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  • Kristina Elyse Butke

Why is New Adult Not a Thing?

5 college students walking and laughing down the street
Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

I've been thinking about my own writing lately, especially since I recently got feedback from two new beta readers and an Author Mentor Match mentor on Son of the Siren.

It came up that due to the situations and darker themes that appear in Son of the Siren, I probably should make it adult fiction as opposed to YA. I got this recommendation from more than one person and I've been giving it serious thought. I think I'll do it.

I thought the book could be considered NA (New Adult) given my lead is 18 years old, but I made my other characters younger to make it fit YA a little more. In one of my beta reading reports, it was also pointed out that the book could be NA.

I always knew that NA was the threshold between YA and adult fiction, with protagonists 18 to 20-something years old (some definitions cap it at 30), and my graduate thesis, The Name and the Key, had lead characters 18-20 years old, so I thought it was NA. Back when I was querying it, I even pitched it as such. So, I thought for Son of the Siren that if I aged up my secondary characters slightly (but keep my lead at 18), I could have an NA-appropriate book easily.

Imagine my disappointment when I came across the news that "New Adult is Not a Thing."

As the subtitle says in this video, New Adult is not a thing in traditional publishing. It's thriving in self-publishing, mostly in the romance categories, but if you want to be traditionally published, you have to choose either YA or adult for your book.

I am pursuing traditional publishing, so this has me a bit bummed, because I think what NA originally intended to be--a bridge between ages, characters, themes, and voice--would've worked out well for my books.

Because of this, Son of the Siren will be queried as an adult book now, even though I feel the voice of the book sounds more YA-ish. It's just the subject matter that's a bit more adult.

So what happened? Why did NA never take off in traditional publishing? This video has the answers to that.

If I ever end up self-publishing Son of the Siren (which I seriously considered at one point, until I ran out of money) I might present it as NA there (although the book is not a romance; it just has romantic elements), but since I'm working to go the traditional route, it'll be changed to adult fantasy now.

If you're curious about how NA rose and then fizzled out, here's a timeline of articles;

  • Publisher's Weekly - from 2012 - talks about NA being a new thing

  • Publishing Crawl - from 2013 - asks if NA is a thing, or just a fad

  • Fiction Notes - from 2014 - treats NA as legit and helps you determine if your YA is actually NA

  • Ooligan - from 2020 - asks what ever happened to NA and says it's officially flopped

  • Book Riot - from 2021 - discusses the history and future of NA books...and talks about the marketing of "cross-overs" instead

Interestingly, if you head over to Wikipedia, they treat it as a current genre, and very much a thing. There are contradictions in the article, in that a lot of what's written is counter to what traditional publishers and agents are saying, despite there being citations. So, tread on that source lightly.

In the meantime, I've been doing this YA Reading Project since 2021 (I've continued reading into 2022) to help me learn more about my genre...and all the comps I made to Son of the Siren have been YA. I haven't read adult fantasy in quite some time...and now I need to familiarize myself with that so I can find new comps that are appropriate. Comps are such a huge trend with querying and marketing, so it's not optional...wish me good luck as I switch over what I've been reading!

Readers, what do you think? Should NA be a thing?