With multiple print and igital bestsellers across international markets, new adult has established itself comfortably in the publishing gap between
YA and adult romance. Publishers like
Grand Central, St. Martin’s, Atria, and
HarperCollins have affirmed their commitment to the category with a healthy
2015 list of new adult titles.
New adult, which got its start with
self-published e-books, is conventionally
defined by three main criteria: the char-
acters must be late teens or early 20s, the
narration is usually first person, and the
sex can be hot—but not so hot that it
crosses the line into erotica. “These char-
acters aren’t liberated from the concerns
of adulthood, as they would be in YA,”
says Jhanteigh Kupihea, senior editor at
Atria. “But they’re not yet shaped by the
highs and lows of adult relationships,
careers, and shifting family dynamics, as
they would be in a romance or women’s
The freedom that this in-between
space has created for authors and readers
has allowed the category to flourish. New
adult authors aren’t hindered by the genre
expectations found in romance (happily
ever after) or YA (age-appropriate content).
For this reason, NA is an important cat-
egory for queer youth, with its exploration
of identity and freedom, says Sarah Frantz
Lyons, editorial director at Riptide, a
publisher dedicated to LGBTQ narra-
tives. “Traditionally, college and the time
right after college is when a lot of queer
youth are able to come out, because they’re
striking out on their own,” she says.
“They want to be true to themselves.”
The Data on Digital
While editors navigate the acquisitions
process, the publishing teams are working
on how to best to reach their target readership. In the new adult marketplace,
that often means a focus on digital:
e-books have had a consistent edge over
print editions since the genre’s inception. The new adult BISAC code was
added in late fall of 2013, and the available data suggests a trend toward digital.
According to Connie Harbison,
director of quality assurance at Baker &
Taylor and chair of the BISAC Subject
Codes Committee, the new adult code
was given to 31 print books in that first
year and 697 in 2014; so far, it has been
used 404 times in 2015. The number of
e-books with the new adult BISAC code
has increased each year, from 145 titles
in 2013 to 413 in 2014 and 524 in 2015
to date. The differences may be a reflection of the publishing plans for new adult
titles that don’t always involve a simultaneous print and digital release.
“It was digital that gave rise to the
genre,” says Rose Hilliard, senior editor
at St. Martin’s, who adds that while some
of the publisher’s new adult titles have
caught on in print, the biggest market
remains in digital.
Tessa Woodward, senior editor at
HarperCollins imprints Avon and
Morrow, agrees. “New adult readers love
e-books,” she says, and while the category is still evolving, readers skew
heavily toward digital.
AN EMERGING READERSHIP
As the Millennial
of age, new adult
exploring ways to
grow along with it
BY JENNIFER MCCARTNEY
As of June 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials (those born
between 1982 and 2000) outnumber the once-dominant baby boomer generation.
In this feature, we look at two ways publishers are targeting this growing readership.
Below, we consider the evolving category of new adult fiction. And on p. 17, we discuss
the faith-based approaches that religion houses are taking to Millennial concerns.