The WG2E’s Ebook Genres Series with Guest Author PJ Sharon on “What is this ‘New Adult’ Genre? And Where Do I Fit In?”

Happy Monday, WG2E-Land!

We’re kickin’ off our brand new WG2E Ebook Genre Series with the wonderful PJ Sharon who’s sharing the scoop on a relatively new genre – New Adult.

Take it away, PJ…

Since D.D. came up with the idea of talking about specific genres here at the WG2E, we thought this would be the perfect time to introduce you to a relative up-and-comer. The term “New Adult” has been kicked around the industry for a few years. So far, the genre has been classified via the age of the protagonists (19-23), and the subject matter (college life, moving away from home, and the transition from young adulthood to adulthood). Also known as “cross-over” stories because of their appeal with adult readers as well as older teens, this niche market has long been ignored, mainly because it was deemed “too risky.”

Somehow, publishers felt that 18-22 year-old readers—the intended demographic for these books—were too busy with college life to read and that their buying power was perhaps limited. But since the onslaught of adult readers who are now reading more YA lit than ever, there is a new demographic in town. Thank you Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games. The demographic now crosses over to the 19-33 year-old females and beyond. Moms and Grand-moms are reading the same books as teens! But keep in mind that this is the same demographic who also read adult romances and often want something other than “teen” stories, but like going back to the idea of all those “firsts” in life. They want edgier reads. With so much variety in the voluminous YA market (that panders to 12-17 year-old readers), it makes sense to start creating some new criteria and helping readers narrow the search. In comes the New Adult genre, a way to separate the true “teen reads” and the books that tell edgier, more adult stories about older young adults. NA fills the gap!

There are several traditional houses like St. Martin’s Press, Random House and others, who have jumped on board, ready to take advantage of the trend. I guess they’ve decided that it’s now worth the risk to separate the New Adult from the Young Adult books. This is long overdue, IMHO. I’m sure the traditional publishers are pretty rigid about the age requirements of the protagonist before they include the books in the NA genre, but as an Indie, I can “fudge” the rules a bit.

HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES is one of those books that I think fits perfectly into the NA category, despite the 17 year-old protagonist, Jordie Dunne. The fact that the hero is 19 year-old Alex Cooper, a war Veteran wounded in combat, sets the book apart from other YA reads. I have previously categorized the book as Contemporary YA Romance, but by doing so, I may be missing a huge part of my readership. Some sites listed it under “children’s fiction” because of the YA label. Although I don’t want to misrepresent the book, it clearly falls outside of the YA genre. There are a vast number of YA authors whose books belong in the New Adult category because of content or the age of their main characters, but whether there will be backlash for us “bending the rules,” only time will tell.

In the meantime, I’m offering HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES free today and tomorrow for Kindle if you’d like to download it and see what all the fuss is about.

In Heaven is for Heroes, seventeen year-old Jordie Dunn must face the loss of her brother when he’s killed in the war in Iraq. But Jordie doesn’t believe the military report that his best friend and fellow Marine, Alex Cooper, is at fault. In her quest to find the truth and help Alex, the guy she’s had a crush on since the ninth grade, Jordie discovers that the truth isn’t the only thing she wants.

A disgraced Marine is faced with a tough recovery, a rekindled high school crush, and the girl determined to prove his innocence.

What do you all think about the New Adult Genre? Should there be strict limits on age? Or is the subject matter to be considered?

~~~PJ Sharon

PJ Sharon is author of several independently published, contemporary young adult novels, including Molly finalist, HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, FAB Five finalist, ON THIN ICE, and SAVAGE CINDERELLA, a finalist in both the Sheila and the Florida Romance Writers Golden Palm contest. She is excitedly working on The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, a YA Dystopian trilogy. WANING MOON, Book One, is now available on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Writing romantic fiction for the past seven years and following her destiny to write Extraordinary Stories of an Average Teenage Life, PJ is a member of  RWA, CTRWA, and YARWA. She is mother to two grown sons and lives with her husband in the Berkshire Hills of Western MA.

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  1. Helen J Beal says:

    Hello there!

    I read this post with great interest – one of my novels features characters in their very early twenties and some quite adult subject matter. I’ve always shied against calling it YA because of this, but it DEFINITELY is NA! Thanks for flagging this up! I’ll download Heaven for Heroes right away and have a read!

    Have a magnificent Monday!

  2. Sibel Hodge says:

    Interesting post, Pj! I’ve been reading a lot more YA and what you’ve called NA lately and found some amazing books! It’s great that genres are evolving now and we can write whatever we want, not just what a publisher thinks will sell. Good luck with the book – I’ve just grabbed it :)

    • PJ Sharon says:

      I know! There are some excellent YA and NA books coming down the pike. I think there is such universal appeal because as adults we can revisit all of those teen and young adulthood experiences with the added benefit of perspective. We can all identify with what it’s like to go from being a kid to being an adult. I find the pacing is faster, the emotion is genuine and is usually ramped up in these stories, and they are quick reads–usually around the 60-80k mark.

      When I pitched three of my stories to traditional publishers a few years back, they all said the same thing. “Great voice, nice writing, but it doesn’t quite ‘fit the market.’” Then along came Indie publishing for me and I found that there is a market for these books–I just had to find it. Now I’m working on new ways for them to find me:-)

  3. I tried forcing my stories into a ‘young adult’ box (even hauled one to a writers conference to a bunch of ‘how to YA’ classes), but they would not fit. Too dark. Too edgy. The central protagonists are young, but the themes involve terrible circumstances, love, and how forming relationships of various ilks will get them through it. The whole ’13-year-old boy goes on a quest’ thing is just unrealistic. The fans who love my work and get word out to their friends tend to be 16-to-23 year olds. Once upon a time, this WAS a generation the publishers courted with a genre they called ‘confessionals.’ The stories targeted new mothers getting married (back then you married your high school sweetheart straight out of high school and few women went to college), rearing families, and facing the circumstances which get thrown at you when all of a sudden you are an adult, out on your own, expected to figure it out for yourself, and perhaps have other people you are responsible for while you are dealing with things. These days, the challenges may involve crappy bosses, werewolves and vampires, but a lot of the issues for this age bracket have not changed. So yes, PJ … I believe NA will become its own genre. Self-published authors are simply rediscovering a demographic the traditional publishing industry forgot … at their peril.

  4. Riley J.Ford says:

    I love the idea of a “New Adult” genre, and I think it fills in the gap nicely between Young Adult and Adult genres. I sure wish Amazon would have clearly delineated “Teen” and “New Adult” categories. For my New Adult book, INTO YOU, I had to categorize it under Children’s Humor, which meant it ended up on the same shelf as fart jokes and riddles! Don’t know how many New Adult-aged readers would look for their genre there.

    • PJ Sharon says:

      Exactly the problem I have too, Riley. The BISAC categories they give us to choose from when adding our books to Amazon, Smashwords, or BN, are not up to speed with the changing book market. I don’t want to misrepresent my books because reader expectation is important and readers of adult romance know what they want, as do readers of YA. I’ve had people be disappointed and give a poor review because SAVAGE CINDERELLA (a book about an 18 yo kidnap survivor) was downloaded by her 10 yo and was inappropriate. Obviously she didn’t read the blurb, but in all fairness, this book should not be in the “children’s fiction” category, which is where YA falls. But since the voice is distinctly YA-ish, and there is no real sexual content, I can’t put it into the adult romantic suspense category either.

      I’m hoping the book sellers come to recognize that they need to update their system to meet new trends in literature and fiction.

  5. Bill Beaman says:

    Excellent post! This genre may be the right fit for authors like me who want to write murder mystery/suspense/romance but feel uncomfortable using the super foul language and steamy no- holds barred sex scenes. There are millions of readers who feel uncomfortable with these books as well (believe it or not)

    This post also does an excellent job of describing how a author should promote themselves. See the listing at the end including website, blogs, social media etc. thanks, Bill

    • PJ Sharon says:

      Thanks, Bill. I hear you about the “lighter” side of genre fiction appealing to many readers. I think the NA market is a great opportunity to hit that demographic, although some of the NA stuff and even the YA reads can get pretty steamy and gritty. The difference is in the “language” and how the sex, violence, etc. is portrayed. Voice is a large defining criteria for YA and NA fiction. It has to appeal to younger readers by making the voice of the characters sound believable and age appropriate. It’s very easy to fall into the ARWD (Adult romance writer’s disease) and have the voice not be authentic.

      And yes, I’m learning a lot about the “promotions” business, and yes, there are many simple ways we can help readers find us.

    • SK Holmesley says:

      I do understand that. One editor (self published a few years back, so I hired her, but her credentials, she had at one time worked for a publisher) told me that because my characters didn’t use “colorful metaphors” (Spock, The Voyage Home), it must be intended as a children’s book. It wasn’t, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw in gratuitous cursing when my characters (even the teenager) were obviously erudite and competitive. I didn’t come from a household where people downgraded their descriptive terms when there were so many better and more descriptive choices available, so I always feel cheated when the author obviously can’t even be bothered to pick up a dictionary and find a few synonyms for the one or two descriptive terms he or she has chosen to use. I do know some people who have very little range to their vocabulary, but frequently they’re not the most interesting people I’ve ever met.

      • PJ Sharon says:

        My mom used to say “Use the King’s English! There are plenty of words available to express yourself intelligently.” She was right, of course:-)

  6. Interesting. When I was 19 I was reading Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls…and even though two of this book’s lead characters were about my age at the time the book started, it spanned 20 years. I can’t imagine that 18- to 22-year-olds would want to read about 17-year-olds…I have a sneaking suspicion that the audience is younger than the publishers think…maybe 15 or 16.

    • PJ Sharon says:

      Typically, kids read about three years older than their age. So 14-16 year-olds definitely like to read about 17 to 19 yo protagonists. The scary part is that 14 and 19 year olds are worlds apart in life experience. I doubt that a 14yo would pick up a book about a 19 yo war veteran unless it was something they were truly drawn to because of an experience with a family member or the cover or blurb grabbed them. I do think aged 20+ readers wouldn’t hesitate to pick up a story like that in spite of the 17 yo main character.

      Publishers have understood that teen readers tend to read “up” which is why they have been so successful with books like Twilight and The Hunger Games. They’ve tapped into the 12-15 yo market, but they’ve also connected with readers across the board with the gritty, edgy nature of these books. I doubt they were expecting 12 yo readers but that’s what they got because of marketing these as YA. Fortunately, the universal appeal of identifiable characters, action-packed plots, and to-die-for romances transcend genre or category and have launched adult readers into the YA/NA market. That’s good news for writers of this genre.

  7. Alison Pensy says:

    I catagorize my fantasy books as YA but they really fit into NA. My romance I put in contemporary romance but, again, it is more NA. The biggest problem I find is that the e-book retailers don’t have the catagories we need. On Amazon all YA gets lumped into ‘Childrens fiction’ but it’s not all children’s fiction. There isn’t a catagory for YA or NA on Amazon (not that I have found, unless they changed it recently) so I’m not sure how people would find it.

    When I looked at the categories the NA breakout books are in (Hopeless, The coincidence of Callie & Kayden) they are in contemporary romance.

    I’m hoping that the e-book retailers will embrace these new catagories soon, it will give those books more visibility because they won’t be all lumped together with mainstream adult books.

    • PJ Sharon says:

      It’s interesting that trad publishers are categorizing these books in the Contemporary Romance genre. I can’t imagine that it makes readers of that genre too pleased when they open their books and find it to not be what they expected. Maybe after a few bad reviews because of the misplacement, it will lead the retailers to updating our choices.

      Amazon doesn’t offer a YA category specifically. They have a “juvenile fiction” category that ends up putting us in “children’s fiction.” Since we get to choose two categories/subcategories, I recently changed my category for HIFH to “Contemporary romance” and “Coming of age.”

  8. I like the idea of the NA novel. I have several ideas in my head with an h/h in that age range, and wrote and sold a short story with and h/h on their own (new jobs, etc.) after college — high school romantic couple who re-connected. Most of the h/h I write about are in their mid to late thirties so that was a switch for me.

    I downloaded your book over the weekend and am looking forward to reading it.

    • PJ Sharon says:

      Thank you, Nancy. I’m not sure if the resurgence of books with h/h in this age range is because we all have “one of those stories” to tell, or because the market is now supporting it. I think for a long time, no one was writing it because publishers weren’t buying it. Now that there are so many choices in publishing the door is wide open again. Good luck with your story.

  9. Thanks. It’s about time. In my mind, “young adult” has really become “older child.” That portion of life when true young adults head out in the world is very fertile ground for engaging stories that most people can relate to.

  10. Carole Ramsay says:

    17 is actually too old to be included in YA anyway, it rightfully belongs in NA. The cross-over point is actually much closer to 16 years old – traditional pubs have long been behind on this!
    Thanks for offering edgier, more meaningful reads like, Heaven is For Heroes, to those eager readers of 17 and beyond.

  11. I’ve been knocking around the New Adult category as a potential resting place for my urban fantasy, but my protagonist is 26. It’s the one thing that stops me from really embracing NA for my story. The themes, though, are very NA (family, coming into your own, independence, etc…) It’s more an NA story than an adult story, to me, so I would prefer to let the age be a loose guideline and look at content for placement in the NA category.

    Over the last year I’ve read some rather vicious comments by small publishers and agents about the viability of NA as a new category. I couldn’t understand where all the emotion came from, because it seems like a natural development for the aged-out readers of Twilight, HP, and the like.

    • PJ Sharon says:

      It gets tricky when you start going typo far astray from “accepted” standards, but I get why you’re confused about placement. So many variables to consider. Good luck finding the right home for your story.

  12. PJ Sharon says:

    I agree, Carole! I was a mom at 17…not that that is the norm, but older teens experience some pretty adult issues. I think you’re right about the age of 16 being closer to the cutoff for YA.

  13. Shannon says:

    Hi PJ!
    What a timely post. It’s about time that there was a place for NA range stories. I used to work at a college bookstore and plenty of students bought fiction books every day. With more and more people having smart phones and Kindles, I can only see the NA category growing and growing.
    Thanks for the book! I downloaded it this morning.