New Adult – Dictionary Corner – Publishing Terms Translated

Have you ever spoken to someone in publishing or browsed the submission portion of an agency’s website and wondered what on earth we’re all talking about?

Well, wonder no more. Here in Dictionary Corner we will strive to shed some light on the technical jargon and industry lingos that often confuse new writers.

New Adult

It’s the readership category that has taken the publishing world by storm recently.

Which is odd, because the term has been around for at least three years. The earliest use of the term that we can find was in 2009 when St Martin’s Press launched a competition looking for fiction that was ‘kind of an older YA or “new adult.”’

And that basically sums up what ‘new adult’ is: fiction for older young adults. Specifically it’s fiction aimed at 14-35 year olds (quite a wide spectrum you might think).

It will have storylines that will be enjoyed by older teenagers, twenty-somethings and the people newly into their thirties alike but which might include themes that would not be appropriate for the tweenagers and younger.

They will largely be coming-of-age stories and will cover the difficult in-between years that have yet to really find their place in the market.

Often the protagonist will begin as a teenager and will grow up over the course of the plot, encountering events that will be of interest to all people across this age bracket but which might be less riveting to your average reader fast approaching or fondly remembering their 40th birthday. Accordingly, books set during the university years appear to be at the epicentre of this new genre.

It seems to be generally agreed that novels which can be called ‘new adult’ will include scenes of a sexual nature. They may also have themes of violence and the characters are allowed to swear as much as they want.

There has been much debate on the issue already. You should check out the articles and discussions online for more information because it is quite interesting how this is dividing opinions.

As far as we can tell ‘new adult’ fiction is basically akin to a movie rated 15 rather than PG-12. When publishers call something ‘new adult’ they will basically be saying: people in their late teens will love it, young professionals will love it, but maybe keep it away from the under 14s until they’re a little older.

By Vicki Le Feuvre

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