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The New Adult Wave in Indie Publishing by M. Leighton

Hi everybody!  My name is Michelle Leighton and I’ll be talking about the New Adult Wave.

I’ll warn you that I don’t have any studies to quote or statistics to cite, no scholarly experts to call upon and no extensive dissection to prattle on about. In fact, I don’t think anybody does, really.  From publishers to booksellers to authors, I think the New Adult wave has taken everyone by storm.  Whether it started with the reader or the writer matters not.  New Adult is here, and it’s here to stay.
For my money, I’m gonna say both it started with an unspoken agreement between readers and writers.  I think many of us grew up and turned a corner at the same time.  Readers wanted to read something…more and writers wanted to write it.  Point in case:  ME!
Let me first give you some background on me and my story. My journey may share commonalities with many other readers and writers, one that might give some insight into WHY there’s a New Adult Wave.
I began writing in June of 2009.  That’s a story in and of itself, so let’s just hit fast forward and skip to the end of January, 2011 when I self-published my first young adult paranormal romance.  Why I chose YA PNR is pertinent because it was “the thing” at the moment.  It was hot!  Between Stephanie Meyer’s success with Twilight and Amanda Hocking’s success with her two self-published series, YA PNR was hitting its stride.  So I jumped on board and wrote a few of those to self-publish in hopes of achieving even a portion of their success.  My books did moderately well.  Some better than others.  I wasn’t busting any charts wide open, though.
The turning point for me was when I had written several YA PNR and found that I didn’t want to write another one.  Not yet, anyway.  I wanted to write something different.  Something more.  I didn’t want to be boxed in–by anything, be it the paranormal aspect or the young adult aspect.  I wanted to tell a story MY WAY with no restrictions, no preconceived notions. No rules.  So I wrote my first New Adult Contemporary Romance.  It was entitled “The Wild Ones” and it was by far my biggest seller up to that point.  The question is:  WHY?  What was so different about this book?  Well, this is where things get interesting.
I think this book found success for a couple of reasons. For one, I think I let go and wrote what I wanted to write, how I wanted to write it.  And I think it resonated with readers.  But more than that, I think it struck a chord with many of them who were tired of fade-to-blacks and stilted conversations in books that were and are intended for the younger generation.  That doesn’t mean we older readers love them any less. Heck, like many of you, Twilight is one of my favorite books. Ever.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish we would’ve been given a more intimate look into Edward and Bella’s wedding night or been able to see them handle some more mature subject matter.  Because I do.  Oh, how I do.  LOL  But what it all boils down to is that Stephanie Meyer wrote those books for young readers.  She was exercising a good conscience by keeping things age-appropriate.  I commend her for that.  Many authors don’t show any such restraint, but that’s a whole other bothersome ball of wax.  For today, let’s get back to wanting more.
Enter the New Adult book.  It’s got all the charm and innocence of Young Adult material, only it has teeth.  Sharp ones.  And not always the paranormal kind.  This stuff has some steam, people!  And readers the world over are rejoicing!  They get to see the characters they’ve grown to love step into the bedroom. They get to see behind the curtain, beyond the fade-to-black, beneath the clothes.  And we’re loving it! Er, I mean they’re loving it.  *giggles*  Yes, I’m over twenty-one and I like my steam.  Love it, actually.  I’ll admit it.  I like reading it and I like writing it.  And so do a lot of other readers and writers.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I doubt I’ll ever go back to writing Young Adult.  It’s in the more mature stories that I’ve finally found my voice, as have so many other authors.  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Young Adult is dead or should be a thing of the past.  No, no, no!  There is a need for it, and I still love it.  But it’s shown us that there’s a need for middle ground, a need for a step beyond the Young Adult, but one that doesn’t go Adult Adult.  It’s a place where the two collide.  It’s a new place where we can have the best of both worlds, and it’s a new place that’s making waves.  New Adult waves. 
My opinion?  Bring on the New Adult!  I think literature has never looked better.


New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, M. Leighton, is a native of Ohio. She relocated to the warmer climates of the South, where she can be near the water all summer and miss the snow all winter. Possessed of an overactive imagination from early in her childhood, Michelle finally found an acceptable outlet for her fantastical visions: literary fiction. Having written over a dozen novels, these days Michelle enjoys letting her mind wander to more romantic settings with sexy Southern guys, much like the one she married and the ones you'll find in her latest books. When her thoughts aren't roaming in that direction, she'll be riding horses, swimming in ponds and experiencing life on a ranch, all without leaving the cozy comfort of her office.

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This Post Has 28 Comments
  1. I completely agree with you. Young Adult you have too much of nowadays and with that you have the aspects of “Could this kid really do that?” You don’t have the vulgarity or the sensuality like a new-adult reader has. I think something that got me into writing this sort of novel is Game of Thrones which can definitely be vulgar and erotic at times, but it tells a damn good story. I agree, I don’t think Young Adult is dead but at the moment I think it’s overdone, which is another reason why jumping on this New Adult train is even more crucial and not having to wait for the publishing company to put it out 2 years from now where who knows what the style is going to be.

  2. My third manuscript was in this genre, but there was ‘no market’ for it at the time. It was contemporary with the Twilight paranormal explosion. Savvy agents, like Mandy Hubbard and Natalie Lakosil, saw NA coming well before anybody else I know did, but my writing wasn’t ready for prime time back then. I wrote an MG, two more YA paranormals, and now I’m back to NA — although I’m not sure it is NA, strictly speaking, because my MC is a virgin and I originally had her age at mid-twenties, not early twenties. So we’ll see. I’m writing the story that demands to be written. If it doesn’t ‘fit the market’ this time, I’m going to self-pub. I think my writing is ready, or very near it.

    Thanks for the attention for NA! I hope to hear more about it on the blogosphere. Great conference, btw! I’m loving it.

  3. It’s fantastic that this is a recognized genre now!
    I think that people who consider NA to be nothing more than “YA with more sex” are really limiting the genre. I would be disappointed if that’s all it was, because life was certainly about more than sex when my friends and I went through that phase of life! I think it’s more that the characters have a bit more life experience and a greater perspective on things than YA characters. And there are different challenges. So authors who aren’t comfortable writing steamy sex scenes don’t have to worry about that – they can still write NA!

    1. That’s a BIG RELIEF for me! Could anyone recommend some NA books that are BEYOND “YA with more sex” because I can’t seem to find them.

      I wasn’t aware of this kind of story until a blogger I follow told me about it, and in my defense, much of the New Adult stuff I’d heard about was in the context of “YA with more sex” and I apologize if my earlier comments in the chat were sounded snobbish, I certainly think we need that variety in ANY area of today’s books.

      Still, thanks for making the points about how broad the readership us here, Rachel.

  4. I love the emerging NA genre. I think that time between High school and adult life is so fresh with emotion and decisions and love! I think people gravitate to that time in their life because that’s when so many major decisions are made.

  5. I really enjoy New Adult novels and love the opinion you lay out here. I agree that readers are hungry for “a little more” sometimes. I enjoy reading young adult novels as well but interspersing with some new adult gives me some variety while still sticking with plots and conflicts I enjoy.

  6. Mine is tiger shifters, {so it’s YA Paranormal Romance} but also deals with grief, abandonment, and becoming an orphan. My 17 YO Protagonist lost her mama to cancer, and her daddy overseas {He was a Marine.} It deals with many issues, like her first big adventure, discovering her true self, taking responsibility for her own actions, overcoming her fears, and the betrayals she was dealt, ect.
    So it’s not mindless.

    [email protected]

  7. The kind of YA stories I like are those that deal with realistic issues of today. And let’s face it, teens today are dealing with serious issues no child should experience at their age. Abuse, teen pregnancy, drugs, broken homes, blended families, childhood obesity, bullying and cyber bullying that drives the young people to suicide, or worse, shooting sprees. It is my belief that these books try to encourage teens to tell them the characters in the book are going through the same thing you’re and this is how they turn it all around and make their lives better, you can too, don’t give up. Vampire’s love and other paranormal stuff is just not teaching them anything really. No Edward Cullen is going to fall in love with a girl from underprivileged family and rescue her from gossipy high school, sorry but let’s be realistic here.

  8. I’m so proud of all the Indie authors who took the fledging concept of NA and made it a real, live THING! When traditional publishers (save for the one who “coined” the term) said it had no home on the book shelves, authors proved that the virtual bookshelves don’t draw such silly boundaries. Good for you, Michelle, and the rest of the steam-writing crowd!

  9. Evelyn, I don’t think you should do what makes you uncomfortable unless you are trying to push yourself. I don’t think your heart is guiding your personal taste or preference, your audience probably has some things in common with you, so keep following your heart.

  10. I think YA is best of both worlds. Fast adventure plots, less details like YA, but less restrictions because they are in fact facing adult issues.

    I’d love to learn more about this. Like what are the restrictions, what are the difference besides age, and issues faced, between YA and NA? ect?
    [email protected]

    1. At this point, there are no real guidelines or concrete restrictions like age limitations. I think it’s an up-and-coming category that is, at present, very loosely defined at best.

  11. I’ve read a lot about New Adult and it’s sexiness. I’m assuming this is how the category is beginning, but NA doesn’t have to include sex. Right? lol Do you think there’s a market for NAs in other genres besides romance?

  12. I’m still trying to wrap my head about NA, so can you help clarify this for me? I write romance, and most of my characters are in their 20s. They deal with mature themes, but the sex is fade-to-black because writing super explicit sex scenes is just not my thing. It gets sort of steamy before things fade to black, but it does fade to black ultimately. Does that make my work not NA? Because it seems like the major requirement is very explicit sex.

    1. I think sex is often one of the themes more deeply and explicitly explored in NA, but not the ONLY one, and certainly not a required one. I think any mature subject matter is included. There are some topics (such as rape, drug use, suicide, and many more) that are often addressed in a different, more kid-friendly manner in YA. NA just allows the kid gloves to come off.

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