So, interesting commentary on my New Adult post. I’m not sure if my thoughts were quite as collected as I wanted them to be for a Sunday morning. I do wan to add that I think in many ways that it’s a difficult category to market, and I believe that Tiff’s comment on that post really illustrated why.
“It was like English literature was some sacred thing where no one could ever read or study anything that wasn’t “important.” So, of course, the second one gets out of college, one stops reading because reading has been so “important” and such a job for the past four years. And I think that’s where adult fiction is losing readers. Reading for fun becomes a kind of foreign concept. When you go out to brunch with those post-grad friends, and you talk about books, people don’t want to talk about the Dan Browns because, of course, you can’t learn anything from that (and don’t even get me started on YA books). It’s better not to have read anything at all than to have read something “trashy” or something off the bestseller list/front table of Chapters (or Borders, or Barnes and Noble).”
Also illustrative is the massive response to The Booksmugglers 4-line mention of it in their massive post full of far more interesting book news, cover reveals, and movie trailers. Readers were, in a word, offended. A sampling:
“‘New Adult?’ Really? Because when I was between the ages of 20 and 26, I was fine with reading adult novels. I didn’t need something that was more mature than YA, but not quite an adult novel yet. It sounds like a marketing ploy and a slightly insulting one at that.”
The idea may be good, but the age range is ridiculous. When I was 20-26, I would’ve been seriously pissed at being targeted for “mature writing and ideas, but not full on adult stories.” Seriously. Pissed.
Who are these 20-26 year-olds? College students, possibly graduate students, studying science, philosophy, medicine, etc? How many are married and have children by 26? How many soldiers are that age? And they’re not ready for “full on adult stories?”
I find the whole idea distasteful.”
And I have to say I’m with them. I think they are misreading what is meant by “full on adult stories” however. It’s like the people who think that because a book is categorized as a YA it can’t have mature complex themes. (Guys, To Kill a Mockingbird is YA. Just saying. It’s an issue of subject matter, not of maturity level. Even if I am a married-with-kids soldier at 22, I’m still probably going to want to read about married with kids 22 year olds than 40 year olds. (And indeed, some of the books that SMP uses to illustrate this “new adult” range features teens who are married with kids — Hello Ice by Sarah Beth Durst.) Or I’ll want the escapist facotr — not being married or with kids. What SMP is saying is that there seems to be a gap in books ABOUT people that age, written for an adult audience.
That why it was so hard when my book came out to figure out who exactly our market was. Bridget Jones was ten years older than Amy. The Gossip Girls were six years younger. My book wasn’t as fluffy and brainless as some, but it was a far cry from serious literature. There weren’t other books out there like my book. And as chick lit crashed and there were fewer and fewer books that were “like mine but slightly older” most of the comparisons for my book came from “like mine but slightly younger” direction. They were frequently compared to the Kate Brian “Private” novels or Maureen Johnson’s books, all of which are YA.
I think it’s going to be a challenge to market “New Adult” as such. The last thing a 22 year old college graduate who just wrote her thesis on Proust is going to want to be told is that she’s not ready for “real books.” Part of the success of chick lit was because the packaging treated it more seriously. It was in trade paperback form, it was shelved in the “fiction and literature” section in the bookstore, it had Book Club questions in the back. People who would turn their nose up at a romance novel would have fun reading a chick lit and not feel guilty about it.
I’m a big believer in not talking down to readers. I write commercial fiction and I’m proud of it. I’m in this biz to show readers a good time, but I don’t believe that commercial fiction equates to brainless fiction, and I don’t “dumb down” anything I write, whether I’m writing it for an audience of forty year olds, twenty year olds, or 14 year olds. The only difference is the situations my characters are forced to face (if anything, my teen characters are in a much more mature and dire situation than my 20-somethings — but that’s a product of the type of story I’m telling) and the resources they’ve got on hand. I don’t take my readers for granted, I don’t believe that a touch of romance or humor brings the level of a book down, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading for fun.
But that’s me.