Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The New Adult Market

The big phrase to use when submitting a novel to agents or publishers these days is, apparently, "New Adult". It's been identified as an emerging market, and apparently one that savvy booksellers are falling over themselves to cater to.

New Adult  bridges the gap between Young Adult (teens) and true adult books. It's for the 19-24 year olds who are not quite ready to read crime thrillers and heavy literary works, but also don't want to be seen browsing the "teen" section. Young people apparently like to read books which feature protagonists they can relate to easily (i.e., who are their age) whereas adults tend not to mind what age the characters are. So when two seventeen-year-olds (ala Twilight or Hunger Games) isn't quite cutting it, new adults look for books about people like them. People who are just staring out in their careers, or completing college, looking for lasting love or furnishing their first flat.

People have been going through those new adult years forever, so I wondered why the market is only now being recognised. I think, as with so many other things, the worldwide recession may be partly to blame. I did my degree in English literature, graduating in 1990. It involved reading a lot of very difficult and dry books, from Piers Plowman and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to The Bell Jar and Vanity Fair. I was "all read out" by the end of it, and had no desire to pick up a book for about the next decade. Not that I hadn't always loved reading, but there was so many other things. I enjoyed going to the cinema, visiting interesting places and staying in nice hotels for a weekend or longer, and eating out at wonderful restaurants. Throw in TV too, and I didn't really feel the need to read.

Enter the recession. I have, in the past, credited it for the huge numbers of book clubs which continue to spring up. The fact is that people can no longer afford to eat out at fancy restaurants, go to the cinema weekly or have a weekend away at the Eden Project or Windsor Castle. They need cheap entertainment, and books (especially Kindle books, many of which are free or cost under £1) fit the bill nicely.

Our new adults completing college now have huge student loans to pay off (University education was free when I did my degree) and can't afford to go to the pub each night. Those starting out in their careers are generally not earning well and can't stretch to visits to theme parks. Those furnishing their flats are paying rent or a mortgage and finding that furniture doesn't come cheap, so the weekly cinema trip has to go. Books (and book clubs, the social side of reading) are good entertainment at a very low price.

I have come to this conclusion largely because it has been my experience. Pre-recession I used to go for a curry every week, the cinema at least once a month, and enjoyed driving around visiting pretty villages, castles and far-flung friends. Who has money for petrol at £1.40 a litre ($9.53 a gallon)? So now I'm loving reading again, my Kindle lives in my handbag and I'm back to a book a week.

Whether I am right or wrong about the reason, there is a new demand for "New Adult" books, and we authors would do well to jump right on that bandwagon and cater for it.

1 comment:

Karlene said...

Good points. I also think that blockbuster series—-like Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games--made reading "cool" again. I have several non-reading adult friends who suddenly started reading due to one of these series, and now are looking to broaden their choices, which naturally leads to looking for books about characters similar to their life situation.