I’ve noticed two things lately that have utterly bummed me out.
- The literary category New Adult has become nearly synonymous with “weird soft porn.”
- Authors who previously identified as NA writers are now scrambling to escape that description.
This was kind of a cause/effect. I think a lot of authors had certain goals and expectations for NA, then found that readers had another set of notions entirely. I’m seeing more and more frustrated authors. I’m also seeing an almost mass exodus from NA to Young Adult or even adult fiction.
Part of me wants to beg these authors not to leave. The other part of me totally understands. Who the hell can compete with abduction and stalker “romance”?
The problem is, the term “New Adult” became a kind of catchphrase, a wave for authors to ride. Anyone could slap that term on their book and sell it, because there were hungry readers who loved the initial NA invasion and wanted more, now. It didn’t take long for readers to become almost conditioned to think that these non-NA books were NA through and through. Some readers even avoid NA altogether now because there’s a certain connotation that goes with it.
And so the category is dying a fast, painful death. But what can those of us who still believe in NA do? Can we save ourselves from the drowning ship?
I’m seeing some authors re-branding their NA books as YA or adult. While it might make sense for some titles depending on content and subject matter, this is not necessarily the answer. Those three stages of life are vastly different from each other. My problems as a teen, twenty-something, and now nearly thirty-year-old are like comparing VHS to DVDs to Blu-ray. They will continue evolving as I advance.
I still think the lit world needs that bridge. When I was a bumbling nineteen-year-old, I could’ve really used a book like Jennifer Armentrout’s Scorched or Sarina Bowen’s The Year We Fell Down. These books wouldn’t have yet spoken to me as a high school student. As a twenty-seven-year-old—almost 28, oh my—I can read books featuring NA characters and look back on my own years with nostalgia. The older I get, though, the more I identify with books by Jodi Picoult or Diana Gabaldon.
Readers need to be able to relate to characters. Sometimes, those pretend people are all that get us through our days, simply because we know we’re not alone.
If you’re writing NA lit, keep doing what you’re doing. There are people out there who need your books.
I’m not sure that we can defeat those “other” books any more than we can end piracy. All we can do is continue what we’re doing: writing great books that people can relate to. The rest will come.
Update, April 5th, 2016: Wow! When I wrote this post, I figured I was basically shouting into the void. I shared this on Kboards, Stumble Upon, and all over Facebook and Twitter, and the response has been almost overwhelming. thesios on Kboards suggested I band with other NA authors and cross-promote, so I’ve started a little project. For now I’m starting small, by organizing NA authors by genre so that we can cross-polinate each other in our newsletters. The group is growing quickly, and we have a nice variety of genres. I’m so happy that it’s not just me who loves NA so much! If you’re an NA author and would like to collaborate with us, please join our group.