Friday, June 13, 2014

What is New Adult Fiction?

Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. She serves as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing. Check out her novels Dance from Deep Within, Dance of the Dandelion, and Love in Three-Quarter time. And please join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info about Dina and her books visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/


Did you know there were trends in fiction? We understand trends in clothing, hairstyles, and makeup. But there are trends in books as well. For example, a few years back everything in Young Adult fiction was paranormal and dystopian. Now the market is flooded with those books, and publishers are looking for the next hot trend.

Publishing is a business, and it’s a publisher’s job to find out who is reading books and what they want to read. Unfortunately for me, my first few books missed the market and ended up with smaller publishers. One of the main problems was that I was writing with an audience of 18-30 year old women in mind, and I found out that was not a target audience for most publishers at that time.

Instead, I was encouraged to write romance novels with an intended audience of middle-aged women. Great! I had little to say to these ladies. I wanted to share important life lessons with younger women. And I’m willing to bet that most of you teen writers have no intention of writing for middle-aged people either.

I finally settled on YA fiction. Last year I wrote a Young Adult medieval novel and landed my first big contract for the Valiant Hearts Series, which will release with Bethany House Publishers starting in 2015. And guess what? When I asked my publisher what ages he wanted me to gear the books towards he said, “Young Adult crossing over to New Adult. Teens to mid-twenties.”

Hold up!!! I just mentioned that a few years ago there was no market for late teens and early twenties in fiction. What is this “New Adult fiction”? I first started hearing about New Adult fiction around the same time I started working on this series in 2013. Suddenly at conferences the latest buzz words were “New Adult.” Agents and editors were looking for this new, hot category, and everyone was trying to figure out what it was.

As you’ve probably guessed, since the term “Young Adult” had already been taken, meaning teenagers, this new term was coined to explain books aimed at 18-30 year olds. Actual young adults. The women I wanted to write books for. Why the sudden interest? For years people claimed this age group didn’t read. That they were too busy going to college and starting their careers and their families. But books like Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Divergent proved this theory wrong.

Beyond those “cross-over” type Young Adult books, a number of novels aimed specifically at the 18-30 crowd hit it big in 2012, which explains why in 2013, everyone suddenly started looking for these books. Because there was not previously a market for them, many New Adult books were originally self or indie published. Here is how Wikipedia defines this new category. “New Adult fiction tends to focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choice.” The setting is often college in these books that look at what it means to be new to adulthood. They focus on a time that falls between adolescence and bona fide adulthood.

According to a website called New Adult Alley, “New adult works like any other category of fiction. You can have New Adult horror stories in which zombies take over a college campus during finals week, or even New Adult science fiction or fantasy set off in faraway lands. The category can be combined with all genres and sub-genres for every type of reader to enjoy!” While contemporary titles currently dominate this developing category, it seems that any book with a protagonist in the 18-26 (some say as old as 29) range that deals with self-discovery and what it means to become an adult could qualify.


Let me clarify, I am not encouraging the Go Teen Writers crowd to read just any New Adult fiction. One of the big differences between these books and Young Adult is that they don’t hold to the same conservative standards that most Young Adult books do concerning issues such as language, drugs, and sexuality. Quite the opposite.

On the other hand, I am excited that this category is opening new opportunities for both authors and readers. In my chosen inspirational market, New Adult has to do with finding your true self, your true beliefs, and your true calling, probably while discovering love along the way. It often involves a transition from mirroring your parents’ religion to true faith. And it is typically grittier than fiction geared toward middle-aged housewives. This category gives me the opportunity to write to that audience I dreamed of. It gives actual young adults more books aimed toward their age and interests.

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If you’d like to check out some clean New Adult fiction, I think my novel Dance from Deep Within is a good example, and my Dance of the Dandelion, although set in the medieval period, was written with this age group in mind. Other authors to look for would include Ann Lee Miller, Staci Stallings, and Suzanne D. Williams. Also check out The Good Girl by Christy Barritt, It’s Not About Me by Michelle Sutton, There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones, and the 86 Bloomberg Place Series by Melody Carlson.


Is the New Adult fiction craze here to stay or just a flash in the pan? That’s hard to answer at this point. But at least publishers now know that people from this age group read. I’m looking forward to what develops next in this exciting new category.


32 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for writing this post Dina. I am twenty-one myself and find myself writing currently with MCs that are in that age range as well. I find it a shame that currently a lot of NA fiction is contemporary (even though I love that as well), but I hope it will start to bloom more with sub-genres like fantasy as well.

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    1. Thanks, Arlette. For you and others in the appropriate age category, you might want to check out http://www.naalley.com/.They have a list of NA spec fiction in their catalog.

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    2. Oh I did not know that one, thank you Dina!

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  2. Thanks for clarifying this! I've been hearing about New Adult fiction here and there, and I've been rather confused about what exactly it is.

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    1. I'm so glad the article was helpful. I actually did a good bit of research to make sure I knew what I was talking about :)

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  3. My favorite author, Jaye L. Knight is writing clean NA books. She's an amazing Christian fantasy author; I highly encourage you to check her books out!!
    - Katie

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    1. Awesome, Katie!!! Thanks so much for the recommendation. I actually polled my facebook friends to come up with some of those titles on my list.

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  4. Wow, thanks for the information! I've been wondering about this for a bit. :) Congrats on your first big contract!! :D

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  5. Thanks, Naomi :) Stephanie mentioned that the Go Teen Writers crowd has been curious about this subject.

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  6. Awesome article; thanks so much for sharing with us, Dina!

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  7. Thank you for the insightful article, Ms. Sleiman! As I've considered the genre of my work-in-progress, labeling it historical fiction never seemed adequate. YA didn't fit though. NA, however, describes my concept perfectly--my hero is 22 years old and my heroine 18, it's set at a music conservatory, and it explores ideas such as hypocrisy, acceptance, separation from family, self-worth, influence of peers, embracing family faith for oneself and ambition. I didn't know that this genre existed, much less that it has a growing market. Very enlightening and encouraging!

    Thank you again!
    Sophia Zervas

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    1. That definitely sounds like the perfect fit!

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  8. I'm more into YA fiction now (with a sprinkle of middle school) mostly because that's who I am - a young adult. Thanks for the info. I just might use it as I grow up. :)

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  9. This is really cool! I was wondering though–a story my friend and I are working on involves protagonists in the 18-25 age range. At this point, the plot doesn't have to do too much with becoming an adult. Could a book with older characters but a more YA plot be considered NA, or does NA also depend on the plot? Thanks!

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  10. That age range doesn't always mean NA, but if you are serious about finding a publisher, you would be wise to match your plot and your characters ages strategically to your genre. Since I'm not sure of your genre, that's hard to say for sure. For example, contemporary romance often has protagonists in their twenties even though the audience might be much older. Historical romance can have heroines as young as 18, although it is for a regular adult audience. 18-25 is typical in fantasy, historical, and science fiction, and might just be regular adult fiction. But if you have a definite young adult plot line, you might want to go a smidge younger with your characters. In my new YA series, the main characters are 16-20. Of course supporting characters can be older.

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  11. My characters always reflect the age and maturity I am at the time of writing. Now that I'm going to be twenty, my books have gone beyond Young Adult. The thing is, I'm not writing about some of the more 'mature things' that New Adult tackles so I'm not sure how well my books would fit in that category.

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    1. That's hard for me to say without more information, but if you didn't read my comment above yours, check that out, it might provide some ideas. Also remember that this is a still developing category.

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  12. This post conveniently came up within days of me asking Stephanie whether my book was NA or YA hahaha we decided it's NA, and the agent who rejected me (hence me asking Stephanie) said the same thing XD

    Good info!

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    1. Well, it's good to know what you write. LOL. And it's good that it is now a category unlike a few years ago.

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  13. Wow, I really like this, because some of my books would fit in this category! Thanks!!

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  14. It's great to hear that pulishers are finally realizing this age group is marketable. I was worried the books I'm writing would get lumped into "YA" because they're not geared towards middle-aged people. They deal with a lot of deep subjects like religious conflicts, war, growing into adulthood, parental issues/divorce, mortality vs immortality, murder, posession, etc. --something I don't exactly consider typical "YA" material, exactly. At least, comparing styles of a lot of YA, I think my writing is mroe mature. I'm relieved I can market this to a publisher as NA instead; my real target audience finally has a name, lol!

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  15. "conservative standards that most Young Adult books do concerning issues such as language, drugs, and sexuality."
    This standard makes me so angry. It's very true and I absolutely abhor it. A large portion of Young Adult books are based on life as a teenager. What is the point of censoring what is meant to portray our lives, if nothing in our lives in censored? I'm not a party girl, or involved in anything, but that doesn't mean my world is constanlty being bombed with rumors or incidents that involve drugs or alcohol or sex. New Adult releases those restrictions, but it takes away the teenage aspect. Personally, I look to books to help me understand situations I'm put in, and life in general. It becomes incresingly frustrating when most books that have the teenage element I can place myself into don't have ways to navigate that side of the world. There are all of the basic "Just say no" campaign crap, which is a great place to start, but it doesn't do much. I suppose the point of not talking about them is because then it's not encouraging them right? Or maybe if they don't read about it then they'll never know about it? Either way it's kind of stupid. The more we know, the easier it is for us to get out of situations like that. Some of the best YA books are ones that discuss topics like that (Ellen Hopkins is exceptional in broaching "banned" topics). I'm not saying every YA book needs to be about drugs, or mental illnesses, but trying to leave them out of the genre is insane.

    Sorry. Needed to rant after my school's library updated their YA Standards and got rid of a bunch of books because they included topics of depression, alcohol, drugs, and other "mature content".

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