I didn’t set out to write a New Adult novel. In fact, I never gave much thought to target audiences until I was working on the first draft of my query letter during a Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Proud of myself for writing a book so many would love, I boasted, “Saving Ben is a novel for women of all ages, from high school kids to grandmothers.” Ha! Imagine my surprise when the instructor suggested I narrow my target audience. Imagine my outrage when a different instructor, from yet another query seminar, recommended I change my characters: “Why not make them younger? After all, your novel reads like YA.”
Some agents think writers should target their audience before they even write the book. But for me, that’s taking a certain element of creativity out of the process. I give life to my characters and then let them live it. Although I chart the basic plot from the start, it always changes as my characters grow. Saving Ben is about the journey into adulthood. The issues my college-age characters face would not be the same for the younger set.
The big six publishers and mega booksellers insist there’s no market for a new adult category of books. I respectfully disagree. Because NA is comparable in many ways, let’s talk for a minute about YA. The young readers who’ve made YA books so wildly popular in recent years didn’t stop reading just because they got older. They are simply ready for different adventures. The 16-26-year olds may still want to read about vampires, but they want those vampires to be hunting for blood on college campuses. They want those vampires to be starting new jobs and experiencing their first live-in relationships.
Who says college kids don’t have time to read? When these same YA kids were back in high school, they found the time to read the Twilight Saga and the Hunger Games trilogy despite their required English curriculum. Just as they needed to escape from the challenges of classic literature and physics and peer pressures, in college, more than ever, they need to get away from the stresses of the real world.
Teenagers aren’t the only ones who love to read YA. People of all ages are attracted to the simple themes and fast-paced style of writing. Let’s face it. Life is complicated. No one has time to waste on a novel that doesn’t hook them from the first sentence and entertain them to the end.
Who knows more about what the world is reading than the number one reading social network? Goodreads has a new adult category. Which goes to show that the agents and publishers aren’t the ones with the power to move a novel to the top of the best-seller list. It’s the readers who have the power.
Newsflash for all publishing experts! Not only does the market already exists for New Adult, there are plenty of talented writers ready to supply it with product.