Friday, March 28, 2014

Question: category roulette just might kill us all

I recently participated in a pitch contest and saw a lot of people pitching their novels as “Adult Sci-Fi” or “Adult Historical Romance.” Now, I was under the impression anything not labeled NA, MG, or YA was automatically considered Adult. Has that changed?

Second, the characters in my fantasy novel fall within the age range of NA. When I started the novel, NA didn’t exist. I can make the case, however, that the themes fit within the NA genre even though I consider it to be aimed at adults. I know it is ill-advised to put multiple age brackets in your genre (pick one, most would say). My plan is to list it as Adult but can I say “with NA crossover potential” without getting my query deleted?

The answer to your first question is No, that has NOT changed. Anything not labeled MG or YA is considered adult (notice I left out NA.)

The reason (I'm guessing here) that people said "Adult historical romance" was because of the forum. In a pitch contest (rather than a query letter) writers are not targeting specific agents so they need to quantify some things that would be obvious if they were querying one agent at a time.

Second, the advent of New Adult is making everyone crazy, not just you. No one really knows what it is for sure and a lot of things get called New Adult that are really just YA with sex. I've seen things that we thought were erotica called "New Adult."

Leave out the "with NA crossover potential" because no one really knows what that is yet.

Your plan should be to list it by category: fiction/crime/sf/f/western; and, time: contemporary/historical. Leave out the other stuff.

Remember, we're looking for good writing across the board. You write a good crime novel with a protagonist who's 17 or 77 and you've got my attention.


ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

I don't know about the nebulosity of NA. A year or two ago I think NA was a fledgling unknown thing that many weren't sure would become a category. Now, I see it has definitely taken shape.

I agree with leaving out the NA crossover line though, especially if the only thing that is leading to categorizing the novel as NA is the age of the characters. Just as To Kill a Mockingbird is not a children's book even though the protagonist is a kid, NA relies on more than age of protagonists, too.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

That's good to know because I actually DID write a crime novel with a protagonist who's 17 or 77. It's called DETECTIVE SCHRÖDINGER'S AGE.

Janet Reid said...

Stephen, holy cats!

french sojourn said...


I read it and loved it.

Spoiler alert....The cat did it..or didn't.

Unknown said...

Interesting that you say a lot of people call YA New Adult if it has sex. I'm working on a YA novel and a couple readers have commented on the small amount of so-called "adult" content: drug use, drinking, sex. The thing is, young adults do these things, and I don't glorify or dwell upon them, but I do at least INCLUDE them in the same way I include scenes from English class.

My question is, does this place my work outside the realm of YA? (Is this why NA has become a thing?)

Susan Bonifant said...

The worst advice I ever got (and followed) was to promote my novel as a YA because the protagonist was a high school student. Off I went, totally missing the point that the themes and events and conflicts could not have been less "awesome" to this audience, even if they appealed very much to their mothers.

Elissa M said...

I have run into the "your protagonist is a teenager, so the novel must be YA" mindset myself. I get told the events and themes in my novel are "not appropriate for YA". My first thought tends to be a variation of, "Ya think?"

I personally think New Adult is just a marketing thing. Someone is trying to appeal to true young adults (not teens) who think regular adult novels are boring and feel they've "outgrown" YA. While it seems bizarre to me (I read all age ranges), anything that keeps people reading can't be that bad an idea.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently writing a suspense novel - with an 18 year old protagonist - so not 17, but she's still a teenager. Despite that, I know it falls solidly in the adult market.

Although...this post did make me question it. Hmmm. Can't think about it too hard or I'll confuse myself.

Unknown said...

A quick point:

"I can make the case, however, that the themes fit within the NA genre even though I consider it to be aimed at adults"

NA isn't a genre, its a category, just as MG & YA is. As someone who reads (and writes) both NA & Adult, I really would like to make that point.

I also couldn't agree more with Janet on the comment about a lot of novels categorised as NA are nothing more than YA + heavy/a lot of sex.