Do You Write "New Adult" Fiction?

There’s a new fiction genre in the publishing world: “New Adult.” This means books for single people 18-30. According to author S. Jae-Jones’ recent blogpost it includes most of the hipper literary works of the past couple of decades, plus the now defunct (just whisper it) chick lit. Her list of New Adult-erers includes David Eggers, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer, Bret Easton Ellis, Junot Diaz, Stieg Larsson, Neil Gaiman, and yes, Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada.)

Ouch. I guess old codgerettes like me are supposed to stay home and re-read our dog-eared copies of James Michener.

But here’s the thing. The major, sad thing: there's not much money in publishing new adult fiction these days. Especially adult literary fiction.

According to agent Rachelle Gardner’s super-helpful blog http://cba-ramblings. literary fiction is one of the toughest genres to sell (along with chick lit, memoirs, and novels over 100K words.)

This is why there has been such a stampede by serious writers to the Young Adult category. YA is wide open, even to literary novels. But to be YA, your protagonist pretty much has to be in high school. A bit limiting for those of us who prefer not to revisit the horrors of adolescence, thank you very much.

Hence the invention of “New Adult” –a sort of YA Plus.

So what does all this mean for the vast un/underpublished out here? What if you can’t shoehorn your work into the young hip-and-single categories?

Well, for one thing, don’t shoot yourself in the font by calling yourself “literary” unless you absolutely have to. Can you fit your novel into a genre like Women’s Fiction, Sci Fi, Mystery, Suspense, or Fantasy? Go for it.

Probably that novel chronicling the relationship between Elizabeth and Essex in a series of Petrarchan sonnets will have to wear the dreaded label, but it will help if you can build up some literary cred with an MFA and/or publication in a bunch of high profile literary magazines before you approach anybody with it.

Otherwise, pick a popular genre that’s closest to your work and see if it gets any nibbles. Or make your protagonist under thirty.

More on categories of genre fiction later.