach and maintain an enthusiastic, lucrative reader base solely with ebooks deserves serious investigation.
But what does the future hold for New Adult Fiction? While certain book publishers are beginning to acquire and sell previously self-published New Adult titles, the genre raises logistical concerns when it crosses over into print form. Where will it be shelved in the bookstore and the library? With the young adult titles or the romance novels? Or, in its own area entirely? Creating a New Adult section in stores would likely prove costly and difficult for retailers, meaning that the money made from selling the novels would have to offset these burdens and then some to be profitable.
This raises another question: has the fan base for New Adult fiction reached its full capacity? How many people are really reading and buying these books? Who are they? And, what else do they read? Is New Adult fiction attracting occasional readers? YA super fans? Teens (like parents fear)? Mommy bloggers? Avid readers? To grow strong enough to survive and thrive in the face of the transition to print, I think New Adult fiction will need to considerably broaden its readership.
While New Adult fiction rightfully stresses the challenges of transitioning to adulthood in our current economic climate and its stories provide a relatable outlet for twentysomethings, I believe the quality of writing displayed in many New Adult fiction novels will be an impediment to gaining the kind of readership necessary to support a successful transition to print for the genre. After all, many avid readers are also highly discerning judges of writing. Recent megahits like Fifty Shades and Twilight do counteract this thought, but I still think excellent writing and dialogues help readers connect with an emotionally powerful story and characters on a deeper, lasting level.
Here are links to the articles/videos I mentioned in this post: