New Adult: a new frontier? Guest post by Kat Ellis

Last year, when agents and writers and other publishing folk started talking more about New Adult (NA), I looked at it the same way I used to look at washed-up jellyfish on the beach: What is that? Is it alive?

Now that NA has been poked with the proverbial stick, it seems it is, in fact, A Thing.

My initial hesitation was mostly because I didn't get it. Fiction for the 18-26(ish) age group? Isn't that just skimming the top off upper YA and bleeding over into adult? Isn't that just crossover?

Well, no. Crossover fiction tends to be those novels aimed at a younger readership, but which still speak to the adult market. Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games. These are your crossover staples (also known as ‘breakout’ fiction, so I've recently read.) And the protagonists are all under 18 (at least to begin with), so they don’t follow the rules of NA.

More recently, I've seen NA defined as being college-age contemporary, with a strong lean towards romance. Granted, I can see this being a strong part of it, but surely if NA is to be a standalone category, it needs to be more than that?

I like this definition from NA Alley’s site:

“Typically, a novel is considered NA if it encompasses the transition between adolescence—a life stage often depicted in Young Adult (YA) fiction—and true adulthood. Protagonists typically fall between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, though exceptions may apply. NA characters are often portrayed experiencing: college, living away from home for the first time, military deployment, apprenticeships, a first steady job, a first serious relationship, etc.”

Kat Ellis
That gives some great situational examples, and I think gives a good, succinct definition of what NA actually is.

Naturally, as a SF/F writer, I look at the potential for NA fiction to be written in those genres. I can think of a few film/TV/book examples that I would say fit into that classification: think Starship Troopers (military school graduates in a war against alien bugs), UK Channel 4’s Misfits (a group in their late-teens/early-twenties who are on community service when they get hit by a freak storm which gives them superhuman powers), and Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series (where a college student is attacked by a vampire and is recruited by a vampire House to become its sentinel). I’d even throw Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies into the mix. None of these were marketed as NA (it didn't exist then, so…) but have been very successful. So there is a market there for NA SF/F, it seems.

What about other genres? NA Historical? Thriller? Steampunk?  Sure. I can think of premises which would fit these genres and also fit most comfortably in the NA category – and I’m not talking about sexual content as the reason for this. Yes, with older characters in more mature situations, it may be appropriate to include more sexual content in some NA novels. But as with any story—no matter the genre/category—it needs to be there for a reason. If you’re writing NA erotica, then that could legitimately be the reason, but otherwise what’s the point? If there’s no point, then *ahem* take it out.

If you’re a querying writer, you’ll have seen that more and more agents are adding NA to their want lists, and it seems like writers out there who have previously been quite set on the idea that they are either YA or adult category writers are now dipping a toe into NA waters.

I may even be one of them.

But I also see that with the addition of a new frontier in the form of NA, this sudden rush to explore it is going to lead to it very quickly becoming a saturated market. So, I dip my toe with cat-like caution.

Are you a NA writer, or thinking about writing NA? Where would you put the boundaries?

Hello all, Simon here. Thanks to Kat for this epic post! You can check out here blog here (where I have a guest post as well) and I'd highly recommend you follower her on Twitter as @el_kat. Leave all yo' input in the comments. Personally, I was hesitant, like so many others, about NA. It sounds like a joke. But if you ignore the labels and their marketing value, books are books and good stories are good stories. We'll see what happens, eh? Excelsior!


  1. When I wrote my book, I knew it wasn't YA, but it wasn't quite Adult, either. My characters are college age. My beta readers told me that they wouldn't want their young teens reading some of the scenes. I had no idea what New Adult was at the time, until I found NA Alley. I practically jumped up and down when I found out where my book fit. It made it much easier for me to market it. I was the first NA client my agent took on.

    Now I hear a lot of agents saying they are getting rush job NA books to try to cash in on the trend. If you write a good book, it doesn't matter what the category is. Never write to the trends, your words will last much longer than any trend.


    1. "Never write to the trends, your words will last much longer than any trend."
      Wisdom and truth indeed.

    2. I absolutely agree that it seems like a rush to cash in on NA right now, and I'm not sure whether that means NA will fizzle out entirely after the glut or will settle into something more established...am watching the space.

      And I concur with you and Simon - excellent advice about not writing to trends! Thank you for commenting.

  2. The real tricky thing is that a lot of agents that focus on YA and younger are not head-over-heels for NA; they consider it "Adult." I can't remember who it was, but a children's lit agent basically said, "I don't know editors of Adult fiction, so I won't take NA." Which I get, but it's too bad.

    I'm pretty grateful that NA is being acknowledged as a genre, because I've heard so many YA authors say "I aged down my characters to fit YA because it wouldn't sell." Now those writers can write the character as they deserved to be written.

    Great post.

    1. Excellent point about agents and their specialist areas - and something writers would need to bear in mind when querying. If they plan on writing NA and children's and/or adult as well, they'll need an agent who reps all those.

  3. When I first heard about NA I thought that if the first season or two of Supernatural were a novel written from Sam's perspective it would be NA. Sam's story in the beginning of the show has those themes of no longer being a teen but not quite being an adult either. He is even in college when the show starts. Considering how big that show is I don't see any reason why sci-fi, fantasy and horror can't have NA. I think the rookie years of a space pilot or the rookie years of a vampire hunter or the rookie years of a fledgling sorceress could have plenty of appeal.

    <3 you Kat!