Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What's the deal with NA?

What's the deal with NA?

Back around 2013, after I finished the first draft of my WIP I read about a promising new category called New Adult, or NA. My story had started out as YA but didn't end up there, and the NA label seemed to fit. I assumed it would encompass all the genres, like YA does, and filed it away for when I started querying again. 

(Yes, I made the new writer mistake of querying too soon. I wish I could take those queries back... So embarrassing.)

Anyhow, skip ahead to 2019 and NA appears to have stalled out. Instead of the promising new category I wanted it to be, NA seems to have become yet another sub-category of the Romance genre, limited mainly to erotica in a University setting. (Not what I write.)

Meanwhile, the WIP has morphed into a trilogy. The main character is a naive nineteen at the beginning of book one, and a somewhat wiser twenty-two at the end of book three. I worry I am going to be asked to make her younger to qualify as YA, I'm not sure it would work, even with a substantial rewrite.

So, is NA still a viable category? Was it ever? Does it apply to anything that isn't R-rated campus life? Er...that's more than one question. Sorry.

I remember thinking NA was a terrific idea, then took a call,  and by the time I was off the phone it had morphed into this quasi-erotic stuff.  One  of my colleagues sold a book in this category, and it  soon abundantly clear no one knew how to publish it very well.

Readers of YA were still buying YA even if they "aged out" and romance readers weren't all that keen on reading about kids.

I haven't seen any editors looking for NA recently, but I'm not paying a lot of attention. Some of our blog readers probably have more up to date info on this than I do. (if you do, please add to the comments column)

If your book isn't YA my guess is it's womens fiction. In womens fiction the focus is on relationships and romance, and how to be a real adult and all that means.

The good thing about womens fiction is that it's a big category that sells well. And that is a  mating call to almost every agent I know.


E.M. Goldsmith said...

The Magicians by Lev Grossman, a fantasy series, is notably this New Adult thing from a few years back. I sort of surmise this was aimed at millennials (who have since grown up even more so no longer new at the adult table)because the characters in these books are the most millennial millennials that ever existed. It's really great stuff and quite enjoyable to any age adult that goes in for this fantasy stuff. At least, I enjoyed the books. The television series feels substantially darker than the books to me and more whimsical all at once.

However, I think these books, if being queried today, would sell as fantasy and that would be the end of that. So, OP, query your book as woman's fiction.

New Adult is essentially adult with younger adults in the mix. And there is plenty of audience for that. The publishing industry probably saw a niche for kids transitioning from home/college into the world as adults and tried to capitalize on it. I think the fizzle came because this is either too niche or not niche enough as new adult characters work nicely in any genre as regular, flawed adults like the rest of us older types.

Also, YA covers this transition already, but I believe the line between YA/adult comes down to voice when you have POV characters on the cusp. Also, how much are other adults involved? If it's not a lot of kids, you probably have woman's fiction as our queen suggests.

Anyhow, that is my take. Good luck.

Kat M said...

This brings me to a question of my own. Does women's fiction always include an element of romance? I'm trying to categorize my WIPs. I write about women's internal journeys, and they are heavy on the relationship aspect. I could picture book club women reading them (I heard that was an indicator of women's fiction). But the romantic element is very slight.
Thanks in advance!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I was a young adult before there was such a thing as “Young Adult” and then I became a new adult before there was “New Adult” and now that I am an old adult I have no category.
Does that mean that because I qualify for a 10% discount on Tuesdays at my local supermarket there is no category for me?
Oh I get it.
The new category is “That Certain Age Adult.”
Although, I’m thinking, once you reach the certain age adult status much of what you want to do, and with whom you want to do it, is fantasy anyway so why not read and write fantasy.

KariV said...

Also keep in mind, the YA category has in itself morphed into the NA category. NA used to be "YA coming of age stories but with sex"; YA used to have characters 15/16 navigating lives challenges and *sometimes* with a driver's license. Now, almost all the YA I see getting traction features 17, 18, even 19 yos and sex regardless of age or genre.

Now, this isn't necessarily a problem, until you realize what's happening at the other end of children's fiction: as YA is aging up, MG is aging down. Publisher's don't want to see MG characters over 12. This leaves a huge age gap that frustrates me as a parent, writer, and reader. Are we really expecting kids to just transition from 12 yo characters to 17 yos and sex? And yet there's not much being published in that gap.

OP, I've seen 19 yo characters in YA fiction. It's your genre I'm curious about. Fantasy YA readers will follow older characters through a trilogy even if the character is older. So, you might still get traction in the YA market.

Craig F said...

I thought NA was a misguided attempt to keep the smut out of YA. Kids shrugged their collective shoulders because they already knew about sex.

Kat M: Women's lit is about emotions and voice. It does not necessarily contain sex, implied or explicit, but sex really does sell.

Belated congrats for Bethany's sub-header

Mister Furkles said...

The Magicians is considered urban fantasy by some reviewers.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

My WIP is more MA:Misbehaving Adult. Sex is fade to black because I'm too shy to write those graphic scenes.

OT: My baby blog was born last night at precisely 10:58 mountain time. Visitors are allowed 24-7. Comments are preferred in lieu of gifts. Viewing at ceciliaortizluna.com. Please be gentle with the baby:)

Colin Smith said...

I had wondered what happened to NA. It never seemed to break out of that "older-YA-with-sex" perception, and now I don't know if anyone really cares. Regular YA has a lot more sex and "adult" language in it than it did a handful of years ago, so I suppose NA's lost its niche.

OP: If your novel is not obviously YA (bearing in mind YA is more than just the age of your MCs), I'd query it as Fantasy, Thriller, Contemporary, whatever-it-is without qualification. If it's not PB, MG, or YA, it just is. Otherwise it's just another hamster wheel. :)

Cecilia: Welcome to the blog world! Glad you like the Kool Aid. :D Do you wish to be added to Carkoon's Most Wanted?

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Colin, thanks and yes please:)

Colin Smith said...

Cecilia: Done! You are now one of Carkoon's Most Wanted. :)

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Yay! Thanks buddy!

Ashes said...

Speaking as a reader, I feel the exact same way, and I know many of my peers (who I think of as Original Harry Potter kids) feel the same way. Frustrated that NA sounded like exactly what we wanted, but they turned into the new label for chicklit/women's fiction/

Back around 2010 I heard YA described as "protagonists finding out who they are" and NA described as "protagonists finding their place in the world" and I kind of loved that. I am really interested to read about 20 year olds. I am really interested to read about them in the high concept settings and worlds genre YA often produce.

Two of my favorite series of the last 2 years were Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows duology and V.E. Schwab's Shades of Magic trilogy. One is YA and one is Adult, and I'd argue they could both realistically be called New Adult. The oldest Crow is 19, but they've always felt a little aged down to me, and the Shades of Magic crew are solidly early-20s. The series, to me, felt similar. Older young adults, no parental figures, YA reminiscent humor, friendships, slow romantic subplots, settings and high concepts. But with older characters.

I find it really hard, as a reader, to find more books like that, and the category NA would help tremendously. If anyone ever starts a "Dear publishing, please make NA a real thing" petition, link me because I know a heck of a lot of readers who'd want to sign.

John Davis Frain said...

Sometimes when you have nothing to add to the discussion it's still a good idea to swing by the comments because you find yourself cracking up at what 2NNs added to the discussion, even when she had nothing to add.

Keep it coming, Carolynnnnnnnn.

Brittany said...

When NA was looking like it might be a thing, I was actually working on a fantasy novel set in that last summer at home before leaving for college. It seemed more NA than YA (especially because the protagonist/narrator had a filthy mouth), but by the time I was actually ready to query, NA had been eaten by romance, and my book had absolutely none. I ended up querying it as "appeals to older readers of YA," but that wasn't the only weird in-betweeny thing about it so I didn't get any takers.